1,118 thoughts on “Open Thread 124.25

  1. proyas

    How often do people in gunfights actually need to switch to “backup handguns”?

    It’s common in movies and TV shows for someone to pull out a secondary handgun–usually kept in a concealed ankle holster or tucked into the back of their waistband–because their primary handgun is lost (e.g. – ninja kicked out of their hand). How often do things like this happen in real life? Are there any documented cases?

    1. Another Throw

      Malfunctions are common enough to be a consideration to tactical planners.

      To give some idea of frequency, consider the Joint Service Small Arms Program, which resulted in the selection of the M9 as the standard service handgun for the US military. During the Air Force’s testing in 1977, the entrants in the selection process experienced Mean Rounds Between Stoppages (MRBS) between 5 (for the H&K VP70 and the Star Model 80, probably due to incompatible ammunition) to ~2000 (for the Beretta 92 and S&W 459A). According the the Air Force testing, the M1911 had an MRBS of 748. The Army objected that the Air Force had used defective magazines and, discounting the failures caused by those magazines, the M1911 would have an MRBS of 2457. Thus an inter-service acquisition rivalry embroiled Congress for years to come. But that’s beside the point.

      We’re going to use 2000 rounds between failures as a practical estimate for a “reliable” handgun. Randomly Googling around, the only (unsourced) number I could come up with is that an average gunfight has 3.59 rounds fired. (I am assuming the context is individual self defense.) Call it 4 to be round.

      So for our wild-ass estimate, around one in five hundred gunfights will involve a stoppage. If you’re using a hand gun with a practical MRBS closer to what the Air Force found for their existing inventory of M1911’s, you’re looking at closer to one in two hundred.

      I would say that’s enough to be a legitimate consideration.

      1. Another Throw

        Your standard infantry soldier is going to do extensive training on how to identify and correct stoppages under combat stress instead of carrying extra weapons. Military doctrine is centered around your infantry operating as part of a team. And spending as much of their time as possible behind cover and concealment. Consequently, if one of them experiences a stoppage the rest of that team is able to provide covering fire while that soldier corrects the problem from a position out of the enemy’s line of fire. In addition, the minimum weapon actually useful in a standard infantry engagement is the rifle. They are very large and cumbersome. Carrying an extra one is an huge amount of weight and space that could be used to carry some other lifesaving equipment.

        Contrast that with close quarters combat such as clearing a room. While you’re still operating as part of a team, there is absolutely no cover and concealment. There is nowhere to hide while trying to correct a stoppage. There is no covering fire to give you time to do anything. In addition, in close quarters a handgun is actually useful. Marginal, but useful. It is way better than nothing, and the size and weight penalty are probably acceptable. If you are the first one through the door, for example, and have a stoppage… you are absolutely and completely fucked. And probably your whole team if your dead body ends up blocking the door. You’re only option is to keep moving so they can come in behind you and hope to God you have enough time to get another weapon out. The people doing this kind of work are very keen on having a backup handgun in addition to their main rifle/carbine.

        But far more movies are made about the police, suave master spies, or just generic bad asses. In that sort of context, you’re far less likely to be working as part of a team much larger than a partnership, and still doing something that looks kind of like the close quarters work above. So they are probably keen on having a backup.

        But it is also likely to be less a question of “primary” and “backup” and more along the lines of “on duty” and “all the time.”

        See, the reason I said that handguns are only marginally effective in close quarters combat is because it is basically impossible to build a handgun that actually has stopping power. Pesky physics being what it is, you just can’t pack enough power into one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure it hurts insanely bad to get shot by one but adrenaline is a hell of a drug. So unless you get that one in a million hit (or they run, or weren’t actually serious and fall down screaming…), the person you’re trying to stop is going to roid the hell out on adrenaline with unlimited pain tolerance. And you need to shoot them a lot to stop them. Did I mention than your own adrenaline makes it very difficult to aim? In order to support the ability to shot multiple people as many times as it takes to stop them when they’re roided up on adrenaline, your on duty weapon is going to have to carry as many rounds of the biggest bullet you can reasonably carry. The virtually universal answer in this department is 17+ rounds of 9mm.

        But this ends up with a big, heavy, conspicuous weapon that is an all around pain in the ass to haul with you when taking your family to the movie theater or whatever. The ever popular Glock 17, for example, weights in excess of two pounds. Throw in a retention holster, because having someone else pulling your gun out of your holster is nobodies idea of a good day, and maybe a couple magazines and you’re looking at a pretty substantial load.

        So you find a smaller, lighter, less conspicuous off duty gun that is adequate for the much lower risk of stopping a stick up at your local gas station or running into that really nasty guy you put away for life but got let out on a technicality. Then just never take it off when you go to work. If you are willing to bump down to a smaller caliber like .380, you can pretty easily be looking at less than a pound. A Glock 42 in .380, for example, is around 15 oz.

        You’re basically in why the hell not territory. (Department rules notwithstanding.)

        Did I mention stoppages happen at a frequency worth at least considering?

        ETA: There is also the retention question. The “21 foot rule” basically says that if someone is within 21 feet of you, they can (reliably) close the gap and assault you faster than you can you realize what is happening and shoot them. Consider how many places in your house it is even possible to be more than 21 feet away from someone in the same room. And consider how much of police work involves going into strange residential buildings. Getting tackled while you have your weapon half way out of the holster and grappling to try retaining control of it is a really, really, really bad day. If you can’t retain it, having a backup sounds like it might be useful.

        But bear in mind that only something like 10% of police fire a weapon in their entire careers.

        Having one is not uncommon. Using one is almost always dramatic tension.

      2. proyas

        So for our wild-ass estimate, around one in five hundred gunfights will involve a stoppage. If you’re using a hand gun with a practical MRBS closer to what the Air Force found for their existing inventory of M1911’s, you’re looking at closer to one in two hundred.

        I would say that’s enough to be a legitimate consideration.

        So in other words, if you get into a gunfight (in a non-military situation where your primary weapon is a handgun), there is a 0.5% chance your gun will malfunction before it’s over. It’s already a stretch to say that those odds justify carrying around a second backup gun.

        Also, in most of those 0.5% cases, it would probably be better and faster to try fixing the first handgun’s malfunction rather than pulling out a second handgun. It takes less time and is less distracting to you to pull the trigger a second time or rack the slide to eject the bullet that it is to drop the primary handgun and to try pulling out your backup handgun in your ankle holster.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the odds of having your handgun malfunction in a gunfight so badly that you have to switch to a second handgun are 0.1%.

        1. Gobbobobble

          I wouldn’t be surprised if the odds of having your handgun malfunction in a gunfight so badly that you have to switch to a second handgun are 0.1%.

          Is that supposed to be an argument against having a backup?

          1. John Schilling

            Specifically, if carrying one gun provides 99.9% of the benefit(*) of carrying many guns, then saying that carrying one gun is not enough is roughly equivalent to saying that no number of guns is enough and you really need a different life strategy that includes way more of not getting involved in gunfights in the first place. If matters have escalated to an actual shootout, then I’m going to make the very safe bet that your odds of getting through it un-shot are already down to no better than 95%, and if your argument is “but without a second gun, that would drop to 94.9%!”, then A: meh and B: I’m certain that for the life cycle cost and inconvenience of carrying a second pistol you could come up with lots of things that would increase your odds of survival by much more than 0.1%

            Alternately, you need to admit that this is about dealing with an irrational fear and that the backup gun is the equivalent of the hair dryer in the purse. In which case, if it works, great, but it’s not for everyone.

            * Considering only the reliability angle here, and not the other more credible but specialized reasons for a backup gun

          2. Aapje

            @Gobbobobble

            Carrying a handgun rather than an SMG or rifle already severely sacrifices performance in a gunfight, in favor of other goals. So the police already sacrifices their gunfight performance.

            Keep in mind that surveys among the police show that a quarter has ever fired their weapon on duty. Presumably, in some/many of these cases, other police officers are present.

            Also, many officers carry tasers nowadays, so they would have a backup weapon for short ranges. Statistics show that police officers who are killed with guns were within 21 feet in more than 80% of the case. Police tasers can shoot up to 30 feet, so that is sufficient.

            In general, an officer who faces a weapon can greatly reduce his risk of getting shot by increasing the distance, taking cover and/or moving; with or without a functioning weapon.

    2. sfoil

      The typical firefight looks more or less like a couple of guys hiding behind something and peeking out to shoot at each other. If your weapon malfunctions, you stop peeking out to shoot until you can fix it while the other guys continue firing.

      There’s also the scenario where someone attacks an unaware victim, who either dies, runs away, or hides behind something and we’re back to the first situation. In neither case does a second firearm help you very much.

      I think a fair number of policemen carry a second, concealed pistol because the nature of their interactions with the public (alone, clearly marked as a threat, very close range) makes them feel vulnerable to being suddenly disarmed either by surprise or being physically overpowered. I’m sure there is plenty of police lore about times such a weapon came in handy, although I can’t give examples.

    3. John Schilling

      In military applications, basically all handguns are backups, and the number of handguns carried is either one or zero.

      Police officers will still frequently carry backup handguns because their job description requires getting up close and personal with dangerous criminals, with their primary handgun in plain sight, and usually letting those criminals make the first move. Sometimes that first move is to grab the policeman’s gun, and it’s faster and safer to just use the backup gun than try to recover the primary.

      Other than that, there’s not much call for it. In the days when the primary handgun was a revolver, a backup handgun was sometimes considered the fastest possible “reload”, but that’s mostly over. Modern handguns are extremely reliable if you’re not dragging them through mud or sand, and nobody other than a policeman has much call to ever reveal that they have one until they are ready to A: immediately shoot or B: back away and immediately shoot if the enemy pursues.

    4. J Mann

      Related – are “throwdowns” (an unregistered second gun or toy gun you can drop at the scene of a shooting) common enough to worry about, or is being caught with one too much trouble to make it realistic?

      1. Phigment

        Only for really crooked police.

        If there’s a shooting, either the police are going to become involved, or not.

        If not, obviously throwing down a spare gun is just a chance for you to introduce additional evidence against yourself, when the police find your fingerprints on the throw-down gun, or your cousin mentions that you told him you have a throw-down gun, or whatever.

        If there IS a police investigation involved, adding an extra gun is only useful to try and establish a plausible self-defense motive, and you have to weigh the value of that against the possibility that you get caught carrying around a throw-down gun and have to explain to the police and/or jury why you’re walking around prepared to fake evidence for self-defense in a shooting if you aren’t a murderer.

        For regular folks, it’s a bad plan. Regular folks don’t shoot people very often, and being over-prepared for doing it in sketchy circumstances is inviting trouble. Self-defense pleas aren’t that hard if they’re legitimate.

        For premeditated murderers, it’s also a bad plan, because you’d rather not get caught by the police in the first place, and if you do this very often, it’s going to stand out.

        So, law enforcement is the only group that might conceivably have reasons to shoot people frequently, and also reasons to think they would need to demonstrate self-defense to an investigation, but could get away with the shooting as long as there was any evidence. Obviously, scrupulously honest police wouldn’t do this, and making it work would probably require a lot of corruption by a lot of people covering for each other and refusing to look too closely at the evidence, but it might work for a while.

        It’s more like comic book Gotham PD than real life.

        1. JonathanD

          There was the case of the Baltimore anti-gun unit who carried around BB guns to plant on people they’d inconveniently killed, but I don’t think they ever ended up using them, and they did eventually get caught and go to jail. I’d guess that the practice is like both rare, and more widespread than we’d think or be particularly happy with.

    5. Clutzy

      So, as background, I live in Chicago. My neighborhood is fairly safe, but, I am within walking distance of a very dangerous neighborhood, there was a 5x homicide there in the middle of the street. When this incident happened, I naturally followed it closely, including police reports, warrants, etc.

      One thing I learned from closely following this is that gang members are not anything resembling well-trained marksmen. According to one report there were ~5 individuals on each side, and they found no evidence that any of them reloaded at all, they just ditched guns and started shooting with a second gun. They also missed a lot (one of the casualties was sadly a bystander), and not by small amounts, with bullets found basically everywhere on the street.

      So, in certain populations it appears to be common. Although not one that we particularly want to cater to.

  2. Deiseach

    The value of learning that is not signalling. (Because all the people who had the opportunity to go to college but are now hopping aboard the Tyler Cowen bandwagon of “Yah, I didn’t actually learn anything there from my expensive education that got me a good job, he’s so right that people shouldn’t go to college” but would have had blue fits if anyone had said to them at the age of eighteen or nineteen “Here’s a trowel, go and learn a trade, college is only expensive signalling” are really annoying the hell out of me).

    Or, how much is the value of a cow (since that was being discussed in another post)? It’s worth a book!

    Ten years after the official end of the Famine (the effects of which did not end as neatly at a cut-off point like that), a small farmer in Kerry sells a cow to buy a book, and the neighbours are so astonished that the story remained in local folklore to this day:

    19th century manuscript found in Kerry.

    Although Tomás Mhicil purchased his copy of the annals over 160 years ago, a story about the book has survived in local folklore and adds greatly to the value of the discovery of the manuscript contained within it.

    It is said that in 1857 Tomás Mhicil walked a cow nine miles from Baile an Fheirtéaraigh to the fair in Dingle.

    He sold the cow and with the money received he purchased the expensive copy of the Annals of the Four Masters.

    The purchase was a source of great wonder and surprise in west Kerry as the area was still recovering from the trauma of the Great Famine.

    But it was not alone the book that he purchased, he hand-wrote out a copy of two poems and placed that manuscript with his precious book, and that manuscript has been re-discovered lately:

    The 27-page manuscript contains a complete version of the epic poem or lay known as ‘Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir’ [The Adventure of the Great Fool], which is sometimes associated with the Fenian tradition.

    The manuscript also holds another another poem composed by Muircheartach Ó Gríobhtha in praise of a doctor.

    …Dr Tomás Ó Murchú, from the Department of Irish at Maynooth University, says the manuscript is of tremendous importance.

    “There are over 180 verses in the version of Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir contained in this manuscript. That in itself is unusual as in the most complete versions which have survived you normally only find 160 to 170 verses,” he said.

    The hunger for learning outweighs the hunger for food:

    Mary Ellen O’Shea, who was born and reared in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh, says she often heard her father talking about Tomás Mhicil and the book.

    “It was said that Tomás had a great hunger for books. The poor man didn’t have much, a very small farmer, a few cows and a little cottage,” she said.

    “My father told me that Tomás Mhicil walked the cow all the way in to the fair in Dingle. He sold the cow and with the money he went to a bookshop and bought the famous book.

    “The whole place was talking about it, the madness of it, the people didn’t have much. But Tomás had such love and respect for learning he had to buy the book.”

    And Plumber, I think, will back me up on this: it is really damn annoying to hear people who had opportunities you never had decrying those opportunities. The Cowen view works in a situation where college is widely available and easy to access (for a particular sense of “easy”) and everyone in your recent family and everyone you know went to college. It’s as normal as learning to read and write. In that atmosphere, “but all these plebians are getting useless degrees, they should be learning to tar the roads instead” is easy to cultivate and disseminate.

    And I’m damn sure the kids of the people going “Yah, just signalling!” will be signed up for college and not to learn a trade as housepainters.

    When education wasn’t easily available, a poor man might walk nine miles to sell a cow to buy a book for the love of it. Don’t scorn what others never even had a dream of having. Even if your point is “but it’s not education, they could just learn what they need to learn in two years tops and walk into a job”, even that much has not always been the case.

    1. brad

      I think you are missing a part of the equation. I won’t say that none of the motivation is “all these plebians are getting useless degrees” but another big part of it is “I owe the government the cost of a house, what have I done?”

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Yeah, a lot of higher learning can be done on the cheap: the humanities, math, chemistry, most of physics… Anything that doesn’t involve bleeding-edge research.

      2. toastengineer

        There’s money, and then there’s time. I wasted four of the most valuable years of my life working 18 hour days on projects that would be looked at once and thrown away, and I got a job immediately after despite not even getting the degree anyway.

    2. Frog-like Sensations

      Tyler Cowen is not a proponent of the signalling model of education; you’re thinking of his colleague Bryan Caplan. Cowen has actually written a ton of posts criticizing Caplan’s view, many of which you can find here.

      1. Deiseach

        I beg his pardon, for some reason I had Brian Cowen in my head and I went with the surname not the first name.

        But a lot of the complaining does read like “why are all these people (not people like us) getting useless degrees?” and I think Caplan should be delighted: education is now accessible for all! If you have the luxury of complaining that there is too much of a good thing, then you really are living the high life!

        Now, I do realise it’s a different argument over fees, employers requiring degrees when that is not really necessary for the job, loans and trying to pay those back, the lack of jobs where the promise was “a degree will get you a good job” and people made bad choices because it’s not “every and any degree” but I do think that’s a different problem.

    3. AlesZiegler

      I am not a 100 % supporter of Bryan Caplan´s thesis(yeah, not Cowen´s) but this is a misrepresentation. He holds that about 80 % of value of college education is about signalling. But from a standpoint of an individual, getting a degree which is 80 % about signalling is definitely not useless. It is very valuable.

    4. Christophe Biocca

      Even if your point is “but it’s not education, they could just learn what they need to learn in two years tops and walk into a job”, even that much has not always been the case.

      Getting a job without a degree used to be more common, not less. Caplan’s book has good stats on the overall shift in requirements. Here’s a summary:

      Sure, the average job is more intellectually demanding than it once was, but researchers find that only explains 20% of the workforce’s rising education. What explains the remaining 80%? Employers’ expectations have risen across the board. Waiter, bartender, cashier, security guard: These are now common jobs for those with bachelor’s degrees.

      And the problem isn’t that people should choose not to go to college (As long as you’re reasonably confident you’ll finish in 4 years, the expected return on investment is quite good). It’s that, to the extent that signalling is the main cause of that individual return, educational subsidies are a bad social investment (in contrast, under the mostly-human-capital model, adding another year to high school would have a large positive impact on labor remuneration of new grads).

    5. quanta413

      I think college is mostly signalling on average (although it depends a lot on the degree), but learning is good. Books are also cheap. Few people in the first world today are so poor they can’t afford books. Plus there’s the internet, public libraries, etc. etc. You no longer need to sell a cow to get one book. A cow is worth about 100 books. And most people own the equivalent of a lot more cows nowadays.

      College is expensive as hell, and not everyone is going to get to go to it. It’s crazy that public money is shoveled at colleges to educate mostly middle class and up people, who if they paid for it themselves might be a little more circumspect. And then a lot of them get jobs they could have done without the degree if it wasn’t for this arms race.

      At one point, I wanted to be a professor. I love learning, it’s great! But I’ve spent enough time in academia at this point both learning and teaching that I can’t in good conscience claim that what happens is mostly delivering valuable knowledge or skills to students.

      If I ever end up hiring people or helping do so, I hope I’ll be brave enough to try to remove as much pointless signalling info as possible. Like if I’m hiring a nuclear engineer, then fine I need to know if you’ve worked as a nuclear engineer or have a degree in nuclear engineering. But if I’m hiring a secretary or executive assistant, I should be able to figure out if you can organize a document and spell properly from your resume and whether you’re punctual and reasonably sociable (read: not totally clueless) from an interview. And if I’m hiring someone who already has job experience or references, the earlier stuff doesn’t matter.

      1. DinoNerd

        My experience has been that the organized learning – and feedback – I encountered in university – enabled better learning than simply reading about a subject. Some classes could have been replaced by reading the text book, to be sure, or even by reading a good series of effort posts (I’m thinking specifically of the Biblical scholoarship series). But it was much easier to get oriented to a field and the way people in that field think.

        Now for what it’s worth, I’m thinking about bleeding edge fields, with the goal being to understand recent research, and potentially contribute. I’m not thinking about e.g. the ability to write one of more styles of “educated prose”, or learning enough about accounting to be an adequate bookeeping clerk.

        Interestingly, I’m also not thinking about languages either. University teaching for them didn’t seem to work reasonably for me. But if I’d wanted to become an expert on e.g. Catalan language & literature, I suspect a university with an appropriate advisor would have provided the best start.

        Also, FWIW, I’m not distinguishing between my undergrad and grad experiences – the overall learning effects seem to have been similar.

        1. quanta413

          Yeah, but most learning is very far from the bleeding edge.

          I majored in physics and mathematics, and all the physics I learned in undergrad hadn’t changed for decades to centuries. A book from the 1970s was fine. A lot of the math was also very old, but the presentation style had changed somewhat more and some of it was quite a bit newer. As teachers, I had a couple really amazing professors, a few good ones, and a large group of mediocre professors who had little effect on my learning.

          And most people aren’t learning math or physics. A lot of books on history are perfectly readable without years of background or a teacher. There are good books on biology over a wide range of levels, although the bleeding edge is hard to access. A good teacher can speed things up, an average one will be of some help, and a bad one can hurt. But for some significant fraction of things the average teacher is good for, you can hunt down people to ask on the internet and get an answer. (EDIT: and to be clear by hunt down I mean use stackoverflow or askhistorians on reddit or something; things considerably cheaper and easier than going to college).

          I think the biggest benefit of schools to learning besides the enforced nature of it is probably what universities seem most inclined to neglect or leave only to a niche of students. Laboratory classes, making art, etc. It’s very expensive to set up a lab for many things. It’s hard to get good feedback on music composition or performance or painting. You need more experienced humans. Of course, you can use private tutors for some of those things (not many labs though) but that’d be more expensive than a reasonably priced class (like community college prices or a little above).

          1. Tarpitz

            It’s hard to get good feedback on… performance

            That is true, and I agree that actors need to be taught. I’m much less convinced that a three year all-purpose course is the best way to do that, much less the most cost-effective. Unless you can get into one of the very few schools where having the institution’s name on your CV opens a bunch of doors and going there is liable to make you valuable contacts (RADA or LAMDA in England – I’m sure other countries have equivalents) I think it’s likely you’d be better served by taking workshops and classes on an ad hoc basis, shopping around for the best teachers in the fields where you need to develop.

          2. quanta413

            You’re probably right. My knowledge of acting is minimal. Teaching acting seems much more labor and capital intensive on average than most school subjects will be. And so a concentration of teachers and stages and props could lower the cost to students. When universities or colleges accomplish that, I don’t really know.

            It seems like a workshop model could work for a lot of fields that are almost entirely taught at universities. Including the more typical book learning focused ones. Why it’s not more popular, I’m unsure.

      2. toastengineer

        From what I’ve heard, if you’re a small business you actually want to pay more attention to the less traditionally qualified candidates – the pool of people who look hireable from 10,000 ft. up all got hired by the companies that could afford to pay them four times as much as you can, you’ll get better results deliberately looking in to the spots they can afford not to bother checking.

    6. Clutzy

      I don’t really understand your argument. It is perfectly plausible that modern education systems do very little education, do a lot of signaling, and education itself is still intrinsically valuable.

      The complaint has never been that learning is bad, it is that learning is unconnected to accreditation, and there are no reliable ways to judge learning.

  3. brad

    The Senate is considering a bill condemning antisemitism. As a Jewish person, I’m generally speaking okay with that. Pleased even. But the proposed bill apparently specifically calls out accusations of dual loyalty as antisemitic.

    As it happens I live in the world capital of Jewish culture and so have a chance to talk to a lot of different Jewish people. Since the last presidential election a topic of these conversations is sometimes Donald Trump. I’ve had more than one such conversation with a modern orthodox person or a baby boomer conservadox person where my interlocutor said in essence: I don’t especially like Trump as a person, I don’t especially care for his domestic policies, but he’s good for Israel.

    What exactly is antisemitic about pointing out that if you are a single issue voter and that single issue is the interests of a different country rather than the interests of your own country (by your own standards even), then you aren’t very loyal?

      1. Aapje

        It seems like a logical extension of identity politics: all criticisms of the ingroup are racist/sexist/otherist, while no criticism of the outgroup is out of limits.

    1. Erusian

      Because it’s basically an isolated demand. Jews being loyal to Judaism or the Jewish state is the same as (for an example) Mexicans being loyal to Mexican identity and advocating for friendship with Mexico. Or the Irish advocating for Irish identity and that the US should support Ireland. Or Germans supporting Germany. Or (to go all the way back) that Hungarians keep Hungarian culture alive and push the US to back Hungary against Austria. You can say the same for Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, etc.

      In fact, digging into the Muslim one somewhat, you can look at Rashida Tlaib who has openly stated she votes (in part) because she believes the US should have closer ties with the Arab world and specifically Palestine. Does she have dual loyalty? A nativist might say yes but most people are demanding that standard only from certain, specific groups. Not just Jews, but it’s a common part of other anti-semitic tropes.

      It’s not anti-semitic because Jews cannot be disloyal. Of course, they can be. If we caught an Israeli spy, I’d fully want them to be punished as any other spy. But this is about all Jews and not based on any specific, real incident or towards any specific, real person. Prejudice is not investigating Germans connected to Nazi Germany in 1942. It’s interning all of the Japanese. In both cases, some are disloyal and should be punished. But in one case, the entire community is blamed. In the other, only specific individuals are.

      1. The Nybbler

        Because it’s basically an isolated demand. Jews being loyal to Judaism or the Jewish state is the same as (for an example) Mexicans being loyal to Mexican identity and advocating for friendship with Mexico.

        Some make an isolated demand, but others make exactly the same complaint about Mexican-Americans (you probably heard from or about them during the Trump campaign). And Irish-Americans, too, a common complaint once being about their willingness to fund terrorists.

        1. Erusian

          Some make an isolated demand, but others make exactly the same complaint about Mexican-Americans (you probably heard from or about them during the Trump campaign). And Irish-Americans, too, a common complaint once being about their willingness to fund terrorists.

          Sure. Nativists are a thing and can be equally said to be prejudiced against everyone with foreign ties. It’s still somewhat an isolated demand because they don’t apply the same standards to (for example) people who have dual loyalty to non-foreign groups. But that’s at least a fairly consistent principle.

      2. ana53294

        But it isn’t isolated.

        Weren’t people suspicious of Presiden Kennedy because he was Catholic and thus loyal to the Pope?

        One of the very important objections of anti-immigrationists is that the new citizens will have double loyalties. The US army even banned the enlistment of Green Card holders because of the double loyalty. Having a family member abroad was disqualifying. Don’t many American Jews have family in Israel?

        1. brad

          Don’t many American Jews have family in Israel?

          Depends on how far out you define family members. If you include second or further cousins, yes. If you are only talking about parents, siblings, children–no. Though the answer might well change if you limit yourself to Orthodox Jews.

        2. Erusian

          For most people it is. There are Nativists who have a clear rule: no foreign ties whatsoever. It’s still somewhat a double standard unless they can justify why domestic or theoretical ties (like to global warming) are better. But it’s xenophobic, not inherently anti-semitic.

          However, when it comes to (for example) Ilhan Omar, who openly advocates for the Somali community, it’s at least hypocritical and probably anti-semitic. Likewise for most Democrats and Republicans, who can’t really be described as universally nativist.

      3. brad

        Because it’s basically an isolated demand. Jews being loyal to Judaism or the Jewish state is the same as (for an example) Mexicans being loyal to Mexican identity and advocating for friendship with Mexico. Or the Irish advocating for Irish identity and that the US should support Ireland. Or Germans supporting Germany. Or (to go all the way back) that Hungarians keep Hungarian culture alive and push the US to back Hungary against Austria. You can say the same for Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, etc.

        I think advocating friendship is soft peddling the position I outlined. I’m sure that there are other people from other cultures that are similarly single issue voters, but the only other ones I can recall saying so directly are Venezuelans.

        And there’s another distinction: the Venezuelans I’ve talked to were themselves born in Venezuela. That kind of dual loyalty is expected and understandable. You can’t flip a switch. The MOs I talked weren’t born in Israel. Nor their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, great-great-great grandparents—even to the tenth generation. Does one expect Elizabeth II to maintain a superior interest in the welfare of Hanover to that of the U.K.?

        1. Erusian

          To give one example, Cubans. Most of them have been here since the ’50s at the latest. Most of them still very keenly influence US policy on Cuba. The same can be said of Latin Americans and immigration. And so on. You are singling out the Jews as especially loyal without much in the way of evidence. Notice too the sophistry: you go from talking about a tie to a ‘superior interest’.

          And yes, Elizabeth II is still an Anglo-German. She can speak German, celebrates Christmas in the German manner, married a German… She was loyal to her country in both wars but she was and is Anglo-German.

          1. ana53294

            But is it wrong to criticize Cubans if they vote or lobby things that would harm the US while benefitting Cuba? I haven’t heard that happening, but if it does, it wouldn’t be wrong to point that out, wouldn’t it?

          2. brad

            Notice too the sophistry: you go from talking about a tie to a ‘superior interest’.

            No sophistry here, I outlined the position of my interlocutors in the very first post. They don’t think Donald Trump’s domestic policies are good, but they support him anyway because he’s good for Israel. How is that not a superior interest?

            You are singling out the Jews as especially loyal without much in the way of evidence.

            It’s based on personal experience. I’d be willing to wager I’m in the 99th percentile of regular SSC posters in terms of fraction of time in a typical week spent talking to American Jews. I have the vague memory that there’s one orthodox Jewish woman floating around, and I think she’s American. If so, she might well beat me.

            I’m certainly in a better position to understand the range of beliefs among American Jews than random Christian conservatives from middle America.

            On the other hand I will admit it could be the case that all my non-Jewish friends and acquaintances of various Scandinavian, German, English, Irish, Chinese, Filipino, Latin American, etc, etc, etc backgrounds are also single issue voters on the basis of whether American foreign policy is favorable to those countries and they just happen to not want to talk to me about it (other than the aforementioned Venezuelans). Seems unlikely though.

          3. DavidFriedman

            And yes, Elizabeth II is still an Anglo-German. She can speak German, celebrates Christmas in the German manner, married a German… She was loyal to her country in both wars

            Both wars? She was born in 1926.

          4. albatross11

            I’ve certainly seen plenty of complaints about Cubans in the US having their politics shaped by Cuban concerns (mostly anti-Castro) rather than US concerns.

        2. dndnrsn

          Surely if she didn’t want Germany to gain European supremacy, she would do something about this Brexit shambles? Who benefits, I ask you?

      4. Conrad Honcho

        It’s interning all of the Japanese.

        Correction, Roosevelt did not intern “all the Japanese,” nor did he intend to intern any US citizens. Roosevelt had credible intelligence that Japanese in America and/or Japanese Americans still loyal to the Emperor were being used as spies or sabateurs along the west coast. His order established “exclusionary zones:” areas from which people of recent Japanese descent were excluded. Japanese people in those areas were ordered to leave, perhaps moving further into the interior of the country. Those that did not move on their own were moved by the government to what were officially called “relocation” camps, from which they were expected to move to somewhere else in the country that was not part of the exclusionary zone. There were also some exclusionary zones on the east coast that applied to American citizens of German or Italian descent.

        However, because most people would rather wait out the war in a camp and then return to their home and community on the west coast rather than strike out for Ohio or something, the “relocation camps” became “internment camps.” Still, about 20-25% of Japanese Americans moved to the camps left and resettled elsewhere rather than wait out the war.

        Just saying, FDR did not intern “all the Japanese.” If you were a Japanese American living in Ohio, nothing happened to you at all. If you were on the west coast, you were moved to a camp, and then either waited there until the war was over or you moved yourself somewhere else, e.g. Ohio.

        There was, however, one camp that was more like a prison camp, but that was for citizens of Japan, rather than Japanese Americans.

    2. DavidFriedman

      What exactly is antisemitic about pointing out that if you are a single issue voter and that single issue is the interests of a different country rather than the interests of your own country (by your own standards even), then you aren’t very loyal?

      Would the same be true if the single issue is something other than the interests of a different country?

      Would you describe someone who has strong views on the need to prevent climate change as disloyal? What if he believes, what might well be true, that climate change will impose costs mostly on countries where too much heat is a serious problem, such as India, and he himself lives in a country where too much cold is a problem, such as Canada?

      Similarly for any other single issue voter whose single issue is not the interests of his own country.

      1. brad

        I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that’s said they didn’t think climate change would have any negative impacts on the United States but it was the only issue they cared about anyway. For better or worse, single issue climate change voters tend to go whole hog on apocalyptic predictions.

        1. DavidFriedman

          Similarly, American Jews who are pro-Israel argue that supporting Israel is in the interest of the U.S. The question is whether you can predict their position more accurately on the theory that it is determined by what is good for Israel than by what is good for the U.S.

          Similarly with climate. Almost nobody who is concerned with climate comes out and says that global warming will be good for countries such as Canada or Russia, but is bad because of its effects on India and Bangladesh. But it’s hard to believe that anyone living in Canada hasn’t noticed that it is too cold there much more often than it is too warm, or that sea level rise has little effect on a country most of whose inhabitants live much more than a few yards above sea level.

          1. brad

            Similarly, American Jews who are pro-Israel argue that supporting Israel is in the interest of the U.S.

            See my original post for anecdotes to the contrary.

          2. DinoNerd

            Almost nobody who is concerned with climate comes out and says that global warming will be good for countries such as Canada or Russia, but is bad because of its effects on India and Bangladesh. But it’s hard to believe that anyone living in Canada hasn’t noticed that it is too cold there much more often than it is too warm, or that sea level rise has little effect on a country most of whose inhabitants live much more than a few yards above sea level.

            You think global warming/climate change will be good for Canada? At best, it will be less bad than for many other countries.

          3. AlesZiegler

            Almost nobody who is concerned with climate comes out and says that global warming will be good for countries such as Canada or Russia, but is bad because of its effects on India and Bangladesh.

            This is I think, an exaggeration. E. g. I certainly think it is very plausible that GW would benefit Canada and Russia and also I am very concerned about its overall global impact. Maybe I am an insignificant minority, but it is widely asserted that lot of effects of global warming for Russia will be beneficial. For example Vladimir Putin said that (see here). And it is unlikely that nearly all people who share this view would be unconcerned about global warming effects on India.

          4. DavidFriedman

            You think global warming/climate change will be good for Canada?

            Yes. Very.

            I haven’t done any detailed calculations, but I expect that 3°C of warming will come close to doubling the effective area of Canada, the amount of it that is warm enough for people to conveniently live and grow crops, as well as making most of the areas where people now live more livable. I’ve seen an online discussion of the expansion in agricultural land.

            Doubling Co2 concentration will increase the yield of most crops (Maize is the one important exception for Canada) by about 30%, other crops by a lesser amount (C3 vs C4 crops).

            To see the effect on Canada of sea level rise of a meter or so, the high end of the IPCC projection for the end of the century on the high emission scenario,, take a look at the Flood Maps page, zooming in on the east or west coast of Canada and varying the setting between 0 and 1 meter. I can’t detect any difference, but perhaps could if I zoomed in even farther.

            The effect on rainfall is unclear–the current IPCC report retracted the claim in the previous report that AGW had increased droughts. The effect on hurricanes is also unclear–Chris Landsea concluded, a while back, that strength would probably go up a little, frequency go down a little.

            The one big, predictable, form of climate change is warming, and for a country that far north that’s pretty unambiguously positive.

            Why would you believe the opposite?

          5. DavidFriedman

            Maybe I am an insignificant minority, but it is widely asserted that lot of effects of global warming for Russia will be beneficial. For example Vladimir Putin said that

            The question is whether anyone in Russia who wants to reduce AGW has said that. Or whether you have said that you think AGW will benefit the country you live in but still want to prevent it.

            Interesting that Putin has said it. I had conjectured that he believed it, but thought he was going with the pretense of not believing in AGW.

      2. ana53294

        I’ve never met a single issue voter who says that he votes for the issue even if it hurts his/her own country (other than the issue being another country).

        For any issue other than your loyalty being with another country, people will find a justification why this is bad for their country too.

        Climate change single-issue voters will say Florida will get underwater, and where will we house all those people from Miami? Farmers who demand to keep their subsidies will talk about food dependency. Anti-war activists will talk about widows and dead soldiers and how much money is spent on that. Police violence activists will say that police violence destroys communities. Pro-lifers will say that killing foetuses is bad for their country.

        Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter; on any issue, there will be people who are wrong and right, but they are sincere. They truly believe that the issue they care about will destroy their country.

        It is much harder to justify why helping Israel/Venezuela/Ireland will benefit the US, even if the actions you are taking for that directly harm the US. It’s much easier to argue that slowing the US economy to prevent climate change will means Texas doesn’t get flooded with Floridians.

        1. DavidFriedman

          It’s much easier to argue that slowing the US economy to prevent climate change will means Texas doesn’t get flooded with Floridians.

          A bit harder to make an analogous argument for Canada, or Sweden, or Norway. Yet there are enthusiastic supporters of costly policies to slow global warming in those places as well

          1. ana53294

            Well, global warming will be bad for conifer trees in northern regions.

            Trees acquire frost hardiness during autumn; this mechanism is activated by short-day photoperiod and by cold temperatures (hardening starts when temperatures go below 5 C). When temperatures increase and photoperion lengthens in spring, trees lose their resistance to frost.

            Hardening is a very slow process; dehardening is much faster (3-4 times faster).

