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Open Thread 123.25

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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725 Responses to Open Thread 123.25

  1. Dack says:

    Suppose the modern US navy was ordered to blockade a major rival power (e.g., China). What would that look like?

    • John Schilling says:

      Well, it would look an awful lot like the US deciding to cut off Japan’s oil and scrap iron supplies in 1940, so you might want to think carefully about whether you want to do that when your target has ICBMs and hydrogen bombs.

      It would also look like extreme bullying by the United States, a lack of concern for the interests of US allies and neutral powers that strongly benefit from trade with China, and likely as part of an effort to secure unconstrained global hegemony for the United States. So expect a fair degree of pushback, and don’t count on e.g. using foreign bases for this blockade.

      ETA: The Naval War College has some thoughts on the issue.

      But you’re probably asking about the tactical aspects. In which case, it would almost certainly be a distant blockade, conducted thousands of kilometers from China’s coasts (and thus beyond most of its power-projection capabilty). This is a well-established technique, about as legal and effective as any other sort of blockade. If a ship is believed to be heading for China carrying contraband, or trying to leave after having evaded the blockade on the way in, you order it to stop for inspection and, if your suspicions are confirmed, you put a team of your people on board to take it to a friendly port to be interned or sold. If it doesn’t stop, you can sink it.

      Compared with WWI/WWII era distant blockades, it would be enhanced by the fact that the information age provides vastly greater information as to where ships are and what they are doing and (after the NSA hacks every shipping company’s email) what they are carrying. One can of course opt out of this flow of information, but then whenever one of your ships shows up as a primary radar return or a wake on a satellite image, it is basically flying the “Oooh! Oooh! Stop me first!” flag.

      It would be complicated by the fact that the 21st century United States Navy is down to less than 300 warships to handle all its global responsibilities, almost all of which are vastly more capable than would be needed for this task but you can’t say that because each of those ten tankers could be stopped by one-tenth of a Burke-class destroyer, USS John Paul Jones is going to stop and search all ten. During WWI/WWII, allied navies were able to supplement their blockading forces with armed merchant cruisers and armed trawlers, but modern merchant ships aren’t really well suited for that and in any even the US doesn’t actually have that many merchant ships.

      So, initially, expect detachments of maybe 3-5 ships at choke points like the Straits of Malacca, and whatever ships US intelligence suggests are most likely blockade-runners get at least a close look by helicopter and maybe ordered to stop for boarding. This is one of the few things a USN Little Crappy Ship is good for, but we’ve only got sixteen of those and they can’t stay at sea for very long. Better hope Singapore or Malaysia signs on to support this blockade. And you’ll want a couple of Aegis destroyers or cruisers with each group in case the Chinese send long-range bombers or missiles to break the blockade.

      There should always be a couple of carrier task forces on station to react to any attempt by the Chinese navy to harass or break the blockade, and to provide cover against sustained air attacks. Submarines also will be used to monitor and if necessary block Chinese naval operations, and if there’s a choke point you can’t effectively patrol, an SSN can at least quietly flag suspicious vessels to be investigated later.

      The Chinese, if they don’t go straight to war over this, will start rerouting their traffic away from the choke points, and trying to camouflage it as neutral or even allied shipping. And they’ll throw their diplomatic and economic weight around to deny us overseas bases and other allied support, such that the USN will be hopelessly outnumbered for the resulting shell game. The USN will try to rapidly acquire more cheap blockade platforms; the US Coast Guard specializes in the sort of ship we’d need, but they probably don’t have enough so the Pentagon would try to buy or build lots more in a hurry. Also, retasking large amphibious-warfare ships as depots and tenders for smaller patrol craft would be a useful force multiplier.

      Then the Chinese would think about using submarines, long-range bombers, and long-range antiship missiles to harass the blockading forces, and we get to see what naval war looks like in the 21st century. And possibly not just naval war.

      • Lambert says:

        Do you need to stop all the shipments yourself for it to be effective?
        Or is, say, 10% enough to scare away most shipping companies. Of course, there will be blockade runners, but they have to charge a premium for the risks they take, to to the detriment of China’s pockets.
        And if the NSA gets inside all the shipping databases, how much benefit is there from selecting ships based on cargo? i.e. targeting ships carrying obscure but industrially vital rare-earth metals, or something.

        • John Schilling says:

          China has a fairly substantial merchant fleet of its own, 9th largest in the world and about three times that of the United States. Those ships are going to sail where Beijing wants them to sail, and they’ll probably be joined by others that are bought cheap by Chinese firms when they are left idle by the blockade. Whether e.g. Liberian-flag tankers owned by multinational corporations would be willing to run the blockade depends on the consequences. If the United States is simply taking them to (presumably US) court and saying “naughty naughty, pay fine”, then they’ll contest that in foreign courts and raise the prices they charge the Chinese. If the US is sinking their ships, or even just seizing them by fiat and force, then they’ll probably avoid the China trade but their owners and their owners’ governments will become America’s enemies.

          Blockading rare earths probably won’t help because A: China basically produces all the world’s rare earths at this point and B: that trade could be adequately carried out by cargo aircraft that can’t be stopped and boarded. But finding something China desperately needs and is too bulky to be carried except by ship, would be an effective tactic and somewhat less expensive or disruptive than a 100% maritime exclusion.

          Oil would do just fine as a targeted commodity for that purpose, and would also make it clear exactly how dangerous a policy this is.

          • Dack says:

            Blocking oil imports seems straightforwardly lose-lose, at least in the specific case of China. (Thanks for the link, very in-depth analysis in that paper.)

            But if the goal is just economic warfare, could you blockade “all” of a rival power’s exports and avoid most pitfalls (as long as you are not dependent on what they are exporting)?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But if the goal is just economic warfare, could you blockade “all” of a rival power’s exports and avoid most pitfalls (as long as you are not dependent on what they are exporting)?

            I suppose the biggest problem with that would be that all the other countries that buy their exports might get annoyed with you.

      • bean says:

        This is a good answer, with only a couple of things I’d add.

        1. You underrate how important modern picture-keeping techniques would be. The ability to hold a picture of the world’s merchant ships in a computer, and correlate this with data from all sorts of sources (mostly commercial firms that do things like track ships for businesses) would be the only thing that makes this possible. The RN was able to blockade Germany during the World Wars because there were only a few places where Germany had access to the broader oceans. We don’t have that geographic advantage against China.
        2. Limited platforms will be a big issue. It was only the US picture-keeping systems, originally developed to support Tomahawk targeting, that allowed the blockade of Iraq in 1991 to work. That was in a very restricted area, and with lots of warships running around. Now try it in the whole Pacific, with a much smaller fleet.

        It’s also worth pointing out that a blockade is legally an act of war. Yes, there is the Pacific Blockade, but that basically comes down to Great Powers blockading weaker nations who can’t retaliate effectively or won’t fight back because the cost will be too high. There were serious legal questions about the “quarantine” of Cuba in 1962. China isn’t going to fall into either of the two categories above, so you’ll need some reason for China not to treat this as an act of war.

        On the bright side, if they do, I suspect that most shipping companies will start avoiding the area on their own.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Bit of a tangent, but isn’t it fairly well-accepted that the first thing China would do in a war is to shoot down as many US satellites as possible, both military and civilian, and Kessler syndrome aside, prepare for a radio-era war?

          How prepared is the US military to operate without GPS/satellites?

          • The Nybbler says:

            How prepared is the US military to operate without GPS/satellites?

            Obviously I don’t know China’s antisatellite capability, but it’s probable they’ve only got limited ability to take down GPS satellites — they are not in LEO, but at 20,000 km. Obviously if you can put something in that orbit you can destroy something in that orbit, but it’s going to take a bigger and more expensive missile.

          • bean says:

            That’s a good question, and not one I have a good answer to. They’ve paid lip service to GPS-denied operations (and similar terms for other space capabilities), but I don’t know how much has actually been done in practice.

            I don’t think Kessler would be a deliberate driver of this. That’s both uncertain and likely to come back to bite them. And it depends on how much war they want. If they’re trying to keep the war contained, causing lots of debris and knocking out civilian satellites is bad.

            But Nybbler is right that shooting down LEO satellites (recon birds are the most likely target) is not like going after GPS satellites or GEO comsats. Those are a lot harder to kill.

        • Dack says:

          Bean, have you ever done a piece on blockades?

  2. Deiseach says:

    Lá ‘le Padráig sona dhaoibh agus beannachtaí na féile oraibh go léir!

    Unusually for these parts (though in the rest of the country the forecast is for rain), it’s sunny out, with patches of blue sky showing through the clouds. The normal March wind is blowing hard to cut you like a knife, but it’s not raining! The daisies and buttercups are showing well in the front lawn (which means it’s time to cut the grass) and things are going okay, plus tomorrow is a Bank Holiday seeing as how St Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday! Yay!

    Heartwarming Irish news for this day – the Louth man who saved Donald Trump $9 million when he worked in his New York hotel. Yes, I knew you’d all appreciate an uplifting human-interest story like that 🙂

    “I was working in the Hyatt Hotel when I first met Donald Trump.

    “At the time he was being taxed by New York City occupancy tax for every guest he comped. The hotel tax liability with fines added up to over $10m, but I managed to get it down to $1m. Trump personally thanked me and made me the manager of the quarter.

    “He told me: ‘You don’t have to be the smartest man in the room, you just need to be smart enough to hire someone smarter than you.”

    And in gastronomy-related news, Irish bog butter turns out to be four thousand years old:

    Bog butters are large white or yellow waxy deposits regularly discovered within the peat bogs of Ireland and Scotland. They represent an extraordinary survival of prehistoric and later agricultural products, comprising the largest deposits of fat found anywhere in nature. Often found in wooden containers or wrapped in animal bladders, they are considered to have been buried intentionally by past farming communities. While previous analysis has determined that Irish bog butters derive from animal fat, their precise characterisation could not be achieved due to diagenetic compositional alterations during burial. Via compound-specific stable isotope analysis, we provide the first conclusive evidence of a dairy fat origin for the Irish bog butter tradition, which differs from bog butter traditions observed elsewhere. Our research also reveals a remarkably long-lived tradition of deposition and possible curation spanning at least 3500 years, from the Early Bronze Age (c. 1700 BC) to the 17th century AD. This is conclusively established via an extensive suite of both bulk and compound-specific radiocarbon dates.

  3. reallyeli says:

    Have any web developers out there undertaken deliberate practice to improve their CSS skills? I am a working web developer (~4 years of experience) who is continually frustrated by (what feels like to me) my relative slowness at learning CSS. I have learned a lot of new programming languages or frameworks in my career, and it feels like I picked them up much more quickly.

    Knowing what code to write to achieve some outcome feels like a deductive process, while knowing what CSS to apply to create some layout feels like an art requiring a spark of inspiration. Recently that’s been a bit less true as I’ve internalized things like the positioning rules, but it still takes longer than I’d like.

    An example of where I’m at: struggled with this for a while, ended up asking this question https://stackoverflow.com/questions/55192441/vertically-align-an-element-that-hangs-off-a-div-which-is-horizontally-aligned/55192517#55192517

    What would you recommend?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’m sorry I don’t have an answer, I just find this incredibly funny. I’ve basically skipped the last 10 years of front end, but it reminds me of interminable fights I used to have with friends and how they insisted tables are pure evil and the new CSS will save us all. Only to see that the state of the world a decade later is CSS trying to reinvent tables in 3 different ways.

      Anyways, know that it’s definitely not you.

      • reallyeli says:

        Haha. I wasn’t doing it 10 years ago, but it does seem from my vantage point that progress has been made — e.g. flexbox does seem legitimately better than float-based layouts.

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I just saw Alita, Battle Angel, and liked it pretty well. It occurred to me that we’ve got the CGI to do the body-modified 0-g space pilot wrestling scene in Delany’s Babel 17 I’m not sure whether there are other parts of he book which would still be too difficult.

    And as I recall, it was Guardians of the Galaxy which had low gravity– a movie of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is quite feasible while keeping the low gravity (the center of the plot).

    Any other books which would be really feasible as movies now?

    Forget about The Wind in the Door, though, a good bit of the story takes place in complete darkness, though I don’t know whether that’s essential.

    And I’m not sure whether the darkness over Gondor in in LOTR (the real LOTR) would work, but it’s valuable because one of the best moments is when the darkness lifts.

    • bullseye says:

      They’ll need brain wires to make a faithful version of The Colour Out of Space.

      • Machine Interface says:

        Annihilation was basically a crossover between The Colour out of Space and Roadside Picnic.

  5. S_J says:

    I enjoyed reading through the discussion of USA/ConfederateStates/Canada military prowess in the mid-1800s.

    However, I do wonder if anyone else remembered this series of events: veterans of the U.S. Civil War who were of Irish background began staging raids against British outposts in Canada. The first raid was in April 1866, and the raids continued sporadically until the early 1870s.

    The ostensible goal of the raids was to increase pressure in favor Irish independence, and bring Irish from the colonial provinces into support of that goal.

    These raids spurred Canadian militia to improve readiness and training, and pushed along the process of the Confederation of Canada in 1867.

    Admittedly, none of these attacks were bankrolled or supported by the U.S. Army. Which makes them less interesting towards the end of discussing the relevant power of the Army of the United States against the British military stationed to the North.

    Extra-confusing detail: before the Confederation in 1867, the area now known as the Province of Montreal and the Province of Quebec were known as the Province of Canada. Several other distinct Provinces existed, including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Thus, the name “Canada” refers to one area pre-1867, and to a much larger area post-1867.

    • Obelix says:

      Extra-confusing detail: before the Confederation in 1867, the area now known as the Province of Montreal and the Province of Quebec were known as the Province of Canada.

      You mean Ontario. But the names “Canada” and “Quebec” have meant different things over the course of history.

      During the French regime (1608 to 1763), “Canada” meant the whole of New France that wasn’t Acadia (today Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) or Louisiana, but was sparsely populated outside of the Saint Lawrence valley between Montreal and Quebec. “Quebec” only referred to the city.

      In 1763, the British renamed the country “Quebec”. It covered much of what is today Quebec and Ontario, as well as (before the American revolution) part of the American Midwest.

      In 1791, due to the influx of Loyalists fleeing the American revolution to settle in what is now Ontario, the Province of Quebec was split in two: “Lower Canada” (today Quebec) and “Upper Canada” (today Ontario). The “Upper” and “Lower” terms refer to their position following the course of the Saint Lawrence River. (Note that the Saint Lawrence also had the alternate name of “Canada River” during the French regime.)

      Following the Rebellions of 1837-1839, Upper Canada and Lower Canada were merged into the “Province of Canada”, but with a weird political system that required a majority of delegates from both Upper Canada (now named “Canada West”) and Lower Canada (now named “Canada East”) to pass laws. This proved ungovernable.

      The provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were starting to discuss the possibility of a Maritime Union during the 1860, but this was hijacked into the project of a Canadian federation. So Canada in 1867 became Quebec and Ontario (the former Province of Canada) as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Its borders have kept changing ever since.

      • S_J says:

        I apologize, I somehow got confused between Ontario and Montreal. I can’t even say that Montreal is inside Ontario.

        The history of Canada is more complex than I knew.

      • Gray Ice says:

        Thank you for providing this detailed historical information.

      • S_J says:

        During the French regime (1608 to 1763), “Canada” meant the whole of New France that wasn’t Acadia (today Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) or Louisiana, but was sparsely populated outside of the Saint Lawrence valley between Montreal and Quebec. “Quebec” only referred to the city.

        In 1763, the British renamed the country “Quebec”. It covered much of what is today Quebec and Ontario, as well as (before the American revolution) part of the American Midwest.

        To give a few comments about the history of places that are no longer part of Canada: the Great Lakes region was transferred from New France to Great Britain at the end of the Seven Years War. I can’t tell whether it was then considered part of Upper Louisiana or part of then-Canada. (A handful of forts and trading posts existed in the region, but it was much less populated than the area you mention along he St. Lawrence valley.)

        The British Army took over several of those forts, but tried to institute a policy of not allowing settlers west of the Appalachian mountains. After the end of the Revolutionary War, the region north of the Ohio River, up to the Great Lakes, was ceded to the United States as the Northwest Territory. Within a decade, the territory had been sectioned up into smaller Territories (Ohio Territory, Indiana Territory, Michigan Territory, Illinois Territory, Wisconson Territory).

        A few battles of the War of 1812 were fought in the Great Lakes region, including the biggest (and to my knowledge, only) naval battle on the Great Lakes. There were also land battles in/around Fort Mackinac and Fort Detroit.

        After the close of that war and the resulting treaty, military tensions relaxed along the border between then-Canada and the United States. The war didn’t change the boundaries between the U.S. and Canada, and the geography of the Great Lakes didn’t provide much room for doubt about where the border was. Later border disputes between Canada and the U.S. were about the border west of the Great Lakes.

        • littskad says:

          Later border disputes between Canada and the U.S. were about the border west of the Great Lakes.

          Well, there was the Aroostook “War” at the very end of the 1830’s which was settled by the Webster-Ashburton treaty in 1842, finalizing the border between New Brunswick and Maine.

  6. johan_larson says:

    IO9 has a fun bracket of 64 of the best sci-fi/fantasy films of the past 10 years.

    https://io9.gizmodo.com/io9-march-madness-whats-the-best-sci-fi-film-of-the-pa-1833305939

    My final four:
    NW division: Logan
    SW division: Ex Machina
    NE division: Arrival
    SE division: The Martian

    The champion: Arrival

    Also highly deserving: Inception, Edge of Tomorrow

    Films I really should watch: The Shape of Water, Snowpiercer, The Hunger Games

    • Philosophisticat says:

      I think Under the Skin is the best film of the last 10 years, let alone the best sci-fi/fantasy film, and by some margin.

      EDIT: Full Bracket: https://ibb.co/QPGgdKL

      I filled in the inexplicably absent The Lobster for a movie I haven’t seen.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        Agreed on the greatness of Under the Skin, easily the best of what I call the ScarJo sci-fi trilogy (Under the Skin, Her, and Lucy), three films bound together by the theme of men struggling to answer the question “Is Scarlett Johansson human?”

        I like The Lobster, but I wouldn’t call it sci-fi. I think it’s a social satire with a perfunctory, hand-waved sci-fi premise.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Social satire is not a distinct genre from sci-fi/fantasy – some (many) sci fi/fantasy works are fundamentally social satires. The Lobster uses its social fantasy premise to do its satire – it’s not perfunctory in the way it would be if you, say, just took Network and made one of the characters an elf.

          In any case, it has a much better claim at being sci-fi/fantasy than some others on the list. Skyfall?

      • Lillian says:

        It’s strange to see someone praise Under the Skin, let alone call it one of the best films in the last decade. A friend of mine watched it and he found the experience utterly excruciating. His full review is here, but these are my favourite quotes:

        I have seen bad movies in the course of this experiment, dear readers. I have seen horrors the likes of which would send a lesser critic screaming into the night. But even at the nadir of my experiences with cinema over the last three years it is rare that I run into a film as bad as this. A classic mark of a bad film is that it makes you start checking your cell phone to see how much time is left. A really bad film has you wondering if your phone’s timekeeper has stopped. This film convinced me at one point that we had actually reached the end of linear time, and that all that was left was to watch Under The Skin. Forever.

        A friend of mine, with whom I saw this film, asked me midway through to make her a solemn promise that this movie would, at some point, actually end, and that we would then be able to leave the theater. I’m a veteran at this sort of thing by now, dear readers, but I must confess, that by the time a seemingly major subplot of the film (a mysterious man on a motorcycle pursuing Johansson), one that had occupied 15 minutes of screentime, resolved itself with a two minute, unbroken shot of the man slowly turning a complete circle while standing in a snowfield… I was beginning to have my doubts.

        I know that this review stands in stark contrast to the rave, universal acclaim that this movie is in the process of generating from film critics on either side of the pond, (Britain’s Independent and Daily Express, and America’s Hollywood Reporter providing lone voices of sanity amidst it all), but I do not care. I recognize that my own opinion is fallible, particularly on something as subjective as a movie, but this is plainly a case of bandwagonning hacks being unable to distinguish between the cerebral and the simpering. This is not a “deep” film, nor a “complex” one, nor a “masterpiece” nor a “work of genius”. This film is a fraud, perpetrated against moviewatchers and abetted by professional critics, in the hopes that nobody will notice just how bad it actually is. And those critics (I have made a list) who had the bald-faced temerity to compare this movie to Cloud Atlas of all things should be driven from their offices with a horsewhip.

        Consequently, nobody else in my social circle, or any of his other social circles, or his friend’s social circles, has dared to watch it. In fact for months afterwards we would needle him by joking that whatever was currently going on was not really happening, but rather a hallucination conjured up by his fevered mind to escape the fact that he was still back there, watching Under the Skin.

        • The Pachyderminator says:

          Reminds me of The Last Psychiatrist’s review of Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control – which, as it happens, I also love.

          I think slow-paced art films always attract a few reactions of this kind, especially if they (a) have a plot, that, while present, is somewhat vague and de-emphasized compared to the atmospherics (b) overlap with a more mainstream genre. Compare some of the reactions to 2001: A Space Odyssey especially before it became canonical. Of course, I don’t know your friends tastes in general, but even for people who at other times would be happy to watch someone slowly turning in a snowfield for two minutes it often happens that some particular snowfield, for whatever reason, really, really doesn’t work. So I don’t think a single review of this kind provides much evidence about a film’s quality, though it can be a valuable indicator of what kind of film it is.

          • Lillian says:

            One of the most interesting bits of the review is that he does in fact like the kind of film that Under the Skin is trying to be. In fact he considers some of those films to be among the best ever made. His contention is that Under the Skin is an absolute disaster at actually being it.

            From his review, “I’ve seen and enjoyed plenty of slow movies, including sci-fi and alien ones, from Stanley Kubrick’s masterful “2001” to David Bowie’s semi-sensical “The Man who Fell to Earth” to Andrei Tarkovsky’s haunting, Soviet-era masterpiece, “Solaris”. But those films were slow because the filmmakers wished to give the audience time to settle on images, or moods, or subconscious conjurations, so as to properly craft the experience that they were endeavoring to present. This film, on the other hand, is simply boring as paste, and tries to disguise this fact by showing us a lens flare for three and a half minutes while atonal electronic feedback is playing, perhaps in the hopes that if they drive the audience mad with disinterest, someone will mistake their film for avant-guard.”

            It seems to me that whatever message Under the Skin was trying to convey completely missed him. Whether this was due to a failure on the film’s part or on his, it still left him with nothing but excruciating experience of spending several minutes of slooowly watching Scarlett Johansen entering a cabin, sleeping in the cabin, and then leaving it, to no apparent narrative purpose.

            To use 2001 as an example again. Honestly a lot of the movie, especially in its early parts, doesn’t have much of a message other than “space travel is so cool!”. If you don’t think space travel is inherently interesting, then something like the famous space plane docking sequence is probably pretty boring. The entire thing is nothing more than space travel porn, it’s probably the most brilliant and masterful space travel porn ever made, but nonetheless it’s space travel porn. If you’re not into it, then you won’t enjoy it.

          • Aapje says:

            But those films were slow because the filmmakers wished to give the audience time to settle on images, or moods, or subconscious conjurations

            Or figure out the unspoken things that people communicate with each other. Or other reasons.

            I also found little of this in Under The Skin.

        • Machine Interface says:

          My take was much less radical. It’s not so much that the movie felt too long or too slow to me (I have watched and enjoyed much longer and much slower film); it’s that it felt like there wasn’t enough plot for a full feature film. This should either have been a short film, or the plot should have been more developped. As it is, the first two third feel quickly repetitive and like we’ve already exploited all that the premise offered as such, and then as the result the conclusion seems rushed and out of tune with the rest of the movie.

          I did like the soundtrack and some staging tricks, like the scenes which look like they’re spposed to be visual allegories but eventually turn out to be literal.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          Your friend is wrong, and it is sad that they have prevented others from seeing/colored their experience of a great movie.

          • Lillian says:

            At least in the social circle we share, odds are pretty good none of us would have liked it anyway. While we don’t all have the exact same tastes in movies, the two people who most appreciate slower paced films are him and me. If he hated it on the grounds that it was glacial and interminable, then it’s pretty much a given that i’m the only one who could have possibly enjoyed it, and there is absolutely no way i’m watching a movie about people being skinned alive.

        • Critics are drawn to weird, surrealist movies like catnip and it’s bizarre. I watched Mulholland Drive because of its rave reviews and IMO, the whole thing was utterly pointless. I even watched it again a few years later and I still couldn’t figure out what anyone saw in it.

          I was watching the Ballad of Buster Scruggs and one of the stories was about a prospector looking for gold. It’s as simple as that and yet it was a great story. Complex doesn’t always mean better.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’ve seen 38 of the movies, roughly 60%. I’d have done better if they hadn’t thrown in all those horror films.

      • Plumber says:

        I think I saw 12 to 14 on the lists in the link (a couple sound familiar, and there’s movies I’ve seen that I doubt remember the titles of).

        I’d say that the sci-fi movie that most impressed me from recent decades waa Gattaca, nothing since has been as memorable to me.

        The most memorable non sci-fi films after the ’80’s have been Locke, Saving Private, and ’71.

        They’re dozens of films at least that memorable to me from before the ’90’s, I’d guess the top Fantasy adventure film would be The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and the top non-Fantasy film would be The Third Man, but there’s lots of contenders.

    • Machine Interface says:

      My final four:
      NW: Mad Max: Furry Road
      SW: Blade Runner 2049
      NE: Arrival (closely followed by Inception, and Annihilation just a little behind them)
      SE: The Martian (though that’s the weakest division for me)

      Champion: Arrival

      27 films seen, 42%

      • johan_larson says:

        Mad Max: Furry Road

        That’s the adaptation for children. It’s animated, sort of like Disney’s “Robin Hood”. Max is a fox, Fury is an otter, and Immortan Joe is a bear. Critics can’t seem to decide whether it’s a parody or not, and the director isn’t talking. Rated PG.

        • Machine Interface says:

          I seem unable to ever avoid that typo. I’ll blame it on my native language and pretty poor learning of English phonology in school and definitely not on me being into the furry fandom.

        • Nornagest says:

          It would have the same voice actors, but everyone’s voices would be digitally shifted up an octave.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I’ve seen 8 of those, and didn’t like most of the ones I saw. I guess What We Do In The Shadows wins more or less by default. Good movie, lots of funny jokes even if some of the jokes fell flat. I think of the gag about the vampires explaining why they drink virgin blood all the time.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Why does everyone like The Arrival so much? It was okay, but “best sci-fi film of the last decade?”

      • johan_larson says:

        Spoiler season is over. The movie came out in 2016.

        I found the time-bending they did with the mother and daughter very moving. We were led to believe that the principal character had had a daughter, who died of cancer in her teens. We only later learn that this daughter is in the character’s future, and she decides to have the daughter despite knowing she will die young. That was a very effective use of intercutting timelines. And it vividly illustrated how the alien language the mother learned altered her sense of time.

        • LeSigh says:

          This, and also:

          * The whole tone and atmosphere of the movie was the perfect balance of tension, with fear and hope and uncertainty all swirled up together.
          * The aliens were truly alien in a way I haven’t often seen. Not just violent or scary or icky, but truly incomprehensible.
          * The creepy dream scene resonated incredibly deeply with me as someone who has has very disturbing dreams in foreign languages where you can almost understand what people are saying but something is Very Wrong and you’re not sure what it is.
          * It was on some level about impending interplanetary war, but the focus was on the characters’ minds, how they related to each other, and how they perceive the world. The amount of violence was appropriate and always made sense in context.
          * in addition to being moving and well-executed, the twist wrapped up the movie in a very satisfying way, without being overly hand-wavey as is often the case in films involving timey-wimey plot devices.

    • Winja says:

      Snowpiercer is deeply stupid and hilariously able to carry itself on pure chutzpah alone.

  7. Nornagest says:

    I’ve been rereading Charles Stross’s Glasshouse. It hasn’t aged well. It’s trying to be simultaneously a post-singularity spy story, a satire on Stepford Wives suburbia and its cultural boosters (or at least the people Stross thinks they are), and a meditation on gender roles; and of the three, the first is the only one that really works for me.

    Unmarked but hopefully fairly minor spoilers ahead for anyone that cares about a semi-obscure SF book from 2006.

    Our protagonist is Robin, a veteran of the “Censorship Wars” (did I mention this was released in 2006?) who’s recently had most of his memory erased: we get a literal white-room open. He’s living in the Invisible Republic, which is somewhere between Iain Banks’ Culture books and The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect: free love, body modification, ubiquitous brain-computer interfaces, but also casually lethal swordfights that no one cares much about since they can just restore from backup. It’s likely sometime around the 27th century, but the timeline’s a little fuzzy, since one consequence of the aforementioned Censorship is that nobody remembers the medium-term past or exactly what the war was started over. Fifty pages or so are spent knocking around a memory rehab clinic, where Robin has just enough time to meet, fall in love with, and fuck the brains out of fellow patient Kay (female, ex-xenoanthropologist, looks like Kali) while being fed a suspiciously strong pitch for a long-term living history experiment. Oh, and somebody’s trying to kill him.

    Cut to inside the experiment, and I mean cut: Robin’s as confused as we are. He’s a she now, given the name Reeve, and expected to play along with a sort of twisted recreation of American 1950s suburbia, incentivized with a funny-money point system (gain points by going to church, vacuuming the carpet, having sex with the spouse you met three hours ago at the orientation dinner; lose points by committing adultery or stripping in public). Like every other ersatz 1950s in the history of media, of course, this turns out to conceal a dark secret, and even Robin/Reeve’s own motives aren’t exactly what they appear.

    First, the good. It’s built around a solid espionage plot, and it makes effective use of the unreliable-protagonist schtick in ways that I didn’t pick up the first time I read it (helps that there’s nods to the New Sun series throughout, which, for a Wolfe nerd like me, is kind of a cue). Robin/Reeve is about equally interested in history and psychological warfare and DIY mayhem, which I find pretty relatable even if I expect hardly anyone else does. There’s a fair amount of infosec content floating around, and that’s well above average as SF treatments go, even if the paper it’s based on is kind of overwrought. Stross has always been good at SF set dressing, and it’s particularly strong here.

    But unfortunately that’s about as far as I can go with my praise. The actual meat of the story is the Stepford satire, and the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

    The general outlines of the villainous scheme basically track. The villains want to use the Glasshouse as an incubator for Curious Yellow carriers, and secondarily as a proof of concept for their social control software. But where’d all this other crap come from? I can just about buy that a far-future reconstruction of 20th-century social mores would end up looking weirdly skewed thanks to bit rot (even if it’s a little suspicious that Stross’s idea of an ideal social control scheme, with all the horrors of the mid-20th century to choose from, ends up looking exactly like what a British socialist would imagine an American conservative to want), but war criminals-cum-researchers-cum-cult leaders Yourden and Fiore don’t, for example, have any good reason to cover for Mick the beer-swilling wife-beating construction worker stereotype. And speaking of stereotypes, none of the participants (bar Reeve, her boss at the library, and Sam) should act like the 20th-century suburban stock characters they do: they come from a very different culture, and all they’ve got pointing them that way is a sermon a week and a fairly crude gamification scheme. I read Zimbardo too, but even cutting its replication problems some slack, I don’t buy that you’d get effects this strong.

    More generally, I just can’t get into the villains’ heads. Fiore is about the most understandable one, and he’s just a bog-standard petty sadist hopped up on fake authority. Aside from that, they don’t seem to have any real motivations: we’re told they come out of a “cognitive dictatorship”, yet they don’t seem to have any discernible ideology or any strong opinions about anything outside the game they’re running. This is a pretty common Stross problem; admittedly; it’s why his best work casts the villains as tentacled monsters from beyond time and space.

    And then there’s the gender stuff. Other reviews have complained about the Invisible Republic keeping a binary gender scheme even when it seems perfectly normal to sleeve yourself into a featureless drone or a unicorn or a four-armed Hindu goddess; that doesn’t bother me so much, but it doesn’t make sense for Reeve to have so much trouble figuring out who Sam is when s/he’s already changed bodies (at least once explicitly including changing sex) a half-dozen times that we know about. And I keep seeing mixed messages about how gender’s supposed to work in-setting: the way the body-changing technology’s handled implies that it’s basically window dressing, yet everyone we see as male outside the Glasshouse reads as pretty butch, and everyone we see as female there reads pretty femme. It doesn’t strike me as very coherent.

    Ultimately, I think the book might be most interesting as a worked example of how our cultural preoccupations have changed in the last dozen or so years. Isn’t it odd how the word “conformity” has almost totally fallen out of the zeitgeist?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      The issue with the book, as much of Stross’s work involving gender politics, is that Stross fundamentally can’t imagine why anyone would want to be feminine or how femininity has any virtues. So anything that involves women, they are either are trying to be men, want to try to be men, or are pathetic losers who for some reason are not realizing they should.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Trying to be men” I think greatly overstates the case, especially if it is meant in a deliberate sense (on Stross’s part or the fictional characters’). In particular, he did a straight Manic Pixie Dream Girl recently, and I wouldn’t say Cassie was in any way trying to be a man (or a pathetic loser).

        But I think you are on to something in that Stross’s concept of virtues, at least of those appropriate for fictional protagonists, corresponds fairly closely to traditionally masculine virtues and he hands those out to most of his protagonists. And it looks like he increasingly believes or at least pretends that explicit masculinity can only be “toxic”, so by process of elimination his stronger protagonists are leaning towards having breasts and a set of virtues weighted towards the traditionally masculine.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I didn’t like the book– I really wanted the easy body-change world in the beginning of the book, and I wasn’t up for being told yet again that the 50s were bad for women. They were, but I don’t need to be told again.

      At this point, I’m just reading The Laundry Files, and I’d probably read something unrelated to previous novels.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I really didn’t care for that part either, but the vision of the future world combined with Curious Yellow still carried the plot enough that I’m glad I read it.

      • Winja says:

        I read a couple of the Laundry novels and enjoyed them well enough.

        Then I read Stross’s blog, found him to be a complete douchebag and haven’t read another word of his since.

        • albatross11 says:

          His fiction is, at its best, a lot more interesting than his political/social pronouncements.

        • My mildly negative impression of Stross was formed by Usenet interactions a very long time ago. I enjoyed his “James Bond as written by Lovecraft” series, found a couple of his other things rather thin.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I have the weirdest experience every time I try to re-read Glasshouse. Very Glasshouse-esque, in fact, that the resonance of my memory is not congruent with the scenes the words are painting, and the mismatch is unpleasant.

      I was one of the early-draft pre-readers for the manuscript. In the early drafts of the novel, the second half was almost completely different. My feedback on reading was “this is a good first half, and a good second half, but the second half is not the second half of the novel that the first half is the first half of”. Charles agreed, said that other reviewers had said the same thing, and then sawed off the second half, wrote a new one, and glued them together by changing some of the people in the first half from bad guys into good guys, good guys into bad guys, and changing some of the later stated motivations for the earlier shown behavior.

      It was very educational to me, to see how a partial rewrite works.

      The new second half does have all the flaws cited above, and they are specific examples of more general problems that Charles’s books often tend to have.

      OTOH, he is still on my “buy immediate” list, and I have always enjoyed drinking beer with him whenever possible when he is in Seattle or I am in Edinburgh.

  8. Dragor says:

    Does anybody know anything about flipped classrooms? I am helping a student with a paper on flipped classrooms tomorrow, and I wanted to read up on them so I know a bit about the topic. Off the top of my head, I feel like they could maybe be consistent with the retrieval method, but, unlike student directed learning, Brown et al don’t mention it in Make it Stick. (As far as pedagogical methods go, I basically only know anything about the Moore Method and the contents of the book Make It Stick).

    • Dragor says:

      Actually, followup: didn’t somebody post about massive online stuff a while back? Those strike me as similar. Did Scott post an effort post about it or was it one of the adversarial collaborations maybe?

  9. Atlas says:

    A thought/conjecture I had after reading War, Sebastian Junger’s account of a platoon in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, and a few books about the Vietnam War:

    The US has failed to eradicate the Taliban after almost 2 decades in Afghanistan, despite the US war machine’s stupendous edge in financing, firepower and electronic surveillance capabilities. What are US forces missing?

    My suspicion: support from the Afghan—and more specifically Pashtun—populace. If the rural population actually supported the US “liberation” and co-operated with US forces by sharing intelligence, while denying the same to Taliban forces, I suspect it would not take the US 20 days, let alone 20 years, to completely crush the Taliban. Indeed, even if popular opinion among Pashtuns was evenly divided, it would possibly still be an easy US victory, given America’s vast conventional superiority.

    I might be mistaken, but I don’t think that guerrillas can survive by hiding indefinitely against superior conventional forces unless they have at least the passive support of the population. If the population opposes the guerrillas, at some point, someone will notice something about their movements/supply chain and share the information with the occupying army, which can then locate and crush them. The rural peasantry of a nation seems like it would be a wide intelligence net that would be pretty hard to consistently hide from.

    This has long been recognized, and the wheel has been repeatedly reinvented in counter-insurgency doctrine as successive generations have proclaimed that, whereas previous generations foolishly ignored the role of the common people, we know will win their hearts and minds, and thus win the war.

    The problem is, the issue that’s turned out to be most important to people’s hearts and minds is nationalism. “Because we live here” is one of the most important principles of politics. People like being ruled by other people from their own tribe, and they really don’t like it when foreign tribes conquer them. The US can, and has, built lots of proverbial “schools, hospitals and roads” in Afghanistan; it did that in Vietnam, too. Hasn’t won us a whole lot of points with, you know, the actual people living in the country as far as I can tell.

    Junger wasn’t writing an anti-war book, but I was really struck by his recounting of the time that an Afghan villager told the US troops where a roadside bomb was located and the time that an Afghan villager spoke up in favor of the US occupation and against the Taliban at a village council. What was surprising is that, evidently, this was surprising; it’s apparently quite unusual for typical Pashtun Afghans to be so supportive and helpful to US troops. Much more common seemed to be sullen, uncooperative resentment and probable lies by the villagers about their alleged ignorance of Taliban operations. I have to imagine that this war would have gone a whole lot better if it was so commonplace as to be unremarkable for random villagers to tell our troops stuff like “hey, I think I saw some Taliban guys around those caves last night” or “I heard that a Taliban unit passed through [nearby town] a couple days ago.”

    • John Schilling says:

      Congratulations on discovering that people don’t like to have their countries invaded, even by rich white people with good intentions. Seriously, most Americans haven’t figured that out yet. If you invade someone else’s country, no matter how necessary or just your cause, they will hate you for it and the ones who don’t try to kill you for it will be quietly cheering the ones who do. They will not cheer you as liberators, at least not with any real sincerity. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about that.

      Also, as a foreign invader, your rule is almost by definition less legitimate than whoever you are fighting against. Which means anyone who doesn’t at least pretend to cheer the people who are trying to kill you is a traitor and a collaborator and can be punished as such, even if that means assassins in the dark because the local police can no longer operate openly in that capacity. So the local population will for the most part consist of people who support your enemies, people who keep their mouths shut and do nothing to draw attention, and people who are dead. Actively supporting the invaders is, yes, “quite surprising”.

      This is what it means to invade someone else’s country. There are many well-established techniques to successfully invade someone else’s country, but you’ve got to own the invasion and not pretend it is a “liberation” or a “peacekeeping exercise” or whatnot.

      • Dragor says:

        Did you ever read the book Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi? She has a lovely short story in there (the book is a coherent novel, but she contrives to construct it from a series of short stories; it’s weird—and good.) about an independent woman in a rural unnamed African country whose daughter becomes friendly with an occupying soldier until she receives threats from fellow villagers.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The young woman/girl + soldier dynamic takes it even further. Either the girl gets pregnant and leaves the village forever, the girl gets pregnant and the raises a child without a father, or nothing happens. Girl gets pregnant and the soldier stays with her is rare, basically making all interactions neutral or negative for the village.

    • Aapje says:

      The problem is, the issue that’s turned out to be most important to people’s hearts and minds is nationalism.

      I don’t think that this is really the issue or at least the only issue. In WW II, many countries were quite happy to see Western Allied armies fight on their soil against the Axis armies. However, they weren’t necessarily very happy to see Russian armies show up.

      Two of the major reasons were that:
      – Russian armies were known for being a little inconsiderate to the native populace (in the rape and pillage sense)
      – Russian goals often conflicted with the desires of the native populace (who didn’t want to be forced into submission to Russia)

      Dislike of Americans in post-WW II wars often seems to for be the same global reasons:
      – Americans often do war in a way that offends the populace greatly (like drone attacks, ransacking houses, ignoring warlord hierarchies, hit-and-run tactics that turn citizens that support the Americans into sitting ducks, etc)
      – The goals offend the local populace (like the US-backed government being forced to accept policies that are way more Western/American than the locals want)

  10. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I’ve taken up eating a lot more vegetables. Often one meal a day will be a pound of frozen vegetables I’ve heated up on the stovetop.

    I grab a half-pound of two of the following and mix them together. I’ll usually hit everything at least once a week.

    * crinkle-cut carrots
    * cut spinach
    * collard greens
    * cut okra
    * chopped broccoli
    * cauliflower

    Questions:

    – Are any of these things that shouldn’t count, nutritionally, as vegetables (like corn or potatoes would)?

    – Is there anything on that list I really should be eating even more of?

    – Pretend these are the only vegetables I eat, and the rest of my diet is above-average in balance for an American. Are there things I am missing that I should add, and with what frequency? Ease of prep is a major consideration. (My wife makes excellent brussels sprouts but that requires roasting.) Cost matters a bit, but if it doesn’t need to be eaten often, not much.

