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Open Thread 123.5

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770 Responses to Open Thread 123.5

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Interesting, but it depends pretty strongly on the proposition that a non-trivial fraction of potential 737 passengers will choose to drive instead. If the 737 is used only for long-haul flights though, then I’m not sure the reasoning stands. My parents had a cancelled Air Canada flight because of the grounding…for a trip from Hawai’i to Vancouver. I suspect 0% of the passengers decided to drive instead. In order to buy the argument above, we should know what the average distance of a 737 MAX 8 route is.

      • J Mann says:

        It’s enough for there to be ripple effects – that the 737s’ routes are partially covered by planes that otherwise would have flown shorter routes, and so on.

        I don’t think the plan is that routes served by 737s will just not run until they are allowed back in the air or replaced – I assume there’s a general reduction in available routes and increase in prices all through the system.

        (P.s. – Somehow, you and I have disagreed a whole bunch of times recently. I hope you don’t find that unpleasant, and would like to say that you’re an interesting thinker and that you’re helping me spot some of my preconceptions and challege them!

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Of course, but the order of magnitude can plausibly change as we look at the side-effects. His number of 10% of people bumped from short haul flights is pretty important to the analysis, but if short haul flights constitute a small enough minority of flights from which people are bumped, then the analysis fails.

          Thanks for the kind words! I don’t even know that we’ve disagreed that much recently, but probably that’s because you’ve been polite and thoughtful enough in your disagreements that I didn’t notice. So, no, I haven’t found our interactions unpleasant; I thought the article you posted at the top of the thread was genuinely interesting, and think you make good and thought-provoking points elsewhere in these comments.

    • Aapje says:

      My understanding is that there are a huge number of older aircraft in storage, so the more likely outcome is that such aircraft are reactivated. This would then mean more pollution and less pleasant flying experiences, not mass cancellation of flights.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        There are *some*, not a “huge number”.

        Airlines keep a very few aircraft in “hot standby”, to specifically swap in when some other aircraft has an unplanned maintenance event. One of the reasons that airlines join alliances is so they can share their hot spares. It’s odd but not impossible to see an aircraft painted in Star Alliance livery. I’ve flown on one.

        An airline is such a narrow margin business that no way are they going to keep a huge capital good like a working aircraft not working for it’s keep. An airline will keep an aircraft working until it’s maintenance or fuel costs make it non-profitable, and then they will either sell it to a lower tier airline, or they will scrap it. The only exceptions are a military, or a gold-plated nationalized flag carrier.

        And even if one was to suppose that there were workable aircraft in warehouse storage, they would not be in a condition for someone to merely fill the tanks and press the start button. It would take months to be made ready to fly, and doing so would consume the attention of a lot of certified mechanics and of certified inspectors and of the people who issue those certifications, and all those people are already fully employed.

  1. rlms says:

    From a Bryan Caplan article:

    Most of the salary payoff for college comes from crossing the graduation finish line. Suppose you drop out after a year. You’ll receive a salary bump compared with someone who’s attended no college, but it won’t be anywhere near 25 percent of the salary premium you’d get for a four-year degree. Similarly, the premium for sophomore year is nowhere near 50 percent of the return on a bachelor’s degree, and the premium for junior year is nowhere near 75 percent of that return. Indeed, in the average study, senior year of college brings more than twice the pay increase of freshman, sophomore, and junior years combined. Unless colleges delay job training until the very end, signaling is practically the only explanation.

    Certainly this shows one of the purposes of a degree is signalling. But I don’t think it demonstrates that signalling is the only thing going on (i.e. that colleges don’t teach useful skills). I’d expect a similar pattern to occur for people doing vocational courses, because even if your expected value as an employee does get a boost from a year of learning skills it’s easy to imagine that gain being wiped out by evidence that you drop out of things (and also dropouts probably learn significantly less than the average student from the courses they drop out of). Thoughts?

    • woah77 says:

      I will say that for certain fields (electrical engineering for example) you have a cumulative effect that isn’t just additive but multiplicative. You can assume that your freshman knew nothing about electronics before college. Their first year they break into the advanced math and super basic theory. But that theory isn’t something that an employer couldn’t teach a highschool grad in less time. Their second year they build up more advanced math and start learning the theory behind digital logic and how various elements of electronics build on each other. Still, nothing an employer can’t teach, but it’s getting harder. A veteran who worked on electronics easily has this knowledge.

      Entering your junior year you’re getting into the math that actually lies under most of the equations you’ve been using the past two years. You get the skills to draw associations between seemingly unrelated concepts, but only at the most basic of levels. This is something an employer is unlikely to be willing to train an employee on, but could foster those skills in experienced employees.

      Finally in your senior year you do major projects, tie together everything and start to see how the math all ties together in a way where you can see what’s happening at a glance. This is part of what employers are paying for. They want someone they can hand tasks and documents to and you can figure out what’s going on. It’s a nonlinear education though. You can’t teach someone to make those connections when they’re freshmen because they don’t know enough to even parse those connections.

      Obviously, when you have a veteran who worked on electronics going through a college EE program, they start with most of the first two years electrical knowledge and are mostly there for the math and the last two years of higher connections, but we can safely say that most college freshmen are recent high school graduates who possibly have never looked at how circuits work before. What such a person knows after one or two years is a fractions much smaller than 1/4 or 1/2 what the graduating senior knows.

      All this being said, I do not believe this applies equally to all fields, and your conclusion of degrees as signalling probably does apply to many fields.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is definitely true of religious studies, which is what I did in university. 300- and 400-level courses (or whatever the local equivalent are) are where a lot of the real meat is, and 100- and 200- level courses are spent getting the students to the point they can handle that stuff.

        • Randy M says:

          Or getting rid of students who can’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Perhaps. I don’t know that I would have been able to handle 300/400 level classes without the stuff from the 200 level courses (I probably could have skipped the 100 level stuff).

          • Nick says:

            Some 101 classes are hard in order to weed out prospective majors who might not be able to handle the real meat. Others are easy, primarily in my experience because non-majors take them for core curriculum requirements. You can have a 101 class do one or the other of these jobs but not both; some universities, I think, just split things into classes for prospective majors and classes for non-majors.

            ETA: Dumbing down 101 classes so non-majors can’t fail them is a pernicious consequence of core curricula, which is unfortunate because in theory I support core curricula. I like that my university wanted me taking theology and philosophy and science courses and that these courses are not prohibitively difficult to get into for non-majors. But I definitely got burned by it multiple times, most notoriously with the utterly inflexible Philosophy 101 requirement.

          • woah77 says:

            This is the core of my argument. You need the basic stuff, but the value comes from the advanced stuff. And most of that couldn’t be taught by an employer (or would be cost prohibitive to do so). Sure there are really hard beginner classes, but they don’t have more value to a prospective employer than easier ones because the meat that is valuable is still contained at the higher levels.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression is that one of the reasons that everyone gets pushed to take 100 level courses in lots of subjects is because that’s the way those subjects’ departments might recruit new students. You take an intro economics or geology or psychology class, and it appeals to you enough that you take a few more, and soon you’re majoring in it.

          • Matt says:

            My first year of undergrad I looked at the 101 level history class syllabi and came to the conclusion that it was just a repeat of what I had learned in high school. I went to a couple of professors to try to get permission to fulfill this requirement with a higher level history class where the material would be new and interesting to me. Permission denied. I sleepwalked through the 101 level class, got my A, and focused my effort on my engineering classes.

            I felt like I learned nothing in that class, which was not true of some of my other general basic classes, like psych or philosophy, which were mostly new and interesting. English lit at least had new literature. English comp was probably only useful as ‘more practice’

    • Randy M says:

      But I don’t think it demonstrates that signalling is the only thing going on

      I think signalling is much of what is going on, but agree with you that that is not the only valid interpretation of this evidence.
      Consider driving a car. Break it up into, say, four lessons. Teach someone three. Are they three-quarters qualified for a trucking position? No, they’re probably completely unqualified for such. And while it may be the case that their partial schooling is evidence that they will require less training than someone with zero training, it could also be the case that they are tempermentally unsuited for the profession, if the reason they quit was because the final lessons were too hard for them.

      Also, employers will expect a certain minimum competency from someone with a diploma. From someone without, they really need to consider them on the same level as someone with no higher ed, which is certainly a variable amount but it is an uncertainty they will have to find other ways of determining. (Which they probably already should, mind, given the range in college graduation requirements and varied standards, etc. But in the ideal case, which such statistics probably build from, a degree means something.)

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      Keep in mind that a person who doesn’t get a degree has failed on some level. At that point, especially looking at a resume without much detail, it’s impossible to say where and why the failure happened, but it definitely happened. The safest thing to do in that case is assume that they failed on a fundamental level – couldn’t do the required coursework. Failing your classes is not just a lack of signal, it’s a very big signal in an opposite direction. That’s worse than someone who never went to college.

      A less fundamental failure, such as running out of money, instability in life preventing continued classes, etc., is less severe, but still negative signals. The diploma, despite offering nothing beyond what a fourth-year student should already have, is a type of guarantee that “This student actually completed their coursework to a satisfactory level.” How much value that guarantee has seems directly linked to the institution’s reputation. A smaller negative signal can be offset by the positive signals of getting into college and completing various levels of coursework – hence a small increase for each completed year.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        Would you predict, then, that the salary premium effect exists only in the case of drop-outs? In other words, suppose that a person is still enrolled in college, and has completed 2 years of it. Do you think that they are going to have a substantially higher salary premium than someone who completed 2 years and then stopped attending?

        The safest thing to do in that case is assume that they failed on a fundamental level – couldn’t do the required coursework

        But they could still post a GPA though right? I mean you don’t have to just rely on assumption. You can look at the GPA and tell whether someone “flunked out” or not.

        • Mr. Doolittle says:

          Would you predict, then, that the salary premium effect exists only in the case of drop-outs? In other words, suppose that a person is still enrolled in college, and has completed 2 years of it. Do you think that they are going to have a substantially higher salary premium than someone who completed 2 years and then stopped attending?

          Not necessarily, but for different reasons. 2-year students who plan to graduate tend to value their long term prospects and recognize that if they did leave the program, their value (outside of the immediate offer) may be affected. They don’t have the negative signal right then, but immediately after and for every other potential employer, they are back to negative signal. Two years into a program they probably have a lot of gen ed classes and not too many in their field, so the actual premium they could command (based on their knowledge of a valuable field) may be quite small. A fourth year student has very little time left and the opportunity cost of finishing the program is small enough that it makes far more sense to finish and complete the degree anyway (even though they very well might get offered a similar amount right at that moment). So when a good student who could graduate is thinking about working, they tend to fall into two categories – 1) furtherance of their degree (most typically an internship where experience is valued more highly than the cash compensation), or 2) an exceptional opportunity that outweighs the future signal issues.

          #1 is quite common, but doesn’t reflect someone leaving college. #2 has some prominent examples, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. There are many people who do go this route. I know several who didn’t complete college but got into computer programming and did just fine. Lower demand fields have worse results.

          But they could still post a GPA though right? I mean you don’t have to just rely on assumption. You can look at the GPA and tell whether someone “flunked out” or not.

          Yes. The complication is explaining it to a potential future employer. Most employers who want a degree-holder will discard applications with “finished 1/2 of a degree” even beyond the GPA. Knowing that someone can plan ahead enough to complete something they started, that their lives are stable enough to not suddenly make major life changes, etc., are all still important considerations. If they can explain their situation and they completed enough of the degree to have gained actual knowledge (typically 3rd or 4th year), then employers will modulate their expectations. If an employer has a stack of resumes to look through, that’s very unlikely to happen.

    • CatCube says:

      I admit to being puzzled by how people in many fields think their coursework was totally useless. I have some classes that I didn’t use again (civil engineering has a bunch of subfields that you’re required to take classes in even if you don’t go into it–e.g., I had to take intro classes to hydraulics/open channel flow*, and environmental engineering), but for my emphasis area I have all of the textbooks that I used literally sitting a few feet from me at my desk in the office. I actually borrowed a later edition of a steel design text from a coworker that he used in his college classes a few days ago and I’m considering ordering my own copy from Amazon.

      * Open channel flow was absolutely fascinating and I’m glad I took the course, but I don’t actually use the details day to day–I had a lot of other stuff like that. Traffic engineering was really interesting and I took another one to fill in some credit hours I needed, but I guess it’s technically “useless” from a “using it at work” perspective.

    • Viliam says:

      Certainly this shows one of the purposes of a degree is signalling. But I don’t think it demonstrates that signalling is the only thing going on (i.e. that colleges don’t teach useful skills).

      I think this is exactly what Caplan is trying to say. Signaling is not the only thing going on… but it is the majority of the effect. (In his book he estimates the signaling to be about 80%, and the useful skills about 20% of the income increase.)

      • rlms says:

        but it is the majority of the effect

        I’m disputing that he has shown this. Even if we had magic colleges that taught extremely useful literal magic I claim you would still expect the stated effect on income with respect to numbers of years of college.

    • 10240 says:

      A degree proves that you passed all the exams required to get that degree. Having attended university for 2 years doesn’t prove that you learned anything while there.

      (C.f. when you buy a bus ticket, you give the transport company money, and you get a ticket that signals that you did so. If you throw the ticket away and then take the bus, the ticket inspector will fine you. That doesn’t mean that the only purpose of purchasing a ticket is signaling: its purpose is to give the transport company revenue in exchange for the bus ride, but you need to be able to show the inspector the ticket in order to prove it.)

      You could try to show proof of the various courses you’ve passed, but an employer probably won’t bother to figure out what knowledge all the different courses from various different universities translate to, and whether the courses you’ve taken cover everything the employer needs.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    This (10 minute podcast about the price of coffee to growers going down while the price of coffee drinks is going up) inspired a question.

    What are the economic effects when customers generally want novelty? It seems to me that this will raise prices because producers have less ability to plan and optimize. For that matter there are hard to define costs for customers because they have less ability to optimize. Are there other interesting effects?

    • J Mann says:

      What are the economic effects when customers generally want novelty?

      Here’s my wild guess:

      1) At an initial level, producers will invest more in producing novelty. Imagine a t-shirt maker who does limited runs of various designs instead of making the same design for years, or a restaurant that makes at least some changes to its menu every few weeks so curious foodies can try something new. (Conversely, imagine a movie studio that just shows the same movies every week for five years). Consumers value these limited runs more than they value the same old stuff, so it works out.

      2) If we assume that the novelty doesn’t increase demand, then it does seem like it’s likely to raise prices and reduce quantity sold compared to an alternate universe where consumers valued novelty less, because most products have fixed start-up costs that they can spread over the number of products produced. The T-shift company, restaurant, and movie studio have to invest resources into making more new products than they otherwise would. On the other hand, if making new t-shirts, menu items, and movies results in increased demand, then things are a little less predictable.

    • AG says:

      I don’t think customers actually want that much novelty.

      Look at the potato chip industry. For years, they were churning out new flavors all of the time. But I’ve seen that retailers basically never stock those new flavors any more. Some of the slightly less popular but still regular flavors have even been dropped over time.
      I’m seeing a similar shift in fast food places. Rather than an endless string of new experimental burgers, they’re pulling back and simplifying their menus to the stalwart sellers, moving previous regulars to a seasonal schedule, and making promotions about temporary discounts, rather than new food offerings.

      So I expect that the coffee industry will continue to experiment right up until someone actually crunches the numbers and discovers that they don’t make much money off of that churn.

  3. BBA says:

    Today in the stock market, Fox spun off from Fox. Specifically, the Fox Corporation (ticker symbol FOX), owner of several television networks in the US, split from 21st Century Fox, Inc. (ticker symbol was FOX yesterday, today it was TFCF), which remains owner of 20th Century Fox film and television studios as well as several television networks in foreign countries (and FX/FXX in the US, for some reason that wasn’t an antitrust concern). In a few hours, Disney and 21st Century Fox will merge, so from tomorrow on there will once again be one Fox in the stox.

    But the eternal mystery remains, what does the fox say?

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie is a landmark Freedom of Speech and Assembly case, but did you know that the NSPA that SCOTUS ruled in favor of was founded by a Neo-Nazi who had to start his own political party because the National Socialist White People’s Party kicked him out for having a Jewish father, a Dachau survivor no less? And that two years after that landmark Supreme Court case, he was stripped of all position in the party he founded because he was convicted of being a child molester? And that in prison he renounced Nazism and became a theosophist/New Ager who went on to write books about Atlantis and its predecessors for a living?
    Per Wikipedia.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I didn’t, but that’s super interesting.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Wikipedia doesn’t go into a lot of details on his theosophy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he came by it through ariosophy and/or volkish neo-paganism.

      “New ager” and “neo-nazi” have a lot more overlap than you might naively expect. That’s not meant to slander new agers, just an observation that going from one to the other doesn’t necessarily involve a change in worldview.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “New ager” and “neo-nazi” have a lot more overlap than you might naively expect. That’s not meant to slander new agers, just an observation that going from one to the other doesn’t necessarily involve a change in worldview.

        Yeah, I know that. I included that detail on the word of anti-woo blogger Jason Colavito, who says Francis Joseph Collins renounced the antisemitic part of neo-paganism and has “Jews included among the white peoples who once ruled the Americas.”

      • DinoNerd says:

        “New ager” and “neo-nazi” have a lot more overlap than you might naively expect. That’s not meant to slander new agers, just an observation that going from one to the other doesn’t necessarily involve a change in worldview.

        Both seem to owe a lot to the Romantic movement. Discovering that (in the case of various flavours of racist, including neo-nazis), rather soured me on both neo-paganism and a whole artistic era.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Amazingly, I know of one other Jewish Nazi. Some people are just weird.

      • Well... says:

        One of my Jewish friends and I have a running joke about various reasons why it’s so common for Jews to become WNs, Nazis, etc.

      • Plumber says:

        @Eugene Dawn
        The links that led from that link…

        …oh man I thought some of the cul de sacs of the left were weird and insane, but those guys, man!

        More convinced now in either “horseshoe theory” and/or that the binary left/right divide is bogus – also that history and politics have made some strange bedfellows!

  5. johan_larson says:

    This is interesting: Kickstarter employees are trying to form a union.

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/19/18254995/kickstarter-unionizing-union-representation-inclusivity-transparency-tech-us-crowdfunding

    Usually, tech companies (meaning software/internet companies) aren’t unionized. Many of us (hi, Mark) are a bit too feral to put up with unions, and given the bottomless demand for our skills, we can usually just walk away from a bad situation. But some people don’t have quite so many options, notably foreigners on work visas and game developers, and some employers definitely take advantage.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson,
      Judging from the linked article Kickstarter isn’t fighting the organizing drive, or wants to appear that they aren’t to the press, but assuming it’s genuine – are they just that altruistic? 

      The building trades craft unions take on some of the burden of training and marketing along with the contractors – keeping in mind that together they’re in competition with non-union shops – who is Kickstarters competition? 

      • johan_larson says:

        There’s a bunch of alternatives to Kickstarter. Indiegogo is the one I’ve heard the most about, but Kickstarter is dominant enough that it’s becoming a verb, like Google.

        https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/091415/8-best-alternatives-kickstarter.asp

      • broblawsky says:

        Sometimes unions actually create competitive advantage – look at Germany.

        • Plumber says:

          @broblawsky

          “Sometimes unions actually create competitive advantage…”

          –  As a dues paying member of The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada Union Local #38 I like to think so.

          “…look at Germany”

          I read a fascinating book called Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? by Thomas Geoghegan that was mostly about how Germany does education and labor law differently, and while quickly changing whole cloth to their system may not work, it does look like there’s stuff to emulate. 

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I have mixed feelings about unions, but if the workers think it’s in their interests, then I encourage them to try. I will watch closely to see what happens.

  6. DinoNerd says:

    From a conversation between Eugene Dawn and albatross11:

    @albatross11

    My views about Hitler aren’t really changed by hearing that some new murderous nut had posters of him on his walls. The devil is beyond blackening. If you idolize Hitler, that tells me a lot about *you*, but not so much about *him*.

    You don’t learn anything new about Hitler because you’ve already priced in to your view of him how bad his ideas are; if your first encounter with Hitler as a historical figure is “that guy who all the racist murderers cite”, then you probably will pick up some useful things about him from that observation.

    Somehow, my mind runs immediately to some people’s experience with particular religions. An awful lot of people cite religious doctrine as reason for their awful behaviour. What does this tell us about the religions in question?

    • eyeballfrog says:

      That depends. How many people cite the religious doctrine as the reason for their good behavior? The problem with Hitler isn’t just that racist murderers cite him–it’s also that you never see charity workers saying “I was inspired to try to wipe out the scourge of malaria just like the Fuhrer wanted to wipe out the scourge of Jews.”

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s a pretty good heuristic – if everyone who cites someone as an inspiration behaves in a way you consider immoral, then the cited person also probably behaves immorally.

        • J Mann says:

          Once challenge is that to my knowledge, literally everyone currently in existence behaves in a way I consider immoral.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Maybe you have a bad standard for morality? Or maybe you should apply broblawsky’s idea to people whose behaviour crosses a certain threshold of immorality; even if you think everyone is behaving immorally, you presumably still consider mass shooters to be more immoral than the average person.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Everyone in human history except the One Incarnate Son of God has behaved in a way I consider immoral.

          • woah77 says:

            Then maybe morality isn’t a good metric for you to evaluate people with.

          • Nick says:

            Third time’s the charm: you’ve both forgotten Mary.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nick

            I am not Catholic and do not believe Mary was sinless.

          • Randy M says:

            I think the Immaculate Conception dogma is that Mary was without sin when Jesus was conceived… does that really extend for the rest of her natural life as well?

          • Nick says:

            @EchoChaos: Ah well. I suppose it doesn’t change your or J Mann’s point. 😀

            @Randy M: It is just that Mary was conceived without original sin, yeah. The doctrine that she was sinless was defined later.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Nick

            I think it’s the other way around; Mary was always believed to be sinless in life, but whether she was “conceived without sin” or “born without sin” was argued about until the 19th century.

          • J Mann says:

            @Eugene Dawn – I’ll definitely grant that if everyone who identifies subject X as an inspiration is a mass shooter, then there’s almost certainly something wrong with X. If it were possible for X to change her behavior and she doesn’t, then she’s exceptionally immoral. (On the other hand, if she became an inspiration posthumously, then maybe there’s some misunderstanding.

            Generally, I find that the concept of universal sin works pretty well for morality either religiously or secularly. People are frequently selfish, myopic, self-deceived, cruel, unjustifiable self-righteous, jealous, vengeful, dishonest, etc., some more than others. (They also have many positive qualities as well). Some people try harder than others to be good, and IMHO some people have the value of “good” targeted more accurately than others, but everyone falls short.

          • Tarpitz says:

            What if X is a novelist who wrote a book about a fictional mass shooter, which they intended to be a realistic depiction of the likely thought processes of such a person but by no means an endorsement of same, but who is repeatedly cited as an inspiration by subsequent real mass shooters? Or an actor who played such a character on-screen? In either case, suppose that none of their other work is widely known, and that no-one pays much attention to what they say on Twitter. Indeed, presumably as soon as it occurred to them that anyone might not realize they did not intend to endorse the depicted behaviour, they decried it. Such a person might be naive, but not I think exceptionally immoral.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            What if [highly contrived scenario]

            Obviously people should use their judgement, broblawsky pretty clearly states it as a heuristic, and there’s no reason to go hunting for weird loopholes to the general principle that if you’re a fan favourite of mass shooters and of no one else, then you’re probably a bad person.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Philosophical discussion is all highly contrived examples all the time, but this one is actually a stone’s throw from an issue I’m dealing with in relation to my work right now.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Tarpitz: care to elaborate?

          • John Schilling says:

            What if X is a novelist who wrote a book about a fictional mass shooter, which they intended to be a realistic depiction of the likely thought processes of such a person but by no means an endorsement of same, but who is repeatedly cited as an inspiration by subsequent real mass shooters?

            Then “X” is transparently Steven King, because the Richard Bachman pseudonym didn’t fool anyone for long. And the “what if” is that he withdraws the book from print and writes an apologetic essay blaming everything on the Evil Guns so that no one will blame it on him.

          • Tarpitz says:

            My employers want to remake a film based on a book which has been cited as inspiration for some thoroughly monstrous behaviour (but not mass shootings). The author is not Stephen King, though we are in fact entirely separately working on an adaptation of a “Richard Bachman” novel (not Rage). The intention is very much to hire a writer and director who will, to put it mildly, give a very different spin to the material than the original, but I still have some concerns.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        There are places on the internet where you can find neo-Nazis talking about being inspired to various forms of wholesome self-improvement and restraint, family life, etc.. (Preserving the white race, perpetuating tradition, etc.)

        • broblawsky says:

          I would consider advocacy of white nationalism and Nazi ideology to be in and of itself immoral.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Advocacy of either, or advocacy of both together?

          • broblawsky says:

            Either.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Interesting.

            I disagree that advocating white nationalism is immoral.

            Do you feel only white nationalism is immoral? Is black nationalism? Jewish nationalism? Polish nationalism?

          • Andrew Cady says:

            “White nationalism” as an abstract concept defined nominally is different from actually-existing self-proclaimed white nationalists on the internet, who definitely hate Jews a lot.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Andrew Cady

            Lots of white nationalists are also Nazis, which is why I asked the question.

          • dndnrsn says:

            How could what white nationalists want be accomplished without a great deal of violence and ethnic cleansing? White nationalism is by definition something that only exists where enough of the population isn’t (considered) white that it becomes a meaningful category.

            Let’s consider Polish nationalism. Poland is under 5% non-Poles today – but prior to WWII, almost a third of the country were minorities (=not Polish gentiles). What happened? The Germans came and killed 90% of the Polish Jews and most of the rest fled or left after the war – there were over 3 million before the war, and there’s fewer than 10k today. The other minorities were either driven out of Poland at the end of the war (eg, the German minority in Poland and most of the rest of Eastern Europe was driven into Germany, with considerable loss of life – for obvious reasons, there wasn’t much sympathy) or the borders were redrawn so they were no longer in Poland.

            Many European countries were more homogenous after WWII than before, and this only happened because of a horrible war, massive bloodshed, and ethnic cleansing, including genocide. It is hard to see how white nationalism in, say, the US could create a homogenous white state without considerable conflict, enormous suffering, a death toll in the millions or tens of millions, causing great harm to society and economy, etc.

            I’m sure white nationalists have plenty of explanations how it could be done without violence – but I don’t believe it is possible, and those explanations reflect either ignorance, foolishness, outright lying, or some combination.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m sure white nationalists have plenty of explanations how it could be done without violence – but I don’t believe it is possible, and those explanations reflect either ignorance, foolishness, outright lying, or some combination.

            I believe some white nationalists argue for creating a separate state/country for them and any whites who want to move in/minorities who want to move out would be free to do so. This probably involves some delusional thinking as not many partitions have gone over well in history.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That seems like it would either have the same problem – if this ethnostate is somewhere desirable and economically feasible, there’s probably already people there who would have to be kicked out for it to be a white ethnostate, which would necessitate considerable violence and so on – or a different problem – that if it’s somewhere sparsely populated enough that a bunch of white nationalists could move there and make it an ethnostate, it’s probably not economically feasible, which is why it’s a sparsely populated place already.

          • It is hard to see how white nationalism in, say, the US could create a homogenous white state without considerable conflict, enormous suffering, a death toll in the millions or tens of millions, causing great harm to society and economy, etc.

            It’s hard to see how it could be done within the framework of current U.S. law, but presumably some white nationalists believe that over time they can change that.

            Absent legal constraints, if a U.S. state that was already 80% white decided to push out the other 20%, either by literally expelling them or by making living in that state enough less attractive to them so most of them left, I don’t see why it would require a death toll in the millions, or even the thousands. Similarly for a non-EU small European country, or perhaps even an EU country willing to maintain the illusion of following EU rules while in practice heavily discriminating against the groups it wanted to push out.

          • EchoChaos says:

            How could what white nationalists want be accomplished without a great deal of violence and ethnic cleansing?

            Stopping the immigration of non-whites, for example, would require no violence. This was the national policy of the United States, Australia and others prior to the 60s and 70s, and I wouldn’t consider it immoral in the slightest.

            It’s clearly a white nationalist policy, wouldn’t you agree?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wouldn’t agree – either with those policies, or that those policies were white nationalist. Take European nationalism (pre-WWII, so as to capture the period where a lot of European countries had significant minorities from the countries around them) – it wasn’t about keeping Sylvanians out of Freedonia, it was about simultaneously expelling the Sylvanian minority in Freedonia and claiming areas of Sylvania that happened to be majority Freedonian.

            Go back to super-racist immigration policies and you’ve still got the African-American population in the US, in Canada, the US, Australia, NZ, you’ve got the population that was there before Europeans showed up (and surely they have a claim to the land as strong as any Pole to Poland?)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dndnrsn

            That is a pretty non-central definition of white nationalism, then. Are you defining it as “the creation of a pure 100% whites only ethnic state”?

            Because Jewish nationalism exists and is certainly the dominant ideology of Israel, but they aren’t talking about purging all Arabs and Druze from their state (that I know of).

            I would consider “only whites can immigrate” and “only Jews can immigrate” (I know Israeli law has small exceptions for non-Jews) to be roughly equivalent, and I would call them white nationalist and Jewish nationalist policies respectively.

            White nationalism, as I see it in the West, seems to be generally of equivalent scale and goal as Jewish nationalism in Israel. They want to be the dominant majority with the state specifically benefiting them, but not actively malicious to the minority.

            I consider both to be moral and acceptable.

          • albatross11 says:

            On the other hand, within a more libertarian society, it would be legally permissible to use contracts to build a more-or-less all Gentile white community if you wanted. It would similarly be legally permissible to use contracts to build a more-or-less all Jewish community, or all-black community, or all-Muslim community, or whatever you wanted.

            I don’t see that the existence of such communities would be any great threat to the well being of people who didn’t want to take part in them today, but if they became widespread, they’d probably magnify the kind of identity politics that IMO is pretty bad for the US.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect that, just as e.g. 1950s-era Zionist Israelis were mostly fine with their Jewish ethnostate having a 10-20% Arab Muslim population that didn’t make any waves w/re the essentially Jewish nature of Israel, most US or European white nationalists would be OK with a “white ethnostate” that is say 10% black, 5% hispanic, 5% miscellaneous, and all of those understanding that they can go along for the ride or they can vote with their feet but they aren’t changing the essentially white-ethno nature of the state. That’s obviously no longer possible in the 21st-century United States without atrocity-level Ethnic Cleansing, but there are probably still some European nations where it could be maintained by selective immigration restrictions if white nationalists actually achieved political power.

            Also note that with this standard, the most dangerous enemy of the white nationalist isn’t the black, hispanic, or miscellaneous minority, but their own non-nationalist white neighbors who may form a voting bloc large enough to ally with the minority and overturn the white-nationalist order.

          • Plumber says:

            On U.S. “ethnostates”: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and West Virginia are all over 90% white – so if you want to get away from non-whites there you go.
            If you want to get away from whites instead Hawaii is the place to go, unless you don’t consider “Hispanics” as white in which case Puerto Rico has the least percentage.
            Since I’m white and my wife isn’t and our sons are mixed I’d rather stay where mixed families are allowed, I’d also like for Christians, secular liberals (and whatever Unitarians are), and even libertarians to mix freely.
            No fans off “Nu-Metal” though, that’s a bridge too far!

          • DinoNerd says:

            @DavidFriedman mostly

            An instuctive example might be the Parti Quebecois – their goal isn’t racial, but linguistic (or perhaps ethnic). They want to get rid of everyone who doesn’t speak French, and they’ve been working on it since before I left the area in 1985. Officially they don’t care why you speak French, and a lot of French speaking immigrants to Canada have been encouraged to settle there. Lots of rules about what signs you can display, what languages you can use in the workplace, and what small number of children may be educated in languages other then French.

            Also some amount of repeated bureaucratic error making things difficult for those authorized to e.g. learn in English – the year I graduated from high school, some (ahem) “programming error” caused grades for high school exams taken in English (but not French) not to be available in time for many college’s application process. Later the paperwork allowing my sister’s children to attend school in English simply disappeared. (So she refiled it, possibly more than once.)

            While my family has entirely left that area – even my French-speaking cousins – there are still English speakers there. And it’s been at least 45 years (I graduated from high school in 1973).

            Note by the way that it’s much easier to ‘convert’ a wrong-language-speaker, or at least their children, so they have the option of keeping some of the people – not available to the would-be racial state.

            Looks like it might take actual pogroms to do the job – or centuries. Even when it’s only language.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @EchoChaos

            Unless the claim is that prior to immigration-system changes and attitudes towards racism in the middle of the 20th century, the US, Canada, etc were white nationalist states – I’m sure there’s people who believe this on both sides of the aisle, but they’re wrong – then it can’t be a noncentral definition of white nationalism. Nationalism tends to be about more than “preserve the status quo”

            I imagine that the Jewish nationalists in Israel would prefer that there not be a non-Jewish minority in Israel. There’s plenty of non-Jewish-nationalists in Israel; the extent to which Israel should be a state for Jews first and foremost is a matter of debate there, as well as for Jews outside of Israel. Further, non-Jews in the area don’t consider this to be a positive situation necessarily. Even then, comparing the two faces the significant detail that Israel is a nation-state for a people with a long history of persecution who had recently experienced a genocide, whereas white nationalist claims of persecution are vastly weaker.

            I don’t get the impression that white nationalists as they exist today would be benign to minorities, who at best would be second-class citizens. At best. My impression of white nationalism is that I certainly wouldn’t want to be black or Jewish in such a state; I wouldn’t even want to be me (a white person with a significantly unfavourable view of white nationalism) – as John Schilling points out, there are significant numbers of white people who wouldn’t be on board.

            As he also points out, we’re talking about now. The US is about as white as Poland was Polish in 1939. Poland is only 95%+ Polish today because of vast bloodshed and suffering; I fail to see how white nationalism in the US could be accomplished differently. Regardless of the abstract issue – something that would require huge numbers of corpses and vast ruin to accomplish is, I think, safely described as immoral.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dndnrsn

            Unless the claim is that prior to immigration-system changes and attitudes towards racism in the middle of the 20th century, the US, Canada, etc were white nationalist states

            That is my claim, yes.

            For example, Australia’s explicit policy until the 1970s was called “White Australia”

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

            And I don’t know how much you know about Israel, but Arabs ARE second-class citizens. They are not required to join the military and are legal to exclude from job hirings, etc.

            My impression of white nationalism is that I certainly wouldn’t want to be black or Jewish in such a state;

            Jews being the enemies of white nationalists is pretty much a Nazi invention. Jews were major supporters and allies of the Confederates, for example, including a Jewish Secretary of State. Blacks in America prior to the ’60s were certainly second class citizens, I won’t argue that.

            But America is currently almost exactly as white as Israel is Jewish. The similarity is pretty striking. I also find completely hogwash “they get to hold ideologies you don’t because of something that happened to their grandfathers”. Either nationalism is allowed or it isn’t.

            There is also a strong feeling among American white nationalists that America got turned from a vast majority white state (America in 1960 was about as white as China is Han Chinese) to a “diverse” state against the will of the people and stopping that trend is not immoral.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @EchoChaos

            1. If we define the US, Canada, Australia, and NZ as white nationalist nations prior to the middle 20th century… that was white nationalism accomplished on the basis of conquest, plunder, extermination, subjugation, slavery, etc in varying proportions. So it runs into my original point – which is that a white ethnostate would be produced through awful means (and the resulting ethnostate would likely be a complete mess due to the preceding civil war, not-on-board white people getting out, etc). Awful things done in the past are done, but at a minimum, we can keep from doing awful things at present.

            On the subject of whether they were white nationalist – I’d question the degree to which it was white nationalism, at least before a certain point. There are people who today are considered white who, once upon a time, were not – for example, in Canada, immigration policies were heavily discriminatory against people who today are not considered white but the British-Canadians also were not huge fans of immigrants of continental European stock, especially southern and eastern. The British-Canadians a hundred years ago would be upset at the % of white Canadians, but also at the makeup of white Canadians.

            I don’t think you can have white nationalism without a significant chunk of the population not being white – the population of the Confederacy was less white than the US is today; I would certainly call the Confederacy white nationalist. Without something to define white against, suddenly you have the question, what kind of white people?

            2. I am aware of the situation in Israel; I said that being second-class citizen is a best case scenario. So being like an Israeli Arab is a best case scenario. I think a lot of people who wouldn’t be first-class citizens in a white ethnostate would not be into the idea, and a lot of people who would be first-class citizens wouldn’t like the idea of reducing others to second-class citizens either. White nationalists are, after all, a small minimum of white people.

            3. Not an invention of the Nazis (who weren’t white nationalists – they were Germanic nationalists); European nationalists in general tended and tend to be hostile to Jews. White nationalists now tend to be hostile to Jews.

            4. There’s many, many places in the world where white people are a majority while at the creation of Israel there was nowhere Jews were a majority. Jewish nationalism appears to have been necessary to create such a place – the Jewish autonomous oblast didn’t exactly take off. At the point Israel was created, it wasn’t something bad that happened to their grandfathers – it was something that had happened to them.

            And, today, the people who are most hostile to white nationalism and Polish nationalism tend also to be fairly hostile to Jewish nationalism. So if there’s a double standard, it isn’t evenly applied, if that makes any sense: disapproval of white nationalism probably tracks with opposition to Israel as a Jewish state.

            5. Sure, white nationalists think that. But is it accurate?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dndnrsn

            1. White nationalism is a relic of the mid-century immigration waves to those countries. Prior to then it was just “American nationalism”/”Canadian nationalism”/etc.

            As for building their countries by conquest, that’s how countries get built. That offends me no more than does the fact that England is majority Anglo-Saxon because of massive violence against native Britons or that Japan is majority Japanese because of horrific violence against the Ainu. Conflating that with the later things made to keep the demography at current levels, which is what the White Australia policy did, is disingenuous to the extreme.

            2. Sure, and you can be against that. I just don’t believe that having second class citizens is de facto immoral. It’s a very modern idea that every national is a citizen, let alone that all citizens are equal.

            3. Fair, and I do agree with that point on the Nazis. I’m mostly speaking of American/Australian/Canadian white nationalism, which is the only place that real “white” nationalism as opposed to the nationalism of a people who happen to be white (e.g. Poles).