            For a tree, having a long, cold winter is much better than having a winter with lots of interspersed periods of warm temperatures. So yes, warmer winters will be bad for the flora of northern countries, also. Because plants will wake up from dormance, and right when the buds are most sensitive, a frost will happen, and the tree won’t grow that year.

      3. ing

        I’m thinking about the difference between:

        (1) “I believe that Policy X is actually totally fine for my country, for reasons you may not agree with”

        (2) “I acknowledge that Policy X is bad for my country, but I’m voting for it anyway because I expect it will have good effects on Country Y”

        The example that comes to my mind involves Trump withdrawing support for NATO. If he does that because he wants to save money for the US, that’s a valid decision even if we don’t agree with it. If he does that because he wants to weaken the US’s influence and increase Russia’s influence, that’s really bad.

        1. ing

          (and of course there’s also a globalist position, “I acknowledge that Policy X is bad for my country, but from a utilitarian perspective I think it will have good effects on humanity as a whole.” We generally carve out an exception for that one, but I don’t think either the Russia example or the Israel example falls into this category.)

          1. brad

            Right. It may be technically disloyal to put the interests of humanity as a whole above those of your own country but it isn’t offensively disloyal in the same way as putting the interests of some other country above those of your own. So in his example it makes a difference if the person is specifically worried about India vs more abstractly about the future of the planet.

    3. ana53294

      The issue with these anti-semitism laws is moving goalpoasts. And it may be very counter-productive to those who are advocating for Jews.

      Now, most people will agree that anti-semitism=bad. But the definition of anti-semitism they use will most probably include stuff like (from worst to less objectionable):

      Killing, imprisoning and torturing Jews for being Jewish; advocating for the murder, imprisonment and torture of Jews; spreading malicious lies about Jews; denying Jews access and opportunity to work, study, buy houses, and live peacefully; denying the Holocaust.

      But then zionist activists start trying to amplify the definition of anti-semitism to things like criticizing Israel and criticizing Jews who help Israel. And many people don’t think those things are bad. I personally don’t think those things are bad. And then, when a popular politicians is accused of anti-semitism, and it turns out they were not Holocaust deniers and they don’t deny Jews job opportunities, and their main sin is going against the Jewish pro-Israel lobby and accusing them of divided loyalties, then many people will start asking “Was this person accused of the OK sort of anti-semitism or the bad kind?” and when almost all cases of supposed anti-semitism are the OK type, people will stop caring about anti-semitism accusations completely, because they’ll think “Oh, there’s another pro-Palestinian who was just slightly critical of Sheldon Adelson or whatever”.

      1. brad

        Agree completely. In my opinion the Likudniks are appropriating and burning the Jewish commons for their own ends.

      2. The Nybbler

        This is all true. But it’s also true that actual Jew-hating anti-Semites will make an attempt to hide their anti-Semitism behind criticism for Israel, including accusations of “dual loyalty” for Jews in general (much as Catholics were once said to have loyalty to the Pope). I don’t, however, think it’s worth passing resolutions to get at these people, since they tend to be incredibly easy to spot — either they’ll forget and rant about “the Jews”, or their screeds will look like they did a search and replace of “Jew” with “Zionist”

        1. ana53294

          Anti-zionism being dog-whistle anti-semitism in many cases may be true. But I don’t think that banning this type of activity will turn out anything.

          In Spain, we are in the middle of a political campaign. Having any kind of political symbol in public building is banned. So there was this whole hullabaloo over Catalan civil servants hanging yellow laces on public buildings, in solidarity with the imprisoned Catalan politicians.

          A City Hall was forced to remove all yellow laces from their building. They then proceeded to put a very, very big banner that says “We’ve removed the signs after 80% of the municipal plenum voted for it” in big yellow letters. And they also put a figure with a bottle of Fairy detergent*, and the text “Well, you get it”.

          And I am sure that even if the Spanish government bans the color yellow from all public buildings, as dumb as that would be, Catalans will come up with another simbol.

          *Allegedly, the detergent was placed on the stairs during the referendum to trip the police.

          So while you can ban direct expressions of anti-semitism, you can’t ban dog-whistling, because censure just leads to more creative ways of expressing the same thing. Anti-semites will find a way to dog-whistle anti-semitism, even if they completely stop mentioning Israel.

      3. WarOnReasons

        But then zionist activists start trying to amplify the definition of anti-semitism to things like criticizing Israel and criticizing Jews who help Israel.

        Could you please give at least one example of this happening? While I hear this complaint a lot I have never yet heard anyone claim that any criticism of Israel is per se antisemitic. I’ve only heard people attribute antisemitic motivation to those who they believe criticizes Israel
        unfairly or applies double standards (e.g., those who complain more about the death of a few Hamas “activists” than about thousands of Christian or Yazidi civilians).

        1. brad

          It’s not a double standard to criticize your brother-in-law for groping someone at a party even though there are violent rapists. Your brother-in-law isn’t some random bad actor out their in the world somewhere.

          If Israel and its supporters wanted it to be treated exactly the same as Myanmar, i.e. mostly ignored, by the West that would be one thing. But instead it and they want Israel to be treated as special when it comes to the benefits but to be immune from the criticisms that come with being high profile.

          I’m reminded of celebrity complaints about paparazzi.

          1. quanta413

            I’m reminded of celebrity complaints about paparazzi.

            I think this is somewhat unfair to celebrities. Although there’s obviously a bit of symbiosis there, it’s not hard to imagine an actor who really likes acting but doesn’t do more than required publicity wise for the job (advertising the movies they’re in etc.). It seems unfair that they should have to put up with tabloids. There’s no moral requirements for an actor that don’t apply to a normal person and vice-versa.

          2. brad

            I suppose there are people like that. But in contemporary times it seems like a lot of the celebrities are not celebrities because they are actors, sports stars, musicians or whatever — they are specifically sought to become celebrities and exploit their fame for money and attention. Then there’s an entire group that is famous solely for being famous (e.g. the Kardashians).

            If the JD Salingers of the world are being chased by paparazzi, sure that’s a more sympathetic complaint.

          3. quanta413

            Sure there are people famous for being famous, but the paparazzi hardly constrain their harassment to those people. I bet famous actors and sports stars are the most common targets. Well them or politicians.

            I’m pretty out of step with popular culture, but my impression is that the Kardashian types are still not the majority of celebrities.

          4. WarOnReasons

            Could you please tell me what special benefits Israel gets from the Western Europe (compared to, for example, Morocco) that explain the special treatment of Palestine compared to Western Sahara?

          5. albatross11

            WarOnReasons:

            My best guess is that Israel is a first-world industrial democracy, so it mostly gets held to first-world industrial democracy standards worldwide. Whereas Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. are horrible third-world dictatorships, so they get held to a much lower set of standards worldwide.

          6. The original Mr. X

            @ Brad:

            It’s not a double standard to criticize your brother-in-law for groping someone at a party even though there are violent rapists. Your brother-in-law isn’t some random bad actor out their in the world somewhere.

            I find this analogy unconvincing for a couple of reasons. For one thing, plenty of far worse regimes are propped up by Western aid without receiving one tenth of the criticism. For another, it’s not like the Palestinians are all just innocent victims who just want Israel to leave them alone. Heck, Hamas’ founding charter explicitly disavows any compromise and commits the organisation to total destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jews. So I think a better analogy than groping would be getting into a fight with someone who refuses to admit defeat and keeps trying to beat you up no matter how often you knock him to the ground.

            @ Albatros11:

            My best guess is that Israel is a first-world industrial democracy, so it mostly gets held to first-world industrial democracy standards worldwide. Whereas Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. are horrible third-world dictatorships, so they get held to a much lower set of standards worldwide.

            I’m not sure that being a first-world industrial democracy counts as a “benefit” when dealing with the West — indeed, as you point out, third-world dictatorships get treated more leniently, so arguably it’s a drawback.

            Also, I’m not sure that comparing Israel to other first-world industrial democracy is reasonable, since most such states aren’t surrounded by countries that want to see them destroyed. Maybe France isn’t occupying and settling large swathes of German land and refusing to give Germans the right to vote in French elections, but then Germany hasn’t elected a government which calls France an illegitimate state and openly supports genocide against the French.

          7. Aapje

            @The original Mr. X

            Extermination of the Jews is not in Hamas’ charter.

            Israel is discriminating against Arabs/Palestinians who are citizens of Israel and violating international law in not allowing refugees from past wars to return to their homes.

            So I think a better analogy than groping would be getting into a fight with someone who refuses to admit defeat and keeps trying to beat you up no matter how often you knock him to the ground.

            Many of the victimized Palestinians never fought against Israel, never voted for Hamas, etc.

            Your rhetoric of collective punishment and the conflation of various Palestinian groups is common in pro-Israel rhetoric. This is just as racist as holding random American Jews responsible for the actions of Israel.

          8. The original Mr. X

            @ Aapje:

            Extermination of the Jews is not in Hamas’ charter.

            I think you’ll find it is. I won’t link to it, because my last comment didn’t display, and it might have been because the anti-spam filters didn’t like me linking to a terrorist organisation’s document. But you can easily find it by googling, and in Article VII it says:

            Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
            “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

            It also contains such comments as:

            “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?” (Article XI)

            “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?… There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” (Article XIII)

            “For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there… You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.” (Article XXII)

            “The Islamic Resistance Movement calls on Arab and Islamic nations to take up the line of serious and persevering action to prevent the success of this horrendous plan, to warn the people of the danger eminating from leaving the circle of struggle against Zionism. Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.” (Article XXXII)

            You get the picture. Anyway, I think it’s these sorts of texts which make anti-Zionists get accused of anti-Semitism. Hamas officially endorses conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the world, explicitly rejects the notion of compromise or peaceful solutions, claims that Palestine (including the present-day State of Israel, in case it needs pointing out) is inalienable Muslim land and that no non-Muslim state can legitimately possess it, and aspires to realising Allah’s promise, which includes the killing of the Jews by the Muslims. In other words, it’s perfectly obvious that, if they were able to, Hamas would do far worse to the Jews than Israel ever has to the Palestinians, and that, as far as they’re concerned, any peace can only be temporary. And yet it’s Israel that gets singled out for criticism in large parts of the West — because, apparently, taking military action against a bunch of people openly calling for genocide against you is racist, or something.

            Many of the victimized Palestinians never fought against Israel, never voted for Hamas, etc.

            Many Israelis have never victimised Palestinians, either. If criticising the Palestinian government is verboten because #notallpalestinians, criticising the Israeli government should equally be so. Funnily enough, though, it never seems to work that way.

            Your rhetoric of collective punishment and the conflation of various Palestinian groups is common in pro-Israel rhetoric. This is just as racist as holding random American Jews responsible for the actions of Israel.

            What rubbish. It’s a common figure of speech to talk about state or parastate actors as if they were individual actors — “Britain wants to leave the EU”, “North Korea wants to develop nuclear weapons”, “The US wants to strengthen economic ties with China.” It would be really dumb or really disingenuous to reply “No, because plenty of Americans don’t want to strengthen ties! You’re just employing rhetoric of collective responsibility and conflating various American groups, you big old racist!” So this insistence that it’s somehow racist to talk about the Israeli-Palestine conflict without using such locutions just comes across as an isolated demand for rigour.

            Not to mention, you’re making the demand of the wrong person. It was Brad who first compared a state actor to an individual when he likened Israel to a guy groping someone at a party. If you object so strongly to such comparisons, maybe you should take it up with him.

          9. brad

            @Mr. X

            I find this analogy unconvincing for a couple of reasons. For one thing, plenty of far worse regimes are propped up by Western aid without receiving one tenth of the criticism. For another, it’s not like the Palestinians are all just innocent victims who just want Israel to leave them alone. Heck, Hamas’ founding charter explicitly disavows any compromise and commits the organisation to total destruction of Israel and the extermination of the Jews. So I think a better analogy than groping would be getting into a fight with someone who refuses to admit defeat and keeps trying to beat you up no matter how often you knock him to the ground.


            Also, I’m not sure that comparing Israel to other first-world industrial democracy is reasonable, since most such states aren’t surrounded by countries that want to see them destroyed. Maybe France isn’t occupying and settling large swathes of German land and refusing to give Germans the right to vote in French elections, but then Germany hasn’t elected a government which calls France an illegitimate state and openly supports genocide against the French.

            You are arguing the wrong question. You’re basically saying the B-I-L did nothing wrong. That’s a fine position, part of a debate I’ve been having (been on both sides BTW) for 25 years. I deliberately didn’t reopen that debate here.

            All I’m saying is that Israel and its supporters definitely want it to be considered a fine, upstanding member of the first world democracy club. Given that it is totally reasonable to give its actions more scrutiny than some random 3rd world dictatorship hellhole. The constant whataboutism by Likudniks is not convincing.

          10. Aapje

            @The original Mr. X

            I agree that Hamas’ old charter is antisemitic and justifies violence against Jews. I disagree that it unequivocally calls for extermination of the Jews.

            The passage you quote is about judgment day. Just like in Christianity, some religious people believe that judgment day should be hastened, while many do not. Hamas has hawks and moderates.

            The latter seem to have gained influence, as Hamas has adopted a more moderate charter in 2017.

            In the past, Hamas has shown a willingness to do all in their power to stop attacks on Israel, if part of a reasonable agreement where Gaza gets necessary goods. In fact, Hamas has shown itself to be a lot more reliable than Israel, who severely violated that agreement, while the violations on the part of Hamas were very minor.

            In general, my opinion is that Israel has almost never shown a reasonable commitment to peace, with their zero-tolerance demands on others, especially when combined with an unwillingness to make good on their own promises. You can never achieve a peace deal if you cancel deals in response to militant actions by a tiny minority and if you demand that others obey a peace deal fully (or more than fully), while you yourself refuse to uphold even the majority of your own end of the deal.

            Note that while Israel demands complete cessation of Palestinian violence, we have strong evidence that there is wide-spread Jewish violence against Palestinians (mainly by settlers), which Israel is obligated by international law to police. However, Israeli military and police forces seem to have a severe bias to Jewish civilians and against Palestinian civilians.

            In my opinion, Israel is mostly to blame for the current situation, as well as for the radicalization of Palestinians, because it continuously denies Palestinians their human rights, expropriates Palestinian property and in general doesn’t reward moderate behavior on the part of the Palestinians. So I think that desperation on their part is fully understandable.

            Ultimately, surveys show that the majority of Palestinians prefer a peaceful two-state solution, but that they have largely lost hope. This makes sense, as neither cooperation nor resistance has worked for them.

            Many Israelis have never victimized Palestinians, either. If criticising the Palestinian government is verboten because #notallpalestinians, criticising the Israeli government should equally be so.

            You are playing equivocation games here. My statement was about the “actions of Israel.” Interpreting that as if I criticized individual Israelis, so you can call me a hypocrite for not wanting all Palestinians to be blamed, is not honest or fair.

            In fact, its also unfair even if I had blamed Israelis, because I argued against blaming Palestinians as an ethnic group, not as citizens of the Palestinian state (which doesn’t really exist). This should be clear since I talked about refugees who lived in what is now Israel. These people are not citizens of a (future) Palestinian state for now (although they might become citizens as part of a peace deal). So the correct juxtaposition in this context is Jews vs Palestinians, not Israelis vs Palestinians.

            A common and just complaint by those who favor the current policies of Israel is that blaming all Jews for Israeli policies is antisemitic, yet the corollary that blaming all ethnic Palestinians for the actions of Hamas is similarly racist, seems to be a rare sentiment. This makes the complaint of antisemitism seem less than principled, but more of a weapon used in the defense of a favored group.

            PS. Note that “the Palestinian government” doesn’t exist at the moment. You have the Palestinian Authority who runs the West Bank and Hamas who runs Gaza.

        2. ana53294

          Sure. There was actually a conversation in some open thread were UK Labour’s antisemitism was discussed, and a person was insisting on the IHRA definition of antisemitism, because it’s the one legally accepted in the UK. I am not very good at looking through the archives, but there are people who sincerely believe that.

          From that link, the points I think are the OK type of anti-semitism, if we use their definition:

          Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

          Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination*, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

          Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

          Obviously, accusing all Jews of being loyal to Israel first would be wrong. But this definition insists that accusing any Jew of having his loyalties with Israel first is anti-semitic.

          *I don’t think discussion on whether the foundation of Israel itself, the way it was done, was legitimate self-determination, is wrong.

          1. WarOnReasons

            I’m sorry, but the example you provided does not fit your original statement (“the definition of anti-semitism … criticizing Israel and criticizing Jews who help Israel”). In fact, your link specifically says that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic”.

            It also seems quite a stretch to say that “discussion on whether the foundation of Israel itself, the way it was done, was legitimate self-determination” is equivalent to saying that “the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”.

            Regarding the phrase “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel…” which you interpreted as “Antisemitism is to accuse any individual Jewish citizen of being more loyal to Israel“. I believe what the phrase really meant is that “Antisemitism is to accuse Jewish citizens in general of being more loyal to Israel“. To me, this interpretation seems more consistent with the rest of the text and the standard English usage.

          2. ana53294

            “the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”.

            A lot of the things Israel does are racist, though. And I think this definition kind of hints that criticizing Israel’s racist policies is anti-semitic.

            “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic”.

            The issue here is with “similar”. If somebody says Israel is an apartheid country that discriminates against some of its citizens based on race and uses racial profiling in policing, is that anti-semitic? It’s not like that is a criticism that can be directed at any other country, because there are currently no countries at the moment, except maybe China with the Uyghurs, that does something like that.

            The “double standard” argument is also frequently used against BDS. Is there any movement that specifically tries to boycott, divest and sanctions companies that commit atrocities in Myanmar, or China? No, although there should be. Does the fact that the movement against Israeli settlements and companies that support it exists mean that they are anti-semitic? Well, if it does, for me, it’s the OK type of anti-semitism.

          3. WarOnReasons

            for me, it’s the OK type of anti-semitism

            Do you mind explaining your motives? What makes you focus your antipathy on Israelis rather than, for example, Moroccan occupiers of Western Sahara or Sudanese Arabs in Darfur?

          4. Le Maistre Chat

            I’m curious about this too. Israel looks like a Jewish ethnostate, from all the media coverage it gets. But wasn’t Sudan likewise run as an Arab ethnostate that enslaved black infidels and eventually.got noticed by the UN for not treating the black Muslims of Darfur as equals? Hating Israel is an isolated demand for rigor if lots of nation-states are run by the main nationality to the detriment of others and they aren’t hated equally.

          5. ana53294

            I care more about atrocities my government has materially contributed for.

            There is an anti-Moroccan movement, too. The anti-Western Sahara occupation movement is a smaller movement, mostly centered in Spain, because of historical guilt (we fucked up the decolonisation). So I know many people who have actively participated in both pro-Sahrawi and pro-Palestinian activism. My neighbours fostered for many summers Sahrawi refugee kids, but they also participate in anti-Israel protests.

            A lot of people may focus more actively on anti-Israeli activism for the same reason a lot of Spaniards focus on Sahrawi rights campaigning: because they feel their countries are or have in the past materially helped to create the current situation. Which is why they focus so much attention on this.

            Sure, what is happening in Burma and China is terrible. But if our country did not fuck up something that led to this horrible thing, we may feel less worried about this, than about cases our country is directly or indirectly responsible for.

            As I said, there should be a BDS movement against what is happening with Uighurs in China. More attention should be paid to what Morocco is doing, also. More pressure needs to be made against the Burmese government to stop the massacre of the Rohingya. There are many worthy causes, but it may make sense to focus on one issue if you think you are going to be more effective this way. And if your government is actively helping one of those countries that are commiting those horrible acts, and not helping the other countries, it makes sense to focus your efforts on the country your government is helping. What influence does Spain have over Burma? Do we even trade that much with them? So it makes more sense to focus on Sahrawi issues than on Rohingyas.

            And the same with Americans. Does the US give as much help to Morocco as they do to Israel? Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on pro-Palestinian activities, considering how much the US government helps Israel?

            I also have never heard pro-Sahrawi groups ever get accused of Islamophobia, while pro-Palestinian groups do get accused of anti-semitism.

            My government has sold weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia. They have a special, albeit complicated relationship with Morocco. My government, to my knowledge, does not trade with Sudan, or sell weapons to Sudan. So it is logical to me to campaign against weapons sales to the Saudis and Israel, and to address issues with Morocco, and ignore Sudan, because there probably isn’t that much that can be done by pressuring the Spanish government. Spain does trade with China, and we should do something about what is happening there, but I am not sure much can be done, considering how massively big the trade is. We can stop trading with Israel, and it won’t harm us; stopping trade with China would be ruinous.

          6. uau

            When South Africa had its apartheid system, wasn’t it also the target of significantly more protests than would be justified by the conditions of the population alone? I don’t consider it particularly surprising that Israel’s version of apartheid similarly draws protests.

            I think the main distinguishing factor from random oppressive dictatorships is that the countries otherwise appear, and try to appear, more civilized.

          7. Le Maistre Chat

            @uau:

            When South Africa had its apartheid system, wasn’t it also the target of significantly more protests than would be justified by the conditions of the population alone?

            South Africa was a white minority republic at the time it was bashed as much as Israel. Israel is a… white majority republic?
            I wonder what a POC ethnostate would have to do to people to attract as much negative publicity as Israel or apartheid SA.

          8. albatross11

            WarOnReasons:

            If Israel is doing some wrong thing, it’s okay to point that out, even if you don’t first point out every worse thing done by every other country on Earth. That is the same rule that applies to other countries–the US, UK, Spain, etc. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing the corruption in Mexico even if the corruption in El Salvador is worse; there’s nothing wrong with criticizing human rights violations in Turkey even when Saudi Arabia is much worse, etc.

    4. Paul Zrimsek

      To count as single-issue voters, these people will need to actually vote for Trump next time. I’ll believe it when I see it.

      1. Conrad Honcho

        Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly voted for Trump. The non-Orthodox voted overwhelmingly for Hillary.

        1. Douglas Knight

          You’re confusing Orthodox with Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox). Brad said “modern orthodox” to exclude Haredi. This says that Orthodox voted 55:40 for Clinton.

          (Also, while Haredi are more Republican generally and pro-Trump specifically than Modern Orthodox, they are less concerned about Israel.)

          1. Paul Zrimsek

            I have to admit that even the 55:40 surprises me. I’ve been hearing from other people on the right, for going on two decades, about how the Jews are all going to come over to us Any Day Now because the left is now full of Jew-h8rz. I’d gotten so used to dismissing it as wishful thinking that it’s startling to see it come true even to that limited extent.

          2. brad

            I don’t know any haredi in the sense of someone that I could have a casual conversation with. That’s mostly a result of deliberate decisions on their part to isolate themselves.

    5. The original Mr. X

      What exactly is antisemitic about pointing out that if you are a single issue voter and that single issue is the interests of a different country rather than the interests of your own country (by your own standards even), then you aren’t very loyal?

      I’d say it depends on how the law is framed. If it calls out accusations that Jews in general are, simply by virtue of being Jewish, more loyal to Israel than to the US, then I think it’s reasonable to define that as anti-Semitic. If, on the other hand, allegations against specific individuals or positions are singled out, then I agree that anti-Semitism is being defined too broadly.

    6. Well...

      I’m Jewish and I think this is very bad. Even aside from all the problems with the vagueness of the term “antisemitism”, there should never be a law condemning any belief, even if it’s an irrational belief that bad things should be done to certain people (“kick the Jews out”/”kill all the Jews”/etc.). We already have laws against doing bad things to people. Let’s enforce those (and encourage all eligible citizens, including Jews, to exercise their 2A rights) and leave it at that.

      That said, I’m not terribly concerned about this bill for two reasons: one, I don’t know but it seems like a publicity-seeking reaction to all those videos Youtube keeps recommending about some Somali representative from Minnesota who I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise; and two, because (based on the admittedly scant description given in the OP) it’s clearly unconstitutional and even if it passes through congress it won’t get very far before a court strikes it down, and then we’ll have a(nother?) precedent of a law attempting to control speech being struck down, and that’s a good thing.

      1. albatross11

        I think there’s a significant problem when discussing (say) the influence of AIPAC or Israel on US politics is being discouraged by the danger of being accused of anti-Semitism. That’s a discussion that needs to be possible, and it certainly seems to me, as someone who’s not paying a lot of attention to the matter, like that kind of accusation does, in fact, discourage critical commentary on AIPAC in the US.

      2. Conrad Honcho

        and encourage all eligible citizens, including Jews, to exercise their 2A rights

        I’ve always been surprised that black Americans are not more stridently pro-2A. When the majority has done awful things to your group in the past, being well armed is a good deterrent to prevent the majority from doing awful things to you in the future. It’s hard to enslave people who are well armed.

        1. ana53294

          An argument that is frequently used by gun control activists was that as soon as the Black Panthers started to open carry, it was banned. So those who defend the 2nd Amendment are insincere, because if they really cared about people using guns to defend against a tyrannical government, they would support copwatching.

          1. The Nybbler

            Since the Mulford Act was 1967 and was particular to California, and like many gun-rights supporters I wasn’t born then and have never lived in California, I find that argument to be entirely baseless.

          2. Conrad Honcho

            I agree with what Nybbler said. I don’t have any problem with the black panthers or anyone else open carrying.

            I would prefer universal constitutional carry. I have a concealed weapons permit, but I don’t think I should have to. The constitution says my right to keep and BEAR arms shall not be infringed. Requiring a permit for me to bear the arms I had before losing them all in a tragic boating accident is an infringement on my rights.

          3. suntzuanime

            I always remember those Oath Keeper guys who showed up armed at the Ferguson protests and had to frantically explain “no no no, we’re not here to shoot protestors!” while leaving the unsaid implication “… we’re here to shoot cops”.

    7. ana53294

      For a lot of people who are not loyal to their country of citizenship, pointing that out is not an insult.

      In certain parts of Catalonia and the Basque country, people* will get more offended if you call them loyal subjects of the Spanish crown than if you insult their mothers. If you accuse a Sinn-Feinn voting ex-IRA British citizen of being a loyal subject of the British Crown, they may very well punch you. Of course a member of the ‘Ndragheta will be loyal to his brothers first, isn’t that the natural state of the world? Russian Chechens are loyal to their clan first, and they don’t mind you saying that.

      Why do American Jews get offended by the accusation of not being loyal to their country? Because they want to be perceived as being loyal to their country. Well, if so, they should start actually putting their country first, if they don’t want to be accused of disloyalty.

      *I am one of those people. My main objection being to being a subject of the Crown, and to being called a Spaniard second.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy

        Why do American Jews get offended by the accusation of not being loyal to their country? Because they want to be perceived as being loyal to their country. Well, if so, they should start actually putting their country first, if they don’t want to be accused of disloyalty.

        I agree with you on the merits, Brad, but if you let the “dual loyalty” comments go unanswered, you’re basically plunging right into this kind of rhetoric.

        1. brad

          I can’t help but be bitter towards the Likudniks for putting me between Scylla and Charybdis. If they weren’t cynically appropriating and exploiting the antisemitism commons then I wouldn’t be in the position of either having to tacitly support their cause or risk being a bedfellow with actual antisemites. I mean I’m unhappy with the actual antisemites too, but I didn’t expect any consideration from them in the first place.

      2. albatross11

        ana:

        I’m not 100% certain, but I think one reason a lot of American Jews may be extra-touchy about allegations of dual loyalty involves the Communist witch-hunts we went through a couple generations ago. We had a large Jewish community who at that time were mostly second-generation immigrants, and in that community there were a lot of really smart people who became important parts of the US scientific, political, government, media, and academic worlds. Also, in that community, there was way more support for Communism and socialism than in the broader population. One result of that was that there were prominent Jews who were targeted as Communist infiltrators. (One really famous case was Oppenheimer, who managed to effort to build the first atomic bomb.)

        1. quanta413

          I’ve never read anything indicating that Oppenheimer was targeted for being a Jew. There were a lot of reason to suspect Oppenheimer. He was deeply sympathetic to communism and his wife and brother were communists which is merely circumstantial, but he lied to the military about being approached as a possible Soviet Agent by Haakon Chevalier. Which is definitely not circumstantial evidence.

          And there was the time he tried to poison his tutor at Oxford. Not a sign of being a stable and trustworthy person.

          Not surveilling him and not cutting off his security clearance once his talents weren’t needed would have been foolish and stupid. Maybe his testimony to HUAC was too much of a circus or occurred due to unfair suspicion; I don’t know. But Wikipedia indicates the hearing in ’53 about his loyalties was not public, and he had the option to resign so it’s not like those trying to remove him were trying to make a huge circus out of that. He was brilliant but also a fool and a loose cannon.

        2. ana53294

          Sure, but other than not passing background checks for the military or government jobs, is there any risk nowadays in being accused of disloyalty?

          When lies are spread about Jews being part of a global government, or any other wonky conspiracy, that is harmful, because it justifies then starting to advocate the elimination of Jews. Saying that all Jews in their totality are disloyal would be wrong, also.

          But why is accusing specific people and organization who happen to have goals contrary to yours disloyal?

          People who are against the US supporting Saudi Arabia constantly go around saying that Congresscritter X who supports Saudis has sold out to the Saudi lobby. Such accusations are normal and expected, why would it be wrong to do the same with Israel?

    8. Le Maistre Chat

      There’s nothing very anti-Semitic about making that point, unless all criticism of Jewish people’s behavior is anti-Semitic (see also: is all criticism of AA behavior racist?).
      One thing I notice about myself, though, is that I’m more philo-Semitic than I would be in an ideal or rational world. I don’t mind going along with the Israeli Right’s broad definition in the context of political tribes being divided into pro-Jewish/Israel and pro-Islam.
      (Non-Western example: Hindus were traditionally uninterested in and simply tolerant of Jews, but India’s BJP, which is considered the no-Muslims Party contra Congress’s Islamophilia, loooves Israel.)

      1. Conrad Honcho

        This. When Palestinian flags are being waved in the crowd at the Democratic National Convention, and when waving an Israeli flag on campus gets you more hate than waving an ISIS flag, I can’t help but like people waving Israeli flags more than I rationally should.

    9. JonathanD

      A while back, Trump was running around using “America First” as a motto. He got a bunch of pushback, and eventually knocked it off, not because putting your own country’s interests first is a bad thing, but because some less than savory characters already used that motto and now it’s tainted. Likewise, the dual loyalty of the Jews was literally an accusation leveled in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, so it’s something you can’t say in polite conversation. If you want to raise the point that you’re raising, you have to be super careful, because of the bad actors who came before you.

    10. Conrad Honcho

      The only place where I’m concerned about dual loyalty is for members of Congress. Or perhaps as a government worker in general. And that’s not just Jews. For instance, it is good that Ted Cruz renounced his Canadian citizenship. Holding dual citizenship while being the people making the foreign policy has the appearance of impropriety. I think there should be a requirement that anyone serving elected office should be a citizen of the US only.

  4. Douglas Knight

    Chalid’s comment

    For context, Park Slope is a pleasant, family-friendly neighborhood. It is definitely richer than average for NYC, but not exceptionally so.

    reminds me of this visualization.

    1. brad

      I don’t know where that comment is, but it isn’t true. Park Slope wealth wouldn’t be exceptional for Manhattan, but that makes it exceptional for NYC.

      https://streeteasy.com/building/294-12-street-brooklyn/2?featured=1

      That’s not any kind of extraordinary block, in fact it’s too far south to be Park Slope proper. $1.3 million for 1200 sq ft. Plus carrying costs (taxes, common charges) of $1500/month.

      Bayside is a family friendly neighborhood that’s richer than average but not exceptionally so, Park Slope is something else altogether.

      1. Douglas Knight

        The price of a single neighborhood doesn’t address how the neighborhood compares to other neighborhoods. The visualization provides a lot of information.

        1. brad

          If I’m reading it right, it says Park Slope == Lower East Side, which I think supports the conclusion of “exceptionally rich for NYC though not Manhattan”.

      2. Chalid

        OK, so you consider the word “extraordinary” to be less strong than I do.

        Concretely, much of Manhattan is richer than Park Slope. So are parts of Brooklyn that are closer to Manhattan than Park Slope. And there are various patches around the city that are similar to Park Slope.

        1. brad

          Fair enough. Park Slope isn’t Billionaire’s Row or even Carnegie Hill. But a friend of mine is a long time resident with two kids. At PS321 PTA events, he’s definitely on the poorer end; he rents and couldn’t dream of buying despite a HHI of ~$300k. It’s a crazy city.

  5. Wander

    The CIA have apparently released a lot of papers via FOIA on the Chinese practice of qigong, with some seeming to show evidence of impossible acts. I’m also aware that in the past they’ve unclassified some of their studies on other supernatural effects. Has anyone read enough of these to have a good idea of what they actually say or conclude?

    1. tossrock

      I hadn’t, but I found this interesting enough to take a quick look. At a high level, they seem to mainly be reports written by Chinese scientists and doctors about Qigong, up and down the spectrum from “interesting but believable effects consistent with some results on eg meditation, the benefits of exercise, etc” to “credulous report of inexplicable paranormal abilities”.

      For an example of the first, there’s an excerpt from a larger paper which discusses the effects of Qigong on EEG readings, brain hemograms, and electrical skin resistance, which concluded

      during the process of Qigong entering relaxation, the EEG power spectrum shows changes in Q synchronization, characterized by an increase in the frontal lobe alpha wave power spectrum. During the functional state, the EEG power spectrum tends to be the b wave form, displaying desynchronized EEG waves, and an increase in the power spectrum energy of all leads.

      . They also show improved brain bloodflow in middle aged people who begin practicing 5-7 hours per day, etc.

      For example of the second, one paper by a Dr. Li reported a case of a man named Zhang Baosheng, who lived a basically ordinary life as a factory worker, until one day becoming involved in a dispute for reading a coworker’s letter through it’s envelope as if that was a normal thing everyone could do. After being picked up by China’s Institute of Space Medico-Engineering, which appears to be a real thing, he was investigated by their scientists and found to be able to pass objects through sealed containers, burn clothing, and more, while being filmed at 400 FPS by a camera. They assert,

      Countless tests were performed, all under tightly controlled conditions, and their results published without a single account of an attempted fraud.

      The paper brings up the possibility of sleight of hand / misdirection, but concludes that because the guy’s life is basically fully controlled by the ISME, there’s no way he could have received the requisite illusionist’s supplies, tricked all the investigating scientists, and done it consistently, on command, on film. And he just seems like an honest and sincere fellow.

      Another case involved a rare combination of unusual Qigong powers and high education in the form a Dr. Xin who healed a broken bone by Qi projection, as verified by before-and-after x-rays.

      At a basic level, there are two possible explanations: one, this is actually happening, and two, no it’s not.

      Personally, I’d like to see the 400 FPS video, and would like to read the published papers as well – unfortunately I don’t speak Mandarin. Really, I’d like to meet Mr. Baosheng, which also doesn’t seem feasible. The paper says the institute takes as settled the existence of his powers, and only allows research access to people who are searching for explanations of the mechanism of action.

      I have a pretty strong prior on magic not existing. I also know that there are well known problems with the veracity of Chinese science. And it’s also the case that during the 80s and 90s, the Chinese government was pleased by the emergence of the Qigong and traditional Chinese medicine trends, as examples of native Chinese culture which could be held up as countervailing forces to Western / “Universal” culture. (Then in the late 90s / early 2000s, they became less pleased as results like these continued being published and popularity grew to the point of threatening state control, so they started putting practitioners in camps, and executing them on demand for their organs.)

      So, I would assign pretty high probability to the control group being out of control, as exacerbated by known research-quality issues and an environment which promoted motivated research and credulous approaches to investigations that should have been conducted skeptically.

      Then again, by Cromwell’s rule, I can’t assign 0 probability even to something which falls outside the explanatory power of modern physics, and the part of me that thinks that names and narratives have power, that there may be unusual interactions between Many Worlds and consciousness, or even that this is all simulated, clamors for a generous 0.1% probability. In that modality, my first thought would be “I knew Anathem was real!”

  6. Plumber

    Based on recommendations here I’ve been reading some of the articles at Vox.com and one of them criticizes Joe Biden for “inappropriately touching women“.

    He was the leading candidate for the Democratic Party nomination despite not announcing if he was going to run, but it’s not 1992 and I think his chances just died.

    My late grandmother loved Biden, and I think he’d have a better chance in the general election than any other candidates, well he won’t have a chance now.

    Sanders is polling at about 19% of Democrats, after Biden’s (until now) 29%, but even at her 8% I’m guessing Kamala Harris wins the nomination, and barring body bags or soup lines Trump gets re-elected.

    1. DavidFriedman

      Looking at those, they felt like hit pieces by people who support one of the other candidates. The “inappropriate touching” they describe isn’t sexual, it’s the sort of thing someone from a culture where hugging people is normal do.

      These stories appeared at the point when it looked as though Biden might get the nomination.

      1. Viliam

        it’s the sort of thing someone from a culture where hugging people is normal do.

        So what you’re saying is that he is also guilty of the crime of cultural appropriation?