    – I am currently in a cut in my diet, but I am going to hit my bottom weight within a month or two, and start eating more to enter a bulk. I might cut back on vegetables to be able to get all the calories I require for that (one reason I starting eating a pound of vegetables for a meal was to fill myself up and be able to finish this cut). I’ll probably add lima beans and chickpeas. Are there vegetables that are nutritionally great but also high-calorie that I should consider adding? And, if I cut back on some of the above six during my bulk, which ones are better to ignore?

    edit I bought a small avocado. I rarely eat them, and I have never eaten them straight. What is a very simple recipe? Slice it up then put it cold on toast?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Just put some salt on the avocado and eat it.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Slice the avocado, place on toast. Add sliced banana and a dash of salt. Result: a quick sandwich that serves as a recharge of both potassium and carbs. One of my favorite snacks after a workout.

    • LesHapablap says:

      No suggestions about nutrition, but for cooking those veggies:

      Put cooking oil in a pain, add a small amount of sesame oil, heat pan to med-hi
      Throw veggies in the microwave for one minute
      Throw veggies in the pan, add some salt, fry until starting to brown
      Put them in a bowl, add a small amount of Spicy Dumpling Sauce (amazon

      Delicious, takes less than 10 minutes and barely any clean up! And frying vegetables in a good oil is meant to be one of the healthiest cooking methods.

    • abystander says:

      Maybe you can add more non Brassica like swiss chard or other beet greens and dandelion .
      When you want more calories you can add root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, beets, and onions.

    • fion says:

      Pretend these are the only vegetables I eat, and the rest of my diet is above-average in balance for an American

      I don’t see how it could be, unless the average American eats no vegetables. How could you even *have* a meal with no vegetables? Just meat and carbs? Sounds like a pretty sad meal.

      I expect I’m missing the point…

      • RDNinja says:

        You’d be surprised. Growing up, I honestly don’t think my parents ever cooked vegetables for us beyond just heating up something from a can. And I rarely ate that because it’s gross.

        Only now, as an adult, have I started branching out. I put sauteed peppers and onions in my eggs for breakfast, and sometimes saute fresh green beans, or make cauliflower mashed potatoes.

      • The Nybbler says:

        A steak and a potato is a perfectly good meal. I don’t think it’s the usual thing, but there are those of us who eat little to no vegetables.

        • fion says:

          a potato

          Just the one??? I have never seen a potato big enough that it would be sufficient as the entirety of the carbs in a meal. I mean, I guess I eat a lot, but still…

    • RDNinja says:

      That honestly sounds disgusting. Cooking like that is why I hated vegetables growing up. If it works for you, that’s fine, but if you have kids, you my be scaring them off.

      Have you tried turning your cauliflower into mashed potatoes? It’s something you could make a batch of and reheat as you need to without affecting the texture.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        This is what I eat personally. I have not even suggested other members of my family get in on my pound-of-veggies-at-once plan.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Great job!

      If I were to single one out: spinach is a small wonder.

      To add something with a bit more caloric punch: sweet potatoes.

      Variety is good, generally, but timeframes matter a lot. For example people get into the vegan/vegetarian diet and feel great, because short term it’s an improvement from shitty western diet. But keep eating vegan for a year, and deficiencies start to crop up. Point is, don’t worry about keeping this selection for a month or two.

      Avocados are very healthy and you do need fats even in a cut, but watch the quantity – one avocado will double the calories in your pot. And if we’re all contributing avocado recipes, best bulk food: avocado omelette.

      Also especially in a cut don’t ignore protein. 1.8 grams per lean body mass per day.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I can always make spinach more common. Thanks!

        I was surprised how many calories were in that avocado. I’ll eat more, but probably not that often.

        1.8 grams per lean body mass per day.

        I think you accidentally a unit there.

        I used to eat a lot more protein, I think over a gram per pound, but 0.8 g per pound seems to be the top of what matters according to current science.
        https://www.strongerbyscience.com/reflecting-on-five-years-studying-protein/

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yeap, I accidentally a kg. And yes, it’s the same source (a bunch of guys doing bodybuilding science that keep bickering in awesomely constructive ways. love them). 1.6/kg body mass, or 1.8/kg lean body mass.

          Another thing you can do is protein sparing, alternate day fasting. AKA you take a day of “fasting”, where you eat uber healthy – think salad, carrots and protein.

          This helps because that day you can lower the calories a lot. For long term diet, there’s sharp diminishing returns on lowering calories. For average people (say 15-20% body fat) you end up losing about as much weight on 300 cals as on 800 cals, so there’s not much point going below say, 50-60% of your maintenance, long term. Plus you still need your fats etc. But you can always insert the occasional (pseudo) fasting day.

          Avocados make sense if you look at them as an unsaturated fat source, not a vegetable. And speaking of, you absolutely must have seafood somewhere in your diet, for being the only source of omega 3 and generally all around awesome food.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            My wife hates fish, but I manage to get it or cook it for myself from time to time. Is one serving a week enough, or do I need to up it to two?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Need, not sure. More the other way around – there is no upper limit. You can easily eat only fish for protein. It’d probably be better if you made it twice a week, though. Or, if it suits you better, get some omega 3 cooking oil and see if you can sneak it into day to day cooking.

            Btw, if you’re really interested in the topic, https://mennohenselmans.com has a really awesome PT class, if you’re up for the time&money investment – around half a day a week for around 7 months.

          • littskad says:

            Depending on where you get your fish and what kind it is, it can be surprisingly easy to get heavy-metal poisoning, especially, but not only, mercury. Just something to be aware of.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @littskad

            Fair point, at least for children and pregnant women. For the rest, it’s not as big a deal as it’s usually made out to be. Actual effects of heavy metals in fish on health are small or inconclusive, and when considered together with benefits, benefits usually win.

    • Viliam says:

      My approach to eating more vegetables is quite different. I am writing it here as a possible inspiration. It is actually a few independent things:

      1) Adding a fresh vegetable to every meal. For example, “steak and potatoes” would become “steak and potatoes and a tomato“. After a few weeks, it becomes a habit, and then it feels weird to eat a food without a fresh vegetable. (I have experimented with different kinds of vegetables, but when I am lazy, it becomes tomatoes and cucumbers, because they kinda go well with everything, so I don’t have to think too much when shopping.)

      Note: for a sweet meal, it would be a fruit, e.g. “pancakes with chocolate” would become “pancakes with chocolate and strawberries“. But this is rare. (Also — hypothetically speaking — if there is no good way to add a vegetable or a fruit to a meal, I can just eat one separately afterwards. Thus there is no need to make an exception.)

      2) Breakfast. I am usually in a hurry, so I am likely to go the cognitively easy way and just do the same thing every day. After noticing this, I decided to make it a healthy routine: I take a large plate, and put there 3-5 kinds of fresh vegetables, cut in small pieces; typically a tomato, a cucumber, a bell pepper; sometimes a radish, a beetroot (this one is cooked, I buy it already cooked), or a scallion. Plus some cheese. I put this large plate in the middle of the table, for the whole family; everyone takes whatever they want on their small plate. Plus there is bread and butter, and sometimes canned beans available.

      The advantage of the same person making the same kind of breakfast every day is that you can do it half-asleep, before you completely wake up; and you notice which ingredients you need to buy in the evening.

      3) Soups. Just throw a few random vegetables in a boiling water; it is likely to taste good, or at least acceptable. (I use packages of mixed frozen vegetables.) Add meat, if you are not a vegetarian. Add miso paste and seaweed, if you like Asian food.

      4) Vegetable-based recipes, such as borscht. Find the ones you genuinely like.

      5) Vegetable salads, such as shopska salad. (These days I am only rarely doing them, but years ago when I was dating, I did a lot of them, because in my experience girls liked them. First, inviting someone for “a salad” sounds less serious than inviting someone for “a dinner”. Second, girls often take care about what they eat, but vegetable salads are acceptable to most.)

      Probably the most important thing about this all is that I never feel like I am forcing myself (or my family) to eat more vegetables; and we still eat a lot of them. — At breakfast, I guess people do not really expect big variety; they are half-asleep anyway. The soups and full-vegetable meals we only do once in a while, not every day. And adding an extra fresh vegetable becomes an automatic habit, so it is almost invisible.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Warm avocado is also good with bacon and eggs…a large fork-full of avocado with each bite of protein is amazing. This, of course, assumes you are lifting weights and burning enough calories that this advice does not give you an immediate heart attack.

    • AG says:

      Wouldn’t adding squash variant add back some calories?

    • Winja says:

      You might consider adding squash, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers or maybe mushrooms.

      If you have the time, or are into meal prepping, look up a slow cooker recipe for ratatoullie. It’s pretty easy, and done right, it’s really delicious and the only “bad” thing in it is a cup or so of white wine.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        When she has time, my wife makes this wonderfully tasty squash and zucchini plate: just slicing them thin, drizzle with oil and seasoning, and bake.

        I am vaguely anti-fungus, although I’ve gotten over lots of other foods I disliked in the past few years with effort, so I can probably figure them out, too. And it looks like I like every component of ratatouille, but have never put them all together, so that’s a good suggestion, too.

  11. EchoChaos says:

    I want to thank everyone who educated me on relative British military power to American in the 1800s.

    While my original point was “I don’t think an imperialist war between the US and Confederacy would happen if the split itself had been peaceful for the same reason the US didn’t attack Canada”, I thought Canada and Great Britain’s might was lower than it was at the time.

    I was familiar with the disaster of the Crimean War, and in light of Britain’s bad performance against the Russians with substantial foreign support didn’t see them as being able to take lightly populated Canada back from an American assault.

    A big thanks to bean, who knows far more naval stuff than I do and detailed why relatively close ship numbers wouldn’t have meant the Americans were a near-peer to the British.

  12. DragonMilk says:

    What ramifications do you think the cheating scandal will have?

    Tighter scrutiny for student athletes?
    More or less affirmative action?
    Many many firings?

    • ManyCookies says:

      What’s the typical bribe donation level to recieve special consideration for your children nudge nudge wink wink? Could she have just donated the million dollars and gotten her child in, or would she need to fund an entire building/wing for that?

      • J Mann says:

        I think Money Stuff quoted somebody as saying it’s more money than most people think – around $10 million.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Ah. Is that the amount you need for “If your child is capable of going to school we’ll take em” or for any advantage period? I thought there was a broader legacy admissions program, albeit with much less special consideration (still need to hit the lower end of standards).

          • brad says:

            My understanding, though it may be out of date, is that there is a legacy track and a development track. My understanding is that if you don’t / can’t donate enough money to get to the second track donations won’t help.

          • Clutzy says:

            That is the number (about) nowadays if your kid is a plausible candidate to the ivies, maybe a bit lower. So that amount is basically worth as much as being African American.

    • Plumber says:

      Frankly the irony is hilarious, as we’ve long expected to have colleges get kids who are great athletes to pretend to be students but it’s a scandal that parents give money to college coaches for kids to be students by pretending to be athletes?!

      A lot of pearl clutching about it, but the scandal seens to mostly be individuals being bribed for cheaper rates than what it costs to donate a building to the institutions, ala Jarred Kushner, besides many of the “extracurriculars” that were being faked often just seem to be signalling how well-heeled the parents are – I mean sailing?

      My wife (who did go to college, and then went to but didn’t finish law school) finds this hilarious as well, and among the guys at work the only guy who seems upset coaches baseball and has invested a lot in his daughter being a good athlete, everyone else’s attitude is “What else is new?”

      It kinda shows what college is – a place for some rich kids to meet some smart kids, and I’m reminded of how my High School did lots of sorting, but not much teaching (my union did a far better job of teaching me trigonometry, and by “better” I mean at all!).

      Except that all of the nine Kings and Queens that rule us spent time in Harvard and/or Yale (so who those institutions select influences how we are ruled), to me this mostly just seems like the implicit being made explicit, and it’s those private schools problem to deal with and it’s not as big a deal that is worthy of as many ink and pixels that have been spent on it as have been.

      That people at U.C.L.A. were also involved concerns me more, but I already thought that most states highest paid employees being college basketball and football coaches was bad policy, and that states shouldn’t even have selective colleges, instead they should invest more in educating up all of their citizens, not just a privileged few.

      As for “Affirmative Action”, I think efforts at the college level are too little, too late anyway – a few people with certain skin shades or last names have the scales tipped a bit, um okay whatever, it doesn’t seem like much, make work jobs programs, local hire set asides, and subsidized trainee wages and health clinics would be actions that seem more affirmative to me, for far more effective Affirmative Action programs than colleges that raise poor people “of color” out of poverty, I’d cite the I.L.W.U., the U.A.W., and the U.S. Army.

      • Statismagician says:

        The affirmative action stuff is actually even worse than you think, because (my memory of a fairly in-depth, but not exhaustive review of the) evidence shows that beneficiaries appear to end up worse off than peers who went to a different college not through an affirmative action program, both in terms of grades and post-graduation income. For race, anyway, I don’t recall of anything similar shows up regarding gender.

        • rlms says:

          Is education affirmative action based on gender common? My impression was that it didn’t really exist (except perhaps implicitly in athletic scholarships that are more commonly given to men).

          • Statismagician says:

            Fair question, and I’m honestly not sure. I know there’s a lot of ink spilled about the gender balance in STEM, but that seems relatively recent.

          • The article Aapje gives lists college by relative acceptance rate, which is the wrong criterion, since accepting a larger fraction of female applicants might just mean that the average quality of the female applicants was higher. The measure you would like is average SAT score at the college by gender.

            But that probably isn’t available, except internally.

            The basic point the article makes is probably correct, although they put it in terms of “campus culture.” Mate search is one of the central human activities, especially in the age range of college age students, so a college with a roughly equal gender ratio is going to be more attractive to most applicants than one badly skewed.

            Indeed, one would expect an automatic balancing mechanism, as heterosexual applicants preferred a school where their gender was in the minority. But there could still be an imbalance if schools maintained uniform standards and, for one reason or another, one gender was on average better qualified than the other.

            And the balancing mechanism might not work if there were “campus culture” mechanisms pushing against it, if men didn’t enjoy an environment dominated by women, despite the mating opportunities, or vice versa.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @DavidFriedman 2 bits of anecdata:

            1) when I was at Harvard in the 1970s, there were plenty of traditionally all female and balanced colleges in the area. I don’t recall any male students who felt a need for more female students at Harvard itself.

            2) Some years later (1980s?), I recall a conflict at MIT, between male students, who wanted female students distributed evenly among class sections, and female students, who wanted females to be distributed lumpily, to have a minimum number/group of females in any mixed group.

            3) Come to think of it, I have a third anecdatum – even after Harvard stopped having only all-female and all-male dorms, they kept the gender ratios in their Houses skewed on purpose, IIRC, keeping some at 50% female at the expense of others, in spite of having maybe 10-30% females in the student body. I don’t recall complaints about this from either gender. (But I’m less certain of this one; the details are probably fuzzy.)

          • A1987dM says:

            The G.I. Bill was de-facto affirmative action in favour of men.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ David Friedman

            The university I sporadically attended was 33% female and the girls had a saying

            “The odds are good, but the goods are odd”

            And the retort

            “Its 2:1 guys to girls, but in terms of biomass its 50/50”

            It never seemed like either side was happy with the arrangement, but it does appear to have nearly evened out as it is now 45% female.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The G.I. Bill was de-facto affirmative action in favour of men.

            Then WW2 was a jobs program for women.

          • @DinoNerd:

            I was at Harvard in the early 1960’s. Radcliffe students were in the same classes we were in, although their dorms were a bit of a walk away, so it really was a co-ed system, although with a high m/f ratio.

            My impression from remembering freshman mixers was that the girls from other schools were mostly not from comparable schools, which lowered the prospects for anything long term. On the other hand, I was young and socially backward, so may have missed a lot of what was going on.

            Some houses 50/50 and others heavily males sounds interesting. Was it clear which ones were harder to get into? I can imagine some male students strongly preferring one arrangement, some the other.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @DavidFriedman So we have an alma mater in common. Cool.

            By the time I was there, it was even more co-ed. The 3 houses on the Radcliffe campus had men living there; and the Harvard houses down by the river had women. But the Radcliffe campus still had more than its share of women, and they kept one of the dorms in Harvard Yard all female, to assauge parental fears.

            Most of the relationships I remember involved fellow students, who tended to arrange unofficial roomate swaps so as to live together on campus. (The RAs didn’t care, except it wasn’t allowed to be ‘official’.) But when the topic was ‘dating’, somehow the place to go was some other school.

            I was kind of socially awkward myself, so not well plugged in to the dating scene – and the dynamic among nerds seems to always be very different.

            I don’t recall having difficulty getting into the house I wanted, so I don’t really know about problems there either.

        • Dragor says:

          Could you cite this? I mean that as “cite this because I would be interested to read it” rather than “cite this because I don’t believe it”. I like class mobility, and African Americans certainly got a 300ish years in the US, so I could be sold on affirmative action, but I never really educated myself on it.

      • albatross11 says:

        Offering everyone a good education is definitely a good idea, but not everyone benefits from the same education. Some folks would benefit (and would bring benefit to the world around them) from a very long and hard course of education that most people would hate and would also fail at.

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11

          “Offering everyone a good education is definitely a good idea, but not everyone benefits from the same education…”

          I agree, while I’d like everyone to learn more “civics” (to be educated voters, maybe some economics, statistics, and the scientific method for that reason as well), that may be projection, as I’d have liked to have learned more of that (though if I had a dump truck full of money I’d have spent decades learning more history), but my main beef is with the “two-track” system that my High School had, that is an “Advanced” track (with not enough chairs for every student) that supposedly “preps” one for college (if you can somehow get in and pay for your living expenses), and the “Intermediate” track, in which little teaching at all happened. . 

          Unlike in my youth, now most twenty-somethings have “some college” but, just as then, most never earn a diploma, and as fun as getting to sit and read is I suspect most are in college trying to get marketable credentials. 

          Teenagers could be learning actual marketable skills, with practice and a little knowledge being able to weld pipe can earn a more than median wage, and there’s so much demand I doubt wages would drop that much with double the number of people with that skill, being an HVAC technician, or a CNC machinst pay well and are in demand as well, the German school system teachers these skills and they do well – why not here instead of “prepping” one subset of kids to go to schools that most won’t earn a diploma from, and “teaching” another subset little else but what their own heartbeat sounds like as they watch a clock slowly turning for hours until a bell rings.

          • Clutzy says:

            The modern situation asks the question: what does education teach?

            without an answer. regardless of program.

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing I think is important to remember: Having schools where not everyone goes to college or can get through AP Calculus is an inevitable consequence of the intelligence distribution. But having schools that are unsafe, or where the teachers can’t keep order, or don’t bother trying to teach–those are a policy choice. Adults can, in fact, keep order in a school, and administrators can, in fact, both support teachers in keeping their classrooms orderly and require them to keep trying to teach their kids an a level appropriate to them.

            In common US parlance, calling something a bad school sometimes just means the average student isn’t all that bright, and other times means the school’s a zoo where the teachers don’t keep order in the classrooms and learning is almost impossible. We need to split those two out, because the second one is as much a policy decision as allowing high levels of street crime to make the streets unsafe, or allowing homeless people to take over all the public spaces. It’s not that anyone wants the squeegee men/crazy people crapping on the street/chaotic schools run by gangs, but those things are the result of policies, and different policies can make then not happen.

    • Statismagician says:

      I predict masses-appeasment firings, then absolutely no changes beyond this specific scheme not showing up for at least a couple of decades.

      • Clutzy says:

        That is because the scandal actually is what people want. All the “right thinking” people do these days is rail against standardized tests (even though they do their job very well). This is because 1) They don’t generate the race results people like; and 2) It doesn’t benefit the well connected people, who want to use connections to get dumb kids in.

        • dick says:

          I have small kids and regularly hear my fellow parents bitch about standardized tests, and 100% of the time the reason is a variation on Goodheart’s Law.

          • Clutzy says:

            That is one that never appealed to me logically. Is a measure becoming a goal makes it useless, then its simply a bad measure, or is being categorized as a goal. Standardized tests fit into the second example. No one actually “teaches to the SAT” partially because that is not possible and partially because its not a goal. People don’t care about the SAT, they care about what that leads to. Just like GPA, or your vertical jump at the NBA combine.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Something can often be a fine measure until too much attention is focused on it.

            If I want to see how healthy someone is, seeing how fast they run can be pretty good. But if a policy group decides to, let’s say, reward the school with the healthiest kids, then all of a sudden everything in gym class becomes running laps, all day every day.

            It is possible to overstate this case. If a test is measuring basic literacy, like being able to read a passage and answer questions about it, please, teach to that test.

          • Clutzy says:

            Running laps in gym everyday is dozens of times better than the current gym classes for health and fitness so I don’t think that is a good example.

          • DragonMilk says:

            And what would they propose as an alternative? To me, standardized testing is an equalizer. Everyone knows the rules of the game and you’re tested on how well you can play it. DeBlasio-like alternatives usually increase rather than decrease subjective inequality.

    • albatross11 says:

      My guess is that variations on this are widespread—there is a continuum from normal test prep to people who help you write your essays and prep for your interviews to people who help you plausibly pad out your resume in hard to check ways…all the way to services like this guy was running. Nothing about our elites and their behavior wrt their kids suggests that this kind of service would lack for enthusiastic customers, and little about the schools suggests they’d strain themselves overmuch to turn away full-price children of wealthy and connected parents as long as the whole thing didn’t look to get out of hand.

      I suspect the schools are perfectly aware it’s going on, but don’t care unless it gets too blatant. My guess is that schools sometimes catch their coaches doing stuff like this and quietly let them go, since publicizing it would look bad for the university.

      • albatross11 says:

        As an addendum: It would be interesting for some investigative journalist to look for evidence of this happening in other cases–especially cases where those on-the-take coaches were operating. If you can find people who were admitted for some sport, and then never played the sport once they got there, you can probably find a bunch of additional cases. I bet looking under this rock would yield a *lot* of embarrassed kids and rich parents.

        You’d think this would hurt the schools’ reputations, but there are periodic scandals at top football and basketball schools when it turns out that the star players never attend class but get good grades, and those schools’ reputation seems to survive intact. So maybe this is just one of those rational astrology things like polygraph tests or sensitivity training, where everyone kind-of knows it’s mostly bullshit, but it fills an institutional need, so they stick with it.

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11

          “…You’d think this would hurt the schools’ reputations, but there are periodic scandals at top football and basketball schools when it turns out that the star players never attend class but get good grades, and those schools’ reputation seems to survive intact…”

          That’s one of the ironic and amusing things about this scandal, it’s the reverse of those scandals.

          • albatross11 says:

            So the students at these schools you should suspect of having gotten in or passed their classes based on some kind of special influence are:

            a. Athletes

            b. Non-athletes

            Got it.

        • baconbits9 says:

          There isn’t much reason for such a scandal to hurt the university’s reputation, it actually demonstrates the desirability of the school and enhances it as long as those admittance aren’t to large of a fraction. Its like the cool bar where a few kids with fake IDs get in vs the bar that lets every crap fake ID in.

    • BBA says:

      Probably nothing. It’ll get dismissed as a few bad apples and swept under the rug.

      It does highlight how very strange college admissions are. These decisions, we’re told, can affect you for the rest of your life, and yet they’re made by a handful of anonymous office workers based on opaque criteria with only a few pages from each applicant to go on, and maybe an interview or two. And this is their entire job, they aren’t part of the faculty or involved in any of the actual teaching or research the university does. Once you’re in, you never interact with them or think of them again. I remember the scandal a decade ago when MIT’s dean of admissions was revealed to have lied about her own academic degrees. And on the one hand, the gall of her, claiming to have gone to Union and RPI when she really went to the much more obscure College of Saint Rose, and for ten years she was the ultimate arbiter of who could and couldn’t go to MIT. But on the other hand, did it make a difference? Was MIT’s student body any worse for having been let in by a fraud? What skills are actually necessary to be making those calls anyway?

      I have a vague memory from one of my college visits of an admissions officer saying they could have thrown out all the applications they accepted, chosen an equal number from the ones they rejected, and had the same quality of students. I don’t know what I was supposed to think of that, but it’s stuck with me.

      But it shouldn’t be such a shocking revelation that admissions offices are staffed by ordinary human beings, who can be bribed or hoodwinked just like the rest of us, and yet somehow it still stings to see the details. So it goes.

    • Shion Arita says:

      TBH I’d be a lot more bothered by this if I thought that being accepted to or attending certain colleges actually meant something tangible in the first place. It’s an emperor’s new clothes situation; everyone cares about it because everyone cares about it. Of course there are going to be cheaters if there’s an incentive to do so, but I find it hard to care so much when people cheat a system that’s mostly arbitrary and useless to begin with.

      • albatross11 says:

        Shion Arita:

        Interesting. This is pretty-much how I feel about Elizabeth Warren claiming Native American ancestry to get hired by Harvard Law School.

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Tangent on Roguelikes from the D&D thread:

    A Roguelike is a CRPG defined by exploration of procedural-generation dungeons with a single Player Character, who is subject to permadeath. Dating back to 1980 with naught but ASCII for graphics, it has endured as a subgenre because the definition generates infinite replay-ability.
    In 1982-1983, Rogue was superceded by two games whose source code lives on in games played today: Hack and Moria. Moria was the more narrativist of the two, telling a story based on the eponymous site in The Lord of the Rings. Moria begat Angband, where you raid the 100 levels of Morgoth’s dungeon from The Silmarillion, with killing M. himself as the ultimate goal.
    In RPGs, ever the temptation is toward the throwing in the Kitchen Sink, and the most popular Angband variant is Z(elazny)Angband, which populates Morgoth’s dungeon with characters from Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, the Cthulhu Mythos, real-world mythologies (and a few Marvel additions to the Norse), Doom, etc.
    It seems to me that the Kitchen Sink temptation is driven by the desire to keep players from getting bored. However, the result is loss of all narrative coherence, becoming purely gamist.
    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pitch a coherent plot for a Kitchen Sink Fantasy RPG.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Honestly, Amber provides one quite nicely. The Royal Family of Amber can shuffle through the infinitude of shadows, and in dwelling near one, creates shadows of itself.

      You are thrown into a dungeon for offending one of the Royal Family, and they are intentionally bringing the nasties from various shadows that are related to narratives that they enjoy in order to destroy you.

    • J Mann says:

      I think a Matrix version would be nice, although I’m not sure how I’d do wire-fu in a roguelike. You work your way through chunks of the Matrix obtaining items and skills, and encountering levels and forks with vastly different settings and rules.

      • beleester says:

        I’d make it like Doom: The Roguelike but make the bullets move at half speed, so that instead of just having a miss chance if enemies shoot while you’re moving, you can actually move while the bullets are in flight.

        And maybe add some special melee moves so that instead of just moving and shooting you can zip towards an enemy and kick them in the face (which also gives you interesting tactical options for dodging).

    • Nornagest says:

      The big bad has the power to create creatures based on humanity’s legends and archetypes, and to slowly warp environments to match. His constructs are stronger closer to his source of power, but also generally stronger the better-known they are, and are easiest to create if they’re in an appropriate environment (you’d usually find Robin Hood, for example, in Sherwood Forest or at least a pretty good facsimile).

      Your job is to make your way through his nightmare realm, kill the best and worst that humanity’s imagination has to offer, and finally stick a sword through his intestines.

    • Civilis says:

      To me, concurrent with the current trend towards Isekai* anime/manga plotlines, the narrative is obvious: the fantasy world’s big bad is feeding off the collective unconscious of mankind on Earth, manifesting monsters from Earth’s fiction to terrorize the locals. The hero is a gamer summoned from Earth based on his knowledge of various Earth fictions which, combined with the powers he gets from being summoned, will help to defeat the big bad and his minions.

      Bonus points for the big bad figuring it out part way through and trying to subvert the hero’s genre savvy-ness by deliberately breaking the genre conventions. Double bonus-points if the hero is able to reach outside the genre for a few tricks of his own.

      * Isekai (Japanese: 異世界, lit. “different world”) is a subgenre of Japanese fantasy light novels, manga, anime, and video games revolving around a normal person from Earth being transported to, reborn or trapped in a parallel universe.

      • Nornagest says:

        I was thinking about Fate and SMT more than the isekai genre (of which I’m not really a fan), but it sounds like we’re thinking along similar lines.

        • Civilis says:

          Yeah, I liked your idea. Doing without the fantasy world works with the monsters being here, but then you have to justify the hero’s powers to stop them (or else just fall back on shooting them, which is always an option).

          Now I’m thinking a schism amongst a secret order of magicians that draw their powers from books, often by summoning creatures, heroes and items from works to our world. Our hero is an orphan with the magical lineage who discovers the war between these factions by accident and must learn to utilize the power to… I think it writes itself at some point.

          I think that with modern culture, the only way to write a fantasy kitchen sink world is to explicitly tie it somehow to some form of fiction to explain the overlap between fantasy and fiction.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Alternatively, instead of the collective unconscious of mankind, it could be the fears of the protaganist themself that are being manifested (like in Michael Crichton’s Sphere)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Does urban fantasy count?

      I actually really like “all conspiracy theories and urban legends are true” settings. Because so many conspiracy theories or urban legends are riffs on earlier versions, there’s a sort of demented sense of a consistent shared universe akin to Marvel or DC continuity. And it’s easy to slip in new elements without it seeming out of place: if you need the Norse god Thor to show up, just have the Æsir be another race of ancient astronauts like the pyramid builders.

      For a more traditional fantasy setting, I wouldn’t try to make it logically fit together but instead aim to evoke a dreamlike feeling. All of the otherworldly stuff like Gods, elves or faeries, etc doesn’t necessarily need to interact with each other: they’re each defined solely by how they affect the everyday world of humans that the player characters inhabit.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Could always break the fourth wall and acknowledge it’s a game – the villainous Game Designers have brought together all the beasties and dark gods from myth and fiction and thrown them in a maze, and you must fight your way out.

    • Dack says:

      Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pitch a coherent plot for a Kitchen Sink Fantasy RPG.

      Sliders: the RPG. Done.

    • beleester says:

      Fate/Grand Order: The Roguelike. Send your Servant into the shattered timestream, and battle corrupted versions of legends from every mythology in history, with the goal of retrieving or destroying the Grail and returning to your home time alive.

      You barely even need to change the plot of FGO, just make it a roguelike instead of a mission-based game.

    • JPNunez says:

      Angband was p ok. Got pretty addicted to it back in college, but had to stop playing because it was hell on my hands.

      Dunno how much kitchen sinks you want, tho. One Piece has the perfect setting for something like that, where the plot itself sorts the enemies in thougher order around the equator of the world, just because the sea itself and, well, everyone, wants to get to the end.

      So yeah, a roguelike in One Piece already solves the “going in deeper makes the game harder” plot line already. It could support a FTL clone.

  14. samuel846 says:

    @scott in a old post .. which i cannot recall… you mentioned a worrying paradox/syndrome.. which i cannot recall.. please help:
    It was along the lines of any subject you know about, when you read about it, you know that most people haven’t a clue what they are talking about, when talking about that subject. But then in the same realms of popular culture/media/literature you will read about some other topic and take it on perfectly good faith that this is an accurate description of what is being written about. I think you said a physicist (or two) came up with the name/were named after the description of this idea. It’s been annoying me for like 1.5 months that I can’t recall now I just give up and must seek outside help to get the name..
    Thanks

  15. realitychemist says:

    Has anyone been here long enough to know what Scott’s avatar symbolizes? I’m curious

    • Evan Þ says:

      A slate, a star, and a codex – and the missing “N” that keeps “Slate Star Codex” from being an anagram of “Scott Alexander.”

      • realitychemist says:

        That’s not really what I was asking about, but I like the trivia about the ‘N’ completing the anagram! Thanks!

      • Nick says:

        It’s not a slate and a star, it’s a slate star, as in, the color is slate. The spiral is there because Raikoth.

    • Nick says:

      If you’re referring to his avatar in comments, it’s a necklace that (I think?) he owns. It’s based on or coincides with a design from his Raikoth conworld:

      Somewhere in the ocean hundreds of miles north of the Shirerithian mainland there is a mountainous arctic island upon which thrives an emergent oracular techno-theocracy that calls itself the Shining Garden of Raikoth. Its priests wear a silver spiral around their necks as a sign of their dedication, and in solidarity with them I too wear the spiral. But that is as far as it goes. No deity-worshipping. No speaking to myself in constructed languages. Just the spiral.

  16. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    “Of Preppers and the Great March Blackout” is a first hand account of the crisis in Venezuela by a prepper, in English. Some things of note:

    1. Water. Lots of preppers stock up on food and neglect water, but you need water for everything. You need water to drink, to cook, to flush the toilets, etc… Stock up on water and buy LifeStraws.

    2. Comms. Information is important, and it is hard to get when you are rationing batteries. Buy an AM/FM/SW radio with solar panels and a hand crank.

  17. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Somewhat inspired by the pollution regulations post: it has become a frequent talking point among advocates of clamping down hard on personal automobiles that even electric cars powered by renewable energy are still a big pollution problem because of particulate emissions from tires and brakes. Having just lived through two nasty CA wildfire seasons in a row I am more attuned to particulate pollution as a problem generally, so I would like to know more.

    Does anyone have pointers to non axe grinding sources of more details on this kind of pollution? Specifically it would be useful to know:

    1. How large a fraction of particulate pollution in US urban areas is typically from tires and brakes.

    2. How cars compare to other vehicles in amounts of these emissions per passenger mile (since e.g. buses need tires and brakes too).

    3. How much is tires vs how much is brakes. E.g. if it is mostly brakes you would think electric cars would do better because of regenerative engine braking reducing need for brake rotors friction.

    4. Whether there are existing regulations that affect the levels of these emissions.

    5. Whether there are feasible technological changes that could reduce the level of these emissions.

  18. Reasoner says:

    This is a follow-up to a previous discussion I started, around trying to change the incentives facing social media companies so they want to make their platforms better.

    It seems like consensus is building that social media is just crap. Almost all the comments in this recent Hacker News thread are negative, for instance. Technology Review ran this column on Depressed Former Internet Optimists.

    I don’t think I would be very upset by a fairly drastic outcome, where the scope of the Internet contracts so user-generated content is a much smaller focus, while we retain commercial benefits such as Amazon.com, job sites, etc. Yes, this would be a blow, but nothing compared to possible effects of the nasty ideologies user-generated content is promoting, in my estimation. (H/T another commenter here)

    However, it occurred to me that there may be an entire range of compromise positions between my position and the status quo. Specifically, consider a “limited limited liability” scheme where social media websites still retain something of a liability shield, but it’s weaker than it is now. For example, the law could specify the maximum amount of damages a site would ever have to pay for the posts of any single misbehaving user. That maximum amount could act as a dial, tuned through legislation, that allows us to balance benefits of social media against costs. (There are probably multiple ways to set up a dial like this.)

    (I also suspect the effects of complete removal of the liability shield would not actually be super drastic. I cited the example of https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/ which is a UK based forum, which means it has no liability shield, and it has been going strong for years. But that was a discussion which already happened in the previous thread.)

    Thoughts on the dial idea? I’ll admit I’m no legal expert and I’m making things up as I go along, but this seems like an incredibly important and neglected topic! Charles Duhigg writes:

    Ordinary anger can deepen, under the right circumstances, into moral indignation—a more combustible form of the emotion, though one that can still be a powerful force for good. If moral indignation persists, however—and if the indignant lose faith that their anger is being heard—it can produce a third type of anger: a desire for revenge against our enemies that privileges inflicting punishment over reaching accord.

    We are further down this path as a nation than you may realize…

    (He goes on to propose some solutions which I don’t think will actually work)

    • brad says:

      You hint at it, but to make it explicit I think people wildly overestimate the importance of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Contemporary First Amendment doctrine provides a lot lot of protection for publishers. It isn’t as though without that specific immunity US law somehow reverts to that of Singapore.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Section 230 keeps operators of sites from spending all their time and money in courtrooms, even if the First Amendment would protect them.

        My bias is that getting rid of 230 is a really bad idea, but I’m trying to think it out. This may take some time.

    • BBA says:

      There was lots of user-generated content in the ’90s and ’00s, in message boards and blog comments, and let’s toss in GeoCities and LiveJournal and MySpace. There were flame wars and toxicity, but it never got anywhere near current levels of geopolitical significance. And of course the legal status of platforms was exactly the same, so that can’t be it.

      I think the issue springs from having big all-encompassing platforms that try to bring everyone into a global conversation. This tends to amplify toxicity rather than dissipate it. The problem is, it’s too much more convenient than decentralized, less toxic systems of the past. Who wants to remember separate logins for every single website when you spend 99% of your time on Facebook? Let alone more arcane stuff like Usenet and IRC that aren’t even in your browser.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The internet gets blamed too much for this. The French were able to accomplish a Reign of Terror without Facebook, the Chinese had a Cultural Revolution sans Twitter, the American North and South fought long before Tumblr called anyone racist. There’s plenty of precedent for rival religions forming within a nation and growing to hate each other, leading to far greater toxicity than anything we’re seeing today. The internet is just making visible what’s there anyway.

        If we’re really lucky, it might be providing a release valve.

        • Plumber says:

          @Jaskologist

          “….it might be providing a release valve.”

          +1!

          Older commenters can tell you this is peaceful. 

          There just isn’t the same scale of riots, murders, and domestic terrorism in the U.S.A. as there was in the first half of my life.

          Yeah with Charlottesville and Ferguson things are more testy than in the late 1990’s, but compared to even the early ’90’s (much less the ’60’s through the ’80’s) things are just more peaceful now. 

          Tear gas came by wind to my nursery school when I was a toddler, I saw riots from my classroom window in elementary and Junior High School, I still saw them into my 20’s (complete with a crowd around a burning car) at night when I was leaving work, from the ’80’s into the ’90’s I heard gunfire many months and a couple times saw muzzle flashes on city streets, the Klan was still commiting murders into the ’70’s, as were leftist “revolutionaries” into the ’80’s – in writing this I’m now wondering: Why are things so relatively peaceful now?

          Supposedly the Nation is more “polarized”, and with the organization potential of the internet (demonstrated by the “Arab Spring” and the subsequent Syrian civil war), it’s puzzling as except for some Alt-Right” meets “Anti-Fa” for a few scheduled fist fights in 2017, a couple of broken windows due to “Occupy Oakland” in 2011, I just don’t recall that much violence – despite “millennials” outnumbering even the “baby boom” generation, and more still in their violence prone years.

          Is it video games? 

          De facto legal marijuana? 

          “Flame wars” instead of real flames?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s most likely lead, or rather the increasing absence thereof.

            Anything Kevin Drum has written on the subject is pretty good, but that link is probably a good starting point.

          • Reasoner says:

            Social media is the lead of the 21st century.

        • BBA says:

          [Three-day rule violation redacted] aside… making communication easier was supposed to bring people together, but most people only want to come together to rage against their enemies. Or maybe not most, but enough to ruin it for the rest of us.

          And maybe techno-optimists were deluded all along about making the world a better place, but the Internet at least used to be fun. Now in most Internet communities I half-expect a Maoist struggle session to break out, and in the others I half-expect a Klan rally, and I don’t consider either of those things fun.

          • Dragor says:

            Somehow skimming this comment makes me try to envision a Klan struggle session, or Maoist Klansmen more generally, and the effort amuses me.

          • albatross11 says:

            One day, we will manage to infect the Klansmen with the purity-spiral mind-virus that’s taken over the social justice movement, thus rendering them even less effective than they already were. The last two remaining Klansmen will end up purging one another from the movement for problematic jokes told a decade earlier.

      • beleester says:

        Who wants to remember separate logins for every single website when you spend 99% of your time on Facebook? Let alone more arcane stuff like Usenet and IRC that aren’t even in your browser.

        I don’t think there’s a problem with Facebook/Google being a one-stop-shop for identification – my Gmail account already served that purpose anyway. Simply putting a “login with Facebook” button on another website isn’t going to bring that website into the global conversation. The issue is the actual social media platform they’re running, which hosts the global conversation.

        • albatross11 says:

          Facebook will definitely be harvesting information about where and when you login (and where and when other people login), and using that to sell you to advertisers. Quite probably along with other information from the page or site you’re visiting.

          • dick says:

            If you see the “Login with facebook” button, they already harvested it regardless of whether you actually use it to log in. (Unless you’re incognito, or in a different browser than the one you use FB on)

          • Lambert says:

            I think privacy badger works to block it, too.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        There was lots of user-generated content in the ’90s and ’00s….I think the issue springs from having big all-encompassing platforms that try to bring everyone into a global conversation.

        Also, the Big Sort wasn’t as far advanced then, and people were more likely to be personally acquainted with a member of the opposition.

  19. realitychemist says:

    CW: Thread may potentially contain spoilers for the book Anathem

    I’m about halfway through Neil Stephenson’s book Anathem, which is about a world where mathematics and science split off from engineering and information technology thousands of years ago. The mathematicians and scientists cloistered themselves in “maths” which only rarely open to the outside world, allowing engineering and information technology to develop somewhat separately from theoretical mathematics and information technology. I would recommend this book, based on the first half.

    There’s also a lot of discussion the philosophy of math/science, such as platonic realism (rebranded in the book as the Halikaarnian tradition) versus nominalism (rebranded as the Procian tradition). I’m wondering what people here think of this debate, so my question is:

    Do you tend to agree with Platonic realism, nominalism, or some other school of thought? (And why?)

    • JPNunez says:

      There is probably some existance to mathematical objects, something that makes them consistent across human minds. This proposition would have more weight, of course, if we met aliens and we could make both our mathematics consistent with each other.

      It’s probably the same thing that makes mathematics so useful in physical sciences.