            4. And America was one of them. Wanting to keep it that way is not immoral in any way, shape or form. There is only one country in the world where American whites are the majority. As an American white, I want to keep that the case.

            5. Given that the politicians who passed the 1965 immigration act that changed our immigration from guaranteeing the white percentage of the United States blatantly and knowingly lied about it in order to pass it, I would say yes. You are welcome to disagree with me.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Sure, and you can be against that. I just don’t believe that having second class citizens is de facto immoral. It’s a very modern idea that every national is a citizen, let alone that all citizens are equal.

            Earlier in the thread you suggested that “repress[ing] any substantial portion of the populace” ought to count as a crime counting against a regime’s record; this point of view seems difficult to impossible to reconcile with the view I’ve quoted above: the very fact of second-class citizenship seems to me repressive, much less the policies that will likely be required to maintain this state of affairs, much less the injustices that the second-class tier of citizens are likely to face as a result of their lack of political power.

            What’s more, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and any number of other freedoms whose denial we tend to count against the regimes we’ve been discussing are also modern inventions; so too are many of the legal protections that prevent the state from doing what it wants with your person and your property–the standard you introduce, if applied universally, should affect your judgment of almost all the regimes that you personally consider immoral. You can’t defend white nationalism by pointing out that the reasons we consider it immoral are innovations without opening the door to a communist pointing out that the same is true of penal labour and penal transportation for opponents of the regime.

            This is up to dndnrsn and you, but I suspect that if you can’t agree that maintaining a separate caste of citizens with fewer rights counts as repression, enables other abuses, and is therefore immoral, there’s not much point in continuing your discussion: the gap in your intuitions and moral foundations is probably not bridgeable.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            That certainly depends on what rights second class citizens have. Are United States permanent residents oppressed?

            I would say they aren’t at all, given how many people want that status, but they can’t vote, are restricted in occupation, etc. They clearly have a second-class status to American citizens, but are not repressed.

            Are Israeli Arabs oppressed? They are the example of second class citizens we are using here, can vote and are represented in the Israeli Parliament, where they are moderately politically powerful.

            Were American blacks repressed prior to 1964? Certainly there were civil and legal restrictions on their abilities, but nobody in that thread was pointing at the United States as “repressing” tens of millions of people.

            I think most white nationalists (myself included) would want non-white American citizens to have rights somewhere between the level of 1950s American blacks and 2019 Israeli Arabs. I would personally be closer to the upper (Israeli Arab) level there, but I don’t find advocates for any of those positions immoral.

            And I will point out the humor of the fact that American whites have more restrictions on their freedom of association than American blacks did in 1950. I cannot think of any restrictions on the freedom of speech or of religion of blacks in 1950 that didn’t equally apply to whites.

            There is no question that there is a line at which something becomes repressive and everyone has a different place to put that line. “Taxation is theft” libertarians believe that taking even a cent of their personal property is repressive, and that the United States is repressive currently. I think that’s too far. Allowing the literal enslavement of second class residents like Saudi Arabia and the UAE do is definitely too repressive.

            If the treatment of Israeli Arabs is too repressive to you and you consider Israel to be a regime that oppresses 20% of its population, you certainly can, but that would be unusually on the libertarian side of what “repressive” means.

          • rlms says:

            Were American blacks repressed prior to 1964?

            Yes, obviously, that’s like the most central example of repression I can think of.

            If the treatment of Israeli Arabs is too repressive to you and you consider Israel to be a regime that oppresses 20% of its population, you certainly can, but that would be unusually on the libertarian side of what “repressive” means.

            No it really would not.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @rlms

            Yes, obviously, that’s like the most central example of repression I can think of.

            Really?

            Not kulaks in 1930s Ukraine?

            Jews under Nazi Germany?

            Modern Uighurs in China?

            No it really would not.

            Could you let me know of a mainstream Western politician who says that Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens is repressive? I don’t think even far-left Muslims say that, although they do about Palestinian Arabs.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Are Israeli Arabs oppressed? They are the example of second class citizens we are using here, can vote and are represented in the Israeli Parliament, where they are moderately politically powerful.

            Were American blacks repressed prior to 1964? Certainly there were civil and legal restrictions on their abilities, but nobody in that thread was pointing at the United States as “repressing” tens of millions of people.

            I didn’t bring up the US pre-1964 because I thought it would derail the discussion, but for what it’s worth I think slavery, which affected 13% of the entire American population in 1860, easily ranks with the worst crimes of the totalitarian regimes, and if the Confederacy counts as an independent government it would almost certainly be a top-five contender for worst regime in modern history given the short time span over which it existed, and the proportion of its population subject to its worst abuses.

            The Jim Crow era is perhaps not comparable to the grand totalitarian states, but easily ranks alongside any number of milder authoritarian regimes: the black codes included restrictions on property ownership, freedom of association, and freedom of movement that were undoubtedly repressive (in Louisana, a town prevented black people from walking at night unless supervised by a white resident); blacks were subject to arbitrary violence with little to no due process, often abetted by authorities; using albatross11’s suggested measure of net intake/outtake, the first great migration saw something like 10% of blacks in the south flee–this is close to the proportion of Irish who migrated out of Ireland during the famine, for comparison.

            So, yes, I think the United States was absolutely repressing its black population before 1964; it’s true that in the decades before 1964 things were improving but in large part that’s because blacks outside the south finally had political representation, forcing white Americans to court their votes and push for their political priorities.

            Israel and its Arab population isn’t quite so extreme, though based on how Israel treats the Arab population in its occupied territories, I do not think the case is quite so conclusively settled; having the right to vote seems like an important guarantee of a minimal level of repression. However, as again the occupied territories show, this balance requires that the Arab minority remains a small enough minority to be unable to challenge the status quo, and this fact both required ethnic cleansing to establish in the first place, and would probably lead to much more concerted repression if the population balance changed.

            Finally, I think writing into the law that some citizens are more valuable than others is incredibly dangerous, and though a loaded gun can be left on the table for a while, eventually someone will pick it up and use it. Without constitutional guarantees, how can you promise your ethnostate’s prospective second-tier citizens that you will only use their second-tier legal status against them in matters of immigration?

            I think nationalist states that write a class of second-tier citizens directly into the laws can sometimes be justified as the least bad of other options, if the alternative is ethnic cleansing or something like that, but it’s at best a necessary evil.

            If you disagree with this, then I think our views of what counts as “repression” are indeed too different for any productive discussion to happen.

          • rlms says:

            @EchoChaos
            Repression to me suggests a certain kind and level of action. Dekulakisation/Holocaust-level murder is worse than I think repression generally suggests (“persecution” seems like a better fit). The post-2014 attitude of the Chinese government to the Uyghur’s definitely seems like another central example, but it’s much less well-known. Since the establishment of the camps it’s a bit too persecutey.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I am strongly anti-slavery and would count any other regime that oppressed 13% of its population as a bad one. I am pro-Confederacy for other reasons, but its implementation of slavery was quite bad and I oppose it. I rate the Muslim Middle East countries as quite oppressive for their de-facto slavery.

            if the Confederacy counts as an independent government it would almost certainly be a top-five contender for worst regime in modern history given the short time span over which it existed

            Slavery is nowhere near genocide, though. It would be behind the Nazis, the Soviets, the Red Chinese, the Cambodians, the Ottomans, the Indonesians and the Rwandans just off the top of my head. There was never anyone serious in the South who wanted to genocide any substantial number of the black population.

            I was more trying to calibrate where the “repression” line began for the people I was talking to.

            There are many historical examples of countries with second-class citizen laws that were between acceptable and good with their second class. The most obvious is the status of Jews under the various Muslim sultanates. They were second-class citizens, but generally treated quite well.

            As a secondary principle, the more free people are to leave a country, the less I am concerned about having them as second class citizens.

            The current influx into the United States, for example, suggests that most Central Americans would rather be very, very second class illegal immigrants to the United States than full citizens in their own country.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @rlms

            Fair enough. And I am not particularly defending it (it is harsher to minorities than my policy preferences).

            Just calling it “central” struck me as off.

          • dndnrsn says:

            As for building their countries by conquest, that’s how countries get built. That offends me no more than does the fact that England is majority Anglo-Saxon because of massive violence against native Britons or that Japan is majority Japanese because of horrific violence against the Ainu. Conflating that with the later things made to keep the demography at current levels, which is what the White Australia policy did, is disingenuous to the extreme.

            I’m not saying that keeping people out is the same as kicking people out. I’m saying that it was keeping people out of a state built on conquest. I think conquest is immoral – past conquest we can’t do much about, but current conquest we can, etc. Initiating violence is wrong; I don’t think there’s a point at which robbery becomes acceptable past a certain magnitude of what’s stolen.

            2. Sure, and you can be against that. I just don’t believe that having second class citizens is de facto immoral. It’s a very modern idea that every national is a citizen, let alone that all citizens are equal.

            Sure, it’s a modern idea. It’s one I support. I don’t know about morals, but I think that a system of equality before the law is at a minimum positive. I think that going from equality to inequality would be immoral, and I think some forms of inequality (slavery, for example) are by definition immoral.

            3. Fair, and I do agree with that point on the Nazis. I’m mostly speaking of American/Australian/Canadian white nationalism, which is the only place that real “white” nationalism as opposed to the nationalism of a people who happen to be white (e.g. Poles).

            4. And America was one of them. Wanting to keep it that way is not immoral in any way, shape or form. There is only one country in the world where American whites are the majority. As an American white, I want to keep that the case.

            The pre-60s American status quo wasn’t just based on keeping America or wherever white-majority – it was based on keeping minorities down. I think that is immoral, especially given that some of those minorities had been there before white people had, and others’ forbears having been brought there against their will.

            5. Given that the politicians who passed the 1965 immigration act that changed our immigration from guaranteeing the white percentage of the United States blatantly and knowingly lied about it in order to pass it, I would say yes. You are welcome to disagree with me.

            I’m less acquainted with the American history than with the Canadian – were people really so foolish in the US as to believe that changing the demographics of immigrants wouldn’t change the demographics of the US as a whole? From my viewpoint, the problem with the American immigration system isn’t the demographics of immigrants – it’s that the system is completely ass-backwards – family reunification is the main driver, instead of skills-based immigration (with the proportions basically opposite in Canada).

          • EchoChaos says:

            I’m not saying that keeping people out is the same as kicking people out. I’m saying that it was keeping people out of a state built on conquest. I think conquest is immoral – past conquest we can’t do much about, but current conquest we can, etc. Initiating violence is wrong; I don’t think there’s a point at which robbery becomes acceptable past a certain magnitude of what’s stolen.

            That’s just opposing all limits on immigration with extra steps. All countries were founded on conquest. As far as I know, the United States doesn’t keep out anyone who lived on the land when we took it by conquest.

            Sure, it’s a modern idea. It’s one I support. I don’t know about morals, but I think that a system of equality before the law is at a minimum positive.

            Do you think that American Legal Permanent Residents are not given equality before the law? They are second-class by law.

            The pre-60s American status quo wasn’t just based on keeping America or wherever white-majority – it was based on keeping minorities down. I think that is immoral, especially given that some of those minorities had been there before white people had, and others’ forbears having been brought there against their will.

            Fair view, although I disagree.

            I’m less acquainted with the American history than with the Canadian – were people really so foolish in the US as to believe that changing the demographics of immigrants wouldn’t change the demographics of the US as a whole? From my viewpoint, the problem with the American immigration system isn’t the demographics of immigrants – it’s that the system is completely ass-backwards – family reunification is the main driver, instead of skills-based immigration (with the proportions basically opposite in Canada).

            The politicians knew, and those opposed said loudly that it would change the demography. The ones trying to pass it just lied about the effect it would have and most people don’t read a law, they just trust their representatives.

            The American system is bad for lots and lots of reasons. Family reunification is at the top, certainly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s just opposing all limits on immigration with extra steps. All countries were founded on conquest. As far as I know, the United States doesn’t keep out anyone who lived on the land when we took it by conquest.

            Opposing all limits? I think that the Canadian system is the best in the world (made easier, of course, by Canada’s geographic position) – and it is fairly limited by the standards of, say, what some on the left want. I think Canada pretty much has it gold: a relatively high rate of immigration per capita, but selective, with immigration not causing a great deal of social strife, and with the 3 parties all able to compete for the votes of immigrants with citizenship and their kids. (The point of controversy is largely refugees – and by definition they aren’t selected by the main system.)

            Do you think that American Legal Permanent Residents are not given equality before the law? They are second-class by law.

            They’re not citizens, and they’re not people born in the country but denied citizenship. Second class citizens are the issue.

            The politicians knew, and those opposed said loudly that it would change the demography. The ones trying to pass it just lied about the effect it would have and most people don’t read a law, they just trust their representatives.

            Would one even have to read a law to consider that changing the demographics of immigrants would change the demographics of the receiving country? That seems so obvious that I question whether they really had a strong preference for not changing the demographics – that’s like saying you could spend more money per month, without increasing your income, and still be able to save the same amount.

          • Randy M says:

            Would one even have to read a law to consider that changing the demographics of immigrants would change the demographics of the receiving country? That seems so obvious that I question whether they really had a strong preference for not changing the demographics – that’s like saying you could spend more money per month, without increasing your income, and still be able to save the same amount.

            Hi, I’d like to introduce you to a group of people called “voters” whom you appear to have an enormously over-inflated view of.
            Remember “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance”? I think some people did, in fact, believe that the laws would do what the legislators said they would do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Changing the inputs without changing the result is impossible on the face of it, isn’t it? That seems a lot more obvious than the complexities of an insurance plan.

          • Randy M says:

            “We’re going to change the regulations and incentives but we expect the relevant people to behave the same regardless” is the promise made either way that, indeed, should not have been believed in either case, but the mere fact that someone felt the need to make the assurance indicated that the new law did indeed go against as lest some constituencies’ preferences.

          • Given that the politicians who passed the 1965 immigration act that changed our immigration from guaranteeing the white percentage of the United States

            Do you consider Hispanics white? As I understand the history, the national origin restrictions of the 1920’s did not apply to immigrants from the New World. I have not figured out exactly when that changed, but I think it was pretty late.

          • albatross11 says:

            wrt repression, I agree with Eugene: Jim Crow laws in all their varied forms were repression, and were intended to be.

            wrt second-class citizenship: I’m not sure all forms of this are horrible, but it sure seems like it could easily go badly. In particular, having a visible unpopular minority that’s prevented from voting, restricted in where its members may live and what jobs they may do, etc., seems like a recipe for exactly the kind of bad treatment that blacks got in the South in the first half of the last century.

          • albatross11 says:

            EchoChaos:

            Indeed, I’ve read (I think in one of Sowell’s books, but I may be wrong) that there was substantial migration into South Africa from the rest of Africa during Apartheid–the overt legally required shitty treatment blacks endured there was still better than starving in the nearby African countries.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Vaguely, what makes second-class citizenship acceptable would be where you moved to the country and knew ahead of time what you were getting into. I don’t care much if the country you were coming from sucked, since the target country isn’t in charge of that.

            I was going to make a follow-up point that it should not fall onto your kids, but that’s already addressed above. If you were born into it you couldn’t choose it. But it’s still worth noting because it’s the kind of thing that makes a permanent underclass.

          • 10240 says:

            I was going to make a follow-up point that it should not fall onto your kids, but that’s already addressed above. If you were born into it you couldn’t choose it.

            I’d say it would be acceptable for it to fall on their kids if it’s ensured that their kids have the citizenship of their parent’s country of origin, so they can move back there as first-class citizens if they prefer that to second-class citizenship of the country their parents moved to.

            (Of course moving to a different country than the one you grew up in has some difficulty (though their parents did just that), but that’s counterbalanced by the fact that second-class citizenship of the country they live in is actually most likely better than first-class citizenship of their country of ancestry (that’s why their parents moved), so few would actually want to move back even if it was trivial to do so. E.g. I suspect that people who live in America illegally since childhood are loath to move back less because of the difficulty of moving, and more because living in America as a non-citizen is still much better than living in most of Latin-America as a citizen.)

            Non-citizen residency is pretty much this status in most countries, and it sounds better than second-class citizen. (And in many countries it doesn’t automatically make your children citizens.) A hypothetical second-class citizenship would perhaps differ from it in that it would be considered a permanent status that normally can’t be revoked (just like normal citizenship), and that it wouldn’t be a route to first-class citizenship after x years (as residency currently is in many countries).

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Scott wrote a parable about just this topic, and since I was asked in the thread you picked this quote from about Islam, I’ll expand on my opinion a little here.

      It’s not uncommon for opponents of a particular religion to point to the terrible things in the foundational documents, or said by the religion’s founders, or perpetrated by the religion’s followers and to imply that these actions/deeds/words stand for the religion as a whole. Defenders will point out how the same founders/documents/followers have done and inspired a tremendous amount of good in the world; how they give hope and meaning to millions if not billions of people–that even if yeah, the bad stuff is technically theologically sound, and was important way back when, nowadays no one really means it that way anymore.

      I think both points of view have value: religions and other social movements with long, deep histories probably should be treated differently, for practical reasons if for no other reasons and it really is true that the balance sheet for pretty much every major religion is a lot more evenly weighted between atrocity and charity than for a belief system like Nazism; but the skeptical point of view that asks about the responsibility of the ideology for the terrors carried out in its name is important too.
      I doubt we will ever get to the point where the major world religions wither away, so we should be pragmatic, but I think having religious leaders who are willing to really confront the bad stuff in their past is necessary and important, and it’s not illegitimate to push those leaders to face up to the bad stuff in the doctrine.

      At the same time, we should be careful to note that just because we think that, say, the Catholic Church as an institution bears some responsibility for the Spanish Inquisition, that doesn’t mean that ordinary Catholic believers should somehow be held responsible for it. This is a tough line to walk, and it’s hard for institutional criticism not to be felt as individual criticism, so I think it’s especially important for people within those religions who have more credibility to do this.

      • EchoChaos says:

        At what point do we say “the balance sheet of this ideology is SO negative that merely associating with it makes you a bad person”?

        Obviously we both think that about Nazism. If you call yourself a Nazi that is outright bad. Nazism is so bad that there is no excuse for calling yourself one.

        But what about “socialist”? Their body count exceeds that of the Nazis (although they had more time to collect it). I’m not familiar with lots of people who do charity in the name of socialism (although I’m sure you can find small pockets).

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I think “socialist” is probably a bit too broad; you’d be on better grounds with “communist”, and to really nail the analogy with Nazism you’d probably want to go with “Bolshevik” or “Marxist Leninist” or something like that. In general, I’d defer on the side of charity to bigger, broader, vaguer groups and try and hold more specific institutions or movements to task: Judaism is fine, Orthodox Judaism is fine, Kahanism is not, even if there are no firm boundaries between one category and the next.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Why would you consider socialist too broad? At what point have enough branches done bad stuff that you say “nope, root is bad”.

            What about fascists? Sure, the Nazis were horrible, but the Italians were merely average and the Spanish and Taiwanese pretty close to actively good.

            But the Nazi horribleness was so horrible that the other branches of fascism renamed themselves rather than be associated with it. Socialists generally didn’t. Is this something that should be held against socialists?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Because I think socialism includes the post-war British governments, 1970s Sweden, etc, and too many other groups who don’t really seem implicated to me in the crimes of Stalin or Pol Pot–or at least, that they are no more implicated in these claims than a run-of-the-mill conservative is in the crimes of Franco or Pinochet or a German nationalist is in the crimes of Hitler.

            I also think that, since Nazism refers to a political party rooted in a particular country in a particular time, a good comparison should also have most of those features; to my mind the parallelism looks like

            Nazi = Bolshevik
            fascist = communist
            ? = socialist

            I’m not sure of a good super-order comparable to socialism; my first thought is nationalism but I’m not sure I’m particularly convinced by that.

            My whole point is that I’m skeptical of the “root is bad” idea–imagine someone pointing out the number of branches of “religion” that have done bad things, and thus concluding the problem is with the root concept of religion; or similarly with “nationalism”.

          • Nornagest says:

            There were a lot of branches of socialism. It’s easy for us to forget now that liberal capitalism has won so thoroughly, but worldwide in the first half of the 20th century, and in a lot of places much later, pretty much anyone who was anyone either was a socialist of some stripe, or was some kind of milquetoast quasi-socialist who didn’t identify as such but still pushed watered-down versions of the same dogma, or was trying (and, until after WWII, mostly failing) to come up with a credible alternative to it. Viewpoints like George Orwell’s, on board with socialism but strongly opposed to communism, were by no means rare.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @EchoChaos:

            What about fascists? Sure, the Nazis were horrible, but the Italians were merely average and the Spanish and Taiwanese pretty close to actively good.

            It’s interesting to note that when the Fascist Party controlled the Kingdom of Italy, it launched an unjust war against Ethiopia that killed an unremarkable number of people and executed 26 convicted criminals, allegedly none for political crimes. Representative democracies elect rulers like that fairly frequently.
            If we didn’t call the NatSocs “Fascists”, it wouldn’t have much bite as an insult.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            Viewpoints like George Orwell’s, on board with socialism but strongly opposed to communism, were by no means rare.

            George Orwell is an interesting case, because he went as a socialist to shoot Fascists in the Spanish Civil War and learned the hard way that “socialist” generally meant “Stalinist dupe.”
            Lenin and Stalin were practically the Popes of international socialism (Trotsky being Stalin’s antipope).

          • Nornagest says:

            Lenin and Stalin were practically the Popes of international socialism

            I think that’s putting it a bit too strongly. Stalin did have his fingers in every vaguely leftist social movement around the Thirties, but that’s partly because Russia was where the money for left radicalism was and partly because he had an interest in knocking over the old international order by any means available. It didn’t, at least at the time, necessarily imply any more ideological alignment with Moscow than, say, mujahideen taking Stingers from the CIA implied it with Washington.

            By the end of the Spanish Civil War, it was becoming apparent that Stalin wanted to parley this into a client-state relationship wherever he could, by force if necessary: this is basically what the second half of Homage to Catalonia is about, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about revolutionary politics in the Thirties. But only a few years before that it wouldn’t have been obvious. Stalin bankrolled the Kuomintang for a long time, after all.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s interesting to note that when the Fascist Party controlled the Kingdom of Italy, it launched an unjust war against Ethiopia that killed an unremarkable number of people and executed 26 convicted criminals, allegedly none for political crimes.

            Wikipedia has the Italian campaign in Ethiopia accounting for something around 173,000 deaths by war crimes; this places it top twenty on Wikipedia’s list of war crime tolls (depending on how you order them). One might dispute the numbers (I’m certainly no expert on this), but that doesn’t sound “unremarkable” to me; throw in Cyrenaica, which gives another 100,000, and I think Italy pulls pretty far ahead of most representative democracies.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            That’s pretty much exactly my point. Italy, by the standards of the time, was about an average government.

            The crimes of Pinochet or Franco are substantially less than the crimes of your average government. Neither of them invaded a neighboring country or repressed any substantial portion of the populace unless you consider social conservatism inherently repressive.

            I doubt anyone here, to include Eugene Dawn, goes out of their way to say that fascists are, on average, better than communists.

            I’ll double down on my question, though, which is that fascists avoid the title precisely because of how awful the German fascists were.

            Why do communists and socialists not do the same? There are even more horrible communists and socialists than there are fascists.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Eugene:

            Wikipedia has the Italian campaign in Ethiopia accounting for something around 173,000 deaths by war crimes; this places it top twenty on Wikipedia’s list of war crime tolls (depending on how you order them). One might dispute the numbers (I’m certainly no expert on this),

            I would dispute it by asking “Are they counting every combat death of an Ethiopian soldier as ‘by war crimes’ because it was an unjust war?”
            Because 173,000 total Ethiopian deaths is close to the more credible (lower) death numbers for the Iraq War (Iraq Family Health Survey had 151,000). Running around killing 173k people in violation of the Geneva Conventions would be a qualitatively different injustice that would make me retract such talk.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            By the end of the Spanish Civil War, it was becoming apparent that Stalin wanted to parley this into a client-state relationship wherever he could, by force if necessary: … But only a few years before that it wouldn’t have been obvious. Stalin bankrolled the Kuomintang for a long time, after all.

            Well I was under the impression that 1930s Western Europe was full of Marxists who would change their opinions 180 degrees on a dime if their leader in Moscow told them to.
            It’s quite true that Stalin bankrolled the Kuomintang and gave material support to Nazi Germany for a few years. How this relates to the activities of the Comintern, what his long game was for “socialism in one country” before seeing the opportunity to start creating client states at the end of the Spanish Civil War… I’d have to go back and study.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            From the page on the Second Italo-Ethiopian War:

            In a memorandum submitted to the Paris conference in 1946, the Ethiopian government enumerated 275,000 men killed in action, 78,500 Patriots killed in hostilities during the occupation from 1936–1941, 17,800 women and children killed by bombing, 30,000 people killed in the massacre of February 1937, 35,000 people died in concentration camps, 24,000 Patriots killed in obedience to orders from summary courts, 300,000 people died after their villages had been destroyed, a total of 760,300 deaths

            Those numbers are incredibly high, accounting for close to 1/20th of the total population of Ethiopia at the time. It also conflates actual executions with deaths from the war being nasty, but it does seem on the rough order of the number dead from the partition of India, to compare another Wikipedia example.

            I still would put Italy about average for European countries at the time, which is helped by how many of them were socialist. This is less than the Turks, the Soviets, the Yugoslavs, etc.

            I would agree that Italy is far worse than the Western countries like Britain, but I’ve never claimed they weren’t.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I would dispute it by asking “Are they counting every combat death of an Ethiopian soldier as ‘by war crimes’ because it was an unjust war?”
            Because 173,000 total Ethiopian deaths is close to the more credible (lower) death numbers for the Iraq War (Iraq Family Health Survey had 151,000). Running around killing 173k people in violation of the Geneva Conventions would be a qualitatively different injustice that would make me retract such talk.

            Like I say, I’m not an expert; in the sidebar they say that the figures come from the Ethiopian government (a little suspicious), but it also does not count battle deaths or hunger among refugees, each of which they say is 300,000 deaths. I presume the figure they cite is composed of concentration camp deaths, executions, civilians killed by the air force, etc. And we should probably attribute at least some of the battle deaths and hunger deaths to the illegally invading nation; so even if the figures are inflated, it seems like the order of magnitude is about right, unless someone with more specific knowledge wants to step in and set me straight.

            Wiki also lets you rank leaders, and Mussolini comes in at number 18, just after Ho Chi Minh and just ahead of Saddam Hussein. The figures here are not normalized for population or length of rule, so take it for what it’s worth; Franco for what it’s worth just beats out Idi Amin, at about 230,000 deaths attributed to him.

          • Enkidum says:

            George Orwell is an interesting case, because he went as a socialist to shoot Fascists in the Spanish Civil War and learned the hard way that “socialist” generally meant “Stalinist dupe.”

            And came out of it… a socialist.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Those numbers are incredibly high, accounting for close to 1/20th of the total population of Ethiopia at the time. It also conflates actual executions with deaths from the war being nasty

            I agree that counting all the casualties listed in the sidebar is too high, especially since the source is Ethiopia itself; I’ve tried to Google for some better numbers and the best I can come up with is a recent book on the Yekatit 12 massacre that puts the total score of deaths at about 20,000. This is the same event as the February 1937 massacre the Ethiopian sources give as 30,000 deaths. Presuming the more modern work is reliable, this suggests that the Ethiopian sources are too high by a half.

            As a check, we can compare against Italy’s war in Libya: the sources on the Wikipedia article look better, mostly university presses. The Wiki article cites these sources to claim that 1/4 of the population of Cyrenaica was killed, amounting to 56000 people, plus half of the Bedouin population was ethnically cleansed–100,000 people in total. Another 40,000 are claimed to have died in concentration camps. Wiki lists 80,000 Cyrenaicans killed in Italy’s pacification campaign there, of a total population of 900,000. This is just about the same percentage as you get using the Ethiopian casualty numbers.

            As a better sanity check, we could look at some other roughly contemporaneous colonial massacres: the Herero genocide is a little earlier and against a smaller population but seems to have killed about a quarter of the population; the Germans are alleged to have killed 250,000 or so people in German East Africa (of 8 million total) in 1905; there are some others where either total population figures are hard to find, or casualty figures, or both.

            EDIT: to add I found one other Wiki article that cites another 2017 source, a statistical compendium on warfare, that cites Ethiopian casualties “as high as 275 000”. It might just be regurgitating the Ethiopian figures back, though.

          • Vitor says:

            @EchoChaos

            > The crimes of Pinochet or Franco are substantially less than the crimes of your average government.

            Pinochet murdered thousands, tortured tens of thousands, and repressed an entire country. Your average government doesn’t do any of those things.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Vitor

            Your average government does all of those things. It’s a rare government that doesn’t. You are “typical governmenting” modern Western European governments.

            And again, you’re conflating “being socially conservative” with “repressing an entire country”. He had restrictions on free speech, of course, but so does virtually every government.

            I am not saying I would prefer Pinochet’s Chile to the United States. I AM saying I would prefer it to every communist state that has existed.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            @EchoChaos what do you think about Robert Owen?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Andrew Cady

            I had never heard of him until you mentioned him. I will have to read up on him.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I am not saying I would prefer Pinochet’s Chile to the United States. I AM saying I would prefer it to every communist state that has existed.

          The question of whether you’d prefer it is not objective; one reason to prefer Pinochet is if, as a right-winger, you’re more certain you wouldn’t run afoul of the government than you would be in a left-wing dictatorship. But a leftie should feel the opposite.

          The better approach is to compare objective measures. So, for example, under Pinochet, over his 17 years in power, about 2500 were murdered, 25000 tortured, and 200,000 left the country; the population of Chile while Pinochet ruled was from 10 to 13 million people.

          Contrast to say, the GDR, the East German communist state. Over the 40 years of its existence, about 1500 people were killed, 88000 arrested as political prisoners; numbers for those escaping are a little trickier but about 1 or 2 million seems to be in the right ballpark. The population of the GDR over its 40 years ranged between 16 and 18 million.

          So, the GDR over more than twice as long in power, and a population nearly twice as big, killed half as many people, arrested a little under three times as many, and saw an exodus of between five and ten times as many people.

          It seems to me then, that normalized for length of rule and population, Pinochet was comparably bad to East Germany; would you be comfortable saying that East Germany was about an average country to live in, in the 1970s?

          EDIT: to clarify my intent here. I don’t want to defend East Germany, or actually debate how to rank East Germany vs Pinochet’s Chile, or anything like that. I’m just trying to very carefully and deliberately make the point that “I’d prefer this government” doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about how “bad” it is without looking at some more objective measures, and that by the same sorts of measures that you might want to use to prove that Pinochet’s Chile wasn’t too terrible, you can also end up proving something similar about East Germany.
          To defend Pinochet’s regime, you can’t just assert that it was about average, you have to actually try and compare it to other governments and see how it stacks up.

          • EchoChaos says:

            would you be comfortable saying that East Germany was about an average country to live in, in the 1970s?

            Yes, that seems right to me.

            It’s certainly better than almost all African countries and the majority of Asian countries.

            I would rather live in Pinochet’s Chile if I had to pick the two because as you say, I’d be less likely to run into trouble with the government and the social policies match mine, but if I had to choose a communist government to live under it would almost certainly be East Germany.

          • cassander says:

            Contrast to say, the GDR, the East German communist state. Over the 40 years of its existence, about 1500 people were killed, 88000 arrested as political prisoners; numbers for those escaping are a little trickier but about 1 or 2 million seems to be in the right ballpark. The population of the GDR over its 40 years ranged between 16 and 18 million.

            Are we not counting the millions that were raped in the creation of east germany? Or the fact that east germany was an economic mess while chile became the richest country in LA?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @cassander

            I was ignoring the actively genocidal creation of East Germany, which should be laid at the feet of Stalin, not the East German government.

            But that’s actually a fairly good point. Most of the terror that right-wing regimes commit is during the establishment of the regime. The White Terror, Pinochet’s purges, the Kuomingtang’s consolidation of Taiwan, etc. are all majority done immediately after taking power, after which the baseline level of terror is quite low.

            To use the example we’re referring to, according to Wikipedia:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_violations_in_Pinochet%27s_Chile

            The worst violence occurred in the first three months of the coup’s aftermath, with the number of suspected leftists killed or “disappeared” (desaparecidos) soon reaching into the thousands

            So after the first three months, Chile was dramatically safer than East Germany, whose founding horror is mostly laid at the feet of the Soviets, and whose later repressions are compared to the initial purge in Chile.

            I may have to reconsider thinking of them as equivalent. I will note that East Germany remains better than almost all of Africa and most of Asia.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            Are the crimes committed at the end of WWII and then up until the death of Stalin – which probably aren’t taken into account in numbers relating to the doings of the DDR – to be ascribed to the DDR, or to the Red Army, to Stalin, ?

            The bulk of the death toll of communism is concentrated in a couple of decades in the USSR, a couple of decades in China, and in Cambodia. The DDR was really not a bad place to be, by the standards of communist regimes (the Stasi get major weirdness points for spying on people and moving their furniture around when they’re out, but they shot fewer people over their whole existence than one man did in a couple months; their standard of living was among the best in the Soviet bloc) and honestly in general (the Stasi seem to have behaved better than some current Western intelligence agencies; the East German standard of living was pretty good compared to most of the world).

            Sure, they come out looking pretty crappy compared to the Bundesrepublik (more rights, better economy, higher standard of living, superior cars) but on an absolute scale it wasn’t that terrible; the real crimes of communism happened in other times and places.

            @EchoChaos

            What is the total number of tens of millions dead killed by far-right regimes? I’d suspect that Nazi Germany is a considerable chunk of that – and the bulk of victims of national socialism die 1939-1945, especially ’41 on, and that’s even if you exclude war dead. Violence by the Nazis escalates over the course of the 30s and then steps up significantly with the start of the war and especially with the invasion of the USSR.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Are we not counting the millions that were raped in the creation of east germany? Or the fact that east germany was an economic mess while chile became the richest country in LA?

            As others have said, the founding of east Germany probably ends up on Stalin’s balance sheet; the economic stuff I assume comes out in the number of exiles, but like I say, the point isn’t to actually try and rank-order the various terrible regimes, and if you think other factors should be included, I don’t particularly disagree.

            Most of the terror that right-wing regimes commit is during the establishment of the regime. The White Terror, Pinochet’s purges, the Kuomingtang’s consolidation of Taiwan, etc. are all majority done immediately after taking power, after which the baseline level of terror is quite low.

            My guess is you can find extenuating circumstances for most regimes: if I had to guess, most of the worst atrocities for all sorts of regimes are committed during wartime, at the founding, or during relatively short bursts of intense repression–I’m not against considering something like this in general, but I think you have to be consistent: most of the horrors of the USSR come from the early years and through Stalin; a huge percent of the horrors of the CCCP come from the Great Leap Forward; the Holocaust occurred only during the last 4 years of 12 years of Nazi rule, as a result of the outbreak of a major war.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            Are the crimes committed at the end of WWII and then up until the death of Stalin – which probably aren’t taken into account in numbers relating to the doings of the DDR – to be ascribed to the DDR, or to the Red Army, to Stalin, ?

            If argentina had invaded chile in 1973, committed all the crimes pinochet committed, then installed pinochet as the leader of a vassal government that enacted all the same policies, I don’t think there would be a great deal of hairsplitting on the modern left trying to excuse him of responsibility.

            The bulk of the death toll of communism is concentrated in a couple of decades in the USSR, a couple of decades in China, and in Cambodia.

            the very fact that you can say such a thing is rather horrifying. only a few decades of killing?!?

            And while those places have the headline totals, there was no communist regime that was not a nasty, authoritarian police state that killed thousands of its own citizens and imprisoned tens of thousands for political crimes. I’ll grant you that the GDR was better than most of them, but “better than mao’s china” is a damnably low bar.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            there was no communist regime that was not a nasty, authoritarian police state that killed thousands of its own citizens and imprisoned tens of thousands for political crimes.

            ….just like Pinochet’s Chile. Which is the point of the discussion. If Pinochet gets exemptions for the bulk of his killings taking place early in the regime (I know this is EchoChaos’s argument, not yours, but it’s clearly what dndnrsn is referring to), and for not being all that bad in comparison to Mengistu, why do we only extend those considerations to Pinochet?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I am not saying an exemption, but note a HUGE difference between “three months” and “several decades”.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The three months was the three months required to establish the regime. If some regimes take longer to be established, then we should expect their campaigns of terror to last longer. It’s of course possible that how long it takes to establish a regime is a function of regime type in some way, so this is still relevant, but it’s also possible to imagine exogenous confounders.

            Again, to be clear, my point isn’t to argue that actually the Soviets weren’t bad, they only committed atrocities because the rest of the world kept trying to overthrow them; my point is if you want to consider “violence to get the regime up and running” separately from “violence once the regime is up and running”, you need to make sure you’re being principled about it, and not just picking reasons to gerrymander the violence of your preferred regime into categories that are more forgivable.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @cassander

            If argentina had invaded chile in 1973, committed all the crimes pinochet committed, then installed pinochet as the leader of a vassal government that enacted all the same policies, I don’t think there would be a great deal of hairsplitting on the modern left trying to excuse him of responsibility.

            So the DDR government for most of its history is retroactively responsible for the crimes of Stalin? I don’t particularly care what the “modern left” thinks or what “it” would hypothetically do in response to another hypothetical; we’re here, not in some imaginary auditorium full of other people to whose reactions we appeal.

            the very fact that you can say such a thing is rather horrifying. only a few decades of killing?!?

            You completely misunderstand what I’m saying… Communism’s fatal flaw is that vanguardism enables the Lenins, Stalins, and so on. When the USSR was run by not-Lenin-or-Stalin, the number of victims decreased massively. I would not want to live in the USSR in the 1920s through 1953, but after that? There’s plenty of places it would be worse to live. Communism produced a death toll of perhaps 60 million, due to the idea of the vanguard enabling horrible people.

            And while those places have the headline totals, there was no communist regime that was not a nasty, authoritarian police state that killed thousands of its own citizens and imprisoned tens of thousands for political crimes. I’ll grant you that the GDR was better than most of them, but “better than mao’s china” is a damnably low bar.