          1. Deiseach

            whether hugging people is part of their culture

            Remember to leave room for the Holy Ghost! 🙂

            Not really, though Modern Times may be different. It’s acceptable to hug at funerals as a sign of support/sympathy, though traditionally it’s more “line up to shake hand of bereaved, mumble “I’m sorry for your trouble”. Biden’s generation certainly would not have been brought up to be touchy-feely, though being of the age to be a grandfather and hugging/touching children and youngsters wouldn’t be that unusual.

            Coming up from behind and sniffing hair etc. is more the “embarrassing drunk uncle at a wedding” and unlike Kavanaugh, he didn’t have the excuse of being a teenager with too much beer on board but being sober and adult.

            I’m inclined to agree that (a) he probably was and is a bit handsy but (b) this is a hit-piece because we’re in the “clawing out each other’s eyes” stage of seeking the nomination for the Democrats. Once the field has settled down to a couple of candidates, and there’s sufficient space between the losers and winners, Biden and the rest will be rehabiliated as good party members whose support is to be solicited for the good of the country as I make my pitch to be The One.

      2. Plumber

        @avidFriedman

        “Looking at those, they felt like hit pieces by people who support one of the other candidates. The “inappropriate touching” they describe isn’t sexual…”

        The headline matters more than the story so far as it influences votes.
        Even if primary voters regard the allegations as not “a big f…… deal”, how it effects the general election will be in mind.

    2. Scott Alexander

      It’s weird, I’ve been hearing about this for months. What exactly did people update on? Was the surprising point that some news organization decided to make it common knowledge?

      1. suntzuanime

        Yeah, I’ve been hearing about it on the disreputable right for ages. What’s changed is that one of the women he behaved affectionately towards wrote an article and the article was published. We don’t have to believe the disreputable right, but we do have to believe women, especially Latina Democrats, so now it’s ok for the Good and Decent people to notice.

        Hard to say if nobody had tried to write an article like that before, or just no one Good and Decent was interested in publishing it before Biden looked like he was going to take the nomination from somebody’s preferred candidate.

        1. AnonYemous2

          We don’t have to believe the disreputable right, but we do have to believe women, especially Latina Democrats, so now it’s ok for the Good and Decent people to notice.

          also, the disreputable right mostly memed about it online based on seeming video / photo evidence, whereas the Latina Democrat is describing stuff that actually happened to her (and seems much worse).

      2. A Definite Beta Guy

        Biden has not really been dragged through mainstream media mud over this. There’s been criticism from some sources, but Biden has not been in a competitive election or primary, so there hasn’t been wall-to-wall coverage of the accusations.

        Diving into a 20-person primary, though, and he will likely get attacked at some point. If the attack proves effective, other candidates will double-down on it.

        My bet (if I had to bet) would be Harris.

        1. Deiseach

          Biden has not really been dragged through mainstream media mud over this.

          Not to worry, Vox is on the case! It’ll be interesting to see if this gets any traction in the traditional media, though, and not just from right-wing and online sources where it’s been a meme.

      3. Plumber

        @Scott Alexander

        “It’s weird, I’ve been hearing about this for months…”

        Then your more “in the loop”, as it was news to me.

        “…Was the surprising point that some news organization decided to make it common knowledge?”

        Yes, exactly that.
        Being made common knowledge makes all the difference.

        When the story hits broadcast television, where older Democrats (who are more likely to support him) will learn of the headlines it will be all over for Joe’s chances.

    3. BBA

      “The internet is not real life,” they say. Nobody on the internet is particularly in favor of Biden and yet he’s been leading the polls since they started polling. And now this has the chattering classes ablaze, but none of them liked him before. Will it change the polling? Who knows.

      Personally I find his behavior abhorrent and it’s a disgrace that this won’t stop his candidacy here and now, but what do I know? I’m from the internet and the internet is not real life.

    4. Deiseach

      I was expecting something like this. I’ve seen some semi-joking references to Creepy Old Uncle Joe about allegedly inappropriately touching children, but given that he was down as one of the runners for the nomination, that the field is very crowded, and that there are a lot of these ‘revelations’ coming out about various candidates (“did you know Tulsi Gabbard/Kamala Harris/Kirsten Gillibrand/Amy Klobuchar is problematic because of this, this and this” news stories popping up all over), I think this is just internal back-stabbing amongst the candidates to thin out the field.

      The lady doing the accusing doesn’t help herself with the Twitter profile photo depicting her looking goofy, at the most charitable, plus her Twitter bio – what the heck is a SoulCycler?
      Then again, if Swetnick et al (I’m excluding Blasey Ford from this, her accusations were at least credible to make in what she alleged happened) and their loopy stories were good enough for people in the rationalsphere to go “I’ll give them at least some credence and confidence”, then this is good enough to sink Biden.

      One down, ninety-nine to go!

      1. Erusian

        what the heck is a SoulCycler?

        SoulCycle is a trendy cycling exercise workout routine/gym franchise mostly attended by upper middle class to upper class urban women.

        1. Deiseach

          Thanks for the information. I have no idea why you’d want the world to know about your exercise routine, but I suppose if it signals “I am an upper middle-upper class professional living in a large urban centre” then that’s what it’s there for.

      1. Deiseach

        Well, Warren has no chance at all in the Election 2,000 Guineas Stakes, so Biden’s fate makes no difference to her chances. But given L’Affaire Kavanaugh, the Democrats have to double down on #BelieveAllWomen or else look like two-faced partisan hypocrites, so they made their bed and they can lie on it.

        Going off at a tangent, reading up about the Guineas Stakes brought me to Newmarket and the Rowley Mile which is named after Charles II’s favourite racehorse which itself inspired a nickname for the king:

        Old Rowley was the name of a stallion racehorse belonging to King Charles II (1660-1685) of England. The Rowley Mile Racecourse at Newmarket, Suffolk, developed by the king as a national centre for horseracing, is named after the horse. As the stallion was libidinous and “renowned for the number and beauty of its offspring”, Old Rowley became a nickname for the king himself, who had many mistresses and sired many illegitimate children.

    5. Well...

      I love that Biden’s record on the war on drugs does nothing to diminish him in the eyes of Democrats, but inappropriate touching does. Quite a world we live in.

      1. BBA

        The standard Democratic position only flipped in the last 8 years or so from “Drugs are evil, lock all the bastards up!” to “Marijuana is cool but all other drugs are evil, keep locking the bastards up!”

        #BLM and other criminal justice reform types are a fringe. Libertarians are an even fringier fringe.

    6. Edward Scizorhands

      10 years ago I would have said “goodbye Biden, and good riddance.”

      Maybe my standards have been lowered, but I would really like a boring technocratic good-governance Democrat in the White House, and he looks like the best bet.

  7. ana53294

    I have frequently heard the theory that one of the regrettable side-effects of increasing gay acceptance has been the decrease of physical expression in same-sex friends, mostly in males.

    Spain seems to be a country that accepts slightly more expressions of male friendship (although hand-holding and sitting on each other’s lap is not a thing), while being as accepting of the LGBT community.

    I can’t speak for the whole Spain, since there are many cultural differences between the regions. But in the Basque country, social interactions tend to be very gender-segregated. Friends tend to form same-sex groups and they go out together.

    America in the 19th century, and the modern Arab countries, would probably also be very gender segregated in the social, non-romantic scene.

    Female and male physical affection tends to be slightly different. Girls tend to prefer grooming, boys like to wrestle each other. When the two gender mix, physical forms of affection would be partly supressed; girls don’t like to be punched, and little boys don’t particularly like to be groomed.

    So, while increasing acceptance of homosexuality may play a role, gender desegregation in the social scene may also play a role.

    Some conservative religious groups in Spain argue for gender-segregated schools, saying they are better for boys. This could be partly true if segregation can lead to deeper friendships.

    1. quaelegit

      This photographic essay on male affection and friendship in America actually argues the opposite to your first sentence. Looking at photographs of groups of men from the 1920s* onward, it notes a decline in affection and physical closeness after WWII, right around the peak pathologization of homosexuality in the US. The essay agrees with you that gender segregated socialization plays a role. (After WWII American youth socialization became more co-ed, and in fact during the 1950s some psychologists theorized that gender segregated socialization encourage homosexuality.)

      My impression was that men showing physical affection for their male friends has become somewhat less stigmatized recently (at least hugging is more acceptable?) but I don’t have anything to back that up.

      * I think — none of the photographs are dated, so I’m going off the essay headings.

      1. tayfie

        I don’t think that article argues the opposite strongly. It doesn’t look at post WWII trends (hippie boomers are probably more physical than yuppie gen-x) and the NYT article it links is a completely anecdotal look at a few high schools. My experience is that same-sex physical displays of affection (SSPDAs) have become less frequent recently, though it is impossible to mentally separate societal trends from increasing social awareness as I’ve grown up.

        My experience does confirm the gender-segregationist component, as sports were the one place that SSPDAs were always seen as both positive and platonic.

        I’ve heard @ana53294’s first sentence called “signaling hazard”, that is, the risk of others taking one’s actions (SSPDAs) to draw incorrect conclusions (one’s homosexuality). Both widespread pathologization and widespread pride increase signaling hazard because they both increase public awareness of homosexuality as a concept and an identity, which increases the public estimation of percentage of gays. The public massively overestimates the percentage of gays. Increasing those rates increases the likelihood others will use SSPDAs as confirming evidence and, proportionally, avoidance of SSPDAs to avoid being perceived as gay.

      1. Tarpitz

        It’s news to me that we call metal detectors knife arches, but Google informs me that we do – or at least that government-/corporate-speak calls them that, in some contexts.

    1. Lillian

      You know, while i’ve been convinced that there is zero correlation between legal gun ownership and gun crime, i do in fact believe that there is a correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings (using the “random spree killer” definition rather than “gangbanger shot four people” definition). The thing is, i oppose any further gun regulation because i’d rather have guns and mass shootings than no guns and no mass shootings. In fact, i want to open up the machinegun registry again, because i think having military weapons in civilian hands is more important than preventing the next Stephen Paddock (Vegas shooter) from having a real machinegun.

      1. Forward Synthesis

        @rlms – Openly stating a preference for that side of the trade-off in this context is taboo, although the entire of society involves more subtle trade-offs that decide death ratios, A: because it’s a lot more direct, and B: because there was probably a more delicate and roundabout way to state this.

        @Lillian
        Honestly, the only alternative is to believe that the military will protect the people by refusing to follow the orders of a tyrant, but AI changes that completely. If you can automate the military, which will surely happen in the not too distant future, you can snip the last thread tethering government to the people. I want the right to bear arms in the form of guns now, because pretty soon we are are going to need the right to bear increasingly advanced drones so as to head off the historically novel form of state coming down the pipeline; a pure elitism, with no attenuating mechanisms.

        1. Machine Interface

          This is a frequently proposed argument of the pro-gun side that to me seems to fail on several points:

          1) The first thing a tyranical government will do is try and take away the guns. So say you have acquired a heavy machinegun. What do you do when the police comes knocking at your door to seize it? Shoot at them? You will last all of 2 hours before being neutralized by SWAT teams.

          2) Let’s say that somehow you managed to keep your guns when the government really loses it and civil war breaks out. So what? What will a bunch of untrained civilians with heavy machine guns accomplish against drones, tanks, attack helicopters and heavy artillery from the highest-budgeted military in the world?

          3) Let’s say that the government did take your guns, but civil war still breaks out and for some reason you do’t feel like living more than 6 months and so you want to fight. Well in that case, there is something called the black market which surprisingly seems to be extremely good at furnishing weapons to the underdog side during a civil war. So you get your gun anyway (except you pay for it twice since the legal one was seized by the government).

          I think there is a common fantasy in the western world where everyone think they’ll be a brave underground resistance fighter comes a tyranical government, when the reality is that threatened with real life or death consequences (not to mention torture), most of us will stay home, shut up, and do as we’re told.

          I see this a lot in France where everyone think that back under the Nazi occupation, they would have joined la Résistance, even though the number of résistance fighter never was above 1% of the total population (and that’s toward the end, it was much lower, by an order of magnitude, for most of the war).

          1. Nabil ad Dajjal

            1. That scenario is exactly the point. House-by-house fighting is extraordinarily brutal and costly: there’s a reason why they have to send a whole SWAT team in for a single guy with a shotgun. Conducting hundreds of thousands of such raids would be very costly in terms of lives and money, which dissuades would-be tyrants from attempting to disarm the American people.

            2. Ask an Afghanistan or Iraq war veteran how harmless insurgents with small arms and homemade bombs are. It’s unbelievable that people still have their heads in the sand about this after all the wars we’ve lost to civilian militias.

            3. Or, here’s a thought, I could just buy one now when it’s legal and easy and then just hold onto it instead of relying on hypothetical future black marketeers. This makes no sense.

          2. Machine Interface

            1. but this completely misses the point that the government doesn’t need to send the SWAT everytime, because most people when actually faced with the threat will actually surrender their guns, no matter what they’re now saying they’ll do then.

            2. because as we all know, american civilians with no training and used to a peaceful life are exactly equivalent to afghan militias which already had decades of experience with insurrectional conflicts when the US showed up.

            3. so do you believe that say, the Free Syrian Forces already had all the weapons and arsenal they’re fighting with before the beginning of the war? Well it sure didn’t prevent Assad from oppressing them!

          3. jaimeastorga2000

            From “The critical fraction” by Eric Raymond:

            I’ve seen analyses of the long odds the U.S. government would face if it ever attempted to confiscate civilian firearms before. The Mathematics of Countering Tyranny seems like a particularly well done example.

            The authors compute that under very generous assumptions there are about 83000 door-knockers available to perform confiscation raids. Dividing that into the estimated number of semiautomatic rifles in the U.S. and assuming that each raid would net three rifles confiscated (which I think is optimistic in the raiders’ favor) each doorknocker would have to execute and survive 864 raids in order for the entire stock of rifles to be seized.

            Notice that we’re not even addressing the far larger stock of handguns and other weapons yet. But I’m willing to tilt the conditions of the argument in the confiscators’ favor, because that makes the conclusion more difficult for them to rebut.

            There’s a different way to slice these numbers. Applying the 3:1 force ratio military planners like to assume, this means the number of violently resistant gun owners – people willing to shoot a doorknocker rather than watch their country sink into tyranny – needs to be about 249000.

            Is this a plausible number?

            The NRA has about 5.2 million members. That’s about 1 in 20 NRA members.

            According to the General Social Survey in 2013, about 1 in 4 Americans owned guns. That’s 79 million gun owners, and probably an undercount because gun owners are chronically suspicious of the intention behind such questions. But we’ll go with it as an assumption that’s best-case for the doorknockers.

            That means that in order to stop attempted gun confiscations dead on a purely force-on-force level, only one in 317 American gun owners needs to remember that our first American Revolution began as spontaneous popular resistance to a gun-confiscation order. Only one in 317 American gun owners need to remember their duty under the U.S. Constitution as members of the unorganized militia – “the body of the people in arms”. Only one in 317 American gun owners need to shoot back.

            Is that a plausible fraction? Yes. Yes, I think it is. Count me as one of them.

            Why am I publishing these numbers? To persuade the would-be confiscators that their enterprise is doomed to fail in fire and blood, so freedom-loving people never actually have to take on the moral burden of killing them. The fact that we’re ready to do so if we have to does not mean we want that terrible day to arrive.

            But eternal vigilance is not the only price of liberty. Eternal deterrence against would-be tyrants – including the threat and in extremis the use of revolutionary violence – is part of that price too. The Founding Fathers understood this. The question is whether a critical fraction of American gun owners today know our duty and would do it.

            Here is why I am optimistic on that score: every estimate in this back-of-the envelope calculation has been pushed to the end of the plausible range that favors the confiscators. In fact, the stock of weapons that would need to be confiscated is much larger. The number of gun owners is pretty certainly underestimated. Even getting full compliance with confiscation orders from the agents and local police is unlikely, reducing the effective number of doorknockers.

            Correspondingly, the critical fraction of American gun owners that would have to be hard-core enough to resist confiscation with lethal violence in order to stop the attempt is lower than 1 in 317. Probably much lower.

            Especially if we responded by killing not merely the doorknockers but the bureaucrats and politicians who gave them their orders. Which would be more efficient, more just, and certain to follow.

            If I were the president who wanted to confiscate everybody’s weapons, I would begin by declaring an emergency on a pretext (perhaps “we discovered a terror plot”), and call up the National Guard. (I’d also have stolen the membership lists for NRA, Oath Keepers, and similar groups to target first — and since most of those people are in the police or Guard I’d have them report to bases where nothing is going on, just to keep them from having the opportunity to fight back.)

            Then under the emergency order I would have agents ready to shut down phone and internet service to the intended targets of the raid and their families. I would start making the raids on a Monday morning, figuring that most victims won’t know that anything is going on until they get home from work that night, and wait until someone tries to post the news about it before “flipping the kill switch,” so that victims will have trouble spreading the word so that others can either hide their weapons or organize to fight back. (By not “flipping the switch” immediately I avoid alarming people by that act itself.)

            Your implied timeframe is completely wrong. Remember, in the best case each agent has to survive and successfully execute 864 raids. Let’s make crazily optimistic assumptions; each team can run four raids a day five days a week. You now have a dead minimum of 43 days. In the real world your doorknockers will never be able to sustain anywhere near that operational tempo. Even one raid per day would be unsustainable, so you need to figure it’s going to take close to nine years to execute your sweep.

            Even if you could press 1.2 million of the active-duty military into doorknocker service (and there are many, many reasons this is not plausible) you only drop your estimated time to disarmament by a factor of 14. You’re still looking at a bare minimum of six months of full-tempo raids. And that’s if you have zero force attrition – nobody shoots back, nobody in the doorknocker teams gets demoralized or mutinies, everything goes perfectly according to plan.

            That means you don’t have the option of blitz raids (“start on a Monday”). You also don’t have the option of shutting down infrastructure to isolate your targets. If you shut down the entire phone and Internet networks your economy will collapse. If you try rolling blackouts, the armed resistance will learn within a week to take “comms go out” as a cue to lock and load, and your confiscation teams will be rolling into hot zones.

            Any competent military planner will tell you this is asking for the impossible.

            And even without the military remember the come at you one by one so your choice isn’t to take your chances of dieing in a war or not. It’s whether or not you are willing to accept certain death to thin out the police ranks a bit in the hopes that your comrades in the states that haven’t yet been visited will be able to keep their guns.

            You’re not thinking.

            I live on a residential drive with about 20 houses. If the confiscation raids come, the first place they’re going to target is the drug-rehab halfway house down one end. Scenario: an SUV with police or military markings rolls up and eight armed men spill out.

            Now think like a military planner. What are the odds that one guy on my street – not in the target house, and maybe me – will try something at least as likely to be a mission kill as shooting out the SUV’s tires? You may think it’s low, but it’s enough above zero that you have to plan against it it in the force structure and doctrine of your teams. Congratulations, your mission logistics just got way more complicated and your total sweep time goes way up.

            I live in a quiet exurb. Less than 15 miles from me there are rural areas full of hard-shell conservatives who are not going to stop at shooting out tires (and I’m not guaranteeing that I would, either). The point of maximum danger is when your raid team comes out of the house – especially if it’s the second or later house on that street you’ve tossed.

            And especially after he first gun owners have been shot in their own homes during the raids. Women. children, and pets are going to die because some raider got twitchy. Word of this will get out. Every neighborhood will have to assume that that SUV is carrying a significant likelihood of massacre against innocent targets.

            Now imagine it’s week three of the sweep. All over the U.S. gun owners who now believe they have nothing to lose by it are modifying AR-15s for select fire and full auto. (It’s an easy hack.) AK-47s are coming out of basements. Remember, it only takes less than one in 317 of us to win force-on-force.

            Many of us are military veterans who swore an oath to defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic” The vets know small-unit tactics. You think they’re going to wait to be raided seriatim in their own homes?

            They come at us one by one? Oh, no, no. They’re outgunned and surrounded.

            And the ‘this won’t happen types’ forget the crossfire ambushes that would spring up.

            >100 yards + 2 pickups + tarps + 4 shots each + drive away = success

            Even if you couldn’t find 1 in 317 gun owners to shoot home invaders, you could damn sure find enough that’d do this thing. It’s just like hunting from a blind and can be done with a hunting rifle; much less risky, and there are somewhere north of 15 million Americans with the equipment and skill to do it.

            Now let’s suppose only one in a thousand hunters gets pissed off enough by imminent gun confiscation to actually fire. That’s still 15,000 ambushers, outnumbering the doorknockers by about 2:1.

            Large parts of the U.S. would become no-go zones for any vehicle suspected of carrying a confiscation squad and not fully proofed against rifle fire.

            And what’s with the absurd suggestion that the military will be out of the picture.

            For one thing they took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and most of them actually take it seriously.

            In terms of realpolitik, some quick web searches indicate that the military vote was approximately 55% Trump/26% Clinton, 66% Romney/26% Obama.

            I expect that the law enforcement vote was pretty close to the same, and strongly suspect that the disparity would even more striking if you limited it to troops in combat specialties.

            I would also expect that if the last election were held again today, the military vote for Trump over Clinton would be much, much higher.

            Quite so. Which has an effect on the strategic picture. Because it suggests that an even larger percentage than 55% would regard orders to engage or assist in domestic weapons confiscations as illegal. That’s the kind of situation where you get passive mutiny – units refusing to leave the barracks on order.

            Now the stakes, from the confiscators’ point of view, get a lot higher. You don’t get to issue that kind of order, have it refused, shrug, and wait for another try doing business as usual. No. If the military refuses you have a legitimacy collapse not just around the confiscation effort but of your government in general.

            This is exactly the kind of situation in which civilian resistance can surge into successful insurrection; there are recent and telling examples from the breakup of the Soviet bloc in the early 1990s. The endgame of this one would probably involve would-be confiscators being hung from lampposts. Even if it stopped short of that, the result would be a bicoastal liberal’s nightmare, with the new government’s policies dominated by people so hard-right that they’d make Donald Trump look like a squish.

            (I’m not too happy about that scenario myself. But I’ll choose it, and even shed blood to make it happen, if I think the alternative is a successful gun-grab.)

          4. Lambert

            How many guns have been lost in ‘boating accidents’ over the years?
            I figure that’s the main issue with trying to take all the guns in a short timeframe (i.e. sub-decade).

            And I think the outcome of this kind of armed resistance is more likely to come out looking like a complete collapse in civil society than some clean 1776 scenario, but a deterrent is a deterrent.

          5. Incurian

            I think we may be at the point where it’s counter-productive to try to convince the marginal gun-grabber that armed resistance is plausible and effective. Let them be surprised.

          6. The Nybbler

            @Incurian

            It’s not the marginal gun grabber who needs to be convinced. It’s the wishy-washy conservative or “moderate” who might think the issue isn’t that important and they can just safely sell out gun owners to get whatever else they want.

          7. dndnrsn

            What % of gun-owners are the sort of people who would go along with each possible flavour of tyrannical government? Let’s not make the assumption that owning a gun, or even a semiautomatic rifle, is evidence that someone is hostile to authority in general.

            The number of guns floating around in the US would make any tyrannical government’s job harder. However, Americans tend to overrate the prospects of guerrillas, because they have only ever fought guerrillas in foreign countries. It’s very easy to make life hard enough for the foreign power that they will give up and go away. Domestic governments usually beat guerrillas.

          8. ana53294

            In most countries with guerrilla/terrorist groups that fight against their own government, the government did not completely win. They usually had to sign agreements and give amnesty.

            Colombia and Northern Ireland had a negotiation. In the Basque Country, you could consider it a case of the government winning, but a) the Spanish government is not tyrannical, b) it was a mostly internal Basque process*.

            The Mexican government have not defeated the Zapatistas. Russia has not defeated the Chechens; they’ve just basically given up, and let them do whatever crazy thing they want to do, as long as they do it in their land. They also pay them off to keep them from messing inside Russia.

            And the Russian army is one of the most powerful armies in the world. Sure, it’s not equal to the US, but gun ownership is not a constitutional right in Russia.

            Where exactly has the government managed to defeat guerrilla groups? I just can’t think of any case.

            Guerrilla groups are terrorists with legitimacy. Defeating terrorists is already very hard. Defeating terrorists when they have many hidden allies in your community, because your government is tyrannical, is much harder.

            *The defeat against ETA was not so much a military defeat, as a propaganda defeat. After a certain point, ETA stopped being considered a freedom fighter and became an outcast. But I am sure that if the Spanish government was really a tyrannical organization, ETA would continue existing, and they would be popular.

          9. DinoNerd

            This thread is fascinating. It’s helping crystalize why I don’t like or trust a largish set of Americans, mostly right wingers. (Not, I hope, a majority, even of committed right wingers.) Also why the term “culture wars” is used.

            First of all, there’s a huge difference between foreign conquest, and a home grown dictatorship. Many of these people aren’t preparing to be invaded by the powerful aggressive military forces of Canada or Mexico. (Though I did read one prepper novel where the foreign conquerors were authorized by the UN, and mostly came from France.) They think violent suppression by The Government is a risk worth preparing for, in the US.

            Second, they think they can and will fight off this government, doubtless the way the Germans fought off Hitler, the Russians fought off Stalin, and the Italians fought off Mussolini. (All of which didn’t happen, for those historically challenged.) As it happens, I imagine they’d be more likely to enthusiastically support any populist dictator – but failing that, most would simply comply out of fear for themslves and their families. And those who didn’t comply would fail, short of extreme squeamishness and/or lack of solid support for the dictator.

            But the important thing to me is this understanding that violence – or the threat of violence – is a normal part of political discourse. Not just in the (I hope) symbolic sense used by libertarians, where “men with guns” turn up as the ultimate reason for obeying any law whatsoever.

            I don’t like this. I prefer countries to be civilized, and solve things without recourse to violence. The US has been more willing to violently destabilize foerign governments, and to get involved in wars, than just about any other first world country, throughout my lifetime. Many of its citizens are also much more willing to consider a second civil war than I would like.

            Somehow, this thread is making that clearer to me.

          10. The Nybbler

            @DinoNerd

            So you don’t like or trust them because you don’t think, based on your own priors, that they will live up to their own principles?

            Not just in the (I hope) symbolic sense used by libertarians, where “men with guns” turn up as the ultimate reason for obeying any law whatsoever.

            That’s not symbolic at all.

            I prefer countries to be civilized, and solve things without recourse to violence.

            The general way things are solved without recourse to violence is that the losing side concedes that the winning side can and will apply sufficient violence if push comes to shove.

          11. The original Mr. X

            And those who didn’t comply would fail, short of extreme squeamishness and/or lack of solid support for the dictator.

            To Steelman the pro-gun position a bit: it’s not that a sufficiently ruthless and popular dictator couldn’t crush a bunch of uppity gun nuts, it’s that he’d have to be ruthless and popular in the first place. That is, having a well-armed citizenry isn’t a fool-proof way of stopping dictatorships, but it does make it harder for a would-be dictator to succeed.

          12. dndnrsn

            @ana53294

            I’m going off of the 2nd edition of War by Gwynne Dyer. Which, admittedly, I do not have a copy handy of right now.

            To name a case where the government won: the Sri Lankan civil war ended in a pretty conclusive government victory, didn’t it?

            I think in the case of the US, if Washington goes tyrannical, the question is the degree to which state, county, city, etc governments cooperate, the military in general and individual units specifically cooperate, etc is the #1 question.

          13. A Definite Beta Guy

            To Steelman the pro-gun position a bit: it’s not that a sufficiently ruthless and popular dictator couldn’t crush a bunch of uppity gun nuts, it’s that he’d have to be ruthless and popular in the first place. That is, having a well-armed citizenry isn’t a fool-proof way of stopping dictatorships, but it does make it harder for a would-be dictator to succeed.

            Another way of putting this: no one looks like at Ruby Ridge and Waco and thinks “hell yea, the federal government needs to be more like that!”

          14. Lillian

            The first thing a tyranical government will do is try and take away the guns.

            Tyranny is not a binary, it comes in insidious gradations that can be applied subtly over time, so people become accustomed and come to accept them. The American public has already accepted all manner of tyrannical intrusions into their lives, and even allows the people charged with perpetrating these intrusions to have privileges and immunities afforded to no-one else. The first thing a tyrannical government will do is all the things they have already done, and all the things they will continue to do, all with the people’s tacit consent.

            Nonetheless, it is precisely because of its many gradations that it is possible to resist tyranny, for the people to stand up and say “No”, without resorting to maximum force. Incidents such as a the Bundy ranch stand-off are very rare, but the fact remains, Cliven Bundy still has his cattle, and the reason he has his cattle is that the people who showed up to defend it did so armed. The authorities couldn’t simply forcefully disperse the protesters and then continue with the confiscation because the protesters were protected by men with guns. So they backed off, and they have continued to stay backed-off years after the last protester left.

            When full blown tyranny comes to America, i expect it will be welcomed with open arms and shouts of “FREEDOM!”, as if the mere act of saying it made it true. Or worse, the people will thank their new masters, with weeping eyes, for taking their nasty freedom away. Still, with an armed populace there is a chance that when the ratchet of tyranny finishes putting the noose around our necks, the American public might wake up and do something about it before the floor drops. Without it there is no hope at all.

          15. brad

            I fail to see how someone stealing from the commons with impunity is a sign that tyranny is being held at bay.

          16. ana53294

            The Sri Lankan Civil war took 26 years. That is an entire generation.

            Sure, a government can win a war against a guerrilla. But the Tamil Tigers only claimed a region of Sri Lanka. So the Sri Lankan government had the benefit of a big part of the territory that was relatively peaceful and could function in producing food and doing everything else you need to feed and clothe an army of soldiers.

            Even that benefit is not always enough, as is shown in Colombia, Mexico and the Ukraine (although in Ukraine’s case, the guerrillas are getting weapons from Russia).

            In the hypothetical that you get an unpopular tyrannical government in the US, and people decide to fight against the army, action would take place in the entirety of the US. There would be nowhere to safely produce food or build cars to buy food. The government would not have a safe logistics train.

            I think the hypothetical US guerrillas that are fighting against a tyrannical government and are perceived as legitimate by a significant percentage of the population would give the US army a run for its money.

          17. dndnrsn

            @ana53294

            My point is that Americans look at Vietnam, where they were fighting both guerrillas and conventional forces – with the latter making up a larger portion of the communist forces (I think it was Harry Summers who pointed out that a lot of people confuse “war in a jungle” with “guerrilla war” but I’m not sure) and conclude that guerrillas have some kind of secret sauce. That has as much to do with Americans (or French, or British, or Soviets, or whatever) as it does with the guerrillas or with the communists (or whatever) more generally.

            A tyrannical American government fighting against its own people would have much stronger reasons to stay in the fight than a democratic American government committing troops and money in South Vietnam against communist guerrillas and conventional troops from North Vietnam.

            There’s also a lot of unknowns as to the nature of this tyrannical government, the nature of the resistance, etc. Again, I think the disposition of sub-national governments and the military are more important than plentiful AR-15s.

          18. Viliam

            But the important thing to me is this understanding that violence – or the threat of violence – is a normal part of political discourse.

            I believe that your model of politics is very naive. And, statistically speaking, it is likely a result of your personal experience, because most people are too small fish to be directly threatened by the major forces, and unless you are an investigative journalist, you probably don’t notice when it happens to others. (I mean, people credibly threatened by violence usually don’t post blogs about it. Neither do people who actually get killed.)

            I am not an American, and I don’t know much about American politics. I live in Eastern Europe, where e.g. journalists getting killed now and then for knowing too much about some political deal is a part of life; something that creates an outrage for a month or two, but then, life goes on.

            I find it quite likely that for each one person who is known to be murdered for political reasons, there are maybe ten people who also got murdered for political reasons, but we (the public) don’t know about it; maybe hundred people who were threatened by serious violence against them or their family members; and maybe thousand people who received minor threats, such as the possibility of losing their job.

            And although America seems more civilized, I believe they are still essentially the same species. So I would expect this kind of violence to be perhaps less frequent (per capita), but to still exist.

            Every society has organized crime. The organized crime has an incentive to get political power: to make their activities safer, to protect their people when they get caught, to eliminate competitors. The only question is, how high they can get.

            To give you a local example, in Slovakia, Štefan Harabin is a former minister of justice, currently a judge of supreme court. He is also friendly with various forms of organized crime, is a close friend and a protector of an internationally sought drug lord (this was documented, their phone discussion was recorded and released publicly, however his friends in judiciary and in the Direction party helped to stop the entire investigation because… technical reasons). His face and rhetoric are similarly disgusting. Recently he ran for president… and received the third highest number of votes. (The only reason he didn’t get more is because he was targeting the same part of population as the local Nazi leader.)

            Now, this disgusting pig is a specimen typical for former communist countries. But I believe that more civilized countries also have… essentially, a more civilized flavor of the same kind of guy. More careful about his tongue, more careful about covering his tracks, maybe higher IQ. However, organized crime and government both have the same goal: power over other people. Of course they are going to court each other.

            Other examples from Slovakia where the line between politics and organized crime disappears: 1, 2.

            And… to return to the original topic, I believe that politician exist on a spectrum. Some of them are completely decent. Some of them are parts of an organized crime group. And a lot of them are in between, using some shady methods now and then, but trying to avoid getting too far. (As opposed to believing in a few bad apples that always somehow magically succeed to infiltrate a group of angels.)

            On the other hand, those politicians with criminal connections would certainly like to make debating about their violent side unacceptable as a part of the normal political discourse.

          19. DinoNerd

            @The Nybbler

            So you don’t like or trust them because you don’t think, based on your own priors, that they will live up to their own principles?

            The general way things are solved without recourse to violence is that the losing side concedes that the winning side can and will apply sufficient violence if push comes to shove.

            No, the real problem is that I fear they agree with you – the normal/right way to relate to other people – at least at the level of fellow citizens, perhaps even at the level of friends, neighbours, and family – is by violence and its threat.

            I also suspect – or maybe just hope – that those Americans who talk as if this is the only way they can imagine to relate to their countrymen in this way – will in fact mostly wimp out if their lives were really on the line.

            Note by the way that there’s a difference between “normal” and “right” above. It’s not wrong to use violence – or its threat – against people who do the same. It is, IMO, regrettable, and to be avoided whenever possible.

            I don’t believe it’s in fact normal, at least within any reasonably functional group.

            Compare a country where assassination is a normal tool of politics, with one where it is not. Which do you really want to live in? My guess is that you may not see a difference – you expect such behaviour everywhere, and the only counter to it you see, is for the folks defending the politicians to be more competent, better funded, etc. (Though I’m unclear why they wouldn’t themselves kill their charges. There’s no loyalty in a worl where everythign boils down to violence or the threat of violence.)

            Whereas I think there is an implicit social contract, where most people actually agree to be governed, and taxed, and approve of most laws – even while opposing some pretty stridently.

            What I’m noticing – again – is how many Americans talk, and to an extent act, as if there’s no limit on what their fellow citizens might do … to them or others. (And of course even more so with regard to outsiders.) And at the same time, how that implies pretty clearly that there’s also no limit on what they themselves might do. If the only reason you don’t kill and rob your neighbour is fear of the police, then I’d really not have you for a neighbour. And ditto if that’s what you believe to be my attitude – you might just commit a pre-emptive strike the first time you thought you could get away with it.

          20. The Nybbler

            No, the real problem is that I fear they agree with you – the normal/right way to relate to other people – at least at the level of fellow citizens, perhaps even at the level of friends, neighbours, and family – is by violence and its threat.

            In the political realm, this is just how it is. I want to drive 95mph, my “fellow citizens” want me to drive over 65… well, I either yield because if I drive 95mph a man with a gun will put me in a cage, or I don’t because I figure they won’t catch me. Either way it’s all about force. Same with flying toy helicopters. There are places in this country where if you let your lawn grow a few inches too long, this will start a process which ends with you being thrown out onto the street by armed agents of the state. The reason this doesn’t happen all the time is only because people yield to the superior force long before that point. It’s all about force, and if you believe otherwise it’s probably because you’ve never pushed it.

          21. Christophe Biocca

            What I’m noticing – again – is how many Americans talk, and to an extent act, as if there’s no limit on what their fellow citizens might do … to them or others.

            I think that’s a strawman, at least when talking about the “resisting tyranny” type of discourse.

            I doubt all that many Americans actually believe their neighbors would kill them if they could get away with it. Most people are decent, true sociopaths are rare, and even if murdering your neighbor wasn’t punished by police, social disapproval would be enough to stop most people (or you know, just thinking that your neighbor is a decent person and not having some compelling reason to be violent towards them).

            But start aggregating preferences and using those to drive the decisions of a large entity with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and things get iffier.

            We already have examples of governments being more violent than you’d estimate by looking at citizens’ opinions and behaviors. Consider the war on drugs, and how few people would spend their own time and money finding pushers in their neighborhoods and shooting or imprisoning them (or paying private security to do it). Contrast with the now routine use of SWAT teams to serve drug search warrants (62% of all SWAT deployments in 2011-2012). Germany has taken custody of children away from their parents due to homeschooling. The FDA has conducted armed raids on those selling raw milk.

            Your neighbor isn’t going to kill you, but he may very well elect someone who will pass a law that puts you on the receiving end of state violence. After all, he has done so many times already to other people (and so have you).