      Beyond these vague propositions…I dunno. It’s not something that can be knowable.

      e: I also think that Max Tegmark’s viewpoint is an extreme position on this matter

      • realitychemist says:

        Well, I did put the spoiler warning at the top, so…

        This seems to be kinda what Anathem is about. Where I am (about halfway) it’s become apparent that there is some kind of alien space ship in orbit around the planet, and it has a giant proof of the pythagorean theorem emblazoned on the outside. (It may actually be humans from another causal domain, unclear at this point in the text.) So I’m expecting even more discussion about what that piece of evidence would mean for the debate as the book continues.

    • yodelyak says:

      Hmm…

      So, I don’t usually find “nominalism” or “platonic realism” to do a very helpful job of talking about what it is about math (as opposed to everything else we are doing when we are thinking/talking/speaking/singing). I think there’s some great stuff out there on this topic, and spent a few months back in college very interested.

      I’d start by pointing at the way in which math is “both God-given and man-made.” (I ran across a version of this in the introduction to Indra’s Pearls, which is my favorite “let’s get math-y” coffee-table-picture-book. A great present for a math-inclined kid who reads for fun.) It’s God-given in that there are things about what a mind finds when it does the stuff we call math that will always be found to have the same properties as they have always been found to have. In other words, if we re-invent math, it will still have all the same parts.

      It’s man-made in that the minds that do the finding are doing something, and if you skip the doing… well, that’s like asking the question of if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound. So you’re about to run into having to think about language/reality/subject-object/etc. There’s something there, but what you’re looking for once you’re asking this question is, IMNSHO, you’re actually thinking about “self” and “no self” and you don’t really need to think about numbers at all: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/09/18/book-review-mastering-the-core-teachings-of-the-buddha/

      I think a good takeaway there (if you aren’t planning a deep dive into re-thinking things like self/no-self/language/existence/experience) then maybe it makes more sense to think about what kinds of thinking math enables. I think the wiki page for my view is probably the one on structuralism.

    • yodelyak says:

      Also, apropos of your prompt, I wonder if anyone here can help me find a short essay/paper I once read, but do not know how to locate now. It’s on the philosophy of time and/or the reality/non-reality of math. If not, I tried to remember what was in it that I liked, and think I recreated the key gist of it below:

      The paper is a thought-experiment about a world where there are three lands, called A, B, and C, each with a border on the other two, but almost no travelers bothering with the difficult journey, and no other communication between them. The pinnacles of technology in all three lands are the written calendar and the camel. All the people in the lands periodically experience a feeling of disorientation/fuzziness during which time seems to stop, or dilate, or really no one can quite agree on what it “feels like.” As far as anyone can tell, the feeling seems to hit everyone at the exact same moment–always at noon, although most days it does not happen–and last equally long for everyone, and when the feeling passes nothing has moved and no one has changed and no time at all has passed. It’s such a non-event that there doesn’t seem to be any point talking about it, except with children to reassure them it isn’t dangerous or even important. The feeling is called “mumsy.”

      Each land keeps a calendar that seems to match the passage of time in that land. Simple water clocks and subjective experience are that a day–which is measured from noon to noon–lasts 24-hours in each land. You can get the same amount of work done, or miles traveled, in a day in one land as any other. But people generally are aware that the calendars do not agree with each other about how many days have passed. Each land generally thinks of the other lands as “backward” and confused about how to manage a calendar, and of the other lands’ rulers as despots who intentionally sow confusion. The people in A tend to think the people in B and C use witchcraft, which is also why they seem to live longer. One day, however, an old and clever merchant is reviewing his records, and becomes surprised to see that every land has the same number of years since he started his trading business, and the same number of months in a year too. He sits and reviews the calendars he has accumulated from each land over many years, and figures out these rules:
      In Land A, time seems to work normally, the calendar kept has 23-day months, and everyone gets a feeling of mumsy every 23rd day at noon.
      In Land B, time seems to work normally, but the feeling of mumsy happens every fourth day at noon. The month has only 18 days. Also, if you enter Land B from Land A on a day that is a multiple of 4, you experience as much as a minute of mumsy, and arrive in Land B on day N+1.
      In Land C, time seems to work normally. The month has 20 days. If you enter Land C from Land A on a day that is a multiple of 6, you experience as much as a minute of mumsy, and arrive in Land C on day N+1.

      For years, the merchant uses these rules and the work perfectly–he can now perfectly predict when his shipments will leave and arrive!

      After years of this, the merchant supposes to himself that maybe the cause of the feeling of “mumsy” is that a land has been ‘frozen’ in time for a full day. He imagines a ‘true’ calendar that works for all three kingdoms, where the month has 24 days, but Land A freezes every 24th day, for a full day, while Land B freezes every 4th day, and Land C every 6th day. He finds this possibility baffling–what does it mean for *everywhere* to be frozen all at the same time? If no one experiences it, is it “real”? After a minute’s reflection, he decides he is a practical man, and whether “real” or not, his 24-day calendar is easier to use than three different cross-referenced calendars, and his business is shipping things so they arrive on time, not knowing whether things are “real” or not, if that even means anything at all.

      Anyone know who wrote this in its original form, or what the title of it was?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      If particularly interested, this may be a profitable rabbit-hole:

      https://samzdat.com/2017/12/19/euthyphro-dilemmas-as-mathematical-objects/

  20. AlesZiegler says:

    So, now UK Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of delaying Brexit. I do not know whether EU will agree on this. I am interested whether somebody here is convinced that faction of Conservative party which is for Brexit, and which helped to vote down treaty negotiated by May´s government, knows what is it doing?

    My knowledge of British politics is limited, but it seems to me that their actions could very well destabilize situation there to such an extent that pro EU forces will be able to get a second referendum with uncertain outcome, or softBrexit where UK will end with similar relationship to EU as Switzerland, or even Norway.

    If I would be a British citizen, I would almost certainly vote Remain, but I get there are good arguments for Leave. For this, not so much.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I am interested whether somebody here is convinced that faction of Conservative party which is for Brexit, and which helped to vote down treaty negotiated by May´s government, knows what is it doing?

      I think the general view amongst that faction was that May’s deal represented the worst of both worlds, leaving the UK with most of the costs associated with EU membership but without any input in shaping EU policy. Given that most MPs are Remainers who aren’t likely to vote through anything but a Brexit-in-name-only, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them weren’t just trying to stop anything getting through until the 29th, when the country will go Hard Brexit by default, since this seems like the only way a meaningful Brexit will actually happen. At any rate, that’s what I’d be doing if I were an MP.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yep. And a Brexiteer’s current best move is probably to come up with a way to antagonize the EU into refusing to allow a delay.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Ok, so it is a game of chicken, where hardline Leavers are trying to get to a Brexit without a deal and are willing to risk soft (Norway style arrangment) or no Brexit because they do not see much relevant difference between that and currently offered deal? That sort of makes sense, I guess.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I think very nearly everyone – even hard Brexiteers who would be happiest (given where we are) with no deal – would prefer a Norway-style arrangement to the currently offered deal, if those were the only possible alternatives. But the difference between no deal (or a deal on the sort of terms they would prefer, which will not be forthcoming) and all the alternatives is much greater than the difference between those alternatives.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I think very nearly everyone – even hard Brexiteers who would be happiest (given where we are) with no deal – would prefer a Norway-style arrangement to the currently offered deal

            Why? I really do not understand their position on this.

    • broblawsky says:

      The important thing to understand is that, as far as I or anyone I’ve read can tell, there isn’t a plan. The only person who came up with anything resembling a plan is May, and everyone hates her plan. Brexit as-marketed is impossible. No one (but May) wants anything that can be achieved.

  21. albatross11 says:

    Sam Harris recently had a podcast talking about information warfare via social media, interviewing Renee DiResta. They talked extensively about the Russian influence operation in the 2016 election, and Facebook’s response (and what their response should have been).

    One thing that struck me about this discussion was that:

    a. Most of the messages in the influence operation were pretty unambiguously political speech. Often dumb political memes, but still stuff that is absolutely protected under the first amendment, and that we probably don’t in general want Facebook/Twitter/Google/etc. to be regulating.

    b. Both Harris and DiResta seemed broadly on board with both Facebook et al and the US government having some kind of mechanisms to shut this stuff down.

    It seems very likely to me that any such mechanism will be used to shut down not only foreign influence operations, but also upsetting-to-the-powerful insurgencies like the ones behind Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Ron Paul, and Trump, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy. Indeed, a lot of the actual demonetization/banning/blocking that’s being done by these companies now seems to have a pretty strong ideological flavor, with a lot of folks openly calling for suppressing or de-emphasizing the alt-r-ght, human b-odiversity types, white nationalists, anti-Semites, TERFs, and similar groups. It seems inevitable that more powerful and pervasive mechanisms will be used in the same way.

    It also seems inevitable that greater integration between the federal government and social media companies w.r.t. what harmful content is being spread by anti-American forces will be used to try to suppress some true or plausible statements or arguments on “you can’t handle the truth” grounds[1]. I’m not sure what the right response to such influence operations is (nor do I remotely think Russia is the only country running them, or that only countries are running them–there was a comparable PR campaign run in South Africa a few years back to keep Zuma and his cronies in power a little longer), but I am very concerned that the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.

    Another major theme of the discussion was that these information operations were mainly intended to amp up identity politics and existing divisions in US society, but also had a broad pro-Trump and especially anti-Hillary overtone. And it struck me that the Russians were walking around tossing a few Molotov cocktails into buildings while the biggest and most powerful media companies were sending out teams of guys with flamethrowers there–outrage-farming is like half of online media, and identity politics is a great way to get clicks and eyeballs, so it gets amped up even by the biggest media players.

    [1] For example, there were rumors and unconfirmed reports of US war crimes–black sites, ghost detainees, torture–for a couple years before they came out in mainstream news sources. How would you expect a federal government social media collaboration to prevent hostile foreign ideas from being used to attack American politics to categorize those?

    • Walter says:

      There are, like, a LOT of things stuck under the umbrella of ‘Russian Interference in 2016 election’, such that no matter what side you are on you can probably see your way to declaring the other side lying liars who lie.

      Like, sliding scale it.
      (People from other) Countries shouldn’t be able to speak publicly about our electoral politics at all, only American citizens have free speech in this regard.
      all the way through.
      Countries shouldn’t be able to tamper with the results of our elections by sending goons to steal ballots and rewrite them.

      Most erry-body gets that top is insane, and bottom is trivial, but in order to get salty at Reps from getting a hand from Russia but not at Dems from getting helped by every other nation the stuff in the middle is gonna be wildly confused.

      Key to having a discussion about this sort of thing is working out exactly what folks think should be illegal. It is usually just a post facto position that appears behind the real positions of Trump/Hillary BAD, He/She Cheated!

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, it’s really hard to have a discussion of the Russian operation in 2016 without it turning into a discussion about whether Trump is legitimate, Hillary was robbed, etc. Oddly, I remember the op-eds and discussions about how Trump raising the issue of election fraud before the election was a terrible threat to democracy, as he could undermine the legitimacy of the political system by spreading that kind of idea around. Most of the people making those comments are now totally on board with calling Trump’s election into question, because partisanship and intellectual integrity don’t mix well.

        • dick says:

          Trump raising the issue of election fraud before the election was terrible because it was false, not because he’s Trump. There are a lot of lies that are too commonplace in politics to get upset about – “this bill will cost $X” and “I’ve always supported this cause” and “my opponent hates the troops” and such – but I think it’s important for allegations of election tampering to not join them. For sore losers to start refusing to concede would be a really bad precedent.

    • J Mann says:

      If it’s feasible to regulate, I think most people are OK with the principle that people shouldn’t be able to clearly lie as part of a political opinion. Some examples:

      1) A [Russian|American] citizen and resident creates a fake Facebook account using a photo of a hot woman, claims to be a hot woman using a fictitious name and background, and comments all over the place about how “I am a mother of three, a waitress, and a church-going New Jerseyite and I think that Beto O’Rourke is the only person who fulfills my values. (I think if we knew the postings to be a sock, most people would be OK with banning them).

      2) Vladimir Putin gives a press conference where he says “The Russian government supports Beto O’Rourke, because his strong stances and moral values are the best thing for the world.” (I think most people would be OK with him saying that, and with other people accurately republishing it, even if there were strong evidence that Beto is not the best thing for the world).

      3) The Russian government buys a bunch of Facebook ads targeted to people likely to support Russia that republishes Putin’s statement accurately. (This is closer – probably most people would be OK with banning it, although many people would find it harmless.)

      4) AOC falsely states that the Pentagon wastes $21 trillion per year, but reasonably believes the statement to be true.

      5) AOC falsely states #4, and unreasonably but actually believes it to be true.

      6) AOC falsely states #4 and separately admits she knows it to be false.

      • albatross11 says:

        Banning false statements is tricky, because then you need someone to decide what’s false, and whoever gets to do that gets to control a lot of political dialogue.

        How about “US officials have ordered war crimes and then protected their underlings who committed them?” Or “Gender differences are all culturally defined?” Or “Women are paid 67 cents for every dollar men are paid?” Or “IQ is racist pseudoscience?” Those are all statements that could appear in the New York Times or on CNN on any given day, I think, but they’re not all true.

        Banning known trolls/bots/foreign influence operations is perfectly reasonable and worthwhile. But it sure would have been convenient, back when Wikileaks was releasing embarrassing documents about the US war on terror all the time, to have defined them as a foreign influence operation and suppressed all that information or any discussion of it.

      • SamChevre says:

        If it’s feasible to regulate, I think most people are OK with the principle that people shouldn’t be able to clearly lie as part of a political opinion.

        I don’t think this is actually true–at least, not when the lies are in support of elite goals. Think of NY Times vs Sullivan; the NY Times was repeatedly found guilty of publishing defamatory falsehoods, and would have been bankrupted by the damages (they were in the millions, in 1960 dollars–in the billions in today’s dollars), until the Supreme Court decided that “Oh, defamatory lies have to be malicious (and malice is entirely unprovable) if there a controversy they might be related to.” (I’m a cynic; I think that the fact that a majority of the justices supported the NY Times politics, and hated the people they were lying about, might have been relevant.)

        So I do not think there’s a consensus against lying; I think there’s at best a consensus against lying in ways that inconvenience the elite.

        • Gray Ice says:

          Another way of putting it: “How do you tell if a politician is lying?”…”His lips are moving.”

          If someone can determine which statements are lies, and which are debatable, they can screen their political opponents out of popular discourse.

          If enough people feel that the politicians that are representing their options are left out of popular discourse….

          ….I”m not sure, but it probably doesn’t end up well.

  22. Elementaldex says:

    Does anyone have any experience with/knowledge about Electroconculsive Therapy (ECT) for treatment resistant depression? My Sister-in-law is planning to receive this treatment over the next few months and for a variety of reasons asks me about it. But the research does not seem super clear and communities that talk about it seem polarized towards either ‘it causes brain damage and does not help’ or ‘it is the most amazing thing ever!’. I have no idea where a sensible place to draw the risk reward line would be.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Scott talked about electroconvulsive therapy in “Things That Sometimes Help If You Have Depression”:

      Electroconvulsive therapy gets a bad rap from old movies where we see people who “misbehave” in the mental institution getting what look like very painful electric shocks.

      Modern electroconvulsive therapy is done with the patient sedated. You are pleasantly asleep, your limbs aren’t flailing about or anything, and it can be done on an outpatient basis with you going home as soon as you’re done.

      There are a lot of worries about side effects. Some people experience some memory loss, especially of the couple of weeks before the treatment. Most of the time these memories come back. Sometimes they don’t. But how much do you want to remember the week when you were so depressed you needed ECT, anyway? Longer-term side effects are less well-known. Some people think a lot of ECT isn’t good for your brain, but if the effect exists it’s small enough that people are still debating whether or not they’ve really picked it up.

      But the thing is, ECT really, really works. People get to the point where everything else has failed, and they’ve been on seven hundred different medications without feeling any better, and they’re ready to give up, and then they get ECT and start whistling happy songs and dancing the polka. I won’t say it works 100% of the time, because no medical treatment works 100% of the time. But in psychiatry, where expectations are always low, it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a miracle cure.

    • SamChevre says:

      My best friend from college, a doctor herself, had ECT and found it very effective, but the memory loss side effects were severe; she then had follow-up TMS (rather than ECT) and found it effective and less debilitating.

  23. HeelBearCub says:

    Anyone know anything reliable about something called HL-2M Tokamak, China’s so called “artificial sun” fusion reactor? Google pushed an article at me claiming that it’s supposed to be live this year, but all the lay sources that show up on google seem sketchy to me.

  24. albatross11 says:

    Bombing in Africa

    I am deeply skeptical that this has much to do with US interests, and my guess is that less than ten percent of Americans know we’re essentially fighting this mini-war in Somalia, so it’s hard to see where any democratic oversight comes in. It doesn’t seem to be a matter that stirs up much partisan debate, either. We’ve just all gotten used to the idea that we have soldiers shooting at people/being shot at in a dozen countries (and bombers and missiles and drones killing people on the ground), all the time, and nobody pays much attention–it’s not as interesting as the latest outrageous Trump tweet or bit of Twitter-enabled offense archaeology.

    • Plumber says:

      @albatross11,

      As a data-point I didn’t know about that until your post.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Back in 2017 some US soldiers were killed by an ambush in Niger and I think the collective response was “wait, there’s US soldiers in Niger?”

      • albatross11 says:

        As I recall, the news cycle was dominated by Trump’s outrageous tweets / comments to one of the widows of the dead soldiers. Why there were US troops in a position to get killed in Niger was ten paragraphs on page A-7.

    • Tenacious D says:

      In a tribal country like Somalia where the politics are so illegible to outsiders it’s hard to know what US interests even are. In the early 90s, US forces were trying to capture Aidid but less than a decade later his son and heir had a measure of US support.

    • Atlas says:

      Over the past few years, my convictions have become much more anti-war, but I don’t think that the lack of knowledge/oversight is a persuasive argument against, say, the US presence in Somalia or Syria, although I’m quite sympathetic to an argument against such presences on the merits.

      I think it doesn’t lead to too much debate because…well, not too many Americans are coming home in body bags and it probably doesn’t cost too much relative to the overall price of maintaining the massive American military machine (i.e. ~3.5% of GDP or so.) The layperson is either ignorant of it or vaguely glad that the US military is sticking it to The Terrorists, and the “expert” is in favor of it because it’s allegedly stabilizing the region. (To be honest, I’m starting to wonder if Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan are the best forms of governance that can be expected without perpetual war in those unfortunate “countries.”)

      Similarly, the US mission in Afghanistan has, I think, clearly been a failure after 18 years or so, but total US deaths have been ~2,400—far less even in raw numbers than died on a single day at the Battle of Antietam, for instance. So it’s harder for people to care about a floundering imperial mission in a far-off land when not too many of their neighbors are dying in it.

      In Max Hastings’ history of the Korean War, he talks about how the war started to be forgotten even as it was being fought, and how many laymen quite simply forgot, after 1951, that we were still fighting a war in Korea. So the scale of the US empire has definitely stretched beyond the perception of the ordinary citizen for quite some time now.

      • Lambert says:

        The best forms of government in Somalia are Somaliland and Puntland.
        It’s just that nobody has given them any recognition. (except that time Somaliland got a diplomat to the Welsh Assembly)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It’s published in the New York Times. Congress is fully aware of the situation, and I’m pretty sure high-ranking Congressional leadership has plenty of information. I don’t think we need to have full-scale 24 hours cycle every time someone drops bombs in Somalia. US interest is primarily in supporting the federal Somali government so the Somali civil war can come to an end, and so an Al Qaeda affiliate can’t operate freely.

      It’s pretty much normal for the US to operate at a low level in all sorts of nations at all sorts of levels. It’s a major US comparative advantage, and unstable, new governments typically need it to function.

      • albatross11 says:

        ADBG:

        I’m not claiming that Congress isn’t aware of what we’re doing, I’m claiming that it’s a bad thing that it’s not actually a political issue anyone cares about. And I’m much less convinced than you seem to be that this is actually either beneficial to the people living there or to us–but that’s the sort of thing I’d like to see become part of a public debate.

    • bean says:

      This is pretty standard for great powers. Being one involves having small groups of troops in all sorts of weird places. Some are there to buttress our allies, making sure they don’t become unstable and demonstrating our commitment to them. Others are there to keep an eye on our enemies. Still others are stamping down bushfires before they get out of control. Bombing bad guys in Somalia with drones is cheaper than sending destroyers to escort merchant ships or letting the situation escalate to the point where we have to go in again with ground troops, like we did in 1993.

      I’m sure there’s some here who would say “well, who cares?” And the answer is that you do. Somalia lies right next to one of the most important shipping routes in the world. If it’s not stable, then the cost of getting goods and oil from Asia into Europe goes up, European economies tank, and that isn’t going to leave the US unaffected.

      • Theodoric says:

        Is there any advantage to intervening all over the world instead of just running places like Somalia directly, aside from colonialism=bad?

        • Plumber says:

          I suspect that occasional intervention is cheaper than continual direct rule.

        • John Schilling says:

          Running the place directly means you are responsible for whatever goes wrong and will be blamed for whatever goes wrong. Quite possibly for kinetic definitions of “blame”, or even worse being the focus of a headline story in the New York Times. Simply maintaining a military presence, training the local government’s elite troops, and occasionally directly striking at terrorists, pirates, etc is less controversial and less likely to get you in a fight with anyone with whom you ever had a chance of peacefully coexisting.

          Running the place directly does give you more latitude to run it well, if you’re willing to take the heat. It’s also more profitable, particularly if you’re willing to run the place into the ground for short-term gain and take the heat for that.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          1. The places where we intervene suck. Who the hell wants Somalia? They are all failed states.
          2. No investment=easy out. We can pull out of Somalia tomorrow and ask the AU to do the heavy lifting. Look at Afghanistan to see what happens when the US owns it.
          3. We want allies to ask us for support when they need it, like Niger. We don’t want them to NOT ask us, or even worse, ask Russia or China to help them, because they think asking for assistance is the first step in annexation, like what happened in Syria.
          4. Colonizing Somalia is going to end up turning Somalia into Puerto Rico, IE, we just added a whole bunch more citizens to the nation.
          5. If the US starts annexing places, other nations are going to get very nervous. “Guys, we have to oppose China because they want to oppress you!” “But….you annexed South Vietnam…and South Korea…and Taiwan…” “Never mind that, China is the bad guy! Have a coke!”
          6. This is literally the pretext Russia used to take Crimea. “oh, look, Crimea is so unstable, better annex it so we can protect Crimea!”

          • Statismagician says:

            I thought Russia’s justification for taking Crimea was pretty openly ‘Crimea is historically and culturally Russian and full of Russians who speak Russian, so gimme’?

          • Theodoric says:

            1. The places where we intervene suck. Who the hell wants Somalia? They are all failed states.

            If it’s on an important shipping lane, wouldn’t lots of people want it?

            2. No investment=easy out. We can pull out of Somalia tomorrow and ask the AU to do the heavy lifting. Look at Afghanistan to see what happens when the US owns it.

            We don’t “own” Afghanistan. There is a native government there that at least pretends to run the place.

            3. We want allies to ask us for support when they need it, like Niger. We don’t want them to NOT ask us, or even worse, ask Russia or China to help them, because they think asking for assistance is the first step in annexation, like what happened in Syria.

            We didn’t annex Syria though. Even if Assad had lost, there would be some rival tribe at least pretending to run things. Now, they probably would be heavily dependent on US support, but that’s true of every government we prop up.

            4. Colonizing Somalia is going to end up turning Somalia into Puerto Rico, IE, we just added a whole bunch more citizens to the nation.

            Puerto Ricans getting US citizenship is by statute, not any provision of the Constitution. No reason to extend that to the Protectorate of Somalia.

            5. If the US starts annexing places, other nations are going to get very nervous. “Guys, we have to oppose China because they want to oppress you!” “But….you annexed South Vietnam…and South Korea…and Taiwan…” “Never mind that, China is the bad guy! Have a coke!”

            But maybe there would be less overall bloodshed if we just ran Afghanistan and Somalia directly, rather than letting whichever tribe we back pretend to be in charge (they would collapse in 10 seconds without US/coalition support, so they can’t go against us, and we have bases all over the place, but they’re totally in charge!).

            6. This is literally the pretext Russia used to take Crimea. “oh, look, Crimea is so unstable, better annex it so we can protect Crimea!”

            I think statismagician is right that the large Russian population had more to do with it (that and Russia was not going to let the naval base there go).

          • bean says:

            If it’s on an important shipping lane, wouldn’t lots of people want it?

            Only if they want to interdict said shipping lane, and want the problems of dealing with it. And Djibouti will sell you a military base next door for a low, low price.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Like Bean said, there’s a difference between a strategically useful point of denial, and a place that’s worth setting up a long-term colony. Particularly when the social, political, and economic structures around are a total mess, too. We only are going to intervene in places like that, so we’re talking about turning places like Afghanistan into permanent colonies. That’s a huge monetary gain.

            Also, I may not be expressing myself totally clearly, so clarifications:
            1. The US “owns” in Afghanistan in the same way I “own” cleaning up past due invoices at work. It doesn’t mean I have legal sovereignty, it means I took responsibility for fixing the problem, which means I have to fix the problem. If I fail, it’s a slap to my credibility, plus no one else is going to want to help. Even in Afghanistan, the US has the help of NATO, but it’s not going to have NATO’s help if the US decided to simply turn Afghanistan into a colony. Why are Italy and France going to send THEIR troops to defend an AMERICAN colony?
            2. Long-term colonies without US citizenship are something we could do, it’s just not likely to happen in the year of our Lord 2018. The US creating its own versions of the West Bank around the world are going to turn the US into a pariah state, and anyone proposing it is going to turn into a pariah politician after 10 years. You probably can’t even convince me, and I don’t have a heart.
            3. Syria isn’t a US colony, obviously, it’s just that Assad is anti-US and doesn’t want the US sticking its nose in his business. But he still needs to support his state, so he asked Russia for help. That’s going to be a popular option for more nations if the US decides to start administering entire nations as colonies. Just think of it: you start off asking the US in to help you contain some rebels. Then the situation deteriorates a little bit, the US “advisers” keep growing, then suddenly the 82nd flies and occupies your capital and you’re under arrest. A lot of places are going to be afraid that will happen to you. Dependent on US aid is one thing, being a US protectorate where the US calls all the shots is an entirely different thing.
            4. Russia’s pretext for Crimea at the time was that armed paramilitaries were destabilizing Crimea, or at least that’s my recollection of news articles at the time. Obviously those paramilitaries were little green men, but that’s not the point: any pretext you use, is going to be used by other nations to achieve their own interests.

          • albatross11 says:

            As far as I can tell, we invaded Afghanistan because we had to invade or bomb *someone* after the 9/11 attacks for internal political reasons, and they were the best candidate. Occupying the place and doing nation building never made any sense. Trying to find and kill the leadership of Al Qaida made some sense, but I strongly suspect that occupying Afghanistan was a really inefficient way to prevent future 9/11-scale attacks.

            We’re there now because nobody wants to take the blame for losing Afghanistan, and lots of powerful people have a stake in keeping Afghanistan from being a loss. It’s not like a permanent US presence in Afghanistan makes any sense (though I’m sure several people can spin out an explanation that will justify it, because you can *always* spin out such a justification).

          • Occupying the place and doing nation building never made any sense.

            My memory is that there was a civil war going on at the time, the side that included the Taliban was winning, and providing U.S. air support to the losing side (the Northern Alliance) was enough to reverse the situation. So it looked as though we had a cheap way of getting a friendly government in Afghanistan.

            Then the man holding the Northern Alliance together got assassinated and things went down hill from there.

          • albatross11 says:

            IIRC, the leader of the Northern Alliance was assassinated just before 9/11.

          • John Schilling says:

            IIRC, the leader of the Northern Alliance was assassinated just before 9/11.

            One day before, by suicide bombing. So the bit where Coalition air forces provided air support to a victorious Northern Alliance mostly didn’t happen because the “Alliance” part was defunct by the time the Coalition showed up. But, a de facto vote of confidence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda as to the NA’s presumed ability to drive them from Afghanistan if they were to exist as an alliance capable of receiving substantial western aid

            And more importantly very nearly proof that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were collaborating pre-9/11 on their strategy for dealing with the inevitable consequences of the 9/11 attacks.

      • Atlas says:

        Bombing bad guys in Somalia with drones is cheaper than sending destroyers to escort merchant ships or letting the situation escalate to the point where we have to go in again with ground troops, like we did in 1993.

        I’m sure there’s some here who would say “well, who cares?” And the answer is that you do. Somalia lies right next to one of the most important shipping routes in the world. If it’s not stable, then the cost of getting goods and oil from Asia into Europe goes up, European economies tank, and that isn’t going to leave the US unaffected.

        Wouldn’t Somalia be most stable if foreign parties stopped intervening in the local conflicts and allowed the most well-organized, disciplined and motivated indigenous forces—i.e. the Islamists—to establish a rudimentary state?

        The War Nerd has certainly gotten stuff wrong, but so have the vast majority of people in the national security state and their fellow travelers in mainstream media and academia. Here’s his 2008 take on Somalia:

        If you can stop fidgeting for a second, though, I’ll give you a more honest answer. First of all, saying that Mog had fallen into Islamist hands is like saying that Barstow fell into the hands of Baptists: it’s always been that way. Naturally Somalis go for that Islamic noise, because compared to the basic Somali ideology, which is “Every man for himself and eat the losers” Islamic law is bleeding-heart liberalism. It’s kind of funny, imagining Somalis begging the mullahs, “Please institute Sharia law! We’re ready for that soft, easygoing hippie ‘tude! This Somali macho stuff, it’s too harsh!” See, when Islam spread from Morocco to Jakarta it washed over all kinds of tribes. For some of them, soft city types, Sharia law was scary, hardcore stuff. But to the Somali, who were used to fighting over a few starved goats all day, and then getting up tomorrow to fight over the same lousy goats all over again, Sharia law was the Rapture. “Wait, you are telling me that Sharia forbids stealing? No stealing? So I can sleep, maybe, with both eyes closed, for the first time in my life? Bring it on, baby!”

        By all accounts, Mogadishu was almost peaceful when the Islamists were in charge. It was a little like the early days of the Taleban in Kabul: nobody gave a shit whether the Taleban was “democratic” as long as they kept the random gunfire down to a steady patter. Democracy is for rich people. I guarantee if you had to live like they do in Kabul or Mog, you wouldn’t care about it either. Not after ducking warlord-vs.-warlord streetfights every time you want to get water from the neighborhood pump. It wears you out fast, that kind of living—having to check for snipers every time you cross a street. A few years of that and you kind of look forward to a little Islamic fanaticism, where nobody’s allowed to do nuthin’, make any noise or hum a tune or fly a kite or whatever. It’s “Shuttup and siddown!” to the whole neighborhood, including the warlords and their khat-chewing skinnies who’ve been zooming up and down the alleys in their technicals blowing up kids because they can’t handle their high.

        So everybody in Mog was chilling, kickin’ it Sharia style, safe from random gunfire for the first time in forever. Well, we couldn’t have that, so the Ethiopian army slid downhill from its mountain bases and slithered across the desert to Mog. Looks like they didn’t enjoy the move much, though. Their occupation of Mog went just like everybody else’s. Not just trying to herd cats, more like trying to herd rabid cats. A few hundred Ethiopian soldiers got picked off, they shot back and killed a few thousand Somalis, stirring up all kinds of insane clan vendettas, sat around sweating for a while and said, “Fuck this,” and left just like the Rangers/Delta Force did fifteen years ago.

        • bean says:

          Wouldn’t Somalia be most stable if foreign parties stopped intervening in the local conflicts and allowed the most well-organized, disciplined and motivated indigenous forces—i.e. the Islamists—to establish a rudimentary state?

          That depends heavily on what your point of view is, because stability might not be your only goal. From a perspective that prioritizes low body count, the various costs of an Islamist takeover might be lower than the benefits, mostly the bit where there isn’t all that much gunfire. (Assuming, of course, that we don’t see camps, purges, and all the other fun trappings of a nasty government.) If you prioritize human rights, then this is not the sort of stability you want. Islamists have a terrible record on things like free speech and gay rights. And if you’re Henry Kissinger, then your main concern is how the Somali government is going to affect American interests. So if they seem likely to start supporting terrorists and/or harboring more pirates, then this isn’t the sort of stability you want, either. But if they promise to stick to slaughtering their own people, and keep the Gulf of Aden free of pirates, then who cares?

          The War Nerd has certainly gotten stuff wrong

          This implies that he’s gotten something right. I’m sure it’s happened, but I’m equally sure it was by accident. He’s not quite the worst “military analyst” in the world, but he probably makes the top 10.

        • John Schilling says:

          Wouldn’t Somalia be most stable if foreign parties stopped intervening in the local conflicts and allowed the most well-organized, disciplined and motivated indigenous forces—i.e. the Islamists—to establish a rudimentary state?

          Such a state would necessarily include, as some of its richest and most influential people, organized groups pirates who had found it quite profitable to raid the shipping of civilized nations and would be quite put out if someone tried to stop them. And the new government, almost necessary weak and dependent on every scrap of wealth and influence and support it could find, would have little reason to even try and stop them.

          It’s not like you are going to invade them if they openly harbor pirates. Invading nations is much harder when they have anything resembling a government, and in this hypothetical we have already clearly established that you are not willing to invade them even if they don’t have a government to protect their pirates.

          We’ve seen this one before, and I don’t fancy a repeat performance. It ends in invasion and war, and if that’s where we’re going, I’d rather get there before the enemy can form a government.

  25. Aapje says:

    My newspaper had a story about how the observation that young people far less often vote than older people, hides a strong disparity between the less educated and more educated youth. They found that the most educated youths actually are more likely to vote than the average citizen and it is really the lesser educated youths that fail to vote. They also noted that the most educated youths tend to vote globalist and liberal/libertarian.

    A common claim is that youths are very progressive/globalist/etc and that we should listen more to youths because the future belongs to them, that we should strongly encourage youths to vote so the ‘right’ (or rather left) side wins, that the future is assured to be progressive/globalist as new voters will be more progressive/globalist, etc. For example, these were common claims I saw after Brexit.

    Low barrier, fake elections at Dutch schools have found strong polarization in the past, with youths either voting very progressive/globalist or the opposite (like Wilders). Given that the youths who do vote have a strong preference for the progressive/globalist parties, so this suggests that the youths who refuse to vote may very often be the opposite. Evidence that supports this theory is that voters for Wilders tend to be less educated, regard politics far more negatively in general and are far more likely to waver between voting or not voting. Fairly minor barriers like bad weather on election day have a much larger impact on their turnout than the voters for other parties, again suggesting that they see the cost/benefit of voting as being poor.

    This may actually be fairly rational, as parties that draw less educated voters (Wilders, the ex-communists, the party for the elderly) are way less likely enter coalitions or govern in other ways than the parties that draw more educated voters. So if we assume that the value of a vote is largely its effect on policy, then votes by less educated voters do tend to be less valuable.

    Earlier, my newspaper already noted that the climate change demonstrations by school kids, that have been happening in The Netherlands (and some other EU countries), are pretty much devoid of the ~60% of school kids that are educated at the lower level(s) of the Dutch educational system. Here again there were many claims that we should listen to the kids that did demonstrate because they are the future, etc, yet there were no representatives for the majority of school kids (in those demonstrations, counter-demonstrations or commentary on the subject). This majority was invisible.

    What is interesting is that despite the fairly high awareness of the disenfranchisement of the less educated in my newspaper (certainly compared to the rest of Dutch society and the Western world), even this newspaper seems to have extreme difficulty to counter this in their reporting. For example, the very story that inspired this comment had three well-educated youths tell us who they are going to vote for and their motivations, yet 0 less educated youths got to share their motivations.

    I suspect that the reason is that the well-educated tend to be disgusted by the less-educated (their motivations, the way they express themselves, including the lack of political correctness to certain groups, etc). It’s like how one might feel when seeing a homeless person. On a rational level you may feel that these people deserve help, are screwed by society, etc; but you don’t want to help them get drunk and can’t stand the smell of piss. So you much rather interact with a non-homeless advocate for the homeless, than these people themselves.

    So the professed sympathy and empathy with the ‘untouchables’ is then not actually derived from interacting with them and/or desiring to help them get what they want, but is instead based on an idealized stereotype, where one tries to give these people what they should want. Ironically, this way of treating people tends to be pretty strongly rejected by Social Justice, where the common claim seems to be that the privileged cannot see the disprivilege that they personally do not suffer from and that the only way to get the interests of the disprivileged catered to is to give them podia and power.

    People who believe in the Social Justice ideology then presumably cannot but experience extreme cognitive dissonance when interacting with the less educated. In my view, this has commonly been solved by ignoring this group and instead focus on the (supposedly extreme) collective oppression of groups that include well educated people (black people, women, etc) and then giving podia and power to the well educated (and often least disadvantaged) in these groups. This ignores that these people often have different interests than the less educated and/or less advantaged*.

    What stymies me is how one can make these people aware of their hypocrisy in a way that causes a crisis of faith.

    * Note that I’m not claiming that the less educated and less advantaged have perfect motivations and observations & should be deferred to, but rather that disagreements between them and the elites should result in good faith attempts to discover why these groups are often unhappy with the solutions of the elites.

    • quaelegit says:

      I think the people who notice the cognitive dissonance and have a “crisis of faith” tend to drop out of the conversation. “Oh, I’m wrong here/this is a really hard problem, maybe I shouldn’t open my trap/make a snarky retweet without thinking some more about it.” So you mostly here from the people who aren’t noticing or aren’t bothered by the contradictions.

    • Murphy says:

      I suspect that the reason is that the well-educated tend to be disgusted by the less-educated (their motivations, the way they express themselves, including the lack of political correctness to certain groups, etc). It’s like how one might feel when seeing a homeless person.

      I’d compare it more to how one might feel when seeing someone kick a kitten.

      Or set fire to one.

      Like the D-stream kids from my secondry school did at one point.

      Familiarity breeds contempt.

      The “less educated” kids I was very familiar with mostly weren’t from deprived families.

      Picking out the one I’m most familiar with, his family was very wealthy, his view was that school was for “gays” and his dad was gonna give him a job in the company and so he spent as much of his time as humanly possible skiving off down by the river with his D-stream mates setting fire to things.

      His dad did give him that job and he’ll inherit in a few years, his plan worked out fine for him. But I wouldn’t call him political, motivated or educated.

      That’s just one small group of people, but we derive our gut feelings from experiences with the real people we grew up with.

      While there’s often overlap, less-educated and less-advantaged can be very different groups.

      For contrast my Uni class contained lots of kids who were on the grant, from families that had basically no money. But they were people who gave a shit with lots of them being politically motivated.

  26. Aapje says:

    Celebrity gossip: Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Edition

    I looked at the legal complaint by Depp against Heard and even when reading it really skeptically, only putting stock in accusations that have objective evidence, it looks rather bad for Heard.

    Her allegation is that Depp attacked her when picking up some things from her apartment after their split, but there are many witnesses that saw her without injuries between that point in time and when she was later seen with injuries, just before she got a restraining order. These witnesses include Heard’s neighbor, the police who investigated the alleged abuse right away, the concierge, the front desk person and head of security. After the allegations became known, the concierge even watched security footage to verify that her memory of not seeing any marks were correct. Not only did this verify her memory, but she saw on the footage that Heard’s sister pretended to hit Heard in the face. They then both laughed. So this was after the alleged assault and seems not very consistent with Heard’s story, but very consistent with Heard’s injuries being inflicted by herself or a friend as part of a scheme against Depp.

    Note that all of these witnesses that contradict Heard’s story seem to either have no expected bias or to have more reason to be biased in favor of her than against her (as they live and/or work in her building).

    Heard tried to get the employees of her building to retract their testimony and adopt a stance of confidentiality (not testifying one way or the other).

    The complaint notes that Heard had been arrested for domestic abuse against a previous partner, a woman. This happened while police officers were present. It claims that Heard physically abused Depp and that this was documented by one of his security people. There is no solid objective evidence here though.

    So my conclusion is that the evidence of a false allegation by Heard is very strong. There is not enough objective evidence to make a decent judgment about the allegations of abuse (in either direction.)

  27. fraza077 says:

    I spend my whole working day looking at a computer screen, and I think it’s straining my eyes due to being at such a short focus range. I want glasses where it looks like my screen is 5 metres away and 5 metres wide, so my eyes can relax. There are various types of computer glasses available, but most of them just filter light. There was one which claimed to “adjust focus slightly”, which doesn’t sound like it does enough.

    Does anyone have any experience with this, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Have you tried reducing the blue light? A lot of monitors can do this, and Windows 10 and MacOS both added it to the OS in the last few years as “night mode”/”night shift.” You may have a real problem that goes beyond the scope of easy solutions, but I wear glasses and forget to blink a lot and I find turning the color temperature to 3200k (extremely bronze colored off-white) or so helps a lot

    • Aapje says:

      This is a common issue and may actually be a major cause of myopia. I’m not aware of a solution other than taking breaks and/or taking your eyes off the screen and gazing in the distance.

    • Slice says:

      You want reading glasses. Assuming you get along without glasses normally, you’ll likely want some with between +1.0 and +2.0 power. Ideally they’d be (1 / ) but they only come in .5 or maybe .25 steps. Some “computer” glasses do this.

      IANAO but I dated one for several years. 🙂

    • DragonMilk says:

      Random thought, have you ever tried not using glasses at all?

      I have been working (and playing) in front of a computer for 8 years, averaging probably 12-15 hours a day and just don’t wear anything…

      This assumes you’re nearsighted

      • fraza077 says:

        I’ve never worn glasses. I don’t have trouble reading the text. I’ve just heard that keeping your eyes at a short focal distance for so many hours a day is like holding a clenched fist for hours. It’s going to wear on your muscles eventually.