            Sure. But compared to the crimes and horrendous mistakes of four or so leaders, the rest of the crimes of communism pale in comparison.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            But that comparison benefits regimes established by an external power over internally established regimes.

            If you want to compare Chile with Cuba, both established via internal takeover with external great power support, that seems reasonable to me.

            But to compare East Germany to Chile, you need to either exclude Chile’s founding (easy, as it is very short) or include East Germany’s (which wasn’t done by East Germans, so that’s a bit unfair to them).

            The best comparison to the USSR is probably Spain. Both went through a horrific Civil War with external support that included purges and counter-purges, then some time afterwards to consolidate the regime.

            I would definitely prefer Spain a decade after their Civil War to the USSR a decade after theirs.

          • ana53294 says:

            I would definitely prefer Spain a decade after their Civil War to the USSR a decade after theirs.

            As a man, sure.

            But if we take a period outside the World Wars (it would be unfair to compare Spain, a neutral country with no war, to the USSR, a country fully at war). Say, the 1950s, right when Stalin dies, I prefer to be a woman in Russia, because I can go to University for free, I can get a job and study whatever I want without my father’s or husband’s permission, and I have a choice to reproduce.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ana53294

            You’re going with “social conservatism is inherently repressive” again. Which is a view you can hold, but it’s definitely biasing what you think of as “repression”, and is outside the scope of the discussion.

            Also, ten years after the establishment of the USSR it wasn’t at war with anyone. And it was a horrifying slaughterhouse.

          • The numbers are interesting, but shouldn’t you adjust your “exodus” numbers for the fact that it was (I believe) entirely legal for someone to leave Chile, whereas leaving East Germany required one to get past armed guards, climb over a wall, or persuade the government that you were sufficiently loyal to be trusted to come back?

          • ana53294 says:

            No, there where no wars, but that was the time of the Great Depression, which affected the economy worldwide, and 1949 is a time of a great economic boom. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them, either.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ana53294

            Sure, but at this point you’re just saying “there are some points in Communist history where it wasn’t awful to live in a Communist country”.

            I’ve conceded that several times.

            And even the time you’ve chosen, the 1950s, was worse than 10 years after the establishment of Franco-ist Spain (the late 1940s) in terms of political repression. Hundreds of thousands were locked in psychiatric hospitals.

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

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sure, but at this point you’re just saying “there are some points in Communist history where it wasn’t awful to live in a Communist country”.

            This seems to be only true ex-post. That is it was only not so bad to live in the USSR after 50 years of murder and terror because of the 50 years of murder and terror. The state could ease back a bit because every person alive had spent the majority of their life under a system that convinced them that massive reprisals could happen at any time. You only get to escape that terror by looking back and seeing the relative lack of murder, but to actually live it would have been constant fear every time you spouse came home 45 mins late that the latest purge had begun. To make perhaps the worst analogy ever it would be like having a pedophile for a parent who lost interest in molesting you when you grew out of their fetish zone, and then judging their parenting in those two periods separately.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @EchoChaos

            Move it to a decade after the really bad stuff has ended in the USSR – Lenin and Stalin were both maniacs, and both seem to have believed that the civil war never ended, and that there were vast armies of enemies that needed to be rooted out. Or maybe they didn’t, and it was a way to keep control. Anyway, they were both deeply evil men (some people like to play good cop-bad cop and say that Lenin was OK but Stalin loused it up, but Lenin at a minimum did not care about causing vast suffering). Plus, Stalin was probably gearing up to persecute the Jews when he died. Let’s say you’re an adult in the USSR in 1963 – how much better or worse is it to live in the USSR vs Spain? I think ana53294 is right – it probably depends somewhat on who you are.

            @baconbits9

            But is it the same person? Lenin and Stalin were clear drivers of the persecutions and mass murder that happened during their rule – the guys after them were nowhere near as bad. There were a handful of extremely evil men who bear chief responsibility for a really significant % of mass murders, starvation, etc under communism. The culpability of communism is that the specifically vanguardist model is practically tailor-made to bring murderous guys into power – it optimizes for ability to seize power, which goes hand in hand with a lot of qualities that lead to nasty things.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The numbers are interesting, but shouldn’t you adjust your “exodus” numbers for the fact that it was (I believe) entirely legal for someone to leave Chile, whereas leaving East Germany required one to get past armed guards, climb over a wall, or persuade the government that you were sufficiently loyal to be trusted to come back?

            I mean sure, though I have no idea how to actually incorporate this; but there are other biases in the numbers too: up to 1/3 of the East German exodees from before 1961 seem to have actually been WWII refugees trapped in the Soviet occupation zone, for example. And my numbers for prisoners count all political prisoners in the GDR, but only those tortured in Chile. So for a first pass, hopefully the various factors cancel out.

            You’re going with “social conservatism is inherently repressive” again. Which is a view you can hold, but it’s definitely biasing what you think of as “repression”, and is outside the scope of the discussion.

            This I find unconvincing. Repression is repression–in the Soviet Union you were persecuted for practicing various religions. I don’t think a non-believer should get to claim that believers just have the divergent view that “holding a society to a standard of materialism” is somehow repressive, and are biased in their view of what counts as repressive.

            Every repressive regime encodes someone’s values, and I don’t think it should be available to such a person to just dismiss the construction of a civil society hostile to other values as “outside the discussion”.

            EDIT: one last thought before I bow out of this discussion altogether: the point that ana and dndnrsn are making is a good one, that even if we normalize other factors, there’s still a question of who we imagine ourselves to be in one of these societies.

            A few open threads ago, people discussed which dictatorial they would prefer to live in, given some promises about who they would be in that society. And a surprising (to me) number of people picked Nazi Germany. Because it makes sense to pick Nazi Germany premised on the guarantee that you won’t be a Jew.
            Germany had a Jewish population of about half a million in 1939, compared to a total population of 70 million. So the chances are like three quarters of a percent of being Jewish in Nazi Germany: if you’re imagining being placed into one of these regimes at random as a typical citizen, you do in fact have a pretty good chance of escaping the Holocaust. But conditional on being Jewish, things go sideways: you have like a 70% chance of being killed.

            A good analysis of this should consider multiple different perspectives: what are the odds of an average citizen of suffering at the hands of the regime, but also, conditional on being a targeted population what are your odds–a sort of maximin type argument where a society should get penalized for the worst range of treatment it metes out on its subjects even if that treatment is confined to a relatively small number of people.

            Anyway, this is all to say that the question of actually, numerically ranking regimes by badness strikes me as too complicated to be worth the effort and we should rather learn from the broad-strokes big picture: Nazism and Stalinism and Maoism are horrifying; communism and fascism range from horrifying to grim; other regimes are more complex.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ dndnrsn

            No they weren’t the same people, but if you were living under Stalin for 40 years how many years do you have to go before you become convinced that the following regime, mostly made up of high level Stalinists (at least publicly) does it take to start to believe that they are different? There are social indicators, like alcohol consumption, that indicate that life was highly stressful in the post Stalin years. None of htis is to imply that it was worse than under Stalin, but that to be put into the post Stalin world meant you had to endure years or decades of Stalin with all the baggage that would carry.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Not if we’re “comparing objective measures”.

            It is repressing all women to ban abortion like Franco did? Is it only repressing liberal women? Only women who want abortions?

            @ana53294 uses “having the choice to reproduce” as one of the things that was oppressive about Franco’s Spain, as well as not having free university.

            This is as useless for arguing which regime was more oppressive in the context of your statement, which is that I would prefer Pinochet’s Chile or Franco’s Spain because I’m a right-winger.

            Obviously I would prefer to live in a state that doesn’t oppress Christians and a state that bans abortions and divorce. Those are my policy preferences.

            By defining my policy preferences as inherently “repressive” that doesn’t tell us much, any more than me declaring all American schoolchildren repressed because we’re mandated to teach sex ed.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It’s probably impossible to keep value judgments out of this to some extent (every regime in history is monstrous to the pro-murder!), but I still think you can make this objective by looking at penalties for women who obtained abortions, or statistics for women dying in botched, back-alley abortions or something like that.

            But sure, it’s fine to exclude the banning of abortion from an objective measure of repression if you’re okay with someone you disagree with excluding something you might consider repressive if it plausibly comes down to a value difference; maybe banning circumcision or something like that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The culpability of communism is that the specifically vanguardist model is practically tailor-made to bring murderous guys into power – it optimizes for ability to seize power, which goes hand in hand with a lot of qualities that lead to nasty things.

            This is partially true, but only partially. I can’t help but notice that Stalin and Mao were still revered and celebrated after their deaths and not denounced. It is fairly obvious how this could be advantageous to their successors, and the apparatus of the state- which was still wielded to control and oppress- had already been built up. Its not like the KGB (1954) has a great reputation for their humanitarian efforts.

            I am of the opinion that you don’t get the kinder communism (which wasn’t particularly kind at all) without the vicious preceding cycle, just like you don’t get the ‘kinder’ Cuban revolution without stripping 5-10% of the population of their wealth and sending them into exile.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            I was baffled by people choosing “gentile in Nazi Germany” when that topic came up – even removing those who died specifically because of Nazi persecution, something like 8% of the prewar German population died. Those are better odds than being a German Jew – of those still in the country when the war started (a majority of German Jews in 1933 had fled the country by then), as many as close to 90% were dead by 1945 – but it’s still not good odds, and those who survived still suffered because of the war their leaders had started (and which they, by and large, had supported). I don’t think either fascist country is a good bet for “pick a dictatorship to live in” – Germany started a war that ended in them getting stomped to pieces, and Italy joined a war that ended in them getting stomped pretty bad too – more than 1% of the prewar population died. (The considerably lesser willingness of the Italians to fight, much less to the end, probably saved a lot of Italian lives – a really disproportionate % of German war deaths happened in the last 6 or so months of the war).

            @baconbits9

            Quibble: Stalin ruled for closer to 30 than 40 years. As for alcohol consumption, has that ever not been worryingly high in that part of the world? I’m not sure you can use it as a clue to societal trauma.

          • As for alcohol consumption, has that ever not been worryingly high in that part of the world?

            Finland seems to be a pretty successful society. But my impression, when I spent a week or so there associating with academics, was that everybody but me got drunk every evening.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            So the DDR government for most of its history is retroactively responsible for the crimes of Stalin?

            It’s culpable for the crimes that resulted in its establishment, and the crimes of the people who ran it. The first head of the DDR was a senior soviet official and head of comintern for almost a decade.

            I would not want to live in the USSR in the 1920s through 1953, but after that? There’s plenty of places it would be worse to live.

            Sure. But compared to the crimes and horrendous mistakes of four or so leaders, the rest of the crimes of communism pale in comparison.

            And compared to hitler, the primes of other fascists pale in comparison too. You can’t just ignore the exemplars of ideologies as outliers. Especially when those exemplars had massively larger populations than the imitators.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect the best gauge of quality of life, for countries that allowed people to immigrate/emigrate, is the net inflow/outflow.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander

            It’s culpable for the crimes that resulted in its establishment, and the crimes of the people who ran it. The first head of the DDR was a senior soviet official and head of comintern for almost a decade.

            Ok, let’s say we’re holding the DDR leadership, or the early leadership, responsible for the stuff involved in setting the state up. I think it’s fair to hold them responsible for the stuff they would have supported: the KPD-exile cohort guys were pretty hardcore Stalinists, as I understand it. However, I think it’s odd to hold them responsible for mass rapes by the Red Army in 1945 – that’s not something they wanted, presumably, and it wasn’t a deliberate Stalinist policy so much as something Stalin didn’t really give a hoot about (see his comments to, I believe, Tito).

            And compared to hitler, the primes of other fascists pale in comparison too. You can’t just ignore the exemplars of ideologies as outliers. Especially when those exemplars had massively larger populations than the imitators.

            With the exception of the collaborationist quasi-states set up when German-allied nations tried to leave the war, I’d say there were only two legitimately fascist states: Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. But we’re not dividing things by state, but by time – the USSR spent 35 or so years as a pretty awful place, then a little over that as a grim dictatorship.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @cassander

            And compared to hitler, the primes of other fascists pale in comparison too. You can’t just ignore the exemplars of ideologies as outliers. Especially when those exemplars had massively larger populations than the imitators.

            For me, the only true fascist countries are Italy, Germany, and Bulgaria of the WW2 era. Of those, two were engaged in an effort of ethnic cleansing and two were involved in one or more imperialistic wars. All involved violent thuggery at the street level. None comes across as very good. I think of great importance is the dataset one uses. The one being used in this discussion is IMO overly broad, such that it dilutes the badness of fascism. If you include a bunch of random dictatorships like Pinochet’s Chile and Franco’s Spain then it appears less bad, and Hitler can be said to be an outlier. But if you use the dataset I use, which is based on Robert Paxton’s definition, then all fascist countries identifiable as such appear to exhibit the same negative tendencies. And, indeed, given Paxton’s evaluation of fascism as a political phenomenon, the movement appears to be definitionally bad. Communism is at least good in theory.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Paxton’s definition is probably the best. I don’t recall him including the Bulgarians, though.

          • ana53294 says:

            @EchoChaos

            Francoist Spain was established in 1939. So 10 years after the establishment of Francoist Spain would be 1949.

            The Spanish Civil War lasted three years, between 1936-1939.

            And the forties in Spain were a time of hunger, people going into exiles, lots of orphans in the street, etc. And it was also a time of forced labor camps, and people getting murdered.

            So yes, you have to take the 50s Spain against the 50s USSR.

            And sure, you don’t consider banning abortion to be repressive.

            What about selective baby-stealing? Not being allowed to divorce? Not being allowed to hold property? Not being able to decide of your own, and having to ask your father’s or husband’s permission?

            Again, being a woman doesn’t have to be that bad. Even in Saudi Arabia, if you are born as the daughter of a nice, liberal man and he raises your brother to be a nice, liberal man, you can have a pretty nice life. But this is all on luck.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @dndnrsn
            My mistake, I actually mean Romania.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I can’t recall what Paxton had about Romania – didn’t the authoritarian conservatives suppress/coopt the fascists, with the Iron Guard only getting power right at the end?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          The fact of the matter is that people simply don’t take Communism to be truly evil, generally speaking. More often people that take communism as being as great an evil [and as great a threat] as Nazi-ism are regarded as a bit crazy and paranoid.

          This makes sense when you realize most conceptions of what is right and wrong are not the result of weighing moral considerations quantitatively but the result of a significant amount of priming. You really have to feel the wrongness of something you can’t just plot it all out on a spreadsheet. [Even if the spreadsheet approach leads to objectively superior outcomes]

          One might very well describe a communist as “The guys on the side of the good guys that took things too far and made some mistakes”

          moreover the evil-ness of a group is not strictly speaking the sum total of its desires either. A sect of Zionism that called for the eradication of all non-jews from the greater Levant might very well be functionally equivalent to something that came from the mouth of a Heinrich Himmler but that doesn’t mean it will be felt in the wider culture as being on morally on par.

          The shorter, more conspiratorial answer, is that the historic victims of Communism were not part of a coherent group that also happened to be incredibly literate and socially ambitious.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The fact of the matter is that people simply don’t take Communism to be truly evil, generally speaking.

            This is fascinating because as someone raised American in the Cold War, it is totally foreign to me. My father and grandfather bled to prevent Communists and Nazis from conquering people and I was always taught to see them as equivalent.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The shorter, more conspiratorial answer, is that the historic victims of Communism were not part of a coherent group that also happened to be incredibly literate and socially ambitious.

            Also the communists didn’t lose a war and have their freshly-abandoned murder camps discovered.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            The shorter, more conspiratorial answer, is that the historic victims of Communism were not part of a coherent group that also happened to be incredibly literate and socially ambitious.

            This cannot be understated. Compare the pathetic list of holodomor films to the absolutely staggering list of holocaust films, including Academy Award for Best Picture winner Schindler’s List. I don’t think it is a stretch to attribute this to the film industry’s demographics.

          • Nornagest says:

            Also the communists didn’t lose a war and have their freshly-abandoned murder camps discovered.

            This deserves repeating. The Holocaust was neither the first nor the worst democide in history (though it’s in the running for the worst genocide). But it’s the one that left a massive amount of recent physical evidence — from mass graves to crematoria to surviving victims — in the hands of numerous sophisticated first-world observers who were highly motivated to talk about it. Not too many others we can say that about.

            Meanwhile, probably a solid majority of Soviet Russia’s reputation for repression in the West is due to one guy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He’s a good writer, but he can’t match that kind of volume.

          • mdet says:

            Loosely related to both Nornagest and jamieastoraga’s points, the Allies fought a big and decisively successful war against the fascists, and we regularly stroke our ego by reminding ourselves how great and decisive our victory was and how terrible our opponents were. Winning WWII is one of the proudest moments in American history. On the other hand, the biggest war against the Communists was Vietnam, which didn’t exactly lead to a decisive, ego-boosting win. The eventual fall of Communism was much less spectacular and cathartic than, say, the Normandy invasion. I think this ties into into both of the other points — (without needing to point to Hollywood demographics,) WWII movies and the like allow Americans to feel heroic and victorious because we can point to atrocities that our actions were able to directly stop. The fight against Communism doesn’t seem like it has many comparable moments of victory and catharsis to celebrate.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos

          “…But what about “socialist”? Their body count exceeds that of the Nazis…”

          That’s an interesting question; why aren’t “socialist” and even “communist” the boo-words that “fascist” and “Nazi” are, given comparable piles of skulls? – some guesses:

          Both “communist” and “socialist” were words used in the 19th century before the bloody regimes of the 20th century while “fascist” and “Nazi” made their piles of skulls relatively quickly after they were coined, though interesting to me in books like Inside Europe from the ’30’s the government of Poland which the Nazi’s and Soviets destroyed together was described as “Fascist”as well as were other regimes like Portugal, and (as has been mentioned upthread) for a time Taiwan and others that transitioned to liberal democratic republics, during the cold war “Authoritarian” was used for such regimes in contrast to the worse “Totalitarian” regimes, also during the cold war the C.I.A. sponsored anti-soviet leftists as well as right-wing “authoritarians” – basically any potential “enemy of my enemy”, I even remember in the ’70’s reading a book in the school library from the ’50’s called Today’s ism’s: Communism, Fascism, Capitalism, and Socialism which had Communism and Fascism as “totalitarian” (bad) and Capitalism and Socialism as “democratic” (good), and IIRC the U.S.A. was the example of ‘capitalism’ and the United Kingdom under the British Labor Party as the example of ‘socialism’ (in discussing that with my Mom she told me “that’s wrong” and gave me Marxist propaganda comic books to ‘correct’ me).

          “Communist” may have not quite the boo-word effect either because of religious communes being described as ‘communist’ in real old books (a more modern example of that would be the Israeli Kibbutzim) and H.G.Wells had his protagonist in The Time Machine call the Eloi society “communism”  (before discovering the Morlocks).

          I think a big reason that ‘communist’ and especially ‘socialist’ don’t have as much sting is that label being used to label too many popular policies in the U.S.A. i.e. unemployment insurance, social security, et cetera – to the point that many millennials call themselves ‘socialists’ when most of them just mean their grandparents welfare state rather than North Korea or even Cuba, and I kinda think ‘fascist’ and ‘nazi’ are losing their sting as well, I remember Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and now Trump as being called ‘fascist’, just as Obama was called ‘socialist’ – basically with every position to one’s left being called ‘fascist’ or even ‘nazi’ and every position to one’s right being called ‘socialist’ or even ‘communist’ it kinda diminishes the use of those terms to label skull pilers.

          Speaking of “Left” and “Right”, when both  Walter Mondale and Mao Tse Tung  are called “Left” and both Milton Friedman and Benito Mussolini are called “Right” I think the terms obscure as much (maybe more) than illuminate.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think a big reason that ‘communist’ and especially ‘socialist’ don’t have as much sting is that label being used to label too many popular policies in the U.S.A. i.e. unemployment insurance, social security, et cetera – to the point that many millennials call themselves ‘socialists’ when most of them just mean their grandparents welfare state rather than North Korea or even Cuba, and I kinda think ‘fascist’ and ‘nazi’ are losing their sting as well, I remember Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and now Trump as being called ‘fascist’, just as Obama was called ‘socialist’ – basically with every position to one’s left being called ‘fascist’ or even ‘nazi’ and every position to one’s right being called ‘socialist’ or even ‘communist’ it kinda diminishes the use of those terms to label skull pilers.

            I’ve heard FDR’s program called a “Greatest Hits Combination of fascism and socialism” on this board. That seems fairly accurate.

            Speaking of “Left” and “Right”, when both Walter Mondale and Mao Tse Tung are called “Left” and both Milton Friedman and Benito Mussolini are called “Right” I think the terms obscure as much (maybe more) than illuminate.

            This is undoubtedly true. And lots of people like to pick one policy that a person held and say “see, he was really ” to avoid having to answer for their actions. I’ve heard that Stalin was right-wing because he was authoritarian and had anti-homosexuality laws and that Mussolini was left-wing because he supported old-age pensions.

          • You might be right about “socialist,” but in the U.S. context I don’t think many people link “communist” with institutions such as the Oneida commune.

            I think the basic difference is that, prior to the Cold War, a lot of Americans, in particular a lot of American intellectuals, approved of the Soviet Union, with approval ranging from enthusiastic (“I have seen the future, and it works”) to somewhat grudging (“While one cannot approve of everything, …”). The Hitler-Stalin pact shocked some of them out of that attitude, but not, I think, most. And right through the cold war, pretty much until the Soviet Union collapsed, the dominant view among American academic economists was that the Soviet system worked for economic development, even if at a significant cost in political freedom. Warren Nutter’s work, trying to estimate Soviet economic performance without relying on Soviet statistics and getting a much less impressive result, was outside of, or at best at the edge of, existing opinions. Lots of American economists thought India was correct in modeling its attempts at economic development on Soviet models, and Samuelson’s best selling econ text continued to claim that the USSR was outgrowing the U.S., and would pass it in economic results, at a future date–receding with each edition.

            In that context, it was natural to see communism as an imperfect attempt at doing good, the Nazis as monsters.

            For the British equivalent, read Orwell’s letters and essays, not for his own views but for his picture of his left contemporaries.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        The unit Orwell fought with, for example, were anarchists.

        Is this true? I thought he was with the POUM who were anti-Stalin communists.

      • aristides says:

        Related to this standard. I’d argue that it is impossible to have a movement with as long as a history and as many followers as Catholicism not do anything someone would find heinous in your history. Even the most well meaning secular movements, like effective altruism, will almost certainly do something I find heinous over the next 2000 years if the movement lasts that long. Further morals change so often, that I expect 2000 years from now whatever intelligence that exists will likely find my actions and most of my contemporaries actions heinous. I think looking at the most recent history is the better way to judge movements.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.metafilter.com/179993/You-didnt-see-that-big-fireball-in-December-Neither-did-astronomers

    From the comments:

    “We actually have the technology to properly watch for these kinds of objects, but doing it in practice is a bit of a logistical nightmare. A constellation of hundreds of cheap, tiny cubesats in orbit armed with commercial IR/Visual sensors could stare continuously at the entire sky to spot the occasional glint of light or the telltale wink of a star as a rock floats past, and it would be reasonably cheap to make. The problem is the unsexy parts of the operation, the vast amount of video data that fleet of satellites would create, possibly dwarfing everything else in orbit. It can’t use conventional video compression like Youtube because the image artefacts those techniques introduce would hide the tiny signal of a faint asteroid. And then you have the small issue of simultaneously processing hundreds of real time video feeds, with low enough latency to give people a half-hour warning to hide in their basement and away from any windows. Oh, and who’s going to pay for it?

    So yeah, we’re probably waiting until one of these bolts from the blue eventually hits a populated area, and it’s kind of frustrating. The technology problems are probably solvable with enough funding, but no-one is likely to be interested in lumps of rock millions of kilometers away until they literally fall on their heads.”

    So, not an existential threat, but something which could kill 10 million people or so if our luck is extremely bad.

    • John Schilling says:

      We had one of these “hit” a major city back in 2013, for the definition of hit that means explode thirty kilometers overhead. Impactors capable of causing more than broken-window level damage at ground level are extremely rare, and cities represent an extremely small fraction of the Earth’s surface area, so it isn’t clear that this is a good use of finite resources.

      Particularly when the commenter isn’t clear on what they mean by saying the problem is “solvable”. Providing minutes to a few hours of warning, maybe, from the architecture that they describe. But assume we get a system where say NASA HQ knows with high confidence that Random City X is going to get hit one hour from now, how many cities are set up to do anything useful with that information? Seoul and Pyonyang, probably. We had the test case for Honolulu last year, and that didn’t go well. The Japanese city of Sendai had about an hour of warning for the 2011 tsunami; it looks like that was good for about a 25% casualty reduction, and Japan has put a lot of effort into earthquake/tsunami defense. So probably we’d be looking at a marginal benefit for the subset of cities that have some other reason to keep their population on permanent civil-defense standby but otherwise not much effect.

      We could probably develop a system that could turn a Tunguska event into a dozen or so Chelyabinsks on an hour’s notice by hitting the asteroid/comet with a good-sized kinetic impactor before it hits the atmosphere, but that would require having ICBM-class systems on constant alert at multiple sites around the globe and trust that A: nobody would see this as a sneaky way to deploy first-strike strategic weapons and B: nobody with their finger on a nuclear button would panic when a big ICBM-class system is launched without any notice beyond NASA saying “don’t panic”. And it would be expensive at way more than the swarm-of-cubesats level.

      Detecting hazardous NEOs months to years in advance would be plausible, and at that point you can almost certainly arrange at least an orderly evacuation, but we’ve already ruled out ~90% of that threat (in expected-casualty terms) with our existing searches and this is one of those 90/10 problems where the last 10% is much more difficult and so expensive.

    • Lambert says:

      Is the atmosphere really that much of a problem?

      • woah77 says:

        Atmosphere is a huge problem. It blocks a lot of signals and generates a lot of noise.

        • Lambert says:

          I suppose the atmosphere is opaque to a load of stuff.

          But I thought we were pretty good at pointing sodium lasers at space and stuff to compensate for any distortions.

          • woah77 says:

            That might compensate for distortion, but that is the lensing effect and not the only problem. If you’re looking in, for example, the IR band, you have to compete with all the thermal energy radiating down from the atmosphere and filter that noise out before you can see anything from space.

    • Deiseach says:

      I saw that, and it made me go “What the heck does the universe have against Russia, that all these giant killer meteors are exploding over there?” 🙂

      • woah77 says:

        Short answer: It’s a huge landmass (biggest in the world of any nation) and that’s why more meteors explode over it. Maybe also somebody has it in for the communists and haven’t gotten the memo that communism in russia is dead.

    • Winja says:

      There are companies that are currently working on or already deploying cube sats capable of sending huge amounts of data back to Earth for analysis.

      The company Planet is standing up such a system, though it watches the Earth, not the sky, and, as I understand it, part of their business plan is being able to do the data analysis necessary on the imagery, or farm it out to other organizations who will do more specialized analysis. Such a system would likely have applicable crossover with planetary defense.

      The company Planetary Resources is (or was, they were going through financial difficulties last time I looked) had fielded prototype cube satellites designed to spot and catalog asteroids for future plans to exploit their mineral resources. Their entire business plan is so close to what you describe that there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t utilize asteroid detection for planetary defense as a secondary income stream.

      Ultimately, I think this is an issue that will largely be addressed by technologies* that are coming online within the next 20 years.

      *Cheap cube sats capable of scanning the heavens for objects, data connections to download it, AI-based big data analytics capable of doing most of the grunt-level analysis for possible dangerous objects, backed up with analysts who can make the final call.

  8. johan_larson says:

    John W. Campbell, the esteemed SF editor, famously asked of his writers, “Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.”

    What are some works where the writers succeeded?

    To start with an old chestnut, I don’t think even the most self-sacrificing human culture would be willing to endure the sort of casualties the Bugs in “Starship Troopers” accepted. Ditto the Buggers from “Ender’s Game” and its sequels.

    Other examples?

    • ana53294 says:

      I quite like the treecats in Weber’s Harrington series. They are sufficiently different from humans to be obviously non-human, although they are still human enough to be sympathetic.

      • Nornagest says:

        Funny, the treecats were easily my least favorite part of those books*. A cute fuzzy telepathic intelligent pet that chooses its owner (thereby making its owner special by proxy) and can also fuck up bullies assassins is just way too much wish fulfillment for me, and I’m saying that as someone that liked Edgar Rice Burroughs.

        (*) Well, maybe second least. The habit of transparently naming the villains after French Revolutionary figures was also pretty annoying.

        • Nick says:

          I’ve only read the first one (on recommendation of a few people here) and the treecat basically felt like set dressing to me. Like, didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

          • Nornagest says:

            On Basilisk Station has a case of that thing where the first installment in a long-running series is a little weird by its standards because the formula hasn’t gelled yet. Nimitz starts taking a larger role three or four books in, if I remember right — it’s been at least a decade.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve read the entire core series, and I can’t think of any part of any book that wouldn’t have been improved by wholly excising the damn treeponies. Yes, Nimitz plays a bigger role in the later books, but that’s not a good thing. No, nothing that the human characters did would have played out any different if he hadn’t been there, presuming competence on the part of the humans.

            More generally, the bit where the very clever and capable but socially awkward heroine(*) finds a Magic Animal that is intelligent and loyal and forms a permanent telepathic bond with her that is very very rare and proves that the heroine is Very Special and gives her unconditional friendship and moral support, puts you one step away from just naming your heroine “Mary Sue”, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done well.

            * Or sometimes hero, e.g. A Boy and His Dog, but I think this trope is pretty strongly gender-linked.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @John: Now I’m just thinking of how, in the D&D campaign of mine Nick & Nornagest are in, young Circe has an intelligent, loyal rodent whose friendship and moral support will be permanent and unconditional (because he’s the same player’s backup PC).
            Bullet dodged, I guess, in that he can’t form a telepathic bond and it keeps being said that there’s nothing special about talking giant rodents (except that they all serve Apollo).

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, your dire rats are basically just fuzzy people, and Glibo’s probably the most morally questionable member of the party. (Plus, we kind of forced him into it at swordpoint.) He’s not a very central example of the magical pet thing.

          • Nornagest says:

            It occurred to me that Disney princesses tend to have loyal talking animal (or occasionally animate object) sidekicks — and then it occurred to me that Disney villains do, too. Now I’m thinking that if you live in a fairytale kingdom, maybe picking up talking animal friends is just something that happens to everyone in childhood, like dæmons in the Golden Compass books, and you’re just out of luck if yours happens to be a talking leech or something.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well, your dire rats are basically just fuzzy people, and Glibo’s probably the most morally questionable member of the party.

            … which is satisfying to me as a storyteller, because the whole party is at least temporarily serving Dionysus and one of them is a satyr. I feel so darn literary tweaking Nietzsche like that (whereas I don’t feel that the plots have even been living up to pulp standards).

            It occurred to me that Disney princesses tend to have loyal talking animal (or occasionally animate object) sidekicks — and then it occurred to me that Disney villains do, too. Now I’m thinking that if you live in a fairytale kingdom, maybe picking up talking animal friends is just something that happens to everyone in childhood, like dæmons in the Golden Compass books.

            I mean, yes? Most grown-ups other than the villain aren’t seen to have them, but your talking animal sticking around for life could be like a charism the special people in fairytale kingdoms get.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @John Schilling: I liked the section where he brought things to a head on PNS Tepes. (SS Tepes?) That said, any competent author could have generated the same outcome by having Cordelia Ransom attack a different woobie.

            And “Honor and Nimitz have totally unexplained telepathy no other treecat partner has” is just unbelievably stupid.

            Everything else about treecats is awful.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          just way too much wish fulfillment for me, and I’m saying that as someone that liked Edgar Rice Burroughs.

          Ha, I love that metric!

    • Walter says:

      It’s been a long time since I read them, but I seem to recall that the aliens in Stephen R Donaldson’s Gap series were persuasively inhuman.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The aliens in Speaker for the Dead (sequel to Ender’s Game – or is Ender’s Game the prequel; a far, far better book, but less appealing to smart-but-not-wise 13-year-old boys) are really convincingly alien. To me, they’re the opposite of the “planet of hats” thing where every alien species is just a human stereotype dialled up to 11.

      • Randy M says:

        I like the piggies. I think they’re probably on the edge of acceptable for this; I find their thinking usually makes a lot of sense once you understand their physiology. In the second life they are much more inhuman.

        It’s a hard question, since the range of modes of thought is constrained by what can be communicated by language, and what can plausibly be shown to survive in the same universe that human intelligence operates in. A species that randomly kills each other and holds no survival instinct thinks very differently than humans, but how does it survive?

        Maybe an alien species that is not a hive mind but is fully altruistic would be an interesting foil. Philosophical foil, anyway, because they’d probably not be surviving the book.

    • Enkidum says:

      Blindsight by Peter Watts, maybe? There’s two non-human species there, the vampires that are related to humans but far more aggressive, and the actual aliens, which are just OTHER. I suppose part of the point of the book is the incommensurability of their viewpoints, however, and so we don’t get all that much insight into the real aliens (if I recall correctly, you don’t even get to understand if they’re really individuals in any sense at all, it’s been a while since I read it).

      • Nick says:

        The thing with the aliens (and the vampires, actually) is that they aren’t conscious. See Watts’ Sentience/Intelligence note.

        • Enkidum says:

          Right, that’s kind of the point of the title. But still the vampires are clearly intelligent, and the aliens are… something.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The aliens are definitely something. But I don’t think the vampires thought much differently than a human. More vicious/sociopathic, but still basically human.

          • Nick says:

            What does “basically human” mean here? What did the vampire(s) do that made you go, “Ah, how human of them”??

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Consume lesser creatures for food?

            What about the vampires’ mode of thinking made you think they were that different from humans? They seemed like Star Trek aliens to me. Basically humans with an exaggerated culture.

            Caveat: it’s been several years since I read the book so maybe I’m not remembering them as well as you are.

          • Nick says:

            I think it’s been like three years for me too, so maybe I’m not remembering them well either. But I got the impression that the vampire was pretty alien too. Skimming all the references to Sarasti in the story, I see that: he is always polite; he has body language Siri interprets as predator like; he clicks, which was apparently some kind of proto-language for vampires; he’s soft spoken and doesn’t speak much, which Szpindel attributes to being sneaky by nature; he’s graceful, apparently; some remarks, like “Talk back,” could perhaps be humor; there’s the pep talk; there’s when he attacks Siri, ‘educating’ him about consciousness or whatever; finally, there’s Siri’s guess at the end that Sarasti and the AI Captain were coextensive, or Sarasti was just a mouthpiece for the AI. Siri speculates at the end that vampires do have some sort of self-awareness, so they aren’t quite on the same level as the aliens. But even so, this portrait seems very far from human.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Spoilers!

            He is also a mouthpiece for a spaceship, so that is kinda nonhuman of him.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That still just sounds like a human with some weird tics. Not like a truly different mode of thought.

          • Nick says:

            I mean, I’m skipping the parts where he reads data by staring at images of mutilated people, where he variously thinks ten steps ahead of all the humans on board, where he doesn’t speak in the past tense because there’s no such thing as memory for him….

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            where he doesn’t speak in the past tense because there’s no such thing as memory for him….

            See, you should have led with that one. I forgot about that. Yeah that’s pretty alien.

          • Nick says:

            Sorry. I came across it but forgot to add it to the list.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’ll let it go this time, Nick. This time.

          • Nick says:

            Your mercy knows no bounds!

      • Winja says:

        Should have read the thread before responding. This would be my vote.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      MorningLightMountain in the Commonwealth saga?

    • Winja says:

      The creatures in Peter Watts Blindsight are very intelligent without being conscious, and so alien as to be borderline unsettling.

      • I plan on reading this book so I don’t want spoilers but does it discuss issues with what kind of ethical behavior we should use when dealing with non-conscious, intelligent beings?

        • johan_larson says:

          The non-conscious intelligent beings can totally kick our butts, so no, ethical limits to dealing with them don’t come up. Watts takes the position that conscious thought is really expensive compared to unconscious thought, so unconscious but sentient beings can act much more quickly than conscious sentient beings, giving them a huge advantage.

    • Peffern says:

      This is perhaps related: the way we perceive humanity is very tied to how they communicate and use words. I love Jerry Pournelle because he makes alien speech patterns.

      Cf. Footfall, with the weird plural speech thing the aliens do, and The Mote in God’s Eye, with the gripping hand business.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks for the question.

      I have a sci-fi story in my mind that has a clash of a ‘bows-and-arrows’ civilization with an ‘on the cusp of sapience’ civilization and I have trouble imagining even how to write from the point of view of the characters who don’t really even have a language. I’m thinking the way a writer like Jack London anthropomorphized some of his wild animal characters might be a good fit for how they think.

      It seems obvious that my problem is easier to solve than yours and has probably been solved multiple times by better writers, but it’s still difficult for me to figure out how to approach it and make it obvious that my characters should not just be coded as ‘stunted human’.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Maybe study primate behavior? Monkeys and apes might be “cusp of sapience.”

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        What I’ve read and liked for that sort of thing is something along the lines of words or sentence fragments conveying basic sensory perceptions, actions, and the simplest of feelings/thoughts. Something like:
        Hunger. Fear. Escape. Running. Running away. Legs tiring, feet blistered.
        Though that style might start to grate in anything longer than a short story.

      • Well... says:

        I think your instincts are good. Steal from Jack London. He did a bang-up job with White Fang’s internal monologue.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Not in the sci fi genre, but Watership Down does a good job of having protagonists who are actually rabbits, and not just people with fur. (Contrast with Redwall, where the protagonists are literally people with fur, and armor, and this one really cool sword)

      • Rob K says:

        I re-read that book as an adult and was impressed by how true this is. Like, there’s a whole theme of the problem of militarily organizing rabbits, because…they’re rabbits, and extremely bad at military discipline.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This is C.J. Cherryh’s bread and butter, particularly with the Foreigner series.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      For me, an answer is “a lot of SF works”, but particularly good examples are first Rendezvous with Rama by A.C. Clarke and Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.