          22. Lillian

            I fail to see how someone stealing from the commons with impunity is a sign that tyranny is being held at bay.

            That’s because it’s not a sign that tyranny is being held at bay, it’s a sing that it could be held at bay. It pains me that the people who came out to defend Cliven Bundy did so for so unworthy a cause, but it gladdens me that at least someone is willing to defend something. They went out there and proved that armed civilians can in fact stand against the government.

          23. quanta413

            We already have examples of governments being more violent than you’d estimate by looking at citizens’ opinions and behaviors. Consider the war on drugs, and how few people would spend their own time and money finding pushers in their neighborhoods and shooting or imprisoning them (or paying private security to do it). Contrast with the now routine use of SWAT teams to serve drug search warrants (62% of all SWAT deployments in 2011-2012). Germany has taken custody of children away from their parents due to homeschooling. The FDA has conducted armed raids on those selling raw milk.

            Your neighbor isn’t going to kill you, but he may very well elect someone who will pass a law that puts you on the receiving end of state violence. After all, he has done so many times already to other people (and so have you).

            Thanks for explaining this so well. I couldn’t figure out a nice way to respond to the ridiculous claim

            No, the real problem is that I fear they agree with you – the normal/right way to relate to other people – at least at the level of fellow citizens, perhaps even at the level of friends, neighbours, and family – is by violence and its threat.

            I wouldn’t be so worried about the results of trying to get rid of all the guns except the government’s if my fellow citizens didn’t keep electing legislatures who were so aggressive with the “use guns” solution to whatever happens to be bothering them at the moment. The fact that many of them don’t think very hard about the fact that a large subset of legal rules they impose on others are backed by the threat of violence is infuriating.

        2. rlms

          Yes, taboo tradeoffs don’t get made. But usually people respond to “so you think dead children are an acceptable price to pay for [x]?” with question dodging, not “yes, or at least one dead child is”.

  8. savebandit

    What do people think of this tweet? https://twitter.com/DellAnnaLuca/status/1102854634626985984

    For people who don’t want to jump into Twitter, the text is

    “The fact that (almost) all degrees have the same duration regardless of the complexity of the underlying field is the best evidence that education has been built around the universities’ needs, not the students’.” – Luca Dellanna

    I hadn’t thought of it before, but requiring four years to get a bachelor’s degree in pretty much every discipline seems like an outright scam.

    1. rlms

      Not convinced. All degrees being the same length has obvious logistical advantages for a single university, and there are evidently incentives that encourage universities to offer a broad range of subjects. So one would expect content to be chosen to fill a set length. But also, I don’t think it’s true that all degrees have the same duration. The attitude towards master’s’ varies between subjects.

      1. DavidFriedman

        All degrees being the same length has obvious logistical advantages for a single university

        Why would those be significant? What makes it more expensive to offer a three year degree in one field, a five year one in another?

        1. rlms

          If you have some fixed length, it’s easy to predict how many students you’ll have in a year, so you can fill capacity in terms of housing, catering, classroom spaceetc.

          1. quanta413

            The multiplication and such necessary to get the expected inflows and outflows assuming you have some 3 and some 5 year degrees is not nearly significant enough to make a difference. Many universities already have master’s programs ranging from 1 to 3 years and PhD’s ranging from 4 to 10 years. There is already significant variation in finishing time for the 4 year degree in the U.S. About 4 to 6 years is normal. And there are quite a few dropouts in the first year.

            Maybe universities elsewhere are much stricter about time requirements, but in the U.S. I think it typically makes no difference.

          2. rlms

            I would expect PhD’s to require less logistical coordination in these areas, but you may be right. I was assuming the situation with undergrad timings in the US was similar to that in the UK, where dropouts and delays are not common.

          3. quanta413

            At most California universities, most students aren’t on campus after the first year or two, so it makes little difference whether or not the students are PhD’s. I’m not as sure about other states, but a lot of places I’ve gone students are off campus after year one or two. There’s no worries about housing or food. Just classroom space. Which is almost always in excess except for the really big classes which students mostly take in their first two years anyways.

            My dad did a year in the U.K., and assuming it hasn’t changed much I can see why that system requires tighter coordination. Everyone in a major had a professor/tutor they met each week who would test their understanding of the material. And they all took classes in lockstep. Super different from how the U.S. has been since at least the 70s if not a lot longer.

      2. RalMirrorAd

        The educational “unit” in question isn’t really the degree but the course, or arguably the credit-hour which is how most majors are designated. Teaching and classroom distribution is done generally at that level.

        Given that universities routinely accept transfer students and students with AP credits, the practical “modularity” of college courses suggests having degrees of varying course-credit lengths above and below 4 years is perfectly attainable.

        That said this general twitter comment seems to be offering a minor critique to a very flawed system.

        1. savebandit

          Credit hours aside, I think his point is still good. To pick a random college, here are the requirements for different majors from the University of Minnesota:

          Degree, In-Major Credit Hours, Total Credit Hours Needed to Graduate, Difference
          Accounting B.S.B., 79-84, 120, 41-36
          Art B.A., 41-44, 120, 79-76
          Astrophysics B.A., 72-75, 120, 48-45
          Biology B.S., 69-78, 120, 51-42
          Child Psychology B.A., 37-40, 120, 83-80
          Classics B.A., 35-65, 120, 85-55

          ~70 extra credit hours to ~40 extra credit hours is nearly a year’s difference. At the University of Minnesota, that is $15,104-$33,330 (in-state vs. out-of-state) of additional costs incurred by requiring out-of-major credit hours to add up to 4 years.

          The credit hours explains a bit, but not the padding to add up to 120. That just seems like graft on the part of the college.

          References:

          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=4
          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=59
          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=71
          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=9
          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=76
          https://onestop2.umn.edu/pcas/viewCatalogProgram.do?programID=11600
          https://twin-cities.umn.edu/admissions-aid

        2. savebandit

          I just realized that you said that the credit hour makes a non-four-year degree attainable, not the other way around. Ignore my response, I think I misunderstood your position.

          1. RalMirrorAd

            Yeah my point is that the indivisible unit for the university is the credit hour. So the question becomes, why is it that university degrees are created in packages of 120 credits when the actual course material associated with a degree most likely has more genuine variety?

      3. savebandit

        The logistical advantages and broad range of subjects are advantages for the university more than the students – though that might not be a bad thing depending on whether you weigh the university’s preferences more than the students’.

        Master’s degrees are a good example, but they don’t explain why, say, sociology with its 30 credit hour requirements make you take 30 credit hours in other subjects. Duration only goes up, not down, which seems like a point for the university over its students again.

        You could consider Associate’s degrees as the inverse of that, but I think Luca’s point still stands. Having 4 ranked degree types still doesn’t explain why the Associate’s degrees are relegated to community college while universities offer Bachelor’s degrees and up.

        I will say that thinking about your post has given me a caveat to my original beliefs. I think that community colleges are primarily focused on the benefit of the students over the university.

        1. rlms

          For sure, it’s definitely for the universities’ benefit, and only helps students in that cost savings from increased efficiency could in theory be passed on to them.

      1. BBA

        In the old days there was only one undifferentiated “Bachelor of Arts” degree that took three years for everyone. Earning a bachelor’s degree in something is a 19th-century innovation. So I think it’s just defined by the length of time, rather than the content or difficulty of the courses taken.

        As for why the bachelor’s degree is four years in the US now, I understand it had to do with the Carnegie Foundation setting a standard and then only allowing universities that adopted its standard to enroll their faculties in its pension fund, now known as TIAA.

    2. RDNinja

      Well, degrees aren’t all the same length, of course. There are technical schools and community colleges that have 2-year or even shorter degrees and certification programs. And more complicated fields have longer degree programs, by virtue of requiring post-graduate programs to do anything with it.

    3. Mark V Anderson

      Well yes this is clearly true. It gets back to the theory that the value of the degree is to signal that you can hack a four year degree. The subject is secondary. And if a particular subject only takes two years to learn what you need to know, everyone in the profession knows that a two year degree will be seen as inferior to four year degrees. So they figure out more stuff you need to know to fill the four year degree.

    4. johan_larson

      The duration of college studies is less strictly defined in Germany, but this is not without its consequences. It’s apparently quite possible to hang around universities in Germany for years without accomplishing much. I remember speaking to a German about that, and he was firmly of the opinion that having college be a defined length is a positive feature of the American university sector. Setting a clear expectation that college is four years, even if some students actually end up taking a bit longer, makes it easier to clear out the time-wasting laggards.

      1. Lambert

        One critical difference between Germany/The Netherlands etc and UK/USA etc. is who bears the cost.
        In the latter countries, vaguely hanging around university, or even getting superfluous masters’ sounds like a good way to rack up astronomical amounts of debt.

    5. dndnrsn

      What about the students’ social needs? Having everyone on the same schedule might be helpful there, and who you know is just as important as what you know as far as job prospects go.

    6. Aapje

      At Dutch universities, bachelors are typically 3 years, but masters can vary from 1 to 3 years. Masters at technical universities typically are 2 years, while most other masters are 1 year. Some or all medical masters are 3 years.

      The lower tier Dutch colleges typically have a 4 year bachelor, presumably mainly to reduce the pace for the lower tier students.

  9. A Definite Beta Guy

    We’re in the process of hiring for a new accountant. Reflections on the current market:
    1. We’re still getting a lot of candidates. The candidates are at least nominally qualified: degrees in accounting and some level of accounting experience.
    2. Resumes almost uniformly do nothing to emphasize transferrable skills or accomplishments.
    3. Resumes almost uniformly contain some sort of spelling error or other type-o nested somewhere. They are not glaringly obvious, but they are noticed.
    4. Familiarity with the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Resolution) is apparently not common. Given that most behavioral interviews follow this format and it helps to showcase your accomplishments, candidates really should follow this format.
    5. Familiarity with common interview questions and the “expected answers” is also not common. As a pro-tip, if we ask you “tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager,” the correct answer is not “I never disagree with my manager,” particularly after a decade of work experience.
    6. There’s remarkably little demonstration/showcasing of leadership or interpersonal skills, which is something we rather much want. We really need people who know how to pick a viewpoint and stand up for it in a way that’s not going to alienate everyone.
    7. Expectations for our candidates may be too high given our salary range. The kinds of people who are both technically good and interpersonally good are obviously in-demand employees. They are frequently quickly promoted into senior staff roles at their current companies, and typically command salaries close to what we offer, or in excess. A friend reaching out about job opportunities mentioned a position to me that would be a 25% pay increase over what I currently make: typical senior positions are still probably offering 5-10% more than what we do here, and those other positions also offer better advancement opportunities. Plus, these people aren’t typically active searchers.
    8. Not a lot of entertainment from our staff for diverse backgrounds. I don’t mean EEOC diverse, but “I worked myself up and got a degree” diverse. People are still picky about picking from good schools. Signaling supreme!

    1. DinoNerd

      Leadership? For an accountant?

      Also I’d expect a lot of the people drawn to accounting would be the same type originally drawn to computers. They like working with numbers in part because they aren’t ambiguous like people, don’t insist on time wasters like small talk, and you don’t have to be personally pleasing to be considered to have the right answer. Nerds, in a word.

      Recently (last 10-20 years), software engineering has become well known as a “good career” and hence infested by non-nerds with anti-nerd behavioural norms. I’d expect an intelligent, aware person with my talents and tastes – except 30 years younger – to choose accounting rather than software engineering, just as my mother did back before software engineering was a thing.

      Good luck finding a soft skills expert who’s also a competent accountant. And if you do, expect them to see their job as a stepping stone to management, and leave it (one way or another) relatively soon.

    2. Deiseach

      Resumes almost uniformly contain some sort of spelling error or other type-o nested somewhere. They are not glaringly obvious, but they are noticed.

      Noticed the same thing. We’re currently recruiting for a part-time office administrator, which will require good written communications/word processing skills amongst other things, and it’s noticeable that quite a few have some error. Why does hardly anyone date their covering letter, for instance? And for people who will be producing letters etc. for posting out to various bodies, the formatting of their letters and CVs is atrocious in some instances.

      How senior a position is the one you’re hiring for? If it’s medium to low-level, accountancy technicians are really good – there’s a qualification here that isn’t a degree, it’s a two-year Level 6 Certificate (which would be around the equivalent of a Diploma) that gives the graduates membership in this organisation, and it’s a good stepping stone to (1) getting the basic skills to get you into a job – graduates are sought after, and the school I worked at had no trouble getting them placed into jobs, and this was even when the recession of 2008 was beginning to bite and (2) going on for further qualifications.

      It’s a tough course and does demand a lot from the students, so don’t write it off as “oh just some community college make-work qualification”. There must be something similar in America? Though from your description, it sounds that it’s not simply an accountant you want, it’s a senior position at management level, and that’s a different story.

      As a pro-tip, if we ask you “tell me about a time you disagreed with your manager,” the correct answer is not “I never disagree with my manager,” particularly after a decade of work experience.

      The last time I really disagreed with my manager, I got fired 🙂 And generally if you disagree, it comes down to “yeah well I’m the boss and I’m telling you to do/not do this”.

      1. Erusian

        The last time I really disagreed with my manager, I got fired. And generally if you disagree, it comes down to “yeah well I’m the boss and I’m telling you to do/not do this”.

        Happens all too often. My experience is what they really want to know: were you respectful or insubordinate? Did you still do the utmost to work their way regardless? And did you insulate the company from your manager’s bad decision in a way that didn’t make them or the company look bad?

      2. A Definite Beta Guy

        Staff level cost accountant. Technical skills are important, but we really need the leadership and communication skills because we need people to communicate with the production team. Our team is expected to co-pilot and drive projects, not just run reports.
        Unfortunately, this really isn’t a common skill set among people who go into accounting. Most people who go into accounting don’t like people and don’t like dealing with practical realities. The successful candidates we had in the past were bright kids right out of college who came through on a now-terminated management trainee program. They stayed for maybe 12-18 months, made some changes, and moved on. And the types of people who are generally good on the production side misunderstand numbers in critical fashion, so you can’t really train a production person to go into accounting.
        My expectations are pretty low, but everyone else at the plant has high expectations. I do not know why, because most of the people who have come through our department in recent years have been disappointments. I expect we will hire a recent college graduate who will become frustrated with the position and leave in 2-3 years.

        1. The Nybbler

          Classic failure scenario. You can’t get the “people people” to learn anything technical, so you go looking for a technical person who is also a people person. However, such people are rare, and don’t want the dead-end technical job you’re hiring for: they want YOUR job, or your boss’s job.

        2. Plumber

          @A Definite Beta Guy

          “…I expect we will hire a recent college graduate who will become frustrated with the position and leave in 2-3 years…”

          I’m reminded that U.A.Local 2019-03-243e (Vallejo) switched from accepting their apprenticeship applicants based on how well they did on a written test, to making the test pass/fail and then scoring them based on how much they impress a room full of contractors in an interview because “All the guys who did best on the test quit“.

        3. Deiseach

          I expect we will hire a recent college graduate who will become frustrated with the position and leave in 2-3 years.

          It sounds like the problem there is that the role contains functional management requirements, while being treated and paid as “ordinary member of the accountancy team”, so I can see why someone would get frustrated about being stuck with the responsibility but not the job title plus perks, and leave for another job where they will get a higher rank.

          I don’t suppose there’s any hope of some kind of mixed team, where the production-side people and the numbers people are on one team and can liaise with the respective departments, e.g. “Hey Joe, this is Bill; the bean-counters told me that the reason the Big New Machine is a no-go is…” and “Hi Tom, this is Mark, the grease-monkeys tell me that they really really need Big New Machine for production because…”?

          That worked for a team I was on in social housing because at our monthly meeting it made it a heck of a lot easier if you could talk to one of the actual engineers about the reports and they could talk to you and then everyone went back to their respective departments knowing what was going on and able to explain it to their colleagues, instead of “yeah I’ll try and get one of the engineers when we’re back in the sub-office”, phonecalls and emails result, sit on your grug and wait for some response when they have time to get back to you and are not out in the field while progress is held up with the project.

        4. bean

          I expect we will hire a recent college graduate who will become frustrated with the position and leave in 2-3 years.

          I’ve come to suspect that this is a universal feature of dealing with college grads. At least for engineers, what you do in the workplace is never as fun as what you were doing in college, and the first job probably functions as a sort of reset for expectations. I really didn’t like my first job (although some of that was down to it being a technical writing job) and while I like my current one quite a bit, I’m not sure I’d be nearly as happy if I’d gotten it right out of school. This is supported by the new grads we’ve hired on, most of whom seem to be looking to move on.

    3. Nick

      3. Resumes almost uniformly contain some sort of spelling error or other type-o nested somewhere. They are not glaringly obvious, but they are noticed.

      A friend once asked if he could get a resume formatted like mine, so I deleted the body of the resume and gave him the file.

      A couple of weeks later I got an email offering me a job I hadn’t applied for, because he never switched out the header.

    4. Erusian

      7. Expectations for our candidates may be too high given our salary range.

      Found the problem.

      One thing I’ve learned: stingy companies still want blue supergiant employees, even if they offer brown dwarf prices. I’ve had seen companies flounder for years trying to find someone good to fill a role when the simple problem was either the job was too unpleasant in some way to be worthwhile or they weren’t paying enough in salary/benefits.

      If Google is paying $200,000 a year and you’re paying $100,000 a year, Google is going to win. The logical thing to do is to start cutting things that are ‘nice to haves’ and to decide on what to prioritize. Then you’ll find employees Google rejected because they can afford to be pickier than Taylor Swift. A lot of hiring managers refuse to do this though.

      1. Nabil ad Dajjal

        This also applies to blue collar positions, albeit likely for different reasons.

        Right before my father retired, he was working as a mechanical engineer handling the entire HVAC (and a great deal of the plumbing, electricity, etc.) for a fairly sizable office park. The reason that he was the only mechanical engineer was because the company which subcontracted him kept trying to promote custodians into the role. They had absolutely no training or inclinations for that kind of work but as illegal immigrants they would work much cheaper than an actual mechanical engineer… until each one inevitably quit or had to be fired.

        “Penny wise, pound foolish” comes to mind.

        1. Erusian

          It applies to any position that isn’t significantly subsidized/has large benefits not provided by the company. For example, it’s fairly easy to get even very pretty women to do amateur modeling because she gets social benefits from it aside from whatever you pay her. Many internships bank on a future, different company preferring to hire that person despite the lack of pay/benefits right then. And so on.

          Outside that, there is a range of talent in the profession and a market rate. Some people are better and worse at their profession. And some people are more or less pleasant, kind, asshole-ish, etc. People who score high on both these tend to be towards the top end of the market rate or even above it. If you’re in the middle of the market rate, these people undoubtedly have better options than you and will probably take them. It’s best to accept that reality.

          In general, it’s a failure of empathy/sympathy. The hiring manager doesn’t put themselves in the shoes of the potential employee they want. Sure, it’d be great for your company if Steve Wozniak showed up and worked fifty hours a week at your market average salary. What’s in it for Woz?

          1. Viliam

            Once I heard a company boss explaining what would be their ideal employee. To make a long story short, the person should excel at almost everything that was needed by the company; not just their profession, but also management, customer relationships, sales, market research, strategic visions, etc.

            I didn’t say anything, but my obvious thought was: why exactly would such person apply for a job? According to the description, they have all necessary skills to start their own company, and put the entire profit in their own pocket instead.

    5. dick

      re: #5 – I do a lot of hiring, and this is my canned advice for new grads and people that are bad at job interviews:

      1. Come up with ~5 stories about the best things you’ve accomplished professionally. They should be exactly like a story you would tell at a cocktail party – at most two minutes long, with a setup, conflict, and resolution. Practice telling them a couple times to a friend.

      2. In the interview, when you get asked an open-ended question, tell one of those stories. If they say, “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your manager”, pick whichever story is closest to that, and tell it exactly like you did when you were practicing except with one extra sentence in the middle that emphasizes or explains how you disagreed with your manager.

    6. dndnrsn

      3. Resumes almost uniformly contain some sort of spelling error or other type-o nested somewhere. They are not glaringly obvious, but they are noticed.

      I’m going to be that guy and point out that it’s actually “typo” – from “typographical” – not “type-o”.

      Regarding the “tell me a time you disagreed with your manager” type question – what’s the correct way to answer that, without seeming like you’re badmouthing a prior manager? Or is that OK?

      1. DinoNerd

        Regarding the “tell me a time you disagreed with your manager” type question – what’s the correct way to answer that, without seeming like you’re badmouthing a prior manager? Or is that OK?

        For a techie position: We had a nice rational disagreement about means – never about ends – and settled it more or less amicably. (I presented my arguments, she made a decision based on them and other factors, and then we did it.) Stress that it wasn’t an open and shut case – even if you think it was – either your manager couldn’t be expected to know arcane-technical-detail, or it’s a situation where reasonable people regularly disagree. Bonus if your boss wanted to do something you suspect your interviewer wouldn’t do.

      2. A Definite Beta Guy

        You need to voice your disagreement, in a respectful manner, with your reasons clearly explained. You also need to get on-board with the decision if it happened to be against you.

        Your manager isn’t a god, a manager will absolutely make mistakes. Sometimes staff can catch mistakes and prevent them from occurring. This doesn’t even apply solely to disagreements with managers. If you disagree with something, we want to hear it, and we want to know why, but we don’t want you to be a dick about it. And we also want you to go along with the team whenever a final decision is made.

    7. Viliam

      The kinds of people who are both technically good and interpersonally good are obviously in-demand employees. […] these people aren’t typically active searchers.

      That reminds me of this article:

      A lot of companies think they’re hiring the top 1 percent because they get 100 resumés for every open position. They’re kidding themselves. When you fill an opening, think about what happens to the 99 people you turn away. They don’t give up and go into plumbing. They apply for another job. There’s a floating population of applicants in your industry that apply for nearly every opening posted online, even though many of them are qualified for virtually none of these positions. So if the top 1 percent never apply for jobs, how can you recruit them? My theory is that the best way is to find them before they realize there is a job market–back when they’re still in college.

      1. Erusian

        If you have good prediction skills, that’s true. But my experience is the best way is by being networked in the industry. If I had a bunch of money to hire a big team I’d reach out to a bunch of people I’ve met at industry vents and cocktail parties and who’ve given me lectures or whatever. They’re not active searchers but they can definitely be hired.

      2. andrewflicker

        In my experience, there’s also a lot of opportunistic poaching to get top-tier employees.

      3. cassander

        I’m not so sure of that. When I hire, sometimes I get a better pool of applicants than others, it’s pretty apparent.

      4. Deiseach

        Huh, I thought that article would be about re-inventing the milk round but that company seems to go quite a bit further.

        Thing is, though, that that advice won’t fit 99% of companies as well as the 99% who are not the 1% students, for the same reasons: your company may not be in the top 1%, fondly as you imagine it is. And you’re not going to want to throw money at college kids who, if they are superstars, are going to be snaffled from under your nose once you’ve trained them by the really big fish.

        Maybe you don’t want or need the top 1%, somebody in the top 20% is quite good enough for purpose. And yeah, if you’re looking to hire a chartered accountant, even the really good graduates are not going to be the same kind of potential money-makers as the really good computer kids who are tasked with inventing a whole new product that the company can then make $$$$$$ off, so limousines and hotels with supermodels in the lobby is not worth the candle.

        I think people can be a little sloppy about applications because they have it in mind “I’ve got years of experience in the industry, the really important bit is the interview, this is just to get me in the door”. Well, if you can’t or don’t take care to avoid basic mistakes (no date on the letter, poor layout, font too small to read, necessary information missing – yeah we really do need your home address, an email isn’t enough – and speaking of emails, please please please use a professional-sounding one rather than your personal account that you set up when you were eighteen and drunk one night and you thought patriciathestripper@yahoo* sounded hilarious) then that application is going to the back of the file and you won’t get in the door.

        *Not a real example, but some of ’em have come close!

        1. Viliam

          For me the important part was realizing that sup-par people (or companies) can be statistically overrepresented in the sample you meet, simply because the best ones are already taken, but the worst ones keep trying. This applies to various situations.

          If you are a company looking for employees by posting a job announcement, consider this: the best ones get taken by your competitors, the worst ones have to keep applying for other jobs. Most overrepresented type of a candidate is the one who fails every interview, but is too stupid to realize that he is simply not fit for this type of job.

          If you are an employee looking for a job by responding to job announcements, consider this: the best positions are already taken by other people who stay there, from the worst positions people keep running away if they get a chance. Most overrepresented type of a job is in dysfunctional companies, where people quit after realizing the mistake they made, but the management rejects any changes that could make people stay longer.

          If you are looking for a partner, consider this: the best ones are already married to someone else, the worst ones keep approaching new people because they either can’t get a relationship or can’t keep it. Most overrepresented type of a man/woman is someone too horrible to live with.

          1. bzium

            To counter the incredible gloominess of this, I needed to remind myself that overrepresented doesn’t necessarily mean common. If horrible candidates / jobs / partners are 2% of the general population, then they might be ridiculously overrepresented and still be only 6% of the population you’re interacting with.

    8. Mark V Anderson

      I’m a little surprised you are getting a lot of applicants. I contract in the tax accounting field, and I’ve been getting many many feelers out for my services in the last couple of years — I’ve been thinking that the market was real good for accountants right now, so you wouldn’t get too many resumes. OF course I am in a slightly different market. I have decades of experience, which I assume is different from what you are looking for. And I am in Minneapolis; I think you are in Chicago?

      I do get kind of annoyed at the social skills looked for in interviews. I don’t really think interviewers are really any good at judging this. My impression is that they are looking for party animals that love to talk to people, because it makes them appear to be a “good fit” with the rest of the office. Good at making small talk seems to be how they judge leadership. I think the correlation is pretty low. Plus of course the company won’t want them to be constantly talking when on the job — someone has to do the work.

      I never heard of the STAR format, even though I’ve had over 100 professional interviews over the years. I’m an old guy, is that a new fangled idea?

      Those trick questions trying to trip up those folks who don’t think fast on their feet make me SO glad I only interview for temp jobs these days. I am frankly really terrible at interviews (which you might have guessed by my chip on the shoulder about this stuff), and I really hated those kind of questions. When I hired people, I never tried to trick them up, because I didn’t think it resulted in better hires. I thought I got some pretty good people.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy

        I’m surprised you haven’t run into STAR questions yourself, since they are pretty much 99% of interview questions I have received in the past. I’ve only interviewed in big companies in the Chicago area if that explains anything.
        I don’t like STAR behavioral questions much because they are easily beaten by a trained candidate. Dick’s advice does exactly this:

        1. Come up with ~5 stories about the best things you’ve accomplished professionally. They should be exactly like a story you would tell at a cocktail party – at most two minutes long, with a setup, conflict, and resolution. Practice telling them a couple times to a friend.

        So if you can answer one or two really well, congratulations, you know how to beat a behavioral question. Then we can stop asking those.
        What we really want isn’t necessarily someone that can small talk all the time, but someone who can work with other people to solve problems. The problems we have involve people who answer behavioral questions like they sit in a tiny silo that does not interact with anyone else, or basically treats other people like robots instead of people. We don’t want that, and most companies don’t want that. A lot of places can at least get away with people like that, but we can’t because we have a small accounting team, so all of us need to be interactive.
        Not necessarily social soft skills. I was a socially awkward 20-something and I post on SSC a lot. You can infer my social skills from that and not be too far off.

        1. Mark V Anderson

          What we really want isn’t necessarily someone that can small talk all the time, but someone who can work with other people to solve problems.

          I think the biggest problem with professionals is that they often have a hard time conversing with folks outside their specialty. So with accountants they may want to talk to production people about debits and credits, and overhead ratios, and manufacturing variances. Whereas the production folks are more likely to pay attention to tolerances and scrap rate and production speed. The industrial engineers use their own buzz words and the mechanical engineers different ones also. You may all be talking about the same thing, but with different words and a slightly different perspective. You need folks who understand the language of everyone else.

          I don’t think the usual interview style will suss out such skills. If it’s really understanding the different groups, then I think the most important thing to do is just find the smartest folks you can (of course they need to have at least minimal social skills, and also not overly arrogant, both of which can be a disease of smart folks). When I hired people, the most critical factor is getting the best employees was their ability to ace a math test I gave to all of my candidates. OF course this was for Accounts Payable clerks, a wholly different class of employees, so perhaps I am all wet here. But I suspect even with professionals their level of intelligence is the most important piece. And I don’t think the smartest accountants are all swept up by the Big 4, because their accountants also need to pass the interview gauntlet, and not all the smart ones have the social skills to do this. SO there should be some out there.

          1. DinoNerd

            This! Not so much the level of intelligence, as the ability to consider how to communicate to a specific audience, based on their likely knowledge and concerns. That’s a learnable skill, but lots of people don’t have it.

      2. Deiseach

        My impression is that they are looking for party animals that love to talk to people, because it makes them appear to be a “good fit” with the rest of the office.

        I’m not one of those people and I am one of those people who does terribly at interviews. My jobs have mostly been “hired because they needed a warm body right then, were pleasantly surprised I could actually do the work, asked me to stay on”. The interviews I really wanted and worked like a dog to prepare for, I uniformly failed.

        The ‘party animals’ are going to work in sales or the kind of customer-facing jobs that are not low-level grunts and where a talent for bullshitting will get you a long way especially when it comes to money and perks.

        What we really want isn’t necessarily someone that can small talk all the time, but someone who can work with other people to solve problems. The problems we have involve people who answer behavioral questions like they sit in a tiny silo that does not interact with anyone else, or basically treats other people like robots instead of people.

        I understand what you mean; someone who will not go “The facts are X, Y, Z and we require you to do A, B, C in response, why hasn’t this happened, it’s perfectly clear?” You need someone who can go “Ah howya Bill, how’s the form? Great weather for the time of year, isn’t it? Listen, I just dropped in to ask you about that oul thing, if you have a minute, can we go for a coffee in the canteen and I’ll tell you what the boss is on at me about?”

        I’m not natively that sort of person (I’m the “here are the facts, gimme the results” type) but I can fake it in small bursts. Maybe the expectations for the job need to be turned down to get the “not the extrovert but can smile and make small talk when necessary” people?

    9. brad

      7. Expectations for our candidates may be too high given our salary range. The kinds of people who are both technically good and interpersonally good are obviously in-demand employees. They are frequently quickly promoted into senior staff roles at their current companies, and typically command salaries close to what we offer, or in excess. A friend reaching out about job opportunities mentioned a position to me that would be a 25% pay increase over what I currently make: typical senior positions are still probably offering 5-10% more than what we do here, and those other positions also offer better advancement opportunities. Plus, these people aren’t typically active searchers.
      8. Not a lot of entertainment from our staff for diverse backgrounds. I don’t mean EEOC diverse, but “I worked myself up and got a degree” diverse. People are still picky about picking from good schools. Signaling supreme!

      That combination is deadly. If you think about a quadrant:
      1) Went to Harvard and is competent
      2) Went to Harvard and is incompetent
      3) Didn’t go to Harvard and is competent
      4) Didn’t go to Harvard and is incompetent

      There’s no market failure when it comes to #1. They have their pick and they aren’t going to take your job unless it pays top of market *and* is interesting work *and* has great growth prospects *and* is where they want to live, etc, etc, etc.

      Given that you can’t get #1, having gone to Harvard is a negative signal in your applicant pool. It’s highly likely that’s a #2. If you interview the not-Harvards there’s at least a chance you can get a #3. They may not stick around forever, because it sounds like your job opening isn’t great, but at least while you have them they’ll do good work.

      FWIW, I just recently put some of my own credibility on the line to get someone hired that has a very non-traditional background. Hopefully moneyball works out for both of us.

    10. rlms

      Related:
      I’ve recently failed a couple of interviews largely for not appearing interested/passionate enough about the company. For one of the companies, I wasn’t particularly passionate about the job apart from the salary, but for the other one I genuinely was but apparently didn’t express it! Has anyone else had and solved this problem?

    11. tayfie

      #2: What kind of skills do you have in mind? My impression is that that highly transferable skills are completely abstract and unverifiable from a resume, so people don’t bother. There’s no concrete credential or qualification for communication, leadership, organization, or any of the other soft skills important for any job.

      #4: This was taught to me in college, but 80% of interviews I’ve done have no questions that fit the format. I doubt it is widespread.

      #5: Every employer thinks there are “correct answers”, so interviewees just give the answer most in line with the image they want to present. A depressing number of managers like completely agreeable employees.

      #6: Combine the points I made for #2 and #5

      #8: I doubt people value the signal as an indicator of employability so much as an easy shorthand justification. No one was ever fired for buying IBM or hiring the ivy-leaguer.

  10. johan_larson

    Anyone have a short take on how big an economic jolt a no-deal Brexit would be for the UK? They’ll still be able to trade with the world, including the EU. But a) trade with the EU will have to be under the rules the EU extends to the rest of the world, not to its insiders, and b) since the UK will no longer be part of the EU, it will not be able to make use of any trade deals between other nations and the EU. The UK will be running global trade on the default settings, as it were. Just how big an economic effect would this have?

    1. The original Mr. X

      I’m not sure, but given that the predictions of economic catastrophe made by media pundits and the Bank of England have proven false,* it’s probably a good heuristic to assume that the situation will be notably better than what they’re forecasting.

      (* And no, “we haven’t actually exited the EU yet” is not a counter-argument. The predictions I’m talking about referred to the two years after a Leave vote, i.e., the period between the referendum itself and the actual leaving.)

    2. Thomas Jorgensen

      Bad. Mostly because the UK has signally failed to prepare the basic logistics side of things. A customs barrier in and off itself? Not good, but also, not likely to ruin a nation. A customs barrier without sufficient customs officers to process the volume of trade? That is not going to be pretty.

      I do kind of expect the house of commons to come somewhat to its senses and pass support for a customs union or the EEA, or something just to avoid that, but.. well, may be disappointed.

      1. johan_larson

        A customs barrier without sufficient customs officers to process the volume of trade? That is not going to be pretty.

        Well, strictly speaking the UK could choose to simplify or eliminate trade restrictions to the point that it could actually enforce its rules in a timely manner.

          1. johan_larson

            Let’s call it an option that is in principle feasible but will not be adopted, people being people and institutions being institutions.

    3. Deiseach

      God alone knows. There’s great anticipation that it will hit Ireland hard, particularly the murmuring the British did about imposing tariffs because that would really knock our agri-business sector, which is still a hefty contributor to our economy and probably our largest native (rather than American multi-nationals notionally letting profits rest in the bank accounts here before being shuttled elsewhere) exporter.

      On the other hand, I have to give credit to our government – they’ve taken it seriously and do seem to be making preparations, and Irish businesses are beginning to swivel more to directly exporting to Continental Europe rather than going through the GB ‘land bridge’. Small and independent businesses and set-ups are wincing in expectation of a hammering, since it’s a lot harder for them to switch from “75% of my business is a service to the UK”, but although we are expecting hardship, we’re kinda sorta prepared for once, which is nice.

      Now if the British would only make up their minds… they’re in, they’re out, they’re going, they’re not, they want an extension of the extension of the extension, they got 16 options, pick 8, voted “no” to all of them, and now Theresa May is promising to resign as a bribe to get them to agree to a deal???

      The thing that I’ve gathered is that if they do go out with no deal, then they’ll be under WTO regulations, and those seem to be harsher than they expect them to be for trade. So I have no idea if they have any idea what the likely consequences will be; no, I don’t think famine and running out of medicines and the rest of it, but price hikes unexpectedly for basic goods and a different selection than they’re used to, for a start.

  11. Nick

    Anyone remember Mark Z. Danielewski’s (pronounced “daniel-loose-ski’s”) House of Leaves? I learned recently that he released the pilot script for a television adaptation of the novel. The project is dead, apparently, but fans of the book might enjoy the script.

    I particularly love the throwaway comment early on that Danielewski ‘negated’ his father the director by becoming the novel’s editor, and then the script inverts the editor by having a director.

    1. Le Maistre Chat

      Tangential, but nominative determinism predicts that Daniel-loose-skis will either die in a skiing accident or found/manage/be largest shareholder of a company that makes unsafe skis.

    2. Winter Shaker

      pronounced “daniel-loose-ski’s”

      Really? I think we should have a new rule: if you’re going to de-Polish-ise the pronunciation of your name, you should have to de-Polish-ise the spelling too.

      Well, either that or Poland agrees to replace their letter ‘w’ with ‘v’ which they’re not even using at the moment
      :-p

    3. metacelsus

      I read the house a few months ago. One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday.

      It was a deeply unnerving (or should I say, unheimlichkeit) experience.

      Better not to begin. Once begun, better to finish.

    4. Nornagest

      I read that all in one go, in the middle of the night, in my dad’s unfinished basement. I don’t think there’s a better way to read it.

    5. dndnrsn

      Honestly, I think it suffered from being overhyped – I’d heard how good it was, how scary, and while it started out really strong, I started to find the whole thing tedious about halfway through. It was one in a series of novels I read over the course of a year or two that would have been absolutely stunning had they been about half as long.