        • DragonMilk says:

          In that case, you should listen to your body and take a break.

          I get paranoid that other solutions will make my eyes worse.

  28. Plumber says:

    As I promised:

    @Deiseach

    “…not so much Culture War as Real War (or however you would like to describe The Troubles). Dobbing in that this award is for Martin’s “service in the military” on top of what would otherwise be fairly bland “peacemaking political hands across the divide yadda yadda yadda” and doing it the week before St Patrick’s Day as an ostensible gesture to the Irish is rather contentious, to say the least, particularly as there has already been some stirrings in the North and with the unsettled state of Brexit and people anticipating the starting up of shootings and bombings again in a worst-case scenario on the Border, this is Not Helping, San Francisco!

    And I mean, I’m a 32-county Republican and even I am wincing at the wording and timing of this. Is the Irish vote so strong in the City by the Bay that this is worth doing, or is it more Trendy La Résistance We Too Are A Guerilla Army Fighting Colonialism Signalling? I don’t know Mayor Breed’s particular level of politics (save that the Lucies hate her) but who, exactly, is this meant to be appealing to?…”

    “…Mayor Breed has apologized, however there is a local “politico” who is unrepentant, and I’ll try to remember to post details in the next “culture war allowed” fractional Open Thread”

    Besides the canidates and the voters there’s volunteers and people who organize the volunteers, usually on the principle of “Who does the most?”, in my old union local that guy was Fred Hirsch.

    Organizers often have “hobby-horses” beyond the organization, in Fred’s case that was many things including supporting “the international working-class” (immigrants), which likely wasn’t the majority position of my old locals membership. 

    Fred often introduced this and that resolution, sometimes they’d pass, sometimes they didn’t, and many times it seemed he was the only one who even knew about whatever issue he was talking about, so why not vote to make him happy and send out a letter saying “Our union supports [whatever] and we get to voting on the next thing (a member asking for something for their church, kids baseball team, or whatever)?

    Mayor Breed is a Democrat, and doing volunteer work for the Democratic Party are various clubs, non-profit organizations, unions, et cetera – among which is the “San Francisco Irish American Democratic Club”, and John O’Riordan is a board member of that club who’s “hobby-horse” is being a “32 county republican” despite there being a continent and an ocean between him and your island, he and his club even got a letter sent to (then) President Obama that “the California Democratic Party strongly supports Irish reunification and urges both the State Legislature and the California Democratic Congressional delegation to support all peaceful actions that support the final reunification of the island of Ireland [Eire] by all electoral and diplomatic means necessary..”.

    This kind of thing happens a lot, I remember for many months a giant “Remember the Armenian genocide” banner was hung over the bay bridge Yerba Buena Island tunnel, resolutions get passed, letters get sent, banners get hung, and then usually forgotten,  ‘cept now with Twitter and the rest of the internet sometimes things do get noticed – until the next thing comes along.

    • sharper13 says:

      Yeah, most organizations, especially volunteer organizations, are run by the people who show up, as opposed to the membership at large.

      I’m not pro-Mayor Breed by any measure, but I think this incident says maybe a little bit about the screening process for this sort of thing (which is probably being revised as we write…) and not much about the actual opinions of most of those involved.

    • Walter says:

      Yup Yup. I’ve seen this kind of thing as well. “Why is x organization anti-y?”, often the answer is that ‘X organization’s agency is all concentrated in one person on anything other than their official purpose, and that is that person’s opinion.

    • Deiseach says:

      Thanks Plumber, that does sound like the most parsimonious explanation for “why the heck would the Mayor of San Francisco care one way or another about Martin McGuinness?”

      If whoever it was had left out the bit about ‘his service in the military’, the thing would have drawn no attention at all. As it is, it’s poking at the wounds when we’re all trying very hard to pretend not to notice what we know for the sake of the peace process, and the old injuries are all flaring up again, not to mention The Brits Are At It Again (“We can’t have the backstop as that would be treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom, which would be the same thing as breaking it away, so we’re going to do this thing that would be treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom instead”).

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach,

        It was pretty comic:

        ‘…In a statement Monday, Breed said “San Francisco values mean respect for the democratic process and nonviolent political actions. The language on the Certificate of Honor should have taken more care to apply these values when reflecting the history of Mr. McGuinness’ life toward peacemaker and his role in the peace process that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement. I apologize for the pain this Certificate has caused.”…’

        (I signed what?)…

        …while at about the same time:

        ‘…John O’Riordan, northern chairman for the Irish Caucus of the California Democratic Party, welcomed the recognition of McGuinness.

        “When the British government decided to begin peace talks, Martin McGuinness extended the hand of friendship,” O’Riordan said. “He avoided recrimination and focused on building a society of equality. His life journey will inspire peace and freedom movements throughout the world for generations. I admire the courage of Mayor London Breed to issue the certificate of honor.”’

        (damn it London, don’t apologize now!)

        -“The City That Knows How”

        • Deiseach says:

          Everyone is jumping on the Rebel Train! There’s a ridiculous new ad for packaged sliced ham which is using the tune to “Come Out Ye Black And Tans” to sell its product.

          We’re militarising the bacon and cabbage dinner for St Patrick’s Day? 😀

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach,

            I thought that a car commercial using “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground was perhaps too much, but that…

            …it does sound tasty though!

  29. gbdub says:

    Continuing a topic from the last thread…

    The FAA has grounded the 737 MAX after the Ethiopian Air crash. From their press release it sounds like they see enough similarities to the Lion Air crash, OR something otherwise similarly concerning about the airframe, in their initial data review to warrant the move.

    Of course it’s hard not to think the pressure from other groundings and the public didn’t help.

    • bean says:

      I’m confused on this one. There were apparently oscillations of the same period as we saw with Lion Air in the satellite tracking data, but I’m really not sure how suggestive that is. Stability and Control was my worst major class by a fair margin, and I haven’t touched the stuff in almost 5 years. I’m pretty sure that Boeing is hoping this doesn’t turn into their equivalent of the DC-10.

      • gbdub says:

        Where’d you see that? Presumably would be long period vertical oscillations, aka the phugoid mode.

        Normally phugoid is very controllable by a pilot unless something is very wrong with the aircraft (e.g. loss of elevator control). But I could conceive of a situation where a combination of bad loading (using pre-MAX CG assumptions?), being in the relatively marginal envelope of the flyout / initial climb condition, a disabled auto trim (due to MCAS malfunction), and a flight crew distracted by the MCAS issue might allow a phugoid to develop long enough to be dangerous.

        EDIT: plus, I do suspect the FAA was in a bit of CYA mode given all the other groundings and public pressure to follow suit, so they were probably going to move unless the initial data was absolutely convincing that this was an unrelated problem.

        • bean says:

          It was from an NYT article, who had apparently gotten the tracking data on the flight. I’m somewhat skeptical, particularly as it looked a lot like the human tendency to pattern-match to me. But I’m also not sure how phugoid works in practice, even if I remember what the word means.

          The actual FAA grounding order said that the they had information from the wreckage about the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff and newly-refined satellite data that together indicate there may be a common cause. I’m not really sure what to make of that. The most prominent information you’d get from the wreckage would be the recorders, but I expect they’d call that out explicitly, and it would render the satellite data redundant. At this point, I really don’t know what to think, and I’m starting to question my conclusions on Lion Air, which suggest that the failure there only caused the crash because the crew botched the response badly, and I expect any crew today would not mess up in the same manner.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            The hypothesis taking shape in my head goes something like this:

            1) The 737 MAX administers pop quizzes in (elementary, most likely) airmanship more often than other planes.
            2) Airlines around the world routinely operate with air crews that cannot necessarily pass these.
            3) Fact 2 will not change any time soon, so Fact 1 will have to.

          • bean says:

            That’s not a bad description of flying in general, and I don’t have any particular reason to believe that the MAX is significantly worse than the NG or the A320 or any other airplane. The only serious difference we know of is the MCAS, and it’s not going to kick in very often.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          NYT says they’ve seen oscillations in vertical speed of both flights with a 20 second period. Based on quick wikiing, that’s way too short to be a phugoid for a commercial jet.

          Periods can vary from under 30 seconds for light aircraft to minutes for larger aircraft. Microlight aircraft typically show a phugoid period of 15–25 seconds… A classical model for the phugoid period can be simplified to about (0.85 × speed in knots) seconds, but this only really works for larger aircraft.

          NYT suggests that 15 seconds is basically a weird period for a 737 to oscillate at, longer than normal short-period oscillation and shorter than normal long-period, and it’s this very weirdness that suggests a connection between the two crashes.

          NYT’s data is from FlightRadar24, publicly available here. (And Lion Air 610 here, though full data requires a subscription)

          • bean says:

            My problem with that argument is that humans are pattern-matching machines, and will match patterns whether or not they’re there. The graph I’ve seen shows a couple of peaks about 20 seconds apart on both traces, but they don’t match very well in other areas. It could very well be that 20 seconds is the approximate period of oscillation induced by pilots fighting a control problem, but that says very little about the origin of the problem.

          • Lambert says:

            Anyone fancy taking a Fourier Transform?

            And I wonder whether something like XFLR5 will be able to spit out reasonable looking oscillation modes.

            On the one hand, it’s designed for model planes, not jet airliners. On the other, reynolds numbers are reynolds numbers.

          • gbdub says:

            Those periods assume a well behaved plane and no pilot input, neither of which are good assumptions in this case.

            Some new articles have come out saying the stabilizer jackscrews were found in a nose down condition. One thing that isn’t clear to me is whether these control the overall stabilizer motion or just the trim. A thought I had was that the procedure for disabling MCAS sounds like it just disconnects the auto-trim motors. If the pilot did not manually reset the trim tabs to the neutral position, this would presumably leave them in a state that would force the nose down without a lot of pulling back on the stick. This may have been hard to fight.

          • John Schilling says:

            From the reading I’ve done, which unfortunately does not include a 737-MAX manual, disconnecting MCATS means disconnecting the automatic trim circuit but not the manual trim circuit. On the classic 737s those were separate motors, NG and MAX it’s one motor but with separate wiring. So after killing MCATS (and automatic trim generally), the pilot can still manually retrim to whatever position he likes with the thumb switch on the yoke.

            And if he has to or choses to kill the trim motors altogether, there’s still a manual trim wheel; tedious to use but once you’re in that situation you should be just be telling the Pilot Not Flying to crank on that wheel until you tell him to stop.

            Again, none of this is unique to the -MAX or to MCATS; trim runaway has been a thing all airline pilots have had to deal with for decades, including the bit where once you’ve put a stake through the heart of the malfunctioning electronics you put the trim back where it is supposed to be.

          • gbdub says:

            Right. Which means either the Ethiopian Air pilots didn’t brush up on their trim system skills after the previous crash and AD… or the MÀX has a more serious problem than a wonky autotrim.

    • John Schilling says:

      Of course it’s hard not to think the pressure from other groundings and the public didn’t help.

      The FAA’s leadership has the political acumen to understand that, if they’re grounding the 737-MAX at the whim of a mercurial POTUS, they are supposed to allude to unfalsifiably vague technical issues as the reason.

      And the bit where this was announced by Donald Trump to the press rather than by the FAA to the industry, with Trump saying and tweeting things like “We didn’t have to make this decision today. We could have delayed it. We maybe didn’t have to make it at all. But I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of other ways”, and “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT”, and that the 737 MAX “sucks” because it’s not the 757 he personally bought for Trump Force One, I think is more than sufficient to cast doubt that there’s any real technical basis for this decision.

      • bean says:

        The FAA’s leadership has the political acumen to understand that, if they’re grounding the 737-MAX at the whim of a mercurial POTUS, they are supposed to allude to unfalsifiably vague technical issues as the reason.

        That’s a really good point.

        and that the 737 MAX “sucks” because it’s not the 757 he personally bought for Trump Force One

        Wait, what? That’s wrong on so many levels. The 757 is a good airplane, but Trump certainly didn’t have the option of buying a 737MAX when he was last shopping for jets, and he doesn’t begin to have the background to do a comparison.

        Some googling just makes the story more hilarious. “I wouldn’t have bought one for Trump Shuttle”. Yeah. Because if there’s one thing you know about, it’s how to run a profitable airline. Oh, wait. That’s not right.

        On the other hand, there’s hilarity from WaPo’s take on it:

        The chaotic scene capped a harried three-day period in which the United States lagged almost every other major country in deciding how to respond to an Ethi­o­pian Airlines crash early Sunday, highlighting the Trump administration’s close ties to Boeing and its difficulty asserting itself as a global leader in the wake of a tragedy.

        Asserting itself as a global leader? What, in the rush to needlessly ground a perfectly serviceable airplane? If you’re going to lash out at whatever Trump does, could you at least have the decency to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t have grounded them?

  30. Atlas says:

    Why do/how can people in fields like medicine, corporate law, finance, et cetera, work such long hours? If you enter such fields, are you expected to spend your entire career working long hours?

    Quite possibly this is typical mind fallacy, but I have a really hard time understanding how anyone can sign up to work for more than, say, 55 hours a week, in perpetuity unless they really, really enjoy what they’re doing. I understand why someone might spend a short period of time (in the context of their overall life) doing something cool that requires insane hours—like being a fighter pilot in a war, working in the White House, founding a start-up, et cetera. But my understanding is that’s bearable in part because there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—at some point, you get to declare victory, go home, take a nap, rest your laurels and slow down the pace of your life.

    Whereas it kind of seems to me—and I might well be wrong, feel free to correct me if I am—that there are white collar professional fields where you’re expected to spend your entire working life putting in long hours week after week, month after month, year after year. I was really struck by this story in the New York Times from a couple years ago about a corporate lawyer who died of an overdose, written by his ex-wife. Some excerpts:

    I thought maybe the stress of his job as a lawyer had finally gotten to him, or that he was bipolar. He had been working more than 60 hours a week for 20 years, ever since he started law school and worked his way into a partnership in the intellectual property practice of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a prominent law firm based in Silicon Valley….

    “Peter?” I called out.

    Silence. A few candy wrappers littered a counter. Peter worked so much that he rarely cooked anymore, sustaining himself largely on fast food, snacks, coffee, ibuprofen and antacids. I headed toward the bedroom, calling his name….

    Of all the heartbreaking details of his story, the one that continues to haunt me is this: The history on his cellphone shows the last call he ever made was for work. Peter, vomiting, unable to sit up, slipping in and out of consciousness, had managed, somehow, to dial into a conference call….

    Although we had enough money, Peter’s work schedule gave him little time to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

    One Christmas Day early in his career, Peter’s boss phoned from a ski lift in Aspen, Colo., to make sure Peter was going to finish a brief by that evening. He did, skipping dinner….

    “I can’t do this forever,” Peter often told me. “I can’t keep going like this for the next 20 years….”

    According to some reports, lawyers also have the highest rate of depression of any occupational group in the country. A 1990 study of more than 100 professions indicated that lawyers are 3.6 times as likely to be depressed as people with other jobs. The Hazelden study found that 28 percent of lawyers suffer depression.

    (As an undergraduate student vaguely considering practicing law as a potential career path, this definitely disturbs me. Call me crazy, but, personally, I’d like to be able to spend Christmas with my family instead of having to ignore them to do something for work.)

    It’s like—if you spend more than 50% of your waking hours at work, and then a substantial fraction of the remaining hours are spent dealing with tedious but necessary stuff like taxes/commuting/washing dishes, your life is your job. Unless you enjoy/need to do your the job the way that a novelist enjoys writing or Martin Luther needed to be a religious [reformer/heretic], how can one sustain 60+ hour workweeks indefinitely?

    • bullseye says:

      I think these people save time by hiring other people to wash their dishes, clean their houses, etc. Still doesn’t sound like a good life to me, but I think some personality types like it.

    • Bamboozle says:

      Personally i think that people like this do it for reasons stemming from deep seating psychological issues. They’ve got something to prove, they’re uncontrollably competitive, they start doing it and get used to the money and so say “just one more year.” I did this for a few years and met some people who were like yeah i know work is killing me but if i can just do this for a few more years we can finally get that nice house, or have enough, and then i’ll stop. But then lifestyle inflation creeps up on them and that money isn’t enough anymore so they keep going.

      I moved to a less hour intensive job just to be able to see my gf and enjoy life and haven’t looked back, but that kind of decision can leave these people feeling like they’re missing their potential. Depends what the point of life is for you. If you wanna rack up points on the invisible leaderboard of life go for it, i’d rather be happy. The absurd thing is in a lot of these places the hours are just hours. I’d see people recording phone conversations into voice notes to be typed up, but then type them up themselves just to appear busy to bosses. If you refuse to play this game the bosses think you’re a slacker. It ain’t called a rat race for nothing.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      “Why do professionals work long hours” came up several months ago, in the context of new teachers working long hours. I can’t find my old comment, but I had reasons like this.

      1. They do it because they think they need to do it, and being young they don’t know any better.
      2. They do it because their bosses demand it, because their bosses don’t know any better.
      3. They do it because they think their coworkers are like #1 or their bosses are like #2 (even though they aren’t) and are trying to impress.
      4. They do it because they are new at their jobs and need to ramp up to deal with the workload before setting into a normal routine.
      5. They haven’t learned to say “no”.

      • I’ve heard people do it not because they worry about get fired but because they worry about not being able to move up. Is that actually true? Do managers make their decisions about which employees they promote based on number of hours they work?

        • March says:

          Lots of managers will never notice it if an employee is always there when the manager comes in and is still around when the manager leaves. But they do notice it when you come in later than the manager or leave earlier, and this tends to make them think you’re a slacker.

          In many companies, that results in a culture where subordinates have to work longer hours than managers. And since there are often multiple layers of management, at some point someone’s hours are going to be absolutely bonkers.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            What I’ve seen managers notice the most is who is available when they need something. Certain positions that need is immediate and constant (factory production worker, for instance), and others it’s based on when something comes up. The person who is there 80 hours a week is on hand every time “something comes up” and is therefore available to get thrown into whatever problem has arisen. The manager recognizes that they can always count on so-and-so, and therefore get used to doing so. When review or promotion time comes, they say “that guy helped me on 37 major problems!” and it leads to promotions. It’s possible to work 40 hours (or less!) and just happen to be available every time a need comes up. That’s just not very likely if things happen around the business at any odd hours.

            So, a culture where many people work 60-80+ hours means that more and more is happening on the “off” hours. If the industry involved also has a culture, or necessity, or working far more than 9a-5p, then the individuals involved may not have a choice, or they get relegated to a low status and passed over for recognition.

          • acymetric says:

            I think Mr. Doolittle nails it.

            (From March’s post)

            Lots of managers will never notice it if an employee is always there when the manager comes in and is still around when the manager leaves.

            This is only true in certain professions, industries or companies where management is more aware of exactly how many hours are worked (like the factory production worker example Mr. Doolittle gave), many of the managers may see someone working those long hours as “virtuous” independent of how available they are to solving problems (or even how good they are at solving problems). In other words, working 70 hours can be a mark in favor of a factory worker over other people who only work 50.

            That is not necessary a good metric for management to use when evaluating employees, but it is certainly one that is used for jobs where hours are closely tracked.

          • March says:

            @acymetric,

            In my opinion, it’s the other way around. Factory workers IME couldn’t work 70 hours if they tried, at least not in the way an office worker can if they decide to just stay until they finish this last thing. Factory workers have to be there when their shift starts and can’t really get in an hour early to knock out some of the stuff they had wanted to get done yesterday. Not unless they actively offer to take a second shift.

            Nurses can. (Getting in early or staying late to do the paperwork the normal hours don’t leave time for.) Teachers, sure. Retail and food workers, perhaps.

            But the most egregious examples of management steering by presence rather than performance in my own life have been from academia (STEM research) and IT, both (in theory) fields where people can (and should be trusted to) set their own hours.

    • baconbits9 says:

      First is that people do similar things for different reasons. I’ve mentioned this story before here, buts its been a while: Someone I worked with had two bakery jobs, started at 3am at one I worked at, worked till 7:30 and then went and worked an 8 hour shift at the other and she worked a 7-8 hour shift on her day off the other job. She was working 60+ hours a week at $13-$14 an hour and her husband had a manager position at Home Depot (or some similar store) so combined they were making $65-85,000 a year and they were broke. He had a pill habit, a Mustang and a girlfriend on the side, they had a large house with a pool and spend hundreds multiple weekends a year on concerts, and their son got his girlfriend pregnant at 20. Basically they made lots of bad decisions and any reduction in working would mean a significant reduction in lifestyle, to the extent of losing their house.

      Another is the personality type who finds it easier to fix problems than to forget about them, my wife falls in this category and when something goes wrong at work she will drill into it until its fixed, and will feel stressed if she doesn’t. Once you learn that about yourself its generally better to be in a situation where that is expected (and pay and perks compensate) than to keep pretending that this time, when this problem is fixed, you will go back to working normal hours.

      My dad is another type, he knew what he wanted to do early (mid 20s) in life and built around it, we moved countries 20 years in advance to allow him to not go into forced retirement at 55, and n his late 60s he was taking on more work becoming chair of his department because he wanted to finish out his time doing things his way and not someone else’s. He spent his life more in the 50 hour a week range than the 60, and never missed Christmas, had 6 kids, coached our soccer teams, was a boy scout troop leader etc.

      Long story short there are many reasons to put in a lot of time, coal miners used to work 80 hour weeks in brutal conditions just to get by, people can do preform some amazing feats of endurance and some people are just motivated to push closer to their limits than others.

    • Chalid says:

      I don’t think there are many situations where people are signing up for 60+ hour weeks for their whole career. There are jobs and firms with the 60+ hour expectation, but these tend to have multiple well-defined off-ramps into less-demanding jobs that people can choose to take whenever they want. Some people choose not to take those option, but they are always there.

      In general, it is relatively easy to transition from a high-stress high-pay job to a “normal” job, and relatively difficult to move from normal jobs into high-stress high-pay ones.

    • Elephant says:

      This is a good question. I’m a (tenured) STEM professor who typically works >60 hr weeks. This has been the case for many years so far and probably will be true for many years to come. I don’t think it’s atypical. I definitely do enjoy what I do, but I think this needs elaboration. I actually enjoy perhaps a quarter of what I do. The rest is frustrating and grueling: emails, bureaucracy, meetings, etc. But the parts I like, finding out new things about the world or helping dedicated students learn, I like a lot, and the rest is the price of being able to spend some time on these things, which I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It’s a big price, though, and for many talented people, it’s too high, which is a loss for all of us. All this is probably obvious, but I mainly wanted to point out that “enjoying your job” doesn’t necessarily mean enjoying all of it.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, I work in STEM, and there are definitely times when I feel like I’m working extra hours out of my own time to make up for the bullshit hours spent in meetings, filling out paperwork, attending dumb trainings, etc.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Another aspect is that only a certain type of person is both interested and capable of working in the fields you are describing. That leads to a situation were there is always a shortage of people who truly know what they are doing and are willing to put in the hours.

      This will lead to more demand than is easily available, with some people trying to do all that needs to be done, and others just putting in the time (in ways described by other commentators).

    • sharper13 says:

      I’ve spent a good chunk of my career in a typical high-hours job, including being on-call and getting called incessantly for issues in the middle of the night, even while officially on vacation. My wife finally drew the line once when I was out sick for a broken leg and ankle and she had to drive me into the office on a Sunday afternoon for a meeting… and then the organizer didn’t show up and wanted her to drive me back out again that evening.

      In many ways (primarily mental vs. physical labor, especially while getting old), it beats working construction for 40 hours a week, which I did as a teen for a few years.

      For me, it was a combination of the expectations of the job along with a strong sense of responsibility for what I was in charge of. I cared about our customers, our business, my ambitions and my family, not necessarily in that order.

      I’ve also burnt out twice. The first time (after a merger where I got a package) I semi-retired and worked for myself with a lot of automation, but basically managed to spend 6 years at home while my children were little kids. Cost me some corporate advancement, but when the economy turned, I got back into that world relatively easily.

      The second time was a few years ago. So instead of looking for a job with much more pay/responsibility, I took a side-ramp and managed a smaller promotion in the same company, but to a job in which because of (ironically) the greater importance, there are 4 shifts working 24×7 on it instead of just one and on-call duties. As a result, I’m back down to 40 hours a week and way less stress, to the point where I’m actually currently working while posting this (shhh….) as I have plenty of free time as a salaried employee who is maybe a little overqualified for his current position.

      • LesHapablap says:

        What do you mean when you say “burnt out?” Was it like a nervous breakdown?

        • sharper13 says:

          Nothing that extreme. Just got tired of most of the people I was working with, of the work and of dealing with the stress involved with the job. It was obvious to me internally that I just no longer wanted to do the work, even if I was still doing it well enough to get by.

          Most recently, it all somewhat came to a head when I worked over 24 hours straight in the office with my team on two consecutive weekends because my Boss’s Boss wanted to be around when the project my team was working on was completed, as she’d be going on vacation afterwards and didn’t want to miss it. No actual business reason other than that for the scheduling. I’d already said from the beginning it would take a couple of weeks longer to get it done right and that the deadline needed to be later, but of course upper management didn’t listen.

          Once you start hating to go to work and instead of stepping up to do stuff, just avoiding everything as much as possible, it’s time to find something new. I’m generally pretty conscientious, so I had plenty of internal warning signs that I just didn’t want to be there dealing with it all anymore.

          With some effort, I was able to find better quality of life alternatives and just had to suck it up and deal until then (that sense of responsibility to what I’d agreed to and also to my family’s needs).

    • John Schilling says:

      Many of these are essentially “tournament” professions, where only a minority of entrants will wind up with the high-paying jobs that define the field and most will wind up failing out or muddling through at the bottom. In that environment, both accomplishing more than and being seen as more devoted than the competition is vital, and there’s no point in joining the race if you’re not willing to work 60+ hrs/week.

      Most of these offer at least a theoretical plateau of success where after 10-20 years you can take it easy and still make at least UMC+ money, and that’s probably what motivates many people to sign up. But if someone does wind up as one of the winners, they have long since purged their life of anything that doesn’t fit in the margins around a 60+ hour work week. And there’s almost certainly a higher tier of success within reach if they just keep doing what has worked for them so far.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      In my experience, these people love their work, or are unable to do anything besides work, or have shitty home lives, or really want to climb. My mother used to do this (until she had grandchildren) and has major issues with delegation and wanting to be right all the time. My friends who do this kind of thing regularly also have the same motivations.

      I have a few friends and family that worked in law and used to do that 55+ hours thing, then found other jobs that did not require them to put in such insane hours.

      • baconbits9 says:

        My mother used to do this (until she had grandchildren) and has major issues with delegation and wanting to be right all the time.

        My guess is that personality traits like this are a major driver, as long as someone is working 55 hours then people working 55 hours will be in charge. The more you want to be in charge/the less you can handle other people (even if its just specific other people) in charge the harder it is to avoid working that many hours.

    • Atlas says:

      Thanks to everyone for the replies, I found them informative.

  31. johan_larson says:

    Hooli is a major tech company in Silicon Valley. They have 50,000 employees in the US, 75,000 world-wide, and billions and billions in the bank. What they don’t have are African-Americans on staff. Their representation within Hooli’s US workforce currently stands at two percent, and among the technical staff and executives it’s half that.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to increase the portion of African-Americans on Hooli’s US staff to twelve percent, equal to their share of the US population. You have twenty years to do this, but you are expected to show incremental progress starting two years from now. How will you do this?

    • Theodoric says:

      Heavy recruitment at historically black colleges, maybe fund “learn to code” boot camps in cities like Newark, NJ. Make offers to the top N (not sure what the number would be) black applicants. I think quotas are still allowed if they’re called “goals”?

    • The Nybbler says:

      First of all, we’re going all out recruiting in Johannesburg. Just the sort of technicality Hoolli would go for.

      Second, more seriously, Hooli HQ2. Atlanta, most likely. Maybe Savannah. If the African Americans won’t come to us, we’re going to come to the African Americans. Maybe an additional office near DFW to pick up the Igbo, in case there’s something to that nasty !hbu stuff.

      Third, as XYZ corp is doing, we’re going to set up colleges-within-colleges. Pick the most African-American colleges near our HQ2, and give them offers they can’t refuse to let us set up decent tech programs there. We’ll have to keep the white people out by hook or by crook, but we’ll think of something. Then of course we pick our interns and hire from there.

      • bullseye says:

        I’m from Atlanta, and it seems like a solid choice to me. A number of historically black colleges, plus Georgia State is (anecdotally) half black. I don’t know if it would necessary to set up your own tech programs; some of those schools might already have them. In any event, they wouldn’t be especially tempting to non-blacks because Georgia Tech is right there.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Information Hooli has acquired indicates that the tech programs at many HBCUs are terrible not in accordance with the needs of a modern Silicon Valley company like Hooli, which is one reason for seeing up our own. Another is laundering our racial preferences through the program; in the age of Trump, “no white people may apply” probably won’t fly, but what could be more natural than hiring from our own program? Sure, there could be a claim of disparate impact, but that tends to cut only one way anyway.

          Also, we’ll probably want control of admission to the programs, and not just for discouraging white people (who will be tempted _because_ famous Hooli is running the program)

      • Walter says:

        Um, I’ve worked in ATL for my whole career, and I dunno if we are the place to go for black coders. Our numbers (at the companies I’ve worked at) seem a lot more like what Hooli is doing now than what it wants to.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson,
      Follow the example of the City and County of San Francisco, have a paid internship program for youths who live in “underprivileged neighborhoods” that are majority black (though in California most poor people are now immigrants, so if you go outside of the bay area to the rest of California you’re going to have to get a lot more non-blacks from poor neighborhoods as well).
      Since the program is zipcode based rather than directly skin shade based you’ll probably need to get at least double the amount of paid interns than you need to reach your target.
      Have buses going from Hunters Point to Palo Alto (or wherever), then have subsequent permanent job hiring from among the pool of paid interns.
      Your going to have to invest in a lot of training it will be rare that they’ll have had the educations that “UMC” kids and ambitious foreigners get.

      Deal with it.

      (On a personal note I’ve worked with a man for seven years who was such an intern for the San Francisco Department of Public Works and he’s one of the best co-workers I’ve every had, I’m pro affirmative action now).

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s hard to get a substantial chunk of top developer talent to look different in your company than in all other companies, as all the SV companies have demonstrated w.r.t. male/female balance. So my guess is that heavily recruiting blacks and doing coding camps isn’t going to move the needle much–if it were going to, it probably already would have. Do that, but don’t expect it to fix your problem much.

      The easiest path forward is probably for Hooli to insource a lot of the low-wage/low-skill services they’ve previously outsourced. Changing the makeup of your top developers is hard, but bringing in a lot of black workers in other areas (perhaps combined with HQ2 in Atlanta) is quite workable.

      • SamChevre says:

        This.

        Just hire all the people who currently work for your contract services–janitors, cafeteria workers, event staff providers.

        • Well... says:

          Also some white-collar but less technical stuff like HR people, project managers, administrative assistants, etc.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            They already do this, which explains how

            Their representation within Hooli’s US workforce currently stands at two percent, and among the technical staff and executives it’s half that.

            Those numbers are for a fake company, but the idea is based on observed reality. Women in HR and Marketing (and similar fields with different promotion tracks than the core function of the business) boost their overall representation.

            Adding in the contract labor for cleaning would do a much better job at getting racial minorities on the books.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s hard to get a substantial chunk of top developer talent to look different in your company than in all other companies,

        That wasn’t stated in the hypothetical. It probably needs to be stated, because it opens up the options of just poaching from the other companies.

    • Hooli needs to buy one or more substantial non-tech companies in industries/locations where a large fraction of the employees are black, merge them in so that their employees are now Hooli employees.

      • Plumber says:

        @DavidFriedman,

        Impressive!

        Your idea is much simpler, easier, and faster to achieve the stated goal than mine, and maybe most of the other suggestions.

        • Gray Ice says:

          If Hooli is already in the tech business, one option would be to buy a major furniture manufacturing company (located in Mississippi), and then offer furniture with internet of things built in.

    • bean says:

      That’s easy. Create fake jobs for them. Call them something like “usability testers” and set up the facilities in heavily black areas. Pay is a little bit better than normal for unskilled labor ($15/hr should be plenty if you don’t locate them in a bizarre coastal area) and then assign them a little bit of work, and let them goof off the rest of the time.

      • albatross11 says:

        I once worked as a consultant with a company that turned out to be more-or-less fraudulent–they had technical people working on a real problem, but the purpose of the company appeared to have been to siphon wealth from the founder’s rich relatives. (Yes, we got stiffed.) I remember noticing that they had a large staff of really spectacularly pretty women hired on as software testers, even though they had no product as yet. I wondered what they were supposed to be testing, but I was young enough not to recognize this as a big screaming danger sign….

      • johan_larson says:

        They might not have to be fake. Even Hooli has some low-skill jobs. If Hooli made a point of locating its call centers, say, in predominantly black areas, their staff would probably mostly reflect those areas, and the number of blacks on staff would naturally rise. And you know, I doubt anyone would fault them for doing this.

      • psmith says:

        I once knew a guy who spent 10-12 years in China working a job that he likes to characterize as “professional white guy.” His actual duties were extremely limited and he had very little power, but the companies that hired him wanted the prestige of having a white American at inter-company meetings and conference presentations and so on.

    • Lambert says:

      How pedantic are we being about the term African American?
      Haiti? Liberia?

      • Plumber says:

        @Lambert,

        I wish there was a good term to distinguish “African-Americans” who’s ancestors have been on this continent for centuries (Michelle) from African-Americans who have more immediate ancestors thar are immigrants (Barack).

        “White ethnics” is sometimes used for those who don’t have to look up in a family tree an ancestor that came from “the old country”, but there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent term for non-whites.

        • Well... says:

          from African-Americans who have more immediate ancestors are immigrants (Barack)

          Speaking of which, does half-black count?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m reporting this comment, especially as it is the second time I have seen it recently.

            If you have a salient point to make, make it. But this does not read like one.

          • Well... says:

            I was asking a question. Not sure why that should be reported. But here, I’ll write it again, this time with more words:

            If I have 100 employees, all of whom are half black like Obama (one white parent, one black parent), can I count my company as having 100 black employees?

            Since people keep calling Obama (and many other prominent half-black people like Kamala Harris, Benjamin Jealous, Drake, etc.) black, it seems like the answer is Yes. But that pretty clearly isn’t what’s intended by the calls to increase the black share of the workforce at companies like Hooli. So…who’s talking about this, and what are they saying?

            PS: HBC, thanks for at least telling me you were reporting the comment and providing an explanation of your reasoning.

          • mdet says:

            How likely is it that someone who looks like you would have been able to attend a white school, use a Whites Only restroom, sit wherever you like on a bus, etc. in 1940s Alabama? If the answer is “not very likely”, and for Barack Obama and Kamala Harris I think it is, then you’re black.

            If that seems really arbitrary, well, it is. While ethnic ancestry is certainly a real thing, the racial categories of “black” and “white” in the US are just labels that are mostly rooted in slavery. The slave owners decided that someone who was of half-European descent (and sometimes more) could still be enslaved as a Negro, so those are the rules. If Obama were to travel to a different part of the world with a different historical context, then maybe he wouldn’t be black, the same way that US racial categorizations don’t really have a good label for Mestizo Hispanics. But the historical context of the US puts Obama as Definitely Black.

          • Well... says:

            Thanks mdet, I understand all that. And in fact, Obama used to not be black; he used to be the “international” east-meets-west guy. He rebranded himself as black when he entered Chicago politics.

            My question was meant to further probe the issue of how we’re counting black employees. If it’s “people who look like they’d have been discriminated against in the days of Jim Crow” then I have a simple solution to the proposal in the OP:

            Have a Race Identification Expert walk through the aisles of cubicles, conducting a visual assessment of the races of Hooli employees, and tallying up what he sees. He then produces a report showing that black people are perfectly represented at Hooli according to their share of the greater population.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m pretty sure if Hooli managed to hire a bunch of people no blacker than Barack Obama and Kamala Harris, everyone from the NAACP to the New York Times to the EEOC would be talking about their outstanding success in expanding their black workforce. People who are half black in the US are usually just thought of as black (though I think within the black community there’s some kind of cachet to having lighter skin). Similarly, if they recruited the smartest new graduates from Africa and/or the Carribean to fill out their numbers.

            ETA: Note that this is entirely consistent with how US politics and media work, as well as with how affirmative action and discrimination law works. The same thing works with hispanics, but more so–many hispanics are mostly of Spanish blood, and look basically like anyone else, but have a Spanish last name. And with Asians–when your mom was Chinese and your dad was white American, you’re going to be thought of as Asian by most people.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well:

            I am pretty sure your solution would be supremely unconvincing to, say, the EEOC.

          • Well... says:

            The OP never specified who I have to convince. I’ve provided a solution that is totally consistent with the way the basic terms (i.e. who counts as black) have been operationalized.

          • mdet says:

            An unstated assumption of my definition was that you DO actually have some sub-Saharan African ancestry. I’m going to arbitrarily say 25% African according to an Ancestry,com type test gets you eligible for consideration, but that’s just me.

            So your solution would still require hiring a bunch of people with unambiguously black grandparents.

            Edit:Henry Louis Gates Jr says that the average African-American has 65~80% African ancestry. I think I remember reading somewhere that 30~40% African ancestry is the point at which people begin self-identifying as “black”, which would make sense as about half as much as the average African-American.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The question you were asking is an asinine one. The fact that you keep asking it about Obama specifically reads very poorly.

            We need only look at Michelle Obama, whose status as black you do not question, to understand why. The average “black” person in America is a mixture of European and African ancestors, but this did not afford them status as “white”, outside some isolated circumstances.

            If someone hired Will Smith, you would classify him as “black” without a second thought, but there is little difference between the two of them in appearance. Because Will Smith is almost assuredly of mixed European and African descent.

          • johan_larson says:

            Speaking of which, does half-black count?

            Half-blacks count, if they are accepted as black in the relevant community of discourse. Given where Hooli is located, that is the US as a whole or Silicon Valley specifically.

            Unless there is some deeper aspect of this question I’m not seeing, I don’t think this is a very fruitful approach to the problem. American racial categories are somewhat arbitrary, and edge cases exist, but the category of most people is not particularly debatable. I’ve certainly heard a lot about US racial differences and racial problems over the years, but I don’t remember hearing a lot of arguments about what categories people belong in. Most whites are obviously white, and most blacks are obviously black. The matter simply isn’t in dispute except on the margins, and there polite society typically leaves it up to the person in question and how they identify.

            If Hooli were to go through its employees and try to resolve this problem by designating 5000 blonde blue-eyed engineers as black, I’m confident this would not be generally accepted as a solution. And there is no authority so august that its approval would make the solution generally accepted.

          • ana53294 says:

            There are people who consider Meghan Markle black, even though she has white skin.

            American race categories are weird, man.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Race is weird, period.

            My great grandparents came over together from Sicily. Am I Italian? The short answer is that no one cares. My last name is Italian, so I can call myself Italian and no one would blink even though I am, at best, 1/4 Italian. I have killer a family red-sauce recipe, that’s all that really matters.

            It’s only when looking for some very specific markers that people start to get bent about this stuff, and that has to do with the particular racial animosities of an area. Black is it in the US, but elsewhere it might Jews and Palestinians, Irish or English, etc.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @mdet:

            If Obama were to travel to a different part of the world with a different historical context, then maybe he wouldn’t be black,

            It’s so annoying when you take an international flight and lose your race. Though not as bad as losing your luggage.

          • Well... says:

            HBC, your opinion is that it’s an asinine question, and I thank you for politely providing your reasoning. Here’s my reasoning why it’s not:

            Race, as you admit, is weird. Inasmuch as it wasn’t simply an object-level question, my question was meant to bring into relief the fact that in the context of who makes up the racial workforce of a given company, there does not appear to be a clear understanding of how race should be counted.

            Do you rely on self-reports? Your employee E.W., who you assumed was a blonde white woman, might be 1.4% Cherokee or something and claim she’s American Indian. (Certain people might have a problem with that claim.) Personally, I always check “black/African American” on HR forms, even though only through Ali Mazrui’s theories about the Arabian Peninsula being part of Africa can I argue that I’m African-American. In reality I do it because I know nobody will ever question it, and it helps my company look more diverse. (Which it truly is, because they’ve hired such a heterodoxical person as myself!) Theoretically, any employee might have done this, and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to verify one way or the other.

            Do you use ancestral data? Of course you can’t, because very few people have actually done 23&me or whatever, and even if you mandated/paid for all your employees do it and send you the data, that data is not perfectly reliable. What’s more, it might not necessarily correlate to race as race is commonly talked about! So you might find that according to the DNA, on aggregate your company is 20% sub-Saharan African even though at all-hands company meetings you’re treated to a sea of white faces.

            The remaining option is to do a visual assessment. Which is pretty subjective. To me, if I didn’t know anything about these people and was shown certain photos of them: Billy Idol looks like he’s a quarter black; Obama looks like an Arab; Billy Joel and Steve-O from Jackass both look half black; Slash looks Italian; Trevor Noah looks Nepalese; Benjamin Jealous looks 100% white; etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Personally, I always check “black/African American” on HR forms, even though only through Ali Mazrui’s theories about the Arabian Peninsula being part of Africa can I argue that I’m African-American.

            Yeahhhh. I am going to assume that I pegged your initial intent of “troll” correctly at this point.

          • Nick says:

            There are people who consider Meghan Markle black, even though she has white skin.

            There’s a line in Suits season 2 about this—Mike meets Rachel’s father Robert Zane for the first time and is surprised, and she says something like, “Did you think this was just a tan?”