    • myers2357 says:

      I pose The Deep Ones as a candidate, mostly to learn more about the limits of the question. Does a race of quasi-immortal mermaid creatures which occasionally mates with humans / demand sacrifices / conduct trade – but otherwise avoids humanity – Be judged to thinks-as-well-as-or-better-than-but-not-like man?

      My claim to the “but not like” here is on the interactions hiding dramatic differences.

      Example #1: “interspecies mating” would seem to imply commonality/similarity, yet it appears to a be forced ritual, rather than the “marital” phrasing used to describe it. The Deep Ones collectively tricking (forcing) a Human Male into a long-term relationship (or at least repeated encounters) with a single “second wife” who was “them as wa’n’t never seed aoutdoors” / “that nobody in the taown never see”

      Example #2 – “Demands Sacrifices of humans” – certainly humans have demanded sacrifices of other humans, but if The Deep Ones are themselves Immortal (can be killed by violence, but not by disease or age, with at least one living to be tens of thousands of years old), then the concept of “sacrifice” dramatically changes. If death is not a norm, then concepts of afterlife, “a good death”, and “substitutionary atonement for sins” all go out the window; and with it, any cultural justification for human sacrifice throughout human history.

      So the question becomes: How much interaction can a species that thinks better-but-not-like-humans have with humans? Which interactions are disqualifying?

    • Nornagest says:

      A Fire Upon the Deep did this pretty well with the Tines. (The Spiders from A Deepness in the Sky are much more humanlike, though, aside from their hibernation cycle.)

      • Evan Þ says:

        Deepness in the Sky has something of an unreliable narrator in that respect, though, for reasons that’re fully justified in-text.

        I completely agree about the Tines, and I’d say the Skoderiders are also done decently alien.

        Vinge’s much earlier Witling does have extremely humanlike aliens without any such justification, though. It’s got a couple fun ideas, but it was before he really reached the summit of his powers.

    • J Mann says:

      I liked Walter J Williams’ aliens in Angel Station and Peter Hamilton’s Prime.

    • lazydragonboy says:

      Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy does this; The Oankali are definitely intelligent, distinctly well intentioned but very alien.

      • J Mann says:

        I thought about Xenogenesis too, but IMHO it’s complicated in that we mostly meet the Oankali who have intentionally incorporated some human traits. (And that the whole thing is an allegory for colonialism and assimilation.)

        • Dragor says:

          I would argue that the motives of even the non-Akjai Oankali are very alien. Nikanj for example continues to read spookily alien until well into the third book, and my reading of Jodahs, who was the most human of all, felt very alien. (I am lazydragonboy btw. I have two usernames for some reason).

    • sfoil says:

      Someone already mentioned Solaris, so I’ll add the…whatever it is in His Master’s Voice by Stanislaw Lem.

      The inhumi in The Book of the Short Sun.

      C.S. Lewis’ portrayal of unfallen aliens in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      The obvious example for this community would be the Babyeaters and the Superhappies from Three Worlds Collide by Eliezer Yudkowsky (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4). They have entire alternative evolutionary histories mapped out, leading to some very realistic evolutionary xenopsychology.

      The Accidental Space Spy by Øyvind Thorsby tries to do the same thing, but he’s not nearly as rigorous as Yudkowsky, so there’s a lot more just-so stories. Still, definitely better than something like Star Trek, where every alien species is just an exaggerated human stereotype (what TV Tropes calls a “planet of hats”).

    • Ted Chiang’s heptapods? Can’t say why without massive spoilers, but certainly fundamentally different to humans, if not ‘better’.

    • Fitzroy says:

      The uplifted spiders in Children of Time are very well written and definitely alien in they’re perceptions and thought processes.

  9. Atlas says:

    Suggestion: It is often thought that the social justice left sees racial/religious/national diversity as an asset, while the alt-right sees it as a liability.

    However, I think the social justice left is arguably as anti-diversity as the alt-right. It’s just that, while the alt-right claims that non-white people make diversity unworkable by causing problems for white people, the social justice left argues that white people ruin diversity by causing problems for non-white people.

    The difference is that white nationalists conclude, logically given their world-view, that the answer is national homogeneity and racial separation, whereas social justice crusaders, illogically given their world view, believe that non-whites should continue subjecting themselves to the tyrannical, oppressive, etc. rule of governments in (currently) white majority countries. (You could argue that they are seeking to eventually change that by eventually making whites a minority, but why even bother? Why not just quarantine whites now so that non-whites can be free of oppression?)

    To take a specific, and I think representative example, consider famous Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2017 article “The First White President.” According to Coates, American history has been largely defined by white supremacy and a failure to recognize the extent of the problems created by racism, if not necessarily racist beliefs themselves, still pervades politics and the media.

    In that case…why bother to fight it? If white supremacy is this deep historical legacy that still shapes American institutions, and awakening white people to its reality is such an onerous and difficult task, why not just found a new country with no white people, and therefore no white supremacy?

    (I feel kind of guilty about low-tier kulturkampfposting, but I also genuinely feel that this is a serious and under-explored tension in the theoretically pro-diversity narrative.)

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      In that case…why bother to fight it? If white supremacy is this deep historical legacy that still shapes American institutions, and awakening white people to its reality is such an onerous and difficult task, why not just found a new country with no white people, and therefore no white supremacy?

      Because…it’s an infinitely less onerous and difficult task than founding a new country with no white people? Like, what procedure are you imagining here? All of black America secedes? To where?

      I’m not Coates, but my answer would be: you fight it because fighting against racism is fighting for justice, and people can and do respond to that call; not always, and not without difficulty, but it’s clearly possible to win fights for justice, and it’s the right thing to do. In contrast to a plan that has none of the moral benefits of fighting oppression and is even harder to implement and less workable, it’s a pretty clear choice.

    • Clutzy says:

      Because deep down they know that such a project would fail, because a country comprised of a coalition of fringe groups will fail, particularly when the distribution of those groups resembles a lord-serf coalition with almost no middle class.

      • Evan Þ says:

        More charitably, they know that such a project will fail because starting new countries generally fails, or at most gives you a country much less prosperous than America. We can agree this’s true in the general case without saying anything about the Left’s preferred coalition.

        • Clutzy says:

          I don’t really think that starting new countries is such a bad chance of succeeding. If a plague wiped out everyone in Venezuela and a group of 5 million of Americas top 50% decided to found new America there, it would be richer than the US in 25 years.

          • albatross11 says:

            What previous cases are you basing that prediction on? What’s the base rate?

            The best parallel examples I can think of are the nations of Rhodesia, Liberia, and Israel, and maybe the state of Hawaii and the territory of Puerto Rico. Of those, none is richer than the US, though Israel is a high tech first-world country, Rhodesia is gone, and Liberia is a mess. Hawaii seems pretty successful now, but Puerto Rico is a lot poorer than the US.

            None of these totally replaced the local population, which I guess you’re imagining. Israel drove off a bunch of the previous population, and imported a bunch of the survivors of the highest-performing minority population in Europe, so maybe they’re the closest example.

          • Clutzy says:

            Israel is a good example. Australia, Canada, America are also good (but older) examples.

            Its kind of corny but the line from the Thor 3 Marvel movie is 100% correct: “Asgard is not a place, its a people.”

            And this loops me back around to my original point, that the Dem coalition would be a very hard people to govern.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            If you need to posit a plague to clear the land ahead of you in order to have a good chance of your country succeeding, I’m not sure you’re really taking the question seriously: how easy would it be to found new America in Venezuela if you don’t get to assume an empty place to populate, and 5 million volunteers drawn from the top half of society? And how likely do you think those conditions are to obtain in an actual attempt to found a new country?

          • albatross11 says:

            Australia, Canada, and the US took a lot longer than 25 years to be richer than the UK!

          • Clutzy says:

            If you need to posit a plague to clear the land ahead of you in order to have a good chance of your country succeeding, I’m not sure you’re really taking the question seriously: how easy would it be to found new America in Venezuela if you don’t get to assume an empty place to populate, and 5 million volunteers drawn from the top half of society? And how likely do you think those conditions are to obtain in an actual attempt to found a new country?

            The problem with turning Venezuela into a well governed rich country is, indeed, that it is full of Venezuelans. And Venezuelans have a preference, exhibited in voting patterns, for bad governance. That is the problem with a lot of potential places (from my POV). But, one nice thing for the proposal is that a lot of people who talk about “white supremacy and the patriarchy” is that they are not so down on the voting patterns of Venezuelans. So they don’t even need the plague to do my experiment. Indeed, their current proposals generally espouse the wisdom of having Venezuelans come to America, and presumably eventually vote. So they could just do the inverse.

            @albatross

            Trading across the Atlantic/Pacific also took like half a year then. And I don’t have data on where the immigrants were from (economically) in England at the time.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The problem with turning Venezuela into a well governed rich country is, indeed, that it is full of Venezuelans.

            You weren’t meant to be illustrating how easy it is to found a well-governed country, but how easy it is to found a new country. By far the biggest difficulty with founding a new country in present Venezuela is the presence of Venezuelans–because they will object to your founding a new country on top of them.

            Among other things, even if African Americans felt strongly enough about escaping white supremacy to move en masse to Venezuela, there’s no guarantee that Venezuela would allow them in; never mind that they also don’t speak the language and any other number of rather obvious practical difficulties.

            This is about as convincing as suggesting that, since conservatives who detest social justice should have some mild ideological affinity for say, Hungary, the fact that they don’t move there all together at once proves that deep down they understand that people like them could never govern a successful country.

          • Clutzy says:

            Conservatives are of the opinion that they did already found such a country, and it is called America.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            And liberals think that America has the potential to become the country they want. So both groups have very good reason not to go through the difficult and probably violent process of founding a new country, without appeals to some hidden understanding that they are incapable of running a country.

    • Guy in TN says:

      why not just found a new country

      If this means succession by democratic vote: No US state has a black majority, and the states that are even remotely close (Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, all at ~1/3) are lacking in enough sympathetic whites to tip the scales. (Not evening mentioning the unlikelihood of this vote being recognized as legitimate)

      If this means something like an violent separatist movement, aimed at fighting the U.S. military: Well, it should be self-explanatory why this isn’t a serious consideration.

    • albatross11 says:

      Atlas:

      Well, we’re a single nation. Most of us white people have nonwhite friends and family and coworkers and acquaintances, and we don’t really want any of them sent off to a different country. Trying to do that would be pretty-much guaranteed to lead to a civil war, in fact, and that sounds like a spectacularly bad idea.

      • Clutzy says:

        I think you and GuyinTN’s responses are kind of not responding to the question. Firstly, he is pointing out an important contradiction in the idea of saying white supremacy is bad, yet encouraging millions (billions?) of nonwhites to submit themselves to this via immigration. Secondly, its the question that gets asked to whatever over the top Hollywood person when they announce they will leave the country if Bush/Trump is elected, and then they dont: If we are so bad, why not leave? You can move to a host of nations that would be happy to have 10 million Americans immigrate.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’m frankly suspicious of your sincerity here, but here goes…

      The left does not view “whites” as inherently the problem. It’s just historically, whites (i.e. the European nations and their descendants) have done pretty well for themselves, at the expense of a large number of other groups. There’s nothing magical about melanin levels. The problems have to do with power structures, and the particular ones we have today, with white people (mostly) on top, are the result of many historical threads. Swapping out the skin colour of the ruling classes won’t solve the problem. There are relatively few serious thinkers on the left who view non-whites such as Mao, Idi Amin, Mohmmaed Bin Salman, Khomenei, or Suharto as model leaders (I’ve deliberately picked as many different races and political styles as possible there).

      In short, if you’re even 1% serious about your view of the left, you are terribly, terribly misguided and will never be able to make any useful predictions of any sort of their actions.

      • It’s just historically, whites (i.e. the European nations and their descendants) have done pretty well for themselves, at the expense of a large number of other groups.

        What does “at the expense of” mean? Do you think Africans would be better off if Europe had never interacted with them in any way? Chinese? Japanese? East Indians?

        In the case of Amerinds, you can reasonably argue that the plagues that arrived with the European visitors made a lot of them worse off–i.e. dead. But that doesn’t seem to be what you are talking about.

        • Enkidum says:

          I was trying to present a “generic” left-wing viewpoint, so I think others would answer your question differently. But as for my view…

          “Never interacted with them in any way” is a silly standard. “Never conquered or colonized them” is a far better one, and the one that actually relates to history. If there had been, say, respectful trade between free and equal peoples (as there was, in very rare occasions, usually when both sides had enough guns), then perhaps that would have been beneficial. But that isn’t what happened. So I’ll stick to arguing for the downsides of conquest/colonization.

          I think it is unquestionable that, plagues aside, the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of Central and South America were a disaster for the inhabitants. One might argue that the British and French did things differently in North America (and you can even compare the British colony of Belize to its Spanish-colonized neighbours, and see the important differences). And you’d have a point there, although I think it goes a lot less far than you’d like to believe. But I’ll let those slide for now.

          Africa? Almost with exception yes, the countries would have been better off without colonization. Any analysis of the horrors of Central Africa over the past forty years that does not place colonization front and centre is frankly complicit in evil. British governments were, again, somewhat less awful than their Belgian, Portuguese, and French counterparts, but I don’t think that, for instance, Nigeria is better off today than it would be had the place just been left alone. I suppose the slave trade is somehow gauche to mention (and yes, yes, it wasn’t just white people buying slaves), but, you know, it had something of an impact on the countries the slaves were taken from.

          The colonization of much of east Asia was almost exclusively about selling opium and simultaneously extracting as much resources as possible for as . What are today Vietnam, Burma, Laos and Cambodia, as well as large chunks of China, were primarily treated as narco-businesses. This still has massive consequences today.

          Japan is a very odd case. Arguably the Meiji Restoration at the hands of the Americans was a good thing for the country (although I’m sure the Chinese and Koreans who were subsequently colonized by the Japanese wouldn’t agree). And I’m not about to blame Japanese Imperial expansion on the West (although it certainly played a role there as well). I think that the post-WWII American involvement in Japan, and to a lesser extent South Korea, is one of the examples of playing a slightly better role.

          China I mentioned above, but let’s just quickly note that England fought TWO wars with it in order to forcibly flood its streets with hard drugs. If you don’t understand the centrality of drug-dealing to the entire colonial enterprise in Asia, you’ve grossly misunderstood it. And though I’m certainly in favour of drug legalization in most cases, this is not the way that I think it should be instituted.

          India… I don’t know enough to get into specifics. Certainly, I think by the time of Churchill, the idea that the English had any business administering the country was a bad joke.

          Look, I accept the world is complicated. Certainly, there have been good things that resulted from colonial enterprises in many different areas of the world. There have been many, many individuals who benefitted greatly from their interactions with their colonial masters. And again, I very much don’t think white/European people are special in any particular way – it’s just a messy historical fact that they, and not another racial group, ended up on top. The problem is the power structure itself, not the complexion of its wielders. (Which is why, like many on the left, while I view Obama much more positively than I do many other presidents, there’s still much I dislike about him.)

          • Machine Interface says:

            I think it is unquestionable that, plagues aside, the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of Central and South America were a disaster for the inhabitants. One might argue that the British and French did things differently in North America

            My usual counterpoint to the last part of this claim is that, south of the American-Mexican border, there are several native languages spoken by more than a million people each. North of that border, there is no native language that even reaches 200,000 speakers.

          • Enkidum says:

            True, but south of that border were several massive empires with full on cities. North America was always substantially less populated, if I am remembering correctly. But it’s a good point.

        • gbdub says:

          I don’t think it’s that hard to see why some might consider the success of America specifically to have come at the expense of Africans and Native Americans.

          “Would they be better off if they’d never interacted with Europeans” isn’t really a fair question. I suspect that America could have been more or less just as successful without chattel slavery and without continually reneging in treaties with the Indians. I think there’s a mostly just-as-good for white people and better for everyone else version of history where Africans and American Indians are treated less like savages to be exploited or exterminated.

          Hell, I’m guessing most 19th century American Indians would probably swap for the treatment of Indian Indians in India – better to be colonized into an Empire than wiped out.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is an interesting question, and I’d love to see people with more knowledge of history (aka everyone) consider it.

            Suppose we start with the formation of the USA, and we somehow get a sunset date on slavery, so that by 1800 there are no more slaves in the US. Suppose we manage to let the Cherokees assimilate instead of being forcibly relocated to make sure the right people can get the silver on their land, and that becomes a precedent. We keep expanding in territory, but with about 90% less nasty interactions with the Indians there (though we’re certainly going to end up with the Army killing off a lot of the Indians who were raiding settlers.)

            My first intuition is that we’d have done fine in economic/progress terms, because the main source of economic growth and progress was industrialization (fueled heavily by trade and immigration), fed by food and resources that were going to be pretty plentiful either way. We don’t pay the godawful cost of the civil war, and we probably industrialize a lot earlier in the south. Do we actually end up a lot poorer as of, say, 1900?

          • John Schilling says:

            Probably somewhat poorer. A good deal of early US industrialization was financed by cotton exports, which represented ~60% of the US export trade by value in the 1850s. Using free rather than slave labor would probably have meant less cotton to export, and more of the revenue winding up in the hands of poor southern farmhands rather than New England shippers and bankers. So less money to buy fancy machinery from Old England, and slower industrialization.

            I hate to say that slavery was ever good for anything, but it probably was a little good for jump-starting American industrialization.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          It is entirely possible that the existence of the state of Israel, and that both the presence of many Jews (as descendants of refugees) and their toleration as a minority in western countries like the US and Canada depend on the fact of the Holocaust having happened. Therefore, it is very plausible that the vast majority of Jews alive today live better lives than they would have if the Holocaust hadn’t happened. That doesn’t mean that the Holocaust didn’t occur “at the expense” of the Jews.

      • cassander says:

        There’s nothing magical about melanin levels. The problems have to do with power structures, and the particular ones we have today, with white people (mostly) on top, are the result of many historical threads.

        Funny how it’s treated as a sort of random accident that white people ended up on top, and how the centuries of history before that happened didn’t seem to keep them down….

        • Enkidum says:

          Sorry I realize you’re trying to be snarky about something, but I honestly can’t parse your sentence. For what it’s worth, I don’t think most people view history as random, just complicated.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think the point is that white people are on top because of the average skills of white people, which are coincidentally correlated heavily with melanin levels.

          • cassander says:

            there is a great deal of left wing thought about history that seems to start in 1492 with “the evil white people conquered the world and exploited it, that’s why they’re rich today.” It ignores the fact that everyone has been trying to conquer everyone since the dawn of time, but more importantly it totally fails to ask why europe, after having been a backwater since basically forever, was able to conquer the world in the first place.

            there are reasons why it was columbus sailing to america and Vasco da Gama sailing to india, not the reverse, and those reasons, by definition, can’t be colonialism, because they pre-date it. At most, colonialism accelerated trends that were already going on in europe, though even that theory is hard to credit because the early colonizers (Spain and Portugal) all wound up poor by european standards while the people that really broke the mold (the UK and Dutch) didn’t play in that game until much later, after they’d started to be noticeably different even from other europeans.

            My point was that “power structures” is a meaningless phrase that explains nothing. It’s phlogiston. If pre-existing power was what mattered, we’d all be speaking chinese or ancient egyptian.

          • Enkidum says:

            I guess the people you’re arguing with exist, but I mostly ignore them.

            I don’t particularly disagree with most of what you said, although I’ll note that I never said that pre-existing power structures explain everything… just that they are important.

            My main political concern is that I would like people to be happy, healthy, and free to do as they please, to the greatest possible extent. I am a utopian, I suppose. I think a great deal of the existing power structures in our world work against this, and, tying it back to the OP, I think that improving things will necessarily result in a relative loss of power for white people, both on a global scale, and within the currently white-majority countries. It will also result in a lot of other things, which have little or nothing to do with race. But OP was advancing a very silly account of the leftist view of race, so that’s what I focussed on.

            I think something like that general view of the world is shared by most modern leftist thought. I (we) don’t think white people are inherently evil, or worse than anyone else, nor that I their advance to power was particularly bad in comparison to what would have happened if some other group had happened to take over. But they did win, for all sorts of complicated reasons, and so they are one of the groups that stands to lose the most in terms of relative power if people like me get our way.

          • cassander says:

            @Enkidum says:

            I guess the people you’re arguing with exist, but I mostly ignore them.

            I don’t think you can, those assertions are the core of a lot of left wing thought.

            My main political concern is that I would like people to be happy, healthy, and free to do as they please, to the greatest possible extent. I am a utopian, I suppose. I think a great deal of the existing power structures in our world work against this,

            I would agree. Government regulations preventing business from carrying on, government enforced credentialing keeping people from working, government taxes taking people’s money and wasting it….

            Or were those not the power structures you were talking about?

            and, tying it back to the OP, I think that improving things will necessarily result in a relative loss of power for white people, both on a global scale, and within the currently white-majority countries.

            this is asserting an awful lot of facts not in evidence.

            But they did win, for all sorts of complicated reasons, and so they are one of the groups that stands to lose the most in terms of relative power if people like me get our way.

            unless by “your way” you quite literally mean despoiling the white people of their stuff, I don’t think this is true at all. It’s possible to have a world where everyone benefits, though current left wing politics are working against that.

          • Enkidum says:

            Just to be clear, I’m not arguing for my position here, which I take to be more or less the default left wing position. I’m just trying to state what it is.

            I will say that in terms of the relative loss of power on a global scale, the rise of BRICS (with the notable exception of R) means that white people’s relative power is declining. China and India together make up nearly 1/3 of the world’s population. If they had anything close to that amount of power, then white people’s relative power would be greatly diminished. That’s definitional. (Note that by “relative power” I mean “power relative to everyone else”, so the fact that producing wealth, etc, are not necessarily zero-sum games is irrelevant.) America and Europe (aka white people’s countries) are going to have less dominance over world affairs in the future.

            I’m not completely happy about the way that will play out, but it’s not really up to me to decide.

          • Aapje says:

            Chinese and Indian power is in large part regional, though. The common SJ claim that people automatically give benefits to others with the same trait would then logically result in oppression by the empowered (subset of the) Chinese.

            For example, Han Chinese could harm Uyghurs, to give a completely hypothetical example.

            So it seems to me that those who believe that traits prohibit sufficient empathy can only achieve their ideal with global race-mixing.

            The alternative is to believe that people can be taught empathy for those who lack (regional) power and I see Social Justice people gesture at this, but rarely actually strongly make a stand for this (which would mean opposing other segments and probably the majority of their movement).

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The alternative is to believe that people can be taught empathy for those who lack (regional) power and I see Social Justice people gesture at this, but rarely actually strongly make a stand for this (which would mean opposing other segments and probably the majority of their movement).

            If you are going to claim things like that “the majority” of social justice people would oppose standing up for persecuted minorities in non-white countries, you really, really need to defend this. I see tons of discussion of persecution of the Uyghurs, Rohingya, Yemenis, Yazidis, etc.

          • Enkidum says:

            Chinese and Indian power is in large part regional, though. The common SJ claim that people automatically give benefits to others with the same trait would then logically result in oppression by the empowered (subset of the) Chinese.

            I’m not entirely sure what that means, but if you’re trying to say that there will be huge negative consequences of the coming rise to world dominance of China and India, then yes, I agree.

          • and so they are one of the groups that stands to lose the most in terms of relative power if people like me get our way.

            If I correctly understand your “relative power,” white people are currently losing relative power due to people like me getting our way, and have been for some decades now. It was policies advocated by people like you (i.e. leftists broadly defined) that slowed the process.

            The crucial term is “relative,” and I am thinking of power mostly in terms of real income, although power in international politics is related to that. What kept India and China poor in the decades after WWII was leftist economic policies–the creation of the permit Raj, along with exchange controls, five year plans, and the like in India, under a government that has defined itself as socialist since it began, Maoist economic policies in communist China. What changed that in both countries, India much more slowly than China, was a shift in the direction of classical liberal economic policy, markets, private property, exchange as the central organizing mechanism for the economy.

            For earlier examples of the (relatively) classical liberal mechanisms vs the leftist mechanisms, consider Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore vs Maoist China, South Korea vs North Korea. The last is the one case where the distinction between individual power and national power matters. Individual North Koreans have much less power, less ability to achieve their individual objectives, than individual South Koreans, but North Korea is a more powerful state than South Korea, due to having funneled a lot of resources into its military.

            The only way I can think of in which the implementation of left wing policies might increase the relative power of non-whites is if those policies are implemented in Europe and America in ways that make people in those places poorer, which is certainly possible but not, I think, what you were suggesting.

          • Enkidum says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I think that the increased emphasis on free trade does, at least on a global scale, promote the equalization of relative power between societies (in most cases). I’m less sure about this within societies, but I’ll freely admit to having a poor understanding of a lot of economics.

            So yeah, I’m willing to accept most of your argument (to the extent that I’m entitled to an opinion). I also have no problem with condemning North Korea, China, etc. I think there hasn’t been a strong alignment of the Left towards overtly communist regimes since at least the 1980’s, and there have been important streams of leftist thought that are opposed to totalitarianism since the French Revolution.

            I think, further, that there are many positions strongly associated with today’s “right” wing that act against the equalization of power. For example, focussing the economies of large parts of the (non-Western) globe on narcotics production and consumption was one of the main priorities of Western foreign policy for over a century (probably the primary priority in most of central and southeast Asia), and then post-Nixon there was a sudden shift into aggressively cracking down on drug production and consumption. This has devastated these areas, continues to do so, and both the encouragement of the drug trade and subsequent crackdown have been, to my knowledge, mostly supported by right-wing parties in most Western countries.

            Cf. also slavery, the promotion of inter-ethnic rivalries (think Rwanda), brutal tactics of enforcement of patently unfair forms of resource extraction (e.g. Columbus in the West Indies, or the entirety of the Belgian Congo), deliberate destruction of cultures (Canadian residential schools), etc etc etc. These are all the kinds of things that I, and I think the left in general, have in mind when we talk about the evils of colonialism and conquest.

          • My point was not about “the right,” which is a loose label for a bunch of occasionally allied ideologies. It was about my particular ideology, which is classical liberalism—labeled “libertarianism” in the U.S. since the enemies of liberalism stole its name.

            That’s the ideology that opposed the slave trade and, in its modern incarnation, opposes the War on Drugs. The one that supports free trade, market institutions, and the like.

            So far as modern killings in Africa, the immediate cause was decolonization on the model of “One man, one vote, once.” That was, on the whole, a left wing project, and one that ended up with massive bloodshed. I don’t think it is clear what would have happened if European states had kept their colonies, as some parts of the right (not my part, as it happens) would have preferred, nor whether there was some less leftist model for decolonization, perhaps something more like the Swiss model, that would have worked better.

          • Enkidum says:

            @DavidFriedman

            From what I understand, a truly consistent libertarian geopolitics might be preferable to what actually happened in history. But I haven’t met a lot of consistent libertarians, and they don’t appear to have had much influence on actual politics outside of trade deals.

          • and they don’t appear to have had much influence on actual politics outside of trade deals.

            Abolishing the draft? Going back to the 19th century, classical liberals, along with quakers and such, were largely responsible for ending the slave trade.

      • roxannerockwell says:

        The left does not view “whites” as inherently the problem. It’s just historically, whites (i.e. the European nations and their descendants) have done pretty well for themselves, at the expense of a large number of other groups. There’s nothing magical about melanin levels.

        Ha! If you’re even 1% serious about your view of the left, you are terribly, terribly misguided and will never be able to make any useful predictions of any sort of their actions

      • DinoNerd says:

        I have certainly encountered left-affiliated morons spouting just about anything I’ve ever seen caricatured by right-affiliated people as the standard left-affiliated viewpoint. Including one white girl (in her 20s, so technically an adult) who claimed that all evil that ever happened was committed by white males.

        But personally, I’ve never quite gotten why I should favour people who are similar to me in one particular way, that being race. Or for that matter, disfavour people on that ground. Being read as “white” gives advantages in e.g. the US; disadvantages too, but I think it’s fair to say the net effect is positive. Being read as Asian is as good or better in some contexts, and likely to provoke violence in others. That matters, just as the effects of being seen as male matter. This encourages (to me at least) some amount of compensation – both for my own potential biases (is this Asian interviewee really as smart as I first think; is this black interviewee smarter than he looks?) and for their likely bad breaks in the past (maybe they went to a lesser school, not because they weren’t as smart, but because they were poor etc., and in fact have more potential than the interviewee from the better school).

        But when the dust clears, people are individuals. And I should treat them that way.

        That doesn’t seem to be a commonly expressed viewpoint. But it works for me – at least, better than affiliating with an “own kind” based on race etc. (OTOH, I’ll favour nerds/geeks ahead of smooth-talkers, both as likely more pleasant companions and as somewhat less likely to successfully scam me.)

    • Aapje says:

      @Atlas

      The main argument by Social Justice people for why third world countries are not doing so well seems to be colonialism, which is often presented as being extant and very potent today.

      So presumably, the answer is that this country will be poor for the same reason that Africa is poor: because we (white) Westerners don’t allow it to be rich.

      So then the only solution is to take control over the oppressors and make them stop oppressing, just like the only option in WW II was to go after Hitler. Isolationism couldn’t work because Hitler wouldn’t reciprocate by leaving you alone if you left him alone.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Colonialism is why Addis Ababa is so rich but Singapore and Hong Kong remain mired in poverty, after all.

        😉

        • Aapje says:

          In Social Justice, ‘colonialism’ often seems divorced from the actual historic events and instead is assumed to simply be the implementation of the same oppression hierarchy that Social Justice people seem to see as universal.

          In general, Social Justice is extremely Western-centric.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I’m a right-wing nationalist, but the question is clearly not even remotely in the Overton Window. Even if you could get a black nationalist secession of Georgia, to use the highest black population state that has a plausible geography, how are you moving 6 million whites, most of whom have ancestry in Georgia going back at least to the Revolution?

      The only remotely plausible time this could’ve happened was with the American Colonization Society in the early 1800s. And Liberia did indeed outperform most African countries in the 1800s.

      While I disagree with the objectives of the Social Justice crowd, they really are taking the only plausible path for their existing priors.

      • johan_larson says:

        how are you moving 6 million whites, most of whom have ancestry in Georgia going back at least to the Revolution?

        This part has a solution. White Americans are known for moving out of areas with growing black populations. Chicago famously experienced a “tipping” of some areas as white flight from areas with a few black people led to even more blacks moving in and even more whites leaving in an accelerating feedback loop.

        If blacks were to pursue a policy of concentration, meaning moving into areas where they are numerous but not a majority in hopes of becoming the majority, you would see lots of whites headed the other way. And this would happen even if concentration were done scrupulously within the law.

        So getting the whites out of the future Free Black Georgia may not be such a problem.

        But I agree that doing anything like this is not within the Overton Window at present.

        • EchoChaos says:

          White Americans are known for moving out of areas with growing black populations.

          Wrong White Americans. You’re thinking of Quaker and other Northern Americans. Georgia is overwhelmingly Reaver-American. They are known for being substantially less accommodating to minorities in regions that they live.

      • Plumber says:

        @EchoChaos,
        The “Americo-Liberians” were overthrown by a revolution in 1980 and suffice it to say in the 1980’s and ’90’s things didn’t go well for Liberia.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I am well aware of the problems of Liberia in the 1900s.

          Americo-Liberians are still the wealthiest and most politically powerful demographic there, even after the revolution. But revolutions generally suck for everyone.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Steel Man Explanation: If you assume the society in question comes attached with a great deal of social and economic goods which were stolen outright or the acquisition of said goods occurred under unjust circumstances, you would argue POC are entitled to those goods which in the case of social goods requires living in close proximity, in the case of economic goods doesn’t require living in close proximity but being a voting constituency for the country in question gives you a better chance to get it.

      There’s a corresponding Straw-man explanation but I won’t provide it.

    • gbdub says:

      I don’t think it’s a fair question. “Yay diversity” is the official position of essentially every meaningful American public and private institution. Sure, maybe not every corporation with a “diversity statement” means it all that sincerely, but the fact that they feel the need to mouth the words tells you something about the ubiquity and power of the concept. Even anti-affirmative action advocates are largely “diversity is great or neutral, but it doesn’t justify racial discrimination”.

      Meanwhile, “we should all go off to our own ethno-states” is a fringe position even on the right. Even in the nationalist right. Even on the parts of the right where lots of individuals have views that don’t require massive amounts of uncharity to call “racist”.

      If you are going to define one side that narrowly, I’d suspect you could probably round up a similarly sized group on the “social justice left” who believe in diversity only insofar as it directly benefits minorities. Certainly, most of the SJ-left seems to tolerate or even encourage self-segregation by minorities, and often advocate for maintaining separate spaces reserved for people of color (or women, or Muslims, etc.). Openly agitating for minority inclusion in traditionally mostly or exclusively white spaces, while opposing any white inclusion into traditionally minority spaces as cultural appropriation. Thinking about it this way, I’m guessing you could probably find support for the position “people of color should be allowed to maintain their own cultural spaces while participating equally in broader American culture and institutions”, at at least the level of support for “separate ethno-states” on the right. Yeah maybe that’s having your cake and eating it too, but it’s hardly surprising that that looks more attractive given the alternatives.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Certain college admissions practices that were disclosed in the course of lawsuits indicate a preference for diversity that exceeds what is legally required.

        Additionally, there does seem to be an agreement by all sides that on an economy-wide basis (i.e. a business that needs 100 people and has the globes worth of applicants and doesn’t have to compete for labor does not have this problem) Hiring on the basis of merit (By the common understanding of the term) does not generate sufficiently diverse representation.

        The conclusion that is arrived at differs, i.e. whether merit as is understood is somehow corrupted or biased because it doesn’t create the right representation [and thus should be subordinated or ignored completely]

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Tongue -> Cheek.

      Apparently we had a record number of illegal border crossings last month. For the life of me I cannot figure out why. Do the south Americans not get CNN? Do they not understand we are currently governed by Literally Hitler 2.0, who is going to holocaust all non-whites any day now? Shouldn’t the left be desperately trying to keep these poor migrants out before Trump murders them all?

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        “Apparently we had a record number of illegal border crossings last month…”

        Really?

        I thought it was still less than in previous decades, the U.S. economy must be perceived as doing relatively well now if that’s the case.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/05/us/border-crossing-increase.html

          The number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has once again broken records, with unauthorized entries nearly double what they were a year ago, suggesting that the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.

          More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.

          It’s like Jews desperate to claw their way into Germany, 1935.

          • Dack says:

            Nah, nobody believes there will be death camps.

            They may believe that a wall is going up though, and thus believe that they should rush to get in now while they still can.

            Cf.: record numbers of “assault” weapons being sold just before a ban goes into effect.

          • albatross11 says:

            I bet most of the driver of variation in illegal immigration is some mix of how good the economy is in the US, and how generally bad things are back home. In particular when you’re looking at families bringing their kids (more refugees than economic migrants), we probably cannot sustain being as harsh to them as we would need to be, in order to dissuade them from coming to escape the nasty stuff going on back home. Trying causes backlash at every level.

    • rlms says:

      Why do the libertarians complain about the deep historical legacy of taxes and regulations rather than found a new country? That’s a much more interesting question, since “a country with my favoured policies would be much better” and “I don’t have any obligation to help others, or any special relationship with the country I live in” are pretty popular views among libertarians, whereas the latter is not common by believers in other ideologies.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think if libertarians could, they would. Sealand. Plenty of talk in libertarian circles about floating cities and what not.

        Are there such wet dreams among the social justice crowd? Can we make a deal where all the disaffected move to California and leave the rest of us alone?

        The white nationalists want a white nation. They don’t get one because they would be violently opposed. Why? Why not just give them Idaho and be done with it? Say to anyone who doesn’t like POC, “move to Idaho.” Instead we force them to live among the rest of us. Wouldn’t we be happier without them and they happier without us?

      • Why do the libertarians complain about the deep historical legacy of taxes and regulations rather than found a new country?

        Versions of the “found a new country” approach are popular among libertarians. The Free State Movement is the equivalent of the “black Georgia” movement hypothesized earlier, except that it’s real–although unlikely to produce a libertarian majority even in New Hampshire. One of the lively areas of libertarian entrepreneurship at the moment is the attempt to create Special Economic Zones, viewed as roughly Hong Kong equivalents–much more libertarian areas within poor countries.

      • rlms says:

        It doesn’t matter that libertarians talk a lot about going off and doing their own thing if they don’t actually follow through in significant numbers. That just shows Ta-Nehisi Coates etc. are either more self-aware or less prone to virtue signalling than libertarians (if we assume both groups have the same factors discouraging their migration).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Well there aren’t that many libertarians. But yeah as David said there’s the Free State Project, there’s Sealand. Part of the problem is libertarian philosophy precludes use of force to seize the land necessary to establish a new country, which is why they keep talking about floating seasteads.

          Leftism, however, is entirely predicated on force and coercion, so they shouldn’t have any such compunctions about seizing land in support of such-and-such justice.

          • rlms says:

            About 0.1% of the number of Gary Johnson 2012 voters (arbitrary estimate at the number of American libertarians) have taken part in the FSP. The fact that there weren’t many Gary Johnson voters in the first place isn’t relevant.

            Leftism, however, is entirely predicated on force and coercion

            If an assumption like this makes predictions that don’t seem to be true, maybe you should reconsider it.

        • Clutzy says:

          The problem with founding a libertarian state somewhere, is you have to precede it with a genocide, which is decidedly not libertarian.

        • albatross11 says:

          Exactly the same argument works for any political/social viewpoint. Why don’t they all somehow coordinate and move to X and make it the Y homeland? Presumably because it’s obvious that moving to X and making it the Y homeland isn’t going to happen for like fifty reasons, so it would be a dumb thing to do.

          I mean, why didn’t all the gays and pro-gay people move to San Francisco or Key West and turn it into Gayistan? Because that never would have worked, and it was obvious it would never have worked, and they wanted to stay near their jobs/lives/families, and it was a really dumb idea in the first place.

          I’d love to see more federalism to the point that some weaker form of this was workable, but it seems to me that this isn’t really the direction the country has been moving over my lifetime.

          • Theodoric says:

            Depending on how cohesive the group in question is, this could be doable on some level. Hasidics have managed to heavily influence the municipal government in some places (Monsey/Ramapo, NY, Lakewood, NJ) or outright start their own towns (Kiryas Joel, NY). See also fundamentalist Mormon groups in places like Centennial Park, AZ-or Mormons generally in Utah.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, that’s my point (and the fact that some libertarians still talk about moving to X shows that they are either dumb or signalling virtue).