    6. Telminha

      I’ve never heard of this book before. After I read your comment I went to Goodreads to check out some of the reviews. It sounds very interesting. There is a review by Wil Wheaton there. I ordered it yesterday and I’ll be getting my book in a few hours. I’m already scared! Thanks!

  12. Le Maistre Chat

    Some thoughts on gender relations:
    If misogyny is common among men, freedom of speech on platforms like Facebook would be useful to eligible women for screening men women meet IRL. If misogyny is common and banned, that encourages witch hunts. Or it could be very rare and all those 4chan comments are from a few 10k men.

    Generally, women value men for being stoic. This is not a Red/Blue thing: men suppress negative emotions in public to avoid status loss. But based on my voracious reading of old books, this doesn’t seem to have been the case as recently as the 18th century.
    I saw a comment hear a couple OTs ago (by Aapje?) that “women tend to value men for their earnings, stoicism, etc.” Is that an example of bougeiosie values? In early modern books, women and men both seem to value potential mates for some individually variable combo of financial assets and moral sensitivity. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen how many pounds a woman had cited in 18th century English literature… and yeah, don’t Appeal to Fictional Evidence, but I can’t help thinking about how the sisters in Pride and Prejudice were stuck having to attract husbands based solely on their personalities because Dad’s estate was entailed.

    1. Aapje

      Studies have found greater gender differences in personality and interests in more equal countries.

      The reason may be that strong, societally enforced gender roles reduce the need for signalling, as society will tend to enforce gender conformity when it matters to a partner (assuming that the partner demands what society decides he or she is owed). So it then is less necessary for men and women to have an inherent motivation to act in a way that benefits their partner, because society will make the person do it.

      In contrast, in Western society you have to prove yourself more as a good and reliable partner, because people are much more easily allowed to forego on their implicit or explicit commitments.

      This then goes both ways: men have to prove their stoicism and ability to earn more to women, but women have to prove that they are willing to have sex with the man and such.

      The above can also explain why arranged marriage is much more common in less equal countries and why family wealth and status often seem much more important than the traits of the individual: the individual is assumed to conform, so his or her individual qualities are less important.

      Something similar that I’ve noticed is that in gay-hostile societies and cultures, hetero men are often very open to male intimacy, even including men kissing each other (on the mouth) and having sex with each other. In contrast, hetero men in the West seem much more concerned about not showing signs that they might be gay. This may be because high acceptance of gay people means that there is a much higher risk for women to pursue a practicing gay man, so it takes much less for women to conclude that the man is too much of a risk. So men/boys then respond to this by being much less intimate with men, using ‘gay’ pejoratively to signal that they aren’t, etc.

      Gay-hostile cultures may be much less insistent that ‘gay’ behavior means that you are gay and thus make it easier for men to act ‘non-binary’ and still be considered a suitable partner to the opposite sex.

        1. The original Mr. X

          Presumably that society will pressure men into marrying women and having babies with them, rather than either shacking up with another man or living a life of freewheeling homosexual promiscuity.

          1. Aapje

            Indeed. Afghan men may have sex with men/boys before and even during their marriage, but they are expected to marry and father children.

        2. The original Mr. X

          Also, it could be hostile to some forms of homosexuality but not to others. E.g., accepting a man buggering his male slaves, but regarding any man who enjoys being on the receiving end as a contemptible sissy.

        3. Deiseach

          Part of Cicero’s accusations against Mark Antony in his Second Philippic were that he and Gaius Scribonius Curio the younger were gay lovers when Antony was young, and it seems that Antony was indeed dissolute when young (he managed to run up such a debt that he was bankrupt by the age of twenty, for one thing).

          Now, Cicero is trying to blacken Antony’s character here, but the phrasing includes what seems to be an acceptance that men will fuck pretty slave boys and nobody thinks they’re gay, but anything like a relationship is indeed gay and to be condemned as unmanly, immoral and vicious:

          You assumed the manly gown, which you soon made a womanly one: at first a public prostitute, with a regular price for your wickedness, and that not a low one. But very soon Curio stepped in, who carried you off from your public trade, and, as if he had bestowed a matron’s robe upon you, settled you in a steady and durable wedlock.

          [45] No boy bought for the gratification of passion was ever so wholly in the power of his master as you were in Curio’s. How often has his father turned you out of his house? How often has he placed guards to prevent you from entering? while you, with night for your accomplice, lust for your encourager, and wages for your compeller, were let down through the roof. That house could no longer endure your wickedness. Do you not know that I am speaking of matters with which I am thoroughly acquainted? Remember that time when Curio, the father, lay weeping in his bed; his son throwing himself at my feet with tears recommended to me you; he entreated me to defend you against his own father, if he demanded six millions of sesterces of you; for that he had been bail for you to that amount. And he himself, burning with love, declared positively that because he was unable to bear the misery of being separated from you, he should go into banishment.

      1. mdet

        in gay-hostile societies and cultures, hetero men are often very open to male intimacy, even including men kissing each other (on the mouth) and having sex with each other.

        Uhh, what definitions of “hetero” and “gay-hostile” are we using?

        1. Aapje

          There is situational sexual behavior where people have different sexual behaviors due to circumstances. Sex between men is fairly common in heavily gender-segregated societies where young men have no or a minimal chance to have sex with women. One such practice is Bacha bazi.

          Men who have sex with men/boys for this reason typically identify as heterosexual and prefer to have sex with women if that option is available.

          The kissing between men is not French and is/was not considered sexual, but very intimate in a blood brothers kind of way.

          Actually identifying as gay, refusing to marry, living together with a man as husband and husband, etc; is typically heavily discouraged in these societies, resulting in consequences that can include murder.

          1. INH5

            There is situational sexual behavior where people have different sexual behaviors due to circumstances. Sex between men is fairly common in heavily gender-segregated societies where young men have no or a minimal chance to have sex with women. One such practice is Bacha bazi.

            Men who have sex with men/boys for this reason typically identify as heterosexual and prefer to have sex with women if that option is available.

            I’m not so sure about the last bit. This US Army Report on “Pashtun Sexuality” writes that a common saying among Pasthun men in Afghanistan is “women are for children, boys are for pleasure.” More specifically, it describes a somewhat common practice as follows (starting on page 14):

            Another, more complex phenomena, highlighted in the Los Angeles Times article as well as the Reuters article28 and others, is that men who take on a halekon often attempt to integrate the boy into their families by marrying him to a daughter when the boy is no longer young enough to play the “beardless” role. This maintains the love relationship between the father and son-in-law which inevitably makes difficult the establishment of a normal relationship with the wife. The once-halekon becomes a father with his new wife, and then begins to seek a teenage boy with whom he can play the “bearded” role.

            So clearly at least some of the men who engage in “bacha bazi” are already married to at least one woman.

      2. INH5

        Studies have found greater gender differences in personality and interests in more equal countries.

        On personality tests that were developed in Western countries. It astonishes me that more people don’t ask whether those tests just don’t work as well in non-Western cultures. I’ve looked into one particular study in some detail myself (don’t have the link handy at the moment, sorry) and found that the correlation almost entirely disappears when you divide the countries into “Western” and “non-Western,” even if you define “Western” broadly enough to include Latin America and Eastern Europe.

        Also, most of the studies that I’ve seen of this type either use samples of university students or internet polls. Both of these raise obvious questions about representativeness.

        As for the gay stuff, I’m fairly certain, based on all of the old movies and TV shows that I’ve watched, that Western men weren’t any more touchy feely with each other before gay liberation. They certainly aren’t any more in some contemporary homophobic cultures such as Russia. I think we should keep in mind the problems with drawing causal inferences from regional scatterplots. It seems more likely that, for example, Arab cultures simply don’t consider men holding hands to be a sign of homosexuality. In Russia they do, and their reactions are as you would expect.

        Now, there is evidence that some Arab cultures do have widespread male/male sex, but they’re generally expected to be discreet about this, and it seems to operate as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Chechnya, on the other hand…

          1. The original Mr. X

            FWIW, high school me, reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, snickered a fair bit at Sam and Frodo’s expressions of mutual love, although Tolkien obviously didn’t think of them as gay.

          2. INH5

            Old movies and TV shows may not be old enough. What do you make of these photographs?

            Quoting the page that you linked:

            The poses, facial expressions, and body language of the men below will strike the modern viewer as very gay indeed. But it is crucial to understand that you cannot view these photographs through the prism of our modern culture and current conception of homosexuality. The term “homosexuality” was in fact not coined until 1869, and before that time, the strict dichotomy between “gay” and “straight” did not yet exist. Attraction to, and sexual activity with other men was thought of as something you did, not something you were. It was a behavior — accepted by some cultures and considered sinful by others.

            But at the turn of the 20th century, the idea of homosexuality shifted from a practice to a lifestyle and an identity. You did not have temptations towards a certain sin, you were a homosexual person. Thinking of men as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” became common. And this new category of identity was at the same time pathologized — decried by psychiatrists as a mental illness, by ministers as a perversion, and by politicians as something to be legislated against. As this new conception of homosexuality as a stigmatized and onerous identifier took root in American culture, men began to be much more careful to not send messages to other men, and to women, that they were gay.

            […]

            After WWII, casually touching between men in photographs decreased precipitously. It first vanished among middle-aged men, but lingered among younger men. But in the 50s, when homosexuality reached its peak of pathologization, eventually they too created more space between themselves, and while still affectionate began to interact with less ease and intimacy.

            If the change happened in the 1950s, that’s clear evidence against the thesis that “acceptance of gay people” caused it, because 1950s and 60s America was not particularly known for acceptance of gay people.

            So I find the article’s argument more convincing: it’s not because the pre-mid-20th-century West and the contemporary Arab world stigmatized homosexuality more than the contemporary West, but because they stigmatized it in different ways.

          3. ana53294

            While the hand-holding does seem gay to me, passing the arm behind the neck is totally normal behaviour among male friends in Spain. And Spain is a very LGBT-friendly country.

            These are some sports team photos.

            So half of the photos would read not gay in Spain, although hand-holding is something reserved to lovers and kids.

            Is passing the arm behind the neck or waist of a mate considered gay in the US? What sorts of male affection is accepted in the US?

          4. dick

            What sorts of male affection is accepted in the US?

            Almost none. You might put your arm around someone’s neck for a second while greeting them, or trying to tell them something in a very loud environment, but you wouldn’t leave it there. I gather this may be changing but when I was in high school, the only regular contact between boys was (playful) punching and wrestling.

          5. ana53294

            Well, that seems to mean that male affection being considered gay and thus not OK for heterosexuals is just an American thing.

            I have also heard that Americans are really uncomfortable with being naked in gender segregated changing rooms. In much of Europe, people are quite comfortable not hiding their naked bodies in gender-segregated changing rooms. In Germany, men and women go to saunas together, and it’s apparently OK. Asian countries also tend to be OK with nudity in gender-segregated areas. Children under 3 are also OK.

          6. DavidFriedman

            What sorts of male affection is accepted in the US?

            Hugging, in some contexts, as an expression of friendship for someone you haven’t seen for a while, or sympathy. Not that common, but not coded as gay.

          7. The Pachyderminator

            Yes, unfortunately, anything more than a brief hug or arm around the shoulder is unusual for men in the US, and an arm around the waist would be seen by most as unambiguously sexual and/or romantic. The shifting conception of homosexuality in the twentieth century probably has something to do with this, as INH5 says above. It would take some complicated historical work to figure out exactly what changed in relationships between men and why. This r/askhistorians thread might be a place to start.

            I have also heard that Americans are really uncomfortable with being naked in gender segregated changing rooms. In much of Europe, people are quite comfortable not hiding their naked bodies in gender-segregated changing rooms.

            This too, yes, but it’s worth noting that expressions of male intimacy and casual nudity don’t necessarily go together. Finland is an example of a society that has relatively little social touching, but everyone uses the sauna naked together.

          8. bullseye

            I have also heard that Americans are really uncomfortable with being naked in gender segregated changing rooms.

            For American men, at least, there’s an age difference. Men older than me (I’m almost 40) tend to be very comfortable with locker room nudity, while younger men aren’t. Newer locker rooms have separate shower stalls instead of one big shower area.

        1. JayT

          As a counterpoint to the holding hands example, my experience is that Russian men are far more likely to kiss (on the cheek, or even on the mouth) other men than Americans are.

        2. Deiseach

          It seems more likely that, for example, Arab cultures simply don’t consider men holding hands to be a sign of homosexuality.

          One reason a lot of Western gay men of a certain class and background ended up in Morocco was for precisely this reason; public displays of affection, as it were, between men were not considered to be signs of “he’s gay!” so they could get away with things that back home would never have been tolerated.

          Plus they had the attitude that being rich Westerners (certainly rich by the standards of 1950s North Africa), they could hire plenty of ‘gay for pay’ pretty young men as sexual partners, and the guys would treat this as “earning money to enable me to get married”, wouldn’t think of themselves as gay, and this would be excused to themselves and by the society as “I’m going to marry, so I’m straight, this is just another form of selling my labour to these rich Westerners”. (I forget whose memoirs I read years back by one of those gay ex-pats who was quite cynical – or brutally honest, take your pick – about what would now be considered sexual and racial exploitation).

      3. Wrong Species

        I’m not buying the gay-hostile link to hereto male intimacy. The ancient Greeks were famously gay friendly and they didn’t have a problem with lack of male intimacy.

        1. The original Mr. X

          The idea of “gay” as an unchangeable orientation didn’t really exist in Greek society, though — the closest I can think of is that bit in Plato’s Symposium where Aristophanes says that some men have male other halves, although he then goes on to say that we can just pass laws to make them marry women (and besides, I’m not sure how seriously Plato wants us to take the entire speech — Aristophanes was a comedian, after all). So that’s an obvious possible confounder for why Greek society might have differed from modern society in this regard.

          1. bullseye

            I’ve read before that the Greeks didn’t have a concept of homosexuality and heterosexuality, but then that story shows the two categories quite plainly, and even mentions the stereotype of gay men being less manly. It refutes the stereotype, which implies the audience is already familiar with it.

          2. The original Mr. X

            I’ve read before that the Greeks didn’t have a concept of homosexuality and heterosexuality, but then that story shows the two categories quite plainly, and even mentions the stereotype of gay men being less manly. It refutes the stereotype, which implies the audience is already familiar with it.

            Not necessarily — modern society recognises that people have sexual preferences without thinking that preferences form the basis of someone’s identity. Gentlemen might prefer blondes, but nobody thinks of blondism as some sort of separate societal category. Ancient views of homosexuality were much like this — sure, they recognised that some men preferred to have sex with other men, but they didn’t consider “homosexuals” as a distinct group the way modern people do.

          3. DavidFriedman

            My memory from, I think, A History of Private Life, is that the equivalent of our category of gay was submissive, defined as being penetrated or being below when making love. So the penetrating partner was not considered gay (or whatever their term would be), the penetrated was. And heterosexual sex with the woman on top put the man in more or less the same category. And a better translation than “gay” would probably be “womanish.”

            I think that was a description not only of classical antiquity but of more recent mediterranean culture.

          4. The original Mr. X

            I’m not sure that being submissive was really equivalent to our gay. Most importantly, there was no widespread notion of people being born submissives who had to be passive during sex or else be condemned to a life of unhappiness and self-loathing.

      4. albatross11

        ISTM that this is some mix of

        a. What biology / human nature pushes (Reacting to the last many thousand years of reproductive success)

        b. What your culture/upbringing pushes (Reacting to the last century or so of quality of life and (somewhat) reproductive success)

        c. What your own desires and views are (Reacting to individual variation plus your own beliefs and ideas)

        (a) and (b) are likely to be out of date for the kind of life you’ll be living (especially (a)). (c) is likely to be based on too-small a sample size and too-cherry-picked a set of anecdotes to be all that well-informed.

        It’s interesting to ask what fraction of whom you’re attracted to comes from each of those three. I gather that game / PUA is heavily focused on understanding (a) and (b), and figuring out how to adapt to them to get dates/get laid.

    2. DinoNerd

      One of the common life experiences I missed was the stage of trying desperately to find a mate, and/or to at least get laid. It was the early 70s; there were lots of folks with round heels available, and STDs were temporarily not much of a threat (pre-AIDs awareness, pre-antibiotic-resistance). Some proportion of those who appeared (to my limited social skills) to be seeking to play consensual musical beds would then turn out to have decided we were “an item”, and they were “in love”, which I found bizarre.

      Are normal people really that focussed on mate-finding, at any stage of their lives? I know most manage to wind up with partners, and that can be supported by evolutionary arguments – or better supported, in the generations before mine, by lack of better-paying, more secure career options for women than “housewife”.

      1. Le Maistre Chat

        Are normal people really that focussed on mate-finding, at any stage of their lives?

        Yes.

      2. albatross11

        Well, there’s also raising kids. If you want kids, you almost certainly really want to raise them with a partner who will stick around to help. If you’re a woman, you really need to be done having your kids by the time you get into your 40s, because it becomes both harder to get pregnant and riskier for mom and baby as you get older. Those two impose some constraints on life choices w.r.t. mate selection that are pretty hard to get around.

        On the other side, many high-achieving women don’t get to a point in their lives where they feel ready to have kids or even settle down until they’re in their mid-30s, which puts them in a pretty tough position–you finally get married at 38, decide to have kids at 40, and then go through a few years of really expensive, intrusive, and unpleasant fertility treatments to try to have a kid.

        IMO, one of the best reforms we could do in our society for high-achieving women is to work out ways to make the high-achieving pathways more compatible with having kids. There are parts of that that would be nice for men, too, but for women it’s a much bigger deal, because the constraints they run into are biological and beyond our power to entirely overcome with technology.

        1. Viliam

          IMO, one of the best reforms we could do in our society for high-achieving women is to work out ways to make the high-achieving pathways more compatible with having kids.

          One possible solution to avoid having children interfere with your career is to have children as soon as possible. Like, get pregnant a few months before graduation, and then have children in short intervals, until you decide it is enough. You would start your career a bit later, but then you would never have to take a break.

          Another possible solution, if the high-achieving woman is also high-income (or has a high-income partner), is to pay someone else to do most of the parenting for you. For a high-income woman, the obvious candidate is her partner.

          A solution on a society level could be to shorten the working week into three days; while allowing different people to choose different three days. Then a couple could arrange their working schedules so that each day at least one of them is free (and can take care of the kids).

        2. INH5

          IMO, one of the best reforms we could do in our society for high-achieving women is to work out ways to make the high-achieving pathways more compatible with having kids. There are parts of that that would be nice for men, too, but for women it’s a much bigger deal, because the constraints they run into are biological and beyond our power to entirely overcome with technology.

          The most effective solution that I’ve come across is “import lots of nannies and maids from the Third World and don’t have a societal stigma on hiring them.” See the Persian Gulf Petrostates, though presumably you’d want to avoid the accompanying human rights abuses seen in those countries. But good luck getting something like that implemented in Trump’s America.

          1. johan_larson

            Or simply accept that hiring a homemaker is a normal thing to do for a two-career couple. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day of a corporate samurai to do half the job of caring for a child, so someone else needs to step in. There’s no reason that someone can’t be a servant.

            My impression is that a lot of two-career couples consider this option, but balk when they see how much it costs. Surprise, darlings, the work that women have traditionally done has real value; you just didn’t realize it until you tried to put a market price on it.

          2. Plumber

            @INH5

            “The most effective solution that I’ve come across is “import lots of nannies and maids from the Third World…

            …But good luck getting something like that implemented in Trump’s America”

            Judging by the playgrounds in the “UMC” neighborhoods I’ve seen (and my stay-at-home wife reports even more) that’s already been done, which may help explain why Trump won.

          3. DinoNerd

            The problem in a nutshell is that if there’s no inherited money, and if both spouses are early in their careers, it’s hard for them to afford good childcare, until they are already at the stage of higher risk pregnancies.

            Some subcultures manage it – my Indian colleagues (techies, in an expensive area) essentially always have either a nanny of their own, or at worst an individual who handles a small number of children in her own home. But the other ethnicities almost never do, which pretty much convinces me there’s a big tradeoff involved, and differing values.

            Maybe your third world nanny solution would bring the price down low enough for this to work for more people, if the anti-immigrant political situation in the US would allow that. But I’d be concerned about whether it would really be affordable at an early enough career stage.

          4. The Nybbler

            It’s not Trump’s America which makes this impractical. It’s employment regulations. If you have to pay these nannies and maids $15/hour and provide health insurance and workers comp and all the other things that you wouldn’t need to do in a Persian Gulf petrostate, just being a mere 1%er isn’t enough.

          5. johan_larson

            It would be interesting to see some actual figures here. How much does it cost to hire a full-time reasonably-qualified nanny/homemaker completely legitimately in the US? And how big a gross salary does this translate to for the person who has to pay for it?

            My impression is that some of these couples are expecting it to cost $20K, but it actually costs $40K, so you need a job that that pays $60K to break even doing this. But these are completely made-up numbers.

            My parents hired a nanny/homemaker for me and my brother in Finland back in the 70s, when they were an assistant professor and an RN. It cost almost my mom’s entire take-home pay as a nurse, but she says it was worth it.

          6. DavidFriedman

            That was more or less the Victorian solution, although the nannies were not from so far away.

            Three obvious disadvantages:
            1. Interacting with your children is emotionally rewarding, even if sometimes tiring.
            2. You want your children to end up with close emotional bonds to you, not to the nanny, since you may in various ways depend on them later in life.
            3. You want your children acculturated in your culture, which may not be the nanny’s–sharing your values and such.

          7. ProfessorQuirrell

            @johan_larson

            I can speak somewhat to your question. I actually am an assistant professor at the moment and my wife is a nurse. We’re both new to our respective professions.

            We have had a hell of a time securing any kind of reliable childcare that isn’t babysitting. Some of our difficulties are described in the resume conversation above — when we would try to post a job on various websites like care.com or sittercity, applications or employee profiles would invariably have appalling spelling or truly baffling errors. Things didn’t go much better at the interview state either. Most people we called to interview either didn’t pick up or had no conception whatsoever as to how to interview or the kinds of things we expected a professional to do — which obviously did not inspire confidence when working with kids.

            We used to live on the Front Range of Colorado, so we weren’t exactly in the middle of nowhere — and we were offering $20 an hour, which was close to what my wife made as an RN!

            When we DID hire childcare, they were generally unreliable. Some quit after just a few days of work, many were uncommunicative. I think of the (something like 6?) people that we worked with in a serious way, only one or two were actually good at their jobs.

            I am not sure as to the economic reasons why this was the case — perhaps there was enough demand for childcare that the actual nannies could afford to be irresponsible. It is still something of a mystery to me, but it’s something that my wife and I find a constant thorn in our side as we try to navigate the work / life balance that is so hard for young families.

          8. Chalid

            In NYC, the best source I know for nanny pay is the Park Slope Parents nanny survey.

            60% of respondents admit to paying their nanny completely off the books (only 13% claim to be fully compliant) so I think it’s fair to say that employment regulations aren’t really stopping nanny hiring. “On the books” median pay was $18.00/hour, “off the books” median pay was $17.00/hour.

            For context, Park Slope is a pleasant, family-friendly neighborhood. It is definitely richer than average for NYC, but not exceptionally so.

            (Also, on the employment regulation thing, I’m sure you’ll recall how often cabinet nominations are derailed by nanny employment issues, which also suggests widespread noncompliance.)

          9. The Nybbler

            60% of respondents admit to paying their nanny completely off the books (only 13% claim to be fully compliant) so I think it’s fair to say that employment regulations aren’t really stopping nanny hiring.

            No, this is completely circular. Among those who do have a nanny, employment regulations aren’t really stopping nanny hiring. Among those who don’t, your survey provides no information.

          10. Chalid

            No it’s not. Stuff like this illustrates that it’s common knowledge that nanny employment law is not strictly enforced except at Senate confirmation hearings. Mere scrupulosity is not enough to stop most people from breaking commonly-flaunted laws.

          11. AliceToBob

            @ ProfessorQuirrell

            Re the babysitting issues, my wife and I were in a similar situation. We too were baffled by the lack of reliability and the apparent lack of interest in working as a babysitter.

            We offered $20 per hour where the going rate, judging by care.com and word of mouth, is roughly $11 or $12. There were some bad experiences.

            I don’t know if you’ve resolved your problem, or whether this will help you, but we found our solution by hiring directly from a childcare center (children up to age 5). We spoke first with the person running the center, and they allowed us to speak with the teachers directly. We were upfront about our expectations with these teachers, and we’ve had no problems. On time, reliable, personable, and they’ve been vetted by the school system (the center we used is part of the public school system).

            If you haven’t tried this, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Good luck.

        3. dick

          Another under-utilized option: part-time professional work. The number of white-collar people who would like to do half-time for half-pay far exceeds the number of positions available. If you’re in a highly competitive field (like software engineering) and you want to experience what it feels like to get so many great applicants that you can be choosy, this is one way. The challenge is convincing your employer to make it an option.

      3. Deiseach

        Are normal people really that focussed on mate-finding, at any stage of their lives?

        Don’t ask me, I’m not normal! 😀

  13. johan_larson

    Note to self: do not attempt to make a living as a freelance comedy writer.

    Cracked is looking for freelance columnists. And they’ve posted their rates: $250 for approximately 2,000 words, $100 for approximately 1,000. These people are expected to be experienced writers, presumably at least semi-pro, but don’t get a regular slot. They still have to pitch columns, and may be turned down.

    At those rates, if you manage to publish a long-form column every two days (presumably working with several publishers), and work regular weeks, you gross just north of $30K a year. That’s not great. Hope you’re living somewhere cheap.

    1. Randy M

      It seems that any profession that relies on media has extremely lopsided pay rates. If your work can be copied and distributed to the masses, you have to be among the best to make a great, or maybe even good, living off of it. This applies to writers, pro athletes, actors obviously. You need a combination of luck and talent. And it’s probably even harder to break in lately with plenty of people giving away low level content for free on the web.

      1. Faza (TCM)

        I’m not sure that this is correct – at least without some major caveats.

        Pro atheletes quite obviously stand apart, because athletics is a rather direct form of competition – you either win or lose. As such, it is going to select very strongly for best-in-field.

        With creative workers (writers, musicians, actors, etc.), the situation is somewhat different. Pre-internet, the main obstacle facing the creative was reaching an audience, which put considerable power in the hands of middle-men.

        With the internet, the audience is accessible, but it’s nigh impossible to not get lost in the crowd. Moreover, the economics of publishing on the internet are whack.

        The steelman for traditional publishers keeping rates low was that publishing is a high-risk business and that only a small proportion of the works published will sell enough to recoup amounts invested. This small portion of successful works would have to pay for all the costs associated with the unsuccessful ones.

        The steelman for internet publishers keeping rates low is that internet advertising doesn’t pay very much either and you can’t charge users for access because internet users are allergic to paying for content.

    2. baconbits9

      At those rates, if you manage to publish a long-form column every two days (presumably working with several publishers), and work regular weeks, you gross just north of $30K a year. That’s not great. Hope you’re living somewhere cheap.

      It actually is kind of great if you make $30,000 as a freelancer. First these are bottom of the barrel in terms of experience or skill, its like looking at a waitress at a low end diner and saying “Your making $15 an hour, being a waitress pays terribly”.

      To your other point “hope you live somewhere cheap” is dead on, most of these writers can live where ever there is a reliable internet connection. You could buy a cheap house in a cheap cost of living area on $30,000 a year with no commuting costs.

    3. Aftagley

      I actually used to be a writer for Cracked and for a few years I was a community manager for their writer’s workshop. I drifted away in 2015 after the whole pivot-to-video fiasco, but I can tell you that even back then practically no one involved in the writing game was a full time writer; it was something people did after work, as students or on the weekends.

      Again, this was pre-video and adpocolpyse; this was the heydey of writing longform text content on the internet, and even then it was still seen as a waystation on the path towards a book deal, a regular column or a space on a TV show’s writing staff. Writing online for a brand you don’t own or have significant stake in isn’t and will never be a full-time job.

    4. baconbits9

      One thing I have wondered is if anyone uses voice to text software to double as a writer when working otherwise mindless jobs. Things like night shift security guard/ hotel desk where you could plausibly have large gaps of paid time to ‘write’ and then edit later.

      1. DavidFriedman

        Hotel desk you could be typing while waiting for another guest to show up.

        There must be examples of famous writers who did the equivalent—composed their writing while employed at some job that did not require attention. Trollope seems to have done it, although he had the advantage of an internal word processor, so no need for speech to text or a keyboard.

    5. Scott Alexander

      If you can write 1,000 words an hour, you can work six hours a week and make close to the US median salary, without any bosses, fixed hours, or having to live in a big city.

      (I think I can sometimes write 1000 words an hour, though I’ve never timed it. I’m probably an outlier, but professional writers will be outliers too)

      I think I might have tried to do this once, for Cracked, and my column was rejected for vague bureaucratic reasons like posting it in slightly the wrong way. Nobody would tell me the right way to post it, and everyone seemed kind of hostile about it, and I cravenly gave up. I wish I could remember more details, but in retrospect it probably worked out well for my dignity.

      Probably having to deal with this kind of thing, and with editors, and all that, makes it less fun than it sounds, though.

      1. johan_larson

        There is probably some variance, but professional writers write something like 1000 words of finished prose per day, including planning, first drafts, and revisions. For a novelist, that’s two big novels a year. Charles Stross, the science fiction writer, sometimes talks about his output and that’s what he manages.

        Writing a thousand words in an hour or two sounds feasible if I already know what I want to say, and don’t have any reason to change it once it’s written. But I’ve never timed myself.

  14. yourinnerchild

    Is anyone in Nashville this weekend? There’s an electoral reform conference (Unrig Summit) going on at the Music City Center and I’m curious to know if that’s something other SSCers are interested in.

    1. ManyCookies

      I am not, but that sounds like something I’d like to attend and wish them the best of luck.

  15. Atlas

    Back in the 1930s-1960s, it seems like there was a bit of back and forth in the US between intelligence agencies, diplomats and lawyers. (I.e. People trained as lawyers often rose to high positions in the State Department and CIA.) Does this dynamic still exist?

    1. The Nybbler

      Andrew Gelman’s response, which includes some correspondence with others. I tend to agree with John Ioannidis’s take:

      Overall assessment: the Comment is written with an undercurrent belief that there are zillions of true, important effects out there that we erroneously dismiss. The main problem is quite the opposite: there are zillions of nonsense claims of associations and effects that once they are published, they are very difficult to get rid of. The proposed approach will make people who have tried to cheat with massaging statistics very happy, since now they would not have to worry at all about statistics. Any results can be spun to fit their narrative. Getting entirely rid of statistical significance and preset, carefully considered thresholds has the potential of making nonsense irrefutable and invincible.

  16. Well...

    I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for years. In the past week or two, the same search strings that have reliably been pulling up the same results for a year or more have suddenly started returning different results. I apparently am unable to enter a search string that takes me to any explanation or discussion about this, so I’m trying my luck here.

    1. DavidFriedman

      I started using DuckDuckGo recently, and I can’t make search strings, beyond the simplest, work. Is there a webbed description somewhere of how to searches? I would like, for instance, to be able to search for my name while eliminating references to the U.S. Ambassador to Israel. If I enter [“David Friedman” -Israel -Ambassador], some of the hits I get contain the words I am trying to avoid.

  17. Well...

    I thought “Behind the Curve” was an excellent movie. Best documentary I’ve seen in a long time. (Caveat: I don’t watch all that many anymore. But I’m known to be pretty picky about movies.) Curious to hear y’all’s thoughts about the movie — even if you haven’t seen it! 😀

    But in case you have: I can’t decide if the filmmakers’ treatment of the Flat-Earthers was ultimately derisive or affectionate. What say you, SSC?

    1. metacelsus

      I recently watched it, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

      I think the filmmakers’ treatment of the Flat-Earthers was affectionate towards them as people, but derisive of their beliefs.

  18. meh

    Delaware just entered the NPVIC (https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/436338-delaware-gov-signs-bill-to-bill-to-give-electoral-college-votes-to-popular)

    My question: Suppose enough states enter the compact to give it 270 votes. At the same time, say a state not in the compact decides to use some other voting method (i.e. Range voting, or IRV) to award its EC electors. How does the NPVIC determine what the total popular vote is? What if the state used IRV, and the result changes if you use the initial votes, versus the final round votes?

    1. brad

      Article III—Manner of Appointing Presidential Electors in Member StatesIII–1Prior to the time set by law for the meeting and voting by the presidential electors, the chief election official of each member state shall determine the number of votes for each presidential slate in each State of the United States and in the District of Columbia in which votes have been cast in a statewide popular election and shall add such votes together to produce a “national popular vote total” for each presidential slate.

      V–8“statewide popular election” shall mean a general election in which votes are cast for presidential slates by individual voters and counted on a statewide basis.

      It might well be that such a state wouldn’t count for the purposes of the NPV. In NPVIC world, presumably states would know that and choose their voting methods accordingly.

      1. meh

        “statewide popular election” shall mean a general election in which votes are cast for presidential slates by individual voters and counted on a statewide basis.

        This definition does not seem to exclude non plurality methods.

    2. Conrad Honcho

      It’s all blue states. I wonder how fast they would cancel this if Trump manages to win the popular vote while losing the traditional electoral college in 2020.

      1. meh

        Not sure it’s relevant to the question about non-plurality voting, but the states that have passed it are not bound to assign electors to popular vote winner until an EV majority of states have passed it. So at it’s current state, if the situation you describe happens in 2020, the states would not need to cancel anything to award their electors according to the state winner.

        Since an EV majority is needed, presumably there would need to be both Blue and Red states in the compact to reach 270 EVs. In such a situation it is guaranteed that a popular/EV discrepancy would lead to at least one state being bound to vote against it’s statewide winner. I wonder how fast they would cancel in such a situation? The biggest problem I can see is that elections are run by the states, not the federal government, so states would have to trust the election results from the other states.

      2. Plumber

        @Conrad Honcho,
        My guess is two Presidential elections in twenty years in which a Democrat wins the electoral college but not the popular vote will be more than enough for Democrats and Republicans to flip-flop on the merits of the electoral college.

        1. EchoChaos

          Which nearly happened in 2004 and 2012.

          Both of those were close enough and had a Democrat lean to the EC. Ohio in the case of 2004 and Colorado in the case of 2012.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz

    I’m wondering about ways to train myself to become aware when I put something down. While it helps to have standard places to put things, sometimes I’m dealing with a new thing or I just don’t remember to use the standard place.

    It does seem as though I tend to space out when I’m putting things down, and I believe Hermione is right that it’s easier to remember what you pay attention to.

    Any thoughts about making awareness reliable?

    1. reddragon

      When I was in university I read an article in Viz that recommended threading a piece of string through everything that you owned. That way if you ever lost anything then you could just go along the string until you found it.

      Does this help?

      1. Randy M

        It would if you couple it with the old stand-by of tying a string around you finger. And use the same string each time.

        1. Well...

          I think stringing bells along the string would be a necessary addition, because sometimes it’s dark, and sometimes it’s too quiet.

    2. dick

      How about calling it out? IIRC there’s a lot of research that you can keep people from forgetting/missing important repetitive tasks by training them to announce them – e.g. “I’m setting the emergency break!” and “I’m removing the emergency break!” and so forth. This is big in airlines and railway operators and so forth. How about saying “I’m putting my keys on the dresser” out loud?

      1. Nancy Lebovitz

        That might work. I could even hope it would train a mental habit so that I eventually would just say the words internally.

          1. Lillian

            Incidentally, i’ve heard people theorize that the whole thing in anime were people loudly call out the names of the techniques they’re using derives from the point and call culture pioneered by Japanese railroads.

    3. Radu Floricica

      If-then scripts you rehearse mentally seem to work in habit making (I might be able to dig up the source if you want). Imagine yourself doing something (put an object down) and then stopping for a second to consider where you’re put it.

  20. Paul Brinkley

    Mitch McConnell’s actions in Congress have yet again spurred calls from random Internet commenters that he “do his job”. These lead to the usual observations that he is, in fact, doing just that.

    For those unaware: McConnell is the US Senate Majority Leader. He sometimes blocks specific bills from being voted on by the Senate. His job, according to senate.gov, is to schedule bills for votes, which means he gets to decide which order they come down. That can mean delaying this bill or that, so as long as he’s making those decisions, he’s doing his job. Even if he brings every Republican bill up and delays every Democrat bill, resulting in dozens of dumb Republican bills that will get perfunctorily rejected while major Democrat bills end up mothballed indefinitely in their committees, he’s technically doing his job. If he expresses his policy in just that way, and acts on it, he’s doing his job. If the Democrats take the Senate in 2020 and Schumer does the exact same thing, he’s doing his job, too. This is obviously distressing if the SeMaLe isn’t from your party, and therefore it makes sense to be extra concerned about whether your party controls the Senate, but better or worse, that seems to the lay of the land.

    My question: are there well-known cases of the SeMaLe blocking votes for conscientious, non-partisan reasons? Even mundane ones, like waiting until the bill’s author returns from an emergency surgery? Where does one go to find these records?