          • Well... says:

            HBC, I don’t know what else to tell you. I detect genuine bad faith on your part. You refuse to tolerate my line of inquiry even after I lay out a rational case for it.

          • Well... says:

            @johan_larson:

            If Hooli were to go through its employees and try to resolve this problem by designating 5000 blonde blue-eyed engineers as black, I’m confident this would not be generally accepted as a solution. And there is no authority so august that its approval would make the solution generally accepted.

            Yet at the same time, who has the authority to dispute Hooli’s solution using an argument that isn’t built on something arbitrary? If there is a deeper aspect to my question, this is it. The way we talk about race and racial diversity is very squishy, especially in the case of mixed-race people. A motivated person could justifiably dispute any percentage of black employees Hooli claimed, whether 2% or 25%.

          • dick says:

            a) I’m pretty sure everyone here already knew that there’s no objectively correct way to determine race, and if not I think you’ve explained it enough times

            b) Hiring someone to count all the black people and then claim it’s 12% no matter what is not in any way related to race being subjective; you can lie about something objectively measurable too

            c) The answer to “But if race is subjective, how can they prove me wrong when I say the Hooli staff is 12% black?” is “With whatever subjective method they used to determine that Hooli was 2% black, as specified in the question”

          • Well... says:

            @dick:

            a) If I explained it multiple times it’s because I was providing logical reasoning to counter HBC’s repeated bad-faith accusations that I’m trolling. (Maybe I’m not playing the game right, and what I’m supposed to do is report HBC’s comments or something? But reporting people for bad-faith accusations is not my style.)

            b) The goal was not to show that race is subjective, it was to count something for which there is no consistent measurement and then come up with a quantitative answer, in order to fulfill a mission. The lack of consistent measurement is a weakness in the framing of the issue that may be exploited to fulfill the mission.

            c) I addressed this in my comment immediately above: the stated 2% figure is just as dubious/arguable as my proposed 12% figure.

      • S_J says:

        How pedantic are we being about the term African American?

        Does a person born in Johannesburg count, if they’ve emigrated into the United States?

        Does it matter if their mother tongue is Afrikaans, or Zulu?

    • lvlln says:

      If the one goal is to increase the portion of African-Americans on Hooli’s US staff to twelve percent, why not just liquidate all assets and lay off everyone except 8 people where >=1 of those 8 people are African-American, and use the liquidated assets to set up a trust fund to pay those 8 people for the next 20 years as employees? If the company has billions and billions in the bank already, the addition of all the cash from selling off everything should provide more than enough funds to provide 8 people very nice salaries for the next 20 years.

  32. The Nybbler says:

    So, what’s going on in Venezuela? What I gather from the headlines is they lost all power from their main generation facility, the Guri Dam. And in a situation very reminiscent of Atlas Shrugged, there’s no one left who is able to restart it. The diesel and gas backup facilities, at least most of them, were not brought on line.

    This would all be bad enough — I can’t see a government manage to stand without open warfare long if it can’t keep the power grid up, in a country dependent on electricity. But now the Chinese are offering “help”. Since I don’t imagine this help will consist solely of hydro and other power systems engineers equipped with Spanish-Chinese technical dictionaries, that means the Trump Administration might feel it should intervene under the Monroe Doctrine. The US ordered the withdrawal of the remaining embassy staff yesterday, among other reasons because they were “proving a constraint on US policy there”. This does not seem good. Are we going to see the US directly involved in a conflict with China in Venezuela?

    • Lillian says:

      The US involved in a conflict with China in Venezuela is amusingly the plot of the fun if buggy videogame Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Though in the game the reason for the country’s collapse was a populist right wing dictator rather than a left wing one.

      • Gray Ice says:

        Seeing the recent new has made me wonder if the writers of that game simply got lucky, or if they had unusual insight into a possible world conflict.

        I thought the game did an excellent job of showing how a local conflict in an oil producing country could turn into a superpower conflict….while still being fun (and completely unrealistic for the actual player).

        • Lillian says:

          The writing was kind of on the wall even at the time. Venezuela under Chavez was already pivoting away from the US and towards Russia and China politically, and was attempting to do so economically even though the principal market for Venezuela’s crude was and remains Uncle Sam. It doesn’t really require astounding political insight to put two and two together and see what could happen if the country started collapsing and there was an international intervention.

          Incidentally, i lived in Venezuela during my part of my childhood. In some ways i love Venezuela and remember it fondly, in others i hate and loathe it with the fury of a thousand suns and wish someone would burn the godforsaken place to the ground so that the survivors can start over from scratch. Getting to blow it up myself was… cathartic.

          And while we’re on the subject of the game, a criticism: One thing Mercenaries 1 and the PS2 version of Mercenaries 2 did really well is giving you a feeling of the factions fighting each other. You’d frequently encounter ongoing battles that you could intervene in, and even opposing light vehicle patrols would often get into firefights which would then escalate as more patrols came by, giving the world a great sense of dynamism. This really didn’t really happen in Mercs2. This meant there really wasn’t a lot of opportunity to just tool around blowing stuff up, instead you had to be doing a mission or hunting down a dude to have any actual fun encounters.

          Related to the above, in Mercs2 if a guy died he stayed dead, which meant you couldn’t fight him again. Whereas in Mercs1 (and PS2Mercs2) if you killed a guy, but didn’t confirm the kill, he’d come back. Had fun blowing up a guy’s tanks? Leave, come back later, find he’s back with more tanks! Pretty sure this was an engine limitation rather than an intended feature, but it was certainly more fun.

          Also, in PS2 version of Mercs 2 you could steal vehicles and store them in your garage. In normal Mercs 2 you couldn’t. It never made any sense to me why the hell not. Honestly in many ways it kind of felt like PS2 Mercs 2 had better gameplay despite ugly graphics, atrociously bad draw distance, and various bugs.

    • Walter says:

      I’ve been reading Matt Levine’s (bloomberg writer) takes on their petro company, which is in a fascinating limbo.

    • John Schilling says:

      So, what’s going on in Venezuela? What I gather from the headlines is they lost all power from their main generation facility, the Guri Dam. And in a situation very reminiscent of Atlas Shrugged, there’s no one left who is able to restart it.

      And that answers your question. The weakest part of “Atlas Shrugged” was John Galt and his Gulch and his “strike of the mind”, interesting concepts but cartoonishly implemented. The villains were always disturbingly plausible and realistic (and well beyond Galt et al’s ability to realistically defeat). Once Hugo Chavez died, the government and economy of Venezuela passed into the hands of a bunch of Ayn Rand villains, but in that environment Galt’s Gulch really does exist and is called The Entire Outside World.

      As you note, some sort of colonial intervention is probably the only hope Venezeuela has, and China is the only player willing to join that game.

    • Tenacious D says:

      The Wikipedia article about the blackout has some interesting details:

      Sources cited by the Corpoelec indicated a vegetation fire occurred on three lines of 765 kilowatts between the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Bolívar state and the Malena and San Gerónimo B substations.[13] The fire overheated the lines, triggering load rejection mechanisms that protect the lines connected to the Gurí Dam.[13] According to the School of Electrical Engineering of the Central University of Venezuela, the momentary loss of power at the Gurí Dam caused the turbines to increase their speed, creating an overload on electrical systems.[14][15] The university further stated that the safety control systems in Gurí were activated to reduce the increased energy input, but the system became uncontrollable and forced operators to disconnect the generators in the dam.[14][15] When the generators were disconnected, the electrical frequency could not be regulated and overloaded power plants located in Caruachi and Macagua.[14][15] Because thermal power plants in Venezuela are not being operated due to the shortages of fuel provided by PDVSA, fluctuations in electrical frequencies exacerbated the power grid and contributed to continued blackouts.[15]

      It sounds somewhat reminiscent of the 2003 Northeast blackout where one of the immediate triggers was contact with vegetation that should have been trimmed, and then a bunch of interacting factors made the failure cascade over a wide area.

      A black start of an electrical grid is not a trivial procedure, so it’s not shocking (given the overall state of the country) that the expertise to do so isn’t there anymore.

  33. baconbits9 says:

    Econtalk/econlog recently interviewed the author of a study on the minimum wage increase in Seattle and MR linked to a Danish study. Both found significant drops in hours worked for the studied group

    So, when we look at the low-wage labor market overall, what we’re picking up is the amount of money paid out in the low-wage labor market declined.

    The hourly wage jumps up by 40 percent at the discontinuity. Employment falls by 33 percent and total input of hours decreases by 45 percent, leaving the aggregate wage payment almost unchanged.

    For higher minimum wage supporters here, would such conclusions if borne out by further research be enough to cut you support for increasing the minimum wage or are there other grounds you would defend it on?

    • rlms says:

      Fewer hours worked for the same overall pay seems like an obviously good thing if it’s the same people doing them. Unemployment is obviously in general bad.

      In any case, I don’t think the Danish study is particularly informative, since it is unreasonable to extrapolate findings about a minimum wage difference between 17.9 and 18.1 year olds to the effects of changing the minimum wage for everyone.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The Seattle study found both lower overall pay with the lower hours and an uneven distribution with lower experienced workers being worse off than more experienced.

        When we looked more specifically at the trajectories of individual workers with differing levels of experience, we found that the more experienced workers were coming out ahead. On average they were taking home–not necessarily taking home, but their paychecks were reflecting an extra about $20 a week. The less experienced workers who at least had a job to start with, were more or less breaking even: their increase in hourly wages was being pretty much offset by a reduction in hours. And then, the big losses in terms of much lower pay would be amongst the workers who hadn’t even entered the labor market yet when the minimum wage started to increase, because they were finding it harder to find any work at all.

        I also don’t see “lower hours at the same pay” as obviously a good thing as this isn’t an “all else equal” situation. When I was a low wage worker being able to pick up extra hours when I had an expense or money was tight for some other reason was important for not falling into the “can’t work because my car broke down/cant fix my car because I can’t get into work/can’t save because I borrowed money to fix my car so I’m in the same situation next time it breaks down”.

        In any case, I don’t think the Danish study is particularly informative, since it is unreasonable to extrapolate findings about a minimum wage difference between 17.9 and 18.1 year olds to the effects of changing the minimum wage for everyone.

        It is another data point that lines up with details of the Seattle study, that inexperienced workers take the brunt of the negative consequences of MW laws,

        • Dragor says:

          If we’re putting in personal anecdotes, I mostly don’t work full time. I work as a tutor, and demand for my services varies between 20 hours and 40 hours a week depending on which standardized tests are soon and what other tutors are on vacation that week. I have noticed that when I am working 20 hours a week I have a lot more time to solve problems in such a way that I don’t wind up spending money. When I work 40 hours a week my pocket book is very happy, and I definitely come out ahead financially, but I definitely notice I am more prone to making mistakes and dropping the ball on random bureaucratic task.

          For an example of this, a couple years ago my first student loan payment was coming up, and I was pretty busy with extra work, stuff with my mom, and stuff with my partner. That particular company made itself more difficult to pay than my federal loan servicer, and I…just…didn’t figure it out for a while and got a mark on my credit. Granted, this reflects my general affinity/aptitude for navigating bureaucracy more than it do the negative effects of working a lot, but I notice stuff like this happens a lot less when I am working 30 or fewer hours a week.

          I should also admit I suppose that I am not really affected by raising the minimum wage much accept to the extent that when my job wants me to do admin pay (which pays minimum wage), I am more willing these days now that the minimum wage has gotten closer to my normal pay rate.

    • albatross11 says:

      Minimum wage laws may have something in common with NIMBY laws and occupational licensing–they benefit the current crop of incumbents, at the cost of making it harder for future people to be successful. At some point, it becomes super hard to get hired without experience because you’re probably not worth the minimum wage for the first month you’re on board, you can’t start doing even pretty low-skill jobs without an expensive, time-consuming bullshit certification[1], and you can’t afford a house because the current owners (who all purchased their homes for reasonable prices) have restricted building to max out their homes’ resale value.

      This works politically–the benefits fall mainly on an existing set of people who know who they are and care a lot about it, but the costs fall on future people who (if they’re alive yet and old enough to vote) mostly don’t realize those costs are aimed at them. But it’s hard to imagine that this is really a good way for us to organize our society.

      [1] The test is also a low-IQ filter, so if you’re hard-working but dumb and just want to braid hair or arrange flowers, you’re out of luck.

    • dick says:

      Maybe, after a lot of further inquiry? This is a hard topic to study or to make definitive statements about. For example, a minimum wage hike ought to be bad for Pizza Hut in that they have to pay their drivers more, yet also good for Pizza Hut, because people who earn minimum wage order a lot of pizza. The Seattle study won’t tell you which effect was larger, because they ignored chain restaurants entirely (which seems like an example of the streetlight fallacy to me).

      In general it just seems like the kind of thing with a lot of complex effects, where it’s more a question of which trade-offs you like than proving it’s good or bad. It’s hard to imagine a time in which there’s broad agreement on whether a minimum wage hike is good or bad, even in a specific geographic region, let alone generally.

      • For example, a minimum wage hike ought to be bad for Pizza Hut in that they have to pay their drivers more, yet also good for Pizza Hut, because people who earn minimum wage order a lot of pizza.

        Not if the result is that hours worked declines by at least as much as pay per hour increases, which is what the studies seem to be saying.

    • Guy in TN says:

      From the 2016 study:

      One challenge of using this dataset is that we have limited ability to properly locate the work done at large employers with multiple locations in state of Washington, such as retail or restaurant chains with company-owned stores; many of these multi-location firms file a single quarterly report to cover employees at all locations. While we can locate the address given by such multi-location firms, we are unsure whether an individual worker in these firms did his or her
      work in Seattle, and was thus covered by the Minimum Wage Ordinance, or in another part of the state. Consequently, we focus our analysis on single-location establishments, but separately report outcomes for the combination of single-location establishments and multi-location firms in our Appendix D, E, and F tables

      I would be hesitant from drawing definitive conclusions from any study that excludes 40% of the workforce. Also, separate study of Seattle minimum wage increase that focused on the food service industry showed an increase in wages and no effect on employment.

      So a question for you: Since we have a second study from Seattle that indicates the opposite conclusion, does that move the dial on your opinion on the subject?

      • baconbits9 says:

        I would be hesitant from drawing definitive conclusions from any study that excludes 40% of the workforce.

        I am, which is why I phrased the question with “if this is borne out with future research”.

        Also, separate study of Seattle minimum wage increase that focused on the food service industry showed an increase in wages and no effect on employment. So a question for you: Since we have a second study from Seattle that indicates the opposite conclusion, does that move the dial on your opinion on the subject?

        Actually the econlog link I provided addresses this study and notes that it only takes into account employment levels and not hours worked (which the study notes), so the existence of this study is already somewhat in my priors.

      • Guy in TN says:

        To better answer your question: For my political goals, the change in amount of wealth in the low-wage group is absolutely critical. So if further research indicated that minimum wage laws decreased this, that would reverse my support for it.

        However, in order to determine how their wealth changes, a study would need to factor in unemployment benefits, and more importantly disability benefits (which act as de facto long-term unemployment benefits) into the calculation.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I presume that your principle is either that the gap between rich and poor is to large, or that the poor earn to little money currently.

          If its the gap then the Seattle results (if maintained) should eliminate your support for higher minimum wages at the least, without factoring in other benefits the poor might receive. Their result was that the absolutely worst off in the labor force, those with the least experience taking the largest hit, but it also made the bottom segment (both the gains from higher wages + losses from lower hours) worse off on average. If a transfer scheme was able to remediate the issues caused for the lowest skilled workers then it is somewhere between highly likely and almost certain that a larger transfer scheme would have better results than a minimum wage + partial transfer system.

        • Guy in TN says:

          While the wealth gap is a factor in play, its total amounts of wealth for the poor that is the primary driver for me here.

          If a transfer scheme was able to remediate the issues caused for the lowest skilled workers then it is somewhere between highly likely and almost certain that a larger transfer scheme would have better results than a minimum wage + partial transfer system.

          It’s true that minimum wage increases are not the best imaginable policy. But they are “in play”, in the Overton window, and easier to sell than the alternatives.

          This is because for many Americans, there is a tendency to split wealth transfers into two buckets: money acquired via working a minimum wage is viewed as “earned”, therefore legitimate, while money received through direct welfare transfers is “unearned”, therefore illegitimate and on the political chopping block. People just have a hard time making the connection that their minimum wage is not being “set” exclusively by the relationship between employer and employee, but that the excess above the market rate is attributable to government policy, not conceptually different than a direct welfare payment. (The rub is that the “market rate” is also attributable to government policy in the form of property law, but that’s a topic for another day)

          So its a bit of a sleight-of-hand, sure, but its justified on utilitarian grounds.

          • While the wealth gap is a factor in play, its total amounts of wealth for the poor that is the primary driver for me here.

            Suppose there were some policy that increases the income of the rich by a lot and the income of the poor by a little, so both the wealth gap and the amount of wealth for the poor increase. Obviously you would like it more if more of the money went to the poor, but imagine that the only alternative is the status quo.

            Are you for it or against it? Is increased wealth for the rich a negative for you, or only a much smaller positive than increased wealth for the poor?

          • Guy in TN says:

            Increased wealth for the poor is my primary goal, so I would be for that policy.

            Increased wealth for the very rich is a negative for me, but a smaller consideration. Worth making the trade-off.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I would say that increased wealth for the rich is good to the extent that they invest it or spend it on charity, and bad to the extent that they spend it on things that cause poorer people to become jealous or demoralized, or on things that bias the political system in their favor, such as campaign donations, lobby groups, or outright bribes.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I agree that context matters. If the question is, would I rather make The Nature Conservancy (worth ~$6.7 billion) better off, or some small, scrappy white nationalist organization, then I would choose The Nature Conservancy.

            But all else equal, content-agnostic, I’m disinclined to make the already-wealthy more wealthy. Since the authority of ownership is power, the question is essentially: should the already-powerful be granted even more power? Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often it is no.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      In the last several years, I was convinced by the libertarian argument, and I don’t believe in the arguments you hear from Democratic politicians about minimum wage. I think the orthodox economists are correct on this issue. I also think the sorts of modest and infrequent minimum wage increases you get from state dictates are pretty much guaranteed to be suboptimal and exacerbate inequality in many scenarios. I buy the argument it gets soaked by increased rents

      On the other hand, it doesn’t shake my support for higher minimum wages. In the US, its a “we can’t have nice things” problem. We have Electromation, Inc. v. NLRB and other things preventing companies from forming new types of unions if they want to (see the thing with the German auto manufacturers who wanted to bring Betriebsraten to the American South a few years ago.) We have a conservative Supreme Court, though, and it looks like we’re headed for a period where at-will employment or right-to-work rules are upheld without loosening rules on unions. Also, unions have been so demonized over the last several decades that if the minimum wage went away and the new social expectation was “join a union that upholds your interest,” we have a lot of people that just aren’t interested (even proud) of ever being part of a union and the results in practice would be much worse for poor people.

      In a Democratic Party torn apart by factions, minimum wage hikes make the old, young, liberals, socialists, men, women, voters, politicians, etc. all feel like their side is winning. It turns out voters and even appeals to some Republicans (I think I remember a poll where 50% of Republicans agreed with the Hillary $12.50 proposal in 2016.) It’s very effective and activating for a lot more people than another argument about how we need to implement more modern European policies (this has a culture war feel that turns off certain people who stand behind referenda on raising minimum wages as American as apple pie.) Even if the libertarian argument against minimum wage starts to convince a lot more people, I doubt there will be any movement against continuing hikes unless we reach a New Deal type period where we’re doing huge blocks of reforms to bust up old kludges.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Do you have opinions on subsidizing wages instead?

        One reason I like them is they are unlikely to harm.

      • 10240 says:

        It doesn’t take unions to have as high wages as they can get without increasing unemployment, competition between employers is enough.

    • JPNunez says:

      Minimum wage is just a part of the equation tho.

      Ceteris Paribus, sure, you just left a bunch of people not being able to work. But a min wage increase needs to be accompanied by unemployment benefits, healthcare not linked to your job, not having a ton of college debt, disability benefits, and in general a certain safety net so you don’t lose everything if you miss a couple of paychecks.

      So yeah, if you told me YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE ONE THING, sure, minimum wage maybe has to go, let’s review the evidence.

      But since that’s ridiculous, let’s change all the things at, mostly, the same time and do better overall.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Minimum wage is just a part of the equation tho.

        If minimum wage laws are actively hurting the people it supposedly helps (and more importantly hurting the most vulnerable of the people it supposedly helps) then why would you keep supporting the MW and not just drop that and support the social safety net without it?

      • Suppose we have the set of changes you want and the result is that a lot of people who, without those changes, would be working poor become permanently unemployed–they never get the first job, so never get the experience needed to make someone willing to hire them at the new minimum wage. They spend their entire life on welfare, in the form of the combined benefits you describe.

        Does that outcome, a permanent welfare class, strike you as desirable?

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman

          “….Does that outcome, a permanent welfare class, strike you as desirable?”

          From a selfish stand point:
          With commute traffic as congested as it is?

          Paying for some to not work and hopefully stay off the roads seems rational in these conditions!

          I liken it to fixing a leak – you want a higher floor on wages so you vote for higher minimum wages, but that increases unemployment (seems plausible, though I’ve also read arguments that higher minimum wages may have a stimulus effect and total jobs increase, which seems almost as plausible, my guess is that it depends on where, when, and how much minimum wages rise) – with the upstream leak fixed there’s now a downstream one visible, fix that and there’s another – with increased unemployment you implement welfare, make work programs, allow lower wages for trainees and youth et cetera. 

          Whether a series of bodge fixes is better than the original problem is I suppose the debate, my understanding is that adjusted for inflation the Federal minimum wage was much higher decades ago, State and local minimum wages are often higher, my own recollection is that after minimum wages and top were raised in the 1990’s things seemed to improve, but they were many other variables like top marginal taxes being raised and interest rates being lowered.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Plumber

            The Seattle result, if it holds, would imply that the second leak caused by fixing the first leak was larger than the first leak. If my plumber shows up and tells he will fix my leak, but also cause a worse problem I am not going with that guy unless I am pretty damn sure that the fix to the second leak is going to be the last fix.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @baconbits9:
            Beware the man of one study.

          • What do you think the long term effects are, on you, on the welfare class, and on the society as a whole, of creating a permanent welfare class—people who know that they and their children and grandchildren will never produce anything others are willing to pay them for, will always be dependent on the generosity of the people who are building stuff, growing food, fixing leaks, … ?

            It feels like an ugly picture to me. For an interesting science fiction exploration of that (and other things), you might like the torchship trilogy.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @HBC

            Drum appears to drop one of the more important findings, which is

            Approximately one-quarter of the earnings gains can be attributed to experienced workers making up for lost hours in Seattle with work outside the city limits.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @baconbits9:

            I mean, he quotes it.

            Yeah, there is some effect on hours, but there is still a net gain in wages even without hours worked outside of Seattle. That is the opposite of the conclusion of the other study,We also have to consider that some of those “lost” hours are actually substitionary, and involve employers shifting work outside of Seattle. At least some of those “lost” hours would be “found” under a nationwide scheme.

            Honestly, it would be a little bit odd if the increased wage were perfectly efficient in raising wages.

        • albatross11 says:

          I wonder what fraction of the support for much higher local minimum wage is NIMBY/Le Samo type concerns. If nobody is allowed to be employed within the city limits for less than $15, then maybe that pushes a lot of the left end of the distribution outside of town, where they’re mostly someone else’s problem. If the local restaurants have to buy their vegetables pre-chopped as a result, well, that’s low-wage workers who aren’t lowering our schools’ test scores or using our county’s social services.

          • Theodoric says:

            Not sure how many “mainstream” higher minimum wage advocates explicitly think of it that way, but I suspect you’re right that they won’t be unhappy about the low-end people leaving. Ron Unz has argued for a higher minimum wage as a way to combat illegal immigration.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            From talking with them, I don’t think they are directly aware. They might be vaguely aware on a second-order basis, because “that place with the high minimum wage just seemed so nice,” and not realizing it was because it was illegal to be poor there.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Not pro minimum-wage persay but I’m extremely sceptical of the ideal of full employment:

      1. What’s wrong with unemployment? As society becomes wealthier, less and less people should need to work.

      2. Is the work productive? Fast food for example is an almost entirely superflous industry, I’m not convinced employment in that sector dropping to 0 would be bad for society in the long run.

      3. I think most of the productivity in society comes from a tiny minority people, the superelite who radicalise industries and multiply efficiency many times, and below them the people who love to work. –They don’t tend to capture most of this value themselves, and that’s fine, because they can’t use most it anyway, but if society becomes a 100x wealthier thanks to technical advances and infrastructure, then the benefits should trickle down to everybody, and maybe we don’t need people doing so much scrap-work anymore. — tl;dr society produces unbelievably more than it used to, and we got on ok then.

      4. The minimum wage is already too high for a lot of informal work, and contract-negotiations between people of comparable leverage. — The purpose a minimum wage is supposed to serve is being a bulwark against exploitation in wage negotations between a prospiracy-equipped corporate class and isolated workers. –And as far as this goes, **it’s certainly better than unions**, and miles better than the last existential tantrum provoked by complacency about people being passively exploited in this manner (communism and incidentally naziism) –But a minimum wage is mostly not necessary outside this context, it should be a bulwark against the price of labour being pushed too low. (particularly out accordance with the skyrocketing powers of society)

      5. lots of the problems with employing people are because of ridiculous worker protections, where once you get your foot in the door, its illegal or onerous for the employer to break off the relationship. Minimum wage affects what work is worth doing, and it’s fine if it turns out a lot of work is not worth doing once we correct for a huge fall in the price of labour relative to productivity passed down by innovators and builders of the last generation- that’s just counteracting the iron law of wages. What’s really anti-market is stifling restrictions on free association.

      • carvenvisage says:

        tl:dr, **if** we’re going to have a minimum wage, it should increase along with society’s productive powers.

      • baconbits9 says:

        1. What’s wrong with unemployment? As society becomes wealthier, less and less people should need to work.

        Full employment, as an economics term, doesn’t mean 100% of people are employed.

      • John Schilling says:

        1. What’s wrong with unemployment? As society becomes wealthier, less and less people should need to work.

        If by “less and less” you mean none whatsoever, great. But the intermediate state where some work(*) needs to be done, has a problem if you don’t arrange for (almost) everyone to share the load.

        The people who work, will be able to command greater wealth than the people who do not. Or, alternately, if they cannot do so then they will chose not to work, because working is a chump move if the pay is no better than welfare.

        Per economists from Adam Smith on down, the package of material goods and services purchased by most working men will be recognized as defining the minimum standard of living below which lies poverty of a sort which is unconscionable to condemn a decent person. This is a sliding scale that goes from linen shirts to automobiles to smartphones to robot slaves to immortality pills. But because it is defined by “what working men can afford”, and non-working men command less wealth than working men, they by definition cannot afford it and are condemned to unconscionable poverty.

        Which is by definition unconscionable, therefore society will demand that wealth be transferred from working men to non-working men until the latter are no longer unconscionably poor. Which happens only when the non-working men command approximately as much wealth as the lowest tier of working men, at which point the lowest tier of working men will stop working and the work will not be done, all die, O the embarrassment.

        So long as the wealth transfer from workers to non-workers is limited to those who are generally recognized as being unable to work, by age or infirmity or perhaps temporarily by misaligned skills or other bad luck, this can be averted. But among those who are recognized as being able to work, you’ve got a problem for which no good solution has been identified.

        * We will for the sake of this argument define “work” so as to exclude things sufficiently enjoyable or high-status that people would do them without pay if they didn’t need the money.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I don’t get where the assumption that the popularity of wealth transference increases as wealth transference is implemented comes from. If a UBI scheme is enacted tomorrow, why would people suddenly open their eyes to the unconscionable lives of the poor, when previously they were blind? I don’t see the causal mechanism. It seems like the slippery slope fallacy.

          An alternative prediction is that people might implement a wealth transference scheme, but then become cognizant of there being undeserving people who are beneficiaries of it, and then either exert enough pressure to stop the scheme from ever being expanded or to eliminate it altogether.

        • carvenvisage says:

          @John Schilling

          The people who work, will be able to command greater wealth than the people who do not. Or, alternately, if they cannot do so then they will chose not to work, because working is a chump move if the pay is no better than welfare.

          It doesn’t matter who works, it matters who produces. Working your whole life to create more annoying soda adverts or beguile desperate people into 1400% APR loans is way worse for society than not working. The difference between being a walmart greeter and xbox player is zero.

          In any case, the real wealth creators are those who multiplied society’s productive powers down through the generations, not the first class hunters vs against the second and third class, the weavers, and gatherers of berrys. The important thing is for society to hold together and go on multiplying its productive capacities. (and in an age of staggering wealth and increasing obsoletion, that means something different than in age of harrowing scarcity of basic physical labour.)

          No one asks you to pay proportional royalties to (the estates of) prometheus et al, so why bean count about blessings that trickle down from the useful to the not so much?

          * We will for the sake of this argument define “work” so as to exclude things sufficiently enjoyable or high-status that people would do them without pay if they didn’t need the money.

          e.g. achieving great things for society

          _

          Per economists from Adam Smith on down, the package of material goods and services purchased by most working men will be recognized as defining the minimum standard of living below which lies poverty of a sort which is unconscionable to condemn a decent person.

          If this is/was true, it wouldn’t be a desirable or inevitable state of affairs to be languidly surrendered to, but a corrosive cancer to be excised or expunged.

          But because it is defined by “what working men can afford”, and non-working men command less wealth than working men, they by definition cannot afford it and are condemned to unconscionable poverty.

          Yep, this is a really bad and non-viable definition.

          Incidentally, also an argument for minimum wages that accord with societies accumulated capacities, which could provide a clearer and cleaner distinction between productive contributors and those who can’t or won’t.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It doesn’t matter who works, it matters who produces.

            And we have no better way of knowing this but the price of their labor (or product, if self-employed). I agree it’s imperfect, but trying to determine the useless jobs by fiat is a fools errand. For instance, that WalMart greeter is there for loss prevention.

            No one asks you to pay proportional royalties to (the estates of) prometheus et al, so why bean count about blessings that trickle down from the useful to the not so much?

            Can’t speak for John, but the answer for me is they’re my beans. Every “blessing” taken from me and given to the “not so much” means I have to work more so they can work not at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as a nitpick: Walmart is famously incredibly concerned with cutting overhead and costs everywhere they can. The fact that they have kept greeters around strongly suggests to me that they’re doing something useful.

          • Clutzy says:

            They probably psychologically reduce the propensity of shoplifting while increasing purchasing.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Can’t speak for John, but the answer for me is they’re my beans. Every “blessing” taken from me and given to the “not so much” means I have to work more so they can work not at all.

            The thing is, I agree with john when he says that even the poor are rich. I always felt I had plenty of beans when I was on minimum wage.

            So the principle at hand isn’t poverty (wealth, bean-count) but non-exploitation/fairness: if Tesla, prometheus, and all those other decent chaps, all back down to the beginning, gave us fire and mud in our hut(roof)s, etc, so that we could be wealthy beyond the dreams of kings of ages prior, then absolute wealth should not be much of a problem, the beans were earned less by myself than fine gentlemen now in their honoured graves, and why hasn’t the minimum wage increased with it?

            But I am still wary of giving my beans away. The reason being quite different, though perhaps not different in spirit: don’t pay the danegeld.–If you give an inch to the wrong sort, they might try and take a mile. (and there are still communists about, and descendants of unions who learned the wrong lesson “it’s all about who has the whip hand”)

            But if they could be outmanouvered for the price of a rational economic adjustment to hobjective fairness, it would seem a small price, given that absolute scarcity is hardly a problem in the western world, and political cultism, insanity etc is.

            Which way would it go? Well, it’s more likely to go the one way than the other if introduced by a leftist as part of the glorious ascendance-struggle of the worker, and not a rightist as patriotic mathematical common sense, with a contemptuous reference to such political agitators as LARPer imitators of a primitive, terribly harmful but mirrored-in-that, stopgap reactions to a problem society has since formally recognised (tendency of wages to be suppressed due to imbalance of leverage) and is formally solving in an imprecise but common sense manner.

            You’re not going to convince people that spend their lives sweating long hours at fast food place and don’t know where their money goes (punitive alcohol tax, probably) and hate the system that they’re getting a fair deal. -Except perhaps with a plausible rational schelling point. Or perhaps not.

            Where did bernie get his $15 from anyway?

            And we have no better way of knowing this but the price of their labor (or product, if self-employed).

            The market works by harnessing individual economic judgement, -which comes from somewhere, and does nothing to prevent indidividual’s incentives wandering out of alignment with society at large. There’s no reason in principle why it can’t get grossly obviously misaligned, and in practice/reality lots of stuff is blatantly zero or negative sum. -Turn on the tv and watch some ads.

            We don’t even have to get all truthful and elitist and point out that 50 shades et al are deleterious if not outright subversive trash, and large swathes of ‘pop culture’ not much better. (Did Mussolini not make the trains run on time?)

            Though history has shown that that option seems to be surprisingly more live than people think–dormant rather than dead.

            Also, even if this was true, we could know what kind of work is strictly neccessarry and what isn’t, and outmanouvering communist meltdown (dependent on massive quantities of people feeling, rightly or wrongly, rationally or dumbly, they’re being utterly gypped) at the root- perception of economic exploitation, could be worth a lot of economic inefficiency.

            _

            @albatross1 useful for walmart.

            Loss prevention is legitimate production (or, well, loss-prevention) though, so I was incorrect to take it that far if so.

            But luring people to buy through sappy-warmy-fuzzies is exactly the sort of zero-sum-at-best nonsense I’m talking about. The people aren’t providing useful economic information to the market if individual players are (spending-fortunes-to-be) leading them by the nose!

            _

            edit: also I found this https://www.snopes.com/ap/2019/02/27/walmart-is-getting-rid-of-greeters-worrying-the-disabled/ which I’ll fling in your (vague plural) general direction, without reading. -ha-ha! ^_^

          • Plumber says:

            @carvenvisage

            "The thing is, I agree with john when he says that even the poor are rich. I always felt I had plenty of beans when I was on minimum wage.

            So the principle at hand isn’t poverty (wealth, bean-count) but non-exploitation/fairness: if Tesla, prometheus, and all those other decent chaps, all back down to the beginning, gave us fire and mud in our hut(roof)s, etc, so that we could be wealthy beyond the dreams of kings of ages prior, then absolute wealth should not be much of a problem, the beans were earned less by myself than fine gentlemen now in their honoured graves, and why hasn’t the minimum wage increased with it?

            But I am still wary of giving my beans away. The reason being quite different, though perhaps not different in spirit: don’t pay the danegeld.–If you give an inch to the wrong sort, they might try and take a mile. (and there are still communists about, and descendants of unions who learned the wrong lesson “it’s all about who has the whip hand”)..."

            You called?

            "...But if they could be outmanouvered for the price of a rational economic adjustment to hobjective fairness, it would seem a small price, given that absolute scarcity is hardly a problem in the western world, and political cultism, insanity etc is.

            Which way would it go? Well, it’s more likely to go the one way than the other if introduced by a leftist as part of the glorious ascendance-struggle of the worker, and not a rightist as patriotic mathematical common sense, with a contemptuous reference to such political agitators as LARPer imitators of a primitive, terribly harmful but mirrored-in-that, stopgap reactions to a problem society has since formally recognised (tendency of wages to be suppressed due to imbalance of leverage) and is formally solving in an imprecise but common sense manner.

            You’re not going to convince people that spend their lives sweating long hours at fast food place and don’t know where their money goes (punitive alcohol tax, probably) and hate the system that they’re getting a fair deal. -Except perhaps with a plausible rational schelling point. Or perhaps not.

            Where did bernie get his $15 from anyway?

            The market works by harnessing individual economic judgement, -which comes from somewhere, and does nothing to prevent indidividual’s incentives wandering out of alignment with society at large. There’s no reason in principle why it can’t get grossly obviously misaligned, and in practice/reality lots of stuff is blatantly zero or negative sum. -Turn on the tv and watch some ads.

            We don’t even have to get all truthful and elitist and point out that 50 shades et al are deleterious if not outright subversive trash, and large swathes of ‘pop culture’ not much better. (Did Mussolini not make the trains run on time?)

            Though history has shown that that option seems to be surprisingly more live than people think–dormant rather than dead.

            Also, even if this was true, we could know what kind of work is strictly neccessarry and what isn’t, and outmanouvering communist meltdown (dependent on massive quantities of people feeling, rightly or wrongly, rationally or dumbly, they’re being utterly gypped) at the root- perception of economic exploitation, could be worth a lot of economic inefficiency"

            Speaking only for myself, relative poverty was keenly felt, the difference between hearing gunshots and sirens out of my windows, having to always worry about car breakdowns and thefts (and experiencing the same), setting up buckets to catch the roof leaks when it rained, only having heat in the wintet during the few hours the landlord would run the boiler, chipping ice away every week from the refrigerator, and worse of all the constant noise coming from through our walls and floors versus living in my home that has a roof that doesn’t leak with a furnace and self defrosting refrigerator on a quiet street where we have two reliable cars seems enormous to me.

            I know what I want, it’s to prevent my past.

            Better housing for one, getting what I have now twenty years earlier (and to feel comfortable having children when younger), more time reading and less time doing heavy lifting (and the chronic pain that lingers for years after the lifting was done), and without the constant worry.

            But it goes beyond that, for some months I worked a construction job just north of Hollister, California near the tomato fields and I saw the conditions of those who labored in them, and on other jobs I did construction work at Stanford University and saw the leisure of the students and faculty there – that was an even stronger contrast. 

            I want toil rewarded more conections, knowledge, and just plain luck rewarded less.

            I want time spent in tomato fields and crime burdened Hellscapes to increase the time you get to spend in university libraries – so yes a leveling, maybe every other generation of a family gets to be educated and white collar instead of physical toilers, or better yet have everyone get the rewards of paying similar dues – with a bit more wealth to those who pay the toll in health and risking death, and a bit less to those born to it and who had the luck to be educated please.

          • albatross11 says:

            Plumber:

            It seems to me that the urban hellscape is something we ought not to tolerate in our society. We shouldn’t have anyone living in conditions where they’re afraid of being shot/robbed/victimized all the time. The existence of urban hellscapes seem like the result of policy decisions, albeit maybe pretty hard ones to change.

            The farm laborer, though, seems different. You do itinerant farm labor because you don’t have a lot of better saleable skills. It’s hard to imagine how you’d ever end up paying itinerant farm laborers more than dermatologists or programmers or civil engineers or electricians or math teachers.

            Now, as the alternatives to doing any kind of hard, unpleasant, or dangerous work become more appealing, you have to pay more for people to do that work. But that’s not going to trump the actual rarity and need of your skills.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @plumber

            Had not been meaning to, but I guess I drew the pentagram, and it certainly helps to illustrate my “don’t sit on this” case.

            I’m younger than you, wasn’t living in a big city like SF, and the minimum wage in question might have been very different, so that probably explains the lack of irregular gunshots and leaking roofs, but the basic picture seems similiar as far as my theory goes: people getting exploited because they have no leverage/security, wages getting pushed down to near the minimum tenable level (anyone near minimum wage would be getting paid less if it wasn’t there, but clearly the work is worth doing at that price, so…), and people getting treated with no consideration.

            _

            One natural alternative to this is unions. -Too much leverage on one side? Lets rustle up some leverage on the other.

            In my thinking once a union gets the power to fight the exploitation head to head, it’s only 1 step from being in the same position (When two great forces wrestle, one of them is liable to fall over) of absolute leverage that caused the problem in the first place, so its like summoning a second demon to wrestle the first.

            Hence I prefer something like a national guaranteed bedrock ability to say no as a a surer way to even things up, i.e. a (very B-asic) UBI,-but that probably does leave the upper, if no longer the whip, hand, in the same place.

            Thoughts on on minimum wage? It seems intuitive to me that it should go up roughly in accordance with GDP per capita, with exceptions carved (or workaround simply left) for casual work.

          • Plumber says:

            @carvenvisage,
            I think minimum wage laws help more people than they hurt, but some of the arguments that they are a barrier to some people getting work experience are convincing, but Federal minimum wage laws already have some exemptions that allow lower wages to youth and trainees.

          • I think minimum wage laws help more people than they hurt

            How can you tell? What data available to you by direct observation can signal how many of the people now getting the minimum wage are ones who would have made substantially less without the law or how many people are unemployed because they are not worth the minimum wage to any employer?

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman
            "How can you tell? What data available to you by direct observation can signal how many of the people now getting the minimum wage are ones who would have made substantially less without the law or how many people are unemployed because they are not worth the minimum wage to any employer?"

            A quick web search leads to many studies that show it helps more than it hurts…

            ….and another quick web search leads to many studies that show the opposite.

            Without my knowing a way to suss out which to believe I go by when I wasn’t making much more than minimum wage when it went up I got a raise instead of being layer off.

            That’s really all I’ve got.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @plumber I can personally attest to that difficulty, but I think “need experience to get experience” is a clear pathology which should be dealt with unsparingly.

            I see 2 proximate causes and two background ones:

            1. restrictions on employers that try to make taking an employee a big commitment, not quite a a pact sealed in blood but almost like taking on a vassal. (paid holidays, healthcare, redundancy, etc.–That’s a relationship of a lord to a serf if you ask me)

            2. imbalances in the labour market that leave workers unable to say no to progressively more unbalanced and demeaning requirements

            3. (background;) lack of perceived alternative, e.g. working informally, starting a business, working as a contractor, going to live in the woods, etc

            I would guess it’s mostly 2, based on the fact that employers are expecting college degrees (any college degree) as pre-emptive displays of commitment to the system. (also subjective personal observation- most places relying on minimum-wage-or-near labour seem to have tons of headroom,–but I don’t have a broad experience)

            But regardless, higher minimum wage should give workers more leverage, shouldn’t it? -It’s essentially a strike where the state locks your steering wheel in place for the game of chicken.1

            _

            Assuming that the market can in fact bear it.