            Although, the argument doesn’t work as well for other ideologies. Practical concerns apply to pretty much all of them, but because libertarianism is entirely predicated on selfishness and greed tends not to view altruism as obligatory it lacks the objection “running away and founding our own glorious utopia would leave a lot of people who don’t/can’t move in a bad position, and this is morally wrong”.

          • 10240 says:

            Yes, that’s my point (and the fact that some libertarians still talk about moving to X shows that they are either dumb or signalling virtue).

            Any group that would like to achieve something radical or difficult will have some adherents talking about ideas that are a long shot, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. There is a gap between an idea being so implausible as to not even be worth talking about, and being probably practical.

      • Garrett says:

        Partly because of issues of topology. The easiest way to found any form of settlement is on land. And pretty much all land which currently exists is claimed by some country in some fashion. Thus you’d either have to take land which hasn’t been worth claiming, you have to displace the existing state from existing land, or you have to create your own land in a fashion which wouldn’t allow for the existing states to claim sovereignty over. Seasteading is a popular answer for the previous approach. But it runs into a problem of being extremely expensive.

        • woah77 says:

          If you know any seasteading organizations that are looking to hire engineers, I’d be interested in taking a look.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        From Inadequate Equilibria by Eliezer Yudkowsky:

        Visitor: I must still be missing something. I just don’t understand why all of the people with economics training on your planet can’t go off by themselves and establish their own hospitals. Do you literally have people occupying every square mile of land?

        Cecie: … How do I phrase this…

        All useful land is already claimed by some national government, in a way that the international order recognizes, whether or not that land is inhabited. No relevant decisionmaker has a personal incentive to allow there to be unclaimed land. Those countries will defend even a very small patch of that claimed land using all of the military force their country has available, and the international order will see you as the aggressor in that case.

        Visitor: Can you buy land?

        Cecie: You can’t buy the sovereignty on the land. Even if you had a lot of money, any country poor enough and desperate enough to consider your offer might just steal your stuff after you moved in.

        Negotiating the right to bring in weapons to defend yourself in this kind of scenario would be even more unthinkable, and would spark international outrage that could prevent you from trading with other countries.

        To be clear, it’s not that there’s a global dictator who prevents new countries from popping up; but every potentially useful part of every land is under some system’s control, and all of those systems would refuse you the chance to set up your own alternative system, for very similar reasons.

      • johan_larson says:

        Why do the libertarians complain about the deep historical legacy of taxes and regulations rather than found a new country?

        Because founding a new country is really hard. Since all existing land has been claimed, creating a new country means you have to get land from an existing state. States really hate giving up land, even when it’s really useless land. So you either have to fight a war, lead a successful peaceful secession movement within one of the states that tolerates such things, or purchase a plot of land from one of the few states that is willing to consider such things. All of these options are hard enough that virtually everyone, even among the dedicated, will look for some either option, either by finding a way to put up with the existing system or getting around its most troublesome aspects or reforming it from the inside.

    • 10240 says:

      I don’t think social justice people commonly think that white people are currently a net negative for black Americans. (Though they were at some points in the past.) What they think is that white society is unfair towards black people. Take the example of an employer who only hires white people. It doesn’t hurt black people: it doesn’t leave them worse off than if it didn’t exist. But it leaves black people worse off than white people (even than similar white people), which is arguably unfair.

      I also don’t think that social justice activists really care about diversity as an end. Diversity has become a code-word for increasing the percentage of minority people in good jobs. They think that’s a good thing because they think the underrepresentation of minorities in good jobs is a result of racism, so increasing their representation is fair. Talking points such that diversity benefits everyone just serve as an additional argument to strengthen their position, or as an argument to tell those who disagree about the fairness part.

  10. j1000000 says:

    I was watching a re-run of Big Bang Theory (I like the show, so sue me) recently and as the four male main characters were all driving together, their car broke down. The ensuing joke was that the driver said something like “Anyone know anything about engines?” and they all knew everything about the history and physics of engines, and then he said “I mean does anyone know how to fix one” and they all said oh of course not. (A video of the joke is here.)

    One of them is even an engineer. Is this a fair stereotype? I am only friendly with one engineer, but the one I do know is pretty handy. I would assume that an engineer would be the sort of person interested in tinkering with engines. But obviously there are all types of different engineers.

    • Murphy says:

      People specialise.

      If there’s a giant nest of cables in a server room or a weird bug that only happens when 3 transactions are in progress at once, I can… with time… decode what’s going on.

      But I’ve never geeked out over engine repair. I have a rough idea about how they go together but show me a malfunctioning engine and I don’t know what’s likely to go wrong, what the symptoms are likely to be etc.

      If I hung out on car repair forums I’m sure I’d pick it up… but cars aren’t an interest of mine.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      Judging by the engineers I know, I think the average engineer person is more likely than average to know how to fix a car engine, but only by a little bit. It’s a specialized craft, and if your particular interests don’t include cars you’re unlikely to learn about exactly how to make or fix a car engine. I’m pretty sure the average engineer could figure out how to fix common engine issues from guides or YouTube better than the average person, though – that’s definitely part of the skillset.
      Most engineers I know have some mechanical thing they know about besides what they do for a job, but it’s not cars for most of them – I know a bike guy, a 3d printing guy, and yes, one car guy.

      • Clutzy says:

        For me, as a bioengineer, I think modern engines are largely too complex for the average very smart person (engineer or not) to get into casually. I can repair my old motorcycle pretty easily, but under the car’s hood resembles a black box now.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I have an engineer friend, PhD, with about 10 years of teaching under his belt etc. He’s the most handy handyman I know. My father is the same, and I don’t think I’ve seen a helpless engineer. So it’s probably closer to an unfair stereotype.

      This being said, most car mechanics these days act like helpless babies without a computer to diagnose the problem, so…

    • The Nybbler says:

      I know one software engineer who had an earlier career as a mechanic. I can do some basic maintenance myself (though there’s not so much nowadays that’s likely to break and field-reparable). The theoretician who doesn’t know anything about practice is a real thing, but I don’t know if it’s any more common than the non-theoretician who STILL doesn’t know anything about practice.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      I know car people, including mechanics, who can easily and quickly fix a large number of various malfunctions, but completely shy away from certain types of problems and especially certain types of vehicles (foreign being the obvious example).

      Spreading that thought out to the entire realm of “engineers” – which presumably include programmers, industrial engineers, civil engineers, etc. – then I wouldn’t find that surprising at all. Mechanical Engineers should have a leg up compared to other types when it comes to fixing a car, but they could easily specialize in some niche like Jet Engines or Die Press and have no necessary reason to know anything about cars.

    • John Schilling says:

      That’s fairly realistic for a 21st-century engineer, though it would have been a bit off a few decades ago. Part of this is that engineering has become more thoroughly specialized, and another part is that modern auto engines have become much less reparable or tinkerable outside a shop – so that the return on investing any of your time fiddling with automobile engines is much less even if you do have a mechanical and/or engineering background. It’s maybe surprising that Howard wouldn’t even look under the hood for something obvious, but not too much of a stretch.

      The physicists are of course red herrings in this context in any century.

    • Matt says:

      I am an engineer who can do some work in my garage on engines. Maybe call me a ‘maintenance plus’ guy. Replace plugs and plug wires, replace an alternator or water pump, etc. Last big project was replacing front lower control arms on my truck. The last repair my truck needed was a new clutch. I had a garage do that.

      I work with engineers, too, and the handiest engineer I know (who used to be a mechanic at a dealership, actually) wouldn’t be able to use ‘expertise’ to fix most engine problems at the roadside. You need ‘tools’ and ‘replacement parts’.

    • Walter says:

      It’s a fair joke, though a bit of a cheap shot. Like, replace the nerds with jocks, and they still wouldn’t be able to fix the engine. Replace them with blue collar guys, same deal. Basically no one can fix a broken engine at the side of the road.

      The good part of the joke, and the part that makes it work, is the nerds initial answer, the factual truth that they know plenty about engines. Most other professions would answer the implied “can you fix this engine”.

      • Plumber says:

        @Walter,
        I’ve re-installed a spark plug cap and wire at the side of the road and got home, another time a loose battery cable, and one time I determined it was a fuse that went bad – though in the fuse case I had to stop at a gas station and buy ten fuses to get home as they each blew out one by one, but those were all old and crispy cars or motorcycles – now I drive better cars and have tow insurance.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Right, I forget the time the battery wire actually corroded through at the terminal. Another one where the engine didn’t stop; an ancient Toyota Tercel apparently can run off its alternator with no battery in the circuit, although there’s surging. I think I managed to start it (after stopping) by jury-rigging something to hold the cable in place. This I could have fixed in the field if I’d happened to have a replacement terminal, but who does?

          Wait, now I remember; I had a set of jumper cables so I drove home with the cables stuck under the hood, one end on the stub of the battery wire and one on the battery terminal.

          • Dack says:

            Batteries in gas-powered cars are only necessary for starting the engine. All they do while the car is running is recharge.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Dack

            It’s true they’re only strictly necessary for starting the engine, but that’s not all they do while the car is running. They also buffer voltage sags and surges. Without the battery in circuit, other electrical equipment can malfunction as a result.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think people are giving too much credence to underlying assumption of the question itself.

      BBT is not a realistic portrayal of anything anymore (if it ever was). It’s a formulaic comedy based on tropes and archetypes, where the trope of the “egghead” who doesn’t know anything about practical, real world, things is leaned on heavily. These kinds of characters aren’t all that much removed from the trope of the effete, patrician, or even the urbane.

      Plenty of actual engineers will be DIY types, more than the average percentage in the population as a whole I imagine, although certainly not any where close to all of them.

    • Drew says:

      Going from stereotypes: the engineers would have the hood up and be poking things, even if they didn’t know anything about cars.

      • Nornagest says:

        Am engineer; have driven shitty car; can confirm.

        I even managed to work out what was going on: the A/C compressor seized, and the seized pulley was putting too much stress on the serpentine belt, which snapped, which took out power to the fan and alternator. I got home by replacing it with a shorter belt that didn’t drive the A/C, which fortunately was possible on that particular model of car.

    • suntzuanime says:

      On the subject of nitpicking the Big Bang Theory, the biggest thing that made me wince was when one physicist character cited the acceleration due to gravity to the other as 32 feet per second squared rather than 9.8 meters per second squared. (And the other physicist didn’t even leap up and slap him in the face!)

    • Pepe says:

      I am an engineer who teaches an IC engines course and I would guess my odds of being able to fix a broken car on the side of the road at pretty darn close to zero.

      • johan_larson says:

        Now I’m curious. If you’re driving along and you are forced to stop because of a problem with the car, what’s likely to be wrong, and can it be fixed on the spot?

        Some high-probability possibilities:
        1. out of gas — not fixable unless you have a spare gas can or maybe a siphon hose (not likely)
        2. flat tire — possibly fixable, assuming you have a spare, it works, and you have tools for the work
        3. …

        • Pepe says:

          I’d say that the chances of a properly maintained car just straight up dying while on the road are very slim. Usually something that could break, like a faulty fuel pump, or a dying battery/alternator should give plenty of warning before. Same as running the car without oil, that light should be flashing in front of your face long before it happens.

          I guess crappy gasoline could be the culprit, or a broken timing belt maybe.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’d say that the chances of a properly maintained car just straight up dying while on the road are very slim.

            Sure, sure. Just as healthy adults in their prime don’t fall dead in the streets, well-maintained newish cars don’t just stop working. So let’s suppose this is a more plausible case, with a 15-year old car with 750,000 miles on it that hasn’t had an oil-change in two years, and hasn’t been seen by a mechanic in five. Oh, and the “check engine” light has been on for the last six months.

        • John Schilling says:

          Overheating, where unless there’s a severe leak or a broken pump you can probably fix it with time and coolant (water will do for getting you to a service station).

          A dead battery can be jump-started; a dead alternator means you’ll have a dead battery in half an hour so you will want to know how to recognize that early.

          Broken drive/fan/whatever belt, where you can fix it if you have a spare belt or maybe a set of ladies’ hosiery, but the last time this came up on my 2016 car it was impossible to gain sufficient access without putting the car on a lift.

          Anything involving the valves, cylinders, or other engine internals is probably not fixable in the field.

          Shortage of oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc, is trivially fixable if you catch it before the “forced to stop” point, and too late after. Same with worn brakes.

          Transmission, not fixable per se but with experimenting you may be able to find a restricted operating range sufficient to get to a service station.

          A bad spark plug can be replaced in the field, other ignition problems probably not.

          Problems with the air induction system can sometimes be fixed with duct tape and/or a spare filter (improvised if necessary). Fuel system, less likely to be fixable.

          All of these are complicated by the lack of access space in modern designs, where it is assumed that any failure will mean you get towed in to a shop with a lift. And all of these are facilitated by driving your own car, where you can arrange for the trunk to have key supplies as noted above and a vehicle-specific repair manual. A rental or other shared car won’t have anything except maybe a spare tire, and increasingly not even that.

          And as noted under alternator, oil, transmission fluid, etc, learning to recognize impending failure is at least as valuable as learning to repair actual failure.

          • johan_larson says:

            The odds don’t look great, even for a mechanic, unless he has taken the time to pack at least a solid set of tools and maybe some spare parts, like a spark plug. But those aren’t found in most cars.

            A mechanic probably raises the odds in general mostly by keeping his car in better repair than most and recognizing which little problems need prompt attention better than the typical car owner.

          • John Schilling says:

            But those aren’t found in most cars

            That’s like saying food isn’t “found” in most kitchens, and therefore cooking is a useless skill now that we’ve got takeout and uber eats. What’s in your trunk, like what’s in your kitchen, is what you chose to put there.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The actual major failures I’ve had are running out of gas (gas gauge inoperative, estimated wrong), flat tire (fixed by installing the spare, but not engine-related), timing belt (even if you have a spare, it’s a several hour job in a shop, that required a tow), overheat (which I did “fix” by turning on the air conditioning… 2 worthless internet points to anyone who figures out why that worked), and a broken retaining clip on a shifter (though it only took out 2,4,R so I got home and to the shop in 1,3,5; reverse being achieved by pushing. Not field-repairable and not the engine)

          I’ve also had a clutch slave cylinder fail while I was out but not while the car was in motion. You might be able to field-repair that but the chance of just happening to have a spare slave cylinder, tool set, and brake fluid with you is pretty much nil.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            did “fix” by turning on the air conditioning

            You were either stuck in traffic and had a bad fan motor, or your radiator was plugged.

            Either way you turned both the heat and the AC on, utilizing the separate fan and radiator that is the heater core without broiling alive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You were either stuck in traffic and had a bad fan motor, or your radiator was plugged.

            2 internet points for HBC. The main fan motor was bad, and I was stuck in traffic.

            I did not turn on the heat, as it was not necessary; turning on the AC to get the AC fan motor running was sufficient.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            Ah, I hadn’t considered the idea that the AC fan could/would put enough draw across the radiator. Actually, now I’m vaguely wondering why that is a separate fan/fans at all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This was a Mazda Miata. The cooling system is adequate with the standard fan, and the A/C is optional. The A/C fan is basically the same size as the regular fan and just sits next to it. So that’s two reasons for two fans — one that you don’t need to pay for the second fan if you’re not paying for A/C, and the other that the radiator is rectangular so 2 fans is more practical than one larger one. The A/C doesn’t add enough to the load under the conditions I was in to actually require both fans (though presumably there are such conditions).

          • Protagoras says:

            Seems like a good design. If it’s hot enough to require air conditioning, maybe not a bad idea to be blowing more air on the radiator. In addition to providing redundancy in unusual circumstances, apparently.

        • Aapje says:

          Despite that I enjoy only filling up only after the fill-up light comes on, I never ran out of gas. However, this would probably be fixable by walking to a gas station and buying a gas can*, which they often or always seem to sell there. Of course, it depends on it actually being safe to walk from my car to the gas station (quite a few people have died crossing and walking along highways).

          When I had a flat tire, due to a huge nail, the liquid rubber repair kit was worse than useless, as I was told by the mechanic who came to help (who also told me off for taking out the nail). His repair using a string was something I was not aware off as a possibility and was also not something I had the tools for. I also think that the high reliability and permanence of such a repair is not very obvious and presumable learned from experience. So I needed to have him tell me.

          One time had a car that would run through oil fast and refilled it myself when the light came on.

          I had several problems that were even very hard for mechanics to figure out and would be impossible to fix myself (a hose that was not properly attached and that sucked in just enough false air to give a warning light after 20 miles and an intermittently failing cooling system that would cause an overheating engine). Neither stranded me, though, although the overheating engine required the ‘AC fix’ and one or two stops to let it cool.

          An issue is that modern cars are not merely complex, but can be very hard to work on too. For example, to replace a light bulb, you need do a decent bit of disassembly on some modern cars.

          * Although I’ve been told that completely running out of fuel can be really bad for some engines.

        • SamChevre says:

          In order of “how many times it happened to me”

          1) Flat tire: fixable
          2) Out of gas: preventable, and generally fixable by walking/hitching to a gas station
          3) Burst radiator hose: not fixable

          • baconbits9 says:

            I drove a car around for months with a badly leaking radiator hose by filling the radiator frequently. It did eventually bite me in the ass, but its actually one thing (depending on where the leak is and how big) people could ‘fix’ for long enough to get the car to a repair shop.

          • John Schilling says:

            One of the many, many things duct tape is good for is temporarily fixing radiator hoses. This is an “I can drive to a repair shop” level fix, not an “I can save $200 in repair costs” fix, but that can be worth a lot.

          • Lillian says:

            3) Burst radiator hose: not fixable

            One time i had this happen while moving from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States in a 1981 Volvo station wagon pulling a home-built trailer made out of scrap wood, welded steel beams, and a car axle so ancient it had a leaf spring suspension. Yes, seriously.

            We didn’t build the trailer chassis, pretty sure some guy did that in his garage before i was born. What i did do was grind away two layers of peeling old paint and a lot of surface rust out of the thing, then primed and repainted that bitch before we built the scrap wood box on top of it. The hub caps were empty soup cans, and the fenders were made from a spare bumper we had lying around after fixing some car crash damage. Ghetto as fuck.

            Anyway, the hose burst in at night in the middle of goddamned North Dakota, so you can imagine what the prospects were for a timely tow and repair. There were three of us: a mechanical engineer (designed the trailer box, planned route), a bus driver (was driving), and a NEET college dropout (helped with things). The engineer’s contribution that night was primarily to light road flares and trust that the situation was under control. The bus driver had actual experience fixing engines, so she directed the repair efforts, while i served as a second pair of hands and to reach into tight spaces on account of being smaller and lighter built.

            At first we tried to fix it with some hoses we happened to have on hand from trying to rewire the air intake system to solve the car’s issue with shutting down when idle. No dice, they weren’t the right size. So the next plan was to reduce the number of hoses the system needed via bypassing the heater. We unplugged the inflow and outflow hoses, replaced the burst hose with one of them, use the other as a bypass. All while engaging in considerable unladylike swearing because of the cramped spaces, lack of light, and the bloody hot car engine.

            When the cops finally showed up, they were just in time to awkwardly stand around and vaguely try to be helpful as we poured water back into the system. The flashlights were nice though, made it easier to check whether our jury-rig actually worked. And it did work, so we got going again high on the sweet joy of victory over adversity.

            Probably the most redneck experience of my life.

  11. baconbits9 says:

    So does anyone know how to protect chickens from hawks? We have tried a bunch of recommendations (scare crow, owl, hanging CDs) and we are not keeping them safe.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      If they are in an enclosure, putting a type of netting or wire covering over the top can fix the problem.

    • Erusian says:

      If the hawks are accustomed to scarecrows or whatever, it won’t work. The most traditional way is to get a dog that is friendly with the chickens but guards against hawks. Chickens are too big for hawks to carry away so they have to eat it there. The dog will mean they won’t get their meal (or will die) and so they’ll move on.

      One thing I’ve seen work (but it’s pretty gruesome) is to shoot a few of the hawks and hang their corpses around the pen. Then shoot any hawks that attempt to eat them. The remaining hawks will mark it as a place where a predator lives and stay away. But my understanding is that many states have laws protecting the hawks from shooting. I’ve never heard of them being protected from guard dogs, though who knows in certain states.

      I’ve also seen eliminating all tall trees in a certain radius work. And if it’s safe (and you have the money), electrifying where they perch does the trick. For chickens specifically, you could also put up nets or keep them in hutches.

      • Or you could send the hawks in my direction. Nesting platform in a tree available rent free, and an almost unlimited supply of squirrels. Should taste pretty good, after eating all my apricots before they came ripe.

        • Garrett says:

          Pest arbitrage sounds like it should be the subject of an economic paper.

        • Erusian says:

          This can work to mitigate but not eliminate the problem. Also, farmers do this fairly regularly: set up good environments for hawks around (say) an orchard with lots of squirrels.

      • chrisminor0008 says:

        How does electrifying work? Don’t you need grounding, or the hawk to somehow complete a circuit?

        • woah77 says:

          Technically, when you electrify, you’re making a circuit with an exposed conductor. When a hawk (or other object) makes contact, it creates another path for electricity to pass through. That zaps them.

  12. bean says:

    A question related to the recent 737MAX debacle. Let’s say Boeing digs through the MCAS code, and finds a line that can occasionally cause it to go nose-down improperly. They dig through all the rest of the code, and say it looks good. The FAA signs off on it with a clean bill of health. The fleet is no longer grounded, all is good.

    The next time you fly, you’re going to be on a 737MAX. Are you nervous? Do you trust that the problem was isolated and has now been fixed, or do you fear that there might be more problems out there?

    • J Mann says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t be any more nervous than flying on any other plane — there’s a small chance that something will go disastrously wrong and be completely out of my control, but industry and FAA QA is so scrupulous that I am confident that chance is very small.

    • j1000000 says:

      I’d be nervous, yes. I rarely fly but would pay extra to avoid the 737MAX for the next several years at least, if that were possible.

      But in general I’ve gotten more nervous to fly as I age. I’m not sure why since I fully understand commercial flights are extremely safe. I guess when I was a kid I was told “big planes almost never crash” and I just accepted it as a law of nature. But now I just think of all the incompetent/apathetic people I’ve worked with or all the days when I’ve acted apathetic in my job and hope the maintenance people or pilots aren’t having a day like that.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        But those potentially incompetent or apathetic people are still there on the highway. They’re just driving all the vehicles around you instead of the one you’re in.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Of course I’m going to be nervous.

      First, errors come in clumps. I think Shannon noticed this for the first time. In programming, I can confirm they definitely come together – when I teach noobs programming, I tell them that if the compiler found 4 syntax errors, they probably have 2 logical errors they can find if they carefully re-read the code, and at least one they can only find testing. And that’s after they’re proficient.

      Second, it’s a matter of process. Whatever process they used to put that buggy line in production, it has a much bigger inertia that a line of code.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Yea. being nervous/anxious is mostly about how much you fixate on something, even just hearing that the type of plane I just got off had been i a couple of crashes would make me more nervous.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Isn’t the word out by now? I mean to say, is there a pilot who hasn’t spent some time hearing about and thinking about the recent crashes, and who isn’t for that reason going to be hyper-aware of any relevant potential issues that might come up when flying a 737MAX? From what I’ve been reading here, it seems like that ought to pretty much take care of any issues, on top of whatever fix the FAA orders.

      • John Schilling says:

        Yes, but it ought to have been obvious after Lion Air 610, and here we are talking about Ethiopian 302.

        And we still don’t know for sure what caused the Ethiopian 302 crash, but if it was the same MCAS failure that did in Lion Air 610, there’s even less excuse for that than there was last October, and nobody who should be trusted to fly a commercial airliner should have been brought down by that a second time. So either this is something new and unexpected, or this is an indication of a systemic problem in training airline pilots – and good luck with solving that one by a mass grounding.

        • 10240 says:

          There is a reason the second crash made authorities around the world ground the plane amid strong public pressure, but the first crash didn’t. Two similar incidents over a short time raise attention much more than one (where “similar” may just mean that the same type of plane crashes). For the same reason, the second crash most likely raised the attention of any pilot who didn’t bother after the first one.

          It may also not be a coincidence that both crashes happened in undeveloped countries.

      • bean says:

        This was meant more as a hypothetical, because I’m interested in the damage this is doing to the 737MAX brand.

        I agree with John that the first crash probably shouldn’t have happened if the pilots had been competent, and that if the Ethiopian pilots had had the same failure and let it steer them into the ground, they should have been prosecuted for negligent homicide if they’d lived.

        • Aapje says:

          The customers are the airlines, not the passengers, who have short memories and generally don’t pay much attention to the exact plane type.

          So I don’t expect a long term impact unless another 737 MAX tumbles out of the sky fairly shortly after they start using it again.

        • gbdub says:

          Actually, the second crash, months later but apparently similar and apparently at an airline that might not be quite to USA levels but still had a significantly better reputation than Lion Air, substantially increases my suspicion that the issue runs deeper than just MCAS.

          It’s one thing for one maybe not that great flight crew to be caught by an unusual bug and overwhelmed, but a second, when the problem is well known and probably the first thing any MAX pilot thinks about when they start to rotate?

          So if Boeing came back and said, yup, one line of code fixed it, I’d be very nervous to fly a MAX because I’d think they missed something.

    • baconbits9 says:

      @ bean

      do you have a response to theses claims?

      link text

      • bean says:

        That’s true to my knowledge as far as it goes (the OP was a hypothetical, although I didn’t mark it clearly enough), although it’s burying the lede by glossing over the gross piloting errors that are involved. The trim runaway checklist is not rocket science, and the Lion Air pilots at least had plenty of time to put it into effect and didn’t. The media has been talking endlessly about why Boeing installed the MCAS, and not talking at all about why the pilots failed in their basic job to FLY THE DAMNED PLANE! I seriously doubt whether the average news viewer would even know that this was something the pilots should have been able to control.)

        (To put it slightly differently, “the airplane crashed because the MCAS put the nose down” is a bad framing. “The airplane crashed because it had a trim runaway that the crew failed to control” is a much better one, because it leaves you asking both “why did it have a trim runaway?” and “why did the crew fail to control it?” To which we can then start talking about the MCAS for the first and go “No clue” for the second.

        I really have to feel for Boeing’s PR people. They can’t go after the pilots who are actually responsible for all of this because that looks like blame-shifting and doesn’t play well in the media. But there are quite a few pilots who apparently feel some strange compulsion to close ranks and blame the manufacturer even when most of the evidence is pointing to airmanship failures. The union spokesmen are particularly bad about this. To some extent, this is all power games between various portions of the aviation industry, and Boeing is left, rather unfairly, holding the bag.

        (It’s fair to point out that I’m probably not immune to these drivers, having spent two years working on the manufacturer side. On the other hand, John Schilling, who I don’t think has any conflict of interest, agrees with me.)

        • Aapje says:

          If multiple pilots make the same mistake and/or if pilots don’t notice their mistake, then it may still be fair to blame Boeing for making a plane that too easy turns into a lawn dart.

          • bean says:

            But the Lion Air pilots did notice the problem enough to reset the trim multiple times, just not to use the cutout switches. I’m sure that the Human Factors/interface stuff will be tweaked because of this, but everything I know about the first crash says that most of the blame is on the pilots.

          • gbdub says:

            I think it would be fair to reassess the Lion Air crash in light of the second crash. You’ve said yourself that one of the mysteries of Lion Air is why the pilots managed it for awhile and only then fell out of the air. One potential answer is that there is another more serious problem in addition to MCAS.

          • bean says:

            My problem with that is the Lion Air CVR. If it included the pilots running through the trim runaway checklist and that not working, or anything of that sort, we would have heard about it the day after the data was read, and the fleet would have been grounded immediately.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @bean:
            Donald Rumsfeld might say “You go to the air with the flight crews you have, not the ones you wish you had”.

            The question that I don’t see you answering is why 737 crews didn’t have this problem when they weren’t flying the MAX?

            It seems axiomatic that one of three (or four things) is true:
            1) Runaway trim really doesn’t happen on other aircraft anymore, and therefore flight crews who are not prepared to deal with it aren’t being faced with it.
            2) Runaway trim does happen, but dealing with it on the MAX is significantly different, and therefore flight crews employing the same fixes are not getting good results.
            3) Runaway trim on the MAX sometimes does not respond (fully) to standard fixes.
            4) This is just some statistical outlier and the fact that two new airplanes failed under runaway trim conditions is just a fluke. It really could have happened to any two planes, eventually.

          • bean says:

            @HBC

            A reasonable point, and one I’m not sure we have a good answer to yet.

            1. I can’t speak to the incidence of runaway trim on the 737NG, but it would have to be really low for the crew on Lion Air not to have remembered what it was called in time to find the relevant checklist, because they had like 10 minutes.

            2. I believe this is not the case. The cutout switches are in the same place they always were, or there would be no common type rating.

            3. If this was what had happened, I’d be amazed that the FAA didn’t ground the whole fleet as soon as they listened to the Lion Air CVR.

            Which leaves 4. And yes, it’s kind of a cop-out to simply say “this is a fluke”. But consider the 777. It’s been in service for 25 years, and yet every single person killed in a 777 crash was in the space of 54 weeks across three separate incidents.

          • gbdub says:

            “The Lion Air pilots handled things badly enough that the FAA was comfortable initially assigning them a big chunk of the blame” and “there was something unique to 737 MAX in addition to the MCAS that significantly exacerbated the failure” are not mutually exclusive.

            I guess there’s also the scenario where Ethiopian Air was an entirely different problem that was serious enough, on its own, to trigger a grounding. But that’s not what any of the public statements suggest.

            To me, “Ethiopian Air screwed up in exactly the sameness way as Lion Air” isn’t really credible… so it’s probably not as simple as “run the runaway trim checklist and carry on”. This MAY partially exonerate one or both flight crews, and that’s why I think we need to be open to re-evaluating the first crash in light of the second.

          • CatCube says:

            An airline pilot has done a video on how the elevator trim works, including footage of the jackscrew operating and discussion of operating the elevator cutouts. IIRC, he’s a 777 pilot, but I think he may have been a 737 pilot in the past. It’s only about 5 minutes.

            He also did a great job about reporting on the Oroville dam incident and the repairs, which is how I found him.

          • bean says:

            “The Lion Air pilots handled things badly enough that the FAA was comfortable initially assigning them a big chunk of the blame” and “there was something unique to 737 MAX in addition to the MCAS that significantly exacerbated the failure” are not mutually exclusive.

            I’ll admit this is a possibility, but I’m struggling to see how that works. There aren’t many systems which can cause that sort of problem, and they’re monitored carefully.

            I guess there’s also the scenario where Ethiopian Air was an entirely different problem that was serious enough, on its own, to trigger a grounding. But that’s not what any of the public statements suggest.

            I’m not sure the timeline works for that. Most regulators grounded well before there was any real data. Even the FAA’s decision (assuming it wasn’t ordered by our most air-savvy POTUS) was before they had the FDR and CVR, and I don’t think you could have found out something like that without that data. Also, they have that data now, and should have announced if it was the case.

            To me, “Ethiopian Air screwed up in exactly the sameness way as Lion Air” isn’t really credible… so it’s probably not as simple as “run the runaway trim checklist and carry on”. This MAY partially exonerate one or both flight crews, and that’s why I think we need to be open to re-evaluating the first crash in light of the second.

            I’ll agree that it’s not very credible, but we’re into low-percentage scenarios wherever we go. For all we know, it was something completely different that looks similar, like, oh, a trim motor that got installed with the leads reversed. Which just means that the 737MAX was spectacularly unlucky.

    • A little nervous, but probably not nervous enough to change the flight, as I did a few days ago.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Five whys. I’d be nervous that they hadn’t fixed the problem that caused the MCAS code to have a faulty line that escaped detection long enough to cause two crashes, unless they convinced me that they had fixed that underlying problem. Specifically, I’d want to know if their testing procedure covers that class of cases.

      Which rationally implies I should be worried about any Boeing plane, for a while. And possibly of flying any commercial jet at all, except that this problem seems limited to Boeing for now.

      This does raise an interesting question. Should I adjust my priors for commercial flying on the basis of this knowledge, or just for Boeing? Or not at all?

      • bean says:

        First, I should emphasize that this is a hypothetical, asked because I’m interested in the damage to the 737MAX’s reputation long-term. I still think that the main “Why?” runs through “Why didn’t the crew stop the trim runaway?”, which is not within Boeing’s control.

        But beyond that, we can judge the output of Boeing’s processes on the evidence of their other airplanes. The MAX bug crashed a plane after ~1 million flight hours (I don’t have the precise number, but it’s probably in that range), while the 787 is probably somewhere more like 14 million flight hours and hasn’t experienced anything of the sort. So either the process had a truly freak escape or Boeing has changed their process for the worst recently.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Concur that this is hypothetical for now, so I’m entertaining it purely as such. In fact, it feels likely to remain that way; if it were true, I’d be truly nervous. Code like that practically never sees the inside of a real plane. It’d be class action suit levels of Boeing incompetence, and I think they know that, and so it’s probably not the code.

          Which still leaves “but what if it were?” as an interesting question.

          • Jake says:

            I’d honestly be less nervous about flying on the plane if they were able to pinpoint an exact line of code that caused the crashes and fixed it. Bugs like that are rare enough, and the processes so ridiculously thorough on avionics software, that I’d be happy that the problem was fixed. If they were not able to find a specific bug, and left the problem as ‘that plane is tricky to fly’, then that makes me a lot more nervous about flying on it.

        • gbdub says:

          I don’t think we should call the problem with MCAS a “bug” or “a few lines of bad code” or anything like that.

          My understanding is that the MCAS code behaved exactly as intended – it dropped the nose when one AOA sensor indicated potential stall conditions being approached. The problem was that they underestimated how frequently the AOA sensors would give an erroneous reading and activate the code. (Someone on Reddit suggested that the AOA sensors might be subject to flutter in certain circumstances, which I guess is bad software design if you aren’t rejecting that noise, but still not really a bug)

          The fix Boeing was working sounds like it is threefold:
          1) modify the trigger condition from an OR to an AND (that is, require multiple sensors to indicate high AOA before activating)
          2) disable the system automatically if the pilots are fighting for a sufficiently long time
          3) drop the gain of the system (decrease the rate of commanded trim)

          Both of these seem like fixes to the overall system design due to unanticipated input conditions, not “bug fixes”. Testing wouldn’t have caught the problem, because the problem was not considered.

    • Garrett says:

      I would be more nervous.

      Firstly, because there hasn’t been anything to demonstrate that the aircraft was operating out of a reasonable flight parameters. That is, if the plan experienced unexpected problems like the times when jet aircraft unintentionally flew through volcanic ash, or space aliens or The Rapture or whatever, I can understand how the software might not yet be prepared to handle those cases reliably. So that the planes malfunctioned so badly under what I’d consider to be normal conditions would demonstrate a huge failure in software development practices, including testing.

      Second, if it’s a single line, that tells me that either the software authors are borderline incompetent, the software engineering practices are complete garbage, or nothing was tested. Sure – significant single line failures of code are common. But for something life-critical, it should have been caught much earlier on.

      Instead, I’d be far more expecting to find that there’s a rare race condition/integer underflow/whatever which is only exposed when another system is generating log error messages too quickly and then something doesn’t get reset. If that’s the case, the fix probably should be some rewriting of the relevant subsystem to avoid the whole category of failure in the first place along with a large stack of test code to make sure it can’t happen. And possibly an audit to ensure it doesn’t exist anywhere else in their software.

      • bean says:

        I should point out that I’m not a programmer of any sort, and I wasn’t trying to have any level of precision about the actual cause of the problem, other than “software error, now fixed according to Boeing and the FAA”. If we assume it is your “rare race condition” or whatever and they’ve done their due diligence to make sure it’s really fixed and there aren’t any more lurking, how does that change things?

    • suntzuanime says:

      I generally trust that American commercial aviation is extremely safe and don’t bother myself with the details. It would take a bunch of crashes to make me more worried about the flight than I would be about the taxi ride to the airport.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I suspect I’d be nervous from a variety of aliefs, but System 2 would basically be fine. All the media vultures [1] screaming are pretty good at causing panic for no good reason. I suspect I’d convince myself to do it if I got an effective discount, which is quite possible if not explicit.

      I think in a year or two when the media stops talking about this because they can no longer profit from terrifying you and me about this, everyone else will predictably forget and the MAX will do fine.

      For the record, I’m long Boeing @376 (small quantity, I only make dumb stock market bets with a small fraction of my cash. Gambling isn’t a problem if you’re awesome at it, right?)

      [1] but I repeat myself, etc.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I am more nervous than I previously was about flying with random third world airlines, or perhaps more saliently random third world pilots. I’m perfectly happy to get on a BA 737, but I’m more likely to make my brother pick me up from an airport BA fly to the next time I go to Tanzania, rather than getting a local flight on to somewhere more convenient, regardless of the aircraft concerned.

    • 10240 says:

      In good visibility, no. I’m pretty sure that every 737MAX pilot has now looked up what this MCAS thingy is, and how to override it if necessary, even those who haven’t before.

      In bad visibility, slightly (until a few years have passed without a 737MAX crash with a similar cause): I don’t know enough about flying to know whether I can be sure that a pilot recognizes this situation in a bad visibility/instrument flight condition.

      • John Schilling says:

        In low visibility, an uncorrected nose-down pitch attitude should be immediately and directly visible on the attitude indicator, and will very rapidly be manifest as decreasing altitude, increased vertical speed, increasing airspeed, increasing whooshing air noises, and then inevitably tearing-metal noises. It would require an implausible combination of instrument failures, or aeronautical incompetence, not to recognize that early – and if you did have that level of incompetence you’d be following a faulty angle-of-attack indicator into the ground even if it weren’t connected to MCAS.

        But the Lion Air 610 pilots certainly and the Ethiopian 302 pilots almost certainly kept their airplanes under some level of control for long enough that they weren’t engaged in that sort of complete idiocy.