    Is there an element of this game of each party being unwilling to change how bills are called to the floor, because they’re sure their party will get the SeMaLe position soon?

    1. cassander

      Talking of “blocking” bills is a bit misleading. The majority leader is in charge of scheduling the senate’s business. Every senate has far more bills submitted than go to to committee and far more bills that come out of committee then go to the floor. Most of them are “blocked” in the sense that the leader doesn’t bring them down to the floor for debate/votes, but that doesn’t mean the leader is actively thwarting people.

      It’s important to remember that leadership, particularly in the senate, is not all powerful. If a lot of senators want a vote on something, then leadership will bring it to the floor or new leadership will be found. But senators are often perfectly happy to submit bills knowing they won’t pass, or to be in favor or against bills in public that privately they’re telling the leadership they want to keep bottled up. And leadership is usually happy to help them play that game.

      As for records, the US house and senate do have legislative tracking software, but they track actions. The system works by someone positively deciding to bring bills to the floor. No decision is needed to not bring them to the floor, so no decision on that subject is likely to be recorded more often than not. But you could get some rough estimates by, say, looking at how many bills pass out of committee w/o ever coming up for vote.

    2. S_J

      Do these people have any opinion on McConnell scheduling a vote on the Green New Deal resolution?

      Senator Ed Markey had proposed a version of that resolution, equivalent to the resolution proposed in the House of Representatives by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

      The resolution was brought up for a vote, and the vote results were…57 against, and none in favor. A total of 43 people voted ‘present’.

      I can tell why, politically, this resolution produced that result. It gave the Senators a chance to vote in favor of (or opposition to) a resolution that called for use of zero-emission energy sources within a decade…and retrofitting every structure in the nation to be more energy-efficient.

      Do the critics of McConnell think that this is an example of him not doing his job? Or an example of him doing his job?

    3. brad

      Is there an element of this game of each party being unwilling to change how bills are called to the floor, because they’re sure their party will get the SeMaLe position soon?

      The party that can change it is the one that currently has the majority leadership. So it isn’t a matter of will-have-it-soon, it’s matter of has-it-now.

      The only situation where this could change is if a faction of the majority leader’s own party got upset enough to form a majority with the other party, at least for the limited purpose of reigning in the majority. See, e.g., the vote in the UK to allow backbenchers to make business motions.

    4. BBA

      I’ve observed before that Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are very good at their jobs, and that’s why they both get so much bipartisan hatred.

      In contrast, Chuck Schumer, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan were/are all lousy legislators. Harry Reid was somewhere in between.

      1. cassander

        I’d swap those considerations of Harry Reid and Pelosi. Managing the senate is considerably harder than managing the House.

      2. EchoChaos

        Harry Reid was exceptionally good. McConnell is probably the best in my lifetime, if not longer. Pelosi is very average, and has had serious caucus troubles recently from the far left, but she’s not outright bad.

        Ryan was awful, as is Schumer. I don’t know enough about Boehner.

  21. Randy M

    We are starting a new tradition at our home. After filing taxes, my wife goes to spend a day at the social security office to convince them she’s not dead.
    This is the third year in a row, I believe.
    Yes, they told her it was fixed in person last year. No, there has been no intervening reason to believe she has been. We had thought that it was due to a cancer treatment 6 years ago that somehow got miscommunicated to the feds. Now I think maybe its the same reason I get hassled whenever I cross the border–having a common name.
    It doesn’t seem to be identity theft, given that we aren’t getting any unusual charges on our accounts.

    1. Lambert

      Next year, get her to put on really pale makeup, dress all in black and speak with a thick Romanian accent.

  22. suntzuanime

    Does clicking the report button not give a confirmation popup anymore? I accidentally clicked it and now there’s a red checkmark on the post and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. It seems like there’s two different report buttons now?

    1. Nick

      I reported you with the left one and got the red checkmark. I don’t think that’s what it did before, but I think I always use the one on the right anyway. There have been two for ages.

  23. J.R.

    Literature translated to English

    The quality of a translation makes or breaks foreign novels for me. If the translation robs the text of aesthetic pleasure — usually done by taking the text too literally — or jarringly adapts idioms to English analogs, then I’m done, no matter how great the source material is.

    Are there any particular translations that you have enjoyed/disliked? For example, I have read Swann’s Way in both the Moncreiff/Kilmartin/Enright and the newer Lydia Davis translations. I agree with Hitchens that the Moncrieff is superior.

    1. Statismagician

      Pevear & Volokhonsky do a better job of War and Peace (and probably their other Tolstoy translations) than anybody else I’ve seen.

    2. Nick

      I read a bunch of Dostoevsky in the positively ancient Garnett translations, and while I wouldn’t say the text was full of aesthetic pleasure I thought it was just fine. I may just have a tin ear for translation.

    3. Le Maistre Chat

      The quality of a translation makes or breaks foreign novels for me.

      IMO this only holds for foreign poetry. I’m fine reading a foreign novel in a translation other than the best.

    4. Well...

      Mark Musa’s translation of Dante’s “Inferno” was beautiful in English, although I don’t know the original Italian so I can’t say how much exactly was lost.

      Whoever’s translation it was I read, I thought Michel Houellebecque’s “Obsession” came off as exceptionally well-written in English.

      1. Statismagician

        Pinsky’s Inferno is also very good, although I can’t recall of he’s translated the other two.

    5. Radu Floricica

      Tao Te Ching is a favorite item for dispute. The language since it was written changed not only in actual words but heavily in context as well, so literal translations are, to my ears at least, complete mumbo-jumbo. There are many variants with many compromises, but the one I actually love is basically a modern rewrite from a zen buddhism perspective: Stephen Mitchell translation. Truly a beautiful thing.

    6. The original Mr. X

      Personally I’ve always been partial to the Robert Fagles translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. In fact there are even passages where I prefer his translation to the original Latin (don’t tell my old Classics professors, though :p).

      1. Nick

        I have Fagles’ Iliad and Odyssey and they’re quite good. My Aeneid is a Penguin Classics prose translation by someone else, I can’t remember who.

    7. Urstoff

      For Homer:
      Lattimore for the best lyrical translation (there’s a reason it’s long been the standard)
      Lombardo for best colloquial translation
      Really don’t like Fitzgerald’s translation, particularly because rendering “Achilles” as “Akhilleus” bugs me for some reason
      Fagles is fine, could definitely do worse than reading him

      For Dostoevsky:
      Others may be more accurate, but P&V sound the best to my ear. Often, other translators make Dostoevsky sound corny or British. Michael Katz is decent, too.

      Plato:
      In philosophy, where “accuracy” matters a bit more, the Grube/Reeve translation of The Republic still seems to be the best. I like Robin Waterfield’s version, but it seems to be more Robin Waterfield than it is Plato.

      1. Douglas Knight

        Does Fitzgerald’s Akhilleus bother you so much more than Lattimore’s Achilleus?
        Fitzgerald’s Odyssey is the most popular, isn’t it? Not much Akhilleus there.

        Here are opening samples from many translations, if you want to check the Anglicization.

    8. dndnrsn

      The only work where I ever had enough command of the source language (yet! Growth mindset!) is the New Testament (and I basically forgot Greek after I graduated, so.) Translators have to walk a fine line on that one, because most Bible translations are aimed at being used in a liturgical context. Preserving, say, awkward Greek is great for the scholar, and it gives an immediacy I find extremely appealing, but you probably don’t want it when it’s being read at a wedding or funeral. I have a copy of the Bentley Hart translation, which is supposedly very literal, and gives a nice sense of “roughness” but the NRSV is OK as an all-purpose translation.

      One pet peeve of mine is translations where they don’t translate words that are easily translatable. I think that, for example, when a historian is translating a primary source from Nazi Germany, they should render “fuhrer” as “leader” – a literal translation. “Fuhrer” is a scary foreign word to most English-speakers; having some primary source like a diary talking about “the Leader” gives a different sense.

    9. S_J

      The language known as Old English is different enough that it needs translation into Modern English…

      I’ve read in full two different translations of Beowulf. I’ve sampled other translations of Beowulf, mostly ones that are now available online at Project Gutenberg.

      Of those I’ve read in full: the version by Seamus Heaney is well-done. The voice and style of the translation feels like a story told in a meeting-hall after a feast. The opening page has an almost-conversational feel, and the telling of the story flows naturally and smoothly from beginning to end.

      I’ve also read the version done by Tolkien, and published by his son Christopher. That version is also good, but has a slightly different feel: small differences in choices of word and phrase give it a more grand style. It also has a more didactic feel; especially in the quantity and quality of the notes and commentary after the main text. Despite the length of the notes section, every page of it was informative and educational.

  24. Wrong Species

    Is environmentalism being associated with the left just a historical accident or is there something more to it? I can easily imagine a conservative party that believes that preserving the environment is part of its traditional values. But I’m not aware of any conservative parties around the world that are more environmentalist than their counterparts on the left.

    1. dick

      Teddy Roosevelt was an important early figure in conservationism in the US and a Republican, but I don’t know how similar early-1900s-conservationism was to modern environmentalism, and ditto for early-1900s-Republican-Party and the modern GOP.

      I agree that this is kind of confusing; there’s nothing inherently liberal about environmentalism, and it’s not hard to imagine a world in which the conservative party is the one that likes conservation of resources, and the liberals have a “every dollar spent on wildlife and mountains could be spent on poor people” sort of perspective. I don’t know why it seems like that is never the case anywhere. It could be because empathy is a core liberal value which transfers easily between poor people and oppressed people and nature. It could also be that there’s a natural opposition between environmentalism and corporate-friendly policies, so whichever party is more corporate-friendly will always end up being the one that’s less environmentalist. Or something else…

      1. Eric Rall

        Both major parties at the time were built primarily around political machines and were only weakly ideologically sorted. Think of them as rival consulting firms competing for the next four-year contract to operate the federal government.

        TR was broadly identified with the Progressive movement. That’s not really the same thing as the modern “Progressive” label (although there is some historical connection), but it’s fair to think of him as being towards the left by the standards of his day. Both parties had progressive and conservative factions, and there were also various attempt to organize progressive third parties.

      2. AnonYemous2

        It could also be that there’s a natural opposition between environmentalism and corporate-friendly policies, so whichever party is more corporate-friendly will always end up being the one that’s less environmentalist. Or something else…

        Probably some of this and some of hippie-style spiritualism, which the Right was less into since they preferred Christian-style spiritualism. I mean, environmentalism can easily start from being against pollution / logging, all done by corporations looking to make bank.

    2. mdet

      Back on Scott’s What Happened to 90s Environmentalism? post, I remember a conversation that went something like

      “Environmentalists think there’s going to be a crisis when we run out of [resource]. But the non-environmentalists know that as supply dwindles, the price will rise, incentivizing people to cut back on consumption and/or look for substitutes.”
      “Enviros might not disagree with that. They just think that the problem is so urgent that government action is necessary to kickstart the ‘cut back and/or look for substitutes’ step.”

      I can imagine a conservative movement that agreed with personal environmentalism, that people should live cleanly and cut back on resource use of their own accord. But often the hallmark of being an environmentalist is arguing that the government needs to mandate or incentivize that action, which limited-government types can’t get behind.

      1. mdet

        Related / Overlapping: Should animal welfare activism be associated with the left? Everyone but anarchists seems to agree that protecting people from violence is a valid use of government power, so being a limited government enthusiast isn’t as much of a barrier to being an animal welfare activist as it is to being an environmentalist. But I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that vegans probably skew left.

        1. albatross11

          As the price goes up, you get two different things happening:

          Supply: Price goes up so more is supplied.

          More people want to hunt rhinos because they can get more money per rhino horn.

          Demand: Price goes up so less is demanded.

          Fewer people want the herbal-medicine ED cure because it costs too much–maybe they go find some online pharmacy and order some viagra instead.

          1. Aapje

            The issue is that the supply is fairly fixed. Rhinos don’t have more young to sell them off to Chinese medicine men, because rhinos oppose capitalism and/or cannibalism.

            You can harvest faster, but that merely results in more short term harvesting, at the expense of the long term supply.

            Demand: Price goes up so less is demanded.

            Except that traditional medicine may have a substantial Veblen effect where price is seen as a marker for efficacy.

            In general, Chinese gift giving/bribery seems to have a large Veblen effect.

    3. Nornagest

      Historical accident. Modern environmentalism basically grew out of the anti-nuclear movement in the Sixties and Seventies, which was a straight left-wing cause.

      1. acymetric

        It is probably also helpful (as alluded to upthread) to separate “environmentalism” from “[nature/wildlife] conservation”. The latter almost certainly has more support on the right than the former.

    4. Eric Rall

      I think it’s a product of environmentalism’s adversarial relationship (at least on the margins) with industry. If industry is on the right, then environmentalism will tend to be on the left.

      A second factor is that environmentalism tends to argue for government intervention in the economy to produce “good for the environment” outcomes, which puts it at odds with those who incline towards laissez-faire capitalism. And the latter tends to be on the right. An important caveat here is that there are environmentalist policies that work within a relatively unregulated capitalist framework, such as Pigouvian taxes for pollution, or “enclosing the commons” for resource depletion; but these policies are usually not embraced by the mainstream of the environmentalist movement.

      Where we have seen “environmentalism” on the right is historically in times and places where “right” was still primarily associated with landed aristocrats in the countryside, leaving urban commercial and industrial interests on the “left”.

      1. LHN

        The relationship with industry is probably key. In left-wing regimes where the state owned/controlled industry, the environmental record is generally pretty terrible, generally as a result of rather than despite heavy government involvement in running and regulating the economy. (E.g., the USSR.)

    5. JPNunez

      Modern enviromentalism requires governamental action. I don’t think there’s a lot of mystery here. One side is pro regulation, the other is anti regulation.

      1. psmith

        One side is pro regulation, the other is anti regulation.

        Sure, but this is also a historical accident, basically.

        1. JPNunez

          Is it really? If we go back to who sat where in the National Assembly, sure, I have no reason to believe that the revolutionaries or the king supporters will be more on the side of regulating incandescent lightbulbs two hundred years later, but surely as the right wing became the party of the industrialists, these stand to lose with enviromental regulations, and thus the enviromentalists will tend to the left.

          On the other hand, there’s a lot support for individual responsability in enviromentalism, which sounds a lot like something libertarians (who skew right wing) would support, but again, it’s hard to say which side of the national assembly would support this. But in the end any guy who recicles 100% of their stuff, is a vegetarian, composts, etc, etc, will probably _also_ be for regulations that forces industries to do their own part. Which means they will skew left wing.

          1. reddragon

            Worth pointing out that incumbent businesses tend to favour regulation because it keeps out competitors and drives up profit

          2. albatross11

            Thus, the reason I saw this story today (about McDonalds deciding no long to fight minimum wage hikes) and suspected they’d worked out the numbers and concluded that they could respond more effectively to minimum wage hikes than their competitors, and so would either benefit or at worse suffer no loss in profitability.

    6. AlesZiegler

      My theory is that it is something of a historical accident that environmentalism is associated with “progressive” left. Conservatives on social issues are allied (at least in the US) with libertarianish right. Environmentalism is by its, um, nature, sceptical of unregulated market, thus they are on left economically, and when cultural conservatives are on the right economically, you get progressive environmentalism.

      Cultural influence of US is so dominant that it pulled European Green movement on the progressive side of a political spectrum, although association of cultural conservatism with libertarianish views in Europe is much milder.

      1. JPNunez

        Political Conservatism only means preserving the status quo, ie, letting the existing hierarchies preserved, not promoting new laws, etc.

        This does not extend to environmental conservatism, which will run head-on against political conservatism because the industries the former protects will want to _keep_ exploiting the environment as they were doing before people discovered it was damaging said environment.

        The words are similar, they just want to keep conserving different things.

        1. AlesZiegler

          I meant Conservatism in a sense of defending Traditional Christian Values, which is sometimes different position than simple preservation of status quo.

          1. JPNunez

            I do not know that Christianism has much to do with ecology? But “Traditional Christian Values” _are_ allied with the right from National Assembly times; the priesthood was seated at the right side, and they were defending the King. Of course these were Catholics, but I don’t think Protestantism moved TCVs to the left at many points, beyond a generic opposition to the Pope. There are a lot of examples of Churches to the left in social programs, but they will also fall to the right in family values, so _maybe_that side balances out historically. Except that today they are still to the right in general.

            Current Pope looks a little more left-wing than usual, but I think this is a reaction to global politics and/or recent Catholic history. Or coincidence.

          2. AlesZiegler

            @JPNunez

            I also do not think that defending traditional Christian values implies any position on environmentalism. My theory is that there is an alliance between defenders of those values and opponents of government regulation of business. Environmentalism is very much for government regulation of business, so environmentalists became opponents of traditionalist conservatives via “allies of our opponents are also our opponents” mechanism.

    7. honoredb

      There was possibly an opportunity to make climate change in particular a rightist issue. Some of the scientists sounding the alarm were Republicans, but they thought if they kept their political affiliation a secret they could avoid politicizing the issue. In the universe next door (an artifact from which begins “In the 1950s, brave American scientists shunned by the climate establishment of the day…”), we briefly made headway against global warming in the 80’s, but then Clinton took power and dismissed the whole thing as nuclear industry propaganda.

      1. JPNunez

        For this to happen, the nuclear industry would have had to rally around the effort to de-regulate nuclear power, convince environmentalists to support them … and then the oil/coal industry would have had to fall in line on their own when they are deemed too contaminant to avoid politicians trying to regulate them too much and having the issue fall to the left wing.

        1. cassander

          Fossil fuel industries aren’t intrinsically right wing. See, e.g. the UK coal miners. They’ve become right wing because the left has been trying to limit/kill them for decades.

          1. Tatterdemalion

            I think it’s misleading to conflate the political views of people who work for fossil fuel companies with the views of people who run them or own shares in them.

          2. cassander

            @Tatterdemalion

            Good thing I didn’t do that. And especially good that I didn’t make any gross assumptions about the owners of capital on the basis of nothing but stereotypes.

    8. broblawsky

      If you consider the sanctity of private property to be a core value of the Right, then I don’t think modern environmentalism can also be a core value of the Right. I don’t believe there’s any useful way to address questions of pollution or climate change without the state infringing on other people’s property rights. Older questions of conservationism could have been addressed by the state without infringing on property rights – for example, through the state implementing national parks and wildlife reserves – but those are less core issues to the modern environmentalism movement.

      1. reddragon

        Disagree. Pollution and carbon dioxide both infringe upon common property not private property. Protecting common property is more beneficial to the affluent who place a higher value on it

        1. broblawsky

          There’s still no way to implement protect common property without the state controlling what people do with it.

      2. DavidFriedman

        I don’t believe there’s any useful way to address questions of pollution or climate change without the state infringing on other people’s property rights.

        By changing things the state does that cause pollution or climate change.

        Forest fires are not primarily a pollution or climate change issue, but they have the same feel. It’s been argued that the main cause of the recent big California fire was regulations, pushed by environmentalists, that sharply restricted logging in government owned forests, leading to an accumulation of dead wood.

        One environmentalist cum pacifist issue of the past was opposition to nuclear testing–done by governments.

        Arguably, government restrictions on nuclear power are a major contributor to climate change, since nuclear is the one substitute for fossil fuels that can be expanded more or less without limit at a cost not enormously greater than fossil fuels.

        As long as governments exist and do things on the scale that modern governments do, they are going to be making decisions about their activities relevant to environmentalist concerns.

        1. broblawsky

          Those are reasonable points, although I don’t think there’s evidence that the government is a significant contributor to climate change compared to private industry/consumers. As far as nuclear plants go – while you’re inarguably right about government regulations making it harder to build nuclear plants, the tail risk associated with unregulated nuclear power is pretty high, and I’m not sure that it’s actually economical to build nuclear plants without government subsidies.

    9. Plumber

      @Wrong Species

      “Is environmentalism being associated with the left just a historical accident or is there something more to it?…”

      I think the Black Panthers were considered “Left” and on the occasion of the 1970 “Earth Day” they said “The environment is not the issue, so back then at least one contingent regarded “ecology” (as environmentalism was called back then) as a ‘diversionary issue’.

    10. littskad

      There is actually a strong right-wing presence in environmentalism. They just call it “conservation” instead, and it is heavily associated with hunting and fishing and so on. This includes organizations like Boy Scouts, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Boone and Crockett Club, etc. If you live near a Bass Pro Shop or a Cabela’s, stop in sometime and look at the community board there and you’ll find a ton of information about local conservation organizations and clubs.

    11. fion

      Two main reasons: the economic right believes markets are the best way of solving problems. Preserving the environment and fighting climate change are two examples of situations where markets do poorly at solving them. As somebody else said, you do often get conservatives suggesting “pissing in the wind” solutions like everybody being careful to consume less; they’re just opposed to large-scale governmental action on the problem.

      The social right is, on average, lower intelligence and worse educated than the left and centre. This makes them more likely to believe things that aren’t true.

      1. Aapje

        Studies suggest that the well-educated are particularly good at rationalizing and are therefor very resistant to having their minds changed by new facts. So I would argue that the well educated tend to have different false beliefs as a result, but that they are not necessarily as good at believing true things as their IQs would suggest.

        1. DavidFriedman

          To follow up on that, Dan Kahan at Yale has published research about areas where beliefs have become linked to group identification, such as evolution or climate change. He finds that the more intellectually able someone is, the more likely he is to agree with his group’s position, whether that requires him to believe in evolution or not believe in it.

          The explanation, which I like, is that this is rational behavior. Your individual belief in evolution has essentially no effect on the real world. But it has a lot of effect on how well you get along with the people who are important to you. The brighter you are, the better you are at talking yourself into the beliefs it is in your interest to hold.

        2. fion

          I certainly don’t dispute the fact that intelligent, educated people also have many false beliefs!

    12. Jiro

      It’s my impression that in Japan, because of the connection of nature with Shintoism, environmentalism *is* often associated with the right.

  25. Wrong Species

    On historical inevitably, equilibrium, and the culture war

    Communism is a psychologically appeal idea. Poor people generally like it when you offer to give them more money and it appeals to our inherent sense of equality. However, any time it was tried, it was met with fierce resistance, which means that it doesn’t work to just vote for it democratically, you must use authoritarian methods. But even those don’t generally work. The Russian and Chinese revolutions did fundamentally change their societies but did not march onwards towards the communist ideal. Instead, one of them was overthrown and the other became so capitalist that it bares little resemblance to the socialism of Mao. It’s like an invisible hand pushed them towards capitalism.

    However, that does not mean we are moving closer to a completely free market. Libertarianism, unlike communism, doesn’t appeal to many people. There are few societies that look anything like it, and any time it does gain popularity, the rhetoric is co-opted by those who instead push for more government. When you have a government that is small, it generally is pushed towards something bigger. It’s like there’s an equilibrium that says that, for the most part, any society will generally be pushed towards a mixed economy and deviations from the trend will eventually revert back.

    Now look at the culture war. Many on the left and right take it for granted that society will continually drift leftward. Is that true? Is there some kind of equilibrium that will be reached of cultural stability? Or will we continually move to the left, whatever that means? And if there is an equilibrium, does that mean that trying to fight it is pointless? And to what extent does Democracy tie in to all this?

    1. Guy in TN

      It’s like there’s an equilibrium that says that, for the most part, any society will generally be pushed towards a mixed economy and deviations from the trend will eventually revert back.

      I like to think of it as: There’s an optimal level, for generally human flourishing, of what percent of the value produced by capital the owners should receive, and its more than 0%, but less than 100%.

      “Left” and “right” culture can’t be quantified in such ways, so I don’t think there is a parallel.

      1. Wrong Species

        It’s hard to quantify but there are some aspects of culture that are definitely “better” than others, in the sense that they are more competitive. Look at religion. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism are extremely powerful. They manage to influence people of varied backgrounds. This isn’t just because strong countries impose it on the weak. The Mongols built the world’s biggest land empire but they didn’t spread their beliefs, and in fact, were much more longer to be co-opted by the cultures of the people they conquered.

        Even outside of religion, there are cultural practices that don’t stick around because of the adverse effects they have. Brother/Sister marriage is in a sense appealing if you are royalty because you keep your wealth in the family but its problems keep it from being more widely practiced.

        So is the current culture war just a war where the winner will impose their will on the other or is one of them more more competitive than the other and will inevitably win in the long run, regardless of the actions taken today?

        1. Guy in TN

          So is the current culture war just a war where the winner will impose their will on the other or is one of them more more competitive than the other and will inevitably win in the long run, regardless of the actions taken today?

          I’m thinking this dichotomy of “more competitive vs. more imposing” is highly intertwined. The “winner” of the culture war can simultaneously be both 1. due to being more competitive 2. due to actions they partake in, that spreads their culture.

          I’m reminded here of Scott’s recent post regarding straight lines on graphs: ideas are often “inevitable” in the sense that people will inevitably take actions that advance them- but the human action is still required.

          1. Wrong Species

            But they aren’t necessarily intertwined. With religion, Christianity has an inherent “meme value” that makes it stronger than Mongolian shamanism, even though the Mongols were in charge. On the other hand, the fact that Indians drive on the left side of the road is simply because the British imposed it on them. So is the culture war more like the former or the latter in this manner?

      2. DavidFriedman

        I don’t think left/right is mainly about what percentage of the income from capital the owners should receive. From my perspective, it’s mainly about having decisions made via the political process vs having them made via the market process. Government regulation is usually about things that have nothing to do with the division of income between capital and labor. Even if you limit yourself to government income redistribution, a lot of high income people are skilled labor, not dividend clippers.

        There are other left/right divisions, on not all of which I am on the right, but I think that’s the main economic one.

        1. Guy in TN

          That’s a strange dichotomy, because the opposite of “market” isn’t “political”, its non-market. Where does the relative influence of non-market, non-political processes (e.g., the governance of a landowner over his property) fit in here?

          Which leads the next question: How are you determining whether a process is political or non-political?

          1. DavidFriedman

            I think the right is pretty positive on non-market non-political solutions to problems, such as churches having dinners for the homeless or helping members who need help.

            On the general question of political/non-political, my definition of “government” is an agency that acts in ways that violate the usual restrictions on how individuals can act with regard to other individuals without provoking the responses that normally enforce those restrictions. I explain it here.

          2. Plumber

            @DavidFriedman
            From your link: "....One day your neighbor calls you over to the fence for conversation. He explains that he finds taking his trash down to the town dump every week to be a nuisance and has decided that it would be less trouble to simply dump it over the fence onto your property.

            When you recover your breath and start lecturing him on property rights, he offers you a simple cost/benefit analysis of your alternatives. Dealing with his trash will take about ten or twenty dollars worth of your time and effort every week. Persuading the city authorities that the trash is his and not yours, getting them do anything, appearing for multiple court hearings, raising a general fuss, will cost you the equivalent of considerably more than that.

            But, he adds, he has an alternative proposal. For him to dump the trash and someone else to collect it is clearly inefficient. A better solution is for him to deal with his trash and you to pay for it. For a mere five dollars a week, half or less what your lowest cost solution to the problem would cost you, he will agree to refrain from dumping the trash over the fence.

            I predict that you will turn down his generous offer, tell him to go to hell and, if he persists in dumping his trash on your property, spend the equivalent of considerably more than five dollars a week, or even ten or twenty, prodding the relevant authorities into doing something about the problem..."
            It really depends on how effective and fair to me I judge local law enforcement, in Albany, California I call the cops, in Oakland, California I don’t bother to call the already over-burdened police – I just start regularly flattening my neighbors cars tires until he cuts it off – escalating to jimmying the lock on his gascap and pouring in a litre of cola with extra sugar dissolved in it, if necessary following him to his work to get access to his car until he stops parking in front of my driveway dumping garbage in my yard.

          3. Guy in TN

            On the general question of political/non-political, my definition of “government” is an agency that acts in ways that violate the usual restrictions on how individuals can act with regard to other individuals without provoking the responses that normally enforce those restrictions.

            A property owner would clearly fit this qualification, given that he acts in ways that violate the normal restrictions that non-property owners under a given geographical area of property have.

          4. Guy in TN

            Your “market vs. political” dichotomy is looks like a repackaged NAP, rhetorically hiding away the authority involved in property ownership.

            All solutions to conflicts over resource use necessarily have the “political” component (i.e. where one person has a power that another doesn’t). You don’t get to side-step this by transferring the authority from state to non-state entities.

            To put it another way: A market is what happens when two people come to an agreement. A “political” solution is when two people aren’t. Which is to say, that all economic systems necessarily contain “political” elements, assuming more than handful of humans are in existence.

            So what is left of the dichotomy:
            -The right supports “political” solutions in the form of the authority private ownership, but also, when parties can come to agreement, they supports of market exchange. They also like non-market exchange (such as charity) and internal transfers (such as business operation).

            -The left supports “political” solutions in the form of the authority of state ownership, but also, when parties come to agreement, they support market exchange. They also like non-market exchange (such as welfare) and internal transfers (such as government operation).

            The difference, the only real dichotomy here, is whether the authority will be democratic or autocratic.

          5. DavidFriedman

            Your “market vs. political” dichotomy is looks like a repackaged NAP, rhetorically hiding away the authority involved in property ownership.

            My original version, in the first edition, was that a government was an agency of legitimized coercion, but even then I tried to make it clear that I was using both “legitimized” and “coercion” in special senses. As I think you can see if you followed my link, the improved version in the 3d edition does not depend on any particular moral theory about what is or isn’t coercion.

            The difference, the only real dichotomy here, is whether the authority will be democratic or autocratic.

            You assume that all political systems are democracies?

            A joint stock corporation uses a form of democracy for internal decisions–stockholder voting. So do some other institutions on the market. That doesn’t make them governments or political in my sense.

            How would you define a government? What distinguishes a government from other forms of human organization?

          6. Guy in TN

            From your link:

            A government is an institution against which people have dropped the commitment strategies that defend what they view as their rights against other people. An anarchy is a society in which there is no such institution.

            How do you know that people have “given up” what they “view as their rights”? Could the alternative not be that people use government as the commitment strategy to defend what they view as their rights?

            You assume that all political systems are democracies?

            Very few groups are advocating for explicit state-oligarchy or monarchy, so I didn’t feel the need to mention them. Though the majority of such groups, to the extent they exist, do make it clear that they associate with the right side of the political spectrum.

            How would you define a government? What distinguishes a government from other forms of human organization?

            A government is the form of human organization that is the most powerful user of force in a given geographic area. Note the parallels to the standard Weberian definition of a state.

            States are governments. In Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, property owners become governments. In your proposed system, the most powerful force-using entity at a given time (whether it be hired guns, “neighbors”, ect) becomes the government. Making this entity as fluid, chaotic, and decentralized as possible doesn’t change its state-like power.

    2. cassander

      The alternatives to capitalism don’t work. Capitalism works, but it runs contrary to human instincts. This results in an equilibrium in the sense that cultures that adopt more capitalism for whatever idiosyncratic reasons will flourish and propagate, while the cultures that don’t (and all cultures will have some anti-capitalistic elements) will stagnate or, if things get bad enough, collapse. But it’s not a stable equilibrium because cultural forces are always moving about.

      1. 10240

        Communism also runs contrary to human instincts in different ways, which is the reason it’s so hard to enforce it. E.g. the instint that if A has a foo and B has a bar, and A would be better off with a bar and B would be better off with a foo, then they should be able to trade them (as a general rule, unless there is a good reason they shouldn’t). Or if you make something, you should be able to keep and use it (but not if you have exchanged it for something else, then you get to keep and use that other thing).

        1. cassander

          I don’t dispute that communism is broken and doesn’t work. But from each to each is a compelling model of fairness in a way that market competition rarely is.

          1. Aapje

            That is merely one compelling form of fairness.

            That you get to keep (most of) the fruits of your labor is also quite compelling, especially if you look at it as compensation for a sacrifice.

            There are very many compelling forms of fairness, many of which conflict with each other. Then disagreement over what forms of fairness should have (partial) preference makes us hate each other.

          2. DavidFriedman

            There are very many compelling forms of fairness, many of which conflict with each other.

            I like to describe part of the conflict as the tension between a God’s eye view and a human level view.

            The God’s eye view is that people should get what they deserve. Someone who works hard and is honest should have a good life, whether or not his hard work actually produces anything of value to others. Good people shouldn’t die young in auto accidents or get cancer. God could enforce that, since he has perfect knowledge and no budget constraint. The fact that God doesn’t seem to enforce it must be explained by some combination of “moves in mysterious ways” and reward/punishment in the afterlife–but it still represents what feels right to us. It’s what we would do if we were God.

            The human level view is that you are entitled to outcomes that you get through legitimate procedures. For the simplest case, if you and I bet a dollar on a coin flip, you are entitled to get the dollar if the coin falls the way you called it even if I am a better person than you are or need the money more. That makes sense given that we don’t have a neutral omniscient being to decide who deserves what–all the real players are individuals, each with his own biases. And we do have budget constraints, such that if something bad happens someone has to pay for it, even if it is nobody’s fault.

            As best I can tell, all of us have both of those (inconsistent with each other) moral views.

    3. DinoNerd

      I think this depends on your definition of left. I’d give 100% odds that some things deemed unspeakable in your grandparent’s time will be normal or even favoured in the time of your grandchildren. But that’s likely to be cultural, or involve the oppression of some particular group, such as the most recent immigrants. Is it really a leftward shift if “no Irish allowed” becomes unthinkable, but “all Mexicans are rapists” is acceptable political discourse – or just a matter of which batch of poor, undereducated, visibly different immigrants are of current concern?

      On the other hand, your primary definitions appear to involve redistribution and government size/strength, in particular, redistribution from richer to poorer, mediated by government, along with central planning. My suspicion is that the perceived need for government intrusion scales with the size of the society, but as one factor among many. And preference for redistribution vs wealth concentration seems to be a pendulum that swings wildly. At the moment “greed is good” still seems to me the dominant US discourse, but it’s being challenged; I think there’s more room on the side of “duty to the less advantaged”/”Scrooge is a bastard” than on the side of even more wealth concentration being better, but that’s probably just because we’re at the highest point of wealth concentration that I personally remember.

      At any rate, I think it’s more cyclical than directional, but not with high confidence. And a society that strongly encourages redistribution, but via the Church, has been tried before, and works as well or badly as anything else. (In the long term, too much wealth ended up in the hands of those doing the redistributing, but in the short term, many poor, ill, injured etc. were helped.)

      1. cassander

        Is it really a leftward shift if “no Irish allowed” becomes unthinkable, but “all Mexicans are rapists” is acceptable political discourse – or just a matter of which batch of poor, undereducated, visibly different immigrants are of current concern?

        You’re comparing actual, enforced segregation (privately enforced, but still enforced) of the sort which is completely illegal today to people saying “all mexicans are rapists” (ignoring the fact that no one is actually saying that) but not actually doing anything about it? And concluding that there is no meaningful shift here?

        1. DinoNerd

          True, that was sloppy of me. My feeling is that the general picture still holds, but I can’t put numbers behind it.

          1. cassander

            There’s definitely a lot of cultural churn and random movement. but I think that if you pick a random decade and shake out all the new political asks that came out, I think you’ll find that a very disproportionate share of them ones that end up sticking are things that the left was advocating for rather than right.

            It’s also worth remembering that political affiliation has more to do with the motivation behind policy. Someone in favor of the draft because he wants his country to be strong and powerful is on the right, someone who wants a draft because he thinks it will be socially leveling is on the left, even though they support the same policy. Why something changes can matter as much as what changes.

      2. Wrong Species

        I think our economics is cyclical but I’m wondering whether our culture war is eternally directional or whether at some point it will become cyclical.

      3. Plumber

        @DinoNerd

        “….My suspicion is that the perceived need for government intrusion scales with the size of the society…”

        I’ve yet to find a view of yours I disagree with! 

        Democratic Party voters tend to be in metropolitan areas with over a million people where extremely rich and poor people are visible (my wife described San Francisco as “Two Tesla’s parked next to a homeless man with bleeding hands”), and rent is high relative to wages – when the noise of your neighbors stereo is inducing a pounding headache and preventing you from getting sleep before you have to go to work in six hours you want government to make him turn it off – or for the right to kill annoying college students who should be in a far away dorm, not in this apartment building where families live damnit!

        Republicans tend to come from where rent is cheap and people live father apart, so of course they didn’t see the utility of government as much!

        1. EchoChaos

          This parses right to me too.

          My problem with Democrats is that they also insist that the folk in rural Colorado need to follow the same rules as Denver.

          1. Plumber

            @EchoChaos,

            If you read “left”-leaning publications (New York Times, et cetera) you’ll find stories of “Those Awful State House Republicans Rescinding City Governments Higher Minimum Wages“, just as you’ll find in The Wall Street Journal stories of “Those Awful Congressional Democrats Forcing States To Pay For Stuff They Don’t Want“.

            It seems to me that making whatever government is closest to the voter preeminent could prevent these headlines, let municipalities make rules for themselves, let county governments make the rest of the rules, and…
            ….okay, I really don’t know what the States and Federal governments would do, maybe pollution and border control.

          2. EchoChaos

            @Plumber

            I am in no way asserting that Republicans don’t insist that the folks in urban Colorado need to follow the same rules as Yuma.