            But U.S. federal minimum wage seems barely (if in fact at all? didn’t look too closely at the numbers) to have matched monetary inflation, let alone the increase in accumulated productive capacities handed down the generations since it was instituted.

            So there should be a TON of room.– If society has 10 times the capital base, the bedrock price of labour should not be only 1.5x as much

            -rough numbers, could be wrong, definitely not precise. But if minimum wage indeed barely kept up with inflation, the second one should be roughly right at least, and clearly the U.S. has gotten a lot richer since 1938.

            _

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Scott did a post, about something else, but one of his primary case studies was trying to figure out the effect of minimum wage laws: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/

            And the end result was that it was hard to tell.

            If they hurt, they hurt the people they are most supposed to help (in theory — some people think that minimum wage advocates are deliberately trying to keep out the poors, and from arguing with said advocates in person I do not think this is the case).

            Which is why I keep on coming back to wage subsidy. It won’t hurt. It is very likely to help, but it’s of course an open question “is the amount that it helps worth the tax costs compared to other interventions.” And I have a very strong feeling that direct spending is nearly always better than mandates, except in really specific circumstances.

            But U.S. federal minimum wage seems barely (if in fact at all? didn’t look too closely at the numbers) to have matched monetary inflation,

            It has fallen from its 1968 peak. But just squinting at that graph, it looks like the minimum wage (in 2017) is around the 70th or 80th percentile of its historical range.

            https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/04/5-facts-about-the-minimum-wage/

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t get where the assumption that the popularity of wealth transference increases as wealth transference is implemented comes from. If a UBI scheme is enacted tomorrow, why would people suddenly open their eyes to the unconscionable lives of the poor, when previously they were blind?

          Why do we consider the stereotypical residents of south-central Los Angeles or the 9th ward of New Orleans to be poor, when most of them can reasonably expect to live three score and ten while affording(*) basically all the material comforts of a typical doctor or lawyer of a hundred years earlier? Once we were blind to the “deprivation” of people condemned to the life of an early 20th century professional; now our eyes are open and we see that they are “poor”. Unconscionably so, to the extent that great effort must be made to ensure that they are lifted from such poverty.

          Unconscionable poverty is a moving target, one set roughly a standard deviation below the average working-class wage of a generation earlier. If you increase the wealth of society, you change the definition of poverty. If you raise the non-working poor out of poverty, there’s a good chance you’ve just raised the definition of poverty and will soon notice that they are unconscionably poor by the new definition.

          This has been going on for centuries; again, Adam Smith observed and described it in 1776. It is not hypothetical. And it does not readily extend itself to solutions other than, A: attune society’s conscience to accept a good deal of apparent poverty, or B: increase the wealth of society by at least a standard deviation per generation, while spreading the benefits and the labor such that nobody gets left entirely out.

          * Note that while they can afford these goods, they won’t be allowed to have many of them because we consider it unconscionable to let people trade in such “poor quality” goods, and would rather their customers have nothing at all.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Why do we consider the stereotypical residents of south-central Los Angeles or the 9th ward of New Orleans to be poor, when most of them can reasonably expect to live three score and ten while affording(*) basically all the material comforts of a typical doctor or lawyer of a hundred years earlier? Once we were blind to the “deprivation” of people condemned to the life of an early 20th century professional; now our eyes are open and we see that they are “poor”. Unconscionably so, to the extent that great effort must be made to ensure that they are lifted from such poverty.

            I guess my question here is “is this really true”? I’m guessing that early 20th century professional had servants. I’m sure they had a non-working spouse, unless they were one of the tiny handful of women trying to break into such fields. I’m guessing the combination of servants and a non-working spouse may have led to them eating good food, freshly prepared – well, except for the various pre-FDA scams involving selling contaminated foods.

            They also had opportunities for an excellent education, for themselves and their children. It couldn’t teach what wasn’t yet known, but “look what used to be taught in high schools” is a regular meme.

            OTOH, they do miss out on lots of diseases still common in the early 20th century, many of which were killers. And they probably won’t be ‘forced’ (whether by social pressure or a draft) into participation in a shooting war.

          • John Schilling says:

            I guess my question here is “is this really true”? I’m guessing that early 20th century professional had servants. I’m sure they had a non-working spouse, unless they were one of the tiny handful of women trying to break into such fields.

            I don’t think that domestic servants were the norm for doctor/lawyer level wealth in the early 20th century, but I may be wrong on that point. But whatever servants they had, were mostly for tasks that today’s poor can do with e.g. microwave ovens and washing machines (even if the washing machine is coin-operated and in the laundromat down the street).

            Non-working spouse, quite possibly, but modern poor families often have one of those as well, indeed that’s often the reason that they are poor. The key differences are that A: the nonworking spouse is now as likely as not the husband, and B: their nonworking status at least appears to be the result of involuntary unemployment.

            There’s certainly an argument to be made that servants as such, are the key distinction, that no man can be considered poor if there’s some other man (or woman, e.g. an economically disenfranchised housewife) that he gets to order around, and possibly vice versa. But I think that view was fading a century ago and was dead by 1950, and in any event it would seem to be incompatible with the happy semi-indolent egalitarianism being advocated here.

          • DinoNerd says:

            We may be thinking of different decades here. When you said “early 20th century”, I thought of the period up to and perhaps including WWI, when both of my maternal grandparents were children.

            And yes, of course you are right that lots of tasks done by humans, often in the household, at that time are done for us by machine, whether in/near our homes, or before shipping.

            But I’m also questioning whether the food I (and the modern poor we’re talking about) zap in our microwaves is anywhere near as good for us as the food my peer in 1910 had prepared for him by his cook and/or wife.

          • albatross11 says:

            DinoNerd:

            How much fresh produce did your 1910 peer have in November?

            How do you think the safety of his food supply w.r.t. food poisoning compared to your food supply?

            We’re mostly fatter now because tasty calories are abundant and we don’t have to do much physical labor, but I doubt that the main problem here is the quality of the food.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            A doctor or lawyer a hundred years ago would be considerably more likely to have full-time (generally meaning live-in) domestic servants than a doctor or lawyer today, for various reasons – domestic servants were much more common back then, even for people lower on the ladder than doctors or lawyers.

            I’m not 100% sure of the reasons for this, but it seems to be a pattern that as economies and rural/urban population distribution change, full-time domestic servants become rarer – I believe that full-time domestic servants are more common in the developing world. As you note, labour-saving devices do a lot of the work that once upon a time people had to do by hand – which is why a professional now doesn’t feel hard done by that they don’t have a live-in maid or whatever. Domestic labour still exists for the professional classes, but it’s part-timers instead of full-timers, and it’s stuff that is still time-consuming even with machines helping (cleaning) or that machines can’t really do (child care).

            It’s also changed at the high end: I would bet that a super-rich person today has fewer full-time servants than a super-rich person a hundred years ago.

          • albatross11 says:

            Supposedly Agatha Christie once said

            I couldn’t imagine being too poor to afford servants, nor so rich as to be able to afford a car.

            A lot of the “servants” we now employ are hired by some third party and we interact with the third party instead of with the servants directly. For example, having food or groceries delivered, hiring a lawn service, or putting your children in a daycare all amount to stuff that once, you would have hired someone yourself to do, but that now you probably deal with some kind of contractor who hires the people doing those things. There are also maid services that work the same way, but probably maid service actually feels more like having servants.

            ETA: Grocery stores offer a lot of food that’s already partly/mostly prepared, so that cooking it yourself is 30 minutes instead of two hours. And there are businesses that will send you pre-planned meals with all the ingredients pre-measured and chopped and such, and straightforward directions for how you are to cook them. Those are all examples of stuff that 100 years ago, a reasonably-well-off family might have just had a hired girl in the kitchen doing for them. The hired girl would go to the store to get the ingredients and then process them herself rather than buy them mostly pre-made and then finish them up at home.

          • ana53294 says:

            Middle class people who go to third world countries are frequently able to afford servants. So doctors and lawyers have servants. I know it is the case for countries like India, Panama, Thailand, the Phillipines.

            Although a doctor in a third world country today is much richer than a doctor in the 50s in the USA would be, I think.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            In the past, there was an abundance of labour but not capital, so servants were relatively cheap. Today, the opposite is true. Also, the market has become more efficient at producing inanimate goods, but it has failed to produce better humans, so products like electronics have only become more attractive over time, while the attractiveness of servants has, not only failed to remain static, but actually gone down due to competition from labour saving devices like washing machines, as mentioned.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          Why do we consider the stereotypical residents of south-central Los Angeles or the 9th ward of New Orleans to be poor, when most of them can reasonably expect to live three score and ten while affording(*) basically all the material comforts of a typical doctor or lawyer of a hundred years earlier?

          Unconscionable poverty is a moving target, one set roughly a standard deviation below the average working-class wage of a generation earlier. If you increase the wealth of society, you change the definition of poverty. If you raise the non-working poor out of poverty, there’s a good chance you’ve just raised the definition of poverty and will soon notice that they are unconscionably poor by the new definition.

          I would personally disagree that lower class people able to afford homes are enduring unconscionable poverty, and I think that a lot of people would share my view. In any case, the parent comment doesn’t argue in favor of lifting such people out of poverty but rather argues that their labor is largely superfluous or detrimental, such that society doesn’t gain much from keeping them employed.

          Given this, I don’t see why providing them with the means to refuse work if they want to is likely to 1) cause society to start viewing them as unconscionably poor, and 2) cause society to start demanding increased transferrence payments, on top of what they would already be receiving, on the basis that society wants to eradicate unconscionable poverty. Society does not presently want to eradicate poverty of any description through such means, and I fail to see how the implementation of the transferrence payments described would suddenly change that.

          Maybe you are saying that the amount allotted for providing people with the means not to work would be subject to the process of rising expectations you are describing. I wouldn’t be worried about that, for two reasons. One is that there is a large amount of pushback against welfare that is seen as going to non-working people who don’t have physical disabilities so that the transferrence payments would always be at jeopardy of being curtailed, moreso than increased. The other is that the cost of having to work will always remain constant, whereas society’s wealth will always increase, so that the amount society has to pay people in order to allow them not to work, as a percentage, and going by their own revealed preferences, will actually diminish over time rather than increase.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think a lot of what we mean by poverty in normal conversation is less about material poverty than about some mix of hopelessness, dysfunction, and having some terrible neighbors. I don’t think the US version of poverty looks much like the India version of poverty, for example. (Though they might look more similar when you’re talking about long-term homeless people.).

            The classic illustration of this is grad students, who typically have very little money, and often will be married and have a kid or two while living in crappy, crowded housing and having just enough to keep food on the table. But those kids usually live in an environment that’s pretty enriching in other ways, and their parents probably have some hope for better things in the future. The schools don’t get dragged down by the children of grad students, even though they have very low incomes, little savings, drive crappy cars, etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think a lot of what we mean by poverty in normal conversation is less about material poverty than about some mix of hopelessness, dysfunction, and having some terrible neighbors.

            Then people who care so much about poverty should perhaps not insist on measuring it in terms of how much money people have, nor propose to fix it by giving poor people money and/or valuable stuff.

  34. Lambert says:

    Now this is the correct thread to complain about Brexit.

    312-308 in favour of rejecting No Deal. Though it’s not binding in any way.
    Tomorrow is when the important vote happens.

    Personally, it doesn’t seem to me like the EU has been unreasonable. It’s just that the House of Commons is divided, both between and within parties.
    A united majority government and a public strongly opposed to the EU would lead to a much cleaner exit than what we have now.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m surprised there’s even that much support.

      IMO, the only way the UK gets out for real is by crashing out. They ought to just do it and take the hit. If they drag it out, they’re going to either take the hit anyway and take harm by remaining in limbo longer, stay in and take the hit to the legitimacy of the government that entails, or settle for a deal which gives them the worst of both worlds.

      • Lambert says:

        Worst of both worlds soft brexit looks a bit better when you consider the probability we go back in once all the brexiteers are dead.
        Which will probably be about five minutes after we get decent trade deals worked out with everyone.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is there a useful prediction for the outcome if it turns out the EU-favoring Brits aren’t literally genocidal maniacs? Because this sort of ridiculous hyperbole really doesn’t add anything to the discussion.

          • I think that Lambert is making a perfectly realistic prediction of what is likely to happen in 20 years through natural causes not some kind of hyperbolic comment about genocide.

          • John Schilling says:

            “once all the brexiteers are dead”. Sounds pretty damn genocidal to me, but OK, theoretically at least there are alternative interpretations.

            So either you and Lambert believe that (almost) all “brexiteers” are within 20 years of their natural life expectancy, or you are “realistically” predicting mass famine or the like as a result of Brexit and somehow concentrated among the Brexiteers, or you are in fact resorting to ridiculous hyperbole.

            And Lambert is still resorting to ridiculous hyperbole by your standard, in that he predicts “about five minutes” for what you claim will take twenty years.

            Knock it off, both of you. Or prepare to be ignored, both of you, by anyone who wants a serious discussion of this issue. Or, maybe, be clear and explicit as to who you think is going to literally not figuratively die in the aftermath of Brexit, and how and why.

          • Randy M says:

            I think charitably Lambert’s reply is combining the assumption that the leave side skewed older, with a cynical view of how long it is going to take to work out trade deals.

          • Lambert said “five minutes after we get decent trade deals worked out with everyone”. I think that that is an exaggeration, but not an extreme one. I think it is completely realistic to predict that we will not have completed trade deals with all major economies in less than ten years. If the current age profile of opinion is stable, then there will have been a significant pro-EU shift in both parliament and the general population by then. We could easily rejoin in twenty years time.

            I will admit, however, that many of the key Brexiters are a bit younger than I would have guessed: Liam Fox is 57 and Boris Johnson is 54, for example.

          • Lambert says:

            Support for brexit by the general public is overwhelmingly by the middle-aged and old.
            When margins are so tight, as they were in June 2016, it does not take much to tip the scales.

            While it does not take a decade to write the FTA itself, that’s only the formal part of the process of building up mutual trust and co-operation between two countries or trading areas. For example, the EU and ROK took 13 or so years of summits and increasing trade co-operation before agreeing a full FTA.
            If trade is really such an important red line where the UK needs to exercise its own sovereignty, we ought to be negotiating these kind of agreements with new countries. Not just rubber stamping a continuation of the status quo with existing EU trade partners.

            To the charge of exaggeration for comic effect, I can only plead guilty.

          • DeWitt says:

            Is there a useful prediction for the outcome if it turns out the EU-favoring Brits aren’t literally genocidal maniacs?

            You mean the outcome where the people dying natural deaths over the next two decades are overwhelmingly leave voters and the people coming of age are overwhelmingly likely to be remain voters?

            What useful comment can you make where you aren’t accusing other people of being colossal idiots?

          • Gray Ice says:

            I think the prediction is that in 20 years, someone who is currently 70 may not have made it to 90.

            On the other hand, a fair number of people 30 – 50 may have gone from raising children to having grandchildren, and it is possible that their views will shift as well.

            Another factor is that if there is not a great disaster when the UK leaves the EU, voters will be influenced by 10 – 20 years of independent UK as the status quo.

          • Murphy says:

            It’s a demographic point.

            The almost-dead voted strongly in favor of brexit. The people who’d have to actually live with the results voted strongly against brexit.

            Roll on a few years and the demographics along with mother time cull a large fraction of the brexiters.

            Paddypower bookmakers has even odds for UK re-entry by 2027.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And my kids are super excited that when they’re grown-ups they can eat all the candy they want. But as a grown-up I don’t really want to eat all that much candy.

            Every generation of young people thinks as soon as the oldies die off they’ll get their politics but then they grow up and realize their parents weren’t so dumb after all, and now it’s their turn for their kids to hate them and angrily await their demise.

          • Murphy says:

            Except when society does shift.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/

            Mencius Moldbug:

            Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left. Isn’t that interesting?

            In each of the following conflicts in Anglo-American history, you see a victory of left over right: the English Civil War, the so-called “Glorious Revolution,” the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Clearly, if you want to be on the winning team, you want to start on the left side of the field.

            Where is the John Birch Society, now? What about the NAACP? Cthulhu swims left, and left, and left. There are a few brief periods of true reaction in American history – the post-Reconstruction era or Redemption, the Return to Normalcy of Harding, and a couple of others. But they are unusual and feeble compared to the great leftward shift. McCarthyism is especially noticeable as such. And you’ll note that McCarthy didn’t exactly win.

            In the history of American democracy, if you take the mainstream political position (Overton Window, if you care) at time T1, and place it on the map at a later time T2, T1 is always way to the right, near the fringe or outside it. So, for instance, if you take the average segregationist voter of 1963 and let him vote in the 2008 election, he will be way out on the wacky right wing. Cthulhu has passed him by.

            That’s the effect of elderly dying and taking their politics with them and the politics of the young replacing the politics of the dead.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s the effect of elderly dying and taking their politics with them and the politics of the young replacing the politics of the dead.

            This is largely the effect of selective definitions- “change” is associated with the left, and because things change when there is major social change you can call every movement leftists if you want to. Counter examples:

            Prior to WW1 there was a strong anti-foreign intervention sentiment in the US, does the shift toward intervention count as a leftward shift?

            Immigration restrictions are significantly stronger now than for long periods in the past, do immigration restrictions count as a leftward shift?

          • John Schilling says:

            If we’re pushing the goalposts back twenty years to make the original claim into the polite realm of demographics-is-destiny, then let us do the demographics.

            The median living “leave” voter is now 55. With life expectancy in the UK currently at 81 years, it’s going to take more than a quarter of a century to get rid of even half of them, assuming no replacements. Which, of course, there will be. And note that the median “remain” voter is 46, so Father Time’s cull won’t be as asymmetric as you might be hoping.

            Also, and perhaps more importantly, the marginal “Remain” voter is not a twenty-something Europhile-for-life who will always and only vote for Europe, but a marginally political middle-aged man who mostly thinks that none of this is worth the massive disruption that Brexit would cause. Ten or twenty years after Brexit, he’ll be quietly retired and his demographic successor will be someone living in an independent UK with a stable economy built around whatever set of trade agreements have been negotiated in the interim.

            To that voter, rejoining the EU would be the massive disruption with the unknown consequences. Any do-over doesn’t get to do the sneaky bit where you start with a coal and steel community and slowly add on bits of federalism; it will be all or nothing and with real economic winners and losers. People being generally loss-averse, there’s going to be a status quo bias.

            If even 20% of the “Remain” vote was driven by status quo bias rather than Europhilic idealism, also assuming new voters enter the pool with the same 3:1 pro-EU bias of 2016’s teenaged voters and voting patterns do not shift with age, it will not be until 2050 that you’d find a majority willing to vote for a return to the EU. At 30% status quo you’ll be waiting until 2071. Assuming there’s an EU left for you to rejoin.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I don’t know, if the UK leaves the EU I expect status-quo bias will shift public opinion towards staying out. And although it’s not an exact parallel, I can’t think of any countries which declared independence and later willingly re-joined the motherland, even when things went majorly tits-up (cf. most of Africa).

          • Murphy says:

            October 2013 Gambia leaves the commonwealth.

            February 2017 Gambia rejoins the commonwealth.

            January 1972 Pakistan left the commonwealth.

            1989 – Pakistan rejoins commonwealth.

            1987 – Fiji leaves commonwealth.

            1997 – Fiji rejoins commonwealth.

            1961 – South Africa leaves commonwealth

            1994 – South Africa rejoins commonwealth

            2016 – Maldives leaves commonwealth

            2018 – Maldives applies to rejoin.

            2003 – Zimbabwe leaves commonwealth

            2018 – Zimbabwe applies to rejoin.

            1984 – Morocco leaves the african union.

            2017 – Morocco rejoins.

          • spkaca says:

            The assumption was also that the young are pro-EU and will always remain so i.e. that people won’t change their minds on the basis of experience. Anecdata obviously, but for what it’s worth: I was strongly pro-EU in the 1990s but voted Leave in 2016.

            (Long list of countries rejoining the Commonwealth)
            The Commonwealth is a powerless, intergovernmental organisation that exists mainly for sentimental reasons. Not quite the same as the EU.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            October 2013 Gambia leaves the commonwealth.
            February 2017 Gambia rejoins the commonwealth.
            […]

            July 1776 The American colonies leave the commonwealth.

            …?

            …Okay, I know, the above was an offering a series of existence proofs. And I apologize for appearing to move the goalposts, but I can’t help but notice there might be a pattern among nations that rejoin, distinct from a pattern among nations that don’t. And I don’t mean to imply that the pattern is “put a man on the moon”. Rather, let’s say I’m genuinely interested in how many nations left and then stayed out, including African nations.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Commonwealth has far less practical influence over its members’ governments than the EU does, much less than an actual colonial government, so I don’t think leaving it really counts as “declaring independence”. And at least in the case of Zimbabwe, I think they were expelled from the Commonwealth rather than leaving voluntarily.

        • Tarpitz says:

          This rather assumes that there will be an EU to rejoin in 20 years. I don’t think Spanish or Italian EuroZone membership can survive the next major global downturn (which seems likely to arrive in the next three years) and I am deeply unconvinced the EU can survive Spain or Italy crashing out of the Euro, never mind both.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            An understated point, Italy and Portugal both have pretty high debt levels. If there’s another major crisis, their banking systems are going to be as paralyzed as they were during parts of the last crisis. There’s little incentive to stay in a political regime where your nation is subjected to Great Depression-level financial shutdowns once every 10 years.

          • ana53294 says:

            Why do you think that about Spain? Current debt-to-GDP is identical to France, the deficit is well under 3%. Spain GDP growth is also very good.

            Banks have also gained liquidity.

        • J Mann says:

          Worst of both worlds soft brexit looks a bit better when you consider the probability we go back in once all the brexiteers are dead.

          It’s hard to say for sure that unless you know whether currently young remainers will shift towards leave once they get old.

      • LHN says:

        Re the UK: I’ve been sort of assuming that if Brexit happens, then the next thing that happens is a breakup of the UK. Scottish independence came reasonably close in the last referendum, and Scotland is AIUI heavily Remainer. So (I infer) Brexit should give sufficient impetus to have and win an independence referendum. (After which Scotland joins the EU as soon as it’s able.)

        a) Am I misunderstanding the relevant politics? (Easily possible.)

        b) What are the chances that after that England-and-Wales then cuts Northern Ireland loose whether it wants it or not, leaving the question of independence, accession to the Republic, or new Troubles to fight it out to the locals? I have basically zero idea how important retaining NI would be in that circumstance, especially since getting rid of it means that the whole internal Irish border question stops being the rump state’s problem.

        • John Schilling says:

          (After which Scotland joins the EU as soon as it’s able.)

          The problem there is that joining the EU is very difficult and tedious, and there’s no special clause to make it easier for recently-seceded provinces of states that themselves recently seceded from the EU. In particular, it requires unanimous consent from every existing EU member. So if any EU member has any grievance with Scotland, or has a grievance with the EU generally and wants to play “We know you all want to screw the Brits by bringing Scotland into the EU, so we’re using our veto to make you give us what we want on our completely unrelated issue”, then Scotland can be left out in the cold for quite some time.

          The other problem is, if the results of the 2014 referendum are any indication, about two weeks after Scotland votes to leave the UK, the Orkney and Shetland Islands would vote to leave Scotland and rejoin the UK, and they’d take with them most of the EEZ covering the North Sea oilfields that Scotland would be counting on for its economy.

          A post-Brexit Scottish secession would be highly contentious, not the polite and orderly affair promised (one time only) in 2014, and is unlikely to work out well for Scotland.

        • Lambert says:

          I suspect that after a hard Brexit, Scotland will leave if given a referendum.
          But they have no unilateral right to leave, and the current Government don’t want to let them go.

          Reuniting Ireland without a plebiscite or referendum of some kind is unconstitutional as per Good Friday. Beyond that, deliberately fracturing your own nation and throwing NI into limbo looks kind of bad on both the domestic and international stages.

          • Orpheus says:

            the current Government don’t want to let them go

            Why is that? Scotland is a massive liberal stronghold, so wouldn’t letting them go increase conservative power immensely?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Orpheus

            Scotland isn’t as liberal as outsiders think. The SNP is a coalition of “Tartan Tories” and “Nationalist Labour”. The SNP have governed in very recent memory only with the support of the Tories.

            And the UK doesn’t want to let Scotland go because the Union isn’t just about transactional politics, it’s a far more emotional bond than an economic one.

          • DeWitt says:

            Only insofar Scotland currently votes Labour pretty consistently, with a heavy emphasis on the currently. In a two-party system such as in most of the Anglosphere, it means Labour will shift right somewhat and thereby return to get close to 50% of the vote.

            At which point you’re back to square one, and the Tories know this, and they’d rather rule a larger country rather than a smaller one while also forever be known as the people who lost Scotland.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            Scotland hasn’t consistently voted Labour since 2010 and arguably since 2007 when the SNP became a minority government.

            Labour’s choice at the next Scottish Parliament election is likely to be a coalition with the Tories and Lib Dems, politically impossible under the current Labour leadership north and south of the border, with the Tories leading the coalition. Or a coalition with the SNP, which kills them in unionist eyes, so is politically impossible.

            Scottish Labour are likely dead. As well as being bankrupt.

        • fion says:

          Brexit should give sufficient impetus to have and win an independence referendum.

          Possibly, but I’m not sure. I get the impression one of the reasons some people voted for Scotland to remain as part of the UK was fear of the unknown. Brexit is a great big pile of unknown… will people really want more?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            Particularly given the levels of spending cuts necessary to get down to a 3% deficit and be able to join the EU.

            Whilst building up currency reserves to defend a new currency. Or whatever the latest SNP plan for currency is (one was released in the last few weeks but who has time to pay attention to blatantly nonsensical ideas such as sterlingisation followed by new currency followed by joining the EU and negotiating to avoid the Euro).

        • spkaca says:

          “Scottish independence came reasonably close in the last referendum”
          ‘No’ won by 10%. Would half of that margin care enough about the EU to change that result? Rejoining the EU would be neither automatic or quick.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          As I understand it Scotland is a net consumer of EU resources. What’s the economic incentive for the EU to accept Scotland? “Sticking it to the Brits” isn’t necessarily a sound fiscal policy.

          • Aapje says:

            The EU would look very different than it does if it wouldn’t have let net consumers in.

            Other considerations seem to have played a much bigger role in earlier decisions to admit nations.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Also, Scotland does far more trade with the rest of the UK than it does with the EU, so ditching the UK in favour of the EU doesn’t make much sense economically.

      • spkaca says:

        “the only way the UK gets out for real is by crashing out”
        +1 at this point. I was for the softest Brexit possible, but that said I regard the Withdrawal Agreement as Brexit in name only (it is an error to call it soft Brexit) as it leaves the UK subject to the EU (the ‘backstop’) with no unilateral right to exit. So at this point WTO Brexit is the only way to deliver the referendum result.

    • Clutzy says:

      What is reasonable about what the EU has done? There is no reason for the union to be anything other than 100% voluntary with states coming in and out at their leisure depending on if they want 100% open boarders with the countries in question.

      • rlms says:

        What is unreasonable? The UK is 100% at leisure to leave.

      • ana53294 says:

        You are forgetting the part where the UK unilaterally decided to break the agreement.

        A lot of comparisons have been done with divorces, but I think a better analogy is a business partnership.

        So, let’s say, with the current mess with the Ghosn affair, that Nissan or Renault decides to unilaterally walk away, assuming they have such a clause in their contract (they probably don’t, coz they aren’t crazy). All kinds of complications arise from this. First, Renault own a lot of Nissan shares; they build each other’s cars in common factories; there are many things they share, and many common obligations. Why would Renault allow this, when they own a big chunk of Nissan?

        • Jaskologist says:

          The divorce analogy is better, with a small twist: this is like a divorce where the marriage was arranged without the bride’s consent.

          We can talk about “the UK” breaking an agreement, but just who is “the UK?” Is it the people, or is the leaders who negotiated those agreements without consulting the people until it all boiled over into Brexit?

          I’m sure it’s just the ‘Murican in me talking, but delivering a rebuke to the “leaders” who had the audacity to enter into such agreements like the country belonged to them is enough reason to Brexit all on its own.

          • DeWitt says:

            Did the people who brought the UK into the EU drop out of the sky? Did the people who brought any other country intk the EU do so? Should I go and rebuke my political leaders every single time they do something I don’t agree with?

          • ana53294 says:

            If it is an arranged marriage, it’s not a forced one.

            It’s a marriage where the parents gently introduced their daughter to a suitable husband who will provide for her, where she had multiple chances to backpedal before the relationship got more serious, and had several chances to walk away. Remember, this is not the first referendum.

            The wife benefitted from the marriage; she got a husband who took care of her, and listened and made concessions (the rebate, opt out clauses). And then, during the divorce, she wants to get alimony, the house, and child support, without taking care of the kids (the common responsibilities that the UK assumed by entering the EU).

            I still think that the divorce analogy is worse than a business partnership.

          • BBA says:

            It’s the population of the UK who brought the country into the proto-EU, voting for it by a wide margin in a 1975 referendum. They sure showed themselves!

          • DeWitt says:

            @BBA

            That is interesting and hilarious both. Has any research been done on how people who voted in one referendum later voted in the other?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Now, I won’t claim to be an expert in the relevant history here. One person upthread says there have been previous referendums; could you point me at one more recent than 44 years ago? Because when I follow that link, I see this (emphasis mine):

            This was the first national referendum ever to be held throughout the entire United Kingdom and remained the only UK-wide referendum until the 2011 referendum on alternative voting was held thirty-six years later and was the only referendum to be held on the UK’s relationship with Europe until the 2016 referendum on continued EU membership.

            So that would be a vote held before half of the current UK populace even existed, to join a thing that was not the EU and wouldn’t become so for another 18 years. That makes the analogy of marriage arranged by the parents without the involvement of the children much more literally true than I realized.

            The US, just a year after the above mentioned referendum, elected Jimmy Carter to be its president. He does not run the United States now. In fact, the US populace has on multiple occasions ejected his political party from the presidency since then (and put them back, and ejected them), in spite of the results of the 1976 referendum. Perhaps the UK or EU should come up with some sort of system to poll their populace more than once a generation on how they wish to live together.

          • ana53294 says:

            What you are saying for the EU is what the Catalans (and the Basques) are saying about the Spanish Constitution, i.e., that it was something voted by a previous generation.

            Less than 40% of Spanish voters had a chance to vote for the Constitution. ~90% of voters votes yes, and participation was ~70%. So only around 26% of current voters voted yes for the Constitution. So who knows, current voters may not want the monarchy, or indivisibility, etc.

            And most people don’t think that that’s a valid argument. Do we need to vote to be part of an institution every generation?

            The US does honor the Constitution, and the previous ammendments made by people long dead. Sometimes they are modified. But nobody goes around saying that you need to approve every ammendment every generation. Who knows, if the 2nd ammendment was subject to a referendum, it may lose. Or you may have the awkwardness of the referendum winning by states but losing the majority.

            A US-wide referendum on the 2nd ammendment would be a really really dumb idea, especially if you don’t set criteria in advance (do all territories need to approve, or is raw majority enough? how big of a majority?).

            The Brexit referendum should have required all parts of the UK to agree, and a raw majority shouldn’t have been enough.

          • DeWitt says:

            We can use the US as an example, yes.

            What was the last time any state with full membership had a binding referendum on whether to stay or go?

            And what was the last time the US let a state with full membership go more amiably than the EU has been handling Brexit so far?

          • sharper13 says:

            I too notice the “proto-EU” part of the comment. In reality, the UK once voted to join the common market, i.e. free trade zone. The EU came later and was grafted on to yield a common government without a vote by the UK.

            Probably the UK voters would also currently want to be in the EU common market still (that’s part of the brexit deal fuss, right?), but that’s not what was being voted on, the EU was. It wasn’t until 1979 that they have a European Parliament and not until 1992 that the EU itself was officially formed under the Maastricht Treaty.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s the population of the UK who brought the country into the proto-EU, voting for it by a wide margin in a 1975 referendum. They sure showed themselves!

            “Proto” being the operative word here. What the UK voted to remain in was a customs union/free trade area (NB the UK had already joined, the vote was on whether to stay or leave). You can’t reasonably take assent to staying in that as assent to the supranational government the EU has become.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not a state, but I believe Puerto Rico has had (non-binding) referenda about whether to petition for statehood, remain a US territory, or seek independence.

          • Murphy says:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_United_Kingdom_European_Communities_membership_referendum

            If you don’t consider this to be a vote on effectively the same thing then “brexit in name only”, ie, leaving the EU and remaining in the customs union would be 100% in line with the more recent vote.

          • rlms says:

            This seems like an isolated demand for direct democracy. Politicians have the authority to make decisions because they are elected. There’s sometimes a disconnect between what they do and what direct democracy would do (although obviously in the case of Brexit this disconnect (i.e. the margin in the referendum) was extremely small), but this is an issue for every decision the government makes. Do you also think the “leaders” deserve rebukes for having the audacity to enact [law you approve of] without consulting the people?

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            That customs union didn’t have Schengen, didn’t have Eastern European countries and didn’t have Greece.

            An issue is that you can’t just roll back these changes. The EU is also not willing to make an exception where they can, by allowing the UK to limit migration from Eastern Europe.

          • Murphy says:

            @Aapje

            The UK is already outside the Schengen area, it never joined that.

            Denmark and Ireland had already joined the EEC, it was clear that it wasn’t a static entity with static membership.

            Greece applied to join the same week as the 1975 referendum. So again, it wasn’t exactly a shocking development out of left field.

            Yes, the EU isn’t willing to permanently treat some of it’s citizens as second class to appease the kind of charming individuals who scream “GO HOME!” at foreigners on the bus. Unfortunately they’re a primary voting demographic for UKIP and part of the Tory party, hence the UK government trying to demand the restriction… and yet again offering nothing in return.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Are people in a country really responsible for what the government does?” and “is the current government really responsible for the previous government?” are both interesting questions, but likely to be dominated by motivated reasoning of what current issue we are discussing.

            I’m generally aghast at the concept of a government not being able to be held to the contracts it makes, but I definitely imagine a bad enough contract that would make me change my mind on that.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Yeah, it’s actually Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union that I was thinking off: the right for EU citizens to work in other nation states without a work permit and such. This was established in 1992, so also quite some time after the referendum.

            The UK doesn’t have an opt-out for that, even though it has an opt-out for border control.

            Yes, the EU isn’t willing to permanently treat some of it’s citizens as second class to appease the kind of charming individuals who scream “GO HOME!” at foreigners on the bus.

            Why is it wrong to treat Polish people as “second class,” but not Turks?

            You seem to consider it obvious that Polish people are the ingroup and Turks are the outgroup, and seem to consider it disgusting if people see the Polish as the outgroup. However, why isn’t the EU then disgusting for treating Turks as the outgroup?

            Can you explain to me why I or others should treat the Polish the same as actual citizens from our own nation, even though the former lack the shared history, culture, traditions, education, language, etc? Why is it logical to then not extend the same courtesy to the Turks?

            Frankly, this all or nothing extremism, where a new ingroup definition is turned into dogma which is not subject to proper democratic decision making or compromise, while people who prefer an ingroup definition that was the norm for centuries are implicitly or explicitly called subhuman, is exactly what turned me and many others from critical proponents to opponents.

            If the only choice is to back an out-of-touch elite that harms the less privileged and creates an exploitative society that benefits that very elite, or resist them totally, but not to find a democratic compromise where costs and benefits to various groups are balanced out, then I choose resistance.

            PS. Note that the democratic deficit is visible in the turnout for the European elections, which has been falling further and further to a point where it is below the turnout of all national elections and far less than half of the citizens.

          • Murphy says:

            Turkey isn’t a member state of the EU. It’s citizens are not citizens of the EU. Not being a citizen isn’t being a “second class citizen” it’s just not being a citizen at all.

            How would most of the citizens of the US take it if native hawaiians, even after Hawaii became a state… were allowed to travel to any US state… except Texas because texans decided they don’t like their kind.

            How would negotiations go if some country tried to negotiate a travel agreement between their country and the US … but wanted a special exception against black US citizens.

            re:culture, most of europe spend the last thousand years slaughtering each other. If they can kiss and make up then it’s a small step to include a few more countries from the edges… where the culture has already been eaten by Universal Culture anyway.

            Culturally I have more in common with my Iranian co-workers (with whom I can argue about the seasonality of the film Die Hard), than I do with plenty of people who are nominally more closely related to me… but who’s only interests are the next football match and how good the fight in the local pub was last week.

            If that’s enough to turn you off… then I’m nut sure I really want your support.
            There’s no charitable way to put that but to refer to one of scotts post.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/14/ecclesiology-for-atheists/

            Maybe you’re kind of a soft libertarian who just wants the government to decriminalize pot and stop ordering illegal drone attacks, but the other guy wants to disband the government entirely and make everyone live in heavily armed communes. And the other other guy is a member of the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party, and you’re not even sure if he has real opinions or just likes chaining political-sounding words together, but that swastika armband of his is starting to creep you out.

            Sometimes the correct choice is to decide that , on a very personal level, you don’t particularly like marching next to that guy with the armband even if your numbers will be poor without him his mates and that making concessions to his policy preferences and supporting them will turn you into the kind of person you don’t particularly like.

            An ingroup definition of “is a citizen of a member state” isn’t particularly absurd for the EU to take as it’s ingroup definition.

            Voter turnout tends to mirror partisanship and discontent. When things are going pretty well… people don’t bother to turn up so much. When they’re angry and unhappy with their reps they turn up more. Low turnout mirrors things mostly working ok.

          • DeWitt says:

            @rlms

            Pretty much all of that, yeah.

            Politicians do things. Sometimes they do things people dislike. Arguing that getting into the EU et al is a special case seems spurious, and if nothing else, the UK’s referendum hints at its political class having had more, not less respect for voter preference than in most cases of policy making.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The EU and the US are not analogues, as evidenced by the fact that the UK can leave the EU, and no one can leave the US. Also, US citizens are defended by the US military, whereas EU citizens are defened by the US Military militaries of their respective nation-states (which are the actual sovereign owners).

            The EU resembles the broader international political order (UN+IMF+WTO) more than it does the US. Also, they have entirely different histories. The 13 colonies had a relatively common culture and shared a common history and destiny through nearly a decade of war with a common enemy, through which the majority of the 13 colonies worked together to expel said enemy. The EU has nothing like that, its common struggle is fighting itself, founding an economic entity to dominate Germany’s economy, then having half of it develop under US protection and the other half suffer under Soviet occupation. You don’t need a common national identity to prevent this, South America has been relatively peaceful without it.

            Politicians do things. Sometimes they do things people dislike. Arguing that getting into the EU et al is a special case seems spurious, and if nothing else, the UK’s referendum hints at its political class having had more, not less respect for voter preference than in most cases of policy making.

            The EU has an established concept of “European citizenship” is a sort of shared sovereignty concept. This isn’t passing a simple tax increase. Several nations held refrendums specifically because their Constitutions required to, and the Brits did not because Parliament is sovereign and not the people.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Arguing that getting into the EU et al is a special case seems spurious

            Eh, a ban on [X] is relatively simple to roll back if the next election disliked it enough to be worth making a stink over. Getting out of the EU clearly is not.

            Unions by nature are entry into a level of government with power over the ones you elected. It’s not run of the mill policymaking.

            I think Brexit is ridiculously foolish, but the idea that the people should have gotten a referendum over whichever step in the unionization process that included the European Parliament isn’t spurious

            (the part where the UK didn’t elect MEPs to pull a Sinn Féin is evidence such a referendum probably would have passed, so I’ll acknowledge that I’m mostly being pedantic :P)

          • acymetric says:

            @Gobbobobble

            That is heavily dependent on whether the ban was passed as a law or a constitutional amendment.

          • DeWitt says:

            Getting out of the EU clearly is not.

            Clearly not, but that seems to be 90% the Brits’ own stupid fault and some 10% the EU not rolling over limply the way they might’ve preferred.

            I’m not against referenda to join or leave X or Y, and barring nothing else, I think it’s better to hold one than not to, but the Brits did get some manner of referendum to join up, their officials agreed to expand the EU as it’s now become, and now that they had a referendum to leave, they are in fact leaving. Whatever you want to call this mess, a lack of democracy it ain’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            The divorce analogy has been explored here 🙂

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Turkey isn’t a member state of the EU. Its citizens are not citizens of the EU.

            There are no EU citizens. There are only citizens of states that are part of the EU. You can’t have an EU passport, like you can have a US passport. You can have an English, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, etc passport.

            You are treating the EU like the US, just like the pro-federalists in the EU, but it isn’t and I don’t think it can become that in the short or medium term.

            How would most of the citizens of the US take it if native hawaiians, even after Hawaii became a state… were allowed to travel to any US state… except Texas because texans decided they don’t like their kind.

            You keep making these bad faith and pejorative statements like “don’t like their kind” that pathologize humanity and that I doubt you live by (if you favor your family over non-family, then you ‘don’t like their kind’ when it comes to non-family, by your standards). You keep failing to explain why your preferred policy doesn’t mean that you ‘don’t like their kind’ when it comes to the Turks.

            Your justification why Polish people should be on equal footing to English people in England consists of a reference to law, but your pejoratives are about moral equality between people. Don’t you understand that people can have a different morality from the one mandated by law? Don’t you see how people can get upset at laws that violate their morality? When some of my ancestors violated Nazi laws, do you think that they were wrong for doing so and that they should have accepted the morality dictated by law?