        And once you’ve recognized that the nose is pitched down and you want it back up, the rest of the process doesn’t depend on outside visibility. You pull back on the yoke until whatever made you reason “the nose is pointing down – that’s why the whooshing noises are getting louder” stops. If this requires unusual and sustained back force on the control yoke, you use the trim control switch on the yoke to null out the force. If that doesn’t work, you ought to know that your electric trim control has gone wonky, and you’ve got two switches to deal with that and a manual trim control wheel to use when you’ve killed the electrics.

        More generally, one of the most important skills in instrument flying, and one of the reasons we still have instrument pilots rather than VFR pilots who push the autopilot button and go have a drink when they enter the clouds, is the ability to look at half a dozen instruments that aren’t all telling the same story and recognizing which one is lying. If you can’t do that quickly and reliably, in any weather, you have no business flying an airliner.

        Best guess, Lion Air 610 simply forgot that electric trim control was something they could disengage and felt they had to wrestle the flight controls into submission, because as bean notes if it were anything but that then the fleet would have been grounded as soon as the CVR tapes were read. Ethiopian 302 may be more of the same, or something very different.

        • gbdub says:

          AF 447 and West Air Sweden 294 are just a couple of recent examples of professional pilots of perfectly good airplanes trusting faulty sensors all the way into the ground/sea. While these are obviously cases of extremely bad piloting, I think you’re underselling the difficulty a bit here.

          Pilots are trained to trust their instruments above all else when they lack visual references, because spatial disorientation is a real and deadly thing. So they first have to overcome that, and recognize that (one of) their sensors is lying to them. Then they have to figure out which one, complicated by the fact that the broken one is blaring dire sounding warnings and maybe taking automatic (and further disorienting) flight control action, which might be putting you an an actually dangerous situation and triggering other, contradictory warnings…

    • cassander says:

      I’ll worry about flying on a max when riskiest plane stops being safer than the safest 30 mile cab ride to the airport.

    • Another Throw says:

      Completely unperturbed.

      A. I don’t watch the overly hysterical TV news so I basically don’t know or care about a couple crashes in random-ass places.

      B. Fly-by-night airlines in random-ass places are crashing planes all the time.

      C. I don’t fly in fly-by-night airlines in random-ass places.

      D. Poor airmanship (and maybe maintenance?) is a major contributing factor to most of the crashes that do happen. Which is why they happen in the places they do instead of in well trained and well regulated countries I do fly in.

      E. Randomness is weird, and I am not particularly concerned about what is probably a coincidence.

      F. Modern airlines are incredibly safe. Even if there is some kind of systemic problem with the MAX, the chances of crashing are almost certainly still incredibly low. Probably still lower than getting hit by a car while crossing the street in front of my house, or any of the innumerable things I do that are orders of magnitude more dangerous than airline travel.

      G. I don’t have any reason to believe there IS a systemic problem. Embarrassed regulators bowing to irrationally hysterical media coverage is totally a thing. Having a famously impulsive President telling the FAA to ground the planes over irrationally hysterical media coverage is also totally a thing. And given the context of the President’s tweets, it certainly looks like a case of famous impulsiveness.

      H. Even if Boeing and the FAA came out and said “A-HA, WE’VE TOTALLY FIXED THE PROBLEM, IT IS TOTALLY COOL NOW” I have no reason to believe there actually was a systemic problem in the first place instead of, for example, trying to placate a famously impulsive President.

      Okay, look, I suppose if I had a BBJ or something, where the pilots and maintenance are perhaps a little bit less thoroughly vetted than in a major airline, I might be a teensy weensy bit concerned. But if I had a BBJ, I’m pretty sure I would have people on staff to figure these things out and make me happy. And probably a Boeing rep doing their damnedest to keep them happy. So probably… completely unperturbed.

      (I would, however, be slightly miffed at having paid so much damn money for a plane and not being able to use it for God only knows how long. But even then, as part of the purchase decision process I would probably account for a certain amount of early adopters risk and would have a budget of down time to burn through before I start getting miffed. But I don’t really know. I’ve never dropped a few hundred million of my own money before.)

      ((Of course, if I had that kind of budget for a private jet, I would probably get an A380. Airlines will practically pay you to haul that money-hemorrhaging albatross away. Newish planes are selling for scrap value in the ~$50 million range. (About a third of the price for a new, unpainted, and unfurnished MAX. Anything more than a coat of primer on the outside and bare insulation on the inside is extra.) That leaves a lot of room in the budget for a nice interior refit. I would get to brag about having the largest private jet in the world. Then try to flip it.))

      • bean says:

        I’m pretty sure that nobody has a MAX BBJ yet. Boeing cares a lot more about airlines, and they got their planes first. From their point of view, the BBJ market is a little extra profit, but nothing more. (The one exception is the 747-8I, which has a lot of BBJs, most of them painted in the colors of the Air Forces of various oil-rich states.)

        The operating costs on an A380 are going to be insane, not to mention the problems of finding a place to park. And airliner refits are not cheap, either. I’d suggest something in the 757/767/A330 range as a better compromise. Should be about the same cost to buy, if not cheaper, and you can actually fit it into most airports.

        • Another Throw says:

          According to their website, Boeing has made 2 MAX BBJ deliveries, but they are not in service yet. Probably still at their completion centers. My impression is that Boeing will allow you to pay extra—a lot extra—in order to receive an early-ish delivery slot. But not so much so as to interfere with keeping the airlines happy.

          bean, bean, bean… The point isn’t to be practical. In fact, unimaginably excessive impracticality is the entire point when trying to flip a plane to someone whose hobby is arguing with Forbes about how rich he is.

          ETA: My one quibble would be describing the number of 747-8i BBJ’s as “a lot.” Boeing has delivered more of basically every plane as BBJ’s than the 747. The distinction being that BBJ’s represent ~20% of the number of 747-8i’s produced, compared to ~1% for the rest. So it is a relative lot, but not absolute. I am under the impression that BBJ’s and cargo service are the only things keeping the 747 production line open.

          • bean says:

            Looks like I should have checked that they hadn’t gotten any BBJs out yet. Oops. What I get for working from memory.

            As for the 747-8 BBJs, I’ll defend my statement as being made relative to overall production. The ~1% is a rounding error on all other models. The 20% is a big deal, particularly for a program as underperforming as the 747-8. And yes, the line has basically been kept open by cargo for the last few years. Half of me expects a shutdown announcement soon, now that the A380 has officially been axed.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @bean @John Schilling (or anyone else, really):
      Don’t really want to create another top comment for this, so I’m just going to tack it on to this one.

      This video was referenced elsewhere, and it conjured up some thoughts (related to the earlier set of axiomatic possibilities I posted).

      – It seems like previously only the auto-pilot would have provided non manual pitch adjustment.
      – The MCAS seems to be a separate system from the auto-pilot.
      – The MCAS seems like it’s intended to be an aid to manual piloting.

      So, given these things, isn’t it an entirely new scenario to have runaway automatic pitch control problems if the auto-pilot is off?

      If you ever did experience issues with pitch control in the past, couldn’t you have simply disengaged the auto-pilot and solved them?

      I understand that there are two other ways of disengaging automatic pitch control (the cutout switches and the manual wheel), but … how often would these systems have actually come into play when you were already manually flying? If the autopilot did put you nose down, would you need to trigger the cutouts if you simply just disengaged the autopilot?

      • John Schilling says:

        On pre-MAX 737s, there were actually four systems that could activate the trim motor: The autopilot, the “mach trim” system that engaged automatically (whether the autopilot was engaged or not) to adjust for changing handling characteristics in transonic flight, the “speed trim” that engaged automatically (again independent of autopilot) at low speed and high thrust, and the thumb switch on the control yoke. Well, really one switch on each control yoke.

        Disengaging the autopilot takes only one of those out of the equation. If the mach meter reads falsely high, mach trim can engage when it shouldn’t. Airspeed indicator reading falsely low can engage speed trim. And a stuck switch or shorted wire can cause runaway “manual” trim even if the pilot’s thumb isn’t on the switch. So recognizing trim runaway is something any 737(*) pilot has to be prepared for whether the autopilot is engaged or not, and turning off the autopilot is not an adequate or recommended solution. Hence, the two prominent kill switches specifically for the electric trim motor.

        Also, it should be easy to notice that trim is being changed because there’s a direct mechanical link from the trim jackscrew to the mechanical control wheel next to the pilot’s knee, and because of the mechanical advantage required to retrim a 75-ton jet airplane with one hand, even modest trim changes require many rotations of that wheel.

        * Or other modern airliner, but the details will differ slightly.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Ah, thanks for the reply. So the system already had “sensor failure causes trim issue” as a possible state. I can see why you and bean have the general opinion about it that you do.

          I still think the odds are that there is something about the whole thing that is novel. Something about this particular system failure is different enough that it can lead to these crashes.

          If it is really just as “simple” as your gut reaction suggests … then it is blind luck we haven’t had it happen already. It could be argued it would make it is a general aviation problem that could literally hit anywhere, which would be a worse problem.

  13. aarondzt says:

    “Genetic contributions to two special factors of neuroticism are associated with affluence, higher intelligence, better health, and longer life”

    This paper came out recently in Molecular Psychiatry. Thought it might be of interest to the SSC community. The nonoverlapping genes implicated in these special factors are BDNF (highly relevant to major depression) and one related to schizophrenia that I am not as familiar with.

    • rahien.din says:

      See :
      1. Yerkes-Dodson Law
      2. “The Role of Compulsiveness in the Normal Physician”, JAMA 1985

    • LesHapablap says:

      There was a survey done a couple years ago about what personality traits parents would choose for their kids if given the opportunity to edit their genes. Extroversion and agreeableness were top of the list.

      I have to think sociopathy would be up there as well even if people won’t admit to it, since caring what other people think is near universally ‘known’ to be a bad thing in our culture, and it is certainly often unpleasant. Abnormally high confidence would be another, and of course height.

      So in a hundred years we will have an epidemic of aloof, 6’5″ sociopaths and outgoing, friendly people. No more nerds I guess.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        since caring what other people think is near universally ‘known’ to be a bad thing in our culture

        Say wha?

        • LesHapablap says:

          There are thousands upon thousands of vapid memes on social media about how you should not care what other people think, or people congratulating themselves for not caring what other people think about them. It is also definitely a bad thing to care TOO much about what other people think.

        • Aapje says:

          @HeelBearCub

          Call it anxiety or neuroticism and I predict that most people would put dial that down a lot if they could.

      • AG says:

        Sociopathy is only useful if you want your kid to be at the very top. Plenty of parents aren’t that ambitious, they just want their kids to have a stable life. Extraversion and agreeableness are satisficing, no need to maximize.

        You also forget that height may be only be desirable along gender lines. Parents might want their daughters nice and neotenous.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m also not sure it is necessary to be a sociopath to be at the very top. Very possibly there is another combination of traits that also leads to a good chance at making it to the top that also result in tolerable offspring you actually want to be around.

          Also, I know that sociopaths are said to be overrepresented in high-powered CEO type positions, but I feel like the failure modes for sociopaths make it a high-risk proposition for your children.

          • Machine Interface says:

            From what I’ve read the majority of sociopaths are pretty dysfunctional individuals who are stuck on the lower depth of the social scale, living in extreme frustration that they constantly fail to get what they want. The one that make it to the top are a minority (but that minority is overrepresented because if you get past the tremondous social awereness disadvantages of ordinary sociapathy, the ruthlessness turns into a strong competitive advantage, but that’s a pretty big “if”).

          • bullseye says:

            I’ve done some reading on sociopaths vs. psychopaths; they’re either different, or psychopaths are a subtype of sociopaths, depending on who you ask.

            Psychopaths are good at hiding what they are (at least if you don’t know what to look for), are good with people, and like taking risks, which means they can do well in business (though most of them still end up in prison). Sociopaths are bad at hiding what they are, are bad with people, and too irresponsible to keep a job even if they stay out of prison.

        • albatross11 says:

          So you think I’m going to want my kids, who will be deciding what to do with me when I’m too old to take care of myself, to be sociopaths?

          • AG says:

            You think that stage monster moms are thinking about their retirement when they’re sabotaging the competition so their lil poopsies can win the pageant?

        • LesHapablap says:

          If the general population now is 1% sociopaths, I reckon that that would at least grow to 5% if people could gene edit for it. There are a lot of people that wish they were sociopaths (by their own definition of sociopath, not the actual definitions) because they feel weak and preyed upon by others. Currently there are actual sociopaths and violent types that try and toughen their kids up by beating them, those types of people may also choose to want sociopathic kids.

      • acymetric says:

        I think there is probably an important distinction between “don’t worry about what other people think of you” and “be a sociopath.”

        More importantly, sociopaths do care what other people think of them (for purely selfish reasons, I would think, although there may also be some overlap between socipathy and narcissism where a sociopath might still crave/need the approval of others). Sociopaths just don’t care about other people, the reverse isn’t necessarily true (that they wouldn’t care if other people care about them). It is lack of empathy for other people, not necessarily lack of desire for empathy from other people.

        This is just an abbreviated version of my layman’s understanding which is definitely incomplete and possibly wrong though, we have a bunch of people knowledgeable about this kind of thing here who I hope will chime in with better explanations.

        We might naturally have an increase in people with sociopathic traits if those people are out competing others at reproduction (which seems plausible at face value), but I don’t think it would be selected for with gene editing.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        I imagine the burden of having to actually raise a sociopath for 18 or so years would militate against choosing it as a trait. Further, though it depends what you mean by “sociopathy”, Wikipedia says of antisocial personality disorder that “they can have significant difficulties in maintaining stable employment as well as fulfilling their social and financial obligations, and people with this disorder often lead exploitative, unlawful, or parasitic lifestyles”; “Individuals are prone to substance abuse and addiction, and the abuse of various psychoactive substances is common in this population. These behaviors lead such individuals into frequent conflict with the law, and many people with ASPD have extensive histories of antisocial behavior and criminal infractions stemming back before adulthood”.

        I am not sure too many parents will jump at the chance to raise an unpleasant, callous child with an increased risk of substance abuse and criminal behaviour.

  14. Joseph Greenwood says:

    When I was in an economics class, my (generally trustworthy) Econ professor asserted that while citizens of the United States like to bewail the corruption in their government, and some corruption exists, it is small turnips compared to corruption that exists in other places, and does not meaningfully affect US infrastructure or culture.

    I sort of accepted this at face value at the time, but now I have questions.

    1) Has there been any meaningful change in US corruption in the last five years, since I took this class? My intuition says no, but I am periodically bombarded with pictures of Trump golfing or a military mug with a tag line that suggests our evil government is squandering our hard-earned money. Presumably this is just “statistically insignificant bureaucratic stupidity” or “judgmentalism from people who don’t know what they are talking about” (I recall people making fun of Soviet-era America for designing a space pen instead of using a pencil)

    2) What countries are we quantifying over? Presumably we have less corruption than a place like Venezuela. What about China? Iran? Britain? Germany? France? Poland? Russia? Brazil? India? Are good good compared to all countries, or compared to regional powers, or is the West good compared to everyone else, or what?

    3) What kinds of corruption? I tend to think of technocratic leadership as not being corruption per se, but others might disagree. Are we talking exclusively about “degree to which bribes influence daily life”? If the federal government funds a local project which carries positive expected returns (in whatever sense we deem relevant), is that corruption?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Ah, you naive one. I live in Romania, which is probably smack in the middle – we’re around the least developed EU country – but an EU country nonetheless.

      This is how our public hospitals look right now. Not all of them, of course, but the situation is definitely not caused by a lack of money, but purely by corruption – hospital management is politically appointed, and their main purpose is to take public funds and channel them… not sure exactly where, but as you see, definitely not in the hospitals.

      A couple of years ago we had a provisional, technocrat government. One of the things they did was to mandate that hospital managers should be appointed by blinded examination, which resulted in large numbers of incumbents being replaced. One of the first priorities of the next political government was to repeal that.

      I could have countless other examples, but this I hope is pretty clear: people are dying because we don’t have working mechanisms to avoid basic corruption. Incidentally, we voted the same party coalition yet again 2 years ago. We’re fucked.

      But anyways, yes, from what I hear about how the city of New York is awarding contracts you’re not corruption free by any means. But it can be worse. It can be a lot worse than here, too.

      • ana53294 says:

        A friend told me that it is very easy to buy a driving license in Romania. While this kind of thing does happen in Spain, it becomes a scandal, and the police actually investigates. I’ve also heard you can avoid fines in Romania.

        I think that most first world countries tend to have corruption at higher levels, and less corruption at lower levels. Romania seems to still have a lot of corruption at the lower levels.

      • Aapje says:

        One of the claims when letting your country and other very corrupt countries into the EU was that this would reduce corruption. However, the controls seem to be utterly insufficient, while the additional EU funds may actually boost corruption, as there is more money to steal & there is less compunction to steal from ‘EU money.’

        This paper made an attempt to calculate the effects of the EU on the corruption in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. It estimated the increase in corruption due to extra EU money at 1.21% and the decrease due to outside controls at 0.03%. The latter suggests that the effectiveness of the anti-corruption effort by the EU is minimal.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          It’s a pretty shitty situation. There is a middle class that really want to get over it, and, somewhat surprisingly, generational change (with a bit of political help) made most institutions, especially the justice system, very anti-corruption. A big part of is were actually the conditions you guys forced on us in order to enter EU – like the creation of DNA. You might be familiar with its latest chief, Laura Codruta Kovesi.

          The fly in the ointment was that the old socialist party here got “young blood”, a rebranded liberal branch that gets along very well with them, called ALDE (yes, they’re part of EU ALDE as well). Together with them they got 55% in the parliamentary elections, which means they can pretty much do whatever they want. Massive protests slowed them down a bit, but they’re on the way to completely dismantle the justice system.

          After that they’ll probably play with the election law – not directly, of course, but by making marginally harder for their opponents to vote. Which already happens by the way, because Romanians that would vote against them are in great part working away from home, either in some bigger city or in the rest of EU.

          • broblawsky says:

            Can I ask why Romanian expats are more likely to vote against the party in power?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @broblawsky

            A lot more likely. The electorate of the party in power is mainly seniors dependent on pensions and civil servants, dependent on salaries paid by the government. And, depressingly, a part of the young people (no idea why – just plain ignorance?). Expats are neither – are mostly 30-50 yo, working, and have seen how countries with better management look and feel.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          However, the controls seem to be utterly insufficient, while the additional EU funds may actually boost corruption, as there is more money to steal & there is less compunction to steal from ‘EU money.

          From Czechia here, this seems exactly accurate when it comes to “redirecting” public money.

          However, financial pressure from the EU to postcommunist countries imho really does help to somewhat protect things like independence of the judiciary and integrity of elections. Not totally, of course.

          • Aapje says:

            @AlesZiegler

            However, financial pressure from the EU to postcommunist countries imho really does help to somewhat protect things like independence of the judiciary and integrity of elections. Not totally, of course.

            Sure, but the emigration of young people and the anger over migration policies seems to result in the election of politicians who want to reduce judicial independence and perhaps also corrupt the elections in some countries.

            Presumably not in Czechia, but that country seems to be part of the success stories for the EU. Of course, before communism they/you had the same prosperity as Austria, so there was probably a pretty functional culture that was going to rebound well anyway.

            Note that my objection is mostly the rapid expansion of the EU and the inclusion of countries that are much more dysfunctional than Czechia.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Aapje

            So this is complicated. Somewhat subjective rambling follows.

            I would say that Czechia is considerably more socially liberal than any other postcommunist country, except East Germany (which is of course culturally also postcommunist country despite being part of a majority non-postcommunist federation). And I like social liberalism, so for me this is an unequivocally good thing. But.

            We are still more socially conservative than for example West Germany, despite being less Christian. Btw. postcommunist space is great demonstration that degree of christianization of a given country and its conservatism are very different things even in former traditionally Christian countries.

            Liberalism isn’t exactly synonymous with good, nondysfunctional governance. You could have quite conservative country with good governance. Singapore is oft cited example.

            “Governance” is hard to define, but let us suppose that it means efficacy of delivery of public services and goods, in broad sense. E.g. independent administration of justice is also public good.

            Now, at least in Europe, working constitutional checks and balances are very closely associated with good governance. Also fair elections, not too nepotistic civil service, and other stuff which could perhaps be collectively labeled “honest government”.

            I am quite confident than in three from four so called Visegrad countries, i.e. Czechia, Slovakia and Hungary, government would be far less honest and governance more dysfunctional if EU would not put financial pressure on them to limit power of certain political tribes. Poland is more complicated case and I know little about politics in the rest of postcommunist EU members.

            But in terms of good governance, I cannot unequivocally state that Czechia is better than other Visegrad countries. For example, our transport infrastructure is infamously abysmal, and in World bank ranking of how long it takes to get building permit we are near very bottom, below rest of Visegrad. This is a known problem which successive governments are trying to solve. Of course on other dimensions we are better, probably e.g. quality of public healthcare provision.

            So while perhaps I should be proud that my nation is considered to be example of successfully civilized Eastern barbarians (this is an attempted joke!), reality is that we are Not so different.

          • sharper13 says:

            Off topic, but what part of Czechia? Going to be there in June to pick up my daughter in Prague and then spend a couple of weeks touring around Olomouc, Brno and CBUD (and Vienna, ’cause it’s conveniently somewhat on the way).

          • Aapje says:

            @AlesZiegler

            and in World bank ranking of how long it takes to get building permit we are near very bottom, below rest of Visegrad

            My country is actually way below Poland on that particular ranking. In general, I’m not sure that it reflects something very meaningful.

            So while perhaps I should be proud that my nation is considered to be example of successfully civilized Eastern barbarians (this is an attempted joke!), reality is that we are Not so different.

            We are all partially civilized barbarians. Germanic tribes were especially resistant to Roman civilization (although evidence suggests that they may have been far less barbaric than the Romans claimed) and yet Germans are now generally considered some of the most disciplined.

            Pliny the Elder was amazed that the people of the low countries resisted their rule so strongly, writing:

            In a huge tide, the sea forces itself inwards twice a day, reaching far into the land. It is an eternal conflict with nature, stretching across a landscape where it is uncertain where the sea ends and land begins. Here lives a wretched people on high hills and plateaus which they had to make themselves. And yet these poor people claim they will become slaves, once they are conquered by the Roman Empire!

            Lots changed since then, although we still make land to live on.

            Ultimately, progress is very difficult, with strong dependencies between culture, institutions, circumstances and more. Forcing people very strongly to comply to a (certain interpretation of) greater civilization can easily backfire, just like large scale migration can be very destabilizing.

            Anyway, I think that the EU is unwilling and/or unable to adapt to what is necessary for specific countries. What works well for some countries is probably not optimal or even good for others.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @sharper13

            I live in Prague; all those places you mention are worth a visit.

            @Aapje

            My country is actually way below Poland on that particular ranking. In general, I’m not sure that it reflects something very meaningful.

            Well, probably it reflects that it easier to get building permits in Poland than in the Netherlands. Anyway, I just wanted to ilustrate that there is no deep, civilizational gap in a quality of governance between Czechia and Poland.

      • Aapje says:

        I could have countless other examples, but this I hope is pretty clear: people are dying because we don’t have working mechanisms to avoid basic corruption.

        One of the major issues is that corruption is in people’s heads. Lots of migrants to my country have great trouble ‘getting’ the bureaucratic system, being used to a patronage system, where you give and get favors.

        It’s easy to complain about having to pay to get services, but a lot harder to accept a ‘no’ that can not be changed with money, gifts, personal connections, etc.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Romanian migrants? We’re … I’m not going to say we’re fully past small corruption because we’re not, but I don’t think we’re culturally dependent on it any more. By far the main reason everybody I know avoids the public health system and prefers to use the much more expensive private one is because we loath to pay small bribes for everything. I’d expect Romanians to be mostly relieved of being rid of it.

          Anyways, big and small corruption are two _very_ different phenomena. Actually a tool that was very used by politicians here was shaming us – we can’t have nice things because we’re not civilized enough to keep them. We’re the ones vandalizing everything. Well, since we starting going outside Romania it didn’t take long to realize there are vandals everywhere, but the difference is how the money is spent to fix and replace things.

          • Aapje says:

            It was more meant as a general observation. It’s what I’ve heard from people who deal with migrant groups and such.

            My point is that it’s easy to criticize the downsides of a system, but then still expect the upsides. Is someone truly anti-corruption if they complain about paying a fee, but will take a fee from others? Or if they won’t accept being treated according to the law and seek to subvert decisions by authorities?

            I’m skeptical about the extent to which people who say they reject corruption are actually willing to live without it.

            Well, since we starting going outside Romania it didn’t take long to realize there are vandals everywhere, but the difference is how the money is spent to fix and replace things.

            Another difference is what the culture promotes or discourages, excuses or punishes.

            Germans that spend their holiday in my country are a lot less destructive than British tourists.

          • johan_larson says:

            Germans that spend their holiday in my country are a lot less destructive than British tourists.

            Wanna expand on that? Are Brits known for trashing the place?

          • ana53294 says:

            In Spain, British tourists are known for heavy drinking, public debauchery, generating lots of rubbish, and endangering themselves and others in an activity called “balconing*”.

            *Germans, Irish and Brits have died with this practice. For some reason, all those rule-following northern Europeans don’t behave or follow the law that much in Spain.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Aapje

            With the risk of repeating, that’s what shaming did for a loong time, because it superficially makes sense – but on a closer, clearer look it ends up being isolated demand for rigor. I’m pretty pissed at myself for swallowing this excuse, even if I was younger at the time.

            The trick is to 1. make people with little or no power feel responsible for the whole situation and 2. use “he without sin should throw the first stone”. And since nobody’s without sin, it follows we shouldn’t criticize the system.

            Anyways, we’re probably talking about different things – I don’t know all the migrants and cultures there. Here the divisions between bribers and bribed are very sharp, and so are those between small and big corruption. For example I’m pretty sure 99% of the bribed are government employees.

            Another difference is what the culture promotes or discourages, excuses or punishes.

            Of course. The “all else being equal” was implied. But still, turns out we weren’t really that uncivilized to begin with – one of the discoveries that makes the expats vote the way they do. If it’s not us, it must have been the system all along.

            You did see the worst of us, btw. The first waves of Romanian migrants were Roma, and that was pretty bad. The first Romanian we met in Oslo, for example, 10 minutes after landing, taught us that we ca pay for a small coffee but pour ourselves a double. Depressed the heck out of us. I’m really sorry for that.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Wanna expand on that? Are Brits known for trashing the place?

            In the Netherlands, I imagine it’s what the different groups of tourists are there to do. Stereotypically, British tourists in the Netherlands are heading to Amsterdam, often as part of a bachelor party, in order to use drugs, have sex with prostitutes, and get extremely drunk.

            Meanwhile, while I imagine there are Germans who do that, other Germans are just heading to the beach, as there are large numbers of Germans (but, trivially, no Britons) whose nearest beach is in the Netherlands.

          • Aapje says:

            @johan_larson

            An issue seems to be the attitude:

            Richard Hemsley has visited Amsterdam every year in the past decade to let off steam with friends in the neon-lit alleyways of its red-light district.

            The freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it,” said Hemsley, a 53-year-old distribution worker from Eastbourne, East Sussex, explaining what keeps drawing him back.

            It’s quite an achievement to stand out as a bunch of pricks in the center of Amsterdam.

            I have trouble seeing this as merely an issue with Amsterdam being a typical destination to do a bit of Rumspringa, because that same thing happens in Spain and misbehavior also seems very common in Britain itself (with their ASBOs and frequent knifings).

          • Aapje says:

            @Radu Floricica

            My impression is that there are two groups of Eastern Europeans in my country:

            1. The hardworking types, who are mostly decent people, although with a tendency to drink a lot. Also, due to relative poverty and lack of knowledge of the law, they are fairly often abused and relatively often accept squalor, in ways that sometimes also impact the locals (for example, when houses meant for a family of four get lived in by a dozen or more). So it can get as bad as the Bay Area 😛

            These people tend to out-compete the locals when it comes to hard labor. Although part of this is a willingness to work very hard, part of it is also a willingness to accept illegal wages and/or conditions, as well as having the benefits of normally living in a far cheaper country (including fewer taxes).

            2. The gangs, consisting mostly of traveling bandits. In the case of Romania, they seem to come largely from the very poor Moldavian region. These seem nigh invincible, as they lack a home or others assets in my country and see Dutch prison as a cosy hotel. Often, they just disappear before they even get a trial, when they are released from custody (as is normal in my country, we only keep people in prison until the trial for very serious crimes and don’t have a bail system).

            These gangs even come up with very creative schemes. One scheme that costs us a lot of money was that the criminals would send buses with poor peasants (mostly from Bulgaria) to register themselves at Dutch counties and then they would immediately travel back. The criminals would then use this registration to get an advance on various welfare state things, like rent subsidies. When the government realized that the person didn’t deserve the subsidy, the money was already gone and the criminals off scot free.

            That said, this separation is not super-hard, because we recently heard that there has been quite a bit of fraud by mainly Polish workers, who work here for a bit and then get welfare that is only for people who live here and are looking for work. They falsely claim to be living in The Netherlands, but then secretly leave for Poland, where that welfare has so much purchasing power that it makes for a paid holiday. It’s probably about 2% of the Poles in my country who do that. The subsidy giving organization knew about this for about a decade and never put a stop to this or went after these fraudsters.

            These kind of things generate quite a bit of discontent among parts of Dutch society, who believe that there are dual standards, with the Dutch citizens getting treated more harshly than foreigners.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I can see why you might assume those things to be connected, but in fact I’d say that there’s almost no cultural contact between the urban youth underclass who commit (and are the overwhelming victims of) knife crime and boorish “lads on tour” drinking culture. The former group don’t even grow up to be the latter.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Aapje

            2% is plenty. You should see the press we get in Italy, where there are huge numbers of perfectly integrated Romanians (over a mil) – and the occasional criminal or rapist.

            These kind of things generate quite a bit of discontent among parts of Dutch society, who believe that there are dual standards, with the Dutch citizens getting treated more harshly than foreigners.

            That’s one of the advantages of a homogeneous society. You can calibrate things a lot better. If you go for an open society, you get much higher … transaction costs? No, that’s not it. Civilization cost? Ugh, can’t put a name to it. Do you know what I mean?

            But for better or worse, the genie is out of the bottle. I doubt there’s a realistic way of closing borders any time soon. Moving forward might be a better idea – like better integration of various law enforcement institutions. Up to last year or so, Romanians considered themselves immune to traffic fines abroad. Now, not so much – Austrian police started confiscating cars in lieu of the fine.

          • Aapje says:

            @Radu Floricica

            In Dutch we have a phrase: “fleeing forward.”

            It’s when you get in trouble in a fight and instead of retreating, you rush the enemy, in an all or nothing attempt. Of course, in most situations this is utter stupidity, as it just makes things worse.

            The EU has a strong tendency to do this, using crises to implement their agenda, rather than to take a step back and fix the issue. For example, it seems to me that their response to the Ukraine crisis, which was caused by the expanding NATO and EU violating Russia’s equivalent of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’, was to start dangling a possible NATO and EU membership in front of the Ukraine, to entice them to choose ‘our side.’ Of course, the logical consequence was that this further enraged Russia, prohibiting a mutually beneficial deal.

            In general, the ideology of the EU leadership seems to be that everything can be fixed with EU membership, more integration, more power to Brussels, etc.

            The most important thing I want is for them to stop making things worse. So no new EU memberships for Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Ukraine, etc. No net increase in centralization. Etc.

            Instead, start focusing on fixing or mitigating the many problems that these ‘solutions’ have caused.

            Whether that is sufficient is highly doubtful. I think that there is a pretty big chance that the EU is already designed so badly and the EU so blinkered that it will fall apart over the course of the next couple of major crises, as the EU is simply unwilling to step away from the brink.

            There seems an unwillingness to compromise on their vision in even small ways. All solutions must have maximally open borders, free movement, etc. What if no solution fits those parameters? What if fixing the mess requires them to put the megalomaniac vision of a thousand year empire encompassing all of Europe on hold? Are they willing to make that sacrifice?

          • ana53294 says:

            So no new EU memberships for Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia, Ukraine, etc.

            Croatia is already a member.

            Kosovo won’t become one because Spain will veto it. Spain does not recognize Kosovo, and neither do Greece or Cyprus.

          • Aapje says:

            True, although Croatia is still in the transitional period where migration can be restricted for quite a few years, which my country does. So the impact on the Dutch workforce is presumably going to be delayed, just like it was for the Polish, Romanians and Bulgarians.

            Note that Croatia is relatively small, but surveys indicate that over 3/4rds of the young people would like to migrate. The results of the report I linked to suggest that migration will likely be on the higher end of Eastern European nations, suggesting similar issues with a loss of young people as some other nations experienced. So we may see a similar impact on Croatian politics as in some other countries, where progressive youths voted for EU membership, but as soon as they have it, quite a few of them leave, resulting in a conservative backlash.

            Dutch crime statistics show that crime by Eastern Europeans lags behind. For example, Poland became a member in 2004. Registered Polish suspects numbered 3000 in 2005 and 2006, but increased to and stabilized on about 6000 from 2008 on. Because the crime rates of other groups is declining, they make up an increasing percentage of criminals.

            So with a similar delay for Croatian crime, we might expect this to rise in the future, although this might then go from very low to low or actually be much higher. An issue here is that Croatian crime may not actually be ‘on the radar’ of the government and media, so the lack of reports about it might be because the crime rates are low, but also because they are not actually paying attention yet.

            With Moroccan and Turkish migrants, we’ve also seen that the second generation is more criminal than the first, so there may also be such an effect for Eastern Europeans, causing an upswing in 10-20 years.

          • ana53294 says:

            The issue with Turkish and Moroccan immigrants is integration, and the biggest obstacle to integration is culture and religion.

            Are there that many issues with the integration of second-generation Eastern European immigrants in the Netherlands? In Spain, this doesn’t seem to happen.

            Poles are Catholic, like the Spanish, and they seem to do fine. Non-Roma Romanians also do fine.

            There are big problems with the integrations of Romas, but that happens regardless of country of origin. There are big problems with the integration of Spanish nomadic Roma, and they have been living in the country for hundreds of years.

            And the thing is, our governments don’t have the obligation to allow the undesirable kind of migrant to stay. The EU has freedom of movement for people who are a) working; b)studying; c) can prove they have their own means. There is also limited freedom of movement for three months for d) people looking for jobs.

            The thing is, our government could do what Sarkozy did, but they aren’t. And they could also deport more illegal migrants, but that isn’t happening either. But neither of those things are the EU’s fault. The EU was unable to stop Sarkozy, after all, despite them making noises.

          • Aapje says:

            The Turkish and Moroccan migrants were selected for a lack of education and the idea was that they would temporarily do hard labor and then go back, like had happened for other groups just before them (like Italian migrants).

            However, the Turkish and Moroccan migrants turned out not to want to go back. Yet they mostly didn’t speak Dutch, lived isolated from the native Dutch people, watched TV from their homeland, etc.

            This lack of integration was also a big issue for the second generation, who were judged by strict norms and raised with traditional beliefs, but also wanted to succeed in Dutch society, which often conflicted with each other. They also often had to ‘parent’ their parents, as the children were better able to navigate Dutch society than their parents. This includes things like having the children translate what the doctor says to what is acceptable to tell a patient in their culture. So one can argue that many of these children grew up with incompetent parents that couldn’t teach them the proper life skills.

            Even worse, many of those parents lost their jobs when low skilled labor was automated away (and later they were replaced with new migrants), resulting in quite a few of those parents turning to conservative Islam for guidance, self-worth, etc.

            There is/was a fairly strong taboo on marrying outside of the culture & religion, so integration through intermarriage is quite low.

            Compared with other groups, the Turkish and Moroccan migrants seem exceptionally bad at integrating and preparing their kids for a life in Western society, so other groups almost can’t do any worse.

            The Eastern European migrants have a few issues that are similar. A main one is the lack of language skills. They also have a limited tendency to live close to each other, to have their own shops, etc. But overall they seem to isolate themselves substantially less than Turks and Moroccans of the first generation.

            A major benefit is that their education level is substantially better on average and especially, that they have very well educated people among them, who can act as ‘bridges’ between them and the natives.

            Resistance to intermarriage seems low. The gap between their culture and Dutch culture also seems smaller.

            So I don’t expect major issues due to failing integration. However, patience with failed integration of Turks and Moroccans only resulted in lots of anger after quite some time, so it’s too early to tell (and it’s also unclear what society’s standards for integration will be at that time).

            As I said before, the main issue with regard to crime is gangs consisting of transients, not those who actually migrated. Of course, those may be accused by some when the former cause trouble.

            A separate issue is the consequences of having constant migration of fresh batches of people, perhaps from newly admitted member states. This can feel like a lack of integration/progress and/or as a constant pressure on the community, especially for certain segments of Dutch society, even though if you track the migrants individually they may actually integrate fairly well.

            However, a person who is living in a neighborhood where the well-integrated leave and fresh migrants come in, will constantly face poorly integrated migrants and the problems that this causes.

            And they could also deport more illegal migrants, but that isn’t happening either

            If you deport EU natives, then unless they are British, they can just take the next train or bus back. So this can be very costly and dispiriting for the police, for little benefit.

            If they are from outside the EU, then an issue is that many countries refuse to take people back and/or the migrants destroy their papers and refuse to say where they are from.

          • ana53294 says:

            So, as you say, the issue is with first generation EU migrants, and there are fewer indicators that second generation migrants will not integrate.

            I agree that the EU should not continue expanding, at least not without waiting a long time so the new countries make substantial changes to their institutions. The case of Romania, Poland and Hungary prove that we should let their democratic institutions mature before we let new countries in. But I disagree that the joining of these countries will result in another wave of mass migration as disruptive as the 2004 one, because this countries are so small.

            Bosnia (3.5 million) + Albania (2.8 million) + Montenegro (0.7 million) + Armenia (2.9) + Georgia (3.7) + Serbia (7) , all together, have a population of 21 million, smaller than just Poland’s 38. Of course, the Ukraine’s 48 million would be a huge addition, but I think there are many issues with Ukraine that have nothing to do with migration.

            So if these countries reach the level of development of Poland, we shouldn’t expect the migration wave to be as big as the post 2004 one.

            The biggest issue would be with Turkey, anyway, and I think everybody has given up on them ever joining the EU.

            Anyway, only Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey are official candidates.