            It’s our major divide right now, and every state is Red or Blue based on what percentage live in Denver versus Yuma.

          3. DavidFriedman

            @Plumber:

            How small do you think a polity has to be for democracy to work? Oakland has a population of over four hundred thousand—does that do it? Each individual is still a very small part of the total, so your individual vote still doesn’t really matter. It’s a little easier for the voter to know what is happening, since more of it is under his direct observation, but still not very much of it for an individual voter.

          4. Plumber

            @DavidFriedman
            "How small do you think a polity has to be for democracy to work?..."
             

            Maybe a hundred freemen farmsteads?

            I’d say small enough that the incumbent City Councilman from my district knocks on my door to ask for my vote and what issues are important to me, which never happened in 17 years of my living in the same apartment in Oakland, but did happen on the fifth year of living in Albany (population estimated to be 20,143 in 2017), otherwise big enough to have a police force, firefighters, municipal sewage treatment if a metropolitan area, a public library, a court, a way to exile those deemed dangerous (jail, ‘hospitals’, or Iceland).

            Big enough for social welfare care for the indigent may not be needed if there’s church or kin support instead (Hello Utah!), but in our atomized, multi-faith and secular times, they’ll likely be demand.

            19th century American cities often had “party machines” that provided “relief” as well, but in the wake of “Panics” and major Depressions those were overwhelmed. 

            I could imagine a system in which multiple faiths each had seperate welfare systems for their believers, or guilds/unions took on that role – but that only works when there’s enough members to support those in need, if a faith or trade only has the elderly left then it wouldn’t work.

        2. cassander

          I’d find this theory more convincing if it seemed to hold true in other countries, but I don’t think it does. Yes, there’s a stereotype of rural conservatives, but I don’t think that the big cities are as universally left wing in other countries as in the US. I could be wrong.

          1. DavidFriedman

            U.S. big cities aren’t all that left wing–blacks and Hispanics tend to be socially conservative. They just happen to be political allies of the left wing, as a matter of historical accident.

          2. Plumber

            @DavidFriedman,

            While I’ve spent far more time in the urban areas in and near Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, what I’ve seen of rural California near Hollister and Sacramento looked far more Hispanic (and far less Asian and black) than did metropolitan California, and if they’re Democrats they don’t come to the polls much.
            David Brooks described the Blue/Red divide as the Rich White Civil War”, because those who most regarded either Democrats or Republicans (but not both) as a “menance” tend to be more educated, richer, and whiter than most Americans. 

            It occurs to me that Asian-Americans skew more educated and wealthier than average, but they don’t seem to have as strong of a partisan identity, maybe their families haven’t been voters long enough? 

          3. Nornagest

            The University of Virginia’s got a nice visualization for this. The Central and Salinas Valleys do happen to be some of the relatively few rural areas that’re mostly Hispanic (others are in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and for some reason southeastern Washington), but even in CA, most of the Hispanic population is urban. Hispanic communities in the Bay Area are relatively small — central Richmond, Oakland around Fruitvale Station, East and South San Jose — but if you mouse over to LA, you can find them in most of the city.

            Elsewhere in the US, rural communities are mainly white. (Except parts of the South, where they’re white and black.)

    4. A Definite Beta Guy

      I don’t see how your economic model works. What specific mechanism exists to create mixed markets? Why doesn’t it work prior to 1900? Does it work prior to 1900, and which metric do you use to define it? What is the equilibrium point, because the US has much smaller government than other nations, and Canada decided to massively shrink its government from levels that apparently other OECD nations are comfortable with. Can we make falsifiable predictions about what nations will have what size of government in 5,10,15 years?

      Social democracy is a post-WWII and post-modern political consensus of Western European nations, that exists in a very specific time period that could have turned out quite differently had the US just gone home and let the Soviet Union give the Prague treatment to all the Western European capitals. There was also a very specific neoliberal consensus, but it did not affect all nations equally: Greece basically reformed not at all, France reformed minimally, the UK had major reforms, Germany had some labor market reforms in the 2000s…
      And, most importantly, the neoliberal consensus is basically spent, and we are in a major realignment to whatever the next political consensus will be.

      1. Wrong Species

        When I say “equilibrium”, I’m not saying that there is a point that all countries are converging to. I’m saying that there is a point, where if you deviate too far from it, forces will push it back closer. That’s why the US can have a smaller government than most western European countries and I can’t predict to where in that range any country will be in the near future.

        I’m not sure about the mechanism but I have some guesses. I started thinking about this after seeing what happened in France and Greece after they elected socialists to their government and folded rapidly. In those cases, it was Germany and financial institutions. The bond market is pretty powerful. There’s also the people in democracy who want more government than libertarians like but will eventually punish politicians if the government gets so big as to be unwieldy, like the US and the UK in the 70’s. And there’s also an evolutionary mechanism where the strong survive and socialism is weaker than capitalism. China saw this and adapted, making capitalism work for them so they could once again become a powerful country.

        The reason I think it didn’t work until recently was because the old guard was too powerful and capitalism was able to disrupt that. You need enough wealth to disrupt the oligarchy. That’s why I think this model works better in first world countries than third world ones.

        I also think the “end of neoliberalism” is overplayed. We may get more government but it’s not going to look anything like what Bernie Sanders wants.

        I don’t want to oversell this idea. It, I believe, helps me understand the world better but it’s certainly not rigorous. Maybe it could be. And maybe it is dead wrong, one of those things that will mark me as not being able to see past my time, but I don’t think so.

    5. fion

      I think the answer is basically class struggle. The working class and the owning class have contrary interests and are in conflict to bring their own interests to the fore at the expense of the other’s. In most places at most times the owning class is more powerful, so we get something that looks more like capitalism than socialism. But the working class doesn’t have zero power, so you don’t see absolute capitalism anywhere.

      An additional complication is that bureaucracy has its own interests, and its own power. Whenever you have a bureaucracy it will, in the absence of checking forces, grow. This is one of the many reasons why the socialist attempts of the 20th century failed, and it also explains why libertarianish countries tend away from that. But I think this is a secondary factor to the class struggle.

      1. DavidFriedman

        The working class and the owning class have contrary interests

        That’s a popular view, but when you project that on socialism vs capitalism you have to deal with the fact that, where we had a clear contrast between similar societies one of which was more socialist than the other (Taiwan/China, West Germany/East Germany, South Korea/North Korea), the condition of workers was much worse in the less capitalist society.

        There are specific government policies where the interests of those whose income comes from labor are in conflict with the interests of those whose income comes from renting out capital, or those whose income comes from renting out land. But on the central issue of private property and markets vs government ownership and control, the evidence seems clear that all three groups end up better off with the first.

        And left/right doesn’t map very clearly into support for policies that benefit one group over the other. Consider restrictions on land use, such as the fact that housing cannot be built in the areas surrounding London or the restrictions on construction in the SF Bay Area. Those benefit current land owners at the expense of everyone else–and tend to be supported more by the left than the right, although probably not always.

        Insofar as immigration has a distributional effect, one would expect it to benefit owners of land and, to a lesser degree, of capital (capital being mobile than land) at the expense of owners of labor. But at the moment, restrictions on immigration tend to be supported by the right, opposed by the left, although I think the opposite pattern has existed at times in the past. And, in poor countries that are labor rich and capital poor, restrictions on foreign investment, which tends to benefit local labor at the expense of local capital for the same reason, tend to be favored by the left and opposed by the right.

        1. fion

          To be clear, I don’t think the logical conclusion of “the working class successfully fighting for its interests” is something that looks like China, East Germany or North Korea. Unlike many people sympathetic to Marxism, I believe in reform rather than revolution. Without looking up numbers, so I might be wrong, I have the impression that the working class in, say, France, is more powerful than that in the USA. As a result I would expect France to be more socialist* and less capitalist than the USA, with more redistributive taxes, higher minimum wage, shorter working hours etc.

          I think you’re right, though, that left/right doesn’t map very clearly onto workers’ interests/owners’ interests. I think in more cases than not, the policies favoured by the right will benefit the interests of the capitalists and landowners, and those favoured by the left will benefit the interests of workers, but It’s certainly not always true, or even nearly always true.

          I’m not sure how internationally true this is, but I think the trades unions in the UK are an interesting example. I think they almost always support policies that are in the interests of their members, which are often policies in the interests of the working class more generally, but there are plenty of cases where they don’t match up with the preferred policies of the Labour Party. I believe trades unions are more likely to be resistant to high immigration, less enthusiastic about environmental regulations, more in favour of nuclear weapons etc.

          *I don’t mean ‘socialist’ in the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ sense that Marx or Lenin might have used, but more the ‘high taxes and strong welfare’ sense that is more common today.

          1. DavidFriedman

            I think in more cases than not, the policies favoured by the right will benefit the interests of the capitalists and landowners, and those favoured by the left will benefit the interests of workers, but It’s certainly not always true, or even nearly always true.

            How often do you think it is clear what policies favor whose interests?

            Consider the minimum wage. My guess, and that of a fair number of economists, is that a high minimum wage harms the interest of poor workers, benefits well paid skilled workers who compete with unskilled workers. A lot of other people believe it has roughly the opposite effects.

            This comes back to the conflict vs mistake issue. You seem to be viewing most political questions as conflict issues, while I suspect a large fraction are mistake issues–one side or the other of the large division is mistaken about the effect of the policies, and the mistake is pushed by special interests, who may correctly perceive what benefits them, but who don’t have enough votes to matter on their own.

            Consider the issue of free trade. How many people in that debate realize that restrictions on imports result in reduced exports, hence injure American farmers and other people in rural areas based on farming?

          2. Douglas Knight

            “Redistributive taxes” is pretty subtle. Most of Europe has massive VAT, which is regressive. Most of Europe has income taxes which are more progressive than America, so that, say, doctors have a higher tax rate (on a lower salary). But in much of Europe capitalists have lower tax rates than in America. (That’s not true in France today, but I’m not sure about 20 years ago.)

          3. DinoNerd

            @DavidFriedman

            How often do you think it is clear what policies favor whose interests?

            Clear to whom? It seems to me as if the “average voter” has the attention span of a gnat, and their ability to evaluate arguments approximates “what do my friends think?,” except that they include (some) celebrities/talking heads/social superiors in their circle of “friends”.

            At best, they rise to “I don’t like my life, must be the government’s fault, let’s throw the current rascals out”.

            Those who attempt to evaluate arguments a bit more rationally have to contend with misinformation, missing information, suppresed information, and the complex interactions of multiple factors. So getting it right is hard. Which may be why “what do my friends think” is such a common heuristic 🙁

            Personally, I’m pretty clear what the ‘right’ favours in practice, though I’d summarize it as a sloppy soundbite that would draw deserved corrections. It’s in my short term financial interests, except when they raised effective taxes on well off people in blue states. I doubt it’s in my long term interests. And I’m glad they are much less insistent than they were in my youth about using the government to enforce their religious values. On the other hand, I strongly suspect the established wing of their opponents’ party favours much the same economic policies, in practice if not in rhetoric.

            Slogan from my youth: “If voting could change the system, it would be illegal.”

          4. Plumber

            @fion

            “…I think the trades unions in the UK are an interesting example. I think they almost always support policies that are in the interests of their members, which are often policies in the interests of the working class more generally, but there are plenty of cases where they don’t match up with the preferred policies of the Labour Party…”

            My experience as a trade union member in California is that it depends on which union and which members. 

            Teachers unions (predominantly female, and exclusively college educated) skew left-liberal, building trades (predominantly male and not college educated) far less so – still generally supporting Democratic Party candidates for contract, workplace safety, and previaling wage law reasons, but more protectionist, anti-immigration (except the Laborers Union which is mostly immigrants in this area), and less environmentalists than the median for the Democratic Party.

            Whether individual members in my union vote Democratic or Republican Party correlates very strongly with how many miles they drive to work.

          5. fion

            @DavidFriedman

            How often do you think it is clear what policies favor whose interests?

            Certainly not always. I, too, believe in mistake theory to some extent. It’s difficult, though, because as you say, special interests might push the “mistaken” side because it benefits them at the expense of everybody else (conflict). Mrs Thatcher told us that the wealth would trickle down to all of us and therefore her privatisations and tax cuts were in the interests of the poor as well, but it didn’t happen. For me as a non-economist it’s hard to be sure that “lowering/abolishing the minimum wage will actually help poor workers – trust us!” isn’t a similar situation.

            @Douglas Knight

            “Redistributive taxes” is pretty subtle.

            Fair point. I’m not sure about how to use the words progressive and regressive properly, but is VAT necessarily regressive? It tends to be only on ‘luxury’ goods (at least in the UK) and it can be spent on things that disproportionately help the poor.

            When you say that capitalists have lower tax rates, would you mind explaining what you mean? Is this corporation tax? Capital gains tax? Something else?

            @Plumber

            My experience as a trade union member in California is that it depends on which union and which members.

            Good point. Teachers’ unions will indeed be a big exception to what I said. I expect so will university unions, and I’m sure there are a few other exceptions. I still think what I said is true of most unions, though. (At least if you weight by number of members.)

          6. Douglas Knight

            I meant capital gains taxes.
            Who is affected by corporate taxes is subtle. Also, very basic questions of what the corporate taxes are are murky.

            It tends to be only on ‘luxury’ goods (at least in the UK)

            Why do you believe this? Did someone trick you? Or did you confabulate it because you believe that Europe is relatively socialist and this is what you think that should mean?

          7. fion

            @Douglas Knight

            Why do you believe this? Did someone trick you? Or did you confabulate it because you believe that Europe is relatively socialist and this is what you think that should mean?

            I think that’s an unnecessarily unkind tone. More importantly, I think you’re mistaken. I just looked up VAT in the UK and a long list of basics are exempt.

            To pick a few examples, there is no VAT on:
            Food and drink (with the exception of some luxury foods)
            Books
            Children’s clothing
            Insurance
            VAT is set at the reduced rate (5%) for:
            Electricity and gas for domestic use
            Heating appliances

            I suppose an argument could be made that some of the reduced goods and services should be exempt altogether, and perhaps even an argument that some fully-VAT’d goods and services should be reduced or exempt, but by and large it sounds mostly reasonable. Is there some big thing I’ve missed?

          8. Lambert

            Chocolate cakes are exempt, but chocolate biscuits are not.
            This culminated in a court case between McVitties and HMRC, where it was decided on the basis that they go dry rather than soggy when stale, that Jaffa Cakes are, in fact, cakes.

            And let’s not get into the ontological quagmire surrounding Pastygate.

            Can we not get into Bulverism, please?

          9. Douglas Knight

            helicopters!

            If you define “necessity” as those things necessary to enter the middle class, you will find that the poor spend all their money on luxuries. Which is very convenient if you want to blame their poverty on their actions, and/or righteously tax them, but quite the opposite of what is what is usually meant by “progressive tax.”

            But, in fact, the exemptions make very little difference. Both the poor and the rich spend half of their consumption on items with VAT and half without. So it amounts to a flat consumption tax, which is regressive compared to a flat income tax.

          10. DavidFriedman

            Mrs Thatcher told us that the wealth would trickle down to all of us and therefore her privatisations and tax cuts were in the interests of the poor as well, but it didn’t happen.

            How do you know?

            I’m not saying you are wrong–I don’t know much about U.K. economic history. But the question is not “did the poor get richer over the time Thatcher was in power.” It’s “did the poor get richer than they would have if the policies in question hadn’t happened.” Looking at the Wikipedia article on the U.K., it looks as though things were pretty bleak in the period leading up to Thatcher.

            The Conservatives were restored to government in 1970 under Edward Heath, who failed to halt the country’s economic decline and was ousted in 1974 as Labour returned to power under Harold Wilson. The economic crisis deepened following Wilson’s return and things fared little better under his successor James Callaghan.

            Did the poor get poorer, or at least not get any richer, over that period? Do you have figures on mean and median real income over time? If mean was increasing and median wasn’t, that suggests that the gains went to the upper half of the income distribution.

    6. Conrad Honcho

      Now look at the culture war. Many on the left and right take it for granted that society will continually drift leftward. Is that true?

      I don’t think that’s true at all. There’s a pendulum that swings. The left peaked in Current Year (2015) and the pendulum is swinging back to the right.

      1. Wrong Species

        Social conservatives have the same problem that libertarians and marxists have. Even when someone they like gets elected, the changes enacted are marginal at best and they hardly ever get what they really want.

      2. Plumber

        @Conrad Honcho,

        I would peg 1944 as the “peak left year” of the United States – excluding Dixieland, including Dixie probably 1964.

    1. sandoratthezoo

      I watched most of it, haven’t felt interested in checking out the ending. So that more-or-less is my summary review.

      The detail is: I don’t understand what they were trying to do with this show. They took a very comic-y premise (superheroes! World-ending events! Time-travel! Talking monkeys! Robot moms! Eccentric billionaires! Moon bases! Conspiracies!) and the fundamental conflict is very comic-y, and then they made a slow-moving character-driven examination of, I guess, like PTSD and family stress? But it’s all interwoven deeply with the comic-book-y stuff — like, that’s what drives all the family stress, and indeed it’s stuff that’s happening contemporaenously — but it happens mostly offscreen and on the periphery of the show. You get very little of a glimpse of what these characters were like before they were so deeply screwed up, or how their relationships began, and for me it was hard to get invested in the resolution of their personal entanglements.

      So, basically, I got bored and stopped watching.

      I think it’s a show that would have been enormously improved by wittier dialog. Because it’s a heavily dialog-driven show, and it’s a juxtaposition of somewhat mundane characters with a crazy set of events, and it would have just been more compelling minute-to-minute to watch if the characters were showing more zing in their talking about this.

    2. dick

      I thought it was good, not great. It takes quite a while for some of the characters to develop, and in accordance with the No TV Show Can Ever End Act of 2017, the first season doesn’t actually conclude anything. In general it was fine but you’re not missing anything.

      Since it’s not very satisfying to give that kind of review, an example of a Netflix show that was very good and that you should really watch is Maniac.

      1. mdet

        I thought Maniac was pretty good up until the last two or three episodes, where I felt it went off the rails. I’m not sure what was going on with the scientist-director’s spontaneous blindness or Jonah Hill solving the rubik’s cube with his hallucination-brother.

    3. Nick

      What’s the source material like? I’ve been hearing reports ranging from great to terrible, with the only note of agreement being that it’s pretty different from the show. I’ve been considering picking up the first volume, though, Apocalypse Suite, which I take it this season was based on.

      1. Lillian

        The comic is unapologetically balls to the wall crazy. You know how in the TV show the Umbrella Academy is revealed to the world when they stop a botched bank robbery turned hostage situation? Well, in the comics they are revealed to the world when they stop Zombie Robot Gustave Eiffel from rampaging around Paris on a mecha Eiffel Tower. If that description makes you want to read it, you’ll probably love it, if it doesn’t then maybe not.

    4. AG

      I think that character depth is necessary in visual media in a way that literature can get away with not having, because the real-time element means that you can’t go haring off on fascinating world-building elements.

      And TV is even more necessarily character-focused than film, because the actors are what’s consistent week after week, so shows that prioritize plot over character either have to regularly personality-assassinate their archetypical characters for the sake of big plot twists (Glee, for example), or be mini-series (aka slightly longer films) instead.
      Otherwise, shows that attempt a shallow-character aesthetic tend to get critically panned real quick, as soon as the sheen of the aesthetic wears off.

      I mean, even the LotR films couldn’t stick to just character archetypes, and had to jam in to new “human element” conflicts (mostly Aragorn).

    5. Tarpitz

      Liked the premise, liked the acting (especially Page and Raver-Lampman), liked the characters, disliked the more whimsical elements (robot mom, chimp butler etc.), disliked the usual power-disparity issues, thought the writing was bizarrely rotten – partly on the level of dialogue, but mostly in a tendency to find only tropic, Doylist reasons for many important decisions and attempt to disguise that with tangential shouting.

      Overall, quite enjoyed it but found it very frustrating.

      1. Statismagician

        That’s about where I am. It could have been so much better than it was, so easily. Still better than most other new shows, though.

  26. Chevalier Mal Fet

    I’d like a thread for humorous historical anecdotes. Laconic one-liners, Churchillian witticisms, “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!”, that kinna thing.

    My own offering to get things started is a naval anecdote that I oddly didn’t hear from bean:

    The only time the USS Wisconsin was struck by enemy fire was while steaming off the North Korean coast in March 1952. A 152-mm shore defense battery managed to score a hit on one of the secondary armament shields, wounding three sailors. When this happened, the [i]Wisconsin[/i] momentarily paused in her mission, swivelled her main battery around, and proceeded to completely obliterate the offending battery. She then resumed her mission.

    Witnessing the exchange, one of her escorting destroyers quickly flashed the BB a signal:

    “Temper, temper!”

    1. mendax

      In 1843, General Charles Napier had been ordered to quell an insurrection in Sindh (now a province of Pakistan).
      However, his use of force exceeded his mandate and he conquered the province, annexing it to the Bombay Presidency.
      He telegraphed back to his superiors (or at least he wished he had), informing them of his actions with the short message “Peccavi”, latin for “I have sinned”.

      1. J Mann

        Sadly, Wikiquote says that’s a misattribution, and that the pun was by English schoolgirl Catherine Winkworth, who submitted it to Punch, which then reported it as Napier’s quote. I haven’t googled to see if that’s true.

        I had a vague recollection of a similar pun around “I have Lucknow,” but can’t remember where.

        1. LHN

          And another apocryphal one from Lord Dalhousie on annexing Oudh: “Vovi” (“I vowed””/”I’ve Oudh.”)

        2. The original Mr. X

          I think it was “Ego sum in fortuna nunc” (“I am in luck now”), when the city was recaptured by the British during the Indian Mutiny.

          1. J Mann

            Found it! It’s “Nunc fortunatus sum,” and the book Queen Victoria’s Little Wars reports that “a wit” coined it for Sir Colin Campbell, but does not identify the wit in question.

      2. cassander

        That line, I believe, was actually invented by reporters.

        His actual best line was what he said about the sati, when told that it was an ancient and venerable custom:

        “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. And we shall all act according to national customs.”

        That’s the sort of multiculturalism I can get behind.

        1. The original Mr. X

          There’s a similar anecdote about when he sentenced a man to death for killing his wife. The man’s friends came to plead for mercy, telling Napier that he’d been very angry with his wife. Napier just shrugged and said, “Well, I’m angry with him.”

        2. Viliam

          That’s the sort of multiculturalism I can get behind.

          Same here. Sometimes I think that if someone tried to stop widow-burning today, the only outcome would be the whole internet calling them “racist”, because it is problematic to talk negatively about something that is a custom in a foreign culture.

          1. rlms

            Sometimes you think very silly things then, since organisations like Amnesty International are vocally and unequivocally opposed to dowry-related violence.

          2. Le Maistre Chat

            Isn’t dowry-related violence coded Hindu, while Iraqi migrants are 99 percent Muslim? Leftists can criticize anything they want about Hinduism without being called racist.

          3. rlms

            Yes, and furthermore the article itself is misleading. The reason for the rescindment was not “because the Austrian court ‘didn’t prove he realised the boy was saying no'” (unclear who the article is quoting here), but because in Austria the definition of rape requires the use of force.

          4. Chalid

            Well, even in that very biased article, you can see that the man’s conviction of sexual assault still stands, and he remains in custody, and he will be retried for rape next year.

          5. dndnrsn

            Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen that article before; the way it gets presented is “Austria is so cowbirded that they will offer up their own young to THE INVADER, by LAW” and it’s really the sort of thing that happens in court systems all the time. Having to do a retrial every now and then is the price you pay for having a system where appeals and the like function.

          6. Conrad Honcho

            Apologies, withdrawn. I didn’t see the bottom parts beneath the pictures and didn’t know the guy was still in jail.

          7. bullseye

            Isn’t dowry-related violence coded Hindu, while Iraqi migrants are 99 percent Muslim? Leftists can criticize anything they want about Hinduism without being called racist.

            Leftists do criticize misogyny in Muslim nations (especially Saudi Arabia). The key is criticizing them for being misogynist rather than criticizing them for being Muslim. On the other hand, religious and cultural tolerance does extend to Hindus; there’s been an outcry recently over Apu (the Quickie Mart guy from the Simpsons) as an offensive stereotype.

    2. bean

      Huh. Not sure I ever heard that one. I don’t have all that much on Wisconsin, and I don’t know how careful I was when I read through the stuff on Korea when I did her history post.

    3. Wrong Species

      The ancient greek philosopher Diogenes is full of these anecdotes.

      Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.”

      1. The original Mr. X

        Supposedly Heraclitus died when he jumped into a volcano to try and prove he was a god. (Spoiler alert: he wasn’t.)

        1. psmith

          I think that’s supposed to have been Empedocles, though the Wikipedia entry on the death of Heraclitus is pretty interesting in its own right:

          Diogenes lists various stories about Heraclitus’ death: In two versions, Heraclitus was cured of the dropsy and died of another disease. In one account, however, the philosopher “buried himself in a cowshed, expecting that the noxious damp humour would be drawn out of him by the warmth of the manure”, while another says he treated himself with a liniment of cow manure and, after a day prone in the sun, died and was interred in the marketplace. According to Neathes of Cyzicus, after smearing himself with dung, Heraclitus was devoured by dogs.[24][25]

        1. Nick

          It sucks to be Aristotle. You spend the best years of your life teaching this kid to be a philosopher-king, and when he grows up he tells you he wants to be just like Diogenes.

    4. Deiseach

      During political struggles in fifteenth century Ireland, the eighth Earl of Kildare, Gerald Fitzgerald, marched on Cashel and set fire to the cathedral in order to get revenge on the Archbishop of the time who was one of his enemies. Those enemies managed to get the upper hand and in 1496 Fitzgerald was sent to England accused as a traitor. He managed to convince the king, Henry VII, that he was innocent of all charges, including the following exchange which appealed to the king’s (presumed) sense of humour:

      The Archbishop of Cashel accused FitzGerald of burning down his cathedral. FitzGerald responded, “I would not have done it if I had not been told that My Lord Archbishop was inside.”

    5. The original Mr. X

      There’s a story (probably apocryphal, alas) that the British in WW2 planned to try and undermine German morale by letting their soldiers find 10-inch condoms with the words “British. Size: Medium” on their packets. Supposedly Churchill commented, “That will show the Germans, if they even find any, who’s the Master Race.”

      1. Nick

        Well if you’re whipping out apocryphal Churchill quotes now then we’re going to be here all day.

      2. LHN

        There are reports that in order to stop astronauts from taking the wrong size for a proper seal, the urine collection devices used by the early space program had to be labeled “large”, “gigantic”, and “humongous”.

        (Snopes thinks that it may have been informal names by the astronauts rather than an official naming convention. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/spacesuit-envy/ )

    6. sfoil

      John Sedgwick, commander of the Union VI Corps, was shot in the head and killed during a battle in 1864 after reassuring nearby soldiers that the enemy “couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

      1. Cardboard Vulcan

        During the assault on Chateau Hougemont at Waterloo, Maréchal de Camp Bauduin led the attack with his First Brigade of the Sixth Division, advancing towards a line of woods near the Chateau. Before his brigade reached the woods, however, they were peppered with round shot from English batteries that unmasked themselves upon a ridge. Calling for counter-battery fire Bauduin declaimed “Ils nous montrent leurs armes! –Alors montrons-leur nos boules!” In English, “they’ve shown us their guns, let us show them our balls!”

      2. Winter Shaker

        The version I’ve heard was that he was killed during the attempt to reassure his soldiers that the enemy “couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist-”

        Not sure if true, but a far cooler last words anecdote either way.

    7. jml

      In WWI a German ship was disguised as a British ocean liner, the RMS Carmania, but with hidden guns. After being rerouted several times for various fueling reasons, and without ever encountering an enemy ship, they ran into the actual RMS Carmania, outfitted with guns and requisitioned by the British navy, which immediately recognized their disguise and opened fire, sinking the ship within the hour.

      (I wrote about this here
      https://blog.jminjie.com/@Jordan/The-true-story-of-the-SMS-Cap-Trafalgar-11a7fe55f6)

      1. toastengineer

        Ought to put this at the bottom of the article.

        I just wish there was a transcript of what the conversation was like among the officers when that happened.

    8. DavidFriedman

      I’m not sure it is humorous and it probably isn’t true, but I’m fond of the anecdote from the Albigensian crusade. The commander of the crusading army, having taken a city, asked the papal legate how he was to tell which of the inhabitants were heretic Cathars and which Catholics who happened to be in a city controlled by the Cathars.

      The supposed answer:

      “Kill them all. God will know his own.”

      What I like about it is that, if you take the religion sufficiently seriously, it makes a kind of sense.

      1. Brendan Richardson

        I just read the Bhagavad Gita and was struck when Krishna says essentially the same thing to Arjuna after Arjuna laments the imminent loss of life in the battle he is observing.

        But for these fleeting frames which it informs
        With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,
        They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!

    9. Paul Brinkley

      Among Oscar Wilde’s last words: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go.” Someone else had put it more succinctly than even Wilde: “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.”

      [from rec.humor.funny]

      Sometime in the early 1900’s, P. T. Barnum, the owner of the Barnum & Bailey circus and originator of the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute,” offered $10,000 in cash to any person who could thoroughly dupe him.

      Barnum was always looking for interesting new acts or novel creatures to exhibit, and one day he received a letter from a fellow in Maine who claimed to possess a cherry-colored cat, asking if Barnum were interested in such a thing for his circus. Barnum contacted the man and said yes, if the cat were truly cherry-colored, he’d gladly put it on display. A few days later a crate marked “live animal” arrived for him. When Barnum opened it, he found a somewhat frightened but otherwise perfectly ordinary-looking black housecat inside, along with a note which read:

      Maine cherries are black.

      Barnum cut him a check.

      I had read somewhere – though I can no longer find it now, possibly because I misheard it – an account of someone pointing out to Friedrich Hayek(?) that Sweden wasn’t capitalist, and Swedes were doing fine. His response: “Indeed – and the Swedes in America are doing even better.”

      I have more, but I’m guessing the aim here is less quotable quotes, and more historical anecdotes.

      1. 10240

        offered $10,000 in cash to any person who could thoroughly dupe him.

        I expected a paradox where someone manages to get his $10,000 without actually duping him.

    10. The original Mr. X

      There’s a fun example of understatement from Eadmer’s biography of St. Anselm. Eadmer reports that he found the saint praying in his cell surrounded by a ball of fire, and comments that he was quite surprised by this, as it wasn’t the usual time for prayer.

    11. Simulated Knave

      Supposedly Pancho Villa’s last words were, “It can’t end like this. Tell them I said something.”

      My favourite is this, though: supposedly, Sir John Cope (who was defeated by the Jacobites at the battle of Prestonpans) cleaned up by betting that his replacement would be defeated, too.

  27. ana53294

    There was a lot of discussion about the lightbulb ban in the last thread, and I’d like to propose a system that could work in some countries.

    A Pigouvian tax is said to be regressive, because it harm consumption by the poor more than the rich.

    But what if we make a progressive Pigouvian tax? For salaries, usually only the income over a threshold gets taxed at a different rate.

    So if the threshold is, say, 8000 euros, below that you pay no taxes and above that you pay a 15% tax, there is a problem: people have no incentive to work for a salary between 8000-9411 euros, because at that range, you get a net income below 8000 euros. So governments tax the marginal income, and if you happen to earn 8001 euros, you pay no tax on the 8000, and you pay a 1.5 cent tax on the euro.

    You can make the same tax for household electricity consumption. You can calculate that the reasonable consumption for an adult is X, and it can be X or smaller amount Y per child. Then, use council records to calculate reasonable electricity consumption per household (in Spain, at least, councils have a pretty good idea of who lives where, because they need those records to collect rubbish, for schools, etc., and there is a central database of taxpayers). And then you impose a high tax on the electricity used above the threshold. And you can make exception for people who, due to health conditions, have to spend more electricity (people who need a sleep apnea machine, who need electric ramps for stairs, etc.).

    Of course, such a system can’t work for car fuel, because the only way to achieve this would be to have gas stations participate in a central database of cars where they log the consumption of each license plate (and that would be very Big Brother-ish). It probably wouldn’t work in the US, because the absence of a database would mean that people would just easily lie about how many people live in their house.

    But wouldn’ it work for countries that have good databases on who lives where, such as Sweden or Spain?

    1. Radu Floricica

      I just want to register in advance a bad case of motivated cognition. I hate this idea. Give me some time too decide why.

      LE:

      It’s a perfect case intersectionality of things I strongly dislike: price fixing (gov decides what I should pay for electricity), ableism (punished for having money), killing motivation (if I end up consuming just the same, why bother working more?), double taxation (I already pay more in taxes, now I have to buy things at higher prices too?!), perverse incentives and corruption (all these new avenues to lower cost other than simply consuming less…), slippery slope (politicians have incentives to promise cheaper electricity for the masses, and now they have a brand new tool to do that).

      And I predict that in a few years consumption will raise instead of fall. Lowest prices will end up being subsidized (there is already a huge overlap between welfare and green in current politics). And the very categories that would be price-sensitive and likely to watch consumption now are less likely to do so.

      1. ana53294

        Lowest prices will end up being subsidized (there is already a huge overlap between welfare and green in current politics). And the very categories that would be price-sensitive and likely to watch consumption now are less likely to do so.

        Why would that happen?

        Everybody would pay the same price of electricity under the quota. You just pay more over the spending limit.

        So if you have two families of two adults, two kids, they both have the same exact price of electricity. Both families can choose to exceed the quota and pay extra. The rich family can choose to renovate their house and spend less money on their energy efficient heating and air-con. The poor family can choose to spend more per month instead of paying a one-time high fee for more expensive energy efficient household appliances.

        EDIT: It seems like I didn’t explain my idea clearly, since 2/2 comments seem to think this is an income-based tax. My proposal is a consumption based tax, where extra consumption gets punished, regardless of the reason why. So if you are a poor person who has a crappy house with crappy windows and spends a lot on heating, you pay the same extra tax as the rich person who has good windows but chooses to have a jacuzzi.

        1. Radu Floricica

          Initially, yes. But when you have a hammer, every problem looks like welfare. It takes a very small change in legislation to smooth over the next increase in electricity prices – which can even be justified by switching to green sources. “Let’s use only wind power and have only the rich pay for the difference”. Tell me you wouldn’t vote for it 🙂

          1. ana53294

            This already happens in Spain, and we don’t have this system.

            Spain’s consumers already owe the energy companies a whole load of money for our policies.

            When the nuclear energy moratorium was made, harmed companies were compensated, so we pay part of that compensation every month; we also pay extra in our bills for smoothing energy prices (otherwise Canary island prices would be much higher); we paid an extra tax for solar, too.

            When energy prices were increasing at a 9% annual rate, the government capped that, and now we pay companies the debt incurred from that capping.

            I don’t see how my proposed system would make these issues worse, at least in Spain, with our already idiotic energy policy.

            And we already have a subsidy for poor families to have extra energy (as long as they have a capacity lower than 10 kW).

          2. Radu Floricica

            @ana53294

            Dependencies? In the programming sense of the world. If you have a bad thing, you don’t create even more structure over it – it’s going to be that much harder to get rid of.

            Also, I hate politics more and more.

          3. ana53294

            The Pigouvian tax I propose would also mean eliminating all those stupid bans of incandescent bans or forcing people to buy washing machines that don’t wash, so this would increase the liberty of people to act as they want.

            And, because we already have an alternate system that is used as a hammer for all those things you want to avoid, this added tax will not be used to add any of those other things. So that means that your objection is in general, an objection to another beaurocracy/added legislation, which I respect, but at the same time, I think we can add this bit and remove a lot of other legislation, for a net decrease in stupid bureauocracy/legislation.

          4. Radu Floricica

            @ana53294

            Mm. Ok, without motivated cognition this time, as much as I can. The problem with this whole class of solutions is you’re interfering with market mechanisms, which always has side effects. Ask USSR how their economy went with all the manual planning. They weren’t stupid, it’s just a level of complexity that might possibly even evade really smart AIs, let alone human brains.

            If you want to help poor people, give them money. They can chose how to allocate the money themselves, _and_ they’ll still be motivated to save electricity. Best of all worlds.

            This way, incentives will move all the way down and up the chain. For example much of the energy consumption per capita is actually done in production. That pretty car you’re buying probably took more energy to build then you’d use for lightning in 100 years.

            Not to mention other horrifying lapses: you’re taxing me for using a dimmable incandescent, while I’m heating with wood fire (I actually am, in a place I work). I have a comment in the last conversation on how incandescent ban is many orders of magnitude below any significant climate change – there are many other lower hanging fruits. And I’m not saying this as a generic conversation stopper (“starving kids in Africa”), but because I honestly think this has such low consequences to be bordering on criminal, if you think climate change is important. It’s straight up red herring, compared to real pollution/carbon sources.

          5. ana53294

            The whole point is, incandescent lightbulbs will most probably increase your energy consumption over the quota, because incandescent lightbulbs don’t use that much energy.