            If you don’t consider law intrinsically just, then why would the granting of one set of English rights to the English, a similar set of English rights to the Polish, but a very different set of English rights to the Turks necessarily be considered just?

            culture, most of europe spend the last thousand years slaughtering each other.

            Some of the worst of it was when the various countries were intolerant of diversity in other countries. The solution was that they agreed on Westphalian sovereignty: nations could make laws that gave rights and put obligations on their own people and allowed other nations to have different laws (and thus different rights and obligations).

            The EU is destroying this, under the misguided assumption that this will increase harmony, when the opposite can be expected.

            Only fools think that the closer you force people, the more they will like each other. In reality, there is a limit to this, based on how compatible people are. As Franklin said: “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” People need their space. Yet the EU ignores this and thus is run by fools.

            where the culture has already been eaten by Universal Culture anyway.

            That you have this perception tells me that you are part of a specific bubble.

            Universal Culture is actually a feature of the urban, globalist subset of various societies (note that far from anyone who lives in cities makes up this bubble). In my country, people outside of this bubble are often complaining about how they are being ignored, not just when it comes to getting their needs met, but also simply being heard and being respected.

            Culturally I have more in common with my Iranian co-workers (with whom I can argue about the seasonality of the film Die Hard), than I do with plenty of people who are nominally more closely related to me

            Yes, but that is a relatively small globalist subset of Iranians. Approval ratings of Ahmadinejad, who is/was very much not a Universal Culture person, constantly showed a majority of society seeing him in a favorable, rather than unfavorable light (not that he was elected particularly democratically, but very many Iranian people seem to resist Universal Culture.

            I don’t begrudge you your preferences or your biases that you share with your bubble. However, if you are unwilling to get your way merely to the extent that the people of your nation (or the EU) support your policies, you are not a democratic person, but a dictator at heart. Of course, you may believe (like all dictators) that your dictatorship is actually just and those other people are stupid fools who should be ignored. However, then you should not be surprised when those people treat you as the huge threat to their way of life, that you are.

            If that’s enough to turn you off… then I’m not sure I really want your support.

            Yes, you only want my support if I let you have the policies that you prefer…how open-minded and democratic.

            Your federalist pals seem to consider it important though. It seems like being a dictator conflicts with their self-image. Of course, they think that their policies are so sensible that no one who truly understands them would reject them. So they try to ‘explain’ them so us dumb folk will get it.

            An ingroup definition of “is a citizen of a member state” isn’t particularly absurd for the EU to take as its ingroup definition.

            Moving the goal posts much?

            I didn’t say that it’s absurd, I said that it’s arbitrary. In a democracy, arbitrary choices are up to the people, where each person gets an equal amount of power to shape policies.

            I don’t begrudge you your preferences. I begrudge the abuse of power to deny others the fair influence on law/policies that they deserve.

            PS. “It’s” is not the same as “its”

          • ana53294 says:

            Your justification why Polish people should be on equal footing to English people in England consists of a reference to law, but your pejoratives are about moral equality between people.

            But there are no “equal rights”. The EU citizens have more rights than non-EU citizens. Namely, they have the right to live, work and study under the same conditions as local citizens. They specifically don’t have the right to receive benefits and other welfare locals receive, though. They have the right to vote in municipal elections and EU elections, but not more.

            So, if an EU citizen goes to study in the UK, they have the right to pay the same prices a UK citizen would. But they won’t have a right to disability pay, or welfare, or public housing, or other rights, until they become long-term residents. And long term residents have the same rights as UK citizens when it comes to welfare and stuff regardless of their country of citizenship; i.e., when you are a long term legal resident, it doesn’t matter much whether you are from Poland or Swaziland.

            And let me remind you, France did deport a lot of EU citizens from France, and made them sign a promise they wouldn, return. I asked a Romanian girl what she thought about it, and she said she was glad about it, because she thought people who camp illegally destroy the reputation of hardworking honest Romanians.

            The UK could have chosen to deport EU trouble makers, rough sleepers and people who didn’t find jobs in three months. The reasons why they didn’t do it are entirely internal and not the EU’s responsibility.

            In my country, people object to the immediate deportation of immigrants who jump fences. And all the complications that come from this are my fellow citizen’s fault, not the EU’s.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            Yeah, I know, I chose not to correct Murphy explicitly as to not derail the discussion. It’s not that relevant to our disagreement.

          • Murphy says:

            @Aapje

            Claiming there’s no such thing as EU citizenship is like claiming there’s no such thing as US citizenship.

            https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/eu-citizenship_en

            It already exists. it’s a thing.

            (if you favor your family over non-family, then you ‘don’t like their kind’ when it comes to non-family, by your standards).

            You do know that Scotts story where he described family as a a reductio ad absurdum or racism was a joke right? not a blanket fully general argument for racism being awesome and fully justified right?

            In general when the negotiators for states or state-like entities, particularly negotiators working for the elected representatives of such come back from the table… it has extremely poor optics for them to say “oh, by the way, all my black/polish/Muslim constituents? the UK insisted that they didn’t like you so everyone else gets to travel there. you don’t”

            It’s not their job to negotiate on behalf of people who aren’t their citizens like russians, australians, turks etc and the don’t answer to them.

            The UK making such demands doesn’t then get to turn around and pretend they’re the reasonable one because laws are arbitrary and thus there’s no law of physics that stops the EU from doing whatever the UK wants.

            Only fools think that the closer you force people, the more they will like each other.

            This sounds remarkably like 1960’s segregationists arguments.

            Turns out when you **let** people live together they do things like get married and have kids together and give remarkably few fucks apart from when the segregationists down the street try to murder their kids.

            On a related note one such charming individual left a family friends 12 year old daughter in intensive care for months with permanent brain damage because he saw a black girl on the street and decided to smash in the back of her head with a beer bottle.

            But in your world he’s just a poor innocent person who doesn’t like smelly “guests” and it’s everyone elses fault that he decided to smash her head in. The victim of cruel federalists who FORCED him to hit the girl.

            In my country, people outside of this bubble are often complaining about how they are being ignored, not just when it comes to getting their needs met, but also simply being heard and being respected.

            it’s remarkable how people lose respect for people based on their behavior. isn’t it.

            you are not a democratic person, but a dictator at heart

            When did I say the british people didn’t have the right to get what they voted for? It’s blitheringly stupid but they have every right to act and vote in a stupid way.

            And when the same voters start crying because they thought the cheques they’ve been getting from the EU would keep coming and that their job down the factory would stay after the UK loses access to many of it’s customers…. I’m not going to feel much pity.

            They’ve voted to shoot themselves in the foot and it’s not my duty to help staunch the bleeding.

            Yes, you only want my support if I let you have the policies that you prefer…how open-minded and democratic.

            There are specific policies you seem to favor from your arguments here, namely racial segregation, that make me not want to share a banner with you. You don’t have any god given right to my support. If you think that makes me a dictator then you have a freaky definition of what constitutes a dictator.

            I don’t begrudge you your preferences. I begrudge the abuse of power to deny others the fair influence on law/policies that they deserve.

            Where did I deny anyone a right to influence policy.

            Saying an action is peanuts-up-nose stupid doesn’t deny anyone the right to take that action. You’re confusing earned contempt for actually blocking anyone from doing anything.

          • Turns out when you **let** people live together they do things like get married and have kids together and give remarkably few fucks apart from when the segregationists down the street try to murder their kids.

            Have you ever observed the dining room of a U.S. college? There is some mixing, but as a rule black students mostly sit with black students.

            For the same pattern on a larger scale, drive through a U.S. city. No legal bars to integrated housing, but not only do you tend to find black areas and white areas, in some cities you find Polish areas and Italian areas and Chinese areas.

            Letting people live together results in some choosing to do so, but many choosing not to.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Claiming there’s no such thing as EU citizenship is like claiming there’s no such thing as US citizenship.

            This is becoming a semantic discussion now. I admit that the Maastricht treaty, which was an attempt to federalize the EU, claims to grant EU citizenship to citizens of member states. However, the extent to which the pretence of a federation is actually reality is part of our disagreement.

            What I object to, is the pretension that ‘EU citizenship’ is actually sufficiently similar to existing standards for citizenship to be equated to other citizenships and whether calling it that is reasonable.

            If someone has US citizenship, they automatically become the citizen of the state in which they reside, they become subject to the rules of the county where they reside, etc. So state citizenship is derived from federal citizenship. Moving residency from one state to the other switches state citizenship automatically. Gatekeeping is also done by the federal government. If a non-American wants to become an American, they have to apply to and follow the rules set by the federal government. So all of this shows that the core/real citizenship of American citizens is the American citizenship, not the state citizenship.

            In the EU, it works the other way around. If I move to Germany, I don’t automatically become a German citizen. I become a Dutch citizen living in Germany. To actually become German, I need to follow a naturalization procedure. This procedure differs by European state. A non-EU person cannot apply for citizenship with an EU institution that applies EU-wide naturalization law.

            So your claim that rejecting ‘EU citizenship’ as a proper form of citizenship would require rejecting US citizenship as well, ignores the many important dissimilarities.

            You do know that Scotts story where he described family as a a reductio ad absurdum or racism was a joke right? not a blanket fully general argument for racism being awesome and fully justified right?
            […]
            It’s not their job to negotiate on behalf of people who aren’t their citizens like russians, australians, turks etc and the don’t answer to them.

            Again you first argue that treating some groups differently is immoral and probably racist, but then you turn around to argue that treating other groups differently is fully justified due to legalistic reasons. You are equating the law with morals again, which I reject. By that standard, those who violated Nazi laws were immoral, and those who ran the gas chambers were moral, as they were just doing their job (which they tried to use as an argument in their defense in court, actually).

            Again, my core argument is that the EU is not properly democratic and the EU policies thus lack democratic legimitacy.

            Turns out when you **let** people live together they do things like get married and have kids together and give remarkably few fucks apart from when the segregationists down the street try to murder their kids.

            That’s not what Robert Putnam found. That’s not how those who oppose gentrification feel. That is belied by ‘white flight,’ ‘Chinatowns’ and many other examples of self-segregation by nationality, ethnicity, level of education or many of the other ways in which people can be (dis)similar. The huge amount of self-segregation that is visible all around us shows that people actually give quite a “few fucks”.

            On a related note one such charming individual left a family friends 12 year old daughter in intensive care for months with permanent brain damage because he saw a black girl on the street and decided to smash in the back of her head with a beer bottle.

            Yes, yes. All those who oppose you are racists who want to murder people. It’s clear by now how ill you think of people with different opinions. No need to keep rubbing it in.

            I do want to point out that when some people intermarry, you see that as evidence that people can live together succesfully, but when there is evidence of friction, you don’t count this as evidence against your beliefs. Doesn’t this make your beliefs unfalsifiable?

            There are specific policies you seem to favor from your arguments here, namely racial segregation, that make me not want to share a banner with you.

            I never argued for racial segregation. I favor cultural segregation by nation (so ‘cultural nationalism’). The latter is a necessity if you want (to allow) certain forms of cultural diversity, as quite a bit of cultural diversity is incompatible, for example because you can only have one law for a certain piece of land, and the contents of the law is specific to a culture.

            That cultures tend to be correlated with ethnicity is unfortunate, as it results in culturally segregate groups often being ethnically segregate, which tends to result in judging people by race.

            As a believer in a decent amount of national cultural homoegeinity, rather than multiculturalism (which actually results in way more (racial) segregation), I favor policies that promote cultural homogeinity within nations, including the assimilation of migrants (also those of different ethnicity). This actually reduces racial segregation and the judging of people by race, as it increases compatibility between people with different ethnicities within the nation and reduces the accuracy of racial stereotypes.

            You seem to want the EU to be designed for those who adopt(ed) Universal Culture, under the misapprehension that almost all of European society already adopted this. That this belief is false means that you will end up harming these people without even realizing what you are doing, because their well-being is not even a matter of concern for you. This is quite cruel.

            It’s also questionable whether those policies will cause racial integration. The political parties that fight hardest for federalization of the EU in my country have great trouble attracting minorities, who now seem more interested in voting for parties that cater purely to their ethnic group and run on ressentiment. More evidence that your dream of racial harmony through neoliberal EU policy may be a Utopian delusion.

          • Murphy says:

            Letting people live together results in some choosing to do so, but many choosing not to.

            Sure. That’s the great thing about freedom of movement.

            But then there’s the other guy down the street who sees other people choosing to do one or the other and decides that burning their house down will solve all his life problems.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            And the rich tends to seek out the rich. The well-educated others with similar education, etc.

            Racial segregation is very visible and one that people are being encouraged to notice, but it is hardly the only kind.

          • ana53294 says:

            It is my understanding that certain benefits of states only apply to long term residents in the US too.

            Cheaper university prices for in-state residents being the main one.

          • bean says:

            Cheaper university prices for in-state residents being the main one.

            That’s the only one that I can think of, and it’s pretty obvious why. But that actually emphasizes the ease with which Americans can move between states. If I get an address in whatever state I want, I’m a resident immediately. The only exception is the one where there’s a really obvious way to save a bunch of money on a state school.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But then there’s the other guy down the street who sees other people choosing to do one or the other and decides that burning their house down will solve all his life problems.

            I think you’re being slightly paranoid here.

            Remind me again, how many pogroms has Brexit called?

          • DeWitt says:

            What point exactly are either of you trying to make? EU citizenship isn’t the same as American citizenship(or Swedish citizenship, or Austrian citizenship), but it does exist, and certain rights are attached to it. I can’t tell what anyone is on about any longer.

          • SEE says:

            Should I go and rebuke my political leaders every single time they do something I don’t agree with?

            The UK government that ratified the Treaty of Lisbon was elected on a platform that explicitly promised a referendum before ratifying the EU Constitution. This was because everybody recognized that the British vote to join the EEC was not remotely sufficient to imply consent in the very different institution that the EU Constitution was designed to create.

            If the demand for a vote on the EU Constitution was an isolated demand for direct democracy, it was nevertheless one that was considered justified across the British political spectrum. If it was a special case, well, it was a special case that both major British parties agreed was special.

            The text of the Treaty of Lisbon was, on all issues of substance, identical to the EU Constitution. Yet British ratification of the treaty, and thus membership in the Lisbon-transformed EU, was imposed without a referendum. It was a forced marriage, explicitly refusing the British people a promised chance to give/deny their consent, not an arranged one.

            So the question isn’t whether the members of the Brown Government should have been rebuked for a high-handed, anti-democratic action transforming the British state and EU in direct defiance of their electoral promises; the question is how severely they should have been rebuked.

        • Clutzy says:

          I think its more of a Darth Vader-Cloud City deal. Eventually Lando had enough.

          I think I do want to elaborate why this situation is very much different than something like the Constitution. The EU as originally sold, was a simple idea, “we all are kinda the same in these areas (gdp/capita, etc) and it would be thus nice to have free trade and easier movement of people. To the extent that the EU expands to countries that you do not feel that is accurate about, initial assents are no longer valid. The the extent that its organizational focus gets larger in scope, again the original assent is no longer in place.

          This is no different than the United States Constitution and why its bad for courts not to use plain meanings as originally understood. Because if you don’t it actually means the country should rightfully be disbanded, because the Constitution as you re-interpreted would not have been approved by the 13 original states, which were countries.

          • Murphy says:

            Ok, so by your logic the USA should have been disbanded each time they admitted a new state.

            Litterally every human involved in the “13 original states” is long dead. Their opinions are null, void and irrelevant.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Ok, so by your logic the USA should have been disbanded each time they admitted a new state.

            That would have been wonderful.

          • Murphy says:

            That would have been wonderful.

            I think

            “[Entity] should be dissolved for [reasons]”

            and

            “I’m going to cheer for any justification given for dissolving [Entity] because I oppose the existence of [Entity] in general”

            need to be separated.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Murphy

            The idea of disbanding and requiring reform any time a new state was brought in as the standard would’ve prevented the Civil War and the deaths of a million or more of my country-men because compromise between the very different states would have been the norm in order to bring in new candidates.

            I don’t oppose the United States. I oppose the post-Civil War American Empire.

          • Murphy says:

            Whenever the EU admits a new member it requires unanimous approval by all existing member states.

            To get that you need exactly that kind of negotiation because even a single state saying no is enough to veto it. It needs to be made worth the while of every single member state. Any state can demand whatever concessions they want in exchange for their assent.

            AKA: in terms of the EU you already have exactly what you want unless what you want is opposition to [Entity] with [reasons] as mere flavor.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Murphy

            I’m not particularly opposed or in favor of the EU since I am not European. I think that would’ve been great for the United States to have a similar policy, and would’ve saved lives and bloodshed.

            Look at the difference between leaving the EU (chaotic, but peaceful) and leaving the US (brutally suppressed with the deaths of a million).

            I am in favor of Brexit for the sole reason that I think that a norm that the voice of the people is respected is a great norm.

          • Clutzy says:

            I think that the EU’s unanimous consent for admission rule is good for the entity as a whole. I think it should have similar rules for any rulechange that expands its power just as the US is supposed to have a super-majority rule for changes that expand the scope of the federal government’s power.

            By not following that rule the US has gradually grown illegitimate as a nation, as has been the case (albeit more rapid) in the EU. The EU also has a significant governance problem that is seemingly worse there than in the US (but also quite present), which is the populace and political classes being extremely misaligned about who should be admitted to the union.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            The problem with that ‘choice’ is that there is a huge amount of coercion.

            Admitting a new member state is a very lengthy process, where the state has to adapt to many rules and gets many promises along the way. Once the decision to admit the state comes around, it’s no longer possible to in good conscience refuse them.

            It’s similar to letting people enter your country, get jobs, get married, have children and then 10 years later make the decision to let them stay or kick them out.

            It’s not moral to kick them out at that point. You need to make the choice before they put down so many roots.

            Moral people can be abused by setting up scenarios where huge avoidable costs are linked to certain decisions, coercing people into making a decision that they dislike and would not make, but for this coercion.

          • Murphy says:

            @Aapje

            No criteria could ever meet the standard that it doesn’t count in the case where it might sometimes be socially awkward to say no.

            “But I might feel bad if my choice is assholeish” doesn’t stop your choices from being free choices.

            Further: Turkey did spend years yet their Accession was still halted so representatives are pretty clearly not too fussed about saying no when they want to.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Clutzy

            The US didn’t “gradually” grow that way. It went suddenly when it was decided that killing a million Americans was better than respecting the will of the people. It recovered some small piece in the subsequent century, but overall it has never recovered.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The idea of disbanding and requiring reform any time a new state was brought in as the standard would’ve prevented the Civil War and the deaths of a million or more of my country-men because compromise between the very different states would have been the norm in order to bring in new candidates.

            Um?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. “Because the compromises in our existing system didn’t prevent Civil War, a system with better compromises couldn’t have?”

            It’s clear that the American system didn’t prevent Civil War (although I don’t think it was nearly as unavoidable as some do), but a system with total freedom to leave if things went badly would clearly have not had one.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. “Because the compromises in our existing system didn’t prevent Civil War, a system with better compromises couldn’t have?”

            What I’m saying is they tried crazy hard to compromise, and failed. Asserting better compromises were feasible is wishful thinking in the same ballpark as “real communism just hasn’t been tried and will totes be awesome because this time we’ll do it right“. Unless “better compromises” considers disunion to be axiomatically better

            It’s clear that the American system didn’t prevent Civil War (although I don’t think it was nearly as unavoidable as some do), but a system with total freedom to leave if things went badly would clearly have not had one.

            Well, sure, there wouldn’t have been a Civil War. But it’s another wishful counterfactual that there would not have been any war between whatever subfederations decided to go make their own countries.

          • acymetric says:

            Well, sure, there wouldn’t have been a Civil War. But it’s another wishful counterfactual that there would not have been any war between whatever subfederations decided to go make their own countries.

            Exactly. It is at least as plausible that there would have been more death/fighting as a result of dozens of countries in North America fighting over resources/land/religion/etc. after splitting apart than what we got in the Civil War as it is that the result would have been eternal peace between the dis-United States.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Unless “better compromises” considers disunion to be axiomatically better

            Yes, disunion is axiomatically better than a million dead. I think that’s a pretty basic point of agreement. Would it be better if Czechoslovakia was still united but a million Czechs and Slovaks were dead?

            But it’s another wishful counterfactual that there would not have been any war between whatever subfederations decided to go make their own countries.

            War isn’t exactly easy to predict, but I don’t know why there would be.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            War isn’t exactly easy to predict, but I don’t know why there would be.

            Oh, please. This is the 19th century we’re talking about. The onus is on proving why the various North American polities would be an exception to expansionist+nationalist warfare. And, no, being in the New World isn’t sufficient.

            ETA:

            Yes, disunion is axiomatically better than a million dead. I think that’s a pretty basic point of agreement. Would it be better if Czechoslovakia was still united but a million Czechs and Slovaks were dead?

            And if it were to go the way of Yugoslavia instead..?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Counterpoint: The United States never seriously tried to conquer Canada, which was more sparsely populated and less militarily powerful than the South (and no, the war of 1812 wasn’t a serious attempt).

            Now, it’s certainly not impossible that more wars would’ve come out of it, but it seems plausible that fewer would’ve come as well.

          • JonathanD says:

            @EchoChaos

            I’d quibble about that “will of the people”. 40% of the people didn’t have a say, as they were considered property.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            and less militarily powerful than the South

            Because the British would have stood by and let us do it..? IANAC but my understanding is that, while Canada got Home Rule (or whatever the Canada-appropriate terminology is) sometime in the 1800s, they weren’t a militarily-autonomous country until after the World Wars.

            You’ll note that we did invade Mexico after the Spaniards left. And then went to war with Spain themselves once they were weak enough!

          • Eltargrim says:

            @Gobbobobble: Canada obtained independence in foreign affairs (including wars) in 1931. We delayed our declaration of war against Germany in WW2 by a few days to demonstrate our independence.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JonathanD

            And women didn’t vote either. It was the will of the citizens at the time, which is as good as it gets.

            @Gobbobobble

            Mexico attacked us, not vice-versa. In a world where secession is respected, nobody gets wound up over Texas leaving Mexico either.

            Besides, by 1865 there is absolutely no way the British could’ve stopped the United States from taking Canada if we wanted it. We had interior supply lines and a navy that was a near-peer to theirs.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Besides, by 1865 there is absolutely no way the British could’ve stopped the United States from taking Canada if we wanted it. We had interior supply lines and a navy that was a near-peer to theirs.

            Erm, no, there’s no way the US Navy is going to come out on top against the Royal Navy any time during the 19th century. And for most of that century America’s land forces were tiny and underfunded, too, so they couldn’t even rely on land superiority.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Mexico attacked us, not vice-versa.

            Only by the slimmest of technicalities. We took Texas from them – firstly by hook, secondly by crook. Fighting approximately the whole war on their turf and seizing half their clay in the peace support the notion that it was an expansionist war. The part where we provoked them into technically shooting first is just PR.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Only by the slimmest of technicalities. We took Texas from them – firstly by hook, secondly by crook. Fighting approximately the whole war on their turf and seizing half their clay in the peace support the notion that it was an expansionist war. The part where we provoked them into technically shooting first is just PR.

            Indeed; after all, technically the Allies were the aggressors in WW2, but they aren’t generally considered as such, and for good reason.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The original Mr. X

            In blue water, absolutely and unequivocally not, I agree with that.

            But in the river and near-coast battles required to support a British land force in North America? Closer than you might think.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2ebm7b/was_the_union_navy_stronger_than_the_royal_navy/cjy13uq/

            Could the British have genuinely put the kind of land force down needed to stop the combined Union and Confederate armies in a 1850 invasion of Canada (to follow up the 1848 Mexican-American war)? Absolutely not.

            Now, given how bloody that war would’ve been, I’m glad it wasn’t fought. I’m against such wars of conquest. Just like I was against the Civil War and for the same reason.

          • Lillian says:

            So i decided to do some quick internet research on the subject of the US versus Royal navies circa 1865, and came up with this thread. The Royal Navy is in fact bigger than the Union Navy in 1865, but it’s not really considerably bigger. It’s 471 warships for the US versus 540 for the Royal Navy, with the US having more ironclads. Now the Royal Navy’s ships are usually larger and more powerful, but many of them cannot be deployed since they’re off protecting Britannia’s far flung empire. Meanwhile, the US Navy would fighting defence with its whole force in some of the most defensible waters on the planet. It looks like a fairly even match to me.

            Now in 1865 specifically the Union is exhausted from a long war, and most of its army is busy occupying a hostile land. Realistically not really capable of sustaining the invasion of another country. However an examination of the relative forces after the United States has spent years on a massive military build-up does in fact suggest that if America had wanted to arm with the intent of invading and annexing Canada after the Civil War, there really is little Britain could have done to stop them from obtaining and deploying the force to do so.

          • Lillian says:

            With respect to the Mexican-American War. It was started by President Polk ordering General Zachary Taylor to take troops into the disputed strip of land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande in a cynical gambit to force Mexico to either draw blood or give up its claim. The Mexicans seeing this as an invasion of their territory (and it was indeed de facto theirs), naturally retaliated by attacking the force in question, though only when it had advanced enough to establish make-shift fort opposite one of their towns. This in turn allowed Polk to go on the floor of Congress and act like Mexico had invaded and spilled blood on US territory.

            In short, Polk was a cynical lying bastard, and it was clearly a war of aggression on America’s part. It’s all good though, we’ve made far better and more productive use of the land than Mexico ever would.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But in the river and near-coast battles required to support a British land force in North America? Closer than you might think.
            https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2ebm7b/was_the_union_navy_stronger_than_the_royal_navy/cjy13uq/

            And how many of those ships would actually be able to stand up in battle against a British ship? Counting up number of ships is a really bad way to estimate fleet strength, especially in the later 19th century, when naval technology was advancing rapidly and a vessel could totally outclass one from even a few years earlier.

            Could the British have genuinely put the kind of land force down needed to stop the combined Union and Confederate armies in a 1850 invasion of Canada (to follow up the 1848 Mexican-American war)? Absolutely not.

            The combined Union and Confederate armies didn’t exist in 1850; it would take a lot of time and money to raise that many men, and even more to make them actually battleworthy. Meanwhile, why would the British sit idly by and let the US build up this massive force? As mentioned above, the US army of this period was tiny and underfunded by European standards, so any pre-emptive strike against US industrial centres (most of which were close to navigable water, and hence within easy reach of a naval power like the UK) would have very little to oppose it. It’s also worth mentioning that the Union relied heavily on imports — especially British imports — of weapons and material to build up its army in the early stages of the US Civil War, and of course such imports would be unavailable in a scenario where the US is at war with Britain.

          • J Mann says:

            @Lillian

            In short, Polk was a cynical lying bastard, and it was clearly a war of aggression on America’s part.

            Did Polk lie, or did he say “we sent troops into the region both Mexico and the US claim, and Mexico attacked them?”

            Certainly, if my neighbor and I disagree about where our property line is, and I shoot her for entering the disputed region, I’m in the wrong.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Did Polk lie, or did he say “we sent troops into the region both Mexico and the US claim, and Mexico attacked them?”

            Certainly, if my neighbor and I disagree about where our property line is, and I shoot her for entering the disputed region, I’m in the wrong.

            Suppose the hill you want to die on is that Polk didn’t technically lie. Fine. How do you square the war’s conduct and results with it being anything but an expansionist war that the US wanted?

            If you claim you’re sending troops into a disputed region to secure it, that’s provocative but still less wrong than declaring war, granted. But then if the country you’re disputing it with declares war because of your troops presence being considered an invasion, you are still the aggressor if you go whole hog invading their territory that is NOT under dispute.

          • Eric Rall says:

            The combined Union and Confederate armies didn’t exist in 1850; it would take a lot of time and money to raise that many men, and even more to make them actually battleworthy. Meanwhile, why would the British sit idly by and let the US build up this massive force?

            Less time than you’d think. States at that time maintained substantial militias and had systems for calling them up for defensive duties. In theory, all able-bodied white male citizens of military age (usually defined in the US as between ages 18 and 45 inclusive) were members of the militia.

            Here’s a decent paper on US state militias in this time period: (link). According to that paper, there were about 1.9 million men formally enrolled in their state militias (meaning they’d signed up, been assigned to organized units, and could be called up for service in an emergency). Of those, something like 10-15% (200k-300k) were “active” members who regularly turned up for drills.

            The Mexican War demonstrated that the US had the ability to mobilize at least the regular army and a significant fraction of the Active Militia for offensive operations: the war was fought with 35k regulars and 73k volunteers from among the state militias (1/3 to 1/4 of the estimated 1846 active militia number), and it sounds like the volunteers mobilized very quickly, within a month or two of the declaration of war. The volunteers acquitted themselves well, significantly outperforming Mexico’s standing army.

            The beginning of the Civil War a decade and a bit later demonstrated that mobilizing the much larger enrolled-but-inactive militia for offensive operations was quite a bit harder, but even green militia units were serviceable for defensive battles.

            Britain, meanwhile, didn’t have much of a standing army, either. The British army as of the beginning of the Crimean War (1853) was 91k regulars, of whom about 25k were available for deployment to the front. Britain fought that war mainly with volunteers drawn from their own militia system, similar in number to the American volunteers from the Mexican War.

            The US’s two big advantages in a hypothetical 1850 war with Britain would be interior lines (Canada’s a lot closer to New York and Boston than it is to London) and a larger pool of volunteers with recent wartime service (1850 being two years after the Mexican War, but three years before the Crimean War). Britain, on the other hand, had a larger population, was more industrialized, and had an enormously stronger navy. Plus, if they make a Zimmerman-like offer to Mexico in 1850, Mexico is in a better position to accept and be a useful ally to Britain in 1850 than they would have been to Germany in 1917.

            My money is that Britain wins an 1850 war with the US, but it isn’t quick, easy, or cheap: the militia system is adequate to defend against coastal raids in the opening days of the war, and the US can probably put a mid-sized army in Toronto or Quebec before Britain can, but the US can’t stop Britain from blockading their ports and bringing an army across the Atlantic to kick the US Army back out of Canada.

          • Lillian says:

            And how many of those ships would actually be able to stand up in battle against a British ship? Counting up number of ships is a really bad way to estimate fleet strength, especially in the later 19th century, when naval technology was advancing rapidly and a vessel could totally outclass one from even a few years earlier.

            If we want to go by ship quality, then the thread i linked gives the following numbers: “So, operational in 1865 (by the end of the year) Britain had 14 broadside ironclads, 2 central battery ironclads, and 7 ironclads launched but not commissioned.

            The US Navy in 1865 had 3 broadside ironclads, 33 monitors, 13 river ironclads, for a total of 49 ironclads, supported by 60 “tinclads” in the river fleet (more lightly armored ships). The US also had 21 more monitors building or launched but not yet commissioned.”

            Then there’s this post, which seems to well establish that US ironclads, especially the newest ones, were more than match for both wooden British first rates and British ironclads. To wit the CSS Virginia could not damage the USS Monitor despite having more powerful guns than anything the British were fielding. However the Monitor’s guns were able to crack the Virginia’s armour despite not using full power charges for its guns (they were new and untested), and would probably have penetrated it if they had been. Later US ironclads were better built with stronger armour and heavier guns. This suggests a strong qualitative advantage in favour of the US Navy.

            Did Polk lie, or did he say “we sent troops into the region both Mexico and the US claim, and Mexico attacked them?”

            His exact words were, “The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.”

            He seems to have neglected to mention the part about the disputed boundary, the part where he had sent troops into the area first, or the part where they had been deliberately trying to bait the Mexicans into a fight. The way he presented it, it sounded as if America was just minding her own business when suddenly Mexico brazenly attacked. So i stand by my opinion that Polk was a cynical lying bastard.

          • DeWitt says:

            Is nobody going to mention that

            1. the claim was that Canada(and hence the British Empire) was less militarily powerful than the south

            and

            2. that this proves surely nobody would’ve waged offensive war, because the US never went to conquer it?

            They went after easier and more ‘valid’ targets first; you don’t need to be a Paradox nerd to realise having a strong casus belli matters. Why on earth would the US challenge the strongest naval power of its time when there were much better, easier pickings to go after?

          • EchoChaos says:

            I am not arguing that the United States invading Canada is either a sure thing or even that it would be won by America.

            I’m arguing against the United States invading an independent Confederacy (without the easy casus belli of “they belong to us”) because it would be as nasty as invading Canada would have been (and we didn’t invade Canada).

            Also I think that the US would have won an invasion of Canada, just as they won an invasion of the Confederacy.

            Edit: I see DeWitt also caught my point. I don’t know that the South is guaranteed harder than Canada, but Canada proper was tiny and sparsely populated compared to the South, and London is far away.

            In a world where the United States peacefully lets the South go, there isn’t a future imperial war against that South for the same reason there wasn’t one against Canada.

          • BBA says:

            Even in a world where the Union officially recognized the Confederacy’s peaceful secession, there still would be slaves escaping to the Union. But the Union would recognize them as free people, and refuse to extradite them back to the Confederacy, as had been the law before 1861. So the slave patrols would have to operate extralegally in foreign territory against the treacherous Underground Railroad. Combine that with an increasingly abolitionist Union that would tolerate if not overtly endorse the radical tactics of a few more John Browns, and you would have war sooner or later.

            To be clear: I don’t think you can make a coherent meta-level case for or against secession in the abstract. It’s all about the object-level reasons for it. It could have been John Breckinridge winning the election of 1860 and the Northern states seceding rather than live under a draconian pro-slavery federal government, and in such a scenario I would have been a proud secessionist.

          • quaelegit says:

            @EchoChaos — Let’s say the South secedes and forms the Confederacy in 1861 and the US just lets them. I think a future war between the USA and the CSA is much more likely than a US invasion of Canada, regardless of the difficulty of waging it.

            1) Fugitive slaves — Edit: BBA made this point above, so I’ll just add that the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 is the relevant law change here, and that it really stiffened northern abolitionism. Plenty of northerners were fine with slavery happening as long as it was happening far away and didn’t directly affect them, but really didn’t like this 1850 law that meant could be drafted into slavecatching posses in their own towns. (I’ll also link to this AskHistorians answer analyzing the lead up to the Civil War, which also discusses a bunch of other factors.

            2. Westward Expansion. This is really what kept bringing slavery to the fore from the Northwest Ordinance up through Kansas-Nebraska. (Remember that every new state adds congresspeople, so whether it’s a slave state or free soil has immediate impacts on the balance of pro&anti-slavery factions in Congress. The South seceded in 1861 because Lincoln’s election indicated that the pro-slavery faction was outnumbered.) Of course now the CSA is it’s own country now so that’s not the issue — the issue is which country gets the territories? Remember Kansas is already a shooting war. IRL there were also competing claims over Arizona made in the middle of the Civil War.

            So, even if the USA decides the Union isn’t inviolate and it’s fine with the South leaving, I don’t see the two countries staying at peace for long.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @BBA

            Not really a plausible casus belli. Remember that slaves had been escaping to Canada for years and years and the United States never attacked them.

            Also, despite what people think, I don’t see slavery surviving long-term in the Confederacy. Brazil, with a larger, more politically powerful and richer slave-owner class (and some actual Southern Confederados), would abolish slavery in 1888. Even if you SUPER generously give it another 12 years to 1900 (and there are many reasons to believe it would’ve ended sooner, not later), the South isn’t staying with legal slavery into the 20th century. That’s only 40 years for a war to break out.

            I’m not pro-slavery, as I’ve made clear before. I’m pro-will of the people, which is why the Confederacy’s case is more right to me. (I’m also a Virginian Cavalier, so biased)

            @quaelegit

            Western expansion is pretty much settled. The South gets Texas, but the Union gets Arizona on west. Those borders are not likely to spark fights if political power isn’t at stake. There might be disputes over the border, but they’re likely to be diplomatically settled.

          • ana53294 says:

            Not really a plausible casus belli

            You really think that a group of armed terrorists*/liberators going to the Southern now independent states would not be seen as a casus belli?

            The current US does see countries that foster terrorist groups as hostile countries.

            *Who is terrorist and who is a freedom fighter depends a lot on which side you are on. You bet that the next John Brown would be considered a Northern terrorist, and the North would be a country that fosters terrorists.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            No criteria could ever meet the standard that it doesn’t count in the case where it might sometimes be socially awkward to say no.

            Imagine that I give you a choice to eat or forgo a sandwich, but I tell you that if you eat it, I will shoot your mother. Is it then ‘socially awkward’ to eat the sandwich or is it immoral? I would argue the latter. I would also argue that the threat to shoot your mother is a coercive way to force a certain outcome, by attaching an unnecessarily bad outcome to one of the options.

            If you cannot get this and would not blame the person who makes the threat to shoot your mother and instead consider this a free choice, then there is little point in this discussion.

          • bean says:

            Besides, by 1865 there is absolutely no way the British could’ve stopped the United States from taking Canada if we wanted it. We had interior supply lines and a navy that was a near-peer to theirs.

            This is utter nonsense, on several levels.

            First, the Union Navy was heavily specialized for a very specific set of roles, namely coastal attack and blockade of the South. Neither of these is all that useful in stopping the British from totally cutting the US off from all foreign trade. They also had seagoing ironclads, which lets them smash up any wooden ships, and the US ironclads were not particularly seaworthy. Also, they’re much slower, so they can’t pin Warrior down and make her fight. Overall, the correct expectation for a US-British war in the 1860s is that the US successfully invades Canada, but then the British shut down all US trade until the US gets tired of the war and hands Canada back. Possible elaborations include bombardments of coastal cities (there was a lot of work put into this because of fears of war with France et al) and seizure of lightly-held areas. How does a British expedition to California sound?

            Second, the gunnery comparison Lillian links to is spurious. This was an era when gunnery was rather confused, and a bigger gun isn’t automatically better at piercing armor. HMS Warrior’s 68-pdr guns were considered adequate against Glorie, which had 4.7″ of armor, which is in the range of Monitor and Virginia. Whoever wrote that seems blinded by shell weights, which isn’t really the correct way to think about early ironclads. Let’s take the 68 pdr vs the 8″ Dahlgren gun (weapons of basically the same size). I can’t find the muzzle velocity of the later, but it used a 7 lb powder charge, as opposed to 16 lbs for the British gun, so it’s going to be a lot less effective in piercing armor. (Note that the 7″ 110-lb RBL was significantly worse against armor than the 8″ 68-lb smoothbore, despite higher shell weight and smaller impact area.) And all of this ignores that a high-freeboard, seaworthy ship is a lot easier to fight than a monitor. The captain can control the engagement and his crews can work their guns more effectively.

            Edit: It’s also worth pointing out what happens after a couple years of war. The US is cut off from British goods and engineering expertise, and even internal trade is badly disrupted, due to the blockade. This is going to be bad for shipbuilding. The British, on the other hand, built ships slowly because the government at the time was really concerned with fiscal responsibility, and was trying to reply to France. In case of war, they’d be churning out ships as fast as possible, which is going to mean a lot of ironclads in about 2 years. (Build times often stretched for a bunch of complicated reasons.)

          • J Mann says:

            @Gobboboble – sure, the Mexican-American war was a product of US expansionism, but I don’t see why that prevents me from being curious about whether Polk lied about the war.

            (From what I read, the question of whether Polk wanted the war is closer. He clearly preferred the option of acquiring the land through negotiation, and what I’ve read suggests that he backed into the war somewhat by mistake, by mistakenly thinking that military brinksmanship would open negotiations.)

            @Lillian – thanks! For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical that Polk lied, although he’s certainly guilty of starting the war.

            1) Read in full, I think his statement to Congress lays out the history reasonably well. It takes the US view of the dispute – that we believed the land was part of Texas, and doesn’t go out of its way to characterize Santa Ana charitably, but to be fair, Mexican troops had just killed a bunch of US troops.

            2) I do think you can argue about his characterization that he moved troops to the disputed region to prevent the Mexican army from entering the region, but apparently, his diary entries at the time of the troop movement indicate that this was in fact a concern and one of the motivating factors.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Eric:

            The Mexican War demonstrated that the US had the ability to mobilize at least the regular army and a significant fraction of the Active Militia for offensive operations: the war was fought with 35k regulars and 73k volunteers from among the state militias (1/3 to 1/4 of the estimated 1846 active militia number), and it sounds like the volunteers mobilized very quickly, within a month or two of the declaration of war. The volunteers acquitted themselves well, significantly outperforming Mexico’s standing army.

            The Mexican regular army of this period was, not to put too fine a point on it, utterly useless. You can’t compare them to the army of a European great power of the same period.

            The beginning of the Civil War a decade and a bit later demonstrated that mobilizing the much larger enrolled-but-inactive militia for offensive operations was quite a bit harder, but even green militia units were serviceable for defensive battles.

            A large part of that was that the CSA was starting from an equally low base, so both sides were similarly bad. If the Confederates had had a modern, professional army at Bull Run, they’d have been able to rout the Unionists and push on to Washington before the city’s defences could be put in order.

            And even after several years of war, ACW soldiers were generally less effective than the European counterparts. If you compare the records from various battles, American troops tended to have a much shorter effective range than European ones (200-250 yards vs. 600+), and were more likely to go to ground under enemy fire.

            Britain, meanwhile, didn’t have much of a standing army, either. The British army as of the beginning of the Crimean War (1853) was 91k regulars, of whom about 25k were available for deployment to the front. Britain fought that war mainly with volunteers drawn from their own militia system, similar in number to the American volunteers from the Mexican War.

            91k is still 75k more than the US starts off with. Also, you’re mistaken about the volunteers — they were generally sent to colonial posts to free up the garrisons of regular troops there. This means that the actual fighting was overwhelmingly done with regulars, and also that the British could send a much higher proportion of their regular army to the front than simply looking at pre-war troops deployments would suggest.

          • DeWitt says:

            @Aapje

            Coercion is there at any given point of a choice. The EU hasn’t once, to my knowledge, threatened to have anyone’s mother shot, and equivocating its being a mess with very real physical threat is disingenuous to the extreme. Please don’t.

          • Aapje says:

            @DeWitt

            Murphy seems to completely reject the idea that people can have a morality where they feel responsible for the well-being of others and are coerced by setting up a scenario where once they are allowed to make a decision, substantial harm will occur to third parties if they make a certain decision, where that harm would not occur for that same decision, if the decision making process would be set up differently.

            Given his poo-pooing of my argument, where he seems to advocate a sociopathic viewpoint where causing harm to others is merely “socially awkward,” I was interested in knowing if he would also merely consider it socially awkward if his decision caused the death of his mother.

            If not, he might want to explain why he thinks these scenarios are not similar in kind. For example, he could argue that there would be no harm when a nation makes major changes to their laws, adapting them away from what is preferred by the population, to gain access to the common market and transfer payments, only to not get those benefits at the last moment, while having paid the costs.

            I expect that the costs of changing all those laws is actually far higher than the amount of money that nations are commonly willing to spend to save a life, so one could even argue that the scenarios are quite analogous in that sense, as the money that would have been uselessly spent if a country is denied access at the last moment, could have been used to save more than 1 life.

          • ana53294 says:

            You are arguing in bad faith. In what way is threatening to kill somebody’s mother the same as putting them in a socially awkward position? The EU has not threatened violent force against anybody. And applying political or economic pressure is not equivalent to threatening with violence.

            The EU has not been able to enforce refugee quotas even on countries that are net receivers of EU funding. Countries that give more funding than they receive have even more leeway.

            So the correct analogy would be to frostily stop saying hello to your neighbor.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            I disagree that trying to establish agreement on a basic principle (whether causing unnecessary harm to a third party can be coercive) is bad faith.

            The EU has not been able to enforce refugee quotas even on countries that are net receivers of EU funding.

            Fortunately, the EU is heavily bureaucratic, so they cannot force agreement by withholding funds as easily as in the US, where large parts of the constitution have been neutralized by such ‘creative’ solutions.

            The nations still have some power to halt further federalization, expansion, etc; especially if people get wise to the manipulation & coercion and stop falling for it, which seems to increasingly be the case.

          • ana53294 says:

            OK, if the EU is the one threatening to kill somebody’s mother, and that somebody is, say, Poland, who is the mother?

            The EU does not go around threatening third parties. The EU threatens directly, or tries to. So when they want to get Greece to do something, they threaten Greece, not its mother.

          • SEE says:

            @quaelegit

            Three problems with your scenarios:

            1) Both your proposed causes of war require the CSA to choose to engage in a fundamentally offensive campaign to impose its will on the North. The balance of power (like the four-to-one ratio of free manpower), however, is such that the CSA cannot win such a war and knows it cannot. The Confederacy never thought it could overrun the North and dictate terms; it thought it might merely be able to resist the North long and hard enough to be let go. Even the offensive campaign of Lee was a limited effort to strike a blow to Northern morale and sway international opinion.

            2) If Lincoln lets the CSA go peacefully, it’s not clear that any more of the states than the seven that already seceded would. The seven-state Confederacy is in even worse position to try to go to war, on the wrong end of a ten-to-one free manpower ratio. This also reduces the fugitive slave motive, since slaves escaping from the CSA initially enter slave states perfectly willing to return fugitives.

            3) Secession already reduces the major motive for territorial expansion of slavery because states no longer under the jurisdiction of the US don’t have to worry about the balance of votes in the US Senate, and cannot change that balance by making new slave states. If the CSA still feels a need for territorial expansion, Spanish Cuba/Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the independent states in the Caribbean and Central America are much easier targets than places claimed by the US.

            The major issue for war is, does a soft policy on secession in 1861 cause a subsequent fragmentation of the rest of the United States?

    • hls2003 says:

      Non-European, and non-expert, merely an interested lay observer.

      Two questions that always occur to me when reading about the Brexit process, I’d be interested in informed opinions and/or wild guesses.

      First, I’ve thought from the beginning that – since there was never any significant appetite in Parliament for Brexit at all, the referendum basically being a ploy that backfired spectacularly – it was likely that the British public would eventually be required to vote again. On the one hand, it’s now clear that Brexit is harder than it may have seemed (especially with a pro-Remainer at the controls) and so that might sway public opinion against Brexit in a second referendum. On the other hand, I could see at least some people getting very upset at the cavalier “vote until you get it right” approach to British democratic legitimacy. On the gripping hand, it seems like it would make sense to expect that a second referendum would probably go along with a general election with at least one Brexiteer front-and-center. So if there is a second referendum, does current opinion suggest that “repentant Brexiteers” or “angry pro-democracy types” are more numerous? A second referendum seems to be what most “Remainers” want, presumably since they don’t want to outright defy the first by saying “We’re ignoring it and doing what we want.” But what if “Leave” wins again? Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that Remainers would hold a third referendum, and more, until the vote was “got right,” but surely there would be some level of crisis-level strife before that were the case. What would be the Remainer plan in the event they lose a second referendum?

      Also, I am quite sure I understand the EU’s political position in all of this. They have a bunch of fractious member-states with sufficient cultural and economic diversity that a “North EU / South EU” potential crackup was all the rage a decade ago. They presumably need to make Brexit hurt, pour encourager les autres. But if I’m not misunderstanding something, they are basically holding themselves hostage too, right? Yes, Britain gains from substantial EU trade; but so does the Continent gain from British trade. That’s the whole point of free trade. By refusing to bend or make a soft Brexit easier to negotiate, the EU negotiators are picking their own members’ pockets economically to make a point politically. I know they are 85% to Britain’s 15%, but that’s still a lot of trade being restricted. Unless Donald Trump was right, and “trade wars are easy to win.” Is there any substantial contingent on the Continent arguing that they should impoverish themselves as little as possible and make a generous trade deal with Britain more easily? I could see that being a position that would have support everywhere outside the EU political technocracy, since the EU machinery stands to gain the most from punishing Britain, even at the expense of making the EU’s ordinary people slightly poorer. If so, this sounds just like the standard tariff calculation, rewarding some at the cost of others.

      • Murphy says:

        Nothing I’ve seen of the EU negotiations have implied that the EU is trying to fuck the UK over.

        The EU is offering a range of options.

        https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/5a394c31160000783ecf2154.jpeg?ops=scalefit_630_noupscale

        The UK meanwhile wants all the benefits with none of the downsides and has rejected them all.

        They want UK citizens to have free movement in the EU… but they don’t want and dirty foreigners with freedom of movement to the UK. Because the brexiter politicans promised their voters that they’d keep the brown people out.

        They want to sell goods into the EU… but they don’t want to be subject to laws on things like safety standards for goods being sold into the EU. Because the brexiter politicans promised their voters that they’d do away with “EU regulations”

        They want to piggy-back on EU trade deals with the rest of the world… but they don’t want to pay any contribution to the cost of running the EU bureaucracy that negotiates and maintains those trade deals. Because the brexiter politicans wrote on the side of a bus that they’d put that money into the NHS instead.

        The UK wants the benefits of various EU programs… but doesn’t want to pay the money it already agreed to pay towards funding them.

        I’m not even exaggerating.

        They’ve even been culturing a narrative where, when it all goes tits up it’ll be the fault of “remoaner sabotage” and the EU.

        Much like how when you drown it’s actually the fault of the people who kept telling you that drilling a hole in the bottom of the boat was a stupid idea.

        • hls2003 says:

          The UK meanwhile wants all the benefits with none of the downsides and has rejected them all.

          You’re framing it as though the UK’s rejection of these harms the EU. But it doesn’t. This is the whole point of free trade – it makes the free trade country economically richer even unilaterally and if your partner is not a reciprocal free trader. This is the persistent economic criticism of protectionism and trade wars; if your trade partner wants to erect barriers to make themselves poorer, so be it – you’re still better off lowering your own.

          How is anyone worse off in the EU if they have their UK movement restricted versus having them fully out (and thus movement restricted)? It’s true that the UK is presumably worse off if there are economically good reasons for that movement, but the EU cutting off British people in retaliation only makes things worse for the EU.

          Safety standards may be justifiable depending on the alleged benefit of the regulation, but the UK refusing to implement them wouldn’t harm the EU per se, it would just be UK citizens getting more dangerous goods, and EU citizens having extra options of more-dangerous (but presumably desirable for other reasons) goods. Safety standards are a common WTO complaint anyway as they are often disguises for protectionism. They may be justifiable, but they are still not free trade.

          How is the EU worse off if the UK piggy-backs on EU trade deals? Those deals would be better for the EU even if nobody else agreed to them. If the UK wants to adopt the same agreements it could literally photocopy the language. If the EU wants to lower its barriers in that context, then it shouldn’t matter who else is copying them; the more the merrier.

          To the extent that there are literal payment programs, sure, the UK should pay its share, but that hardly seems like the real holdup in the negotiations. I don’t know enough to say what those would be.

          Now, I totally get that you can justify all this by the EU on the grounds of wanting to set an example. But at its root it’s just using protectionism to do it. And protectionism hurts both parties, not just one.

          Any thoughts on the first question – what do you think would happen if Leave won a second referendum?

          • ana53294 says:

            How is anyone worse off in the EU if they have their UK movement restricted?

            When goods and capitals flow, but people are not allowed to, it may create a situation where capital flows to an already rich country. If people are not allowed to go to that rich country, they will be worse off than if the trade did not happen in the first place.

            How is the EU worse off if the UK piggy-backs on EU trade deals?

            You are forgetting the part where there is another, third country that signed the deal with the EU, and hasn’t signed one with the UK. The size of the EU means that the EU can demand a lot from its trade partners; the UK cannot demand as much.

            Japan has already explicitly said that they would not be willing to sign the Japan-EU FTA with the UK.

          • DeWitt says:

            You’re framing it as though the UK’s rejection of these harms the EU. But it doesn’t. This is the whole point of free trade – it makes the free trade country economically richer even unilaterally and if your partner is not a reciprocal free trader.

            Tell the rest of the world, first. This is a point that applies to literally every nation on earth – every single one. Blaming the EU on free trade is ludicrous when free trade isn’t particularly popular anywhere.

            How is anyone worse off in the EU if they have their UK movement restricted versus having them fully out (and thus movement restricted)? It’s true that the UK is presumably worse off if there are economically good reasons for that movement, but the EU cutting off British people in retaliation only makes things worse for the EU.

            Again, this is how things seem to work in general. If you’re an open borders advocate, fine, but the EU is no egregious offender in not allowing free movement.

            Safety standards may be justifiable depending on the alleged benefit of the regulation, but the UK refusing to implement them wouldn’t harm the EU per se, it would just be UK citizens getting more dangerous goods, and EU citizens having extra options of more-dangerous (but presumably desirable for other reasons) goods. Safety standards are a common WTO complaint anyway as they are often disguises for protectionism. They may be justifiable, but they are still not free trade.

            See my first point: people aren’t all economists and this is true across the planet earth.

            How is the EU worse off if the UK piggy-backs on EU trade deals? Those deals would be better for the EU even if nobody else agreed to them. If the UK wants to adopt the same agreements it could literally photocopy the language. If the EU wants to lower its barriers in that context, then it shouldn’t matter who else is copying them; the more the merrier.

            Ana’s point is extremely valid: if the EU makes an agreement with Kazakhstan or Namibia, those countries make their agreement with the EU rather than any hangers-on.

            This doesn’t even get into the issue where the UK would be free riding on other people to do the negotiating and deliberating for them, which I find miserly as well.

          • hls2003 says:

            @ana53294:

            If people are not allowed to go to that rich country, they will be worse off than if the trade did not happen in the first place.

            I am not an economist, but this is contrary to what I thought was the standard economic thinking on this point. Capital will only flow to the rich country in exchange for something else valuable flowing the other direction. That something may be goods, services, returns on investment, etc. That “something back” should benefit the non-rich country more than not having the trade in the first place.

            You are forgetting the part where there is another, third country that signed the deal with the EU, and hasn’t signed one with the UK.

            I’m not forgetting it. I’m not saying the UK could necessarily get all the same deals as the EU. But it isn’t a harm to the EU if they don’t – it is a harm to the UK. Moreover, what I’m talking about is primarily how trade will happen between the UK and the EU. The EU is essentially refusing to negotiate favorable trade terms on that front without all the bells and whistles. Which I think they have reason to do, but I don’t think it’s an economic reason.

            @DeWitt:

            For what it’s worth, while I’m aware of the basic economics in favor of free trade, I am not 100% convinced that there’s no place for protectionism in certain circumstances. But I’m stipulating for the sake of argument that the standard free-trade economic model – which seems like the primary raison d’etre of the EU itself and Britain’s membership therein – is generally right. I’m not arguing the EU doesn’t have reasons to do what it’s doing, or is a particularly “egregious offender” worldwide although I do think there’s somewhat more hypocrisy in an organization founded as a free-trade bloc using protectionism as a threatened weapon against its own members. If free trade is so good that nobody can be allowed to leave, it seems weird to punish leaving by restricting free trade. But more specifically, I’m asking whether there is a constituency within the EU that believes/understands that, if they make it harder for EU-UK trade to continue on full footing after Brexit, they are likely to be making themselves poorer as well as Britain. I don’t recall that I’ve heard that position coming from the Continent, so I don’t know if that’s because the EU bureaucracy controls the megaphone, or if they simply don’t grasp it, or something else. I mean, if at some point Britain is gone, and British sausages can’t be sold in Germany, or Spaniards can’t access the UK’s financial services sector as easily, or there is more deadweight loss due to border inspections, or whatever, both sides of those transactions are losing. All I ever hear is how the UK will take an economic dive; I haven’t heard much about how Europe (a very large trading partner) will also take an economic hit if they don’t continue to allow the UK pretty much unfettered free trade access to the European market. That’s Europeans not getting the sausages, the services, the frictional savings. If you take the EU’s founding pro-free trade stance at face value, I’m wondering if nobody thinks it’s true, or if there are some Europeans who will soon be missing their sausages who are grumbling that the EU won’t just agree to let the UK sell what they want, whether in or out.

            Of course, not being European or British, I don’t have much personal emotional stake in any of it. Presumably others do. So your last point seems the most salient; punishing defectors (even at the expense of one’s own economy) seems like one of the better arguments for protectionism. But that’s just my earlier point that the EU appears to be considering this as an iterated game and mostly interested in the second-order political effects, not purely as an economic matter.

          • DeWitt says:

            which seems like the primary raison d’etre of the EU itself and Britain’s membership therein

            Well, it isn’t really. Trying to seek unity in Europe was the goal much more than free trade was, which was much more salient a point when WW2 wasn’t so long ago.

            If free trade is so good that nobody can be allowed to leave,

            They are allowed to leave! They’ve always been allowed to leave! They’ve never not been allowed to leave! It’s taking the Brits three years, possibly more, and it’s squarely on themselves for being terrible at actually making it happen.

            But then, while doing so, and while having their own Leave-side politicians continuously stating how they’ll keep X and Y and do away with all others, don’t blame the EU for not in fact letting the Brits keep the EU’s advantages while taking their hands off what they like to call downsides, many of which finance the actual system in place. On a scale of civil war to friendly goodbye, the EU’s response has leaned far, far, far more towards the latter.

          • albatross11 says:

            This feels like an instance of Arrow’s theorem, or maybe the broader insight into group decisions of which Arrow’s theorem is a special case. There is no reason at all to expect a political process or an electorate to have internally consistent desires/goals. It is entirely possible to have a majority of people want Brexit in the abstract and also to have no majority who want any actual attainable option for Brexit. Groups aren’t individuals.

          • hls2003 says:

            @DeWitt:

            They are allowed to leave! They’ve always been allowed to leave! They’ve never not been allowed to leave! It’s taking the Brits three years, possibly more, and it’s squarely on themselves for being terrible at actually making it happen.

            This is a very fair point, and I apologize for over-speaking in making a point. Yes, Article 50 exit is being permitted, and from my remote perch I very much agree with your assessment on the Brits being terrible at doing it. I would expect at least in part that is because most of the legislators never actually wanted it.

            On a scale of civil war to friendly goodbye, the EU’s response has leaned far, far, far more towards the latter.

            I know there are a lot of complicated rules and systems in place, and I know (approximately) zero of them, so I’m not equipped to say one way or the other how many of them were crucial. But from media reports, I thought that the EU stance was that the “four freedoms” were permanently inseparable, and they would not negotiate on that point at all. I’m sure there were more detailed and technical points than that at stake, which I don’t know about. But from an economic stance, I guess I thought a more “friendly” approach to Brexit on the EU side would have been to allow the UK to retain free movement of goods and capital while restricting services and labor somewhat. That would presumably have kept most of the economic trade going. But as you and ana have pointed out, that may founder on the rock of EU regulations. Plus it seems that the UK Parliament can’t agree on any of these anyway, so from the EU side I could see frustration with even bothering to negotiate when the other side can’t guarantee it’ll follow through.

          • ana53294 says:

            the EU stance was that the “four freedoms” were permanently inseparable, and they would not negotiate on that point at all.

            The EU chooses to stand on that principle for its own reasons.

            The same way the US bullies everybody they make deals with into accepting their quite extreme IP protection. The first thing that was dropped out of the TPP as soon as the US dropped out was the IP protection. Note that we are not talking about egregious IP breakers such as China. So why would the US ramming everybody by the force of its economy taking a principled stand on an issue that concerns its interests be more legitimate than the EU choosing to do so?

            Besides, free movement of goods and capitals is not something that exists between countries outside the EU. The EU is the exception, not the rule.

          • hls2003 says:

            @ana53294

            That’s exactly my issue, though. I get that the EU has its reasons. My question is whether anybody has said “Hey, sticking to our guns on this may also have an economic cost to our members if the UK bombs out hard.”

            I’m not saying the EU’s position is illegitimate. I’m saying that it appears to be based in interests other than pure economics. I’m wondering if any businessmen or consumers in the EU perceive or object that the EU’s principled stance might cost them something.

          • ana53294 says:

            Of course they do. German car manufacturers have been saying that there will be a high cost in disruption to their supply chains. At the same time, industry officials have said, more or less, that they would bear the sacrifices for the integrity of the EU.

            Businesses benefit hugely from the EU. Besides, the EU has allowed states to give industries harmed by Brexit subsidies or other help, something prohibited by the EU. So they know that their industries will get harmed; they are technocrats, not idiots. But at the same time, breaking the EU liberties would be more harmful to them, so they accept the small sacrifice so later they won’t lose more.

            The integrity of the EU is very, very important. It is important enough for businesses and governments to be ready to suffer short term losses to prevent future bigger losses.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Anna:

            So why would the US ramming everybody by the force of its economy taking a principled stand on an issue that concerns its interests be more legitimate than the EU choosing to do so?

            It’s not illegitimate for the EU to do so, it just doesn’t sit very well with the impression the EU likes to give of being a bunch of competent technocrats who are above the petty tribal loyalties of the masses. I mean, it was pretty obvious even before the referendum that much pro-EU sentiment is as much about tribalism as any pro-national sentiment is, but the party line, at least among British Europhiles, was that being part of the EU was just a matter of pragmatism and common sense, and that Eurosceptics were a bunch of small-minded bigots for putting national sentiment ahead of economic advancement.

          • DeWitt says:

            If you’re going to hold the EU being good rather than perfect against it I see no reason to object to your argument. Yeah.

          • ana53294 says:

            The EU may have been a bunch of technocrats back in the seventies, but it has stopped being so. There have been several people in different threads pointing out that the EU has gone more and more towards being more than a trade union.

            The EU has its own anthem. They have its own democratic institutions, and elections. They instituted common standards for Universities, and they try to promote a common European identity by having students go and study for a year in another EU country. As a side benefit, the Erasmus program increase the number of intra-EU mixing. I personally know couples who met during Erasmus exchanges. Tourism facilitation such as Interrail is used so young people can cheaply travel EU countries, meet other EU youth and feel European.

            I personally like it, although I know there are plenty of people who like it. But then a lot of Basques/Catalans feel more Basque/Catalan and European than Basque/Catalan and Spanish.

            To a lot of people, the EU is much more than a trade union. At least it is for me.

            I am not sure what the British Europhiles said during their campaign. I get the feeling they tried to make it about the practical issues and avoided talking about the European identity and other issues because the UK has consistently been very sceptical about this. The Remain campaign was a complete failure and they did not make a positive case for Remain.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Ana:

            Yes, which is why I said that it was obvious that the EU wasn’t really just a bunch of technocrats. Although I would point out that “being more than a trade union” and “being ruled by technocrats” aren’t at all mutually exclusive. Indeed, even trying to create a common European identity isn’t necessary exclusive, provided it’s being done for technocratic reasons (because you think the continent would be wealthier/easier to manage/whatever) rather than for nationalistic/idealistic ones.

          • ana53294 says:

            A bunch of technocrats who are trying to establish a common European identity to improve trade or whatever, acting on political motives to help build such identity by maintaining European ideals of diversity and the four freedoms is completely logical, though.

          • DeWitt says:

            Why do we keep pointing out over and over again that yes, indeed, truly, the EU is run by humans?

          • Murphy says:

            How is anyone worse off in the EU if they have their UK movement restricted versus having them fully out

            game theory. It’s like an itterated prisoners dilemma with multiple players. Even if the payoff matrix remains technically-positive even for where the other side defects… if every player gets to choose defect, get all the benefits with none of the costs… then very quickly you’ll end up with all defectors and no cooperators.

            You can deal with that by settling on a set of rules “everyone cooperate” and the one person who desperately wants to spend their time defecting in every transaction doesn’t get to whine “but the payoff matrix is teeeechically positive!!!”

            it’s not even a case of “setting an example” it’s just basic following of the set framework that keeps everything running.

            Safety standards

            You’re basically describing the EU abandoning all form of internal regulation to pander to the UK.

            piggy-backs

            the UK is perfectly free to go to each country and ask for the same trade deal. Mostly the other country isn’t interested because, surprise surprise, the uk has feck-all negotiating power compared to the EU. It’s like turning up for a job interview as an unemployed bum with an arts degree carrying a photocopy of a pay offer the company gave a top quality engineer and asking for the same terms.

            When i say piggy-backing I mean they wanted to just keep trading through the EU and keep all those agreements, for free.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Because the brexiter politicans promised their voters that they’d keep the brown people out.

          Eastern Europeans are brown now?

          • DeWitt says:

            Pakistanis and refugees as a collective sure are. Turns out they made many promises.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But how is that connected to EU freedom of movement? Germany gets to decide refugee policy for everyone by welcoming all the refugees in and then using freedom of movement as a backdoor to distribute them?

            To paraphrase an American aphorism, “no immigration without representation”: the UK is represented in Euro Parliament so it’s hypocritical to bitch about the Poles, but not in the Bundestag (or Italian, Greek, etc Parliaments) so complaining about being forced to take in someone else’s refugees isn’t unreasonable

          • DeWitt says:

            Ah, but EU freedom of movement isn’t guaranteed for non-citizens. There are quite a few countries that have instituted border controls, and the UK has always been one of those. If you’re part of the EU and happen to dislike the idea of non-EU citizens coming over a bunch, your country is entirely able and allowed to kick out whomever it sees fit.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Fair enough, immigration-without-representation retracted.

            But then we’re back to “what do brown people have to do with Brexit?”

          • ana53294 says:

            But then we’re back to “what do brown people have to do with Brexit?”

            Nothing, but then the whole Brexit campaign was based in blaming a lot of things the UK government was responsible for (immigration policy, austerity, the abandonment of the English North), on the EU.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I know quite a few Leavers, and none of them match your description. So, I’m going to suggest that you’re attacking a strawman here. As for why the UK’s Brexit policy seems incoherent, I’d lay the blame on the bright spark who decided that Parliamentary approval was necessary for any Brexit deal. Unfortunately there isn’t a majority in Parliament for any one particular deal, so you have all sorts of factions making contradictory demands and the PM desperately trying (and failing) to cobble together something that can get over the 50% line.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          They want UK citizens to have free movement in the EU… but they don’t want and dirty foreigners with freedom of movement to the UK. Because the brexiter politicans promised their voters that they’d keep the brown people out.

          It’s ironic that you’d use the phrase “keep the brown people out”, given that EU migration laws work to the benefit of pasty-skinned European immigrants and against brown-skinned Africans and Asians.

          Also, I’m sceptical as to how many Brexiteers actually want or expect free movement in the EU. From what I can tell, this is mostly the concern of young-ish liberal voters, who swung heavily pro-Remain.

          • Murphy says:

            You’d be surprised at the number of people with brexit slogans in their profiles on twitter throwing shocked and horrified hissy fits when they learned that they’d have to pay for visas for their EU holidays.

            The amusing ones are the ones confidently declaring that of course they won’t need to pay anything because “they need us more than we need them”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            You’d be surprised at the number of people with brexit slogans in their profiles on twitter throwing shocked and horrified hissy fits when they learned that they’d have to pay for visas for their EU holidays.

            So what, approximately, was this surprising number? A hundred? A thousand?

      • Aapje says:

        I know they are 85% to Britain’s 15%, but that’s still a lot of trade being restricted.

        If the EU leadership valued free trade that much, they would have granted the UK the right to permanently restrict migration from other EU nations.

        That’s not in the cards, because the EU leadership sees free movement of people within the EU as a core part of their ideal.

        • wk says:

          Well, free movement of people *is* a core part of how the internal common market of the EU works. It’s supposed to look much like, say, the internal market of the US. As far as the EU is concerned, asking for restrictions on free movement of people isn’t any different from asking for restrictions on goods or capital; the UK could just as well ask to be allowed to keep out German cars, or French wine, or whatever else it pleases. Restricting free movement is just not possible without fundamentally changing how the EU internal market is set up, and if you allow the UK to do that, you set a precedent and risk other countries asking for similar exceptions. Soon after there is no single internal market anymore, except maybe in name. So I don’t agree with your first line. The EU couldn’t just grant the UK a harmless exception in the name of keeping up free trade, if doing so arguably sets a process in motion that could lead to considerably less free trade all over the EU. It’s like cutting off an infected extremity – it’s not something you’re happy about, but you couldn’t just not do it without the infection spreading all over the rest of your body.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t see why free trade of goods has to be combined with free movement of people. It’s quite common for nations to agree on trade agreements that don’t include free movement of people.

            It’s supposed to look much like, say, the internal market of the US.

            Supposed by whom?

            The EU began as a mere trade union, but later there was a fundamental shift to increasingly try to make it into a federation, which is a rather drastic change. Yet the EU nations for the most part didn’t hold a referendum or do a procedure to change the constitution, to get strong legitimacy for this change.

            There also was never really the choice to stick with the old arrangement, so nations never got the choice to stick with what they had, but got forced into choosing between a Brexit-like scenario or going full steam ahead. Quite coercive.

            Furthermore, the move to a federation is and was implemented with salami tactics. Every new increase in federalization is sold as a necessary consequence of choices that were made in the past, yet people were not told these consequences at the time those choices were made.

            For example, apparently when we accepted the Euro, we accepted to make substantial transfer payments to Greece. Yet this downside was never mentioned when we got to make the choice for the Euro, instead we were being told that it had only upsides, in the form of not having to exchange money when traveling abroad and increased trade. Note that it’s pretty clear by now that the politicians themselves had different motivations for the Euro than what they told the citizens, so they knowingly lied.

            The history of the EU is a history of bait and switch.

            The EU couldn’t just grant the UK a harmless exception in the name of keeping up free trade, if doing so arguably sets a process in motion that could lead to considerably less free trade all over the EU.

            Why not? Shouldn’t it be a democratic choice whether citizens of member states want the benefits and costs of certain kinds of free trade or not?

            What is this “process […] that could lead to considerably less free trade all over the EU”? Other citizens also deciding that they prefer a different amount and/or kind of free trade? If neoliberals can’t (honestly) convince a majority of their citizens of a certain policy, then why should that policy be implemented?

            If the answer is that people are only allowed to choose more free trade, not less, then what sovereignty do citizens have?

          • wk says:

            I’m not arguing that the Brits, or anybody else, don’t deserve a free choice in what kind of Europe they want to live in. They’re perfectly free to make their opinions heard, vote accordingly, work to influence or change the structure of the EU from the inside, or leave. I’m also not arguing that the current setup of the EU is optimal, or that the drive towards ever closer integration is the best way forward, that’s not my point at all. To a certain degree, I would be happier myself if the EU was scaled back to something like a free trade union. Not that I’m sure that’s the best way forward either.

            What I’m pointing out is that the Brits couldn’t ever realistically hope to obtain an exemption to the free movement of people the way they asked, because it’s fundamentally at odds with the conception of the EU as it exists *right now*. If something like this should have had any chance of being granted, it would have demanded an extensive and lenghty process of EU realignment, not just a quick deal between Cameron, Juncker and Merkel.

            Other citizens also deciding that they prefer a different amount and/or kind of free trade?

            That is one way it could go, yes. Maybe other countries would hold referenda. But it doesn’t have to be a Brexit-style citizen uprising. You could just as well envision another EU country demand trade restrictions of various kinds, which might well go beyond restricting the free movement of people. And it might not stop with trade. Once countries realize that something as fundamental as free movement is negotiable, every part of the EU setup is potentially at risk – “give us an exemption to this one policy I don’t like, or else…”. It is simply not reasonable to expect the EU to allow this process to start, even if there’s only a small chance of it happening.

            And btw, I do not believe that the idea of European integration beyond the level of a trade union is in any way a recent idea, or something that was suddenly or gradually forced onto the Brits. Churchill himself gave a speech proposing a “United States of Europe” and “a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship” for the people of Europe, back in 1946. That there would likely be further integration down the road should have and must have always been clear to the politicians, in the UK and elsewhere, at the very least, even if the average guy on the street didn’t know.

            If the answer is that people are only allowed to choose more free trade, not less, then what sovereignty do citizens have?

            But they *are* allowed to choose, are they not? Brexit was a choice. If the UK wants to leave, they can, end of this very month, no further questions asked, farewell to the crown. They also had the option to elect EU-sceptical politicians and parties and push for changes to the EU, maybe forming alliances with other countries, you know – the political process. And if they couldn’t find a majority to get their ideas passed, such is fucking life. I can’t get my government to do all the things I would like from it, either. And I can’t simply pack up and live on my own – the Brits can, as stated above. There is no space ship in orbit that points a giant laser at us here in Europe, demanding European Integration, or else. If the people here truly want the EU to change, all the tools are there, they just need to use them.

          • Murphy says:

            Yet the EU nations for the most part didn’t hold a referendum or do a procedure to change the constitution, to get strong legitimacy for this change.

            Each country has different rules as to what is required. For example Ireland requires referendums for any such treaty that would stand on equal footing with it’s own constitution. And Ireland did vote for all the EU changes.

            But it appears from your statements that you poo-poo every such vote or action of elected representatives as not being genuinely a free choice because not getting everything you want out of the deal for free regardless of your choice and anyone else not getting everything they want for free is, apparently in your view coercion thus invalidating all cooperation ever.

            The UK doesn’t have any such rules requiring referendums. In the UK parliament is top dog and referendums are typically advisory but parliament still takes referendums pretty seriously.

            If your local government isn’t giving you referendums you think you should get then the problem is with your local government, not the EU.

            The EU is a system that has to interface with 27 legacy systems of various types.

            Other citizens also deciding that they prefer a different amount and/or kind of free trade?

            That’s called losing your free trade as everyone erects their own little protectionist barriers on everything in an endless tit-for-tat.

            weren’t you just a few lines previously complaining talking about one thing while actually having totally different motivations being bad?

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            What I want is for citizens to be given a decent choice of what policies they want, including actually being told the relevant information to make an informed choice & to make a choice at the ‘right’ moment.

            Furthermore, I want people to be allowed to change their mind, learn from the past or whatever you want to call it. So no ratcheting mechanisms where choices are only allowed to be made in one direction.

            I reject all-or-nothing choices. People should be able to choose balanced solutions.

            I also want most of society to be included in the decision making and/or to be catered to with the policies that are made.

            All of these are lacking to a alarming extent when it comes to the EU.

            If your local government isn’t giving you referendums you think you should get then the problem is with your local government, not the EU.

            Unless the EU is coercing and lying to those politicians just like they clearly do to the citizens.

            Other citizens also deciding that they prefer a different amount and/or kind of free trade?

            That’s called losing your free trade as everyone erects their own little protectionist barriers on everything in an endless tit-for-tat.

            So not having maximally free trade means that you lose it all? Nonsense.

            Your claim is exactly the kind of extremism that the EU ‘sells.’ We are being told we have to maximize free trade, open borders, the size of the EU, etc or horrible things will happen.

            Then calling for moderation is called extremism! It’s surrealist.

          • ana53294 says:

            Furthermore, I want people to be allowed to change their mind, learn from the past or whatever you want to call it. So no ratcheting mechanisms where choices are only allowed to be made in one direction.

            I reject all-or-nothing choices. People should be able to choose balanced solutions.

            But that is not just an issue with the EU.

            In 1978, Spain voted for a Constitution. The alternative was clear: to live under a dictatorship.

            Many things were introduced into it, and it came as a package; the monarchy, the indivisibility, and other issues.

            And yes, people are not allowed to go back to revisit some of those choices. Because they are against the Constitution.

            Are you sure you can change things in your own country? In Spain, theoretically, you could get rid of the monarchy. But it would be a very complicated process. In the same way, the independence of Catalonia would have to be decided by the whole Spain.

            So everything works like this, not just the EU. And yes, some changes can only go in one direction, or there is no change at all (live under a dictatorship).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Unless the EU is coercing and lying to those politicians just like they clearly do to the citizens.

            Or indirectly bribing them with the prospect of cushy sinecures after they leave politics.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The EU is a system that has to interface with 27 legacy systems of various types.

            The EU is quite ready to overrule national governments when it wants to (cf. Italy, Factortame). That there are so few referenda on EU matters has nothing to do with scruples about maintaining the constitutional integrity of member states, and everything to do with the fact that the EU doesn’t like holding referenda.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            My understanding is that Spain has decentralized quite a bit after the new constitution was adopted, so I disagree with the parallel you draw.

            If the central Spanish government would be centralizing more and more & would be adding more and more (poor, corrupt, etc) autonomous regions, where the burden of accepting those goes to (part of society) of the older autonomous regions who are largely excluded from the political decision making (passively and actively), then it would be a parallel with the EU. But none of those things are happening.

            The Catalan people signed up for a more centralized state than they have now, when they voted for the constitution in a referendum (with 95% voting yes, so way more than 2/3rds of the people). They have been able to get things changed in their direction. Perhaps not as drastically as they want, but they seem to have their interests catered to quite a bit.

            So it’s not like they signed up for one thing and then got roped into something much more extensive, as happened to EU countries.

            As for your objection to the Spanish monarchy, as far as I can tell, the king doesn’t seem to be actually using the powers he formally has to create a specific executive or to veto laws. The criticisms he faces seem to be of him being a symbol of national unity, the informal power he has and his personal life (like hunting and such). So I’m not that impressed by the complaints, as the monarch doesn’t seem to have a substantial negative impact on the democracy/rights of the Spanish/Catalan/etc people.

          • Murphy says:

            I reject all-or-nothing choices. People should be able to choose balanced solutions.

            “I want a gmail account but I don’t want to agree to google’s terms of service! SO UNFAIR! there should be a ‘balanced’ option where I get exactly what I want from them but don’t have to agree to anything!”

            Nobody else is obligated to offer you every option you might like. If I’m offering to sell you a car or not sell you a car, your choice you don’t get to decide that you’d much prefer an option where you get the car but only pay me half because that would be “balanced” and much better for you.

            I get a say as well and I’m not obligated to offer you deals I don’t want to offer. You can refuse the deals I do offer if they’re not advantageous enough for you but you don’t get to accept them and then whinge that your acceptance wasn’t real acceptance because what you’d really have liked is a deal that wasn’t on offer that neither you nor I accepted.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “I want a gmail account but I don’t want to agree to google’s terms of service! SO UNFAIR! there should be a ‘balanced’ option where I get exactly what I want from them but don’t have to agree to anything!”

            That’s a strawman. Nobody’s denying that legislation or international diplomacy involves trade-offs, they’re merely saying that the benefits of being an EU member aren’t enough to outweigh the drawbacks. Nor, contrary to what you seem to think, is there anything unreasonable in seeking to renegotiate a contract you think is unbalanced.

            Nobody else is obligated to offer you every option you might like. If I’m offering to sell you a car or not sell you a car, your choice you don’t get to decide that you’d much prefer an option where you get the car but only pay me half because that would be “balanced” and much better for you.

            People try to negotiate down prices all the time. Whilst some deals are “take it or leave it”, many aren’t, and acting otherwise isn’t doing your argument any favours.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The Europeans have changed the terms under which you can get a gmail account, with GDPR. You don’t necessarily have a right to one, but forcing Google to change the terms of the deal isn’t impossible.

            (This is not necessarily an endorsement of GDPR.)

    • fion says:

      312-308 in favour of rejecting No Deal

      I don’t think this is quite right. Those were the votes on an amendment to a bill that strengthened the wording of that bill. The bill was something like “We oppose a no-deal Brexit on the 29th of March” and the amendment was “we oppose a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances”.

      So quite a few of those 308 were MPs who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, but didn’t want to rule it out in the long term. The fact that this amendment was successful (just) caused the government to whip its MPs to vote against its own motion because as amended it was too strong. Many refused to do so, and the amended bill opposing a no deal Brexit under any circumstances passed by 321 to 278 (and would have been a higher margin if the amendment hadn’t made it through).

      But as you say, the result of the vote today is the important one. If it fails, we will leave without a deal anyway, despite rejecting it yesterday. If it passes… things get complicated.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Well, if it passes the next question is whether the other member states unanimously approve an extension, no? The stated position of the EU is that they ought not to unless there is some clear path to ratification of a deal within that timeframe (spoiler: there isn’t). That said, in practice I expect the member states to all prefer to avoid an immediate no deal Brexit, but it certainly seems to me that this question is uncertain and underplayed in most media reporting.

        • fion says:

          if it passes the next question is whether the other member states unanimously approve an extension, no?

          Yes, but also, how big an extension does Theresa May request? Does anybody (who isn’t already doing so) start calling for her resignation so an alternative deal can be negotiated? Do the second-referendum-crowd get their way?

          Of course, none of that matters if, as you say, the EU decides not to grant us an extension. We can unilaterally revoke article 50, though. I can’t imagine it being politically possible, but stranger things have happened recently and repeatedly.

  35. Well... says:

    Along the lines of what robirahman said, I’m kinda interested in seeing another round of adversarial collaborations, period. And maybe if I have time and am a good fit for one, participating. What topics would y’all like to see?

    • J Mann says:

      I’ve offered to do “Resolved: The Case Set Out For US and British Intervention in Libya Was Not Factually Supported Based on Either Information Known at the Time or Currently” (with a foray into France if my partner is competent at speaking French and understanding French politics), but I haven’t found a partner.

    • TracingWoodgrains says:

      I’m considering jumping in the ring again if another adversarial collaboration contest takes place, with one of two topics:

      1. “Resolved: If conservatives really cared about abortion, they would focus on sex education and contraception” (I would argue against),

      or

      2. “Resolved: Critical periods for learning exist across a wide range of fields, and a lack of serious training between ages 3-9 results in permanent limitations on skill” (I would argue for, but would mostly be interested in diving into the research and properly understanding the role of childhood learning. Unschooling versus direct, structured education would be a major focus in this one).

      A few more half-formed topics are kicking around my head, but these two are the ones I’m most serious about and interested in at present.

      • albatross11 says:

        #2 seems like a literature review–which would be interesting to me, and on SSC there are probably people with the right background to cry foul if it’s badly done, so it seems like it might be a win.

        #1 seems like it would be hard to argue in any objective way. What would evidence for/against look like? I mean, you might be able to make the argument that making contraception easy to get would be *more effective* at decreasing the number of abortions than campaigning for banning them, but that doesn’t really get at motivations–plenty of people ineffectually try to solve some problem they sincerely want to solve, after all.

        • TracingWoodgrains says:

          That was my attempt to describe #1 in a concise, pithy way. More precisely, what I would be arguing is that conservative policies consistently do more to reduce abortion rates than liberal ones, and that this point is typically obscured in conversations around the topic to the point where I would be surprised to find many online commentators intuitively aware that (for example) the 20 US states with the lowest abortion rates are all conservative ones. Basically, arguing that whatever one thinks of their aims, conservative cultures are generally succeeding in the specific aim of reducing abortion, and (at least in the cases of the lowest-abortion areas–Utah and Idaho) doing so while maintaining unusually low single and teen birthrates.

          • rlms says:

            the 20 US states with the lowest abortion rates are all conservative ones

            I wouldn’t find that particularly surprising (“culture and laws opposed to abortion reduce abortion” is not very counter-intuitive) but it’s not quite true. But more importantly (since the lowest 17 or so are conservative)

            conservative cultures are generally succeeding in the specific aim of reducing abortion, and (at least in the cases of the lowest-abortion areas–Utah and Idaho) doing so while maintaining unusually low single and teen birthrates

            is technically true with the caveat but distinctly not so outside of that. I count 19 of the 20 highest states by teen birthrate as conservative, and the exception (D.C.) was one of the non-conservative low-abortion states.

          • TracingWoodgrains says:

            Hazards of going by memory. I had this chart in mind, which illustrates things more dramatically and accurately. Should have waited until I had time to grab it before responding.

            As for the rest, that’s one reason this topic has caught my attention. I started out focusing on Utah specifically and a much wider range of measures than just