          • The Eastern European migrants have a few issues that are similar. A main one is the lack of language skills. They also have a limited tendency to live close to each other, to have their own shops, etc.

            The latter point has been true of immigrants to the U.S. for a very long time, but doesn’t seem to prevent them from integrating into the surrounding society in other ways.

    • MilfordTrunion says:

      Well. I suppose if you assume that there’s thousands and thousands of defense-technology companies out there competing every day to earn an infinite number of DoD contracts then sure, collusion is bad mm’kay. But there aren’t thousands and thousands of defense-technology companies out there who can do the top-level system design, there’s only like four or five, and each one has developed specialties that the others can’t really do as well.

      So, y’know. It’s not collusion to say that Jim’s better in left field so you put him out there, even though there’s a dozen other guys on the team.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I believe it’s a matter of semantics and soft corruption is everywhere leading to inefficiencies due to the nature of the democratic system.

      Campaign finance? Procurement processes? Byzantine regulations? Eminent domain? While people usually think straight up embezzlement going on behind closed doors when it comes to corruption, the US does much of its “corruption” in the open/legally.

      Say what you will about China, but they are damn efficient about executing their corruption. Infrastructure gets built swiftly because people know exactly who to bribe, and there’s no nonsense of Boeing dividing production up in all 50 states to secure support everywhere. Bribing individuals is cheaper than paying for entire workforces. As for eminent domain, sure you get absurdities like this, but in the end, the farmers always yield. Equitable? No. Corrupt? Yes. Efficient? Definitely. When was the last time a new highway, airport, or train line was built in the US?

      Anyway, the reason I say it’s semantics because what one should measure is the amount of money a project should cost if one had 100% control of land/labor/regulations, and the amount of money is actually spent to complete the project. By that measure, the US is highly inefficient.

      • bean says:

        Anyway, the reason I say it’s semantics because what one should measure is the amount of money a project should cost if one had 100% control of land/labor/regulations, and the amount of money is actually spent to complete the project. By that measure, the US is highly inefficient.

        This seems a bit extreme. Using “infrastructure as done by the Soviet Gulag system”, where you don’t have to pay your workers and can chuck the bodies into the concrete if they die, as your baseline means that any system which adheres even minimally to our values is going to look very inefficient.

        • DragonMilk says:

          To elaborate, I don’t mean you necessarily have to go full authoritarian autocrat:

          By 100% of land, I mean after you compensate the owners, you’re done – no haggling with EPA and appeasing environmental groups, or getting permits and court approvals from the dozens of municipalities you need to build a highway through.

          By 100% of labor, I mean you have the power to hire your own work force on a one-on-one basis, without union influence, or government telling you that you must employ four workers when one will do. And that you can hire people who actually work so that a highway repair is done in a week rather than several summers.

          And 100% of regulations feed into it – whatever the original project was, that’s going to be what you deliver. No new instructions to avoid disturbing the geese here, have a lane there, have hearings for amendments/protests/noise complaints, etc.

          The inefficiency isn’t coming from lack of slave labor, it’s from money diverted to bloated workforces that take their sweet ass time completing anything, their union bosses, random adminstrators, tons of lawyers, etc. If the US had to rebuild its railways and highways today, I don’t think it could be done.

          • broblawsky says:

            None of the problems you cite sound like “corruption”, either overt or subtle to me. They sound like the normal problems associated with having a number of different stakeholders in a community. You can only short-circuit that through totalitarianism.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @DragonMilk
            I don’t think its face-value obvious that autocratic systems will necessarily be more efficient (in the colloquial sense) than democratic ones.

            Sure, you have to make compromises, but that’s because you are trying to balance the inputs from multiple people, each with their own view of what the best course of action is. The “polling stakeholders” aspect in part of the efficiency, not a detriment to it.

            You wouldn’t say that absolute monarchies like Saudi Arabia are maximally efficient, right?

          • bean says:

            That’s still an unreasonable standard. I can definitely understand frustration with keeping a new road tied up in red tape for three years over possible damage to the habitat of the Californian Three-Eared Nose-Toad, a disgusting and useless creature. But there’s a reasonable balance to be found between that and your proposal, which seems to amount to “let the Civil Engineers do whatever produces the cheapest road, and don’t consider other factors at all”. I’m in favor of sacrificing the Nose-Toad for the road, but I’d also rather we decided that it’s worth paying extra to avoid paving over Yellowstone. And there’s definitely a better and faster way to do this than the current procedures, but it doesn’t look very much like your theoretical baseline, either.

          • Walter says:

            @DragonMilk:

            I hear you. There was a story in my hometown paper about an orchard that was closing.

            People were sad, because it was a fixture of the community, and the reporters for the local paper asked them.

            Their answer was (paraphrased, its been a few years):

            “There are 17 different federal/state organizations that have an opinion on ladders. All of their guys keep on writing more rules, all the time. We have a full time guy whose job is to keep us up to date with the rules. Honestly, though, he isn’t sufficient to the task anymore. We were thinking about replacing him with a whole department that does nothing but worry about if we are doing right by the endless rules.”

            There’s your American thing that keeps stuff from getting done. It isn’t bribes, it is a regulatory system that is wildly out of control. There is an enormous and thriving ecosystem of people that leech onto anyone trying to accomplish anything. The more fish leave the ocean, the more leeches each swimmer still moving carries.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @bean

            To clarify further, the difference from my baseline is inefficiency, not inherently corruption. Some inefficiencies result from taking stakeholders into account and making sure safety is respected, etc.

            But at some point that sort of inefficiency goes too far, and the “excess” inefficiency if you will is what I consider to be out-in-the-open soft “corruption” in the US. And this may be a recurring topic I keep harping on, but I don’t think it takes totalitarianism – cities in Europe and Japan beat the US on cost despite strong labor and land laws.

            So I’m not even sure where my theoretical baseline would sit in the linked chart, it’s more of a thought experiment. But I’m classifying much of the index shift from Madrid/Seoul to San Fran/NYC as “corruption.”

            …Just not the sneaky backroom corruption that people normally think of

    • Murphy says:

      I think you’re right, it does come down to how you define corruption.

      If a bus driver union, after an accident, campaigns that all busses need 2 members of staff, one to double check that no kids have climbed under the wheels or some such before moving off… thus doubling membership and increasing demand for bus drivers… is that corruption when it’s done in the open like that?

      If a company contributes funding for a campaign for stricter food hygiene standards .. knowing that many of their competitors are smaller outfits and that the measure in question is a fixed single cost regardless of company size and will destroy many of them…. is that corruption?

      If a company offers campaign contributions to increase copyright length and the government writes that extension into international treaties? Is that corruption?

      I think the USA has relatively little clandestine brown-paper-envelopes type corruption…. but a great deal of high-priced-fundraiser type corruption.

    • John Schilling says:

      For the United States at least, this is going to depend very heavily on how you define “corruption”. The kinds of things classically included in that definition, e.g. bribe-taking and nepotism, do happen in the United States but are still I believe rare enough not to be a significant influence in most people’s lives.

      Civil servants saying “no” to things they ought to have said “yes” to, not because the bribe money was insufficient but because it makes them feel important and/or increases the visibility thus funding of their department, is still common. We’ve talked about FDA drug approvals here before. And it isn’t necessarily done with the sort of cynical self-awareness the above description implies, but can come about because the nature of the job and the institution selects for people who are inclined to seriously believe in “no”. This is very significant, and does affect people’s lives, but is it corruption and if so how do you measure it?

      Regulatory capture, where civil servants all but invite lobbyists for the industries they regulate to write the regulations, is definitely a thing – but writing good and well-informed regulations is genuinely hard work, you’ll need to talk to the lobbyists to get the information at least, and they genuinely understand the issues and can help with the work. When does this cross over into the corrupt, and again how do you measure it?

      We’ve also just had another round of discussion as to how and why, when the government signs a low-bid contract, everybody on both sides understands that contract and that price will not result in the government getting anything usable, and by the time several rounds of contract renegotiations have resulted in something useful the cost to the taxpayers will be substantially higher than if they’d been honest and realistic about that up front. But the laws as written practically guarantee that if you don’t play along with the game as is, you either get locked out (as a contractor) or sued (as a bureaucrat), so is it corruption when people go along with it so they can get things done?

      And if you have a vague sense that this sort of corruption is a real problem, but your attempts at fixing it turn into “Corruption? Yeah, big problem, let’s set up some bureaucratic procedures to stamp out bribery and nepotism”, that’s probably going to make things work?

      • ana53294 says:

        I still don’t understand why they don’t make some kind of bill of quantities that details how much each extra thing will cost. Wouldn’t this partly solve the problem of the underbidders?

        • John Schilling says:

          The “extra thing” is usually something nobody conceived of until someone was building whatever it is the government specified and halfway through the project realized that A: the end result wouldn’t be very useful without [extra thing] and B: [extra thing] costs money and C: the contract didn’t specifically require [extra thing] and if it required that the end result be “useful” then that was sufficiently ill-defined that litigating the point is cheaper than buying an [extra thing] to give the government for free. So the contractor tells the government that unless they renegotiate the price, they’ll get what they pedantically literally asked for without [extra thing] that makes it useful.

          Sometimes the contractor knew ahead of time that [extra thing] would be required, and didn’t tell the government specifically so that they could hit them with a surprise renegotiation. But sometimes [extra thing] is only required because the government changed their mind about what exactly they are trying to do. And in neither case does having a price list help, because [extra thing] won’t be on it, because [extra thing] wasn’t generally known to be a thing until just now.

          OK, sometimes [extra thing] is an article of commerce, like maybe the government suddenly decides they need the building to be usable by people with seasonal affective disorder so it needs extra lighting and we can find the prices of 500-watt halogen bulbs in a catalog. But even there, total cost including having an electrician reassess the wiring and do the installation will be A: much greater than the catalog price of the light bulbs and B: very different from one installation to the next. So either the contractor is going to say “bite me; you’re getting what you paid for and nothing more, your SAD sacks can suffer”, or you renegotiate the contract.

          If the issue were one of the government saying “Oops, we just remembered that what we really want is exactly what we asked for but we want some perfectly standard [extra thing] lying on the porch that we can have our people install”, sure, the price list might help, but it isn’t so it doesn’t.

          • ana53294 says:

            Sure, there are things that the government changes its mind on, and those can be completely unpredictable.

            But there are things that are unpredictably predictable.

            No geological survey is perfect and things will be found while building a road, digging a tunnel, or any other thing that we can guess can happen.

            Finding a pocket of water? Old sewage system? Caves? Soil harder/softer than expected? Completely unexpectedly expected archeological site in a place long rumoured to have historical importance?

            And having a team of engineers in place can avoid some things the contractors expects and the government doesn’t.

            I mean, if you are going to be changing opinion all the time, even an honest contractor that doesn’t underbid will not fix the situation much.

        • Deiseach says:

          Wouldn’t this partly solve the problem of the underbidders?

          The problem of the underbidders is the problem of fiscal responsibility: being bound to accept the lowest bidder (even though, as John Schilling points out, everybody knows that is not going to be the end price) because the government is spending taxpayers’ money and (a) there are opposition party or parties eagerly watching for an excuse to raise a ‘party in power corrupt and inefficient!’ stink over any over-run on a big contract (b) the media love these kind of stories so they too are on the look-out for anything they can make a “Tonight on Channel Nine Current Affairs – a special report on how They’re Burning Hundred Dollar Bills While Laughing At You Suckers Paying Your Taxes” show or series of articles in the paper (c) we, the public, who are very easily swayed by opposition party politician and TV news show shock, horror headlines about waste and inefficiency and over-run, because nobody wants to pay extra taxes, so there’s an outcry about getting value for money, which ends up with “award contract to the lowest bidder” in practice.

          John Schilling gives the example of “maybe the government suddenly decides they need the building to be usable by people with seasonal affective disorder so it needs extra lighting” and that’s also a thing that happens, not necessarily because the government department involved in the project suddenly thinks it’s a great idea, but because there’s been a public campaign by SAD sufferers and how they can’t exercise their legal rights to avail of public services because of the lighting in local government offices and Something Must Be Done. So under the requirements of accessibility and so on, now there has to be the 500-watt halogen bulbs in every room and corridor and lobby and hallway and the place has to be wired up for them and it all happens as John laid it out.

          Private business can tell its customers “like it or lump it”, but the government can’t get away with “bite me; you’re getting what you paid for and nothing more, your SAD sacks can suffer” because ultimately, it comes down to votes. Enough heart-string tugging stories in the papers about little big-eyed cute moppet Susie whose mother suffers from SAD and can’t take her to school because the lighting renders her unable to function, and people will start rumbling about how Something Must Be Done, and the SAD lobby will threaten that in the next election you’re going to lose their votes, and there you go.

    • Elementaldex says:

      To give an anecdotal response. I’ve lived most of my life in the United States and a few years in various developing countries (~3 of the last 7 years). Corruption is real obvious and kicks you in the face outside of the US. in the US I read about but never see corruption. Seems like a big difference to me.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As others have mentioned, the answer to your questions is going to depend greatly on your definition of corruption.

      The sort of “corruption” I see the most often in academic science, and that costs by far the most money, is what Moldbug would call ‘patronage’ and Scott would call ‘cost disease’. Regulatory agencies and the courts set down extremely complex and often contradictory rules, which creates work for lawyers and former regulators who must be hired to ensure compliance.

      One great example is powdered milk. Everyone who runs a western blot needs to use powdered milk, and the off-the-shelf stuff from your local big box store works just fine. So why do a lot of labs pay ~$6 per gram to buy it from Sigma instead of the ~$0.01 per gram to buy it from Walmart? Because if you’re spending grant money through an academic institution’s ordering system, you need to buy from approved vendors. Walmart can’t make enough of a profit selling retail-priced powdered milk to justify jumping through those hoops, so the chemical supply companies which have to anyway can charge a 6,000% markup.

      I can only see my side of it, but I suspect it’s the same situation at every step of the supply chain. The costs of having every single thing approved or inspected drives up prices beyond any sensible limit and creates armies of bureaucrats in both government and business.

      • ana53294 says:

        Is it that strict in the US?

        In my university (UK), I can make petty cash purchases (under 30 pounds). And it is with an EU grant, which are known to be the most paper-trail focused pain-in-the ass grants around.

        So while I can’t buy stuff online, I can just go to a store and buy stuff I need, just bring the receipt.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          For this specific example, it probably depends on your institution.

          I’ve been in labs which use the off-the-shelf stuff, which is why I know that it works just fine. Presumably they were either reimbursed through petty cash or the PI paid out-of-pocket.

          The broader point that I was gesturing at, though, is that these kinds of absurd markups are ubiquitous in science. At least with molecular grade reagents or precision instruments there’s some justification, but even very mundane purchases are highly inflated.

      • DragonMilk says:

        This reminds me of why corruption is is “open” in the US – cost disease usually involves people making the purchasing decisions not personally footing the bill, like in healthcare or research.

        Whereas some countries have corruption against individuals (dirty cops, etc.) widespread, in the US it’s limited to poor areas and done in secret. On institutional levels, though, bynzantine rules lead to ridiculous costs.

    • Deiseach says:

      For high enough government, yeah there’s probably a degree of corruption (of the “lobbyists pay for congresscritter’s tropical vacation” and “friend/cousin/business partner of secretary for traffic bollards gets juicy government contract”) but that’s the usual type you’d expect everywhere.

      I see people like to complain about, for example, the DMV but the “you need to slip a twenty in with your application or it won’t even be looked at” type of corruption is not, it would seem, commonplace. If you have to give bribes, presents, baksheesh or need to know someone in order to get the ordinary level of public service as an ordinary citizen, that’s the kind of corruption that does have an impact on the functioning of ordinary life and the society.

    • Pepe says:

      As others have mentioned, I think that it depends greatly on what you call corruption.

      Overall, I’d say that the US is far less corrupt than other countries (say, Mexico) but as corrupt as others (such as, for example, France). There is a caveat though, and that is that a big part of what I would usually consider to encompass “corruption” is legal in the US: campaign financing. There is much less need to go through back corridors when you can directly (and legally) buy your politician of choice.

      EDIT: For a small scale example: In a developing country, you might have to slip a twenty to some clerk to be allowed to paint your house bright orange or something. In the US you will need to convince an HOA.

      I personally would much rather deal with the former.

      • Nornagest says:

        Your ability to donate to politicians directly is limited to a few thousand dollars, which isn’t enough to seriously indebt anyone with any real power to you. (Can be an issue at e.g. the county sheriff level, though.) What you can do more or less with impunity is spend your own money to run ads on a politician’s behalf, without coordinating with their campaign, on the theory that that’s an exercise of free speech.

        • JonathanD says:

          You can also hold 2000/plate fundraisers and invite your wealthy acquaintances. That, plus funding a superpac dedicated to electing a particular politician make it a distinction without a difference, IMO.

          • Nornagest says:

            The difference is that it gives you a lot less leverage. You can’t reach out to a candidate and say “I’ll run a bunch of ads for you if you give this real estate plan of mine favorable treatment”; that violates campaign finance law. You can run the ads and hope for the best, but without the ability to make explicit quid-pro-quo deals you lose most of the incentive to.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Nornagest,

            I think it gives you a little less leverage. You can’t reach out to the candidate who’s running and say that, but you can reach out to the congressman you helped elect and say, “I have a good friend who’s got a really great take on real estate, and I think you might be interested.” I don’t think it’s all that different, and I think it’s a rare member who’ll tell their major backers to go pound sand.

            I think you probably basically can’t do this at the level of the President, and it’d be harder at the level of the Senate, but the House and especially state and local politicians should be downright affordable.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think it’s a rare member who’ll tell their major backers to go pound sand.

            I don’t think it’s rare at all. You’d be polite about it, sure, but you’re in a very strong position as a sitting Congressman. Incumbents have so much advantage in those seats that you could probably eat a kitten in Times Square and still more than likely get reelected.

            However, one of the very few things that can unseat your average Congressman is a bribery scandal.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’ve never done it, of course, but I think right after winning for the first time, a candidate has a whole lot of newly-created hangers-on who claim to be responsible for their victory, and while some of them are surely credible, and some may even be accurate, the candidate must needs develop a filter that excises them from their incumbency.

    • BBA says:

      It’s from Canada, not the US, but is the SNC-Lavalin scandal an example of corruption? Nobody has accused SNC-Lavalin of paying bribes to Trudeau or anyone else. He’s pulling strings for them because they’re big and well-connected, he’s friends with their lawyers and lobbyists, and what are a few foreign sanctions violations between friends? There’s no bribery or other quid pro quo because there doesn’t need to be.

      On a much lower level: police officers will look the other way when their fellow police commit minor offenses. At least around here, the police unions issue each cop a number of “courtesy cards” to give to their friends, who can then benefit from the same kind of “professional courtesy” that cops give each other. There was much consternation when the union tried to reduce the number of cards each officer would receive in the future. Sleazy, sure, but there’s nothing actually illegal about using your “professional judgment” to decide who needs to get ticketed for a broken taillight and who can be let off with a warning, whether or not you had a laminated piece of paper to “help” you make that judgment call.

      But literal bribery is rare, except for building permits, and even then who knows whether the “expediters” are actually bribing the building inspectors with that money.

      • simon says:

        My understanding is that what they were prosecuted for was paying bribes in Libya, not for violating sanctions.

    • Enkidum says:

      Low-level corruption is virtually nonexistent in the rich West, at least in comparison to any poor country I know of. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that virtually no one here (at least not from the rich West) has ever offered a “gift” to a government official / schoolteacher / doctor / lawyer / etc in order to secure preferential treatment, but this is completely commonplace in most countries. I’ve paid bribes to border officials in various Central American countries (I’m a white North American man), I’ve had cops try to scam money from me in Mexico, my inlaws in China have to pay all sorts of bribes to get by, etc. This is just normal for most of the world. When analogous things are discovered in the West, it tends to be major news – e.g. the judges who were recently sentenced for funnelling kids towards prisons in exchange for bribes, or the money-for-unversity-placement scandals. I’m not saying low-level corruption doesn’t exist here, particularly targeting poor communities, but it’s peanuts compared to the rest of the world.

      There is certainly higher-level corruption here, e.g. all expenses paid trips for doctors on behalf of drug companies, large donations to political campaigns, defense contracts, etc. But most of it isn’t overtly illegal. I’m not sure to what extent that makes a moral difference.

  15. Scott Alexander says:

    Handymen / electricians / lighting experts – is https://www.amazon.com/Warehouse-Industrial-Lighting-6000-6500K-Commercial/dp/B07GJKCKNH/ a normal light that you can plug into the wall socket and use in your house? It doesn’t say that it *isn’t*, but I’m suspicious that they just assume everyone who uses super-heavy-duty lights already knows this stuff.

    Asking because this would solve the “no existing light box is bright enough to really work for seasonal affective disorder” problem – I’ve been looking for something that combines 30K+ lumens with being so easy I can recommend it to people with literally zero electrical/technical ability beyond “place plug in wall”. Is this it?

    Bonus question: in the picture, it looks like you can just stand it up on the floor or a desk, and you don’t have to “install” it anywhere. Is that true?

    • 10240 says:

      I’m not an expert at all, but the 6th picture (“How to install?”) shows that it has to be connected to the electricity supply like a typical ceiling light, not with a wall plug.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Hmmm, thanks.

        If I have a ceiling light now, should I expect that an electrician would be able to install this plus a dimmer switch in place of it?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          To dim LEDs you need dimmable LEDs, and a dimmer that can dim LEDs. Both are a lot more expensive. And this one in particular doesn’t seem dimmable.

          As for using it, it’s pretty trivial to connect it to a wire and a plug.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, even dimable LEDs don’t dim nearly as well as incandescents.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            even dimable LEDs don’t dim nearly as well as incandescents.

            That sounds like it should be an easy problem to work around, if your bulb is a bank of LEDs, then ‘dimming’ could be achieved by turning them on one by one as you turn up the dimmer. It would presumably be a bit ‘pixellated’ relative to true incandescent dimming, but presumably with large enough banks of LEDs it wouldn’t make much of a difference. There is presumably a good reason why that wouldn’t work, but I’m not sure what that reason would be.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Winter Shaker:

            LEDs are typically dimmed by pulse width modulation; that is, there’s a cycle where it’s on for a certain among of time and off for a certain amount of time. This works quite well down to a certain duty cycle (percent on-time), below which you start seeing flicker.

            Turning off entire LEDs in a bank lets you go lower, but if the optics aren’t right will cause dark spots instead of overall dimming, so the bank has to be designed for it.

        • Murphy says:

          500 Watt can be a bit heavy load for a light fitting in some older houses. Check with the electrician.

          Though for a wall fitting it’s pretty low wattage so it might be easier to fit a plug socket on it and make it into a lamp you can switch on and off.

      • SamChevre says:

        A note: putting a plug on a wired light fixture is in the “very easy” category of handyman things; if you can connect a monitor and mouse to a computer, you can probably do it.

        A standard circuit in a house can handle 1500 watts, and often has 10 fixtures on it. 500 watts is on the high end for one fixture, but should be manageable if there are no other high-drawing appliances on the same circuit.

        I use one of these, a 170 watt high-bay light, mounted to a standard ceiling–at about 7 feet off the floor (because it hangs down about a foot from the ceiling), it’s bright enough to be effective for my wife.

        Note that with all these lights, they hang down from the ceiling, so count that in your clearance.

        • acymetric says:

          A note: putting a plug on a wired light fixture is in the “very easy” category of handyman things; if you can connect a monitor and mouse to a computer, you can probably do it.

          It is a little more complicated than that…if you aren’t familiar with “hot/neutral/ground” (more than just “I’ve heard those words”) you probably need to do a little reading before undertaking the task.

          A standard circuit in a house can handle 1500 watts, and often has 10 fixtures on it. 500 watts is on the high end for one fixture, but should be manageable if there are no other high-drawing appliances on the same circuit.

          This more or less means that if you are intimately familiar with how your house is wired, you can probably intelligently choose which circuit to run your lamp on. If you aren’t familiar, or worse don’t understand it at all, you could have problems as houses aren’t always wired intuitively at which point you should involve an electrician.

    • chaosmage says:

      An easy solution is this: an adapter that lets you screw four light bulbs into a single ceiling bulb socket.

      https://www.amazon.com/Amariver-Flashpoint-Converter-Standard-Splitter/dp/B073P2SNPR

      This is basically an unusually-shaped extension cord and just as easy to use. Combine with four of the brightest ceiling lights you can find and you’re done.

      If you have four of those LED lamps with remote controls to give you dimming and color control, in the lamp models I have used the remote controls are always interchangeable, so if you point one of the remotes at the cluster of four lamps they will all respond.

      I’ve been using this since 2012 in what I regard to be the grandmother of rationalist very bright light setups, and never had any problems with it at all.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Thanks.

        Can you explain why you used those incandescent bulbs? Would an LED like https://www.amazon.com/ALZO-Photo-Light-Lumens-Daylight/dp/B0015AQK62 be much brighter?

        Also, do I need to do calculations with the wattage? Like, if I put this into a 100 watt socket, can I use 4 x 100 watt bulbs, or would I have to use 4 x 25 watt bulbs? Is there some point at which the Electricity Gods get angry at my greed and make everything explode?

        And if I don’t want to mess with my ceiling light, do you know of a lamp (or easy lamp setup) that will be able to handle four super-bright bulbs? How would I look for this? What would the relevant keywords on lamp ads be?

        Also, there are much brighter bulbs that fit into a “mogul” base, and there are “mogul” adapters. Would using a mogul adapter on normal lamps to allow bigger bulbs to fit be another one of those things that would make the Electricity Gods angry?

        • chaosmage says:

          I did not use LEDs because when I set this up, LEDs were not the most cost-effective option yet.

          I later upgraded to 4 x 125W compact fluorescent lamps, so I’ve been drawing 500 watts from a ceiling socket that nobody had any sane reason to spec for more than 200 watts. That’s gone fine for years. This is Germany, we overengineer everything, but I would still expect your Californian Electricity Gods should treat your ceiling sockets basically like wall sockets and let you draw about the same from either.

          I guess a relevant product category would be lighting for photo studios. They need daylight equivalents and they don’t put it in the ceiling.

          My ceiling socket, adapter and lamps are all E27, I do not know about “mogul”.

          • Protagoras says:

            CFLs and LED bulbs often are sold according to the wattage of an equivalently bright incandescent; their massively greater efficiency means they are actually drawing a lot less than that. In the case of CFLs, it’s about a fourth, so if you have 125W equivalent CFLs, then four of them are probably still only actually drawing around 125 watts total, which would certainly explain why you wouldn’t have any problems. Kind of surprised you didn’t have heat issues when you used four 100W incandescents together.

          • albatross11 says:

            Disclaimer: I am NOT an electrician, just a not-very-informed amateur.

            I live in the US, in a home built in the 80s. In my house, I think the wires and breakers are mostly designed for 15 amps for something like a light fixture. (15 A * 120 V = 1800 W). However, it’s common to have more than one thing on the same circuit–there may be two outlets and two different light fixtures on that same circuit, and if the total current drawn is too high, it will trip the breaker. (And if it didn’t trip the breaker, it would make the wires really hot and maybe start a fire.). In my house, we will trip the breaker if we try to run the vacuum cleaner off the same circuit we’re already running a plug-in dehumidifier on.

            If you have a dedicated circuit just for your super-bright light fixture, then you don’t have to worry about overloading the circuit by turning on your super-bright light at the same time you have your space heater running or some such thing. I think that’s usually not a big deal for light fixtures normally, since they don’t draw all that much power.

            Also, in my house, we noticed one of our light fixtures that had been way overheated (probably they put too-bright incandescent bulbs in it)–the fixture had scorched the surrounding drywall. Seeing that was one of the things that pushed me toward replacing nearly all the lightbulbs in our house with LED bulbs, which are way more efficient and so way cooler.

          • chaosmage says:

            I just checked, they are definitely 4 x 125 Watts, each of them billed as equivalent of a 600 Watts incandescent lamp. So yes I’m indeed drawing 500 Watts.

            I too was kind of surpised about having no heat issues. The lamps are quite heavy too, I wasn’t completely sure if the ceiling would hold it. But it all went fine. If I built the thing today I’d go all LED anyway.

          • acymetric says:

            However, it’s common to have more than one thing on the same circuit–there may be two outlets and two different light fixtures on that same circuit, and if the total current drawn is too high, it will trip the breaker. (And if it didn’t trip the breaker, it would make the wires really hot and maybe start a fire.)

            The upshot of this is that how comfortable you are doing this without professional assistance (an electrician) should be proportional to how well you know/understand the wiring in your house, and how much you trust it. “Trust” in this case can probably roughly map to how old your house is, the older it is the more likely it is to not be up to code (or if it was cheaply made).

            My suggestion is that unless you have experience working on household electrical systems, hire an electrician or try to find a solution that doesn’t pull so much power.

          • SamChevre says:

            @acymetric

            I’m less cautious than you–overloading a circuit is the thing circuit breakers protect against well. I think of it as like an electric kettle–plug it in, if it trips a breaker either unplug it and plug in somewhere else, or unplug something else that turned off when the breaker tripped.

          • acymetric says:

            @SamChevre

            You aren’t wrong, and I would be comfortable doing this. I’m not comfortable suggesting that someone else do it without knowing

            a) How well they understand what they’re doing
            and
            b) What kind of building they’re in (mostly about age…factors into how well I trust the breakers to do their jobs). Just moved into a brand new house? Probably fine. Moved into a 35 year old house in the old part of town? Still probably fine, but with enough increased risk that it warrants some extra caution.

            To provide a concrete example: I would be fine with my dad doing this because he works this kind of stuff. I would be fine with my mom doing it because her house isn’t that old. I wouldn’t be fine with my sister doing it because she has absolutely no clue what she’s doing. I wouldn’t be fine with anyone doing it at my grandma’s house because the breaker there is probably older than I am and who knows if/when it has ever been serviced or what codes (if any) it is up to.

          • albatross11 says:

            Sam:

            I worry more about something that might be left on for long periods of time and maybe sometimes left unattended, rather than stuff that I’m standing right there turning on and then turning off again in five minutes.

        • The Nybbler says:

          A “mogul” base is physically larger and more able to stand heat. Using an enlarger socket to put a large mogul bulb into a medium (normal) base is definitely asking for trouble. It’s not so much electricity as it is heat; a socket with a 100W rating will likely melt or be otherwise damaged by putting a much larger bulb in it, and an enlarger socket is not going to protect it much.

          The splitter is a little safer, especially if it faces upwards, because it separates the bulbs and the socket more. Still wouldn’t be my favorite idea.

          • albatross11 says:

            Does anyone make an LED bulb that fits into a normal lightbulb form factor and actually uses (say) 100W and produces as much light as it can from that much power? Or is there some reason (heat dissipation, maybe) why this won’t work?

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s multiple reasons that doesn’t work. One is simply the problem of getting that many LEDs into a lightbulb-sized form factor in an optically useful format. Another is the problem of a power supply for those LEDs; 100W LED power supplies are quite large. And the third is heat dissipation; incandescent bulbs operate at very high temperatures, but LEDs and especially their power supplies need to run much cooler (ideally below 85C)

          • Jake says:

            @albatross11 Look for something called a Corn Light (since it looks like an ear of corn). You can find some pretty high wattage LEDs that will put out ~5K lumens. They tend to be a lot longer than normal bulbs, but will still fit in some fixtures. My friend had a couple in his garage, and it looked like a miniature sun was in there from about a mile away.

          • chaosmage says:

            Exactly – but these go up to like 40W at the moment AFAIK. Not sure if there are technical limits there or if there just isn’t enough demand for 10000 lumens bulbs to justify mass production.

            Anyway, 40W ones should go fine with one of the aforementioned 4 E27 into 1 E27 adapters. That combination gets you 16000 lumens for like a 100 bucks and is as easy to use as your regular ceiling light.

          • realitychemist says:

            @albatross11

            As others have pointed out, it is a heat dissipation issue. While LEDs are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and incandescent bulb is designed to (in fact, needs to) run at very high temperatures. The filaments are typically somewhere around 2500 C, with the glass bulbs getting up to around 200 C. An LED is most efficient at low (although not too low) temperatures, definitely under 100 C for prolonged operation. Running it too hot could degrade the p-n junction or cause desoldering.

            When operating high-power LEDs, you need heat sinks. Very high-power LEDs require active cooling. If you want to see an example of this, this video shows the construction of a water-cooled 100W (actual power) LED lamp. It may be possible to radiate the requisite heat without active cooling if you had sufficiently long fins, but I don’t really want to haul out my copy of Perry’s and start trundling through infinite fin heat transfer rate calculations.

            In any case, yes, the reason they’re not usually installed in homes is due to heat dissipation, although if you want one for yourself and don’t mind it not being mounted in your ceiling you can definitely make one.

    • AppetSci says:

      In the comments, it seems that yes, you can simply attach a plug and then plug it in a wall socket
      https://www.amazon.com/ask/questions/Tx8XSI3ROOIARP/ref=ask_ql_ql_al_hza

      But no, it is not dimmable.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This product is not 30k lumens, only 10K, but it puts those lumens a few inches from your eyes. I have had good personal results with it over the last 5 years.

      Because you put it on the brim of a hat/visor, you can then go about your morning routine, make coffee, eat breakfast, read something, etc.

    • Deiseach says:

      Certainly not an expert, but off the top of my head this is for industrial/commercial use. If you’re going to use it in an ordinary house, I’d be very wary that the wiring and circuit-breakers etc. are set up to handle it – best case scenario, you plug it in and it blows all your fuses, worst case – your house burns down.

      I think you really would need an electrician to check can the domestic wiring handle the load and to wire it in properly for you.

    • J says:

      It’s designed to go up near the ceiling out of reach, plus looking at the big heat sink and 500W consumption makes me think that it may get quite hot. Also may be unhappy mounted vertically instead of downward-facing (since it’s designed for the heat to go straight up into the heatsink. Easy enough to buy one and see how hot it gets.

  16. HeelBearCub says:

    Apparently the right frequency of sound (40 Hz) can clean amyloid plaques from the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s. Previously flickering light was shown to work, but sounds is even better, and both together are even better still.

    • dick says:

      A lot of amateur discussion and encouraging-sounding anecdata here: https://blog.szynalski.com/2018/03/40-hz-tone-alzheimers/

      • broblawsky says:

        The anecdata makes it sound like these people are just using a 40 Hz tone, but the report makes it sound like it’s a 40 Hz beat that has actual therapeutic effect – the frequency/nature of the sound is irrelevant.

    • albatross11 says:

      Wow. The interesting question is whether the plaques are the cause of the dementia or just a sign/side effect of whatever causes the dementia. If they’re the cause, that could be a huge thing; if they’re just a sign or side effect, then it won’t do much (but might still be relevant in other diseases where amyloid plaques are the cause of some problem).

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Given that they saw therapeutic effect in the mice, it suggests that either dealing with the plaques has a therapeutic effect, or that having therapeutic effect has a side effect of reducing the plaques. Either way, it’s therapeutic effect.

        • albatross11 says:

          Sure…in a mouse model of the disease, which may or may not work the same way as the human disease.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Are there a lot of Altzeimer’s treatments that work to this extent in mice or other animal models but not in humans? I’m wondering how uniquely promising to consider this (though I’m well aware of the general shortcomings of mouse models.)

          • albatross11 says:

            My understanding is that previous drugs targeting the amyloid plaques haven’t worked out well. I’m not remotely an expert in this area, but here’s a post on In The Pipeline talking about a failed set of Alzheimers drugs. (I was thinking about this post when I wrote my comment.).

    • chaosmage says:

      If this is true for humans, we could know in two or three months of people on the internet just trying it. Or about twelve years before a 15000$ Medical Device gets FDA approval to do the same thing.

    • While on the subject of Alzheimer’s, does anyone here have an opinion on Dale Bredeson and his book The End of Alzheimer’s? He argyes for a wide array of lifestyle changes and claims that the combined effect is large.

  17. Bakkot says:

    People who are using the secret reply notifications by email feature: it should now be fixed.

    (I still intend to get around to integrating it properly at some point, but in the mean time it continues to function happily.)

  18. Well... says:

    If drugs were legalized tomorrow, what would actually happen to the cartels, and in what timeframe? Please show your work as best you can.

    I know the cartels have been trying to diversify for a while now into things like human trafficking and controlling natural resources (e.g. oil pipelines) but without drugs would these things be enough to sustain them? Are they competitive in these areas? I believe the answer to both questions is no but I’m not 100% sure.

    If you don’t want to answer any of those questions, how about this one: if you were the head of a major cartel and drugs were legalized tomorrow, what would you do?

    • JPNunez says:

      In Uruguay, where only marijuana has been legalized, there’s been an increase in cartel violence. It seems the cartels are moving onto the next drugs, or trying to control the remaining sales of ilegal marijuana (you cannot sell to foreigners) or trying to export marijuana to other countries, which may cause problems to other uruguayan exports.

      Similarly I’ve heard rumblings about drug cartels running in the Netherlands too. I assume the newspapers are exaggerating when they say it’s becoming a narco-state.

      So it’s possible they’d just move onto other business (the reports on Netherlands say that the legalization of prostitution has made it easier to traffic people). There’s also a increasing crime wave in Uruguay from before the legalization, so maybe this is just a stage in growing crime due to the neighbouring countries, Argentina and Brazil, and the not-exactly-neighbouring-but-connected-by-a-river Paraguay and Bolivia have their own problems, sometimes drug related, that for whatever reason Uruguay managed to contain until the last decade.

      tl;dr: it’s not a given crime would drop

      • albatross11 says:

        My guess is that there’s a lot of path dependency. Once you have a whole criminal ecosystem selling drugs, there is a big group of guys who don’t really know how else to make a living, and who have become dependent on their criminal life to survive. They’ll have to take a big loss in standard of living to do anything else, and their current skillset probably won’t be much use. So they’ll look for nearby criminal enterprises to get into. I’m not sure how to get around that–it may be that you just have to accept it and wait a generation or two for those guys to die off/age out.

      • Aapje says:

        @JPNunez

        Marijuana is actually not legal in The Netherlands. Sale in ‘coffee shops’ is tolerated, but production is not. So there is plenty of money to be made for the mafia. The current government agreed to do a trial with legal weed in a few counties, but there is great disagreement over the trial. Many, including the counties that would participate, demand that weed stays legal if the trial is a success, which the more conservative political parties don’t want to promise. Another issue is that the proponents of legal weed argue that customers need to be able to choose between many legal variants of weed, not just one or two, for the legal option to be competitive. It’s unclear whether the trial will even be done.