            The objective is to have people find energy hogs in their houses, and fix them, instead of banning them from using whatever appliance they want to use. As an anecdote, in my home, we had suspiciously high electricity bills, even when we were away and all appliances were off. We even thought somebody was stealing our electricity. Turns out, the doorbell was shortcircuiting.

            I haven’t found an LED lightbulb I like, yet. I would rather prefer to use less heating and keep my preferred lightbulbs, for example.

            There are many, many people with different preferences and different cases. Letting the free market find the choices they want to decrease their energy usage is the freedom maximising policy.

          6. Radu Floricica

            @ana53294

            Freud was playing with my comment. What’s missing from it is “… and tax electricity globally, for all consumers, including industrial”.

          7. ana53294

            Well, yes. Obviously, asking households to decrease electricity consumption by increasing prices and not doing the same with industry is not fair. This thing was done with California’s water, where agriculture consumes much more, and they pay less than households. Obviously, this is stupid.

            There will be people who will say that this will mean that the factory will go to China, and jobs will be lost, while households will not move.

          8. Radu Floricica

            There will be people who will say that this will mean that the factory will go to China, and jobs will be lost, while households will not move.

            Well, yes. Still stupid to spend all this effort into fixing 10% of the problem. Like the drunk looking for the keys under the light, not where he lost them. It just means the universe is being mean, yet again, and there are no easy solutions – nothing new.

    2. Auric Ulvin

      This seems like the sort of tax system that would cost more to implement than it would produce. I’d be amazed if a government bureaucracy could make a just, scaling income tax on a product. Why not just subsidize LED production?

      ‘We will make LEDs so cheap that only the rich will buy bulbs’ as Edison didn’t say.

      However, the idea of an incandescent black market is very amusing.

      1. ana53294

        I think I may have explained this badly, because this is not an income tax. It’s a consumption tax.

        So if the average household energy consumption is around 3000 kWh per year, any energy use over that is fined or taxed. So the marginal cost of the kWh over the annual max is much higher. This can be done annualy or monthly, with adjustments for winter/summer.

        And, because two people sharing a home spend less than two people in individual homes, we take into account the number of people living in the house to calculate how much that limit is.

        1. Auric Ulvin

          I admit that I did misunderstand what you’re saying.

          However, would this not create perverse incentives on the electricity front? I’d imagine that in Spain and my own country, Australia, most domestic electricity goes into air conditioning.

          In the US, it’s heating.

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

          What if we end up with boiling/frozen pensioners, afraid to turn on their less-efficient electric heaters? What about people who use natural gas heating (like me) and thus have tiny electricity bills? Electricity is already really expensive in Australia and presumably Spain, so can we not conclude that it’s price inelastic?

          Instead of worrying about lights, we should worry about aircon, housing design and insulation.

          1. ana53294

            People shouldn’t have not energy efficient electric heaters, so preventing people from using them and making them use a more efficient use of energy is the actual goal of the tax. I still think taxing them is better than banning energy inefficient heaters.

            You can add a subsidy to buy more energy efficient appliances in exchange for scrapping old ones, such as the ones we regularly have in Spain. Or a subsidy for making your home more energy efficient, by putting better insulation.

            And the energy quotas would be implemented state-by-state, with seasonal variations taken into account.

          2. AlphaGamma

            The link seems to talk about energy use not electricity use (so includes gas and oil used for heating).

            From the citations, I have found these US goverment statistics which say that in the US, the largest use of electricity by domestic users (excluding “other miscellaneous uses”) is air conditioning, at 15.4%. Space heating is down at 6.2%, below water heating, lighting and refrigeration.

          3. Faza (TCM)

            @ana53294:
            I’m not sure how you propose to have “energy efficient” electric heaters, given that the classic case of energy inefficiency in electrical appliances (and the whole thing about incandescent lightbulbs, in the first place) is “runs hot”.

            Which is the whole point of electric heaters. “Waste heat” is what they’re for.

            Moreover, it is not necessarily clear that energy consumption for heating purposes can be decreased in any meaningful way through such tax mechanisms, because the amount of energy required is determined by the space to be heated and the temperature gradient. Ye cannae change the laws of physics, Captain.

            Technically, we could imagine an electricity tax being an incentive to switch to other heating methods (typically: burning things), but we’re trying to discourage those as well.

          4. ana53294

            energy consumption for heating purposes can be decreased in any meaningful way through such tax mechanisms

            That’s just wrong.

            There are many, many things that can be done to decrease energy use for heating.

            Insulate the house better, put better windows, make sure there are no heat leaks, have a corridor, insulate doors, have window blinds, use floor heating, have a ceiling fan.

            All those things cost money, and the reason they are not done is because the cost of the extra electricity is lower than the cost of those extra improvements. So the tax should increase the cost of energy so people start using those improvements.

            The quota should be based on a home designed for perfect energy efficiency, with people using it reasonably.

            And the more energy efficient heaters would be non-electric heaters. We burn gas at a factory to produce heat that produces electricity and then we transport electricity to produce heat, and each step means energy is wasted. Having people switch to gas heating would be the objective, clearly.

          5. Faza (TCM)

            There are many, many things that can be done to decrease energy use for heating.

            Yes, they can. Yes, they cost money. Specifically, they cost a lot of money up front.

            Failing to take account of this is common enough, so please don’t take it as picking on you.

            Your assumption is that if you make energy more expensive over time than the cost of investment in energy efficiency (by means such as you describe and that I am aware of), people will undertake the investment.

            That hinges on them having the means to undertake such an investment. So what if I can save $30 000 over 20 years if I spend $20 000 today, if I don’t have twenty thousand dollars lying around?

            In practice, this problem can be solved either by:
            1. Subsidies – with all the problems associated therewith,
            2. Loans – where the cost of servicing may erase the benefits,
            3. Saving – where the poor sod is getting shafted by both the higher energy prices and the need to restrict other consumption.

            Given that Auric was talking about “boiling/frozen pensioners” who – around my parts at least – are generally not know as a high-wealth group, I take it as more than likely that the only viable option is 1.

            In which case, why not skip the tax and go straight for mandatory, subsidised efficiency modernisation? It gets you where you’re going faster.

            The quota should be based on a home designed for perfect energy efficiency, with people using it reasonably.

            Here’s the rub: I could go with the idea, provided I get to decide what counts as “reasonable use”.

            Otherwise, I fail to see how it can be construed as anything other than a powerplay by whoever is in charge of the scheme.

            ETA

            Personally, my flat is heated through central heating generated at a joint electrical/heating plant. This works, because I live in the middle of a city that has the requisite infrastructure.

            Back when I lived in London, the option wasn’t available, so I had a choice between burning evil, climate-destroying natural gas or heating with electricity. I was also renting (and still am), so the amount of home-improvement I could do was strictly limited. I am on the hook for the ‘leccy bills, however.

            This is all intended to illustrate that reality is a lot more messy than one usually takes into account (not quite a least-convenient world, but close).

          6. ana53294

            go straight for mandatory, subsidised efficiency modernisation? It gets you where you’re going faster.

            The demands of conservatives to decrease spending and the deficit is the issue. I personally don’t object to that.

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

          7. Faza (TCM)

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

            I wholeheartedly agree. Sadly, the state of the market where I live is such that asking for a discount on rent is a laughable proposition. This is true for a lot of places.

          8. Joseph Greenwood

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex. This was the least unfair thing they could do, given that they didn’t have the infrastructure in place to measure our energy consumption individually, but it creates a tragedy of the commons, even without artificially inflated prices. If my situation was sufficiently uncommon (I honestly don’t know how common it is), this might be a corner case we just shrug and say “Oh well” too, but at least some people would likely be affected in this way.

          9. acymetric

            @Faza (TCM)

            That hinges on them having the means to undertake such an investment. So what if I can save $30 000 over 20 years if I spend $20 000 today, if I don’t have twenty thousand dollars lying around?

            I’m glad someone brought this up…this seems like the obvious and primary problem with this strategy. It is so problematic that I’m not even sure the other problems matter that much.

            @ana53294

            As for tenants: many tenants who live in energy inefficient houses demand landlords to give them a discount on rent, so this policy would also work in a rental housing market that is not as underserved as London’s. Having an active, competitive rental market is also good for the environment!

            I suspect the number of rental markets where tenants have that kind of negotiating power are few and far between. Prospective tenants may have slightly more, but of course they lose it as soon as they move in. In most cases, the landlord response to “can we negotiate” is “this is the rent, take it or leave it”.

            @Joseph Greenwood

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex.

            I lived in an apartment that had metered water per unit for the first couple years. Then a new management company bought the property, and I guess they didn’t want to pay for the software that interfaced with the individual meters or something, because they went to the averaging method (and my bill doubled as a result).

          10. A Definite Beta Guy

            Speaking of apartments—I have, at certain times in my life, lived in apartments that calculated my utility bill by dividing (among me and my roommates) the energy consumption of the third of the complex I lived in, by the number of apartments in that part of the complex. This was the least unfair thing they could do, given that they didn’t have the infrastructure in place to measure our energy consumption individually, but it creates a tragedy of the commons, even without artificially inflated prices. If my situation was sufficiently uncommon (I honestly don’t know how common it is), this might be a corner case we just shrug and say “Oh well” too, but at least some people would likely be affected in this way.

            I worked in commercial real estate and we did the same thing at the majority of our properties. Sometimes tenants protested the unfairness, but their leases specified that they would have to pay to install their own meter, and few tenants were willing to pay this cost.

          11. Radu Floricica

            @ana53294

            Faza mentioned subsidies to offset the up-front cost of investments. In the other thread I was saying that it’s better to just give money than to mess with the market. I guess there are ways of giving targeted help that mess with the market a lot less – I’d be down with things like help for investments that are obviously worth it long term, but unlikely to be affordable.

      2. fion

        For this kind of tax, costing more to implement than it collects is not necessarily a fatal flaw. You’re seeking to change behaviour. If you gain income (or don’t lose too much) that’s a bonus.

        1. ana53294

          Yes, the goal here is to have as few households as possible that consume excess electricity. With time, as more energy efficient appliances are made, we would decrease energy quotas, until some reasonable minimum is reached.

          1. Ketil

            Yes, the goal here is to have as few households as possible that consume excess electricity.

            Why is this the goal, rather than having a low total electricity consumption? (In which case, the price should be high for everybody)

            In other words, what’s the advantage of encouraging people with gas fired central heating to leave their lights on all the time?

          2. ana53294

            I personally don’t object to a Pigouvian tax for everybody, but then I’m not poor. Many people balk at the idea of having poor people be unable to shower while rich people have their jacuzzis.

            So the idea is to allow poor people to have warm showers while preventing jacuzzis, by increasing the marginal cost of electricity over a reasonable quota.

          3. Faza (TCM)

            the idea is to allow poor people to have warm showers while preventing jacuzzis, by increasing the marginal cost of electricity over a reasonable quota

            You do realize it won’t work?

            By the time you get to jacuzzi levels of wealth (meaning here: the kind of ostentatious consumption people find objectionable in the rich), the proportion of discretionary spending going to energy consumption is low enough that the tax won’t affect the magnitude of consumption all that much.

            The people who will be affected are those for whom the electricity bill is still a considerable cost item – in other words: the poor.

          4. ana53294

            There is a middle class, you know. People who will pay the extra tax for electricity to achieve some minimal spending they need, but who will balk at higher expenses for some marginal improvements on their life quality.

            The poor are not the only ones who care about their electricity prices.

          5. Faza (TCM)

            Certainly.

            It’s just that the poor will be hit first and harder.

            I should probably add: raising the cost of energy has knock-on effects across everything else. This means decreasing welfare for everyone other than those that already have FU money.

            Meaning you’ll shunt the lower strata of the middle class into the “poor” category and probably further impoverish the poor.

            The rich will keep doing rich-people stuff, ‘coz they already have FU money.

          6. Paul Zrimsek

            If you’re serious about wanting this to be a Pigouvian tax, then your goal is to have the right number of households that consume “excess” electricity, not to have the fewest number.

          7. ana53294

            The point of the Pigouvian tax is to disincentivize behaviour, not to generate revenue.

            Although Sweden’s tax on alcohol generates a lot of revenue, I don’t think the Swedish government would object to Swedes becoming teetotalers. There you have, objective achieved!

          8. Faza (TCM)

            Strictly speaking, a the point of a Pigouvian tax is to internalize externalities. A properly constructed PT isn’t concerned with discouraging activity, as such, only that the people choosing factor the externalities into their decision-making process.

            Once the cost of externalities has been accounted for, the PT has done it’s job, regardless of who – if anyone – actually changed their behaviour.

    3. AlesZiegler

      With regard to electrical appliances, I tend to prefer outright ban of energy inefiecient ones over Pigovian taxes.

      Electricity is produced via at least semipublic institutions backed by governments. Access to a grid is semipublic good – it is excludable but basically nonrivalrous due to huge fixed compared to variable costs. Economics textbook definition of public good (in this case identical with wikipedia definition) is that its use is nonexcludable and nonrivalrous.

      So with some simplification we might say that electricity production is partially publicly subsidised. Why?

      Of course it is possible that subsidy is inefficient, but I think that it is subsidised because access to electricity has positive externalities. So, blanket reduction of something which has positive externalities via taxation is not an ideal solution, and interventions targeted on specific wasteful uses might be preferable.

      1. ana53294

        Sure, having people have access to electricity, have lights, warm water, washing machines creates lots of positive externalities.

        But I am not sure that energy expenditure over a certain threshold, which comes from excess consumption or energy inefficiency is good. Having bad windows and poor heat isolation will waste more energy than incandescent lightbulbs ever will. So will old appliances.

        So the aim is to punish those who still don’t have energy efficient appliances, and those who consume excess energy for unnecessary stuff, such as a jacuzzi or a swimming pool.

        1. The Nybbler

          So the aim is to punish those who still don’t have energy efficient appliances, and those who consume excess energy for unnecessary stuff, such as a jacuzzi or a swimming pool.

          The second part is just out-and-out authoritarianism. You don’t like that people have luxuries, so punish them for them. The first part doesn’t seem to be based on any examination of tradeoffs either, just on the idea that reducing energy use is an overriding goal. Replacing windows and appliances is not cheap; replacing every window and three of the doors in my house was about ~$22,000. Replacing the refrigerator would be another $1000-$2000. Replacing the furnace and air conditioner probably another $20,000+.

    4. Ketil

      Some obvious problems:

      Consumers see different marginal costs for products/services. Rich person who wants to consume more than the low-priced quota will turn to poor person who consumes less, and offer to buy the surplus for an intermediate rate. Thus you get black marketeering.

      Also, government price regulation steers consumption (and resource use) towards lower utility. Consumers will tend to buy something of lower utility if the higher utility consumption would bring them over the tax threshold. In other words, it is just a more complicated form of food stamps.

      And of course, this needs to be administrated.

      Why not just tax income and/or wealth progressively?

      Why not just have the high tax rate on consumption for all, and give poor people cash so they can afford a minimum living standard?

      Why not have progressive taxes on consumption based on product class, with a higher rate on luxuries or things richer people tend to buy?

      1. Faza (TCM)

        Honestly, I don’t think that the black market would be an issue in this case.

        The attractiveness of such proposals will likely to be found to be directly proportional to affluence. Assuming a moderately progressive tax rate, rich people who want to use more electricity will see their bills rise, but won’t care all that much, because even at the higher rates electricity consumption won’t account for a huge part of their spending.

        To get rich people to consume less, we’d neet a sharply progressive rate. This gets us right back to the “freezing granny” problem.

        The whole scheme is regressive by design.

        1. Ketil

          Honestly, I don’t think that the black market would be an issue in this case.

          Obviously, that would depend on the good in question and the particular taxation levels. Electricity may not be the most convenient good to trade in, but with electric vehicles, it is easier than before.

        2. Faza (TCM)

          I’d say that the issue is rather different. We’re not talking about offsets, we’re talking about a tax.

          We can imagine a scenario where a rich person could possibly save money by paying a poor person more than the poor person would pay in terms of increased bills, but it’s not evident that transaction costs wouldn’t erase the difference.

        3. Garrett

          To get rich people to consume less, we’d neet a sharply progressive rate.

          In general, I don’t think there are enough rich heavy wasters to have a significant impact on energy usage. Almost by-definition you need to target the masses in order to achieve something useful.

    5. Chalid

      This whole discussion seems like it’s missing the point. I completely agree with all the arguments that taxes are more efficient than bans. And maybe it would be fine to mess around with the tax structure, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

      We get policies that are palatable to the electorate. The electorate hates the word “tax,” especially in the US, and likes the word “efficiency.” So we don’t get electricity taxes and we do get efficiency mandates, even though the vast majority of decisionmakers would likely prefer the tax.

        1. EchoChaos

          Where the rich is defined as “not me”.

          The number of people who self-identify as rich is small.

          “Tax other people” has always been pretty popular.

    6. Nicholas Weininger

      The San Francisco water department does something like this: there is a baseline household amount of water that is provided relatively cheaply and usage above that amount is priced significantly higher. I have no idea how effective this is at encouraging conservation, but the case for it is probably much stronger for water than for electricity given the greater difficulty and environmental impact of increasing water service capacity.

      1. Douglas Knight

        Increasing water availability is trivial.

        Just build desalination plants. The cost of desalination is comparable to the cost charged to residential consumers of water. So maybe the marginal cost would have to double. Given that existing system of increasing marginal price, that means only people watering their lawns get the charge. Great!

        Lots of cost-effective public infrastructure doesn’t get built because the government thinks that if it times it just right, it can get someone else to pay for it. But the droughts never last quite that long.

        1. Thomas Jorgensen

          The specific problem cali has is that it distributes the vast majority of the water to farmers, but collects almost all of the money from the cities. If the cities build desal, they no longer need the inland water infrastructure for anything, which.. well, the farmers would not be happy with their new water bill, even if they do get to use the last ten percent of the water that used to go to the cities..

          1. Douglas Knight

            Nonsense. The cities don’t pay retail rates when they buy water from the farmers. They pay the same wholesale rates that the farmers pay. They charge residential customers a lot of money to pay for distribution and metering, because that really costs a lot.

    7. John Schilling

      You can make the same tax for household electricity consumption. You can calculate that the reasonable consumption for an adult is X, and it can be X or smaller amount Y per child. […] And then you impose a high tax on the electricity used above the threshold.

      And therefore everyone who owns an electric car, or a plug-in hybrid, gets to pay a tax that you have calculated will punish them sufficiently to change their behavior. So they go sell that economic white elephant and buy a nice fuel-efficient diesel instead. Some of them will then go buy diesel generators to stick in their garage and kick in as necessary to keep their official electricity consumption below the punitive threshold.

      But you’ll feel good for having taught them a lesson, and maybe someday you’ll get around to teaching them another lesson about their Persistent Wrongness. Which won’t work any better, and eventually your “teaching” will have antagonized a majority of the population and they’ll vote for someone to teach you a lesson.

    8. Paul Zrimsek

      The EEA estimates the external cost of electricity as being somewhere in the range 1.8 to 5.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. I’m not sure whether a tax that size would have enough of an effect to justify the effort.

      If you wanted to extend the idea to vehicle fuel you could also do it using the time-honored ration coupon: the only difference from classic rationing would be that once you run out of coupons you’re not necessarily done buying gas, you’re just done buying it at the non-surtaxed rate.

    9. J Mann

      IMHO, the easiest solution to the regressivity of a Pigouvian tax is to couple it with a progressive transfer. We take some of the revenue and give it to poor people, and use the rest to buy giant space screens to cool the Earth.

    10. The Nybbler

      It’s not a Pigouvian tax if it’s progressive that way, unless somehow the externality is progressive as well. But it’s probably not a Pigouvian tax anyway, since the value of the externality is generally pulled out of thin air. This is just social engineering through the tax system, and it will work as well as any other sort of central planning.

    11. Douglas Knight

      You know what other tax is regressive? VAT. Do you spend as much time complaining about this much larger regressive tax? Maybe you’re subject to a huge status quo bias.

      The obvious thing, if you actually care about the environment and/or progressive taxes, is combine a Pigouvian tax with a tiny reduction in the VAT. But when people try to build win-win compromises, it turns out that activists don’t actually care about policy, only getting credit for defeating the opponents.

    12. raj

      The problem of pigouvian taxes can easily be subsumed within normal tax parameters, i.e. standard deduction and brackets. We don’t need more special tax exceptions (e.g. tampons). If cost of living proves burdensome we can increase the standard deduction and let people make their own choices.

      If some thrifty individual has figured out how to exist with far below your proscribed level of electricity, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be rewarded for it.

    13. mdet

      This sounds a lot like the way that phone companies price data packages — you can buy X amount of data for Y price, and if you use it all up you can buy more at a rate >Y. Or you know you’re a heavy user you can go ahead and buy unlimited data from the start.

      Not sure what conclusions to draw from that, but feels worth pointing out that this proposal is more or less “What if (the government made) power companies price usage like phone companies?”

    14. A Definite Beta Guy

      If you want to give households a lumpsum of cash, the tool is the standard deduction and the dependent deductions.
      You would impose a tax at the utility level based on their CO2 emissions, which would be passed on to consumers, who would then have a higher deduction to offset their higher utility bills.

    15. Guy in TN

      Two quick thoughts:

      1. Why add the word “Pigouvian” to your proposal? It just boxes you in. And anyway, the goal of environmentalists is not to maximize economic value, and you’re never going to win over committed libertarians in the first place, so just call it a normal tax.

      2. A consumption tax that phases in, is still only progressive as it relates to the relative impacts of each income group. The phase-in aspect does not necessarily make it progressive, and it could easily still be regressive.

    16. DavidFriedman

      So if the threshold is, say, 8000 euros, below that you pay no taxes and above that you pay a 15% tax, there is a problem: people have no incentive to work for a salary between 8000-9411 euros, because at that range, you get a net income below 8000 euros. So governments tax the marginal income, and if you happen to earn 8001 euros, you pay no tax on the 8000, and you pay a 1.5 cent tax on the euro.

      15% of one Euro is 15 cents, not 1.5 cents.

    17. 10240

      It’s not obvious that a Pigouvian tax on CO₂ emissions is regressive. I have no idea whether producing the things rich people buy involves more or less CO₂ emissions per dollar than the production of things poor people buy.

      1. Faza (TCM)

        It helps if you realize that a tax on CO₂ emissions is simply a tax on energy production.

        Given that it takes energy to actually do anything, a tax on energy propagates downstream until it finally hits the consumer, either directly – via the energy bill – or indirectly – via higher prices.

        Therefore, all energy taxes end up being consumption taxes and consumption taxes are regressive because poor people necessarily spend more of their income on consumption.

        1. 10240

          I’ve often seem people say that consumption taxes are regressive in general, but it’s not obvious (at least that they are regressive to a significant extent). Sure, most rich people save a bigger part of their income in a typical month. But then every once in a while, they use their savings to buy a house or a yacht or whatever, and in that month their consumption way exceeds their income, making up for it.

          1. Faza (TCM)

            The regressiveness comes from the fact that a tax increases the price of whatever it is you’re consuming.

            Consider a good that is being sold at a (net) price of P, plus tax T where 0 < T < P (IOW T is some percentage of P). The gross price paid by the consumer is P+T.

            Next, let's consider the case of the rich and poor consumer:

            1. Poor consumer has income Yp such that the net price of the good is P = Yp/10 (it costs our poor consumer one tenth of his monthly income). Let's further assume that the tax is 20% of price P, or 2% of the poor consumer's income.

            2. Rich consumer has income Yr, such that the net price of the good is P = Yr/50 (they earn five times as much as the poor consumer). The tax on the good is the same as before (because real-life consumption taxes do not account for the financial situation of the buyer).

            How much does the rich consumer pay in tax? Less than half-a-percent of their income (0,4% to be precise), which is considerably less than 2%.

            When the rich and poor consumer match consumption (i.e. the rich consumer restricts their consumption to only what the poor consumer can afford), the poor consumer will be found to pay a much greater portion of their disposable income/assets in tax than the rich consumer. That is the "regressive" bit.

            The fact that rich people tend to spend more money overall than poor people is not a particularly interesting observation.

          2. 10240

            @Faza (TCM) The fact that rich people spend more money is not an interesting observation because it’s obvious, but it makes it irrelevant that rich people could get away with paying as little consumption tax as poor people if they spent like poor people.

        2. albatross11

          On *some* energy production. Nuclear plants and wind turbines have no CO2 emissions, but produce electric power.

          Fundamentally, if you make people pay the full cost of their actions including externalities, well, the prices they pay for stuff often goes up. This seems inevitable.

          I don’t think it’s as clear as you do that such a tax would be regressive. (By “regressive” here I think we mean that the ratio of taxes paid per capita among poor people/rich people will go up.). I also don’t see that the question is particularly important. (Note that banning incandescent light bulbs/inefficient but cheap appliances/cheap but low-MPG cars all lands harder on poor people than rich people in some sense. That doesn’t seem like an obvious reason to change our policies in those areas).

          1. Faza (TCM)

            I’d expected that the difference between “all A are B” and “some B are A” didn’t require special explanation.

    18. Mark V Anderson

      Implementing a progressive pigouvian tax is a terrible idea. What it does is complicate the tax and complicate the welfare system. I don’t know about Spain, but in the US, there are dozens of welfare programs, and as a result no one really knows how much welfare the government is spending. No doubt lots of folks get more welfare than would be the case if the voters and politicians really knew the whole picture, and perhaps many also get less. Welfare should be concentrated in one government agency so voters can make a rational decision as to how much welfare the poor get.

      The point of a pigouvian tax is to internalize into consumers’ behavior what is otherwise an externality. Adjusting the tax based on income is just like adjusting the cost of food to everyone based on their income. If your goal is to equalize the consumption of all, it is possible to do so by having a sliding scale for all purchases based on purchasing power. But it would be stupid to do that, because just equalizing income would be a whole lot less complicated and achieve the same goal.

    1. ManyCookies

      The charges against Jussie Smollett (the Empire actor who faked a hate crime attack against himself) were abruptly dropped and records sealed, for context.

      Yeah super bizarre development. Normally I’d reach for “Rich and famous“, but he’s truly not that rich and famous and the celebs typically still go to trial, not have their charges abruptly dropped and records sealed. Some amount of corruption seems likely (apparently the prosecutor knew his family or something?), but I’ve also heard the sealing thing implies some massive procedural fuckup on the prosecution’s part. Any legal experts wanna weigh in?

      1. The Nybbler

        Illinois corruption. I’d say Chicago corruption, but since the Chicago chief of police and mayor are _pissed_, to the point where the Chicago Police Department actually responded to a Freedom of Information Act request as fast as possible, I’m assuming the city didn’t get its cut.

        Jussie may end up wishing he arranged a more plausible deal, as the FBI is interested now.

        1. dick

          I have some familiarity with IL politics and I’m a strong believer in the idea that the unusual thing about IL is not how corrupt its politicians are, it’s how often they get convicted of corruption.

        2. Deiseach

          Yeah, all depending on whether or not the FBI decide “nothing to see here”, Smollett may regret his life choices 🙂

          The problem is that he and his supporters took the whole thing to the national level and they’ve made the city look bad. Well, worse than the ordinary opinion of Chicago as “machine politics and the fix is in”, and that’s saying something.

          Believe he did fight off two attackers in a blizzard at two in the morning with only a tuna sandwich? Then Chicago under Rahm Emmanuel is a hellhole where bleach-flinging racist lynch mobs can wander the streets with impunity.

          Believe he’s a lying liar who lied? Then Chicago under Rahm Emmanuel is a hellhole where third-rate rapper/actors can fabricate ‘hate crimes’ with plots that would be turned down by Law and Order: Special Wokeness Unit for stretching credulity too far and walk away scott-free and smirking making fools of the entire police department, and proving all the rumours about corruption and string-pulling and fixers and pals with political clout are all too true if anyone doubted them.

      2. DavidFriedman

        I can see three possible explanations:

        1. He is innocent and can prove it, and the police messed up. I don’t have a very high opinion of the Chicago police but this is a very high profile case, so they will have paid attention. And if that was the case he would have insisted on their saying he was innocent, instead of paying a sizable fine. I think this explanation is very unlikely.

        2. Some form of corruption of the prosecutor.

        3. Ideology. The case encourages the idea that claims of hate crimes are likely to be false, and there are obvious reasons why many people would not like that to happen. Maybe one of those people was the prosecutor or someone in a position to put pressure on the prosecutor.

        1. albatross11

          Why not just that the prosecutor thought prosecuting this case would be bad for their future political ambitions?

        2. J Mann

          1. He doesn’t have to prove innocence exactly – he just has to make it sufficiently possible that he’s innocent that he can put the CPD (which has a terrible reputation) on trial.

          IMHO, the biggest question is whether he could plausibly have mistaken the brothers for white – i.e., do they both have Nigerian accents that they can’t shake or can at least one of them do a plausible MAGA accent, and is it possible that when he told the police he could see around the eyes of the attacker and that he was white, that he was honestly mistaken?

          IMHO, I can’t see him winning – he would essentially have to argue that the brothers set him up, and would have to explain texting “I might need your help on the low” shortly before the attack and the many calls and texts around the time of the attack – but maybe he can prove the brothers were trying to sell him bodyguard services or something crazy – you never know.

        1. Deiseach

          There seem to be new developments in this case practically every hour.

          On the “Jussie Is Innocent” side, he’s up for some award of which I have never heard – the Image awards? Seemingly run or presented or who knows what by the NAACP? Now, he’s been nominated and won twice before for ‘representation on TV/media’ or the likes, but nominating this time round seems a bit pointed, to say the least:

          Smollett is nominated for the 2019 NAACP Image Awards, scheduled for Saturday. Six-time host and “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson told Variety on Wednesday that he hopes to see the controversial actor there.

          “I hope he wins,” Anderson added. “I’m happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn’t always fair, especially for people of color. So I’m glad it worked out for him.”

          On the “The language I want to use to describe him would get me banned by the Reddit admins” side, the Mayor City of Chicago wants Jussie to pay for the cost of the police investigation to the tune of $130 thousand smackeroos:

          “Given that he doesn’t feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is that when he writes the check, in the memo section, he can put the words, ‘I’m accountable for the hoax,'” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said earlier Thursday.

          This is the first time I have ever been in agreement with Rahm Emanuel about anything 🙂

          Honestly, this story is more entertaining than any of the TV shows or movies Smollett may have starred in. Just sit back and watch the drama unfold (though I do realise it’s a very serious matter, given the charged racial atmosphere and the political polarisation).

    2. suntzuanime

      The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime. He was charged with filing a false police report, which is a felony but also the sort of thing where you might get community service if you say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again and the prosecutor is a family friend.

      The only weird thing is that he hasn’t said he’s sorry. He’s maintained his innocence. The prosecutor says he thinks he’s guilty. It seems like that sort of disagreement might be usefully resolved by a jury, you know? But instead the case has been sealed. So I imagine there’s some political fuckery going on.

      Really the problem is that his attempt to stoke racial hatred was so facially absurd, and yet all the Good and Decent people rallied around him instead of asking any questions at all. We’ve got to stop believing “victims”. Blood libel isn’t a crime, and free speech means it can’t be, so the responsibility is on people to show some sense in how they interpret things.

      1. EchoChaos

        The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime.

        Well, not against white MAGA guys anyway.

        1. suntzuanime

          Blood libel against any group is not a crime in the United States, the greatest nation on Earth, which actually respects the legal right to freedom of speech that other supposedly civilized nations only give lip service to.

          1. EchoChaos

            Blood libel by faking hate crimes is not one against MAGA guys, I should say.

            I am a strong supporter of free speech. Faking a crime ain’t that.

          2. suntzuanime

            See, one of the things that makes the United States better than every other nation in the world is that other nations will say, “oh of course we believe in free speech, it’s just that hate speech isn’t free speech, grossly offensive speech isn’t free speech, lèse-majesté isn’t free speech, counterrevolutionary propaganda isn’t free speech, but for sure we love free speech!” The United States actually takes its legal commitment to freedom of speech seriously.

          3. Cliff

            Sure… but filing fake police reports is clearly illegal under U.S. law, so I’m not sure what your point is.

          4. suntzuanime

            The problem with the case all along was that blood libel isn’t a crime. He was charged with filing a false police report, which is a felony but also the sort of thing where you might get community service if you say you’re sorry and promise not to do it again and the prosecutor is a family friend.

            People are upset because he’s getting away with something quite bad, but the actual crime he’s accused of is not so serious. The thing people are mad about is not a crime.

          5. Aapje

            @suntzuanime

            False accusations can lead to very serious consequences. They can result in vigilante justice against innocents (either specific people or a group fingered as containing the perpetrator(s)) or persecution of innocents by the government.

            There is a reason why ancient legal systems would often apply the same punishment to the false accuser as would be applied to the accused.

          6. The original Mr. X

            The United States actually takes its legal commitment to freedom of speech seriously.

            The United States doesn’t need to legally suppress speech, because it can just get Big Tech to do it on its behalf.

      2. albatross11

        If he weren’t famous, this case would have expended very few resources (I bet the cops who took his original statement were deeply skeptical) and nobody, including Smollet, would ever have been charged.

        My cynical guess is that the prosecutor in charge of Smollet’s case didn’t see a political advantage in making a big public thing out of this case, and so (perhaps with the right palms being greased) was willing to drop the matter.

        OTOH, Jussie Smollet is probably responsible for getting the concept of “hate hoax” into widespread circulation, and the way things came out probably discouraged the next B-list celebrity from thinking making up a hate crime against himself will be a career-enhancing move, so the net effect of his dumbass hate hoax was probably positive.

        1. Randy M

          If he weren’t famous, his claims wouldn’t have been publicized because they were so transparently false. Assuming that they were, I would hope anyone would be charged.

          1. Conrad Honcho

            I don’t know if that’s true. Hate hoaxes perpetrated by/”against” nobodies get national attention. Like the Muslim girl who said MAGA guys ripped off her hijab.

          2. Garrett

            Coming right off of Cavanaugh allegations, I actually thought this was plausible. You had a specific person making a specific allegation about a specific action at a specific time and place with some associated evidence.

            The only thing that seemed off was the “This is MAGA country”, which I figured was mis-remembered.

          3. Randy M

            But also that two white guys were hanging around the freezing cold weather who happened to have a noose and bleach handy and could tell he was gay?

            Ford’s accusation was plausible, but uncorroborated. Jussie’s was implausible.

          4. J Mann

            Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.

            The alternative hypothesis is that there was a conspiracy of MAGA fans out to get him as a result of his anti-Trump tweets. This linked to the letter with the return address “MAGA,” and explained how two guys might be prepared for this attack, but then didn’t explain how they knew that he was going to (a) land in Chicago that night, (b) go to his friend’s condo and (c) decide to leave his friend’s condo and walk on the street to get a sandwich.

            More generally, it depended on the idea that white people see “MAGA” as a way to oppress black and gay people, as opposed to the more quotidian racism of not thinking much about how black and gay people feel about your hat.

          5. The Nybbler

            More generally, it depended on the idea that white people see “MAGA” as a way to oppress black and gay people, as opposed to the more quotidian racism of not thinking much about how black and gay people feel about your hat.

            That’s not racism at all, unless wearing Obama and “I’m With Her” paraphenalia is racist and sexist, in which case we’ve stretched the terms well beyond usefulness.

          6. Deiseach

            Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.Yeah, it was fairly implausible that two white guys would (a) be out at 2 in the morning in the freezing cold, (b) recognize a supporting character from the TV show “Empire” from across the street in the middle of the night, (c) have a bottle of bleach and a noose, (d) decide to beat up Smollett, but then (e) not seriously hurt him, notwithstanding that one of them was punching him from behind, and that they had enough control over him in the fight to get a noose around his neck.

            Plus he was on the phone to his manager who overheard the alleged attack but never said “Jussie, get off the line, I’m calling the cops!” and he never even dropped his sandwich!

            And after suffering two broken ribs he then sang in a concert (the broken ribs were downgraded to ‘just bruised’ after somebody pointed this out), he still had the noose around his neck after the hospital visit (or put it back on when the cops finally showed up to take his statement ‘to show them what happened’ or something like that).

            Originally, I thought that the whole thing was a cover story for him coming back home from a club (more plausible reason for being out on the streets at two in the morning) where he’d gotten into an argument with somebody and got a few slaps, then when asked by whomever he was staying with “My gosh, Jussie, what happened you?” he made up a spur of the moment story about being jumped by two random strangers for no reason (because he didn’t want to admit the embarrassing truth) then had to stick to it.

            The more details that came out, though, the more it seemed that he was inventing the entire ‘hate crime’ for publicity and to put pressure on the show where it was rumoured his character was going to be written out.

          7. albatross11

            I think we don’t know the base rate–the number of hate hoaxes that don’t get reported, either because it wasn’t a slow news day or because the cop taking the initial report asked a few good questions and the whole story came apart.

            OTOH, the national media tends to follow a kind of herd mentality, so once everyone’s talking about the Trump-fueled hate crime crisis, everyone’s looking for a hate crime to report. And reporters can be *remarkably* non-skeptical when they’re reporting on exactly the story their editor wants them to provide….