        There are a lot of other drugs that aren’t tolerated. XTC, GHB, cocaine, speed, heroine, etc. There is a large market for those, especially in Gomorrah Amsterdam, where there now seems to lawlessness at night in the city center (with the police being overwhelmed).

        The Netherlands is also a big exporter of drugs, especially XTC and speed. A new estimate of Dutch production was released recently, which is much higher than earlier estimates, at 1 billion XTC pills and 600k kilos of speed, at an estimated street price of 19 billion euros. Dumping of waste from production is more and more common, at over 200 times a year, with indications that waste is also gotten rid off in less visible ways.

        Cocaine is actually so plentiful that the mafia seems to have agreed to an OPEC-like solution, putting a minimum price on it.

        I assume the newspapers are exaggerating when they say it’s becoming a narco-state.

        Threats against politicians by the mafia seem to be getting far more frequent and there is worry about the mafia infiltrating local politics, but I haven’t seen solid evidence for that. National politics seems completely unaffected.

        the reports on Netherlands say that the legalization of prostitution has made it easier to traffic people

        Very doubtful. The main issue making it harder to regulate prostitution is that there are fewer brothels and more flexible arrangements. I think that this is mainly due to the Internet, smartphones, social media, etc.

        The main government policy effect seems to be the general wariness of local governments to give permits, including a big NIMBY effect. This has nothing to do with legalization per se.

        There isn’t actually a proper, periodic check on forced prostitution or other abuses with standardized and decent definitions. So the facts are missing to decide whether legalization helped or not.

        In general, most reports about ‘human trafficking’ seem to be written by people who are so invested that the claims reflect their ideology more than anything. For example, some studies call it forced prostitution if people need the money from the work and are not independently wealthy. Well, by that standard most of society that doesn’t work as a prostitute is victim of ‘forced labor.’

        The entire topic seems dominated by demagoguery…

        • JPNunez says:

          I suspected the reports on Netherlands had some clickbaitery to them. Still worrying that the mafia has established itself in the country as a seeming base of operations. I don’t know if this gels with the idea that criminals would move onto other criminal enterprises as drugs are legalized.

          I don’t know much about the issue of human trafficking.

          Thanks.

          I think that legalization is not that simple, even in the limited case of Netherlands. The libertarians will say that the error is _just_ legalizing marijuana, but I don’t see how this argument addresses the problem of the remaining gangs, or how does this address that your country now looks tempting to use as a base of operations to traffic drugs to other countries.

          It may be easier to do in a big country like the USA, that in small countries like Uruguay, surrounded by almost all sides by countries where drugs are still ilegal. Dunno if an american state legalizing by itself being surrounded by other non-legal states is the same.

          • Aapje says:

            My country is a transport hub in Europe, which automatically makes it immensely attractive for trafficking illegal goods. With 4.5 million containers coming to and 4 million containers leaving Rotterdam harbor, there is a lot of opportunity to sneak drugs in (and out).

            Every country has a pretty big mafia, because every country has a large customer base that requires hands-on local operations to distribute the drugs, launder the money and such.

            The issue I have with your worry about gangs moving to other enterprises is that they already do that. If something is illegal and profitable, they will move in. If something is legal and suitable for laundering money, they also move in.

            For example, ‘phone shops,’ tourist shops (like those selling waffles with Nutella) and strip clubs are probably in large part owned by the mafia, because they are great for laundering money, as you can easily sneak fake revenue into the books. So there is really no such things as criminals sticking to their trade and not interfering with the rest of society. The richer criminals are, the bigger their influence.

            I think that criminals can be separated more or less into two groups. The opportunistic, who get lured in by the money and those from a subculture where crime is a way of life. I think that it is very hard to get the latter group to give up crime.

            That said, moving onto other forms of crime can also happen due to territorial disputes. During the Yugoslav war, quite a few refugees came to my country, including ruthless (and rootless) criminals like Karate Bob). Such migration puts pressure on the existing mafia, who can fight, cooperate or move on to different crime.

            I prefer to cut off the mafia from the most profitable enterprises. I’d rather see them engage in small scale E-bay fraud, thefts, etc, making little more than in a shitty job, so few opportunistic people join them. Not to earn big money, fueling big disputes resulting in lots of violence and allowing them to gain influence over the rest of society.

            or how does this address that your country now looks tempting to use as a base of operations to traffic drugs to other countries.

            It’s hard to imagine this getting any worse.

            Legalization means that the production can be regulated. If you notice that some farmers report producing twice as much as others from the same acreage, then it is pretty obvious that the poor farmers are selling some illegally. It’s doubtful whether this makes for an attractive proposition for those farmers.

            So I expect production to split into a legal and an illegal portion, reducing economies of scale for the illegal producers.

          • Every country has a pretty big mafia

            How are you using “mafia”?

            My impression is that the popular picture of a single criminal organization controlling all of lots of things, a “GM of crime,” is generally wrong, that what usually exists is a network of individual illegal firms dealing with each other. Of course, I know nothing about the specific situation in the Netherlands.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think that legalization is not that simple, even in the limited case of Netherlands. The libertarians will say that the error is _just_ legalizing marijuana, but I don’t see how this argument addresses the problem of the remaining gangs, or how does this address that your country now looks tempting to use as a base of operations to traffic drugs to other countries.

            I would say that the error is that marijuana has not been in fact legalized in the Netherlands, rather its retail sale has been depenalized: the coffee shops can sell it to end customers, but the coffee shops have to buy it from the mafia. This has likely increased the size of the market compared to a blanket prohibition and therefore increased the revenue and political influence of the mafia.

            The proper way of doing legalization requires legalizing all the supply chain, which, if I understand correctly, is the American approach.

    • Lambert says:

      Now I might be making the same mistake of ‘things will get worse for a while as the Bourgeoisie collapses. Then we will all live in Utopia’ as the communists, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a transient increase in violence.

      When businesses know their core model is becoming outdated, they tend to flail around and do dumb stuff (see the whole Gillette thing) in an increasingly erratic way to find a new niche. For gangs, this flailing is likely to be violent.

      But most of the people who have already sunk costs into being a cartel member will find themselves imprisoned or dead before too long, and far fewer new people will be inclined to join the cartels.

    • SamChevre says:

      I don’t know for cartels.

      It’s notoriously the case all throughout Appalachia that the same families, and the same locations, that used to be hot-spots for moonshine are now are hot-spots for pot growing and meth cooking. So my guess is they would switch into other illegal activities–but similar ones: selling stolen goods, selling still-illegal drugs, etc.

      • Jaskologist says:

        AU where all recreational drugs have been legalized, so now the Ozark crime syndicates spend their time selling antibiotics and other drugs without a prescription.

    • Winja says:

      In Colorado, the cartel types have done the following:
      1.) Moved into rural areas and converted them to grow operations in violation of local ordinances
      2.) Grow more that the legally allowable limits
      3.) Continue selling on the black market, presumably, their willingness to violate regulations/laws/tax collections on sales required by the legal sellers allows them to realize gains that are significant enough to drive down their costs compared to the legal sellers
      4.) Use the now more permissive state environment to grow and sell weed destined for other states where it’s still illegal.

      • acymetric says:

        It seems those are mostly problems caused by doing it wrong.

        1 and 2 would be solved by further relaxing the limits/restrictions. If you are going to have those restrictions in place, you need to have the teeth to monitor/enforce them.

        Local regulatory body: “We won’t allow that here!”
        Law abiding operations: “Ok”
        Criminal operations: “We’re doing it anyway, what are you going to do about it?”
        Local regulatory body: “Uh…nothing I guess, carry on”

        Entirely predictable. Go along with the legalization and they could have had legitimate businesses in those spots instead. Otherwise be prepared to enforce your policies.

        I think 3 is probably mostly driven by 4, and 4 could be solved by nationwide legalization.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’m assuming that by “cartels” you just mean “any large-scale organization that makes a lot of money from drugs”. So, e.g., the Hell’s Angels would qualify.

      I think that at least quite a few of them will slowly become legitimate drug-dealing enterprises, and eventually very powerful ones. The main historical precedent here would seem to be the end of prohibition, which led to most of the major liquor companies of the 20th Century being formed from old bootlegging groups, as well as at least one of the most powerful political dynasties that exists.

      Many of these groups already have large legitimate components to their operations, and some of them already control resources in excess of some nation-states. Given that they already have expertise in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of drugs, I think that legalization would only remove an impediment to their profitability, so they’d do quite well.

    • cassander says:

      What happened to the gangs after prohibition? I’m asking sincerely. I’ve read a couple books about prohibition, but I’ve not seen one about the aftermath.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Many are still around, running narcotics, along with the perennials of protection rackets, numbers rackets and other gambling, theft and fencing, corrupt businesses, etc.

      • Enkidum says:

        Several of the major US liquor companies are direct descendants of those gangs, as were the Kennedy’s.

        • cassander says:

          Kennedy did make a lot of money from selling scotch after prohibition ended, but according to a couple different sources, the story that he made his fortune bootlegging is false. Which is too bad, because it’s a fun story.

          • Enkidum says:

            I stand corrected.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Kennedys aren’t above cover ups and whitewashing. His father was a liquor importer before Prohibition. He was one after. He was doing something to make money in between. Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky claimed Kennedy was bootlegging.

  19. Nornagest says:

    Has anyone fed GPT-2 the Navy Seal copypasta yet?

    • MilfordTrunion says:

      I think that’s the initial load for Military AIs, like the OGRE…

    • honoredb says:

      Content warning: Dead dove, do not eat.

      Model prompt >>> What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to
      >>>
      ======================================== SAMPLE 1 ========================================
      the same ULTRA lethal protocols that my peers will encounter in this unmarked force, which (bar none) involves no human flesh or bodily fluids but has no culinary training to begin with. You’ve already thought of the words I described when I said you were just as incompetent as you are and never will be allowed to live. You think what we all know now and only a fraction of the people right now consider this to be a BS attitude to it, alright? “You never will be allowed to live” isn’t gonna happen. Imagine what the ten-million people would choke on if you asked a reasonable question. What means do I have such an incredible time intolerance to shame and berate those in turn on so they can focus fully on their own fucking safety? Well [] I guess you can imagine a politician or a public figure enacting such a vile and humiliating ultimatum along this track in defiance of the incredible military simulation of human free will known as “rational probability”. Leave it to someone to ask the obvious questions or to judge you. I think you’ll be delighted they realized the moral of the story. Most of you know that because you have been taking the time to read it. I found it hard to take this pinched-straight, perfectly rational question into anything other than a post of “I think I know what you’re talking about, and I believe in you”. By the way, I might have to take some questions from you. Do I know what you mean with this “retreat” of American eyes, are you serious, accomplished snipers or not? Well … you mean maybe you’ve realized your own impending answers to the question. Maybe you’ve just witnessed the glimpse of so many different places over the previous 10+ years. Maybe you’re going to tell the general populace: pick up this lemon and yourself, ill kill you now, please.

    • Winja says:

      What happens if you ask it to optimize for paperclips?

  20. DinoNerd says:

    Let’s continue the discussion of poverty from the prior thread.

    Potential subthreads:
    – comparing today’s poor with 1910 professionals
    – what do we mean by “unconscionable poverty”
    – poverty vs other “underclass” issues, not likely to be fixable with money

    • DinoNerd says:

      Starting unconscionable poverty with my opinions.

      – Needless deaths because of “can’t afford”, when e.g. 50% of the US population _can_ afford.
      – Poor prospects even for talented, hard working children, whether because of lack of opportunity, malnutrition, prejudice, or whatever.
      – A society that claims that everyone must/should have/do X, when that’s impossible for you. Especially if there are dire consequences for not doing it.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I’d put a lot of qualifiers on all of those, but especially 1 and 3. Seen from Europe, US tends to throw away a lot of money for unpreventable deaths. Here, when you die you die. It’s very rare to cling to another few weeks or months with exponential increasing costs. It’s probably the setup where in US you rarely pay or even commit to costs beforehand – the hospital only knows they’ll write a bill at the end which somebody will have to pay.

        “A society that claims that everyone must/should have/do X”

        That’s even worse, because it leads to those wealth-sinks EY speaks about. There are many examples, but I’ll give you one I personally like because it’s waaay outside the Overton window in any country I know: the presumption of the right to live where you want, even on welfare. It’s not explicit, but it’s a fact that welfare money is the same for the state no matter where you pay them, but spending them in different corners of the country can give many time their value.

        (this being said, I agree with the gist of what you’re saying)

        • albatross11 says:

          In the US, a lot of welfare benefits are provided at the state level. That can create an incentive for poor people to move from a stingy state to a generous one, but it probably somewhat evens out the cost-of-living imbalance you’d have from (say) a nationwide universal UBI.

        • Aapje says:

          Seen from Europe Romania

          My country spends a lot of money extending lives and one of the popular topics of discussion is whether this should be limited.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            You might be the minority here. I took a road trip last summer, it was very interesting to see how civilization moved upwards (Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Holland) and then downwards (Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Serbia). I think it could’ve gotten up a bit more towards Norway. Point, is, you’re top of the top there.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but that does mean that you can’t present the standards for some, or even the majority of nations as being the European experience.

    • SamChevre says:

      poverty vs other underclass issues:

      I grew up poor, and most of my friends and neighbors were poor too–in the “not having much money” sense of poor. My earliest memories are of a house without indoor plumbing other than a sink. My oldest sister famously (in our family) had never had french fries when she was twelve, and read about them in a story and asked what they were. And we weren’t exceptionally poor in our church. (One of our neighbors drove an hour to work in a factory, and everyone thought of him as incredibly high-income.)

      But we weren’t “poor” in the dysfunctional sense. All the children I went to school with had two married parents, except one family whose father had died of cancer. Everyone always had enough to eat.

      Not having money and being surrounded by dysfunctional people should be more separate than they are.

      • Murphy says:

        Ya… there needs to be some distinction there.

        I remember having a chat with someone about the design of mental wards and someone saying something along the lines of “ok, so, you’ve just had a breakdown, or tried to kill yourself or done something really disruptive during some kind of mental break…. you’ve probably just had one of the worst days of your life and that’s the day when we lock you into a ward with 17 other people, about half of them probably have scarier issues than you do (odds)… I would probably be terrified and I’m sane enough right now to cope with everyday life”

        there’s something similar for poverty.

        OK, so, you’ve lost your job or something has happened to leave you unable to earn etc… so now the only place you can afford to live is the one with really crappy schools filled with kids from families that are probably more fucked up than yours where the most visible route out of poverty is dealing drugs…. right, I’m sure there’s no downside to this design…

        The UK government tries to mix council housing into normal developments (better one council house in every block than 1 big run-down estate with all the council houses) but they kind of screw it up by allowing developers to pay a fee to not do that.

        Poverty is also relative to the people around you. My dad grew up in a house without electricity on a smallish farm.

        There’s lots of farmers who look poor… but actually own lots of reasonably valuable land and are actually very wealthy people. Asset rich but cash poor.

        There’s also the perception of wealth vs actual wealth.

        My father decided he didn’t want to be a farmer and went off to become a programmer. His younger brother who inherited the farm and my cousins apparently have this idea that he’s wealthy because he got a fairly well paying office job but in real terms they’re vastly wealthier and could sell up and go live on an island off the interest alone if the whim ever struck them.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Yes. I also grew up poor, though not that poor. There will always be poor people – in the sense of significantly below average wealth and income – as long as there’s a meaningful distribution of income or wealth. That may be annoying if you are one of them, but also inevitable.

        For the sake of a sound bite, and with a nod back to Victorian terminology, I’m going to call that group the “working poor” or the “respectable poor”.

        There’s another group that usually winds up poor, with a long collection of issues – mental health, substance abuse, violence, etc.. That’s the group that supplies most of the truly desperate (people who die because of ‘living rough’ etc.) and many of the worst hazards of being poor (violent neighbourhoods, etc.).

        And mixed into all this are some who are merely exceedingly unfortunate, possibly in part as a result of poor decisions that many/most people get away with. These are the “widows and orphans” of traditional terminology – but also those unable to work as the result of accident or illness, and perhaps bankrupted by medical costs as well. And also, sadly, far too many people who are merely elderly, who either didn’t or couldn’t save sufficiently for old age – the old lady living on cat food is a stereotype for a reason.

        I’m concerned about the hazards created by the second group, *and* about those at the very bottom of the other two groups – the ones that can’t put food on the table, or who are forced to live in extremely hazardous surroundings.

        I’m also concerned about many of those in the second group. They aren’t very appealing, and helping them is extremelty difficult, because of their various issues. But they are our fellow human beings, and in many cases, got that way in part because of inherited issues, or unfortunate experiences. And their children, in particular, deserve better than being written off because of their parents

        One thing I hate to see is people trying to accuse all poor folks of belonging to the second group. It’s neither accurate nor ethical. But it’s unfortunately far too common. And I wish there was a good way for the folks in groups 1 and 3 to avoid more of those in group 2.

        [Also, of course the groups overlap. Reality is messy.]

        • Aapje says:

          Sure, but the same mistake is made the other way, where all poor are being seen as respectable. This is also neither accurate nor ethical.

    • Walter says:

      I think today’s poor (that is, not homeless, but not middle class either, the folks between) have things much better off than 1910 professionals. They might well be better off than the 1910 rich.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        Antibiotics and time-saving appliances both seem to be incredible improvements over what a 1910 rich person would have. That’s not even considering electronics (partly because I don’t know if modern consumer electronics have really made life better in the same sense as antibiotics).

        In terms of material well-being it’s almost impossible to argue that anyone in 1910 was truly better off than someone working class in 2018. In the relativistic sense of how people feel about their relative positions, I think today’s poor are still noticeably better off than in 1910 (that is, compared to the same class of poor in 1910), but not compared to the rich or even middle class of 1910. I’ve never put much stake in the relativistic view, but to some people it appears to be more important than the absolute view of poverty.

        • albatross11 says:

          Are there situations where we can see what people choose, when offered either:

          a. Higher objective quality of life.

          b. Higher standing in status relative to others.

          I don’t trust my intuitions about how much people value one of those things over another.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I would say that going career criminal is probably a good example.

            Career criminals tend to have objectively lower quality of life than working stiffs, but higher standing.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Socialism/Communism?

          • acymetric says:

            What about preferring a lower-paying white collar career to a higher-paying blue collar career?

            My intuition is that preference of status vs. objective quality is highly subjective, and that there is a lot of overlap between the two . In this example, the white-collar guy might be “higher status” in some respects because their career is considered such, but the blue-collar guy might be higher status in the sense that the can afford better stuff (house, car, vacations/entertainment, etc. that indicates off while also being materially better off from a quality standpoint). On the other hand, the blue-collar guy may have lower quality of life in terms of increased wear and tear on the body.

            In other words, it is hard to have a good intuition on these things because they are hard to measure and the preferences are variable across people and populations (and maybe/probably even variable for the some person across time).

          • Plumber says:

            @acymetric 
            "What about preferring a lower-paying white collar career to a higher-paying blue collar career?

            My intuition is that preference of status vs. objective quality is highly subjective, and that there is a lot of overlap between the two . In this example, the white-collar guy might be “higher status” in some respects because their career is considered such, but the blue-collar guy might be higher status in the sense that the can afford better stuff (house, car, vacations/entertainment, etc. that indicates off while also being materially better off from a quality standpoint). On the other hand, the blue-collar guy may have lower quality of life in terms of increased wear and tear on the body..."

            As one data point my brother is white collar and earns less than I do with assets priced less (he has a house in Maryland, I have one in California), but despite we only being born three years apart I look and move much older and his wife doesn’t tell him to “Stop looking so working-class when you come home” (yes my wife hassled me about carrying a lunch box instead of a briefcase in the minute walk from our driveway to the front door!).

            Its since subsided, but when I was feeling the worst body pain I would’ve definitely trades places if I could.

          • acymetric says:

            @Plumber

            For what its worth, I have been both people in my example in the past ~8 years, still haven’t decided which I preferred (this is probably also why I bring up blue-collar/white-collar contrasts so much, because I feel extremely comfortable with my understanding of both sides).

          • The obvious example would be people who migrate to a country much richer than the one they came from. That would apply at both the bottom and the top. My guess is that an illegal immigrant to the U.S. from Mexico is lower status in the U.S. than he was in Mexico but has a better quality of life, and that the same thing is true for a Philippino nurse or an Indian computer programmer.

          • Plumber says:

            @acymetric
            The book Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford presents a fairly convincing argument that many white collar jobs impose such a psychological toll that the physical demands of blue collar work are preferable instead.

            My guess is it depends which job you have, how much agency and effective you feel, and how interesting the cognitive challenges, I can easily imagine diagnosing a failed air-conditioning system as preferable to commissioned sales for example, but working as a human forklift gets old (and makes you old) fast.

            Being a tenured professor sounds like a sweet gig – but there’s a lot of competition for that brass ring, and I know I’d much rather be a welder (or even a plumber) than Glengarry Glen Ross (which seems like a vision of Hell) – though some plumbing contractors will want you to hard sell unnecessary remodeling, which seems like the worst of both worlds.

            From best to worst I’d list it as

            Reading and discussing interesting ideas >

            Using your skills to do some good in the world >

            Being a human forklift >

            Having to be con man >

            Having to be both a human forklift and a con man.

          • Zeno of Citium says:

            @Plumber:

            his wife doesn’t tell him to “Stop looking so working-class when you come home” (yes my wife hassled me about carrying a lunch box instead of a briefcase in the minute walk from our driveway to the front door!).

            Amusingly, worrying about appearing working class is an almost unerring sign of someone who came from the working class! Some parts of the middle/ upper middle class have recently embraced a ton of working-class signifiers as fashionable, or at least things that appear to those classes as working class – we call them hipsters when this becomes extreme, although a lot of it is a sort of strange parody of the actual working class – premium gourmet organ meats on $50 charcuterie plates and all that.

            in re: Shopcraft as Soulcraft, has anyone who’s spent considerable time as both a blue collar and a white collar want to chime in on which felt psychologically more draining? I recently switched from a white-collar job that was killing my soul to a similar white collar job that’s amazingly stress-free and this sort of this has been on my mind.

          • AG says:

            Seems like it’s just a matter of how much responsibility one can handle. Stress comes from having to make decisions that affect an increasing number of people all around you, instead of getting to pass the buck to someone else/a protocol that was hashed out by someone else.

            The more responsibility one has for running a business, the more white collar work they’re doing.

            Not many people are fit for leadership.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The more responsibility one has for running a business, the more white collar work they’re doing.

            Plenty of white collar professional jobs have no such responsibility. Such jobs are the bottom of the hierarchy by definition, but they’re common.

            Perhaps this responsibility is one reason sociopaths are well-represented among executives; there’s a lot less stress to it if you just by nature don’t care.

          • AG says:

            @Nybbler

            Fair enough. There’s certainly an appeal to doing something physically over mindless data entry.
            Nonetheless, blue collar work has an inherent ceiling to it in our current society (Like topping out at Sergeant), because white collar duties are becoming ever more unavoidable, such as the increasing technical expertise required to work in manufacturing. So if there is a level of loathing white collar work, there is the element of it being annoying to have to do all of the necessary paperwork (fielding responsibility), instead of getting hands on. Seeking blue collar work then necessarily becomes an amount of fleeing of greater responsibility.

  21. hash872 says:

    Hypothesis (pretend like we’re in business school or something, doing a case study)- today’s organized crime is too violent, and too focused on highly risky fields like narcotics sales that carry extensive prison time. (This is referring solely to organized crime in the US, not transnational groups in less developed countries, not disorganize crime like street gangs. Basically, this is ‘if private equity invested in the Mafia and sought to improve their business model’). A more rationally constructed organized crime corporation should:

    Move in to more complex white collar crimes- sophisticated scams, mortgage fraud, Initial Coin Offerings (ha ha), botnets, fake web trafficking for advertising scams, pump and dump penny stock schemes, insider trading, etc. I’m putting this #1 as it’s the most important. My business school thesis is that white collar crimes are highly profitable and carry much lower risk of incarceration. They’re also much cases tougher for prosecutors to prove, and- the quality of the defense attorneys that a wealthy defendant can afford is extremely high. There are so many places for them to attack cases, either with a judge or an appeals court. Prosecuting these type of cases is tens of thousands of man hours, and prosecutors tend to get very risk-averse if they publicly lose even one- bad for the DA’s career. Basically, any type of white collar crimes that others are doing now- look in to how to do it better, as an organized corporation

    Move in to other extremely profitable business lines with much less prison time, like counterfeiting. Counterfeiting has insane profit margins (hundreds of %), and defendants are only looking at a couple of years if they’re convicted

    Reduce or eliminate narcotics sales due to lengthy prison terms (and the risk of individual actors in your organization flipping due to those prison terms. To my understanding this contributed to the fall of the Mafia in the US)

    Diversify into legal businesses & real estate as much as possible. Co-mingle your legal & illegal cash, buy restaurants, liquor stores, laundromats, apartment buildings etc. Set yourself up and present yourself as a series of legitimate corporations

    Seek to reduce (not eliminate) violence and especially murder. Beating an offending party who has somehow crossed you is sufficiently violent much of the time and contains relatively low legal risks. Murder obviously contains the highest legal risk, and it’s very difficult to completely disappear a body. However tempting it may be to appear ‘scary’ on the street in the short run, the risk of either the prison time or the soldier who committed the murder flipping due to that time is simply too high. (Also, if you’re in the white collar crime business, frightening the types of people who are in the business with you is vastly easier than hardened violent criminals)

    In general maintain a ‘low profile’ and position themselves as legitimate businesses. Give lots of campaign contributions to local politicians 🙂 Donate to local charities, including law enforcement ones

    Basically, a much less violent and more legitimate organized crime ‘corporation’ with extremely good attorneys on retainer is a much more solid, long-term business model

    • John Schilling says:

      Today’s organized crime, while violent, is nonetheless profitable. And the comparative advantages of today’s organized criminals are that, first, their people have the hard-earned skills and experience to carry out this sort of crime profitably, and second, that nobody who isn’t part of an explicitly criminal organization can compete with them, there’s no plausible deniability for any legitimate business selling fentanyl on the street.

      The sort of white-collar crime you are talking about, requires an entirely different skillset, and it can be practiced by people who have the comparative advantages of having legitimate reason to develop and practice those skills and the ability to hide their crimes within a legitimate business and without it being blatantly obvious from the bare facts that they are doing something criminal.

      Also, there would seem to be little advantage to having a large-scale criminal organization associated with e.g. an illicit ICO or an insider-trading scam, unless by bringing in explicitly criminal elements like “kill the top crypto geeks of the rival ICOs” or “extort insiders to give us tradeable information”, in which case you’re right back to where you started.

      I don’t see this as likely to succeed for anyone currently in the business of e.g. drug smuggling, as they’ll be competing with people who are currently better at white-collar crime than they are and who have the legitimacy to call the police on their mafia-esque competitors. And I don’t see the advantage to current white-collar criminals in going the mafia route, that justifies the extra risk they’d be taking.

      Ignore the fact that the word “criminal” pertains to both. Copper mining is (I believe) presently more profitable than coal mining; that both are “mining” and one more profitable than the other, does not mean that coal miners are fools if they don’t all shift to copper.

      • hash872 says:

        The issue with your argument is that organized crime and white collar crime of course already overlap now (you can Google ‘Mafia white collar crime’ for yourself- BTW that brings up Medicare fraud, which I didn’t even think to include/have no idea how it works). I’m just arguing focusing on more WCC and less, like, heroin sales is ultimately more rational as a business model. I suspect that the technical skills required to mastermind lots of WCC is not that hard to obtain- and you can always hire developers, for an ICO or what have you (especially remote/offshore, especially Russian). Insider trading, counterfeiting, mortgage fraud- all organized crime activities now, none requiring like extraordinary specialized skills that mobsters couldn’t pick up, at least to be the ringleader

        • Clutzy says:

          You are talking about two different subgroups of people in the same criminal organization. Some of the high level people could go in that direction. But the reason cartels specialize in drugs/human trafficking is it allows them to leverage vast amounts of unskilled labor.

          Your suggestion is akin to saying Wal Mart to refocus on producing Phones because Apple has better margins per employee. Thats fine, but Wal Mart can’t do that with its current workforce, even if some of its VPs and managers could go work for Apple.

    • Protagoras says:

      The violence is not something the organized crime model can do without. Since their enterprise is criminal, they can’t go to the authorities when members of the organization defraud and steal from one another; their internal mechanisms need to be sufficiently effective and ruthless to maintain discipline. So while you are correct that the violence is what leaves them most exposed to the authorities, they have no choice about exposing themselves to such risks.

    • S_J says:

      Somewhere in the series Sopranos, the titular crime family had a family member get a license to trade stocks. (A stand-in, who is definitely not a doppelganger, takes the tests necessary for the appropriate license to be issued.)

      They then run pump-and-dump schemes. At least once, the family member overseeing the room full of telemarketers notices a telemarketer is not pushing the Stock if the Day… And then issues a beating.

      It’s fiction, but the idea isn’t new to you.

      I don’t know if anyone in the organized crime world wants to run that type of business, or has the ability to do so without attracting too much attention from the Attorney General of New York, or the SEC.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        The precipitating event for the FBI adding Semyon Mogilevich to their most wanted list was an elaborate pump and dump scam on the Toronto stock exchange. Apparently Canada is a bit more vulnerable than the US to these schemes because we only have provincial wide securities regulators.

    • Michael Handy says:

      I’m not sure it is less profitable than wcc. Remember, this is an industry that can hire private armies and in some cases air forces, buy very high end speedboats with an expectation of losing 20% of them per mission, and bribe entire countries into submission, and still this is the most profitable thing they can do with this power.

      If harder drugs were legalised, I can see the cartels pivoting to something more like the East India Company’s policy in China.

    • Walter says:

      I feel like you may be reasoning backwards. Like, who are we role playing as, in this conversation? The people most like the perspective you have (that is, the gang is ours and we set its rules) tend to already be in jail.

      Part of the gangster life cycle goes through jail. This is a feature, not a bug. Our organization is the one that got made to coexist with jail, and replacing it with one that doesn’t will see us replaced as leaders by folks who aren’t incarcerated.

    • Chalid says:

      So I think you’d really need to analyze this as a business, and unfortunately there’s no one who posts here regularly who I think has the kind of expertise to do that (definitely not myself). One problem is that it’s hard to hide a sizeable fraud; eventually it collapses under its own weight and then investigators are all over the wreckage.

      One thing I could think of is where the criminal organization provides expertise and services to fraudsters; as part of this, the criminal organization gains leverage over the fraudsters in the form of evidence of their activities, and it can use the threat of revelation to extract resources/ensure silence/etc. The organization can also bribe auditors/regulators to be selectively incompetent at key points in the process. The criminals can profit both directly by sharing in the proceeds and indirectly through normal, seemingly legitimate market activity.

      I don’t think there’s space for this specific fraud anymore, because it’s too scrutinized, but a type of fraud that used to be common is mining fraud. You get a geologist to tell you that someplace will be a good place to find gold, you dig a hole in the ground there and then when no one is paying attention put a bit of gold dust into a shotgun and blast it at the rocks. Then later you come and take some of those rocks as “samples” and send them off to be analyzed at a reputable independent lab. The lab certifies there is gold in your rocks; you then go sell millions of dollars of shares in your “mining company” to the market and use part of the proceeds to vanish, ideally to someplace with no extradition treaty. (These frauds got really large, which is what caused the increased scrutiny and regulation.) Obviously there were lots of steps that can go wrong here, including that independent lab geologists are now a lot better at looking for evidence of this sort of thing. So there’s space for the criminal organization to help a mining fraudster carry out the fraud, both by telling them the obvious pitfalls and perhaps by bribing a geologist to have a bad day while running some tests; the criminal organization can use its inside knowledge of the fraud to profit, seemingly legitimately, by e.g. buying the stock before the gold is found/shorting the stock before the company founder vanishes, and the person actually committing the fraud doesn’t necessarily have to know enough about the criminal organization to endanger it.

      I’d guess one can sketch similar frauds in any kind of very speculative industry, e.g. tech startups or early-stage biotech.

      • Chalid says:

        Another benefit is that it’s really hard to prosecute this sort of thing, and white collar crime draws low sentences generally. Note that in the Bre-X case I linked above, a six billion dollar company was manufactured from thin air and Canadian authorities didn’t manage to convict anyone of anything.

    • Murphy says:

      Here’s an important question: what competitive advantage does the mafia have, moving into peaceful complex white collar crimes?

      When it comes to things like narcotics sales they have a competitive advantage of an organized group of people who they can use to violently enforce their monopolies.

      But if they try to move into the mortgage market they’re up against companies with vastly more experience , connections and infrastructure in the mortgage market.

      Further, what, exactly would stop legitimate peaceful businesses from moving into the same markets? A mid-size company that’s already in the mortgage market seems far better placed to move into an area of dubious legality but high-payoff.

      If they want to set up botnets… they’re competing with kids on the other side of the globe who probably have more technically expertise than them etc etc.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Being the CEO of a large corporation is more profitable than most other jobs, so why isn’t everybody a CEO?

      Hint: comparative advantage and professional specialization.

  22. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to describe a superhero with a minor or complicated or embarrassing superpower OR to give an appropriate name to a superhero someone else has described in this thread.

    You are welcome to do this as many times as you want, but please do not name a superhero you have described.

    Here are some minor superheroes, just start start us off:
    – a man who knows the weight of any living organism he can see, to the nearest gram
    – a woman who can shoot fire out her anus, like a flamethrower
    – a girl who knows the location of every cat within a 1 km radius
    – a boy who knows the combination to any safe manufactured before 1967

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      Hmm. One of the common tropes of YA fiction is discovering that you have the power to speak to and command animals. How about discovering that animals have the power to speak to and command you, and that unless you’re careful you’re going to spend a lot of time gathering acorns and bugs, and trying to resolve the conflicting demands of predator and prey.

      • b_jonas says:

        Is that inspired by the recent PBF strip “https://pbfcomics.com/comics/command-respect/” ?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Either that or you have the power to speak with animals, by which you learn animals are very dumb, and primarily concerned with acorns and bugs.

        • MilfordTrunion says:

          Like that Far Side comic where the guy makes a helmet that translates dog barks into human speech, and it turns out that dogs are mostly just yelling “HEY! HEY! HEY!”

    • shakeddown says:

      For the first two: Scale and Flame Spider (or Shinferno).

      Edit: Entendrepenuer suggests Ajarchaic for the safecracker.

      A man who can grow limbs on his left side to three times their size, and shrink limbs on his right side to a third their size (not necessarily at once).

    • bullseye says:

      A man who can fly, but only when no one can see him.

      • johan_larson says:

        Solo.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        .. Obvious: The Veiled One.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Does that include seeing his clothes? Because I’m loving a superhero who has to remain permanently fully costumed, and loses his power when the slightest rip appears and lets a sliver of skin be seen through it.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          And now I am reminded once of a suggestion on another forum of a hero who had the standard Superman suit of powers, but only when his costume was visible. That costume was red, with a large black swastika in a white circle on the chest…

          • albatross11 says:

            The bad news is what happens when you get a guy with Superman level powers who is actually proud to show up in that costume.

          • J Mann says:

            @AlphaGamma – That’s “Origin Story,” by Dwight Decker, from the anthology Superheroes.

            @albatross11 – I think DC’s Captain Marvel had a villain along those lines.

        • MilfordTrunion says:

          Oh, that’s Empowered…

          • EchoChaos says:

            She loses it gradually and has some of her skin showing anyway (and it’s skin tight).

            Definitely a similar idea, though.

      • Protagoras says:

        In the Wild Cards series, the Great and Powerful Turtle could only fly (among other things) when people couldn’t see him.

      • Silverlock says:

        Michigan J. Man

    • The Nybbler says:

      – A man who can bend spoons with his mind. Just spoons, nothing else.
      – A woman who can teleport, but only along a clear path, a distance of 25 feet, and rate-limited enough to make multiple teleports no faster than a brisk walk.

      • johan_larson says:

        Thick Soup is a silly name for that first one, but I can’t get past it.

      • Rana Dexsin says:

        “The Silver Sauceror” maybe, for the first one.

        For the second: “Preemptress”, aka Lola Tencie. No extra throughput, but sometimes you just need the one burst of speed to get the drop on a villain. Male alternative: “Quick Start Guy”, also especially used as a passive verb when describing his targets. Aka Manuel Short.

      • Skivverus says:

        Is there a range or precision limit on the spoon-bending?
        If not, “Starfire” seems like it could work as a name once he gets the backing to launch enough spoons into orbit.
        If there is a limit, though, a pair of spoons correctly bent will still make pretty good handcuffs.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Is there a range or precision limit on the spoon-bending?

          He has to have some connection to them. He can bend them if he’s seen (or felt) them and they’re nearby, he can bend them if he can see them over a live video link (with some range limit… too much of a delay disturbs the psychic connection), he can bend them if he’s planted them somewhere and they haven’t been disturbed. But he doesn’t have some sort of mystical connection to all spoons; he can’t just bend a spoon in a random silverware drawer somewhere.

          • Skivverus says:

            Suppose another consideration would be bandwidth limit. How many spoons can he bend at once, and how many different ways can he bend that set at once? (i.e., bending the first spoon left, the second spoon right, the third in a five-dimensional corkscrew, etc.)

    • Well... says:

      The girl who knows the location of every cat within a km radius should be named Schrödingirl. The name comes from the fact that she can locate both alive and dead cats.

      Although her superpower is absolutely the ability to locate cats within a 1km radius, the way she uses it is by challenging people to hide cats within that radius and then bet them she can guess where they hid the cats. She fails on purpose sometimes so people don’t get wise to her superpower, but she’s very careful to make sure “the house always wins” so to speak. Rather early on she got into the TV game too, televising the betting sessions so viewers all over the world could watch her work from inside locked rooms and so forth. Her accumulated wealth, both from the bets themselves and from the ad revenue, has allowed her to donate considerable sums to causes she supports, and made her into a very high-profile figure.

      • bullseye says: