Open Thread 125.75

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1,386 Responses to Open Thread 125.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to give us a tiny taste of your profession, in a single sentence.

    An example, for software development:

    The very best bugs are called Heisen-bugs: when you turn on the system’s diagnostic functions, they go away.

    • Deiseach says:

      Dunno if you’d call clerical work/administration a profession as such, but here goes:

      Nobody thinks what you do is all that important, until that one batch of paperwork they want/need/gotta have done yesterday doesn’t get done and now they can’t go forward with their Very Important Work.

      (Still doesn’t get you any respect, though).

      • J Mann says:

        Relevant to johan’s post and yours.

        The first thing any lawyer with a good mentor leans is to be nice to adminstrators, for the entirely selfish reason that their good or bad will can make or break her career.

    • Walter says:

      As a software developer, you spend a disturbing amount of time hoping that the broken thing is really badly broken, because then it will dependably reproduce.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Yes, you made production goal, but you ran 3 machines instead of 2 machines to do it, and used 5 laborers instead of 3 laborers. That means you lost money.

    • Nick says:

      There are two states for programmers: “my code isn’t working, and I don’t know why” and “my code is working, and I don’t know why.”

      • acymetric says:

        The second one makes me so much more nervous, because I start to lose faith in everything I thought I knew about programming generally and the software I’m working on specifically.

    • acymetric says:

      “We are hoping to finish building this large, million dollar piece of equipment roughly the length of a football field sometime this afternoon, and it must be delivered to our client in Russian Siberia tomorrow morning.”*

      *I guess I should clarify this is an American company, the problem would be a bit different if we were, say, based in Russia.

    • Skivverus says:

      That report you want can’t be made (quickly|at all). Yes, I know it sounds almost identical to that one I made for you in ten minutes last week, and yes, if the database worked for this table the same way it works for the others, it would also be a ten-minute job; it doesn’t.

    • John Schilling says:

      We try to make your science-fiction fantasies into the most boring possible reality, by ensuring that whatever the Space Hero Astronaut has to do he has an exhaustively detailed and validated procedure or checklist for.

    • SamChevre says:

      Would you like to know whether, if management slept in their offices all day rather than trying to do things, and the economy stayed exactly the same, we’d be a viable company in a decade?

      OR would you rather that I write down the 3 variants of the reserve formula from memory, and then explain them in detail?

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m not sure I understand this one at all, Sam. People keep asking you to quantify impossibly unlikely scenarios?

      • SamChevre says:

        I mostly support long-term strategic planning, on questions like “what if we focused on growing product line X.” But most of the company’s profit is driven by other things, like the interest rate environment.

        So I’m normally answering “we only change X, and everything else stays the same–how does that work out over time.”

    • Plumber says:

      Plumbing:

      This ain’t a hobby!

      !

    • hls2003 says:

      There are no magic words or forms that will make things go right; however, there are many words or forms that will make things go wrong.

    • woah77 says:

      Industrial Ultrasonic Imaging: If our black magic can’t see it, you don’t need to know about it.

    • bean says:

      Yes, I know that writing it that way sounds like a good idea, but if you do, it will come back to haunt all of us when it gets onto the airplane, if not before.

    • Betty Cook says:

      A geologist is someone who sees the eternal hills as temporary surface phenomena.

      • Well... says:

        I’m not a geologist (more like a very slight geology buff, or a layman who’s enthusiastic about geology) but that’s how I see it too.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      “After years of grueling work using extremely precise machines we can prove definitively that nobody has any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to biology and medicine, including ourselves.”

      I can’t say any specifics without doxxing myself, but a talk I heard recently made a very convincing case that many if not most of the targeted drugs in clinical trials today act through entirely different mechanisms than they’re supposed to. My own thesis project is based on the fact that a central hypothesis in my field, which is literally older than I am, has never been directly tested. It’s a very exciting time for biomedical science but there’s a lot of garbage in the literature that needs to be sorted through.

    • Well... says:

      This is for my previous profession:

      I draw realistic pictures of blood-soaked fur on top of the footage one frame at a time, because they won’t let the director actually cut the dog (plus it’d be Not Very Nice).

      • Randy M says:

        Was there a reason you couldn’t apply make up to the dog?

        • Eric Rall says:

          My guess off the top of my head is that it would take an incredibly tolerant and well-trained dog to 1) hold still while the makeup is being applied, and 2) not mess up the makeup before the director gets the shot. But then, I have cats rather than dogs, so I may be underestimating how tolerant a dog would be of makeup.

        • Well... says:

          Applying makeup to the dog definitely would have been the smarter way to go. But not every opportunity is seized on set. Plans change, scripts change, things get overlooked, there are mistakes. (The dog itself is rarely the issue; serious dog actors are extremely well trained and are accustomed to putting up with all sorts of weird stuff that comes with the territory of filmmaking. Their trainers are always close by, just off camera.) The saying goes, “‘Fix it in post‘ are the four most expensive words in filmmaking”, but sometimes it’s still the only way to get the best story told in the end.

          Thus I was able to eke out a living for several years by digitally painting blood onto fur, erasing errant light stands and cables from the frame, replacing clear skies with more picturesque partly cloudy ones, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            “‘Fix it in post‘ are the four most expensive words in filmmaking”,

            eke out a living

            Either the saying is wrong, or you did more than eke, or you should have been better at capturing your value 😉

          • Aapje says:

            Some work can be very expensive compared to alternatives and yet offer only low salaries. For example, when productivity is very low.

          • Well... says:

            My experience in Hollywood was that success is highly dependent on your network. At the time I suspect I was worse-than-average at developing my professional network. So, I moved out there, made a small number of strong connections, got work trickling in from them, but it wasn’t enough to allow me to do much more than pay my rent. And eventually barely even that, which is one of the reasons I got out.

            In retrospect, I’d say those people feeding me work had limited networks of their own.

            (OTOH I was just about to get a job at Sony when I left. So who knows what would have happened, maybe in the end I wouldn’t have been eking. But I’m glad I left.)

            Note: there are kinda 2 Hollywoods. There’s the big-budget Hollywood that makes the stuff you see on TV/in theaters/on Netflix, and the small-budget Hollywood that makes the stuff you see on websites like CollegeHumor.com and at small art theaters. The former operates largely on union labor; the latter doesn’t. I was never in a union.

            ALSO: the saying about “fix it in post” tends to refer to when people hire the big visual effects companies like Digital Domain, which charge a fortune for every second of footage and employ tons of people. Employees at those companies are largely overworked and underpaid, based on reports I heard from friends who worked there. (DD, I think, was involved in a scandal where they were using unpaid interns to produce for-profit work that normally employees would have been paid to do.) So even outside of my personal experience, the pattern holds.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      I translate a business problem into math, solve the math problem, then translate the solution back into business.

    • ders says:

      Legal assistant/paralegal work:

      Go ahead and do this two hour project that the client might want but hasn’t actually instructed and will surely say they don’t need after the work is done.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      .03 inches is plenty of clearance

      Alternatively

      It needs to be exactly like what you built 20 years ago but also it needs to meet a margin that’s 5x larger.

    • cassander says:

      All numbers about aircraft are lies; I collect them.

    • Protagoras says:

      Everybody knows that the universal quantifier is normally restricted to a domain determined by context.

      • A1987dM says:

        I see what you did there.

        • Protagoras says:

          I heard a philosopher of language (I think Nathan Salmon) say this; he was quoting another philosopher of language (maybe Keith Donnellan?) not merely because it seemed relevant at the time but because it seemed like such a philosopher of language thing to say. I provided it as an example sentence here for the same reason.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Thousands of very talented people over dozens of years have written hundreds of billions of dollars worth of software, which everyone is allowed to use for free, but only as long as you give them credit and occasionally share your work when you fix what they wrote. This turns out to be more expensive than you would first guess.

    • Yes, they say that their code works, but if their programmers were any good, they wouldn’t have hired us.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I don’t care if you think your code works perfectly: you changed something, so we have to retest all the pieces it touched.

      And my previous profession, just for fun:
      It’s nice to pretend that you’re contributing to the education of the next generation, but in reality, 3/4 of your work is teaching old people how to attach files to an email and listening patiently as customers give you way too much information about their personal lives.

    • Incurian says:

      Next open thread, can we call out people to expand on these? They all sound like they have lots of good stories.

    • ryan8518 says:

      “Yes the interfaces have to change, you tried to build the vehicle while the engines were still being designed”

      Or

      “That is technically a way to build that, but there are consequences”

      I’m about to swap companies, and I very much expect the latter of the two to be more common in my next role, though number one will still apply

    • BBA says:

      Where are the customers’ yachts?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “Big sky, little airplanes.” Or else, “Visual separation existed up to the moment of impact.”

    • Basil Elton says:

      – Who’s ever going to use it? We already have three frameworks doing just that, and two of them do it better!
      – Well, someone’s going to get promoted for it.

      (yes, there’s already a few quotes about programming here…)

    • sharper13 says:

      Preventing the lions from eating the wizards keeping the chaos of change from disrupting our pocket of the catallaxy.

    • toastengineer says:

      If I do my job wrong, the product will be buggy and slow. If I do my job perfectly, the product will be buggy and slow.

      Or,

      Test failed? Great, now I have to fix the test too.

    • rahien.din says:

      No, I can’t read your mind from your brainwaves, but I sure can transform you into a thicket of likelihoods – and then I navigate the thicket.

    • Profession1:
      “We try to understand behavior on the assumption that individual actors have objectives and tend to choose the correct way of achieving them. That assumption need not be limited to humans.”

      Profession2:
      “No plot survives contact with the characters.”

    • S_J says:

      I regularly turn a set of loose descriptions of expected behavior (for a computer) into a set of rules interpreted by said computer. Some times, the customer knows what they want and can explain themselves clearly.

      Sorry, that’s two sentences.

      There are many facets to the task of telling a computer to do something useful for non-computer-savvy folk. I think we’ve seen lots of descriptions of that kind of work in this thread.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I’m a tax accountant who has been shanghaied into making the VAT systems work for Canada for the last few years. I have two ironic comments on this.

      As an IT person, I’m a pretty darn good tax accountant.

      Making systems work flawlessly to save the user time usually takes more time by IT than it would be to do all the work manually.

  2. Jaskologist says:

    Anybody here who can give us the inside scoop on the Israeli elections? I’m seeing headlines like “there is no more Israeli left,” but I don’t trust reporting on foreign politics, and I don’t know what “left” and “right” even mean in Israel.

    (Not to mention that I’ve seen headlines declare the same thing domestically about the left and right in the past few decades, and they were dead wrong.)

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Isn’t left vs right relative anyways?

    • herbert herberson says:

      As far as I’m concerned, this is dispositive. Others may feel differently because identifying the center is always a subjective judgement, but it’s undeniable that the center-left Labor got slaughtered, and the socialist/communist/Arab parties even counted collectively can barely match the numbers of the parties to the right of Netanyahu.

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t think the left has been killed economically (that actually happened most significantly long ago with the reforms), but the economic left foolishly allied itself with the American pro-Palestine coalitions, which simply does not sell right now to people on the ground. That is why you get a range of opinions that appear to foreigners to range from “hawk” to “ultra hawk”, because anything that would look dovish to an American looks like suicide to an Israeli.

    • brad says:

      I’m seeing headlines like “there is no more Israeli left,” but I don’t trust reporting on foreign politics, and I don’t know what “left” and “right” even mean in Israel.

      Up through at least the 1990s socialism (not the Nordic kind either) was a still a powerful force in Israeli politics. That’s gone now. The economic debate still isn’t like the US, but even the social-democrats are on the run.

      The other big axis over there is Palestinian issues. In the last election Arab parties won 10 seats. Labor and Meretz another 10. (Labor is the traditional big left wing party, akin to Labour in the UK or Democrats in the US. Meretz is to their left.) That’s it for the “peace left”, out of 120 seats. To contrast, parties to the right of Likud on these issues (Likud is the traditional right-wing party, akin to conservatives in the UK or republicans in the US), not including the ultra-orthodox parties (i.e. the United Right and Yisrael Beiteinu) got as many seats as Labor and Meretz. The new party that did well (Blue and White) is explicitly centrist. Their slogan in the election was something like “strong but not crazy”.

      It’s as if a new party arose in the US co-founded by Mitt Romney and Joe Lieberman and took away 85% of the political support from the Democratic Party. In that case I think it would be fair to say the left was dead.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I saw the point made that Notre Dame was in bad shape because it wasn’t clear how much responsibility the French government had for taking care of it vs. the responsibility of the Catholic Church. And rich people could have stepped up to help *before* there was a fire. There are people for whom giving a hundred million just isn’t a big deal.

    The thing is, people do get more respect for doing dramatic things than for doing the maintenance which prevents the need for dealing with emergencies.

    How can maintenance be better rewarded?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Private property. The clearest it is who has ownership and who derives benefits, the more that person/organization has incentive to keep the golden goose alive. See Hernando de Soto.

      • Matt says:

        I used to live in some govt-owned apartments where the original contractors (in the 90s) did not put flashing above the windows. So every window in the entire complex leaked. I am convinced that if there had been an owner whose real estate was in danger from water damage, it would have been fixed in year one. I lived there around year 10, and if you complained about the leaks, the management firm that was ‘in charge’ would dutifully send a maintenance guy over to slap a useless bead of caulk around the windows.

        In a similar vein, outside my office window in a govt building is a beautifully constructed artificial pond that is always green and gross with a fountain that was at one time inverted (turned over somehow at its mount so that it would stir the water but not spray into the air) because they were concerned it might give us all legionnaire’s disease. Lots of money for construction, no money for maintenance.

      • ana53294 says:

        But the private property of sacred art is a very fraught issue. In Spain, sacred art can only be sold to religious organizations or to the government.

        A church that was being renovated had some altar pieces that were in a very bad state. The church deemed that they had no artistic, historical or sacred value, so they decided to toss them in the bin. A contractor then asked for permission to take them, and in his free time he restored them. And when he tried to sell them, he was banned from doing it, because of the law.

        This is probably a bit excessive. But having sacred art as private property is how we ended up with the Ayala altarpieces in Chicago, or the frescoes from Pyrinean churches end up stripped from walls and in private collection in the US or in a museum in Catalonia.

        I think those frescoes would be best in the churches where they were conserved for almost a thousand years. But the current reality is, remote churches will be robbed, and precious art will be stolen, and the only way to protect it is to strip it from the walls and keep it safe in a museum with guards and CCTVs and all the rest of security paraphernalia.

        Remote churches having no security is a big issue. In my hometown, church bells have been stolen from multiple churches. The sad thing is that they are not even going to end up in some private collection, but they will be sold for the bronze (there was probably 500-1000 euros worth of metal in a church bell). Our City Hall’s solution was to take all the bells from the churches, and they only get hanged up once per year at that church’s patron saint day. So we don’t get death bells anymore, and the churches look very sad without the bells.

        I don’t see how keeping those churches in private property, would have helped keep the Ayala altarpiece in Ayala, or the Pyrenian frescoes in the churches they belong to.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Interesting- in England, theft of lead from church roofs for its scrap value is a widespread problem, but I have never heard of bells being stolen.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems to have happened in England multiple times.

            There also seem to have been some Dutch thefts, including of a bell that the Nazis left behind out of respect for the age of the bell. So the thieves were literally worse than Nazis.

          • ana53294 says:

            I guess criminal gangs specialize. Also, in Spain, churches have tile roofs.

            In my hometown, one church had two bells, a big one and a smaller one. The smaller one was more valuable, because it had some inscriptions of historical significance. The bigger one got stolen first, though, because it had more metal. The town hall then promptly removed the other one.

            They didn’t just steal the bell, though. They did it on Christmas eve (we woke up on Christmas day without a bell).

            I see that the bell of the church in Shotwick also had inscriptions.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I’m not a pure libertarian – I’m in favor of regulation (but I do think that the bias and default should always be in favor of fewer laws). So it’s perfectly ok to treat monuments like monuments, while having them in private property. There are plenty of precedents – you can own forest, but usually you’re not allowed to clear it without replanting.

          But I admit some problems are just hard, regardless of management. Can’t really think of how you could protect valuables in a remote location.

        • Etoile says:

          Theft of bells for scrap metal?? That’s crazy – almost as bad as the rhinoceros killed I a French zoo (!). It’s the kind of thing where you think “what? In a first world country? How?!”

          Although I have also read about theft of copper wire and thr like for scrap metal from farms in Central California.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, in the US churches commonly have their copper waterspouts stolen.

          • ana53294 says:

            Spain is full of churches in remote locations. Especially the Basque country, where they built many churches because of witches (or so says urban legend).

            These are small, simple churches, and they don’t have gold, or precious art. They are very simple, rustical churches, and until they started to steal the bells, it was thought that they contained nothing worth stealing. These churches have no alarm, no CCTV, nothing. And being so remote, it’s not like that would help much, because nobody lives there.

            In my hometown, they also stole the electric cables three times, and the telephone cables twice. These are people willing to risk their life stealing electric cables – what would stop them from stealing church bells?

            And, obviously, they are not Spanish; all of the metal thieves tend to be Eastern European, most frequently Romanian.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        Privatizing the benefits is essentially equivalent to letting it burn down. Defeats the purpose.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Not sure where to begin. Let’s take the most drastic scenario – it’s 100% private property, and closed to the public completely. It’s still a beautiful monument that can be admired from the outside – very much better than burned down. My personal “Notre Dame” moment is reading in the park behind it. Somehow I never really liked the inside – dark and churchy.

          But most private property scenarios involve pretty much the same Notre Dame, with stuff like 3 eur per visit or 10 eur for the “hunchback view”. One could even argue a better experience overall, I don’t think you could climb any towers.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            Well, for one thing, I’m speaking more to the abstract principle than Notre Dame specifically. The whole problem is how to coordinate the preservation of this kind of public good. The premise here does not allow you to “admire from the outside” as that is the conceptual opposite of privatizing the benefits to fund the maintenance. If the true public benefit is the outside of the place, then it has to be the outside that we’re fencing off from view in order to collect payment to pay the maintenance.

            Concretely though, a financially self-interested actor is for sure going to sell off the art inside piece by piece, not pay millions on maintenance just to collect $4 per visit. A for-profit model doesn’t produce art museums, it produces art auctions.

    • Nick says:

      The obvious way to reward maintenance better is to charge the real cost of admission—visiting was free, and you only had to pay to visit special locations like the tower, and I wonder whether this is the optimal price.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But is it a church or a tourist attraction?

        • woah77 says:

          In capitalist Tropico, they are one and the same!

        • Nick says:

          It’s both. I’m not saying to charge admission for Mass, which is a violation of canon law and common decency, I’m saying to charge admission for tourists.

          • Evan Þ says:

            The Oxford college chapels (Anglican, of course) already do this; I got around paying the tourist entrance fee for one college by saying I was going to Evensong. (And then I actually went; if anything, the Evensong was even more beautiful than the college courtyard outside.)

    • Dack says:

      There is no way to reward maintenance inside of the “We steal your buildings but let you keep using them…if you’re good” paradigm.

      Or did you mean more generally?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I don’t particularly agree with Radu. Fuck, people don’t maintain vital infrastructure that they own. The problem is that, engineering-wise, we have no good way to estimate the benefits of maintenance and a very good way to estimate the costs. Worse, it’s a very slowly iterated game in which the players form habits long before they get feedback.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        +1. My first thought reading that was “have you never rented from someone you didn’t know personally?” I haven’t even had particularly cruel or scheming landlords compared to accounts from my friends, but neglecting a non-trivial problem for months or years is well within the default set of things you can expect from private property owners

        • Randy M says:

          I wonder if that has to do with the relative value of buildings to land (in residential terms, not the Notre Dame), or if they discount the views of people who won’t directly pay for the repairs they request.
          Or if it’s just CBA with possibly unwarranted discounting of future costs.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I actually think it’s more pernicious. I suspect that the first-order cost of maintenance is always greater than the marginal benefit because rents are sticky. A marginal degradation in quality is usually not going to prompt a renegotiation of rates, so the only relevant costs end up being the catastrophic ones… which may or may not get discounted. “Is $50 worth a 0.05% chance of catastrophic fire in the next 20 years?” is the sort of question people are bad at; “Is $50 worth 20 years of neatness and tidiness” is better. The latter strategy still has horrifying failure cases, though – see: California’s attempts to deal with the fact that the state aggressively prevented forest fires for way too long.

            As far as public property goes, I’m strongly in favor of allocating a generous discretionary maintenence budget to whoever is in a position to notice that maintenence is required. This seems to work decently well for parks in the US. I have no idea how to make it work well for structural integrity of civil infrastructure. Anyway, the happy coincidence that marginal QoL improvements often have good long-run side effects should be milked for all it’s worth as far as I’m concerned.

      • DinoNerd says:

        My local power company declared bankruptcy as a semi-direct result of cutting costs by skipping maintenance. (A large multi-fatality fire occured, seemingly as a result, and the bankruptcy was a reaction to the wrongful death lawsuits.)

        Note that the folks who made those decisions are probably still being paid while the courts sort out the bankruptcy, and will doubtless fall into similarly paid jobs if eventually cost cut out of their current ones. Plus they’d be of a level likely to received large contract severance payments when dismissed (as in, $ millions).

        Where was their incentive to do maintenance?

        On the other hand, since the company is publically traded, I am one of its many owners. (I own some index fund shares.) Where was my ability to even become aware of these decisions (before the fire) let alone to influence them – realistically speaking.

        Privatisation is no panacea.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        First, the renters argument is actually pro private property. Rented apartments are compared by default with the owned ones, so they have bad maintenance because they’re not used by the owners. The more you separate the usage from the property, the worse it gets.

        About infrastructure, this week our metropolitan heating company in Bucharest finally went bankrupt, and they’re doing some brazenly illegal things to keep things running. So there are many examples of bad infrastructure – this one public, but probably plenty of private as well. But overall, I’m betting the public ones fare worse.

        Think of the incentives. You own a piece of very expensive stuff, like a gas pipe. As a private owner, you expect either to use it for a very long time (in which case you want it well maintained) or to sell it some day – in which case there is a piece of math which says how much you should spend to maintain it in order to get the most profit in the end, but that amount is definitely not zero – you can’t sell something that is obviously in bad shape, plus you bear yourself the risks of it breaking down.

        For the public manager however, the incentives are … well, actually exactly the incentives of a private manager without the owner looking over his shoulder. He’s hired to do a job, likely for a much shorter duration than the life of the infrastructure. If he’s a politician, that’s even less – 10% of the lifetime is very common. You’re definitely not evaluated on spending money in order to make life easier for the next guy – but you are evaluated on current profits, or for politicians on the money you’re spending on more visible things, like events or welfare. So really, we’re not even talking about a “problem” per se, the incentives are crystal clear.

    • ana53294 says:

      I think English (Welsh/Scottish) Heritage is a model to follow.

      They seem to be revenue-neutral, and they maintain their sites in very good condition. Of course, the issue with cathedrals such as the Notre Dame is also the use you can make of them.

      Let’s take the Cordoba Mosque/Cathedral. Spanish muslims have been campaigning for a long time to use it as a dual worship place, and they’ve been denied. I am pretty sure you could find some rich Muslim organization* that would be willing to pay for any restoration and any maintenance cost of the Cathedral if we reconverted it to a Mosque, just for the symbolic victory for Islam that would be. It’s a very politically problematic issue.

      I am sure there are many other uses and ways you could find to finance the restoration of churches, but they would involve offending Catholics and the Church.

      So, if we are going to put limits onto the uses that would limit the profitability/viability of restoration, public money will have to be used.

      *The Turkish government sends a lot of its politicians on a tour of Spain to see all the al-Andalous places.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      The French state owns the Notre Dame and they are responsible for the maintenance of the building itself. The Catholic Church has the usufruct.

      Interestingly, in my country the churches are owned by the Church, but quite a few bell towers of old churches are owned by the local government, because of a 1798 law from Napoleon, during the French occupation of The Netherlands. The government wanted to be able to use the towers for military reasons (lookouts) and because the clock served an important public function.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        The French state owns the Notre Dame and they are responsible for the maintenance

        I recall hearing that, though the state owns it, the state had said the church was responsible for paying for the renovation and that the church was in fact paying for it. The church tried to get the state to pay for it but failed, so raised money themselves. I can’t find a source on that right now though. Anyway ownership doesn’t necessarily imply responsibility for maintenance costs.

    • CatCube says:

      As others have said, it’s hard to reward maintenance, because it can be difficult to articulate the benefits. To give you an example from work, we’ve been debating some repairs to trashracks for a power plant (screens that prevent ingestion of debris from the river). We generally rank these by benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) for funding priority. It’s (relatively) easy to calculate the cost of various options–replacement with new, or rehabilitation of the old racks (blasting off the paint, fixing any cracks you see, and repainting). However, what’s the number for the benefit?

      The usual way is to calculate the probability of failure occurring in a year, and multiplying that by the value lost in a failure. The problem is that both of these are very, very difficult to articulate. I mean, I don’t know what the fuck the chance of failure of these racks are. The best way to figure that out is to do statistical analysis of failures of in-service components, but these (like many structural designs) are one-off, so the only examples are the ones we’re looking at, which haven’t had a major failure yet. I don’t see any visible distress, so when I’m asked if any of them will fail in the next 10 years I can’t say that they will, but then again these things are 80 years old and they stopped doing any substantial maintenance 40 years ago, so I wouldn’t be completely shocked if one caved in in 8 years either.

      However, the only way to be sure is to strip the paint off so we can inspect the bare metal. The problem with that is that the largest fraction of the cost for replacement is physically removing them and removing the paint; by the time you’ve actually done that, you’re practically 80% of the way to completing the job. They used to do this up until 40 years ago on a routine basis, but shrinking budgets reduced headcount so that went by the wayside. So we’re left with trying to guess the life remaining by 1) using a Remotely Operated Vehicle to do a swim-by with a camera and see if anything jumps out at us 2) swapping out racks with on-hand spares, but that’s labor intensive for anything but the top rack and requires (expensive on an opportunity cost basis) unit downtime. Any probability of failure numbers are very speculative.

      Similarly, it’s hard to say what the cost of a failure is. If one rack caved in, you’d send a bunch of metal and trash into the unit. This could end up being anything from a small issue (debris misses everything important and there’s no cost other than replacing the rack) to catastrophic (jamming open the wicket gates, having a unit run away, losing the headcover, and flooding the powerhouse)*.

      Technically, each of these has its own probability of failure given the probability of a trashrack failure, and just like the trashrack failure it’s tough to articulate exactly what they are. The catastrophic is pretty unlikely, as we’ve had plenty of examples of ingested trash not causing major issues, or just jamming a single wicket gate which is easily handled by braking the unit to zero speed and then using the headgates to close the penstock. You then dewater the turbine, pull out the rootball or whatever, fix the shear pin that it broke, and return to service–expensive, but most of the cost is forgone power production.

      At the end of this, you have a very uncertain BCR. These get ranked, but there’s a further detail: the first funding priority goes to things that require emergency repair, because they’re in an active state of failure. So even if you have a positive BCR, to fix things on a scheduled maintenance basis, you might sit somewhere in the middle of the list until you fail, at which point it costs 5 times as much because you’re paying to get it done right now, rather than being able to take your time to do the design, bid the job on a routine basis, and sequence the work to minimize disruption. That then means that other jobs that have a positive BCR don’t get funded because of all the money getting sucked up by emergency work. It’s difficult to break out of this spiral.

      This also doesn’t account for the fact that there’s stuff that may not have a positive BCR, but once it actually fails it turns out that people don’t actually care about the cost. I’ve got a hypothesis that I haven’t had time to work out the numbers for, but much of the repairs to the Oroville emergency spillway conducted in the aftermath of the incident there may not actually have a positive BCR. If a high-water event or a failure similar to the one in 2017 occurs, you’re going to have a few days to evacuate people downstream, which means you’re going to have basically no deaths** from an emergency spillway failure. If the emergency spillway repairs were on the order of $500mm (about half of the $1bb I recall the repairs), I’m not sure that costs less than just cutting everybody in the town of Oroville a check in the unlikely event they have to evacuate. However, not rebuilding that emergency spillway hell-for-stout would have been absolutely unacceptable politically, no matter what the economics are.

      *For an example of “catastrophic” though caused by factors other than trashracks, you can see Sayano-Shushenskaya in Russia.

      ** Just to make it clear, if you have a possibility of killing people with a failure at a dam, then you fix that without fretting about BCR, but pool elevations are forecast with enough time to allow evacuations.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        They used to do this up until 40 years ago on a routine basis, but shrinking budgets reduced headcount so that went by the wayside.

        Sobs in engineer

        “Well we did it until we didn’t, and now that we don’t we can’t just throw money away by going back to the maintenance plan we pre-committed to.”

        • CatCube says:

          To be fair to the managers who cut the paint shop, it turns out that you can run for a long time without it. When I inspect these things and don’t find major corrosion issues I kind of feel like the exterminator in the Onion article “Exterminator Kind Of Surprised Apartment Doesn’t Have Roaches:”

          CHICAGO—During his monthly visit to the building at the corner of Spaulding and Milwaukee Avenues, Pest-Away exterminator Harold Batten was once again mildly baffled to find that, despite its unsanitary condition and state of utter disrepair, apartment 4B contained no roaches. “You have got to be kidding me,” said Batten, who used a high-powered flashlight to inspect a sink containing two weeks’ worth of dirty dishes in 4 inches of gray water and soggy cereal bits. “I should look underneath that bathtub again or check around that lasagna pan on the couch, because there is just no way.” Batten was reportedly also surprised by the apartment’s lack of mice, rats, bedbugs, or eviction notices.

          I do note that I try to design things to not require maintenance when I can get away with it. I’ve had an argument with another engineer along the lines of “Yeah, I get that paying less up-front with a stream of payments for over 50 years for yearly maintenance costs less on a life-cycle basis, but that stream of payments always seems to disappear around year 11.

          • ana53294 says:

            “Yeah, I get that paying less up-front with a stream of payments for over 50 years for yearly maintenance costs less on a life-cycle basis, but that stream of payments always seems to disappear around year 11.“

            That’s a thing in academia, too. We had 7 old growth chambers that had to be replaced, so money was allocated to replace them one by one, every year. But once two of them were replaced, and the absolute minimum need covered, that allocated money keeps getting raided for other stuff. Allocated money is very convenient.

            Which is why I also believe it’s better to spend all the money you are allocated all at once, even if it ends up costing you more, and buy as much of what you want as possible, because if you do split it into different payments, the money won’t keep flowing.

            It does create perverse incentives, but that’s how public funding works.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I mean sure, but for me it’s fine because we design for minimal/zero maintenance over a lifetime, and all parties accept that once the lifetime limit is reached they should expect to eat the cost of replacement. I can’t imagine that, “and then we eat the cost of replacement” is commonly proposed when it comes to the kind of stuff you guys build. Either way, I feel like lifecycles are terrifyingly underconsidered (possibly because as far as I can tell reliability engineering is magic numbers + voodoo).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Almost everything is magic numbers+voodoo. From the accounting perspective, you eliminated the prior maintenance routine 40 years ago without the predicted black swan. I don’t know how much money that saved, but it might be a hell of a lot.

            My bigger concern with maintenance are the things Clutzy highlighted with ignoring BCR, which is all too common when you have pressure getting applied somewhere else. Like, right now I have someone asking me, in order to hit their attainment numbers, if they can hire some additional full-time employees instead of temps.
            Fuck no you can’t. All-in cost for a FTE is literally 4x the cost of a temp. There needs to be an actual demonstrated business case that you can’t hit your number, not a vague feeling, if you wanted to effectively double the labor cost.

            Also, generally speaking, the only person I trust if he gives me a number is the guy who is known as a gigantic asshole but still hits his timelines and budgets. Everyone else is sand-bagging.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            From the accounting perspective, you eliminated the prior maintenance routine 40 years ago without the predicted black swan

            Cries harder in engineer

            Like I get it, but this is how you get burning buildings. Unless you pick up the obsidian knife, perform the ritual dictated by the reliability guy’s spreadsheets, and accept the costs, it’ll happen eventually. Alternatively, 10 years later you spend 2 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out if you can anchor a giant block of concrete to 100-foot steel rods. Then you spend millions to anchor a giant block of concrete to 100-foot steel rods. It might be voodoo magic that isn’t right per se, but it’s also never wrong. It’s gri-gri for engineers.

            We can’t tell you the BCR because we can’t tell you the failure mode or the cost to repair/halt it. We can only guess at the maintenance requirement, because the best way we have to determine the need is to build 20 and wait 20 years for them to fail. And we definitely can’t tell you how badly missing maintenance has fucked anything because we’d need to do maintenance to find out. Anyone who tells you otherwise, asshole or not, is lying.

  4. herbert herberson says:

    Your mission is to travel back in time to 1720 and win the Longitude Prize. Your time travel machine is Terminator style, so you can’t bring anything back with you (unless it is a living thing, I suppose). How do you do it?

    • Dack says:

      The key is a very accurate clock.

      So you could spend a few decades perfecting your mechanical clockwork construction skills and then go back and get the jump on whoever ended up winning the prize.

      Or for a quicker and more interesting solution, you introduce the quartz electric clock early. Perhaps tattoo a schematic onto yourself and/or an animal to bring it back with you.

    • KieferO says:

      Ryan North took up pretty much this exact problem in “How to Invent Everything.” His conclusion was: don’t bother with the clock, invent radio. If you know for certain that all these strange things you’re doing with cardboard and acid and zinc and carbon etc. are actually going somewhere useful, you have a much better chance at solving the longitude problem by building a very powerful AM station in London than by somehow being the finest clockmaker that ever lived.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Yeah, there are four basic approaches for the Longitude problem, and all of them are useable but not practical without some innovations beyond 1720s tech. They all boil down to “compare the reference time at a known longitude with the local time calculated from stellar observations”, and the difference is how you get the reference time. The chronometer method is well-known, and I dealt with two others in another comment. The fourth is to broadcast the reference time from shore. This was proposed at the time by means of signal rockets relayed between ships holding position at ~100 mile intervals, but that was deemed to be both too expensive and too imprecise. Inventing radio is a more practical implementation of the same concept.

    • Eric Rall says:

      The chronometer method is probably impractical: it’s primarily an engineering and precision manufacturing problem, so I wouldn’t have a huge comparative advantage over clockmakers of that era who historically took several decades after 1720 to get it right. And even then, marine chronometers were hideously expensive to manufacture for some time.

      I’d go for either the lunar distances method or the Galilean moons method.

      Lunar Distances involves a lookup table indicating the time based on the date, the angles from the horizon to the moon and a reference star, and the angle between the moon and the reference star. The hard parts are 1) a practical algorithm for calculating the lookup table (a low-error numerical solution to the differential equations of the three-body problem, with trigonometric transforms), and 2) actually crunching the numbers. #1 is a well-known algorithm (Euler’s method) that I expect could memorize given a few weeks to prepare. #2 could be done by hand (hiring clerks for the grunt work, perhaps), but I could improve on that by inventing some basic mechanical computers. Slide rules would be the easiest (log tables can be generated by hand, and that’s the hard part of making a slide rule).

      Galilean moons works by noting which of Jupiter’s four major moons are transiting the planet’s disk or are eclipsed by Jupiter’s shadow. The transits start and stop at times that can easily calculated. The calculation is much easier (algorithm has already been solved for some time before 1720, and can be calculated on shipboard), but the observation is much harder (need to take detailed observations through a medium-powered telescope from a rolling deck). Galileo came up with a concept for a solution (mounting a telescope on a helmet rig, so it’s steady relative to the observer) a century or so previously, but couldn’t get it to work. Samuel Parlour tried revisiting the concept (using a shoulder rig instead of a helmet) in 1824, and had limited success but not enough to win the prize (at that point, lunar distances and chronometers were both solved, but expensive, so there was still a prize for further improvements but there was a pretty high bar for winning it). Matthew Dockrey revisited Parlour’s designs in 2013 and apparently got it working (although now with GPS and accurate electrical clocks, it’s a mere curiosity). If I chose to go that route, I’d practice building Dockrey’s design with period tools and materials until I was confident in my ability to build it from memory.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Wouldn’t either of those methods have a serious problem with cloudy nights?

        • Eric Rall says:

          Yes, but that’s a problem with just about any maritime navigation method other than dead reckoning, GPS, or the Viking sunstone (taking observations of the sun at noon to estimate latitude, and using a naturally-occurring polarizing filter (e.g. Icelandic Spar) to find the sun’s location behind the clouds).

          In particular, cloudy nights defeat the chronometer method because while the chronometer tells you the time in Greenwich, you need to compare that to the directly-observed local time to compare with GMT to get your longitude. And you need to be able to see stars and the horizon to measure your local time.

  5. DragonMilk says:

    I like Indian food a lot, but have failed at making good Indian curry. Instead, we buy at an overpriced restaurant for like $20 per dish.

    What are some pro tips at making a creamy curry? (Ingredients and cooking method appreciated)

    • edmundgennings says:

      I am a fan of this recipe and have cooked it for a number of friends who have also started using it.
      https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/budget-bytes-chana-saag-513882

    • Well... says:

      What have you tried to do that failed?

      I’ve never been able to make Indian food that tastes exactly like it came from a restaurant, but I’ve refined a recipe for korma (a kind of creamy coconutmilk-based curry) that’s come pretty close. I make it with butternut squash and garbanzo beans but I suppose you could swap in other solid ingredients. The “curry sauce” part should stay the same (all amounts are eyeballed, so use your judgment):

      1. Heat coconut oil in a pan on medium-high. Once it’s hot, add a cinnamon stick and a bunch of bay leaves, let that sautee for a minute or two. Then add mustard seed, ground cloves, cumin, and curry powder. Stir, then let that sautee for a couple more minutes. What you’re doing here is flavoring your oil.

      2. Add finely diced onion, and garlic powder. Shake some salt over that, then stir. You can also add cayenne or other hot peppers if you like that and if none of your diners will complain too much.

      3. Once the onions are very translucent, you can either dump the coconut milk* (and an additional can-full of water) directly over top of them or else use a rubber spatula to transfer them to another larger pot on high heat and dump the coconut milk & can of water over them there; it really depends if the pan you sauteed everything in so far is deep enough to accommodate your whole curry.

      4. Add a couple chicken boullion cubes, more curry powder, some turmeric, and whatever solid ingredients you want to add. Like I said, I really like this with chickpeas and butternut squash. Let it come up to a boil, then simmer it on low. You can also add butter if you want, although lately I haven’t found it necessary.

      5. Once it’s thickened up and your solid ingredients are cooked through (usually 45-60 minutes on a stove, or 4-6 hrs in a “high” slow cooker), you’re done. Salt to taste. Serve it over basmati.

      *Make sure you don’t buy “lite” coconut milk. Shake it really well for an almost unreasonably long time before you open it, too; I’ve found that coconut milk tends to separate out while it’s sitting on the shelf in the store, so this step helps you avoid having to scoop coconut cream out of the can with a rubber spatula. It also works your arm muscles, like a shake weight!

      • DragonMilk says:

        Well….
        Apparently I made a good thai curry out of a cast iron skillet, but proceeded to try and make curry out of a slow cooker four times before being told to stop and also being informed….dummy, curry isn’t made in a slow cooker.

        “curry” was the store-bought curry powder plus coconut milk

        • Well... says:

          FYI: I usually make the above recipe in a slow cooker, only I do steps 1 & 2 in a pan on the stove. It’s come out great every time lately.

          But note, this is NOT a Thai curry.

        • Deiseach says:

          Not an expert or even a good amateur cook by any means, but I do know that standard “curry powder” is not going to get you anything like ‘real’ Indian curry. You do need to use the individual spices, or at least get a good blend for the particular dish (korma is not the same as dopiaza is not the same as madras and so on).

          And if I believe the Madhur Jaffrey videos from the 80s, frying at each stage rather than stewing is the secret 🙂

          • Heterosteus says:

            Not an expert or even a good amateur cook by any means, but I do know that standard “curry powder” is not going to get you anything like ‘real’ Indian curry.

            I strongly endorse this message. 😛

            The good news is the “real” spices are pretty simple and most recipes just use a subset of the ten or so standard spices, so you don’t need a big dedicated spice cupboard (unless you want to get all the esoteric rarely-used ones as well).

            (Madhur Jaffrey’s books are also pretty good.)

          • Well... says:

            I was going to suggest DragonMilk go to an Indian grocery store and buy the bags of whole spices like I normally do, but I didn’t think it was practical. Besides, the last few times I made this recipe I used the spices I mentioned plus the yellow curry powder available in any grocery store chain and it came out fine.

          • Gray Ice says:

            Getting some premixed spice packets is a good way to get part of the restaurant taste with at home prices. A few issues:
            – It will not be quite as good as your local restaurant.
            – You may have to experiment to get the proportions where you like them
            – Even after you do that, the naan will not be nearly as good.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Hmm – so what should store bought curry powder be used for? Should I just not have bought it?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            – Even after you do that, the naan will not be nearly as good.

            I’ve been surprised by how good some store-brand naan from a grocery store is, and how often actual Indian restaurants don’t produce very good naan. They might get lucky.

          • Our local Indian supermarket has lots of little boxes, each of which contains the spice mix for a particular dish. I’ve tried one or two of them, using the recipe on the back, but they come out too hot for the rest of my family.

          • Heterosteus says:

            Hmm – so what should store bought curry powder be used for? Should I just not have bought it?

            Have a look on the back and see what’s actually in it. If it’s mostly standard spices (e.g. cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder) it’s totally fine to use as a substitute for those spices. Powdered spices are generally all added at the same time anyway.

          • quanta413 says:

            Hmm – so what should store bought curry powder be used for? Should I just not have bought it?

            I liked store bought curry powder in egg salad. Maybe to give a bit more flavor to some ramen or another quick meal. It tastes good in split pea soup.

            I also second the above that depending on the mix it still works for some curries. Store bought curry powder tastes like the Japanese versions of curry to me.

          • Gray Ice says:

            Some things that have worked for me:
            – Spices for specific Indian dish, purchased at Indian grocery
            – Cook meats in cast iron pan
            – Cook onions and peppers in cast iron pan
            – Add meats, onions, and spices to slow cooker
            – Add cream, yogurt, butter, tomatoes, etc as time permits
            -Experiment and adjust according to taste
            – Don’t stop eating at Indian and Thai restaurants, because that will give you ideas for further experimentation.

    • Heterosteus says:

      This cookbook contains some really excellently tasty examples of Indian cooking, albeit probably not of the healthiest kind. I highly recommend it for parties in particular:

      https://www.amazon.com/Prashad-Cookbook-Indian-Vegetarian-Cooking/dp/1444734717/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=prashad&qid=1555521135&s=gateway&sr=8-1

      More generally, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to get good at Indian cooking compared to other Asian cuisines I’ve tried. A lot of really good recipes come down to (1) fry some standard mixture of spices and aromatics, (2) fry or otherwise cook some vegetables, (3) add some suitable liquid (e.g. chopped tomatoes, water, coconut milk) and simmer to thicken. This makes it pretty easy to learn separate modules of this process (e.g. groups of spices or aromatics that go well together) and mix and match them yourself.

      Regarding making creamy currencies in particular, one trick I found in a different book is to get a tin of coconut milk and let it settle on a top shelf for a day or two, then open it carefully and spoon out the thick cream to separate it from the thin coconut water. Then you can cook your veg in the thick creamy part and add however much or little water you want to get the right consistency.

      (Sorry, not a complete recipe, but hopefully helpful/encouraging nevertheless)

    • sharper13 says:

      The middle path is to go to World Market (or some equiv.) and pick up some of their pre-done sauce jars.

      Heat it up, add rice and chicken/tofu/whatever and you’re done.

    • Mustard Tiger says:

      Go to youtube and look up “BIR curry”. BIR stands for British Indian Restaurant and the style of cooking common in British and American Indian eateries. Most recipes involve a base gravy – which is kind of a vegetable soup that’s pureed, consisting of a lot of onions, that is “carmalized” and becomes the saucy base of the dish. There’s also a “mix powder” which is a common base of powdered spices used in the dishes. Other dish-specific spices are added along with pieces of pre-cooked meat or veggies. Cooking method involves high heat and only takes 5-10 minutes.

      I love Indian food but found the cookbook recipes I had very labor intensive and although good, not like what I had at restaurants. They were “traditional style” Indian recipes. BIR style curries, like those presented by Misty Ricardo or Curry Shed on YouTube, are faster and easier to make once you’ve put together the base ingredients, and taste like the restaurants. I can thaw out some chicken and frozen base gravy while cooking rice and then make the curry (Vindaloo is my favorite) in about 10 minutes for a nice weeknight meal.

      https://www.youtube.com/user/MistyRicardo
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa_M1_lZjkxtOkoRcy3sbQw

    • gleamingecho says:

      Some cookbooks will recommend that you buy whole spices, replace them often, and then roast and grind them yourself before adding them. I’ve not done that, but Indian restaurants might. I dunno.

      I’ve found that in most cooking applications, salt, fat, and cooking accuracy (tenderness/texture of the food) get you 90% of the way there. So, unless you’re on a low-sodium diet and/or are averse to milk products, cream and salt are your best friends. They’ll do much more for the flavor than perfecting the spice profile will.

  6. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    You find yourself transported back to Italy, 132, BC. Happily, you also find yourself speaking fluent Latin and with a portfolio of estates with wealth sufficient to qualify you as a member of the Senatorial class. Otherwise, you have only your own skills and knowledge.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Achieving the total abolition of slavery within the borders of the Republic. How do you go about this?

    [Metanote: The scenario is mostly because I’m curious if a powerful abolitionist movement was even possible before the late 18th century. Is a Roman abolitionist movement at all plausible? Where would it have come from?

    If you have other interesting things you’d like to accomplish as a homo novus (or femina nova) in the time of the Gracchi, feel free].

    • ManyCookies says:

      My understanding is the Roman economy was way waaaay too dependent on slave labor for total abolition. Your best shot might be starting a movement around better treatment, but even then you’re up against a lot of momentum and incentives counter to it.

      • Eric Rall says:

        The legal theory behind Roman slavery was different from the more familiar 18th/19th century American slavery. The latter is known as “chattel slavery” because the slaves were classified as personal property of their owners, like a farm animal or even a piece of furniture. Roman slavery was a special case of the Patron/Client relationship that was the fundamental unit of Roman society: a slave was merely a client who didn’t chose his patron and whose clientage could be bought and sold. To oversimplify, Roman slavery was about half-way between chattel slavery and medieval serfdom.

        For “visible” slaves, that distinction made a big difference in how they were treated. A slave’s owner still had enormous power over him, but that power was similar to the power the head of a household would have over his wife and children, and there were substantial reputational consequences for a slave-owner who became known for abusing his power as patron of his slaves or for failing his his duties to them as his clients. The story of Augustus Caesar censuring Vedius Pollio for ordering a slave executed over a petty offense is one indication of what this might look like.

        Agricultural slaves seem to have been treated quite a bit more harshly as a matter of course, especially on large estates. They had the same legal status as household slaves, but out of sight, out of mind. Note that in the Vedius Pollio story, Augustus only took action when Vedius ordered an unreasonable execution in Augustus’s presence and the slave personally begged Augustus to intervene: previously, when Vedius had been cruel to his slaves (even his household slaves) privately out of Augustus’s sight, Augustus had been friendly towards Vedius and had appointed him to important government positions.

        Slaves sent to the mines had it even worse, as they were generally worked to death. Their legal status was different from other slaves, and mining slaves were generally citizens who had been “condemned to the mines” as punishment for a crime.

        Given this, I’d frame a campaign for better treatment of slaves as part of a broader campaign to uphold moral standards, enforcing the existing norms against mistreatment slaves more consistently and more broadly.The legal theory behind Roman slavery was different from the more familiar 18th/19th century American slavery. The latter is known as “chattel slavery” because the slaves were classified as personal property of their owners, like a farm animal or even a piece of furniture. Roman slavery was a special case of the Patron/Client relationship that was the fundamental unit of Roman society: a slave was merely a client who didn’t chose his patron and whose clientage could be bought and sold. To oversimplify, Roman slavery was about half-way between chattel slavery and medieval serfdom.

        For “visible” slaves, that distinction made a big difference in how they were treated. A slave’s owner still had enormous power over him, but that power was similar to the power the head of a household would have over his wife and children, and there were substantial reputational consequences for a slave-owner who became known for abusing his power as patron of his slaves or for failing his his duties to them as his clients. The story of Augustus Caesar censuring Vedius Pollio for ordering a slave executed over a petty offense is one indication of what this might look like.

        Agricultural slaves seem to have been treated quite a bit more harshly as a matter of course, especially on large estates. They had the same legal status as household slaves, but out of sight, out of mind. Note that in the Vedius Pollio story, Augustus only took action when Vedius ordered an unreasonable execution in Augustus’s presence and the slave personally begged Augustus to intervene: previously, when Vedius had been cruel to his slaves (even his household slaves) privately out of Augustus’s sight, Augustus had been friendly towards Vedius and had appointed him to important government positions.

        Slaves sent to the mines had it even worse, as they were generally worked to death. Their legal status was different from other slaves, and mining slaves were generally citizens who had been “condemned to the mines” as punishment for a crime.

        Given this, I’d frame a campaign for better treatment of slaves as part of a broader campaign to uphold moral standards, enforcing the existing norms against mistreatment slaves more consistently and more broadly.

        • ManyCookies says:

          (You copy-pasted your comment body twice)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Why do you say that Roman slaves were not legally chattel?

          • Eric Rall says:

            Based on my recollections of descriptions of Roman slavery in this lecture series. It’s been a couple years, but I’m pretty sure the lecturer emphasized that Roman slavery was seen as a special case of a patron/client relationship.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It depends on the kind of slave. House slaves were often more like clients, but slaves in the mines or fields had a very different, and much worse, lot.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Those are two different statements. Maybe Roman slavery was seen as a special case of the patron/client relationship, but that says nothing about its legal status. I would be very interested in finding a single source that claimed that slaves were not chattel. (google will find you a hundred that say that they were chattel)

            Also, the comment about pater familias is yet a third thing. Maybe the slaveowner had the same rights, since the father could execute his son on a whim, even though his son was not chattel.
            There were probably more laws restricting American slaveowners, though they were vague, so they just gave tooth to social pressure.

            Mr X,
            sure, but there was diversity in America, too. I think that there’s a pretty solid analogy:
            house:fields:mines::
            house:fields:sugarcane fields

    • johan_larson says:

      For any given amount of land and capital in the Roman Republic, is the landowner better off having it farmed by slaves he owns or by free tenant farmers?

    • cassander says:

      Build a small private army with ferguson rifles. Use it to take over the state and enjoy being the first gunpowder emperor. Conquer everything the romans conquered while minimizing the amount of slaving going on and the number of ways people can become slaves. Die. Then hope that Tilly was right that the gunpowder revolution drove the formation of capitalism and modern states, and you’ll have your end of slavery in a few hundred years.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I’d start by inventing the steam engine a little early–I’m probably not mechanically-inclined enough to do it on my own, but I think if I provide the idea, the technical skill could be found. Then I’d try and convince the rest of the Senatorial class that public works projects and the like should make use of automated labour as much as possible, and argue against Vespasian-type “I must feed my poor commons”-type arguments.

      Ideally, the use of automatic labour would eventually undermine the dependence on slave labour that ManyCookies mentions, allowing for the emergence of a real anti-slavery movement. Perhaps a Gracchian/free-soil type appeal that both slavery and automation undermine free mens’ labour could assemble the necessary political coalition, but this is probably the work of decades.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I don’t think ancient metallurgy was advanced enough to cope with the sorts of pressure an industrially-useful steam engine would involve.

        • Nornagest says:

          You couldn’t build a locomotive, but Newcomben and Watt-style engines operated at fairly low pressures, near and below atmospheric. I’m pretty sure Roman metallurgy could handle that.

    • Lambert says:

      Wait 105 years for there to be no slaves anywhere in the republic

      Non-vacuuously, I’m guessing the answer involves shifting the relative labour vs land intensiveness of farming.
      Kicking off the agricultural revolution 1800 years early might not be a bad start.

      In terms of labour saving, Bermuda rigging, lenses (increases the usable lifespan of a scholar), algebra, the printing press and better windmills/clockwork seem like decent technologies to start with, seeing as they’re all medieval/renaissance anyway.

      Also, I’d take a dump in a field and see whether any tomatoes or corn starts growing.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Approach it from a few angles simultaneously:

      Introduce effective wind and water power to reduce the demand for muscle power.

      Promote new contractual forms around labour that are more like an employer-employee relationship than owner-slave.

      Commission plays etc that have slaves as sympathetic characters and emphasize their humanity.

    • ManyCookies says:

      Would yall actually know how to create the technologies you want to introduce off the top of your head? And I don’t think you could get away with making a prototype and expecting the Romans to “fill in the blanks”, like they did have a rudimentary steam engine but didn’t make the further leap into full steam power.

      • Lambert says:

        You get a lifetime to figure things out.
        And also to hire/buy a team of researchers.

        • Technology is more complicated than “throw money at something and give it time”. You’re not going to singlehandedly cause an industrial revolution in your lifetime.

      • bullseye says:

        Years ago, some National Geographic writers asked the engineer at a glass factory how they could make their own glass using primitive methods. The instructions they received did not work, even after several tries; the engineer had a lot of theoretical knowledge of glass, and a lot of practical knowledge of glassmaking in a modern factory, but no practical knowledge of primitive methods. Instructions written in ancient Greece, on the other hand, worked on the first try.

        My point is that theoretical knowledge of how something works and could be made is no substitute for actually knowing how to do it. I figure that engineer could probably, eventually, figure it out through trial and error, but a rando (even a very smart rando) trying to build something more complicated is a much steeper climb.

        Now, the printing press does seem simple enough for me to work out. But mass production of books also requires reasonably priced paper, which the Romans didn’t have and I have no idea how to make.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yeah, but in 132BC there’s already a textbook on steam engines, clear enough that Hero was able to build one hundreds of years later.

        • Lambert says:

          Clear glass is known to be really hard to make from scratch.
          People like How to Make Everything on Youtube had real problems with it.

          But if you get optical glass, that lets all your scholars get glasses, so they can still read in their fifties and sixties.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I cheated and skipped ahead to his success, and it appears he didn’t use lead, which was the 15th century “shortcut”.

    • Deiseach says:

      My very rough impression is that they’d look at you blankly because duh, we’ve already got ways you can become a freedman/manumitted! Particularly as being the trusted slave of an important person gave you the opportunity to peddle influence and be quite wealthy yourself, once manumitted, see Narcissus (freedman of the Emperor Claudius). The notion of “no slaves at all ever anymore from anywhere” would not even be in the water then, because you could become a slave as a spoil of war (and thus conquered peoples sold off as slaves were a source of revenue for the Roman leader doing his military service as part of the cursus honorum) as well as for indebtedness, born into slavery, and other reasons.

      Though reading up on it, it looks like the influence of the Stoics over time did work on attitudes to improve the lot of slaves, so it seems like your best bet is to become the most Stoic of Stoics and work on hectoring society into treating their slaves better, which will in turn soften attitudes to the point where doing away with slavery altogether happens (then again, if I believe Wikipedia, by the third century slavery was replaced by serfdom which may not be much better).

    • Protagoras says:

      I’d introduce as much modern mathematical and economic knowledge as I could (not an expert on those, but I know a huge amount of stuff people of that era didn’t, and arabic numerals make a lot of things vastly easier), as much as possible by the practical method of applying them myself to increase my own wealth (and so my influence). Then I’d start a campaign based on the economic arguments against the efficiency of slavery.

      • JPNunez says:

        I think this depends on how much of practical economy you know. You probably know enough to spot obvious fallencies in the global economy (IIRC the romans were prone to fixing prices of food), but dunno how much that will help you run your terrains back then.

        Arabic numerals would be huge, and you probably know enough math to get to publish logarithmic tables.

        But if you are good at double entry bookkeeping, you probably can become an effective administrator. May get a lot of influence by becoming an auditor.

    • Dack says:

      Destroy the republic. Then there is no slavery in the republic.

    • JPNunez says:

      Go to Judea and somehow seed STRONG antislavery sentiment among the jews there, in the hopes that when Christianism is founded they inherit this sentiment instead of the meh attitude they carried on for centuries.

      I guess that falls well into the Empire part. Dunno how to do it in less than 100 years without going to Marius and trying to make _him_ emperor, with the deal that slavery will be abolished.

      Tough one.

  7. mxhaas says:

    The fire at Notre Dame was obviously a tragedy but as a side note I have some questions about the cost stated to rebuild it. There have been figures in the billions of dollars range floating around in the public sphere. I’m not a general contractor or an art connoisseur by any means, but after doing some quick mental math they seem to be wanting in the range of tens of thousands of dollars per square foot if we were to liberally calculate by including the entirety of the building for renovations. I understand that the architecture was very complex and there were precious pieces of art work which could have been damaged. I assume the value of them could be written off as a loss but that does not mean paying the equivalent amount of money will bring them back. I feel like they would either be salvageable for a much lower price or would likely be lost forever. I just want to pose a question to anyone more knowledgeable on these kinds of things. What exactly would an itemized bill for this kind of salvage operation look like? Are these cost justified? I’m open minded because as I have stated I know little to nothing about the subject.

    • hls2003 says:

      It’s not replacement driving the cost, it’s labor.

      In your typical fire loss, let’s say a home, you pull out anything that’s smoke or water damaged and toss it. You then replace it with off-the-shelf materials. You clean and re-paint the remainder. And even that will run you a couple hundred thousand dollars for a typical residence after a bad fire. This place is fifty times more square footage, ten times taller, ten times harder to work in, and ten times more complicated. Take your $200K home bill, multiply it by that 50,000 times, and you’re around a $10 billion price tag.

      As to labor complication, a lot of the material itself is unique and needs to be cleaned and restored to its original condition. If you have a smoke-damaged wall panel, you can’t replace it with new paneling because the whole value in the old panel is the antiquity and/or artwork. You have to painstakingly remove smoke particles from the original surface, in a completely non-destructive way, one square inch at a time. And you’re not hiring temps at $15 an hour for that work; you’re using skilled labor, with multiple PhD’s overseeing said skilled labor. Almost every surface and structure in that place will require that level of painstaking effort, and we’re talking about unionized French labor even for the most basic support. Billions for sure. $10 billion might be an underestimate.

    • Tenacious D says:

      One interesting thing that has already come up regarding restoration work is that there are not enough trees of sufficient size in France to rebuild the “forest” part of the roof structure as it was. The choice now would be whether to compromise and go with engineered built-up wooden members or import trees from some place where large enough ones can still be found (the Pacific Northwest, I’d guess, or possibly from Quebec if they wanted to get them from somewhere in La Francophonie).

  8. cassander says:

    Oh, better than google…I need a new cell phone, and I’m looking for recommendations. I mostly use my phone for web browsing, reading email/texts, listing to audio books, and keeping my calendar. I’m looking for a relatively cheap android phone that’s compatible with verizon.

    Things I care about:
    relatively wide screen
    Long battery life
    24+gb storage
    headphone jack

    Things I don’t care about:
    the camera
    High performance for graphics or intensive games
    slimness

    Any suggestions?

      • cassander says:

        This is helpful, thanks, though it’s way more technical than I can use effectively. I have no idea, for example, what chipset I need or what a camera F number is.

        • Another Throw says:

          The ratio between the focal length of the lens and the diameter of the lens (aperture). The two three most important reasons to care are, in decreasing order of importance to most everyone:

          Smaller numbers are faster; i.e., the length of time necessary to properly expose a scene is smaller. Useful in low light to avoid motion blur. Always a good thing.

          The ratio also determines the depth of focus, or the range of distances from the lens that are in acceptable focus at the same time. (Larger numbers mean more depth.) Useful for taking pictures that actually look good by making sure everything you care about is in focus and/or everything you don’t care about is out of focus to isolate your subject and let the viewer know what to look at. Caring about this this is probably most of the reason why professional photos look distinctly professional.

          ETA: A number that is too large (the aperture is too small) degrades image quality through diffraction. Roughly speaking, any time light passes through a hole is produces diffraction effects and the smaller the hole, the more diffraction effects there are. (This is one of the reasons astronomers like huge telescopes.) If the aperture of a camera is too small, it will cause a single point in the scene to be smeared across multiple pixels. The resulting picture will be annoyingly blurry even when in focus. For well engineered cameras this usually only comes up in specialized use cases, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility in very cheap cameras.

          Non cell phone cameras allow you (or most often the software in the camera) to select the aperture by using a shutter inside the lens to stop down to a smaller effective diameter (larger number) than that of the lens. Most (all?) cell phones do not. What you get is what you get. (Though I wouldn’t discount the possibility I am a decade out of date and everybody started doing this while I wasn’t looking.)

        • rlms says:

          I’d ignore most of the parameters except for year, price, network (Verizon’s frequencies should be online), and the other things you mentioned caring about. The Show button updates as you change them to say how many meet the criteria, so adjust continuous variables (price, battery capacity) until you get a reasonably small number, then have a look at reviews for a random sample of the listed phones. Nowadays you can get very good value phones from Chinese brands if you’re willing to put a bit more time into looking at network compatibility, don’t care about customer service, and order from China. There are also a few brands that used to be in that position but have now broken into the Western market (and are still pretty good value). That’s probably not so relevant to you if you don’t care so much about performance, but it explains why GSM Arena might suggest extremely-cheap-seeming phones from brands you’ve never heard of.

    • AG says:

      The ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom was the best budget smartphone battery life at the time I bought mine about a year ago. I don’t watch video or listen to audio on my phone, but I do use it for searches, maps, and email. I charge about once a week. 32 or 64 GB, supports SDcards.

      I do miss being able to put my cell phone in my pants pockets, though. Now I have to always have a jacket or a bag.

      • cassander says:

        How’s the durability? I drop my phone a lot.

        • AG says:

          I’ve dropped mine a couple of times, though not from really high heights. The phone comes with a case. I also got a pack of screen protectors for it. So far, the screen protector has some small ignore-able cracks, and the phone itself seems fine.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I had basically the same list of things I cared about last June, except I also wanted it international-friendly, and bought a Motorola Moto E4 Plus for $159.99. 32gb storage, much better battery than most phones on the market, headphone jack, and 5.5″ screen.

      I bought it in gray, which looks to be hard to find now- but if you want it in gold, there are several sellers around the $130 mark now.

      • andrewflicker says:

        Side note- pay a LOT of attention to the mAh rating of the phone’s battery- it’s not foolproof, but it’s the best stat to watch to get an idea of which smartphones will have better battery life. The Moto E4 Plus I use is 5,000 mAh, for example, as is the ASUS phone AG recommended above me.

      • cassander says:

        How’s the durability? I drop my phone a lot.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t have an E4, but my Moto phone has survived a good amount of abuse. The screens are quite expensive to replace, though.

    • SamChevre says:

      I have a Samsung Galaxy J7, which works well for most of those things and I haven’t used for the others (I don’t listen to audioboooks.) With no apps running in background and location turned off, the battery will last several days.

  9. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://yhlee.dreamwidth.org/2800991.html

    This sounds like something rationalists might like.

    “Maoyu is set in a medievalesque fantasy world where humans who follow a united church devoted to the Light Spirit (subtitles use she/her pronouns, I’m not sure about the actual Japanese) are at war with demons under a Demon King. In the very first episode, when the Hero goes to slay the Demon King, she (it’s a title; the current Demon King happens to be a woman) spends the entire episode explaining the economic foundations of the war and how she plans on stopping the war so that everyone in the world can find out what a world at peace looks like. I fell in love right there and then.”

    • AG says:

      The show is very uneven, and there’s annoying relationship shenanigans that distract from the good stuff.

      Log Horizon is a better “medieval uplift” anime.

    • Civilis says:

      I’ll second AG’s description of it as ‘uneven’. Maoyuu (Maoyuu Maou Yuusha or Evil Overlord and Hero) is often cited as the macroeconomic counterpart to Spice and Wolf‘s microeconomic lessons hidden in an anime.

      There’s an interesting design choice by the original author in that the characters and locations in the series aren’t identified with names, only titles, because the author didn’t want the names to distract from the characterization. There’s not so many characters and almost all of them have relatively unique jobs within the story, so referring to the most prominent member of the merchant’s guild as the Young Merchant works; there isn’t anyone else that could also be described with that title.

      I also found it interesting that several of the usual tropes were subverted; for example, the merchant’s guild in the series is exclusively interested in making money, but they’re smart enough to realize that the war is probably not as profitable as peace could be.

      • Nornagest says:

        There’s an interesting design choice by the original author in that the characters and locations in the series aren’t identified with names, only titles, because the author didn’t want the names to distract from the characterization.

        Could also be a follow-the-leader thing. Goblin Slayer does that, and it’s very common for a characterization or setting trope in manga/anime/light novels to break out like a bad case of zits once someone proves it’s commercially viable. See for example how “trapped in an RPG universe” became not just an undistinguished subsegment of portal fantasy but a genre in its own right about six months after Sword Art Online and .hack came out.

        • Civilis says:

          I think Maoyuu’s the older series. I know they’re both web novels to start with, and it’s harder getting the dates on those. The anime, at least, dates back to 2013.

          Speaking of genres, has the quasi-educational series become a genre yet?
          Spice and Wolf is Microeconomics the Anime
          Maoyuu is Macroeconomics the Anime
          Hataraku Saibou (Cells at Work) is Human Biology the Anime
          Moyashimon is Microbiology the Anime

          • toastengineer says:

            If I had unlimited resources, I’d make an anime like this about how crops have all died out and humanity survive in city-mecha of varying size, controlled by single individuals or small councils, that go around harvesting from the environment and manufacturing things to trade in themselves, mecha abstractly representing firms.

            The formula would be, we introduce some business management or microeconomic theory for ten to fifteen minutes or so at the beginning, then the rest of the episode demonstrates it. So we’d have the first few episodes introducing our viewpoint characters (a small corporation-mech with a few hundred people, led by a charismatic and slightly crazy founder) and the theory of the firm (“Mommy, why doesn’t everyone live in one HUGE mecha?” “Well, you see…”), with our small corporation narrowly dodging getting trampled by the lumbering giants, and occasionally carving off bits of market share for themselves by being faster and taking risks larger corporations won’t.

            Later episodes focus on meeting other corporations that run things differently (i.e. we meet a co-op, we run in to a cartel and have to fight them for market share, we visit Silicon Valley where all the mechs are on life support connected to a few central VC firms) and the founder struggling to maintain control of the company as it grows.

            The overall arc of the first series is the corporation’s relationship with government, represented by tentacles that pop out of the ground and take things or crush entire corp-mechas, realizing towards the end that they’re standing on the back of a titanic mecha representing the government itself. In the final episode they’re offered the chance to become a flunky of the government-mech… but they choose not to, and leap off in to the sea, because the entire show was secretly about anarcho-capitalism the whole time! Psych!

          • aphyer says:

            Spice and Wolf meets Mortal Engines?

          • Nick says:

            @aphyer: Hah! Though they called it “municipal Darwinism” in the movie.

          • AG says:

            The quasi-educational series is already a thing, but not really a genre, because their genres are often determined by what they’re going to teach.

            The most prominent are anime that are trying to promote the backwater regions of Japan. These have run the gamut of surreal family drama to lesbian subtext mecha action to zombie idols.

            Silver Spoon is Modern Agriculture the Anime
            Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, and Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma cover cooking
            Tribe Cool Crew is a “how to dance” anime
            Shirobako covers the nitty gritty of anime production
            Holmes of Kyoto covers antique appraisal
            Moshidora covers very basic management practices
            “C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control” is…weird and presumably about money, but I don’t remember any supposed lessons it taught

  10. Heterosteus says:

    What are some aphorisms/pieces of advice that you find especially wise/memorable/virtuous but typically fail to follow in your own life?

    One that I always remember too late is:

    [The noble man] hates those who advertise the faults of others.

    (The Analects, Book 17)

    • Walter says:

      Great minds discuss ideas.
      Average minds discuss events.
      Small minds discuss people.

    • Well... says:

      “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”

      I’m sure others here will verify both that the aphorism is wise/memorable/virtuous and that I typically fail to follow it.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        *thinking* What does that mean? Better say something or they’ll think you’re stupid
        *out loud* Takes one to know one!
        *thinking* Swish!

    • Gray Ice says:

      Haha only serious response:
      – Get good, noob!
      – Find something to like about it!

  11. Eugene Dawn says:

    Hey hivemind, I have a Passover question that someone here might know the answer to. Anyone who has celebrated a Seder is likely familiar with the bizarre section in which three rabbis attempt to prove exegetically that the Egyptians were plagued by five times as many plagues at the Red Sea as they were in Egypt, and that the number of plagues in Egypt should either be 40 or 50 plagues, for a total of 200 or 250 at the Red Sea.

    My question is: when did this section enter the Haggadah? The sages cited are Tannaim, meaning they are Mishnaic-era, and so are roughly contemporaneous with the emergence of the Seder, but from what I can tell, this particular discussion is not from the Mishnah, but from the Mekhilta d’Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a now-lost work from the same era. Wikipedia suggests that most of what we know from the Mekhilta is actually by way of the Midrash haGadol, which itself was mostly overlooked until a little over a century ago; however fragments of the Mekhilta turn up in other places, and it seems scholars had access to copies until the 15th century or so.

    So then, did this section enter the Haggadah directly from the Mekhilta some time in the distant past when the Mekhilta was not yet lost? Or did it enter by way of the Midrash ha-Gadol more recently? Or some other option? Do we know what the context of this exchange was in the original Mekhilta? And do we know what the scholars who used it for the Haggadah had in mind?

    I’ve tried to look it up, but have struggled to find specific information so if anyone can suggest some resources that would be helpful.

    • brad says:

      I have no idea, but that’s my single favorite section of the entire haggadah.

      The British library has a 14th century haggadah digitized here: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Add_MS_27210

      Maybe someone with stronger Hebrew than me could check if it’s in there.

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        I have no idea, but that’s my single favorite section of the entire haggadah.

        You have to be the only person in the world who feels this way.

        Thanks for the link to the Haggadah, I’ll flip through it and see, but I think I mostly managed to answer my own question. First of all, I had the wrong Mekhilta; it’s from the Mekhilta d’Rabbi Ishmael, which is not lost. Second, the segment did appear in early Haggadas: the Sarajevo Haggadah for example has it, and Maimonides’s Haggadah does not, but explicitly on the grounds that it discusses events outside of Egypt and the Seder should focus only on the events in Egypt. So it was included in Haggadot at least prior to Maimonides.

        Since the Mekhilta d’Rabbi Ishmael is available online and in translation, one can easily check that it is a comment on the moment between the death of the Egyptians in the sea and the beginning of the Song of the Sea, as the Israelites marvel at the strength of the Lord in destroying the Egyptians. Interestingly, the Mekhilta seems to preserve only the initial statements of Akiva and Eliezer, but not their full reasoning.

        • brad says:

          There is something about it that just tickles my funny bone. Maybe a little like how someone might have reacted to the whole how many angels can dance on the head of a pin thing before it became a cliche. At least in me it evokes a mixture of humor and grudging admiration.

  12. edmundgennings says:

    It seems that different types of labor are complements on an economy wide scale and similar temperaments are replacements. Over the long term money obsessed ivy league grads in finance are in the same labor market as term money obsessed ivy league grads in law but not construction workers.

    The supply of the elite ie overly ambitious, very smart people with high impulse control, who are inclined to work more than would be ideal for their objective flourishing is over the long term split among a range of industries and in the long run the expected wages for this type of people is determined by both the demand and supply. If supply drops, then compensation for these people will go up. By implication the real wages for other people will decline.

    Thus it seems that a decline in elite fertility would cause an increase in inequality over the long term. Elites tend for a variety of reasons to have children who are elite. Thus in the next generation there will be fewer very smart workaholics. It might reduce the gini coefficient but it would make the highly paid even more highly paid and the poor paid less.
    As the gini is rising, this is unlikely to be all of the explanation for rise in income inequality but does it seem plausible that part of it is a change in labor force composition has and will continue to exacerbate this kind of inequality. Does this seem likely to actually be part of the story?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Are you saying that entrepreneurs are complementary to society?
      Baumol worried that an oversupply of entrepreneurs would cause them to create socially harmful industries. Whereas Peter Turchin believed that the excess from “elite overproduction” would enter a single high variance industry of revolution.

  13. hash872 says:

    Is getting equity in exchange for working at an early stage startup….. kind of a scam? Are people like Paul Graham of Y Combinator who push working for early startups as the ‘best’ way to build wealth acting dishonestly/in bad faith? I feel like most evidence these days points to yes, but I wanted to give the idea a fair hearing.

    Reasons early stage equity is a poor deal- extraordinarily high failure rate of startups means a very high chance they will be worth nothing. In most structures you are receiving ‘options’, not actual RSUs- so then the engineer must pay to exercise them. The tax code is very unforgiving, so the engineer may be stuck with a very high tax bill for their equity. For the vast majority of ‘successful’ startups (whatever to 10x return, say), the engineer’s ultimate payout simply equals what they would’ve made if they’d been with a FAANG the whole time. Many golden age startups IPOed within 7 years, but nowadays startups stay private for so long that the lockup period just doesn’t make financial sense for employees. The four year vesting period encourages an abusive work environment, as the engineer is incentivized not to leave early. Paul Graham is obviously not an objective source of information on the topic, he wants engineers to work for his early stage companies.

    Ways in which early stage equity is actually kind of a scam- VCs have liquidation preferences and guaranteed returns that wipe out everyone else’s equity, unless the startup is a rare 20-100x hit. The entire structure is quite complex, and the sophisticated parties are on the other side of the transaction. Lots of stories of founders pulling the type of scams that were common in the US pre-SEC- setting up a shell company, transferring all IP, then bankrupting the main company to wipe out equity.

    The best analogy I saw elsewhere was- go to work for a FAANG instead, and every month with your higher salary buy a lottery ticket or penny stock and see if it blows up- it makes more financial sense. (While not a penny stock, for some reason I feel obligated to mention that Monster’s stock has increased 60,000% over the past few years).

    I dunno, anyone want to defend working for early stage startups? I thought this piece on it was excellent https://steveblank.com/2019/04/10/startup-stock-options-why-a-good-deal-has-gone-bad/

    • johan_larson says:

      I work in software, and I’ve worked for a couple of startups over the years. My impression of the state of play is that you should not accept significantly less in base pay for working at a startup unless you are a founder or damn close, or you are riding an absolute rocketship. Employee 100, or even 30, should not expect a big payday from a company that gets sold in year 5 or fizzles into a stable SMB at 250 employees or so. Everyone other than the founders should treat a startup like an ordinary job with a small possibility of a substantial payday.

      Working at startups does have its advantages. Things happen fast. You get a chance to build stuff from scratch and use the latest cool tech that everybody is talking about. You don’t need to worry about pissing off the legacy customers, because there are no legacy customers.

      But on the money side, there’s the founders and there’s everybody else.

    • Erusian says:

      Accepting early stage options sounds like a terrible idea. I don’t know anyone who suggests it’s a good idea. I have had people suggest it and I’ve mostly told them to take a hike. I always thought they were idiots but maybe they’re actively malicious? I’m not sure exactly what the advice you’ve received is.

      Owning equity in an early stage company is a great way to build wealth as even a modest success will net you a good return. Let’s say you start a company with a friend and get 20% of the equity with the associated vesting schedule/clawbacks. If the company sells for five million dollars (and that’s a tiny, tiny sale in the business world) you get a million dollars. Even if you pay maximum capital gains, that’s $800,000. If you worked two years on that (which is frankly a failed startup), you made about $400,000 a year.

      Owning equity is not equivalent to owning options though. If you’re not early or important enough to take a decent chunk, then make sure you’re getting paid. Usually I see it broken down into roughly three groups: pure equity holders who often own most of the company (and rarely have less than 10% equity, usually more like 20-50). They are the earliest stage people. People who own a small portion of the company and also get a reduced salary, who are usually the next in line (for example, a compuer engineer who could command 150,000 at Google getting $50,000 and 1-5% equity or something). And people who get equity basically as a bonus and are effectively employees. These are the people who get options.

      If the company gets really successful, the first group gets to be billionaires, the second group gets to be multimillionaires, and the third gets a nice downpayment for a house. If the company fails, though, the third group got basically their fair market salary minus a bonus, the second took a serious paycut, and the first lost a lot.

      If someone tries to give you like .5% of their startup and expects you to work full time without pay, that’s a scam. Unless it’s Steve Jobs.

      • hash872 says:

        Agreed, though I think you’re leaving out the likely dilution from VCs when calculating how much a founder takes home from a sale. I personally know a guy who sold his startup to Extremely Well Known Tech Company for a billion dollars, and owned 5% or less by the time of the sale due to having other founders, four venture rounds plus a seed round, etc. And his startup was an absolute homerun, so the medium 2-10x returns can be (a lot) less for the founders.

        If you IPO you have to wait out the whole lockup period and God knows what happens to your company’s valuation during that time period- if you were acquired, then you probably have a vesting period to get that money. Like Antonio Garcia Martinez, who ‘sold’ his startup to Facebook for a few million dollars but I believe got fired around the two year mark, so he got less than 50% of that. Ouch

        • Erusian says:

          5% of a billion is $50,000,000, which after capital gains is $40,000,000. I think that qualifies as building wealth.

          I’ve never heard of a vesting period to get money after a buyout. Virtually every contract I’ve seen says that a change of control (which includes a buyout) means immediate vesting for precisely that reason. Perhaps hey were poorly advised?

          • Deiseach says:

            Come come, Erusian, how can you expect someone to be satisifed with a piddling 40 million when all around them they are rubbing shoulders with billionaires and multi-billionaires?

            By comparison with Jeff Bezos, they’re only a ragpicker! 😀

          • baconbits9 says:

            Hes responding to a person who claims the first group in a successful startup gets to be billionaires and the next level down multimillionaires. If the founder is getting 5% of the sale price then the next level down isn’t getting 4%, or 2%, they are probably talking about splitting a few percent. This shifts the risk/reward profile greatly.

          • Erusian says:

            Come come, Erusian, how can you expect someone to be satisifed with a piddling 40 million when all around them they are rubbing shoulders with billionaires and multi-billionaires?

            By comparison with Jeff Bezos, they’re only a ragpicker!

            Really. I get some people only get into startups because they want to be Zuckerburg, but even among people with few skills who are starting nail salons the entrepreneurs tend to make more than the rest of their cohort. It really is a good way to build wealth. It’s just not a guaranteed ticket to billionaire land.

            Hes responding to a person who claims the first group in a successful startup gets to be billionaires and the next level down multimillionaires. If the founder is getting 5% of the sale price then the next level down isn’t getting 4%, or 2%, they are probably talking about splitting a few percent. This shifts the risk/reward profile greatly.

            Depends on where it went. But let’s say you got .1% equity. That’s a million dollars, after maximum capital gains $800,000. Plus at that level you were probably paid a salary. That’s still pretty nice. I certainly can’t think of many jobs that gives you full salary and a million dollars every five years. Even .01%, with $80,000, isn’t too shabby. It’s probably at least a significant portion of a year’s salary.

        • sorrento says:

          5% of a billion is still 50 million dollars, which is a lot more money than most people will ever see. And certainly more money than any employee of a BigCo will see, unless they make it to the C-suite.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Something that I want to point out, because a lot of people misunderstand it: If a company that took VC investment gets sold for an amount less than… probably less than $100M, certainly less than $50M, and you are an employee, then I don’t care what percentage of the company you think you own, you will get $0.

        VCs are aiming at $1B companies, with like $500M being a decent consolation prize and $10B being the golden ticket. They arrange preference and other incentives to make it impossible for common stock holders (like the founders) to make money on sales that are substantially less than $500M, precisely because they don’t want founders to be like, “We could keep going for 3-5 more years and we have a 10% chance of making it to $1B, or we could bail out for $50M right now and take home $5M each, 100% chance.” Employees are casualties of that arrangement.

        (There may be occasional weird exceptions to this rule, but they are occasional and weird. Do not imagine your company is an exception unless you have ironclad reasons to think so.)

        We latest saw this with Eero, where people were outraged to find that employees got sweet fuck-all after a sale of around $100M. Well, yeah, no shit sherlock, investors lost money on the deal. If investors lose money, you get SFA. If investors basically get back their money, you get SFA. If investors get double their money, you get something between SFA and, like, Less Than You’d Imagine. If investors get 10x their money, then you should get your nominal percentage of the company’s worth.

        EDIT: I mention this because you suggest a startup that was sold for $5M. I mean, in that case it’s probably something that took angel money and nothing else, but… selling for $5M with the founders owning 20% would be a very weird deal. Probably it wouldn’t happen.

        • Erusian says:

          Sure, if you presume you’re going to make a unicorn and give your investors assurances you don’t get paid unless you do… then yes, you won’t get paid unless you do.

          However, that isn’t the entire market (outside perhaps the Silicon Valley bubble). It’s just the very, very top. There’s a wide variety of companies that get started at lower levels. Some of them have much better returns than the big SV types.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            then yes, you won’t get paid unless you do.

            I worked for a company that did not give out preferences to the VCs. Then they did. Without asking me. (Why would they? I was one of 30 or so peon employees.) Then the company got sold. I got $0.

            Unless you have a time machine, assume equity will be worth zero. If the company wants you to value it more, make the company convince you that protections are in place. Unless you are special enough that company puts out a press release with your name on it when they hire you, they are not going to bother with this.

    • Clutzy says:

      I thought this was only a strategy people employed if the already had sorta blown up at a different place, but were not quite billionaires yet? Like you weren’t Elon Musk or Peter Thiel at Paypal, but you did end up at like the $50 million mark so making a lot of money at Facebook for a lot of work isn’t really what you are into.

    • rlms says:

      Paul Graham’s essay How To Make Wealth (opening lines “If you wanted to get rich, how would you do it? I think your best bet would be to start or join a startup.”) was from 2004, when Google etc. didn’t pay as much and therefore a startup was a relatively better option. On the other hand, he carries on with “That’s been a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years”. On the gripping hand, it sounds to me like he’s recommending being a founder or maybe employee #5 somewhere you have inside-view reasons to believe will succeed, rather than employee #50 at some startup any startup.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I have complex feelings on this.

      First of all, it is absolutely the case that being an employee at a startup is much less of a good financial deal now than it was 15 years ago. For a few reasons:

      1. Companies take longer to go public now than they used to. This also means that they take more rounds of funding, and thus dilution, than they used to.
      2. Big companies now pay better than they used to, expanding the difference between salaries you could expect from companies that pay top-of-market and those that pay significantly less.
      3. Founders (much more so than investors, I think) have significantly increased in prestige in the years after Mark Zuckerberg was so dominantly in control of Facebook, and their increased financial power largely comes at the expense of employees, rather than investors.

      That said, a few mitigating factors:

      More companies are reaching multi-billion valuations, and they’re hiring more people pre-IPO. There are more absolute spots to get crazy rich than there used to be, though perhaps lower percentage chance.

      Google, at least, is probably a lot less fun to work at now than it was 10 years ago. Facebook maybe. Netflix maybe. Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft were always kind of terrible.

      Startups (at least for some value of startup) are waking up to their cash comp rates and are increasing them.

      Also, it kind of depends on what you’re doing. Look, if you make $150k more per year at Google than you do somewhere else, you take home like $100k of that, you put it in the bank, and… yeah, after a career you have a few million in the bank. That’s great! But if you’re hoping to make $10M before you’re 40, Google probably won’t get you there. A startup probably won’t either, but it has a chance of it.

      With these longer times pre-IPO, the definition of “startup” is expanding, too. I think that there is really not much of a case, financially, for working at a series A or seed-round company. Your salary differential will be bigger, and even if you have a lot of equity and the company does make it through the winnowing, it’s going to be so fucking long before your equity is worth anything that it’s almost impossible to monetize it. On the other hand, if you work for a series C company that has $100M in revenue (albeit negative profit margins) and years of steady growth, its timespan to make-or-break and its likelihood of “make” are much shorter and higher, respectively, than the classic startups that we think of. They won’t pay you that much worse than Google, either.

      I’d say that right now, from a pure financial perspective, what you want to do is enter a company that has already gone through a few winnowing rounds at a fairly senior level. Then you either ride that out to a multi-million dollar payout, or else you try to see if you can get a FAANG to hire you at the kind of senior levels that make more than $500k total comp by having some kind of impressive experience on your resume and/or getting acquired (even if the acquisition zeros your equity).

      Right now, though, as a junior engineer, if you can tolerate being a junior engineer at a FAANG, you’ll definitely make a very comfortable amount of money, but it’s a long road from there to fuck-off wealth. And it’s an even riskier path from junior engineer to fuck-off wealth in a startup than it used to be. What I’m saying is that, relative to when I started my career, this isn’t an amazing time to be a junior engineer.

      • hash872 says:

        Thanks for the response, but I do have a couple of points of disagreement:

        But if you’re hoping to make $10M before you’re 40, Google probably won’t get you there. A startup probably won’t either, but it has a chance of it

        Google (and probably the other FAANGs) do pay ultra-high salaries for engineers working on ‘special’ projects, like Waymo/one of their moonshots. A super-smart person AI specialist for one of the FAANGs, or self-driving engineer or whatever, could legitimately make several million over a period of time there. (Some of this was documented in the lawsuit over the guy who stole Waymo’s code for Uber’s self-driving project, whose name escapes me at the moment). Or just if they feel you made a huge contribution- like Larry & Sergey making sure that Andy Rubin, the guy who invented Android, got an extra $90 million in stock options or whatever- because they felt he was under-compensated for what he’d done.

        I’d argue you probably have a better chance of making that life-changing money at a FAANG. Honestly, what % of early-stage startup engineers in the history of the valley really made $10m at their company? .01%? .001%?

        On the other hand, if you work for a series C company

        I don’t think anyone, even Paul Graham, is arguing that getting in so late to a startup is particularly profitable. I’m sure you get some equity, but you are way way further down the line. Allegedly the real money is in being an early employee, not numbers 300-1000+

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Those examples make Sandor’s point.

          Andy Rubin was an executive because his startup was acquired (and because his batna was fuck you money from his first startup). The $90m was to buy his silence. It was probably already negotiated a long time ago; the scandal was just that they let him have it rather than fire him for cause.

          Anthony Levandowski technically joined google and worked his way up, but he also has a bizarre story in which he repeatedly founded companies and sold them to google without ever leaving. It’s a crazy case of double-dealing, but they liked his initiative.

        • sorrento says:

          The thing to remember is that you won’t automatically do well at Google (or wherever) just because Google does well.

          The ultra-high salaries that people talk about Google paying are mostly for “celebrity hires” like David Patterson or Rob Pike, or for careerists who have been there for many years and successfully climbed the career ladder. They have a really complex promotion system and people spend a huge amount of their time trying to game it.

          You don’t get a high salary at a FAANG for sitting around and writing code. You have to basically get involved in the politics and steering the direction of various projects. Not to mention associating yourself with the successful ones and trying to avoid the failures. It’s not like you just check in and they say “here’s your 300k a year”.

          • hash872 says:

            I mean, the second and third paragraphs are simply incorrect. Google is absolutely paying extremely skilled software engineers in fields such as AI millions in total comp. We know from this documents made public in cases like the Levandowski lawsuit. They want to incentivize and retain talent that would go otherwise go to early stage startups. I agree it’s a very very small % of their workforce that gets that money, but no it’s certainly not a political thing.

            Dude, Oracle (just to name a random shitty large company) is paying some people $300-400k+ to ‘just code’. Lots of companies do it for elite talent

          • toastengineer says:

            I suspect Oracle has to pay that much because, reportedly, their codebase is such an absolute clusterfuck you have to be a genius to get anything done and it’s miserable work anyway.

          • sorrento says:

            Levandowski created startups and sold them to Google. You are not Levandowski. And I’m not sure Levandowski could get away with what he did at the 2019 version of Google, either.

            AI researchers can and should take advantage of the current AI spring at Bigcos. Grab that big salary before winter sets in again. But if you don’t have a PhD you are nothing in that world.

            People at the top of Bigcos are both very skilled and very political. I’ve worked at a few and never saw myself as upper management material.

            If it’s money you want, forget FAANG and do finance.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          I straight up don’t think that you can go from “getting a random entry level job in engineering at Google” to getting one of those gigantic payouts. Like, not, “It’s very hard,” or even “It’s a lottery that’s no better odds than cashing out a startup,” I think it’s straight-up impossible these days. It was probably possible back when they founded X, though still very unlikely.

          Way more than 0.001% of early startup engineers in the history of the valley have made $10m. 0.001% is 1 in 100,000. Probably more people than that have become deca-millionaires just from Google’s IPO. And it’s not like this is an all-in bet where the only other outcome is poverty and immiseration. 10x that number of people have made single digit millions from startup equity. 10x that number again have made hundreds of thousands. And in general, people are still making plenty of money even if their equity is worthless.

          Definitely the expected total value of being a junior eng at a FAANG for 5 years is higher than working at a startup for 5 years. No question at all. And the difference has grown in the last 5-10 years. But expected value isn’t the only thing in life.

          Working at a later-stage company is just a different point in the risk-reward curve. You have less upside and less downside. Working at a FAANG is less upside again, but much better downside, to the point where that overwhelms the expected payout.

          But, importantly, then you have to work at a FAANG. I was invited to an onsite at Google after a successful phone interview at my most recent job search. I turned them down after some soul searching because I could already feel myself dying just from hearing them talk about the job and going through their machine interview process. I very strongly expect that if they did hire me, my total comp would have been +/- $400k. The late-ish stage startups that I got offers from offered me cash comp in the $250k range and equity that might be worth zero, but could very plausibly be worth $300k, somewhat implausibly but not crazily $500k, and probably has an expected value of roughly $100k. So I probably left about $50k per year on the table by not going with Google (assuming they would have offered me a job, which obviously is not guaranteed). I mean, that’s a lot of money! But it’s not so much money that my life would be drastically different if I had it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’d say that right now, from a pure financial perspective, what you want to do is enter a company that has already gone through a few winnowing rounds at a fairly senior level.

        Can confirm, this is a good opportunity if you can get it. I actually applied to three such a few years ago. But it is still a lottery. You don’t know, when you apply, when or whether the companies will IPO and certainly not how good you’ll make out if they do. Of the three, one IPOed and took off, one IPOed and fell flat, and the third (Uber) has not yet IPOed.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Agree, did not mean that it’s guaranteed big money, just that it seems like one of the best options currently available.

    • BBA says:

      I wouldn’t do it. I mean, uh, I did it, and it worked out, but I get that it’s not something that works out often, and I wouldn’t do it again.

    • brad says:

      The flip side of this is that early stage startups now pay real money. In dotcom 1.0 people made starvation wages (okay, not really but things like $30,000/yr for a top CS grad) for the first few years of a startup’s life.

      If I knew a fresh software grad looking at his first job, I wouldn’t recommend being employee number 7 anywhere, but it is also not the worst idea in the world. At 22 he probably wasn’t going to save the extra money he’d make at FAANG anyway.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        It’s also probably true that for some people, starting right off on a FAANG salary is a problem. Like, it’s generally harder to ratchet down your lifestyle than not to ratchet up your lifestyle to begin with. And there are a variety of reasons why you might want to work someplace besides a FAANG in your middle career, especially if you end up in a position at your FAANG that deadends your advancement prospects (which I understand can happen).

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s also probably true that for some people, starting right off on a FAANG salary is a problem.

          It’s a problem like the (mentioned upthread) taxation of the exercise of highly-appreciated NQOs is a problem: that is to say, the sort of problem you’re better off having. If you dead-end at a total comp of $400,000/year, you’ve long since paid off your student loans and if you’ve been at all frugal you’ve got enough money for a down payment on a house anywhere BUT the SF Bay area or the most expensive parts of NYC proper. The SF Bay cost of living is so high that if you move elsewhere you won’t have to ratchet down your lifestyle all that much.

          Finding a tech job that is neither based in a high-COL area nor mind-numbing business programming is another problem, but it’s a separate one.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I mean, it’s certainly a first-world problem, but I think that there are people who would be:

            a. Happier
            b. More likely to do great/innovative things

            or

            c. Overall more compensated

            If they moved away from a generic engineering role in a FAANG, but don’t feel like they can, having built their adult lives around their salaries and finding it too scary to contemplate a drop in comp even in the short term.

            Not everyone, mind you. But some people.

  14. rubberduck says:

    A math problem:

    You are multiplying two numbers, which between them contain all the digits 0-9 at least once. The product will have the digits rearranged in some way, maybe with repetitions or omissions. Do there exist any two pairs of numbers that will have the digits of the factors rearranged in the same way to get the product? Alternately, can it be proven that no such pairs of numbers exist?

    For example, like this, but with all 9 digits instead of 4:

    ABCD x BCDA = ABBCCAD
    CDBA x DBAC = CDDBBCA

    I guess you could check this by exhaustively multiplying every eligible pair of numbers and comparing all the answers to each other, but that sounds difficult and I’m wondering if there’s a more elegant way to resolve this. I would like to check the literature to see if anyone has already worked on something similar, but since I have not taken math beyond 2nd semester calculus I don’t know where to look and probably wouldn’t understand the answer. Anyone have any ideas?

    • Nick says:

      Just off the top of my head, any number containing all nine ten digits will be divisible by nine, but not all multipliers and multiplicands will have the requisite factor of 9 or two factors of 3. That should reduce the candidates considerably.

      ETA: Oh, I misread; I thought the result was supposed to contain all the digits.

    • johan_larson says:

      For this to work, there can’t be overflow in the leading position. That will eliminate quite a few possibilities for the first two digits in the factors.

      Similarly, the lowest digit in the result will be the result of multiplying the lowest digits in the two factors, modulo 10. Again, that will eliminate quite a few possibilities.

      • rubberduck says:

        I don’t see why there can’t be overflow in the leading position, although I gave an example that doesn’t have it. My only concern is if the digits are rearranged in the same manner to reach the product between the two cases. “Rearrange” can include having a digit added (or deleted I guess).

    • Lignisse says:

      Yes, there is, with high probability. For simplicity, let’s allow our numbers to have leading zeroes. To specify two pairs of numbers (a, b) and (c,d), where the permutation changing a->b is the same as the permutation changing c->d, we can take a, b, and c to be arbitrary (10! ways for each) and calculate d from them, so there’s (10!)^3 ~= 4.78e19 such pairs of numbers. But these multiply to 18-digit numbers (allowing leading zeroes), and if we take the first 18-digit number and apply the transformation that changes (a,b) to (c,d), we should expect a chance of 1 in 1e18 that we’ll get the second number. Doing something with probability 1 in 1e18 4.78e19 times gives approximately a 1 in e^(-47.8) chance it will never happen, so odds of about 5.74e20 to 1.

      (edited to add: we can also say, we expect there to be 47.8 such occurences. A brute force search seems the easiest way to find them that I can think of).

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        Here’s a simple algorithm:

        Outer loop over permutations P
        Inner loop over permutations Q
        Compute R = Q^-1(Q x PQ)
        Add the pair (R,Q) to your list
        Sort your list by R and look for pairs where R matches
        Clean out your list and move on to the next P

        If R1 = R2 then let S = Q2 Q1^-1. We have S(Q1 x PQ1) = (SQ1) x (SPQ1), which I believe is what you are looking for (although you may have to tinker a little if I’ve misunderstood).

        The key trick here is the all-against-all comparison made possible by storing and sorting – it means that you can effectively carry out 10!^2 comparisons for each 10! log(10!) work you do, and you’ll only have to do about D log(10!)/10! work, rather than D, where D is the number of possible values of R.

        Alternatively, you could search the works of Henry Dudeny – I’m pretty sure he found some pairs of pairs of numbers with properties very similar to what you’re looking for.

    • coded says:

      Brute force worked well. There were 338 pairs that overlapped without leading zeroes and two 5-digit numbers. An example without a digit staying in the same place is

      21367 * 90584 = 1935508328
      64812 * 73905 = 4789930860

  15. Aapje says:

    A lot of pixels have been spilled over whether fascists and Nazis were socialist. Perhaps a better way to describe them is anti-capitalist, where capitalism is a competitive model and anti-capitalists are united in a desire for a cooperative model. Collective ownership over the means of production is merely one such model, with corporatism being another. Corporatism is the organization of society along corporate groups. This is fundamentally a communitarian model, as opposed to individualism. People are expected to look out for each other, making ‘reasonable’ choices, rather than look out for number 1, making selfish choices.

    I think that The Netherlands is especially communitarian, with a lot of focus on consensus decision making. For example, unions traditionally meet with corporate representatives to make plans about social policies, which the government then tends to facilitate with laws. In corporations with 50+ employees, it is mandatory to have an Employees Council whose members are elected by the employees and who have to be asked advice for large decisions about the direction of the company, who have a soft veto over personnel decisions (the company can go to a judge if they disagree with the veto), have the right to speak at shareholders’ meetings, etc.

    If this model works reasonably well, decisions are made with support from all stakeholders. A typically Dutch word is ‘draagvlak,’ which literally means foundation or bearing surface. It refers to the existence of support from stakeholders for a decision. Dutch people love discussing whether a decision has ‘draagvlak’.

    Perhaps the greatest strength of the communitarian model is that it allows more easily for grand collective and long-lasting initiatives. The reason why The Netherlands chose this model may be the common struggle against floods, where dike-based solutions don’t allow for individual solutions or strong resistance. The strong overarching interest means that there is a strong incentive to cooperate and find solutions for the lesser conflicts that pale in the face of death by drowning (yet are still important to people). This is also a weakness: you are expected to conform to the consensus and to merely ask for minor changes to it. Large disagreements are not accepted and people can thus feel stifled.

    This is a very different model from the French one, which is way more antagonistic. The French people typically seem to feel quite angry at decisions of their companies & government, reacting with demonstrations and strikes to force change. In general, the French don’t love compromise, but desire perfection, which is why they have so many philosophers.

    The American model is again different and much more accepting of the powerful & strong getting their way, as long as the power and strength comes from ‘merit’. It is very individualist.

    One can then make a map of the political spectrum with four quadrants: communitarianism vs indivualism and egalitarian vs hierarchical.

    Dutch culture would then be more toward the bottom right and Americans more towards the left (being centrist between hierarchy and egalitarianism). The French would then be extremely far towards egalitarianism, but centrist when it comes to communitarianism vs indivualism.

    I placed these cultures on the map based on their predispositions, not outcome. An issue is that certain predispositions contain contradictions. For example, I think that America has moved towards greater individualism, which has resulted in more hierarchical outcomes, which go against the American self-image of how they should balance hierarchy and egalitarianism. For example, I would argue that the ‘American Dream’ is a synonym for social mobility, which has declined severely (and increased in much of Europe), to a point where the American Dream is less true in America than in Europe. So the American desire for a (meritorious) balance between egalitarianism and hierarchy is incompatible with great individualism & something has to give.

    Communism is the desire for extreme egalitarianism and extreme communitarianism, to an extent that goes strongly against human nature. So any (sub) society that tries the actual communist ideal tends to either only work with a small group of weirdos, or will start moving to more individualism and hierarchy. Some communists then respond to this by very hierarchical and not very communitarian decision making and policing to try to force people to act very egalitarian and communitarian, with poor results. The people who are drawn to these very hierarchical and not very communitarian positions of power are not going to be very egalitarian and communitarian, so such a system has to become corrupted.

    I think that fascism can be best seen as the desire for extreme communitarianism, where the people act with a common purpose, but with a moderate desire for egalitarianism. Just like communists, they can’t get anywhere by merely asking people to spontaneously act according to these extremist ideals, which results in frustration, which causes a desire for radical solutions. Both communism and fascism tended to blame the lack of success on subversive elements, which needed to be suppressed/eradicated to bring out the true nature of the people. Under communism, the ideology prescribes that this subversion is aligned by class, so the primary explanation of why the Utopia failed to emerge was that certain classes were sabotaging society. Fascism doesn’t have such a neat answer, which is probably why it is much more prone turn to turning to classic forms of tribalism, along the lines of ethnicity and race.

    Interestingly, Stalin also employed a decent amount of ethnic and racial antagonism, even though the ideology rejects these. Perhaps ethnic and racial antagonism is so strong that when there is a desire for oppression to get people to do the ‘right thing’, these divisions almost offer themselves up to be used. So perhaps fascism then didn’t so much seek out ethnic and racial antagonism, but it left a huge gap in which these forms of antagonism, that come so easily to people, slotted themselves easily.

    • JPNunez says:

      Was the german economy under Hitler impressive? Or just a thing of them focusing on the war non stop?

      Cause if so, efficiency may not be due to competition but to the relative freedom in how they ran the companies.

      Otherwise it’s just business as usual. I assume that a non-warring Nazi Germany would have been left behind by economies that allowed heavy competition, tho.

      • Aapje says:

        @JPNunez

        A major component of the actual policies of Mussolini and Hitler was a belief in a competition between nations, based in large part on who had the most, rather than just the best cooperating population. This in turn led to a belief that such a large population and a matching strong economy needed lots more resources than they had, leading to a demand for more lebensraum.

        With the other strong nations already having taken almost all colonies, this then could only be achieved by taking land from other strong nations.

        Arguably, the movements/regimes got so wrapped up in this, that the communitarian ideals fell by the wayside. Increasingly, everything was made subservient to conquering lots of land.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I’ve heard both that the recovery was genuine and that it was entirely fake.

        It’s hard to argue about the effectiveness of the pre-war german economy when those arguing it was fake claim that all government statistics of the era were doctored.

        I find it hard to believe that the explosive popularity of the nazi party from 33-35 was a result of merely fooling the public into thinking their lives were better than before. Obviously propaganda is important, but propaganda is most effective when there’s some fundamental reality backing it up, at least in part.

        FYI i consider the argument about whether Natsocs are socialists to be largely semantic. People who dislike the socialism of the left will say it is and those that identify with socialism or democratic socialism in some form will say it isn’t.

        There should not be much disagreement on the extent to which companies were nationalized or controlled, whether you call that extent socialism or not is either a naming preference and/or an attempt to play guilt by association. I say this as someone who is partial to the market economy so I don’t think I’m

        It’s sort of an inversion of the brow-furrowing over whether a particular social convention is racist or not in light of the fact that being called a racist is extremely dangerous label to have affixed to oneself.

        There was probably less control exercised in Nazi Germany then under the USSR at least prior to 39, perhaps a bit more than was exercised by the US/UK/France at this time depending on what you’re looking at. If there’s no disagreement about the low level facts, the high-level definitions become largely irrelevant.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The general sense I’ve got from reading about this is, there was a boost, but it was exaggerated, and the Nazis ended up taking credit for some things they hadn’t been responsible for. Some amount of the Nazis’ popularity was due less to material benefits for people, and more due to “national pride”, the sense that someone was doing something, and carefully coordinated propaganda with a touch of fear (most German gentiles wouldn’t see really major repression until the end of the war, but if you were a communist or a a social democrat of any importance, you’d be treated quite roughly, even early on).

        Once the war started, the German war economy was one of their weak points. The degree to which this was mishandling versus an inherent inferiority to the US and USSR is debatable.

        • JPNunez says:

          Is it possible the boost is just a recovery from a crisis, aka regression to the mean?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Brüning had very a austere economic policy, which probably contributed a lot to the economic problems.

            I think that the Nazi policy probably did help a lot, because it was similar to the New Deal.

          • I think that the Nazi policy probably did help a lot, because it was similar to the New Deal.

            And the outcome of the New Deal was the worst depression in U.S. history, so obviously it must have helped a lot?

          • dick says:

            And the outcome of the New Deal was the worst depression in U.S. history

            Er… the Great Depression was a result of the New Deal?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dick:
            This is David Friedman you are talking to. He has his arguments, but they aren’t the conventional ones AFAIK. Best to keep that in mind, as he might not even present a summary of the Keynesian argument.

          • Plumber says:

            @dick

            “Er… the Great Depression was a result of the New Deal?”

            My guess is that @DavidFriedman believes that without the New Deal the depression would’ve ended sooner and be less of a Great Depression.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            Given that it had already been a depression for over 3 years before FDR even took office, it was already pretty damn Great.

            But, to be more charitable to what I understand his actual argument to be, he says that the Hoover administration had already engaged in stimulus and I believe his position is that this behavior is what started the depression, which FDR further exacerbated. Although, I haven’t heard his articulation of the precise nature of the stimulus Hoover took.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub

            “Given that it had already been a depression for over 3 years before FDR even took office, it was already pretty damn great…”.

            I don’t disagree.

            The usual narrative I read is that Keynesian stimulus worked, and when it was pulled back in ’37 to be “fiscally prudent” the Depression came roaring back, and that maybe if stimulus spending that was to the scale of the war had been tried earlier the Depression could have ended sooner.

            I confess I didn’t understand the counter argument enough to remember it, something about stuff needing “to be worked out of the system”.

            As it is, with the cold war coming right on the heels of WW2, and the “War on Terror” starting hardly a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S.A. has never really ended the “weapimized Keynesism”.

          • And the outcome of the New Deal was the worst depression in U.S. history

            Er… the Great Depression was a result of the New Deal?

            The outcome of the Great Depression–the fact that it kept going long after first Hoover and then FDR adopted similar policies designed to end it—is evidence against the claim that those policies worked.

            Two people get sick. One gets some medical treatment for his illness. He remains sick for ten years, then recovers. The other, with no treatment, recovers in three years. Wouldn’t it be odd to take that as evidence that the treatment worked?

            For a real world comparison, not of the New Deal approach to nothing but to very nearly the opposite, take a look at the Great Depression that didn’t happen.

          • Given that it had already been a depression for over 3 years before FDR even took office, it was already pretty damn Great.

            Dealing with the Great Depression by sharply expanding government spending didn’t start with FDR. In the final three years of Hoover’s term, Federal expenditure, measured in real terms, roughly doubled. Measured relative to GDP, it nearly tripled. FDR continued the same policies, with a brief excursion into ones aimed at government control along the lines of the contemporary Italian government, which FDR (and some other contemporary Americans)appears to have admired.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            FWIW the British government of the time went in for fiscal retrenchment, and the Depression over here was a lot less severe and long-lasting than in the US.

      • cassander says:

        @RalMirrorAd & dndnrsn

        the nazis started spending a lot of money, running down capital stocks, and, and building up the army. This did have a sort of animal spirits effect, and created the appearance of prosperity, but it was all running on borrowed time and was totally unsustainable. The people running the show were aware of this, and it actually explains the extreme aggressiveness of nazi pre-war diplomacy. By the late 30s, they’re simply out of money and can only keep things going by seizing countries and their reserves of gold and hard currency to keep things going. Some of the anti-jewish legislation was also explicitly intended as a way to raise more money for the state.

        Once the war starts, the plunder policies only get more explicit. Hitler is convinced that the failure of WW1 was in large part due to the government requiring too large a reduction in civilian living standards, and I don’t think he was entirely wrong in that assessment. It’s worth remembering that the germans fought longer and harder for Hitler than they did for the kaiser, and there was never a revolution despite far greater battlefield losses.

        Ultimately, though, the germans were facing material balance of forces that was much worse than what the Kaiser was up against. They could have had a perfectly planned war economy, not wasted a single man hour, and they still been out-produced several to one in everything that mattered, and by an order of magnitude in some critical goods like oil, aircraft, trucks.

        And that’s before you consider what was arguably the most critical good of all, nuclear weapons. After the US enters the war, all the germans are really capable of achieving is holding out long enough to ensure that little boy falls on berlin. Once that happens, the end of the war is at most months away regardless of the situation on the ground. Hitler would order the luftwaffe to engage in suicide attacks, they would fail to stop the bombs from dropping, Hitler would swear to fight forever, and his generals would kill him and sue for peace.

        • dndnrsn says:

          All more or less correct – although the second point, are you going by Aly? I think Evans has cast some doubt on his thesis. There’s competing explanations for why the Germans fought as late as they did.

          And, yeah, the Germans were probably screwed from the start. Their only chance of winning after they declared war on the USSR and US was a really dramatic victory in ’41 or ’42 that would spook the leadership of their enemies, or the publics of the democracies. Which is a big if.

          • Protagoras says:

            Declaring war on the USSR was a desperate gamble, but not an unnecessary mistake, and Hitler’s reasoning in declaring war on the United States (that he effectively already was at war with the U.S. anyway with the amount of help the Americans were providing to the British) was not actually that far wrong. Just to continue the fight against the American-backed U.K., the Germans desperately needed resources from the Soviet Union. Which the Soviets were providing to some degree, but the Soviets were increasingly using the situation as leverage to make demands on the Germans; the situation was not sustainable for Germany. The German position could only be prevented from deteriorating by the extremely long shot hope that they could quickly defeat the Soviet Union and seize the needed resources that way.

          • cassander says:

            By the second point, you mean hitler propping up the home front? Then yes, Aly, at least as far as the regime’s motivation is concerned. What does Evans say?

            On russia, I agree with Protagoras assessment of motives. On the question of how big an if it was, though, they wagered that they could advance 800 miles in 6 months. They made it about 750. Their reach exceeded their grasp, but only just barely. Had anyone other than Stalin been in charge of the USSR, it probably would have worked.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Protagoras

            It’s important to remember that the decision to attack the USSR, and the planning for the attack, were based on various assumptions and beliefs that the vast majority of people today don’t share. The invasion of the USSR wasn’t a response to the war situation in 1940, it was something Hitler had wanted to do for a while – expand east so as to become an empire. The planning, meanwhile, rested both on racist assumptions as to the military capabilities of Slavs, intelligence lowballing Soviet capabilities, etc.

            @cassander

            Evans takes issue with some of Aly’s… calculations? Was it calculations? I can’t remember. Hitler certainly was obsessed with the idea that there be no “repeat” of 1918.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Germany lost the war in large part because they got outproduced really badly by, of all people, the soviets. So, you know, no, that is not a good way to make general judgement.

        • cassander says:

          The degree to which the soviets out-produced the Germans is debatable.

          First, the soviets lied in their production figures, both to themselves and to the world, and the extent of their lying is impossible to sort out. But there are huge gaps, like how they claimed to have produced about the same number of aircraft as the Germans, with half as much aluminium.

          Second, even if we take the soviet production numbers at face value, it’s important to remember that the soviets were doing those numbers with turbocharging from the western allies. The west supplied the soviets with large quantities of raw materials which made the use of large, efficient manufacturing plants possible. They also supplied lots of high tech goods that meant the soviets could focus their scarce engineering talent on improving production rates of other goods. The soviets could shift more of their automotive talent to tanks because the allies were supplying all of their trucks and almost all of their locomotives and rail cars.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Plus, if it wasn’t for the pressure the Western Allies were able to put on Germany in the air through superior aircraft production, they keep air superiority in the East longer.

          • cassander says:

            How the War was Won overstates its case by leaving out food production, but goes into excellent detail about just how expensive the bombing campaign was for Germany not just in terms of outright destruction, the ways it reduced production efficiency and the resources diverted from other fronts to counter the bombing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It was reading Evans that converted me to “as unpleasant as the bombing campaign was, it really helped win the war.” It also really damaged German morale – not enough to get them to rise up (Nazi control was just too strong, Germans were just too scared of the Soviets, etc) but enough that they had no stomach for postwar resistance.

    • Baeraad says:

      Interesting model. You may be on to something.

      I would further place Sweden in the bottom center – definitely egalitarian, but sort of wavering between individualism (“hey, don’t tell me what to do! Who do you think you are?”) and communitarian (“oh, just sit down and go along with the consensus! Who do you think you are?”).

      I’ve heard that credited to the environment too, same as the Dutch with their dikes. The primordial Swede used to live on an isolated farmstead, which led to him getting set in his ways and unused to being contradicted. At the same time, long cold winters makes everyone tired a lot of the time and lacking the energy to argue. Thus, a culture that is simultaneously all about minding your own business and very eager to reach a compromise when two people’s business intersect (because the faster you can settle the matter, the faster you can get back to minding your own business!).

    • dndnrsn says:

      German national socialism was obsessed with two years: 1914 and 1918. In 1914, their narrative went, the class conflict within Germany was replaced with the conflict against external foes. In 1918, their narrative went, the undefeated military was stabbed in the back by internal subversion. Where international socialism tends to want all workers everywhere to unite, and abandon other wars in favour of class war – it was a real disappointment in 1914 that the workers mostly sided with their various nations, and that most of the softer socialist parties backed the war also – national socialism wants the opposite: for everyone in the nation/of the same race to stop fighting class wars against each other, and unite to fight national/racial enemies.

      The degree to which we can talk about egalitarianism, levelling, etc in Nazi Germany is complicated by the fact that Nazi Germany, and especially the party itself, was quite corrupt. For example, the “Strength through Joy” program was supposed to make things like vacations available for people on lower incomes, but in practice, the nicer stuff often got snapped up by Party functionaries. The SS prided themselves on being less corrupt than the Party itself, but whether this is true or not, is open to debate – the camp system saw a great deal of corruption (for example, estimates on how much slave labourers needed to be fed didn’t match reality, because in reality, rations got sold off on the side, etc). Of course, the USSR was fairly corrupt too, and saw plenty of perks for those higher in the hierarchy – but I haven’t seen any direct comparisons of the same point in time.

      • J Mann says:

        Both Aapje’s post and this one strike me as very insightful, and help bridge the “were the national socialists, well, socialists” debate fairly well.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Pseudoerasmus is always worth reading, on this and on any other matter.

          • J Mann says:

            It’s a good piece, but it is an astonishing admission against interest to argue that fascists were right-wing because “no fascist in power even contemplated taking the Soviet route of destroying the capital- and land-owning classes.” 🙂

            More generally, if you can come up with a list of bullet points in which the fascists held some views associated with modern left-wingers and some views associated with modern right-wingers, it might be helpful to say that they weren’t either modern left or right wingers, but were, well, fascists.

            (That may not hold up – I’m not good at history, so it’s entirely possible that one side or the other has a better argument).

          • dndnrsn says:

            An interesting piece, and largely correct in its main point – “fascism was left-wing” is exclusively the province of mainstream-right hacks. However, at least one or two of the points it uses to show that the fascists weren’t socialist also apply to the USSR…

            I’d call fascism – or at least, national socialism; I’m considerably better read on Nazi Germany than fascist Italy – “racist/nationalist radical centrism” – I think that on the classic 2-axis political compass, it’s top centre or top-centre-right, not top-right-corner.

            Pretty much everything else was subordinated to the nationalist/racist goals – the road to power for the Nazis was conservatives thinking that they could use the Nazis to deal with the threat of the communists and social democrats, while remaining in control themselves. So, of course, the Nazis couldn’t be seen as too threatening to the capitalists. Hitler was pretty adept at adjusting his message to his audience, too – he knew when to play up the anti-capitalist rhetoric and when to play up the anti-socialist rhetoric (plus, of course, the Nazi worldview was one in which socialists and capitalists were really on the same side, or at least, controlled by the same nefarious forces), when to be more anti-Semitic, when to talk less about the Jews.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The point I take him to be making is, in an era where socialism did in fact mean doing just that, and fascists never even contemplated doing it, that’s evidence that they weren’t socialists.

            More generally, if you can come up with a list of bullet points in which the fascists held some views associated with modern left-wingers and some views associated with modern right-wingers, it might be helpful to say that they weren’t either modern left or right wingers, but were, well, fascists.

            A few issues here: what does “held some views” mean? As Pseudoerasmus and others have pointed out, the fascist movements may have had origins in the socialist movement, but by the time they took power, they had left those origins behind. Last thread, Aapje posted…well, I don’t know if I can spoil the twist ending, but I assume you read his post and know what I’m referring to. But click on the Wikipedia pages of the authors of that document and see what happened later: it’s very Strasserite.
            So, as with the Strassers, there were certainly early fascists who held socialist views, but who had very little effect on fascism as actually practiced in power. Should we attribute the views held by minor figures in the political development of fascism, but later mostly repudiated by actual fascist politicians, to fascism? I don’t want to argue there’s no case here, but I think it’s mostly pretty weak.

            The political programs of actually existing fascist states have very little in common with modern left-wing programs, and much more commonality with (at least some) modern right-wing programs.

            Just to make clear this isn’t an attempt to smear the right by association, I think a parallel argument ought to hold w.r.t. communism. You can look at Engels’s disgust at the idea of gay rights, or Stalin’s homophobia, and try and say that, ha! communism must really have been right-wing! And, sure there are some elements of communism that don’t fit well with the new left, or that are a lot more nationalist than most modern left movements are comfortable with–but it’s clear that the major political program of communism has much more in common with the political programs of modern left movements, that at the time communists and other leftists had more in common, and insofar as communists have ideological descendants today, they are mostly on the left and that this is dispositive. That doesn’t mean we have to be simplistic and that we can’t explore the right-wing elements of communism or the left-wing elements of fascism, but we should be honest that broadly speaking, fascism is an ideology of the right, albeit one that migrated over early in its history from the left, and communism a creature of the left.

          • dndnrsn says:

            To discuss how the socialists and the fascists did things differently, we must consider that they got into power in different ways: the Bolsheviks in Russia were far more able to make massive, sweeping changes, than the Nazis in Germany or the Fascists in Italy. In both of the latter, they basically got into power when conservatives made the mistake of bringing them in. What would the Nazis have done if they hadn’t had to compromise?

            I will agree that the national socialists and the fascists were not socialists, by most coherent definitions of socialism. However, the Nazis at least, insisted that they were socialists of a new and different sort – national socialists. Their movement was very much anti-Marxist, focused on a “racial community” rather than a worldwide community of workers.

            They represented the middle classes, especially the lower middle classes, and not the better-off. The richest members of German society would have had as their first choice what was probably the most likely outcome in Germany in the early 30s had the Nazis not come into power – some sort of authoritarian military dictatorship. They were more afraid of social democrats and communists than Nazis, though.

            The political programs of actually existing fascist states have very little in common with modern left-wing programs, and much more commonality with (at least some) modern right-wing programs.

            Sure, populist-right programs. Which the business-friendly-right has done as much as possible to coopt, redirect, and neuter. I think it all makes sense within the nationalist and/or racist worldviews – “subsidized vacations so everyone can have vacations” sounds left-wing, but it was intended to keep the people happy and unite them so they could fight a war.

            If we define nationalism and racism as right-wing, then the Nazis were right-wing. However, one can find examples of left-wing nationalism and left-wing racism. I’d say the Nazis were “far centre” – everything else was a means to the end, their goal of a grand program of race war and imperial conquest. (Himmler, who admittedly was a bit of a fantasist, saw conquering the USSR up to the Urals as just the first step in a 50-100 year plan.)

          • Walter says:

            I tend to think that comparing soviet communism or italian fascism to the modern left or right is always going to be a game played with malevolent spirit.

            Like, the modern left & right are closer to one another than they are to any Hitler or Stalin’s regimes. Arguing about which dead state can be best compared to which present force in the world is just about dunking on the modern half of that comparison, and isn’t usually worth doing for the regular rationalist reason that arguing about labels is unproductive.

          • cassander says:

            @walter

            I tend to think that comparing soviet communism or italian fascism to the modern left or right is always going to be a game played with malevolent spirit.

            I’d have a much easier time with this notion if the left was 1/10th as interested in condemning communism and all its works as the right is in condemning fascism. Hell, or even just condemning Chavismo.

            And I don’t mean this in a “it’s not fair everyone should be held to the same standard” sense, there’s just a huge difference in attitude. The right genuinely believes that fascism was doubleplus ungood, no ifs ands or buts. Anything they want to do has nothing to do with fascism because anything fascist is inherently bad, full stop.

            The left, for the most part, seems to believe that the communists had their hearts in the right place and that they had a lot of good ideas, but they botched the execution (by adding in too much execution).

          • Walter says:

            @Cassander:

            Eh, I think that’s just how things go when you lose the culture war, right? Griping about it feels like taliban complaining that they never get to airstrike the US forces.

            That is, fascists are voodoo dolls for republicans, communists for democrats. The reason the media at large dunks on fascists more is that they are democrats. Wondering about it feels like you’d need to put on blinders or something.

            Like, ‘dunk on nazis time’ is always and ‘dunk on soviets time’ is never because the point of it is to hurt the right, and you do that by attacking fascists not communists.

            Nobody actually cares about nazis or soviets, they are long gone. The point of talking about them is hurting your living enemies.

          • cassander says:

            @walter

            Well, the communists aren’t actually gone, though they are much reduced. And the number of fellow travelers is higher than ever, it seems. But I’m not really talking about media, more the internal attitude of right and left. The right loves dunking on commies, but it vigorously dunks on Nazis too. the right has internalized nazi hatred in a way that the left hasn’t internalized commie hatred. And frankly, I think internalized nazi hatred is good! I just would be a hell of a lot more comfortable with the left if they’d internalize commie hatred in the same way.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Yeah, I remember having a conversation about Ayn Rand, and someone was like, “I’m totally against burning books, of course, but maybe I have an exception for Atlas Shrugged.”

            And I’m like, “Really? That’s your exception? Not Mein Kampf, not The Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Hey, how about the Communist Manifesto? Its kooky, obviously unworkable utopia was actually attempted to the death of tens of millions and the immiseration of hundreds of millions. How about that?”

            And, like, this guy wasn’t a communist, but he also wasn’t comfortable with the idea that the Communist Manifesto (or Kapital) were, like… bad. Inherently flawed. He wasn’t going to defend Stalin or Mao or deny the awfulness of Communist China or the USSR (or Cambodia or so forth), but he wasn’t really willing to say, “Communism per se is inherently worse than other political/economic systems.”

            I think that’s a fairly common take on the Left. It’s not that they’re communist, it’s definitely not that they’re Stalinist, it’s that they aren’t quite willing to blanket condemn the idea of communism. Not even with a caveat that says something like, “WELL, this is obviously kooky, but it does make a compelling case about a problem, even if its solution is nutso” (which is how I personally feel about Rand, and pretty much how I also feel about Marx).

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “Well, the communists aren’t actually gone, though they are much reduced. And the number of fellow travelers is higher than ever, it seems. But I’m not really talking about media, but the internal politics of right and left. The right loves dunking on commies, but it vigorously dunks on Nazis too. the right has internalized nazi hatred in a way that the left hasn’t internalized commie hatred. And frankly, I think internalized nazi hatred is good! I just would be a hell of a lot more comfortable with the left if they’d internalize commie hatred

            I’ve heard many times Democrats and other liberals and “leftists” speak of how extremely annoying the anarchist “black block” and the RCP are, but I’ve never heard any right-wing “nazi dunking”, so different bubbles, but here’s a quote for you:

            "Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."             

            Pretty far left?

            That was Harry S. Truman 10/10/1952 who y’know had U.S. troops fight a shoot bullets at communists.

            Actions speak.

            Of course that was before the New Left and the New Right together tag-teamed the post-war liberal consensus and ended the great society in the name of “liberation”.

            The far-right (the Birchers) called President Eisenhower a “communist agent”, and a motion to have my local post office named after an old city council women was blocked by an out of state Republican congressman because allegedly “She’s clearly a communist” (by which he means Democrat), a similar slander to the ones that inspired author Ray Bradbury to post a newspaper ad in 1952 reading “Every attempt that you make to identify the Democratic Party as the party of Communism, as the ‘left-wing’ or ‘subversive’ party, I will attack with all my heart and soul.”, and now “commie” has no sting – as it’s been used too much, I imagine that “fascist” has no sting (or soon won’t) for the same reason – the way too often equating people with a different opinion of what the top marginal income tax rate should be to piles of skulls in the 20th century. 

          • Should we attribute the views held by minor figures in the political development of fascism, but later mostly repudiated by actual fascist politicians, to fascism?

            Mussolini is not a minor figure in the political development of fascism. Before inventing fascism he had been a prominent socialist.

          • cassander says:

            @plumber

            That was Harry S. Truman 10/10/1952 who y’know had U.S. troops fight a shoot bullets at communists.

            Well, one, he didn’t order that. Stalin order communists to shoot at his troops and he responded in kind, which is not exactly the same thing. And he spent most of his first term in office trying to make nice with Stalin, as did his predecessor. But I don’t see what you’re trying to prove here. I see what I usually see with the left, a lot of ideological sympathy with their own fringe of the sort you don’t see on the right. No one on the right would ever say that “fascism is what they call any sort of pride in your country.”

            The far-right (the Birchers) called President Eisenhower a “communist agent”, and a motion to have my local post office named after an old city council women was blocked by an out of state Republican congressman because allegedly “She’s clearly a communist” (by which he means Democrat),

            Witch hunts aren’t entirely irrational when you find that your town is infested with actual witches. The birchers overreached, sure, but the anti-communists were considerably closer to the truth than the anti-anti-communists were.

            I imagine that “fascist” has no sting (or soon won’t) for the same reason – the way too often equating people with a different opinion of what the top marginal income tax rate should be to piles of skulls in the 20th century.

            As I said, I would have much more sympathy for this position if people on the left would stop saying that the people who made the biggest pile of skulls in history had a lot of ideas that were good in theory.

    • Björn says:

      There where socialists in the NSDAP, like the Strasser brothers and Ernst Röhm. In 1932 they lost the power struggle for control of the NSDAP against Hitler, Göring and Goebbels. Hitler’s wing of NSDAP did not care about the economy except as a tool for their hardcore nationalism. If you only look at the years 1933-1945, the name National Socialist German Labour Party makes no sense, but in the 20s, there where people in the NSDAP who did what the name said.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Goebbels was a socialist who reported being devastated when Hitler called him into his office and lectured him about how capitalists get where they are through selection pressure.
        Given how loyally Goebbels stuck around, the most accurate description of Nazism would be “a cult of personality.”

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Ad “whether and to what extent Nazism was Socialist”, I think George Orwell put it very well in 1941:

      Fascism, at any rate the German version, is a form of capitalism that borrows from Socialism just such features as will make it efficient for war purposes. Internally, Germany has a good deal in common with a Socialist state. Ownership has never been abolished, there are still capitalists and workers, and – this is the important point, and the real reason why rich men all over the world tend to sympathize with Fascism – generally speaking the same people are capitalists and the same people workers as before the Nazi revolution. But at the same time the State, which is simply the Nazi Party, is in control of everything. It controls investment, raw materials, rates of interest, working hours, wages. The factory owner still owns his factory, but he is for practical purposes reduced to the status of a manager. Everyone is in effect a State employee, though the salaries vary very greatly. The mere efficiency of such a system, the elimination of waste and obstruction, is obvious. In seven years it has built up the most powerful war machine the world has ever seen.

      But the idea underlying Fascism is irreconcilably different from that which underlies Socialism. Socialism aims, ultimately, at a world-state of free and equal human beings. It takes the equality of human rights for granted. Nazism assumes just the opposite. The driving force behind the Nazi movement is the belief in human inequality, the superiority of Germans to all other races, the right of Germany to rule the world. Outside the German Reich it does not recognize any obligations.

      • cassander says:

        Orwell considered socialism to be capital-G Good, so anything that wasn’t good wasn’t socialism, Q.E.D.

      • J Mann says:

        Orwell’s analysis fits well with dndnrsn’s post above, and with the general observation that the fascists practiced national “socialism” and the socialists practices international socialism.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          All socialism is international socialism: national socialism is heresy.
          Now the question is what that makes Socialism in One Country.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            During the brief Bavarian Soviet Republic Hitler was elected to be a delegate to a Soviet.

            Mussolini supposedly said that “Stalin is my best student”, and “Stalin is now a Fascist”,

            Socialists such as Norman Thomas noted that “communism, whatever it was originally, is today Red fascism”, the terms “Brown Communism” and “Red Fascism” were used – not just by socialists and Trotskyites, but by the editorial page of the New York Times which in September 18, 1939 said that said of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact that “Hitlerism is brown communism, Stalinism is red fascism” and that “The world will now understand that the only real ‘ideological’ issue is one between democracy, liberty and peace on the one hand anddespotism, terror and war on the other”.

            Stalin himself joked that “The Soviet Union has joined the Anti-Communist League” with Italy and Germany, while at the same time purging those labelled “Fascists”.

            After Hitler turned on Stalin, and the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. became allies against the axis a U.S. piece approvingly described Stalin as having defeated the “international revolutionaries” to take power.

            All of this Orwell mocked in 1984: “We have always been at war with….”

            It seems apt to describe the “People’s Republic of China” today as “fascist”, and Mussolini and Hitler’s one party states as having a Leninist model of government.

            The “Browns” described themselves as both “progressive” and “traditionalists”, and while the “Reds” described themselves as exclusively “progressive”, during World War 2 Slavic nationalism was re-invoked, and today’s Chinese Communist Party has made a 180 on the merits of Confucianism.

            Communism and Fascism have been at the same time mortal foes, but also models for each other.

            “Horseshoe” indeed.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

            Let us turn to Lenin. Here is what he said about the victory of Socialism in one country even before the October Revolution in August 1915: “Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of Socialism is possible, first in several or even in one capitalist country, taken singly. The victorious proletariat of that country, having expropriated the capitalists and organized its own socialist production, would stand up against the rest of the world, the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and in the event of necessity coming out even with armed force against the exploiting classes and their states.”

    • Ketil says:

      I think that fascism can be best seen as the desire for extreme communitarianism, where the people act with a common purpose, but with a moderate desire for egalitarianism.

      I think fascism is a system that allows economic (but not political) freedom, while still being collectivist, that is, what’s good for society (or the People, or Nation, whatever) trumps the interests of any indivdual person or company.

    • dndnrsn says:

      A couple of thoughts.

      1. Right-wing (or traditionalist, if we’re not going to call that right-wing) anti-capitalism is almost always aimed at what the more idealistic pro-capitalists like about capitalism: it increases certain forms of personal freedom, it links the world more tightly together, it promotes cosmopolitanism, it makes individual states and economies more dependent on each other. It’s not a coincidence that fascists tend to like autarky, at least as a concept. Capitalism destroys traditional ways of life – counter to this, for example, the Nazis proposed (and to a lesser extent did) all sorts of directly-counter-to-the-market things to preserve traditional smallish farms and so on.

      2. It’s hard to ideologically define fascism because it’s so all over the place, which is in and of itself one of its defining features. In Germany, one appeal to many was that unlike conventional politicians, Hitler presented himself as having “no program but Germany” and similar ways of putting it. A big part of the appeal of fascism was the idea of a strong leader who didn’t follow the rules, and wouldn’t hinder himself by committing to a defined ideology – “we need someone who can cut through the BS and just do whatever works” isn’t a uniquely fascist sentiment, but it appealed to fascists.

      • Randy M says:

        “we need someone who can cut through the BS and just do whatever works” isn’t a uniquely fascist sentiment, but it appealed to fascists.

        Definitely not unique to fascism–that’s basically the progressive technocrat rallying cry.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Ehhh, don’t technocrats usually propose wonkish changes? Not “we need smarter leaders who can make better rules!” but “we need a leader with the force of will to ignore the rules!”

      • quanta413 says:

        the Nazis proposed (and to a lesser extent did) all sorts of directly-counter-to-the-market things to preserve traditional smallish farms and so on.

        You picked a weird example of counter-to-the-market things. How many major political parties in the West don’t counter the market in order to prop up smallish farms?

        • dndnrsn says:

          I should have explained what I meant. Not the sort of thing that is pretty common now, like subsidies for farm products. They had some very weird rules about commercial transactions involving land that were intended to keep family farms from being sold to larger landowners. “Family farms” in North America (I don’t know what it’s like in Europe) tend to be pretty big and mechanized – the agrarian elements in the Nazi party wanted to preserve a pre-mechanization model of individual small farms worked by human and animal power.

          • cassander says:

            ww2 era germany was basically a non-mechanized society. I don’t think they explicitly wanted to keep family farms non-mechanized, it was just that their family farms were (A) a lot smaller than american and so the returns to mechanization were less obvious (B) they were more interested in mechanizing other parts of the economy (C) general autarkic principles leading to efforts reduce the need for imports (in this case, oil consumption)

          • dndnrsn says:

            The agrarian elements in the Nazi party were on the loopy end of the spectrum, though – not just “keep it this way because we want to use the machines for something else” but mystical blood-and-soil stuff.

          • cassander says:

            @Dndnrsn

            Some of them definitely were, but there were also more hardheaded central planners, and people with very different economic visions. You might want to check out this. It’s been a long time since I read it, but it does a lot of work breaking down what the various players were trying to do prior to the war.

          • quanta413 says:

            the agrarian elements in the Nazi party wanted to preserve a pre-mechanization model of individual small farms worked by human and animal power.

            Sounds like Tolkien.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cassander – I believe I read that one, way back when. Can’t recall much of it but the name rings a bell. There definitely were less wacky guys on the agriculture side of things, and the wackier ones got pushed out in time. But it’s a good example of the Nazis being anti-capitalist in a really dramatic way – not “we need to shore up prices for cheese so our cheese farmers don’t go out of business” but “we must ensure the existence of a solid peasantry, the life blood of our race!”

          • Aapje says:

            Believing that farming is not merely important so people have jobs or so that food is produced, but that society needs to have a strong farming community, just like a strong military, a strong community of musicians, etc; all fits the corporatist model much better than the capitalist or socialist models, IMO.

          • quanta413 says:

            Wouldn’t corporatists try to take the peasants land and make bigger more efficient farms?

            Hell, for that matter, communists have.

            On the other hand, keeping small farms in the peasants hands sounds a bit like some other socialist groups that focused on land reform. Although IIRC that was about breaking up big farms not keeping the small ones from merging into big ones.

            It does sound quite a bit weirder than what I thought dndnrsn meant.

          • Aapje says:

            Corporatism is not about centralization, but about cooperation, rather than competition. The “corporate” in corporatism refers to groups working together, not a (big) (hierarchical) company.

            The cooperation can be non-capitalist cooperatives like in Soviet Russia, but also small farms that are shielded from fierce competition, because the goal is to preserve family farmer culture. The latter is a fairly common desire, which is very strong in Japan and France, but seemingly quite a common sentiment even in countries like the US.

            Ultimately, corporatism is more an attitude than a specific solution and it needs to be combined with actual goals before it can become policy. That’s probably why fascism is so hard to pin down (including for the fascists at the time). They had an attitude and knew that they didn’t like the old situation, but had a lot of problems coming up with policies that match their attitude and that people also thought would work.

  16. Aapje says:

    Study into multiculturalism found that emphasizing the value of racial differences causes an increased belief in race essentialism (that biological factors underpin the differences). Full study.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      If you tell people that it’s important to bring in representatives of other races and that the same cannot be achieved by bringing in people of different backgrounds, but the same race as your own, you’ll end up with folks thinking that racial differences are a really big and important thing. Who’da thunk?

  17. Milo Minderbinder says:

    Long time reader, first time poster. I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while and was wondering what people thought:

    Republican ability to “push back” at racially or culturally insensitive members of their political coalition is greater than that of Democrats because of the relative demographic homogeneity of their coalition (white, Christian, etc.). The example that comes to mind is the treatment of Steve King by GOP members of congress, specifically the more open censure his racial comments receive versus the vacillating response to some recent Democratic house members’ anti-Semitic or “extreme” statements. This to me seems similar to an idea of Stratechery’s Ben Thompson, that of the “strategy credit.” This describes an action that a firm in some broad sector can take that will redound positively upon them, but is to them a less costly choice than for other competitors in the same space. The example he uses is Apple’s focus on privacy, which while certainly superior to other tech companies’, is not as costly to Apple because of the way Apple derives its profits and its use of the data. Browsing habits and personal information, which are critical for Facebook and Google to better serve ads, are less important to a hardware and services company like Apple, whose profits are derived directly from consumers.

    In a similar vein, the costs of criticizing a fellow member of your political coalition is unequally felt among the major American political parties because of demographic differences within and between parties. When Mitch McConnell (older, white) criticizes Steve King (same), the resulting exchange takes the form of a dispute within a specific subgroup. Democratic leadership is demographically similar to that of Republicans (predominantly white and elite-educated), but the rank-and-file is much more diverse. Thus, Democrats, in addition to the natural dangers of interparty dispute (particularly, the necessary erosion of the public perception of party unity), must also contend with the optics and genuine asymmetry of a dominant social group criticizing the behavior of a subordinate social group. In political capital terms, it is a good deal costlier for Pelosi/Schumer to censure Ilhan Omar than it is for McCarthy/McConnell to censure King.

    I do not intend this to mean that all controversial comments made by politicians are equally bad and equally deserving of response. Obviously, the nature of an individual statement or sentiment matters greatly when responding. But when I read National Review or other conservative publications, a great deal is made over the relative haranguing of Steve King and David Duke vs that received by Democratic-aligned controversial figures like Omar & Louis Farrakhan. While their incentive is not to mitigate Democratic hypocrisy, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a left-aligned individual make this claim either, by way of explanation for the disparity.

    (as an aside, I leave out the GOP criticisms of Roy Moore (and the post-Access Hollywood statements on Trump) for the same reason I leave out the Democratic criticisms of exposed Hollywood predators. Sexual assault seems thankfully to be viewed with broad apolitical disgust, though the incidence of punishment seems politically mediated)

    Is this just an obvious thing that no one talks about? Like, the voting decisions of Mnuchin and Murkowski are often analyzed in terms of their electorate’s preferences, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a similar analysis in a mainstream source that does the same for non-voting decisions like this.

    • Randy M says:

      I wonder if Bill Clinton could get away with a “Sista Soulja” moment today. Punching down on at least 2 axes?

      Is this just an obvious thing that no one talks about

      Sure, plenty of–

      a similar analysis in a mainstream source

      oh, never mind.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      There haven’t been any extreme anti-Semitic statements made by Democratic house members lately – full stop. Anyone pretending differently is being intellectually dishonest.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I don’t think it’s the homogeneity of the group that makes pushback easier, but the axis of criticism. Democrats, I think, tend to go for a “I support X because I am Y” (or, “because I have been through Z”) angle, which lets them interpret an attack on X as an attack on Y or Z and makes them toxic to attack. I think that’s regrettable, but I don’t think it’s inevitable. They just need to do better.

      The nice thing about being a diversity coalition is that being that places limiters on the degree of “help I’m being hated” that’s possible that weren’t really there during the Great Evangelical Fundamentalization (for example). It’s messier and uglier, but it does seem to be helping the democrats avoid that sort of wild swing to an extremely different political positon. Mostly. Reparations, for example, are fucking dumb. But the fact that the Democrats aren’t the Palestinian Liberation Party is a good thing IMO. (And no, they’re not, even if you think that “not having a buffer zone is an existential threat to Israel.” This is about messaging.)

    • Enkidum says:

      Farrakhan is democrat-aligned? He hasn’t played any role that I can recall since Jesse Jackson’s campaign for the nomination, back in… 87/88 I think? And his involvement was pretty much the nail in the coffin for that.

      (Oddly enough, despite the fact that the Nation of Islam is ragingly anti-semitic, which is quite easy to demonstrate, the specific quotations that B’Nai Brith used in their full page ads against him were blatantly used to mean the exact opposite of what they meant in context. I promise this is not special pleading, it really is as simple as them quoting him saying “Hitler was a good man”, which was used as the shocking introduction to a segment of his speech where he explained precisely why he thought Hitler was not, in fact, a good man.)

      Anyways, I’m incredibly partisan about these things, but the reason why there isn’t an equivalency between the Democrats and the Republicans on these things is that there is no equivalent to Steve King or David Duke in the Democratic Party, not since the 1960’s.

      • Clutzy says:

        Farrakhan was invited to the ladies march or whatever. In my home city of Chicago he’s probably the 5th most important Democrat after Obama, Rahm, Lightfoot, and Pritzker. Even the Trib has noticed.

        Sarsour is his female, super racist doppleganger and she also is fully ensconced in Dem politics including, again, the womans march. Hell, there is a David Duke of the left, hes called David Duke, you know, the guy who just endorsed Omar’s thoughts on Jews.

        • Enkidum says:

          So… Farrakhan isn’t a Democrat. In order to be the “fifth most important democrat”, you actually have to be, you know, a democrat. As for Duke being left-wing, really? Like you’re not just trolling when you say this? This is a thing you actually believe?

          Eh, what the hell. Omar never said anything at all about Jews writ large. You provided some links a couple of threads back which showed that, among other things, several years ago she had stood on the same stage as someone else who had, several years prior to that, said something about “from the river to the sea” (which said person claimed was meant to refer to something other than the destruction of Israel, for what it’s worth). If this is the level you have to dig for to find supposed anti-semitism, I don’t think it’s possible to have a grown-up conversation about it. I’d be intrigued to know what you think is evidence of Sarsour’s “super racist” views, but given the quality of evidence you’ve presented in the past, I’m not holding my breath.

          It’s really easy to find actual anti-semites. Farrakhan is one. David Duke is another. Neither are democrats, neither are left-wing.

          • roxannerockwell says:

            Like you’re not just trolling when you say this? This is a thing you actually believe?

            I don’t think it’s possible to have a grown-up conversation about it

            I don’t thing it’s possible for me to be so utterly smug and condescending, but in the interest of fairness I’ll try.

            but the reason why there isn’t an equivalency between the Democrats and the Republicans on these things is that there is no equivalent to Steve King or David Duke in the Democratic Party, not since the 1960’s.

            This is such bullshit</. For one, David Duke himself was a democrat until 1988(he also recently called Ilhan Omar the "most important Member of the US Congress". Second the reason why there isn’t an equivalency between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats are an openly racialist party that campaigns on racial resentment and supports policies of racial preference and discrimination such as affirmative action and reparations. Republicans don't.

            As for Farrakhan not being left-wing, really? Like you’re not just trolling when you say this? This is a thing you actually believe? I suspect you are at least partly trolling, because that seems to be your main method of interacting on this site, and a guess you did a good enough job since you got me to respond, so you do you I guess.

          • Deiseach says:

            As an outsider to American politics, to me you seem to be exercising charity to someone on your side (“she only stood on the same stage as someone who might have said something and besides it was years ago”) that you wouldn’t extend to someone on the other side – or if you personally would, I doubt many who support Omar because she’s One of Our Politicians would be as forebearing about “He only stood on the same stage as someone who said something and besides it was years ago” from the opposition camp.

            That’s the problem with all two-party systems (and I include my own in this) or indeed politics/life in general: My guy’s case deserves nuance and the benefit of the doubt, your guy’s case is cut-and-dried.

          • Enkidum says:

            An apology:

            I suspect you are at least partly trolling, because that seems to be your main method of interacting on this site, and a guess you did a good enough job since you got me to respond, so you do you I guess.

            That’s a fair criticism. I clearly am not acting in line with what this site is trying to be when I respond to people like that, and it says a lot more about me than it does about them. I have no desire to be the one who turns this place into scorched earth.

            So, apologies to Clutzy, and others who were annoyed by the unnecessary bullshit, for all of that. This is the second time I’ve apologized for something along these lines [EDIT] in less than a week. So after this post I’ll withdraw for a little while, I’m clearly not being helpful.

            An attempt to resurrect the point:
            Duke was a Democrat until 30 years ago, yes. But he was one of the last holdouts of white supremacism in the party. They all left, starting in the 60’s, and joined one of the other major US parties (as Douglas Knight points out below, I was wrong about the timeline). They have, so far as I’m aware, no influence of any kind in the modern Democratic Party, and even when Duke was a member it was an embarrassment. Claiming he, and people like him, somehow represent the values or goals of the party, or have influence over it, is simply dishonest.

            In terms of his (unwanted) endorsement of Omar… to a first approximation, all anti-semites and white supremacists are against Israeli government policies and against those who support the Israeli government. The inverse, however, does not hold. Worrying about AIPAC’s influence on the US government does not make one an anti-semite. As you are undoubtedly well aware, a significant fraction of American Jews feel the same way. Unconditional support for anything Israel does is the default position of both major US parties, which is not a healthy situation. Any attempt to point this out is immediately met with unjustified charges of anti-semitism, which is precisely what has happened to Omar.

            Farrakhan… it’s more complicated than I was willing to acknowledge initially.

            That’s it for now, I guess. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, to your no-doubt unmitigated joy.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        1984, not 1988, FWIW

        Not that it is so important to your point, but your mention of the 60s seems to be an instance of a common misconception that the Democratic Solid South turned on a dime to become the Republican Solid South. But it was a much more drawn-out process and the timing varied from state to state. David Duke was a Democrat in Louisiana before he was a Republican in Louisiana. He did just as well (30%) running as a Democrat as he did running in Republican primaries or as a nominal Republican in non-partisan general elections. The difference was that the Democrats were a machine that he could only enter at a low level, while the Republicans were just getting started, so he was able to run state-wide races.

        • Enkidum says:

          Thanks for the correction.

          EDIT: both corrections.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The Solid South turned on a dime for presidential elections.

          From 1948 forward it basically played ballerina, spinning on that civil rights dime. This is the fracturing of the FDR coalition, but parties aren’t nationalized yet. Many southern states continue to be one party “yellow dog” Democratic States, with NC as the the last holdout, basically surviving at the house legislative level until 2010. Not that the NC Democratic Party of 2008 looked like the one from 1948, mind you. There was a gradual bleed as both parties came into nationwide ideological conformity.

          So yeah, much longer process to get to a nationwide party without holdover Democrats.

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t think that is so clear. Nixon won 49 states. That isn’t a turn for the south, that is just a whitewash. Reagan won 44 and 49 states. Again, that isn’t the south turning, its a whitewash.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            From 1880 forward, after the end of Reconstruction, the solid south votes Democratic for President every year and never votes Republican. The interesting years in between are 1928 and 1968, where the Republican candidate was Catholic and lost some support in the South, and 1948 where some Southern states voted Dixiecrat, a party specifically created on a platform of support for segregation.

            In 1964 Democrat LBJ wins in a landslide over Republican Barry Goldwater. The only states Goldwater wins are his home state of Arizona and the majority of Southern states.

            That is what tuning on a dime looks like.

          • Enkidum says:

            @HeelBearCub – yes, at the national level that is what happens. But institutional power is a complicated beast, and for various reasons more than a few of the southern racists stick around for a couple more decades. Including, as has been pointed out to me to my embarrassment, David Duke.

          • cassander says:

            @HeelBearCub

            “If you ignore all the times they voted republican before 1964 and all the times they voted democrat after, and call 5 states a majority of the south, the south turned on a dime!”

            Technically true, I guess, but not exactly the most honest interpretation, especially when you consider how they immediately reverted in 1968. Eisenhower did well in the south, winning several states outright and coming very close (w/i a couple points) in several others. Nixon did a little worse in 1960, but he did a little worse everywhere. 1964 did not come out of left field, the republicans had been making southern inroads for a while, and post 1964, we see a reversion to the trend. 1964 is a fluke, but you’re counting it as a trend because it suits your ideological predispositions to do so.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t think that is so clear. Nixon won 49 states. That isn’t a turn for the south, that is just a whitewash. Reagan won 44 and 49 states. Again, that isn’t the south turning, its a whitewash.

            Look at Nixon’s margin of victory: Wikipedia says that Nixon’s best states were:
            Mississippi, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina before you hit a non-southern state, Nebraska. North Carolina, Arkansas, and non-southern Wyoming round out the top-ten. That’s 8 of 10 of Nixon’s best states coming from the South. The 11 former Confederate states are all in Nixon’s top 17 states. What’s more, by 1972 you should expect to see the effect of the Voting Rights Act (already by 1967 black voting registration in most southern states was higher than the highest registration rate in 1965), so this is almost certainly understating white southern support for Nixon. If you like, I can dig up the same data for Reagan, but we’ve had this discussion here before and the same pattern is broadly true: the South is by far Reagan’s best region in both 1980 and 1984.

            So, to go from the Solid South with basically no Republican party to speak of to the vanguard of the emerging Reagan coalition seems like a pretty big switch to me. Especially since, as HBC points out, it was prefigured by votes for the Dixiecrats, Goldwater, and Wallace, none of whom had any meaningful success outside of the south electorally.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            The South voting for Goldwater (to the extent it did) had more to do with LBJ backstabbing them on segregation than anything else, I expect. But as other folks already pointed out, that wasn’t a permanent shift, and the actual change happened over time.

          • cassander says:

            @Eugene Dawn

            Oklahoma isn’t traditionally considered southern and was nixon’s 3rd best state in 1960.

            Quibbling aside though, in 1968, Nixon’s 5 worst states are Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas. In 1976, Carter’s best states are Georgia, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Massachusetts and in 1980, they’re Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

            And the the southern states AREN’T the vanguard of the reagan coalition. No southern state is in the top 10 reagan states in either of his elections. Only 3 are there for bush in 88, and it’s not until 1992 that southern states dominate the republican slate. Even then things are little weird because Perot got 20% of the popular vote and every one of his worst 10 states was southern. This means that in 1992, the south was simultaneously both more democratic and more republican than the rest of the country by a substantial margin.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The South voting for Goldwater (to the extent it did) had more to do with LBJ backstabbing them on segregation than anything else, I expect.

            … and the fact that Goldwater supported the right for them to segregate. As did Wallace. As did Thurmond.

            As far as Cassander chiming in, I really wish I had kept a link to the in detail fisking he got from, a poli-sci professor? Maybe? I would have thought he would stop with this argument after that.

            I may have to resurrect the data analysis I was doing that showed the differential state by state popular vote totals and how they changed.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            @cassander

            I mean, Oklahoma obviously has some affinity for the south, and is counted as southern for some purposes. More importantly for the discussion here, Oklahoma had Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement, including (I think?) the original grandfather clause.

            But if you insist on this point, fine, only 7 of Nixon’s top ten states were southern.

            Quibbling aside though, in 1968, Nixon’s 5 worst states are Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas.

            I don’t see how the fact that five states from the solid south abandoned the Democrats for a segregationist in 1968 shows that the southern vote wasn’t “switching on a dime” on the issue of segregation.

            I mean, I don’t want to press this point too much: “turning on a dime” isn’t my phrasing, and I’m happy to concede that the realignment didn’t happen over the course of literally one election.

            I’m more interested here in countering that claim that the south’s support for Nixon and Reagan in ’72, ’80, and ’84 was simply a corollary of the fact that those elections were landslides: white southern support for Nixon and Reagan was greater than in any other part of the country, and going from the most Democratic-supporting region of the country to the most Republican-supporting region in a little over a decade is definitely “the south turning”.

            Which brings us to

            No southern state is in the top 10 reagan states in either of his elections. Only 3 are there for bush in 88

            We’ve discussed this before, and as I pointed out then, this is only true if you ignore the fact that by the mid-’70s black voters are registered in large enough numbers in the south that even though southern whites were Reagan’s strongest supporters, the addition of a significant population of Democratic-voting blacks means that on net Reagan’s support in the south looks weak. Wikipedia says that Reagan won southern whites 60-35 in 1980; four years later the Atlantic implies that he won southern whites 72-28, well above his average margin. Continuing, this book lists Dukakis’s share among southern whites in different states; since there are no major 3rd party candidates we should expect Bush 88’s totals among southern whites to be pretty close to the complement; this suggests that Bush’s weakest state with southern whites was Texas, which he would have won 61-39. This is comparable to Bush’s 5th best total among all states (Florida, where he won 60.87% of the vote). Again, this is Bush’s worst result with southern whites, meaning that all 11 of the ex-confederate states were better for Bush than that, restricted to the white vote. In fact, five of those states are better than his best result state-by-state.

            In summary then, the idea that southern white support for Nixon/Reagan/Bush is an artifact of strong support for these campaigns across the country is unfounded: southern whites were the strongest supporters of these campaigns, and going from a recent past where southern whites were the Democrats most reliable voting bloc, this is a real change with southern whites at the vanguard, not them meekly following along a path the rest of the country was beating ahead of them.

          • cassander says:

            @heelbearcub

            As I recall last time you did this analysis you were counting dixiecrats as republicans, and were comparing the southern vote to the total vote, not the non-southern vote. When you didn’t do that, your analysis didn’t back up your case.

            @Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t see how the fact that five states from the solid south abandoned the Democrats for a segregationist in 1968 shows that the southern vote wasn’t “switching on a dime” on the issue of segregation.

            Because the south had been doing for 2 decades prior to 1968?

            and going from the most Democratic-supporting region of the country to the most Republican-supporting region in a little over a decade is definitely “the south turning”.

            Again, the south wasn’t solidly republican supporting until the 90s.

            We’ve discussed this before, and as I pointed out then, this is only true if you ignore the fact that by the mid-’70s black voters are registered in large enough numbers in the south that even though southern whites were Reagan’s strongest supporters, the addition of a significant population of Democratic-voting blacks means that on net Reagan’s support in the south looks weak. Wikipedia says that Reagan won southern whites 60-35 in 1980; four years later the Atlantic implies that he won southern whites 72-28, well above his average margin.

            You can’t compare his southern white margin to his overall margin, you have to compare it to his non-southern white margin. in 1980, for example, reagan got >60% from Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, South Dakota, and oklahoma, most of which are substantially white today, and were moresoe back then.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Again, the south wasn’t solidly republican supporting until the 90s.

            This is missing the qualification “at the presidential level”, which I think is obvious from context, but fine.

            As I say, the “turning on a dime” part isn’t something I’m interested in defending; I’m fine conceding that the switch happened over a period of time; but I am definitely defending that the magnitude of the turn was big: that southerners were not reluctant stragglers into the Republican coalition, they were trailblazers.

            You can’t compare his southern white margin to his overall margin, you have to compare it to his non-southern white margin.

            This is correct. According to the Rise of Southern Republicans, Nixon won 80% of the white southern vote in 1972. It confirms that Reagan won 61% of the white southern vote in 1980, and 72% in 1984.
            In 1972, Nixon”s best majority-white states were Wyoming (69%), Utah (68%), Idaho (64%), and so on…all substantially lower than his 80% among southern whites, even before discounting for the fact that they were not 100% white.
            In 1980, the states you list, after accounting for %-white are probably all in the neighbourhood of 60-68% (I used a 95% white assumption, which is true for Utah in 1980); so comparable to southern whites. On the other hand, the Wiki link I posted earlier states that Reagan won 55% of whites generally, suggesting that both the mountain west and the south were better regions for Reagan than the rest of the country. So it’s true, in this case the Republicans were not right at the front of the wave, but they were alongside or just behind Reagan’s leading edge.
            In 1984, Reagan’s best majority-white state was again Utah, at 74%–after discounting for percent white, it’s clear that in 1984 southern whites were a better group for Reagan than even whites in the mountain west.

            I can do 1988 later if you like, and 1964 is obviously Republicans ahead of the rest of the country. So, from 1964 – 1984 (and I suspect 1988 as well), with the exception of 1968, southern whites were the strongest or second-strongest group for Republicans, often by a dramatic amount.

            In short then, the south was either far at the leading edge or near the leading edge alongside whites in the mountain west in Republican landslides, and still not stragglers or reluctantly pulled along with the tide.

          • cassander says:

            As I say, the “turning on a dime” part isn’t something I’m interested in defending; I’m fine conceding that the switch happened over a period of time; but I am definitely defending that the magnitude of the turn was big: that southerners were not reluctant stragglers into the Republican coalition, they were trailblazers.

            I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. There’s no doubt that the south is solidly democratic in 1920 and solidly republican by 2000. There’s no question about the magnitude of the change, the question is timing.

            This is correct. According to the Rise of Southern Republicans, Nixon won 80% of the white southern vote in 1972. It confirms that Reagan won 61% of the white southern vote in 1980, and 72% in 1984.

            And what were their shares of the non-southern white vote? or even better, break out the west, mid-west, and northeast. Because if the white share of the vote is plummeting for ideological reasons in the northeast

            In 1980, the states you list, after accounting for %-white are probably all in the neighbourhood of 60-68% (I used a 95% white assumption, which is true for Utah in 1980);

            There are only 9 states that were less than 70% white in 1990, and none of them are the states I mentioned. And reagan did get ~15% of the black vote and 1/3 of the hispanic, so the assumption that all non-whites didn’t vote for him is going to throw things off.

            In short then, the south was either far at the leading edge or near the leading edge alongside whites in the mountain west in Republican landslides, and still not stragglers or reluctantly pulled along with the tide.

            I don’t think we have established this. You’re claiming that Reagan won 61% of the white southern vote in 1980, and 72% in 1984. This is compared to an overall white vote of 56%, and 64%. That’s not a very large gap, especially when we consider that support for reagan among non-southern whites was far from uniform, and we could easily be seeing rising western numbers getting obscured by falling northeastern.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            OK.
            A while back I grabbed the state by state candidate popular vote total data for each presidential election. I had to do a little bit to it to get in a format that particularly usable.

            Here is the first chart from the effort.

            Here we see the percentage of total vote the Democratic candidate received from 1880 through 2016 in the Southern states and the non-Southern states. The Black Belt states, where slave concentrations were highest, are also broken out separately.

            1948 is a clear trend point.

            Black Belt – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia
            Additional Southern States – Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky*, Oklahoma*, West Virginia*

            * – Not part of the Confederacy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            … and here is the chart of Republican Presidential Performance.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So, before 1964, Republicans had never over-performed in the South.

            1964 is the first time Republicans over-perform in the South.

            In 1968, Wallace runs as the 3rd party segregation candidate. Republicans under-perform in the South, but so do the Democrats, and by more. Republicans outperform Democrats in South.

            In 1972, Republicans outperform in the South and win.

            In 1976, Carter Carter is running as a favorite son of Georgia. And Republicans under-perform in the South and Democrats over-perform.

            In 1980, Democrats over-perform in the South, but Republicans basically perform as well in the South as anywhere else.

            From 1984 forward, Republicans over-perform in the South compared to everywhere else.

            ETA:
            It’s certainly possible I made a copy/paste or formula mistake at some point, so if someone sees something that looks off, please let me know.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I’m not sure what this is supposed to mean. There’s no doubt that the south is solidly democratic in 1920 and solidly republican by 2000. There’s no question about the magnitude of the change, the question is timing.

            I just mean that Clutzy’s original argument that white southerners switching to Republican is not merely an artifact of the Nixon/Reagan landslides: they were leading the curve.

            And what were their shares of the non-southern white vote? or even better, break out the west, mid-west, and northeast. Because if the white share of the vote is plummeting for ideological reasons in the northeast

            I might try and find more info on this later, but the Reagan coalition link I put up earlier says far west was Reagan’s next best region at 53-35; this against 60-35 among white southerners. They don’t break out far west whites but I think there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence adding up that southern whites really were the vanguard here. Also worth noting the comparison with 1976–the only region with a major change from ’76 to ’80 is the south, which mostly seems driven by southern whites.

            I don’t think we have established this. You’re claiming that Reagan won 61% of the white southern vote in 1980, and 72% in 1984. This is compared to an overall white vote of 56%, and 64%. That’s not a very large gap, especially when we consider that support for reagan among non-southern whites was far from uniform, and we could easily be seeing rising western numbers getting obscured by falling northeastern.

            You’re welcome to find statistics that show that southern whites were not the strongest Nixon/Reagan supporters, but provisionally, all the evidence is pointing that direction. An 8% gap isn’t huge, but a) 1980 is the year with the smallest effect as far as I can tell, and b) white southerners make up that 55% as well–the gap ought to be between southern whites and non-southern whites. I can’t find this data, but again, all the evidence seems to bear out my argument. I agree it’s not ironclad, but I think it’s incumbent on those who disagree to find some statistics to show otherwise.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Anyways, I’m incredibly partisan about these things, but the reason why there isn’t an equivalency between the Democrats and the Republicans on these things is that there is no equivalent to Steve King or David Duke in the Democratic Party, not since the 1960’s

        There’s a strong amount of circularity here, if the party agrees not to condemn the rhetoric of a particular person or a particular set of ideas, but the other *does*, then the party that doesn’t punch it’s radicals can say that it doesn’t have equivalents.

        Letting the Overton window dictate what is and isn’t radical is a non-starter. Whoever compromises loses ground to maneuver intellectuals and whoever remains intransigent or even radicalizes gets the opposite.

        I’m not implying that I have an methodology that’s flawless that can define what is and isn’t a radical. Whatever method I use will fail because the other side doesn’t see what I see. Only that, by virtue of the fact that the two tribes don’t merely have different priorities, they are living in fundamentally different moral and empirical realities. They can’t agree on what constitutes threats of violence, what constitutes harm, on the definition of genocide, on the definition of ‘power’ or ‘privilege’, etc.

        The closest thing I can think of would be to judge a statement made by someone by flipping/inverting the nouns used, but even that is objected to on the grounds that differential treatment is a necessary component of the equalization process. So saying something about ‘males’ is not equally radical if the word ‘male’ is replaced with ‘female’ and so on.

        Another approach is to simply look at the treatment of the most radical percentile of a party or organization through time, but again the counter argument might be that one side’s top percentile is qualitatively worse than another’s and so deserves that treatment.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What’s the difference between Steve King and Omar/Sarsour? Steve King was censured for palling around with unsavory types (Faith Goldy, European nationalist groups). And I think Paul Ryan was also mad about him criticizing George Soros, calling that “anti-semitic.” I think that’s an example of burning the Jewish commons. Criticism of George Soros for funding subversive groups happens because George Soros funds subversive groups, not because Soros is Jewish. If we’re going to extend charity to Omar, that her criticisms of AIPAC are because she’s super concerned about foreign influence and not “because Jews,” why not do the same for King? What’s the difference?

        • ana53294 says:

          While criticizing Soros for his actual involvement in many other countries is legitimate, Soros is frequently criticized even in countries where he is not involved anymore.

          They already kicked out Soros out of Hungary and Russia; why do they keep obsessing oven him?

          Once the Americans kick out the AIPAC and stop the lobbying of the different pro-Israel groups, then criticizing those groups will be as ridiculous as criticizing Soros is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Steve King is American, and Soros has not been kicked out of America.

            What are Hungary and Russia’s criticisms?

          • ana53294 says:

            I am not sure how American Soros-bashing works or what exactly the say; I just thought it would be similar to the Hungarian/Russian.

            This article gives you an idea.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Hungary is still under foreign diplomatic pressure due to its immigration policies, As is Russia albeit for different reasons. Whether or not OS or related NGOs are a factor to why foreign governments act this way is an empirical question.

            Also, Even if AIPAC lobbying were to cease (which for practical purposes is next to zero in probability) you would still likely get condemnation of the Israeli State as-such. (i.e. if it decided to annex the west bank, expel the people living there, etc.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The “Soros-bashing” in the US is along the lines of “here’s some group agitating for progressive social/political causes. Let’s see if they’re funded in whole or part by George Soros. Oh look, they are.” MoveOn.org, BLM, various feminist and pro-immigration (legal or otherwise) groups.

            The guy gives lots and lots of money to progressive causes. People get mad at him for giving lots and lots of money to progressive causes. Calling that “anti-semitism” is disingenuous. When somebody gets mad at the Koch brothers for funding libertarian/right stuff, nobody accuses of them of anti-Christian bias.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Conrad

            Are the Koch brothers gentiles?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To my knowledge, yes. I looked at some wikipedia pages for the Kochs and saw only references to episcopalian ancestors and nothing to do with a Jewish heritage. I could be wrong, I’m hardly an expert on them.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            “here’s some group agitating for progressive social/political causes. Let’s see if they’re funded in whole or part by George Soros. Oh look, they are.”

            Except when they aren’t, but the fake conspiracies are still spread by people who go on to the commit the largest antisemitic murder in US history.

            As ana says, criticising Soros is certainly legitimate, but spreading conspiracy theories in which he masterminds all the political causes you don’t like is not just run-of-the-mill criticism.

            @RalMirrorAd

            Yes, the Kochs are non-Jewish. If you want an analogy on the left, you’re better off trying Sheldon Adelson.

          • rlms says:

            Criticising Soros can fall into the classic anti-semitic line of “Jews are subversive leftists” or the line “Jews are rich puppeteers” (or sometimes both, somehow). Certainly it doesn’t have to, and I expect there are cases of people being unjustifiably accused of anti-semitism for criticising Soros (symmetrical to accusations against people who are reasonably criticising Israel). But in this instance, King’s criticism seems to have involved answering “I guess Soros is part [of it]” to a question of who to blame for the “Great Replacement”, which seems pretty dubious to me.

          • ana53294 says:

            Yes, exactly what I meant. It’s OK to criticize George Soros for supporting BDS, or for donating money to anti-Brexit campaigns, or for pushing for more sanctions against Russia. I don’t think any of these things are wrong, but if you, say, think that a foreigner should not give money to another country’s political campaign, that’s a perfectly legitimate criticism.

            It doesn’t seem to me that Steve King was making concrete accusations against him, but was making up stuff about some “Great Replacement” craziness.

            If accusations are concrete, refutable, and based on some fact, then it’s OK. If they are non-refutable (and conspiracy theories never are), then they are smears. Even if Soros opens the books of his foundation, these accusations will continue to pour in.

            @RalMirrorAd

            Sure, criticism against Israel would continue, until they solve the issues with Palestine. But if AIPAC and all Jewish lobbies disappear somehow, because lobbying is banned or whatever, and Sheldon Addelson is still accused of lobbying from abroad, without specifying how he does it, then you can equal that to the criticism of Steve King. I was just pointing out the difference between the two.

            The criticism of Soros in Russia and Hungary are not just about his alleged influence on the EU or the US. They frequently make up stories about him somehow influencing and financing pro-refugee, pro-gay and all kind of other groups inside those countries through some mysterious, undocumented and unprovable ways.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Except when they are, though. That some wacky (or evil or crazy) people make exaggerated claims about Soros does not make the many, many legitimate criticisms of him false. The guy funds an awful lot of activist groups. It is not uncommon to see some protest, do some digging to find out what group the leaders are working for, and then find out some or much of their funding comes from Soros.

            If the media mentions that these people are professional activists at all it’s buried deep in the article. Here’s the Guardian’s take.

            Shortly after Jeff Flake released a statement saying he intended to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court, two women confronted the Arizona Republican senator in an elevator, identifying themselves as sexual assault survivors. Flake’s vote had remained in doubt until this morning.

            One of the women said she had recognized from her own experience being assaulted that Dr Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses the judge of sexual assault when they were both teenagers, was telling the truth.

            Emotional headline, photo, emotional introductions. Four paragraphs later they say “oh by the way she works for some group that sounds nice.” And then it’s right back to another couple dozen paragraphs of emotional rhetoric. They’re not technically lying, though! But how many people reading the Guardian or watching the clip on CNN do you think understand this is an activist doing her activist job? Not very many, and that’s the whole point. Confuse theater for reality to mislead the public.

            This is how the propaganda works. Soros finds crazies, pays them to be crazy, and then the media reports on the crazy as if it’s natural and organic. But it’s not. It’s all theater that probably wouldn’t exist if George weren’t paying for it. And he does this over and over and over again. If there’s somebody attacking the social fabric in some way, Soros will cut them a check.

            And then when you point this out, they yell “antisemitism!” because why the hell not.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            That some wacky (or evil or crazy) people make exaggerated claims about Soros does not make the many, many legitimate criticisms of him false.

            Of course not, but given that many (not some) wacky and evil and crazy people make exaggerated, antisemitic claims about Soros that have prompted in recent months both an assassination attempt on Soros and a massacre of Jews based on one of those false antisemitic theories, it is incumbent on those making legitimate criticisms to put in an effort to distinguish their criticisms from the antisemitic sludge.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Great, I expect that from now on every time you criticize Trump you will include several paragraphs of disclaimers distancing yourself from people who have made death threats against Trump or attempted to attack or kill him. If you don’t, you’re just as evil and crazy as they are.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You are being facetious. Disclaimers are not necessary; making sure to fact check and providing evidence that backs your assertions is enough.

            Most of the whacky theories do neither of those things.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Except Eugene still lumps erroneous criticisms in with “antisemitic sludge.” The three Snopes articles he links are erroneously criticizing Soros for political stuff. None of them say anything about his ethnic heritage. Ctrl-F “Jew” turns up nothing.

            The accurate criticisms of Soros are about his politics, not his Jewishness.

            The vast, vast, vast, vast majority of erroneous criticisms of Soros are about his politics, not his Jewishness.

            Insinuating (or rather, outright stating) that the political criticisms of Soros are antisemitic in nature is poisoning the well.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Conrad,

            funds an awful lot of activist groups…some or much of their funding comes from Soros…
            probably wouldn’t exist if George weren’t paying for it

            In the particular example you gave, your source’s source claims that Soros provided about 20% of the funding in 2016. That’s substantial, but it doesn’t justify your last phrasing, that they wouldn’t do it without him. And in 2017 he only gave 2%, which is typical of numbers I have seen in these contexts.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Agreed, Douglas, withdrawn.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Just to be clear, all of the conservatives I know who are older than say, 40 years old, hate George Soros but think that he [soros] is an Anti-semite, and to said conservatives being an anti-semite is a bad thing.

            They say this on the grounds that he is anti-israel (by their estimation) and also because he worked at one of the concentration camps.

            Said conservatives would still be labeled anti-semites because they most likely would agree that Soros is a “Rootless Cosmopolitan”; to a large extent because the label appears apt [to them] and because they were never taught or never internalized the meme/stereotype of ‘The wealthy jewish person financing political movements aimed at destabilizing gentile nations’.

            A left winger looking at an older conservative probably thinks said conservative is playing some kind of trick. Take it from me that these people are both ignorantly sincere and sincerely ignorant.

            However, younger more internet-savvy conservatives are likely aware of this phenomenon.

            ______________

            @eugene

            I know about Adelson, but I wasn’t sure one way or another about the Koch Brothers.

          • Don P. says:

            It should be clarified that of the various thing Soros has been accused of, “working at a concentration camp” is a new (false) escalation.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Except Eugene still lumps erroneous criticisms in with “antisemitic sludge.”

            The issue is not that the criticisms are erroneous, as if someone just misread a footnote in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, it’s that they are completely invented out of nothing except re-used antisemitic stereotypes.

            If you look at the caravan thing, for example, the entire basis for the claim is that someone was handing out money to the caravaners so they could “storm the border”. And who has lots of money? Why, famous Jew George Soros!

            Note that Matt Gaetz Tweeted this completely baseless speculation out before “investigating the source”. He wasn’t making a mistake, he was deliberately making a spurious claim because Soros is a convenient villain. Ten days later, a synagogue was shot up by someone upset that Jewish groups were “bring[ing] in invaders”.

            But yes, me saying temperate but negative things about Trump pseudonymously on a blog is the exact same as a sitting congressman inventing a conspiracy theory about a Jewish private citizen that mirrors antisemitic conspiracy theories that are literally inciting murders.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you look at the caravan thing, for example, the entire basis for the claim is that someone was handing out money to the caravaners so they could “storm the border”. And who has lots of money? Why, famous Jew George Soros!

            Famous open-borders supporting activist leftist billionaire George Soros. Calling that antisemitism is a stretch Reed Richards couldn’t make in a million years.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            The allegation is that he was paying out individual caravan members to “storm the border” based literally only on the fact that money was being handed out. Does this sound like how you think George Soros supports open borders?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is there some sort of standard anti-semitic libel about Jews that would result in accusations of paying migrants to storm the border? Certainly I don’t know any.

            Soros is accused of funding the caravan because it is indeed the sort of thing his organizations would do. If he wasn’t actually involved, that’s error, but not anti-semitism. Erroneously criticizing a Jewish person does not come near the bar for anti-semitism.

          • rlms says:

            Soros is accused of funding the caravan because it is indeed the sort of thing his organizations would do.

            If “funding the caravan” means paying people to join it (rather than e.g. general humanitarian efforts directed at migrants) then no it really isn’t. That’s a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Accusing Jews of being behind ludicrous conspiracies isn’t inherently anti-semitic, but it’s usually good evidence of it.

            And falsely accusing Jews of being Nazi collaborators like someone upthread did is even stronger evidence.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And falsely accusing Jews of being Nazi collaborators like someone upthread did is even stronger evidence.

            That’s not evidence of anti-Semitism at all. That’s just calling any attack on a Jewish person evidence of anti-Semitism. When various people called Moldbug a Nazi, they were ridiculous, but they weren’t anti-Semitic

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Criticizing Soros for spending his money on bad causes or in bad ways isn’t anti-Semitic, even if people get it wrong, especially since 1) the criticism would be leveled even if he was a practicing Catholic and 2) he does spend significant money in political causes in less than straight-forward manners.

          • Randy M says:

            We just had this argument about racism.
            “If you do something that racists do, it’s racism”
            vs
            “An action needs to actually be racially discriminatory to be racist”

            If you prove something is malicious slander, how does it make it worse if it is anti-x-ist malicious slander?
            Conversely, if you show someone is loose with the truth in an unbigoted way, have you really absolved them of anything?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I don’t mean to pass judgment on the specific claims, but only to refute the accusation that the claims are anti-Semitic.

          • J Mann says:

            @Eugene – IMHO, the interesting thing about comparing Soros and the Kochs is specifically that the Kochs aren’t Jewish, not that they’re more right-ing/libertarian.

            If the natural response of all idiots is to try to delegitimize opposition by arguing that it’s paid for by shadowy funders on the other side, and to try to silence the other side by cutting off their funding sources, then it may be relevant that Soros and the Kochs get treated the same.

            I guess on the other side, you can argue that treating Soros the same as the Kochs is more harmful because accusing Soros of being a shadowy manipulator might encourage anti-Semitic stereotypes, and doing the same to the Kochs only encourages stereotypes against the rich, the oil industry, etc.

            (And of course, putting a six pointed star on your Soros fliers is more offensive than putting an octopus on your Koch fliers, but I don’t think anyone disagrees with that.)

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            there some sort of standard anti-semitic libel about Jews that would result in accusations of paying migrants to storm the border? Certainly I don’t know any.

            So the phrase “Jews will not replace us” rings no bells? The fact that someone shot up a synagogue ten days later to prevent Jews from bringing “invaders”?

            That’s not evidence of anti-Semitism at all. That’s just calling any attack on a Jewish person evidence of anti-Semitism

            it’s calling a baseless attack on a Jewish person that feeds into an antisemitic conspiracy theory antisemitism.

            Criticizing Soros for spending his money on bad causes or in bad ways isn’t anti-Semitic, even if people get it wrong, especially

            Again, the manner of criticism matters, and it's not that people "got it wrong" it's that they invented out if whole cloth. Also, what is less than straightforward about Soros's spending?

            how does it make it worse if it is anti-x-ist malicious slande

            First of all, let’s get everyone on the same page that it’s malicious slander. Then, I’ll point out that spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories harms people other than the specific figure being targeted. Accusing Soros of importing immigrants to attack America lends weight to the more explicitly antisemitic conspiracies and endangers Jews more generally, not just Soros.

          • rlms says:

            Calling Moldbug or another Jewish person a Nazi (as in a modern person the speaker claims shares relevant characters with the organisation lead by Hitler) isn’t anti-semitic in my opinion (although c.f. Ken Livingstone Hitler/Zionism). But falsely accusing a Jew of being a literal Nazi (as in a member of the National Socialist party lead by Adolf Hitler in the early 1940s) is different.

        • JonathanD says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          Steve King asked in an interview, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

          Can you find me a similar question from either Omar or Sarsour? He explicitly did not get into trouble for the palling around. I would argue that his palling around is a lot more significant than Omar’s or Sarsour’s, but even if you reject that, palling around he got away with. It’s only saying something problematic on the record that gets you in trouble.

          I actually agree that what Omar said was a problem, and it was right and proper for her to apologize for it. But it was well short of what King said. And if she were to ever say to an interviewer, “Anti-Semitism, what’s so wrong with that? Maybe the Jews should just be less greedy.” She’d be persona non grata, and rightly so.

          • Randy M says:

            King disputes that. It’s possible he was stumbling over words or a poor transcription in the interview making the statement worse than it is.

            The original Times interview supports that, imo:

            At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.

            “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

            I’d like to know what was said by King immediately before the quoted section.
            (If those were his unaltered, written remarks, that’s another story–but the Times interview says he “said” that, so I don’t think so).

            Still, when you’re a controversial figure already, you should basically never say bad words related to that controversy if you don’t want them taken out of context, especially in an interview with your enemies.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Randy M,

            I mean, sure he disputes it, he crossed a line and got in trouble. To me, the two paragraph version you quoted doesn’t look much better than the bit I did, but more context is always good and he’s certainly in my outgroup, to use the local parlance.

            It is possible he was misquoted to his detriment. And here, his long history of being provocative without quite hitting the line probably is coming into play. If he was a model of good behavior on these issues throughout his career, this happens, he says he was misquoted and didn’t mean it that way, and this likely blows over.

            But he’s Steve King, who endorsed the Canadian who uses the 14 words and thinks it’s a hundred to one drug mules to valedictorians among the dreamers. Think pieces can (and did) pull out decades of quotes that look pretty racist, so leadership cuts him off hard.

            It’s not getting censored by palling around with unsavory types, but it probably is getting censored for saying something ugly and then having that history to point at. And it is different from Omar or Sarsour. Sarsour in particular doesn’t seem to have even done much of anything as far as I can see. What has she done to be lumped in with Omar and King?

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, sure he disputes it, he crossed a line and got in trouble. To me, the two paragraph version you quoted doesn’t look much better than the bit I did

            I quoted those two consecutive paragraphs to demonstrate that whatever King said in the run up to that quote was omitted, and it could very well be an explicit disavowal of what the Times purports it to be. The rest of the actually quoted lines is consistent with that interpretation, moreso than racism.

            King is certainly a nationalist, which is beyond the pale in polite (ie, non-deplorable) society at this point. He may be a White supremecist, or he may be an idiot for doing an interview with the times.

            But consider the hypothetical where an Islamic lawmaker in American talks about their support for capital punishment. (Not using names so this isn’t misconstrued as an accusation–hypothetical).

            The article states “Rep. So-and-so has worked with a cross denominational group to advance criminal justice concerns. But she states:
            ‘Infidels, apostates, murderers–that’s who capital punishment should be for.'”
            It matters if the original statement was”Unlike radical Imams in theocracies, I don’t support punishment of Infidels, apostates. Murderers–that’s who capital punishment should be for.”

            And I don’t put it past the Times to mangle the quote intentionally. Not after Covington, etc.

    • Plumber says:

      @Milo Minderbinder,

      Check thid out:

      “”We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests. Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share. But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

      - Nancy Pelosi

      And in response Ilhan Omar apologized

      (Unfortunately “bubbles” do that, until your post I didn’t know King had been censured by fellow Republicans, I presume you’re a Republican, and I’m a Democrat, going outside “bubbles” is why spaces like this to communicate are good)

      • Clutzy says:

        You would do well to see what happened after that. There was a vote to officially censor her in the House for antisemitic comments, but Pelosi couldn’t even get that to the floor for a vote. Instead Omar and her allies changed it into a nonspecific condemnation of all hate that somehow also included condemnation of anti-muslim bias.

        TLDR, Pelosi ended up with her tail between her legs.

        • Deiseach says:

          The nice thing about being a diversity coalition is that being that places limiters on the degree of “help I’m being hated” that’s possible that weren’t really there during the Great Evangelical Fundamentalization (for example).

          Re: the above that Hoopyfreud wrote and what Clutzy said about Pelosi ended up with her tail between her legs”, I think the interesting thing going on in the Democratic Party right now is this re-alignment; the Old Guard (like Pelosi) do seem to be losing ground and influence, whether or not they’re currently still in possession of positions of power, and the future seems to belong to the Omars and Ocasio-Cortezes (whether that really shakes out in fact, who can forecast?)

          So I’d be less sanguine about “diversity splintering means no one group in the herd of cats is strong enough to push the Oppression Olympics agenda” and more “the move and mood is tilting towards the progressives, and you’re going to get ‘asking me to debate is the same thing as catcalling’ victimisation politics happening as a strategy”.

          Indeed, the “help I’m being hated” angle is being pushed right now – Ocasio-Cortez claiming Omar is in danger of her life due to death threats becuase of conservatives objecting to her characterising 9/11 as “someone did something” (and indeed that she herself is receiving death threats and is endangered due to her views):

          Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who has become Republicans’ preferred foil, responded on Twitter to a fundraising email solicitation from the Ohio Federation of College Republicans with the subject line: “AOC is a domestic terrorist.”

          Dave Levinthal, the federal politics editor at the Center for Public Integrity, shared it on Twitter and noted that the term was “often reserved for the likes of Timothy McVeigh and people who kill children in their school classrooms.”

          “This puts me in danger every time,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote, retweeting Levinthal. “Almost every time this uncalled for rhetoric gets blasted by conserv. grps, we get a spike in death threats to refer to Capitol Police. Multiple ppl have been arrested trying to harm me, Ilhan, & others. @GOP, what’s it going to take to stop?”

          My God, the Ohio Federation of College Republicans? Will no-one take a stand against these dangerous and likely gun-toting school-shooting fanatics? Where is the SPLC when you really need them?

          EDIT: To make myself clear, I disagree with the Ohio Young Republicans – she’s not a terrorist domestic or otherwise, she’s a loudmouth politician who is working the particular angle that got her elected like any other ambitious politician. But because she’s a loudmouth, naturally she’s seizing on the opportunity to portray her opponents as motivating nutcases to try and kill her, so both sides should shut up and stop being so dramatic and over the top.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            To be clear, I worry a lot about the structural instability this implies and I do my best to convince people that it’s Very Bad and that they should Stop Please for the Love of God.

            I just also think that while this dynamic has alarming social implications, it doesn’t have alarming first-order policy implications, and that the infighting about policy makes a return to normalcy marginally more likely than a hard pivot, as long as there are people actively advocating for a return to normalcy.

            In other words, I hope that the lack of a stable equilibrium makes it possible to put the genie back in the bottle.

        • Plumber says:

          @Clutzy,
          That’s news to me.

          Thanks.

          • Dan L says:

            No, your filter was working. The official House vote and the political jockeying surround it and the coverage of said and the coverage of the coverage was the most insipid round of political theater I’ve seen in a while. It’s rarely a good idea to trust people to summarize their opponent’s position, but in cases with that level of deliberately obtuse pontificating you couldn’t have even trusted people to relate their own position accurately.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Her “unequivocal apology” was immediately followed by equivocation.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Note that, without going into the details, the phenomenon you describe isn’t limited to party machines, it’s also present to some degree in think tanks and activist groups. Think national review.

      So trying to explain the phenomenon in terms of electoral pressure probably is misplaced.

  18. Scott Alexander says:

    If you could add one amendment to the US Constitution, what would it be?

    Rules:

    1. It can only do one thing; you can’t add your whole party platform as an amendment.

    2. It can’t be longer than existing amendments.

    3. Congress and the states can amend the Constitution back if they don’t like it, but they would need the usual supermajority and it would be pretty hard. Still, if you propose something totally offensive to the vast majority of the American people, they’ll make it happen.

    4. You can’t declare yourself dictator or otherwise wish for more wishes. You can’t ban Congress and the states from unamending your amendment.

    5. The Supreme Court gets to interpret your amendment as per the usual process. The real, actually existing Supreme Court, with John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch and all those people. You can try explaining to them what you meant, but they won’t care unless they’re already originalists.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Repeal the following amendments:
      17th
      23rd
      26th

      • metacelsus says:

        Why?

        17th – popular election of senators
        23rd – DC gets Electoral College votes
        26th – voting age is 18

        I don’t see why these are bad

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          For the 26th one could argue that an 18 year old today is equivalent to a 15-16 year old 2 generations back, and possibly younger going back even farther. We’re generally talking about someone who generally has zero job experience, no practical life experience outside of a controlled classroom environment, no income, no equity, no children to take care of, etc. etc.

          There are certain implicit assumptions to opposing 26th on these grounds, namely that voting requires or ought to require the voter to have a certain amount of ‘adulting’ experience under their belt and also preferably have a stake in the future.

          I’m personally ambivalent about it, but someone who cares more about states rights would likely want more federal offices appointed by state legislatures.

        • Garrett says:

          17th – substantially destroyed State power as a check on Federal power.
          23rd – DC was never supposed to matter. It isn’t a State and thus shouldn’t get a vote, much like Puerto Rico. If they want to vote for President, residents can move the roughly 4 miles they need to in order to be in a State. Or the other States can take back the parts of DC not needed by the Feds.
          26th – we keep adding more and more things that you have to be 21 to do. Among others, drinking, buying handguns, driving commercially across state lines or hauling hazardous materials, gambling in some states, and recently smoking tobacco in some states. If we aren’t going to claim that someone is responsible enough, they aren’t adults.

          Edited to add: also to be a “commercial aircraft co-pilot”.

          • Andrew Cady says:

            Garrett, do you think Selective Service registration should be mandatory at age 18 while voting age is 21?

          • Garrett says:

            I think Selective Service registration should go away completely.

          • meh says:

            @Andrew Cady
            Would you also not have to pay taxes until you are 21?

          • Andrew Cady says:

            Garrett: Do you support a straight repeal of #26 or only a version that also abolishes Selective Service registration?

            meh: I don’t understand the question. What scenario are you asking about? I’m not aware of any taxes at all that are age-dependent.

        • Deiseach says:

          There are suggestions over here of dropping the voting age to 16 which makes me roll my eyes; the voting age used to be 21, then it was reduced to 18 partly on the same grounds – this will mean more young people vote!

          Turns out 18 year olds aren’t particularly interested in voting, not as much as Old People (like me who were raised to consider it Your Civic Duty and Being A Good Citizen) so now they want to drop it down to 16 to solve the problem of Why Don’t Young People Turn Out Like Old People Do?

          Why on earth they think 16 year olds are simply panting to go to the polling booths I have no idea, and I certainly don’t expect a rush of Transition Year students going out to do their bit if ever this happens. When the age drop fails to get more young people out to vote, what next? Drop it down to 14 with the lure of – what do they lure kids with nowadays? Free phone if you vote for the first time?

          As an old person, I am also grimly amused by the “people over a certain age should lose the vote because they don’t have a stake in society any longer and they only vote in their own interests”. Oh yes, and you think a bunch of 16 year olds wouldn’t be enticed to vote for the candidate that will promise to legalise all drugs, do away with homework, and pass a law guaranteeing your parents are not the boss of you since you’re an adult now so they can’t force you to come home before twelve o’clock at night on the weekend?

          Everyone votes for their interests. A bunch of idealistic kids will vote for what they think are their interests (as sold to them by activists and slick young politicians) and that will be as injurious for the nation as a whole as a bunch of seventy year olds voting for their interests.

          • Nornagest says:

            Drop it down to 14 with the lure of – what do they lure kids with nowadays? Free phone if you vote for the first time?

            When I was a high school student being corralled into anti-smoking rallies at the state capitol, it was partly free swag — T-shirts and hats and such — but mostly the feeling that you were A Good Person who was Making A Difference. Even, oddly, if you didn’t really care much about the cause. Embarrassing in retrospect, but it’s not even in the top ten most embarrassing things I did in high school, so whatever.

            Of course, a rally is a lot more… people-oriented than just showing up to vote, if that makes sense. The folks throwing one have an incentive to play to their constituents’ egos. Plus, it’s unusual and vaguely rebellious. All of that means I’d expect it to appeal a lot more to your average 16-year-old than just showing up to vote.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            The young people who vote are extremely disproportionately the well-educated (and thus elite) and tend to have certain political beliefs.

            My strong impression is that those who desire a lower voting age intuitively recognize that this will result in more voters that support their politics.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Aapje

            Even if I turn on my maximum cynicism, I don’t think that’s it because that wouldn’t last, and I think politicians are smart and/or experienced enough to realize it.

            Policy would probably be a little different if young people voted more though (including the people who already can legally vote).

          • abystander says:

            @quanta41

            To the extent that the same people who want to lower the voting age to 16 also want to increase the age where a person is considered an adult in the criminal justice system to 23 or 25 I am quite cynical.

        • Gray Ice says:

          OK, so several people have explained the basic ideas. While I think there are some other good and/or interesting ideas lower down in the thread, my idea was to stay short, plus simple, plus on one basic theme.

          All of the repeals I suggested are related to how voting is conducted. My expectation is that senators being in charge of state legislators (or Governors, as suggested in a separate comment), would result in the Senate being more representative of State interests. This would shift some power (not rights) to states vs. the national government.

          For DC, I agree with the other comments: mostly residential sections should be part of the nearest state. DC should only be the seat of government. I would hope this results in better governance for current DC citizens and one less distraction for congress.

          For the 26th: I would like to have one full adult age. If people are comfortable letting 18 year olds buy beer and handguns, then let them vote as well. But if not, then let voting start at the same time. As far as the selective service is concerned, I think everyone (male, female, other) should have to register. However, the draft should only be used in times of actual crisis. If the question of: “do the 18 years we are drafting have the theoretical ability to vote in the next election” will change your answer regarding “does this require a draft”, then the conclusion is: “No, we don’t need a draft yet.

    • johan_larson says:

      Change Article V, the amending formula.

      The Congress, whenever two thirdssimple majorities of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirdsa majority of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourthsthree fifths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourthsthree fifths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

      If I could add a second change, I’d make it possible for congress to strike down Supreme Court judgements outright. Checks and balances are a good thing, and right now the Supreme Court isn’t subject to enough of them. It should be hard, but it shouldn’t require changing the constitution.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        If I could add a second change, I’d make it possible for congress to strike down Supreme Court judgements outright. Checks and balances are a good thing, and right now the Supreme Court isn’t subject to enough of them. It should be hard, but it shouldn’t require changing the constitution.

        Perhaps something like Canada’s notwithstanding clause?

        • dndnrsn says:

          On a federal level, I have to imagine that the two-party system in the US would cause the notwithstanding clause-equivalent to become a commonly used weapon. Our three-party system is more like a Mexican standoff than the US two-party quickdraw duel – the Conservatives are limited in how right they can go, the NDP in how left they can go, the Liberals in how far they can go in either direction, by the threat of another party peeling off votes, far more than either party in the US is limited. This extends to the notwithstanding clause, where it’s sort of agreed that it won’t be used a lot. I think in the US that wouldn’t stand up to polarization.

          Additionally, we don’t have the same executive/legislative/judicial split as the US.

      • Björn says:

        This is the most reasonable change to the US constitution. The USA theoretically know what they should change in their system, the only problem is there is no political feasible way to implement that.

        Maybe the amending formula should be changed a little bit more radically. The senate already represents the states as single entities, the only reason the state legislatives get a say in the amendment process is because the USA historically is a state union like the EU. If you pull the state legislatives into the procedure, any amendment has to be debated and ratified in 30 state parliaments, which have no incentive to care about federal politics.

        Instead, I suggest that the house (the fast moving chamber) should be able to propose one constitutional amendment each year with a simple majority (50%), which forces the senate to debate it, and if they ratify it with 60% of the votes, it’s through. Getting 60% of the senate vote will still be hard enough, but senators have at least some reason to care more about the long term perspective, so they should have to make the decision that a proposed amendment is good.

        Congress being able to override the Supreme court I think would make the US law system even weirder. Right now rulings are based on precedent and some documents like the constitution, what happens when congress votes down a Supreme Court judgement that is based on the constitution? Then the US law system becomes even more illogical. It would be better to move the law system away from precedents and more towards codified law, which conveniently would give the legislative more Checks and balances against the justice system.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          The USA theoretically know what they should change in their system, the only problem is there is no political feasible way to implement that. everyone disagrees on what the changes should be

          For example, we have in this very thread both proposals to massively expand the power of States and ones to massively reduce it

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s too easy. You need 60% to get anything controversial done in the Senate anyway, so what you’re effectively doing is making one law a year impossible to repeal — and unlike this thread there is no requirement that an amendment do just one thing. That gives whoever holds 51% of the House and 60% of the Senate a huge amount of totally unaccountable power. If the amendment process stands, then the other guys can just revoke it whenever they get the votes, but there’s nothing preventing you from corrupting it.

      • JPNunez says:

        That sounds dangerous. I’d be ok with the 3/4 -> 3/5 parts, but the simple majority in congress sounds like inviting a never ending stream of amendments whenever one of the parties got lucky at the vote that year.

        • johan_larson says:

          It’s a simple majority in both houses of congress to propose amendments. They still need to be ratified by the states. Presumably congress won’t formally pass amendments that have no chance of being accepted by the states.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Have we learned nothing from Brexit?

      • aristides says:

        I was going to suggest the second one, but I would make it two thirds of both houses so it is like a Veto.

        Since you already took mine, I would add 18year staggered term limits to all Supreme Court Justices. We should have to consult actuaries when we nominate SC justices.

    • tgb says:

      Expand the explicit rights of non-citizens, both in the US and abroad. I don’t exactly what you’d have to write to make this work, but the goal would be to, eg, guarantee enemy combatants right to a lawyer and fair trial if being held. And get rid of the surveillance loophole where the US can spy on British citizens and Britain can spy on US citizens and then share their info. (I’m sure this wouldn’t change that in practice, they’d justify surveillance by another means.) Mostly this amendment would be enshrine the idea that it’s not okay to do to non-citizens what you wouldn’t to citizens. I think this protects both citizens and non-citizens and is morally important for us to make this an American ideal, one which will hopefully seep into the public subconscious.

      • gbdub says:

        “guarantee enemy combatants right to a lawyer and fair trial if being held”

        So now every infantry squad needs a forensic scientist to dust for fingerprints immediately after a firefight?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Prisoners of War are different from Enemy Combatants. Part of what people objected to about the Bush doctrine of dealing with terrorists was exactly that the terror suspects weren’t afforded either the protections of Prisoners of War or the protections of ordinary criminals.

          • gbdub says:

            If we were treating them as “Prisoners of War” we’d traditionally be within our rights to execute them as spies, given their lack of uniforms and deliberate attempts to hide among civilians.

            It’s a legitimately hard problem and “give them a trial with the same rights they’d have as US citizens” is so impractical a suggestion as to indicate that a proponent of such hasn’t thought very deeply about the details of problem.

            EDIT: that’s too harsh on my part. But still, I think the suggestion would lead to effectively releasing a whole bunch of people we are pretty sure are terrorists because the exigencies of international war prevent the same level of legal investigation and protection we have for domestic crimes.

            As I said, hard problem.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I agree that it’s a legitimately hard problem.

            I was interpreting you — perhaps incorrectly, I now think — as saying that requiring that we treat enemy combatants as having rights would mean that in a conventional, uniformed war, our infantry squads would have to keep lawyers with them. I was saying that they wouldn’t, because in a traditional war, they wouldn’t be capturing enemy combatants, they’d be capturing prisoners of war.

            But perhaps you were saying that peacekeeping infantry squads in Afghanistan — facing non-uniformed guerrilla opposition — would have to keep lawyers with them.

            I agree that it’s a hard problem, I am radically unconvinced that the answer to dealing with this hard problem is to have a standard of prisoner in which no rules apply other than what the current President decides.

          • cassander says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            The army that has to fight with the permission of lawyers will lose to the army that doesn’t every time.

            Frankly, we would be better off from a human rights perspective keeping to the traditional rules and hanging un-uniformed combatants and those hiding among civilians on sight. They’d learn the dangers of doing so quickly, and stop doing it. It’s precisely the attempt to give them more due process that has created such a tricky problem.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Cassander is right. The reason spies and saboteurs were executed immediately was because of the danger they represented. Not just to the army they were attacking, but the civilians they were cowering behind as well – an army that loses discipline as a result of repeated “civilian” attacks results in massacre.

            The “problem” with terrorists is that they decided to make an entire army of spies and saboteurs.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Do we get to tax non-citizens abroad now?

        • ana53294 says:

          The justification for taxing citizens abroad I’ve heard of is that, even when you live abroad, if you get in trouble and end up in a war zone, kidnapped by pirates, terrorists or whatever, the US Marines will go rescue you, so you should still pay for the army, and the embassies, which give you some benefits even when you are abroad.

          And they do really do that. I personally know an American-Lebanese girl who was rescued during armed conflict in Lebanon.

          Will the US Navy start sending Marines for kidnapped non-citizens now?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It’s an inversion but seems within the spirit of

            Mostly this amendment would be enshrine the idea that it’s not okay to do to non-citizens what you wouldn’t to citizens.

      • Etoile says:

        Is your focus specifically on the surveillance and due process, or do you think non-citizens should have full access to most entitlements (which permanent residents mostly do)? What would be a privilege citizens got that non-citizens didn’t, other than voting?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Federal income taxes, inclusive of payroll taxes, cannot exceed 25% of individual AGI, except when Congress has explicitly declared a state of war.

      User fees, sales tax, imports, etc exempt.

    • brad says:

      1) All Bills shall originate in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives may present a bill to the President for his approval notwithstanding the lack of agreement from the Senate.

      2) The President shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the House of Representatives to make Treaties; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the House of Representatives, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

      3) The House of Representatives shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        How is this not just an elimination of the Senate? And if that is the intent, why not just disband it?

        • brad says:

          The constitution arguably forbids an amendment abolishing the Senate. I’m confident the above amendment complies with the requirements of Article V.

          • gbdub says:

            How about giving every state two bonus Reps and increasing House terms to 4 years. I could live with that compromise.

          • brad says:

            If that’s what it takes, sure. The four year part is probably a good idea regardless.

      • Gray Ice says:

        I think I see where you’re going with this, but I have a question about a possible comprise: Would you be willing to give the senate the ability to override a veto with 60% of their votes in exchange for the other shift of powers to the house? (Or other > 50% number to be proposed).

        • brad says:

          I’d want at least 75%. That’d still be politicians representing as little as 38% of the people. Also, I don’t love the idea of a political body that can only block, I think it kind of screws with their incentives. What do you think about gbdub’s compromise instead?

    • Protagoras says:

      Perhaps an amendment to make voting compulsory (possibly including related clauses to make that change workable)? I won’t bother trying to provide what the exact wording would be; it seems clear that an amendment to do that could be short enough to satisfy the conditions.

      • Viliam says:

        If voting is compulsory, then there should be an option “none of the above”. Even if choosing that option would be equivalent to not voting today. To make a difference between people who don’t vote because they are too lazy, and people who don’t vote because all options seem too bad to them.

      • Why is compulsory voting desirable?

        • Protagoras says:

          Because politicians have no incentive to care about the interests of people who don’t vote, and I’m not inclined to hang those people out to dry just because of their own cluelessness. Less importantly but still significantly, I am somewhat concerned about shenanigans that influence voter turnout, and so I would rather see everyone vote than have our voluntary sytem vulnerable to various corrupt methods of encouraging some groups and discouraging others.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Because politicians have no incentive to care about the interests of people who don’t vote

            This statement seems incorrect to me in a couple of ways.

            First, let assume politicians have some meaningful incentive to care about the interests of the electorate, at least sometimes (prior to considering the of current voter status of the members of the electorate).

            If that is so, then a politician should still care about the interests of non-voters, because his or her actions could convert a non-voter to a voter. It’s not dissimilar to the idea of a business trying to attract a new customer.

            Second, why should we make the initial assumption (that a politician cares about the interest of voters)? We might assume it by proxy, in the sense that a politician cares about being elected, and that acting in voters’ interest might be tied to popularity and to being elected, but they are not the same thing. How large is the gap between the voter vs. non-voter interest? How much does interest, correctly assessed, tie in to the choice of the “voter”? How well is self-interest calculated?

            It seems to me you are making a very strong claim, and also that those questions are relevant and not trivial to answer.

            It also occurs to me that places with a history of compulsory voting have not typically been wonderful places to live.

          • 10240 says:

            It also occurs to me that places with a history of compulsory voting have not typically been wonderful places to live.

            Correlation doesn’t imply causation. Australia currently has compulsory voting btw, among a few other democratic countries.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It also occurs to me that places with a history of compulsory voting have not typically been wonderful places to live.

            I don’t see what Australia’s murderfauna has to do with compulsory voting

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            and I’m not inclined to hang those people out to dry just because of their own cluelessness

            You assume that saying “voting is compulsory” will get those people to vote. What is more likely to happen is that you are going to start prosecuting and fining people who already are living on a perpetual brink of collapse.

            This pattern matches a lot with “let’s drug-test everyone on welfare.” Yeah, you say it’s for their own good, and in this case I honestly believe your motive, but it just ends up punitive.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I had a larger comment but upon reflection it’s too annoyed and I don’t feel like spending the time to rewrite the whole thing with a better tone.

            The one nugget I think worth posting: How about an inverse Voter Registration system? If you register as non-voting at least X months before the election, you don’t get fined for not showing up. But you also don’t get to change your mind and go in anyway.

            Registration would last indefinitely until rescinded. Practically speaking there’d need to be a deadline to rescind by in order to vote in the next election.

          • Nornagest says:

            What is more likely to happen is that you are going to start prosecuting and fining people who already are living on a perpetual brink of collapse.

            No one’s going to bother actively prosecuting these people. What’s actually going to happen is, first, nothing, and then three years later they get pulled over in a traffic stop and discover that they’re on the hook for the speeding ticket plus $X in fines for not voting three years ago. A lot like how skipping out on jury duty works.

            Whether this is better or worse depends on your perspective. Less active persecution, but also less accountability and transparency on the system’s part.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Because politicians have no incentive to care about the interests of people who don’t vote, and I’m not inclined to hang those people out to dry just because of their own cluelessness. Less importantly but still significantly, I am somewhat concerned about shenanigans that influence voter turnout, and so I would rather see everyone vote than have our voluntary sytem vulnerable to various corrupt methods of encouraging some groups and discouraging others.

            Two obvious objections:

            (1) Somebody who won’t vote unless you force them to is unlikely to be very well-informed, and making the electorate worse-informed overall is unlikely to be good for the quality of candidates elected.

            (2) If somebody can’t be bothered to vote, why do they deserve to have their interests taken into account in the first place?

          • Randy M says:

            Someone who doesn’t vote is basically giving a vote of minimal confidence to the status quo, or possibly a vote of no confidence whatsoever in the system. Either way, there’s nothing saying the a politician couldn’t lose or gain these votes, respectively, by some subsequent screw up, so they are do need to consider these people at some level, even beyond how screwing them over could impact the votes of their peers who already are voting.

            Yeah, I realized I ended up making the same point as sentientbeings did previously. Take that as a +1.

          • DavidS says:

            I’d go further than sentientbeings on

            “If that is so, then a politician should still care about the interests of non-voters, because his or her actions could convert a non-voter to a voter”

            I tend to think mandatory voting would make politicians less responsive (at least in FPTP, more or less 2 party type systems like US/UK) because it means you don’t have to worry about failing to meet the concerns of your base as long they hate the other guys more. Obviously you can technically abstain (or vote 3rd party) in these circumstances, but as it stands, people have to actually give people reasons to bother to vote for them, not just make themselves marginally less despised. And I think that this probably boosts responsiveness to groups that otherwise would be almost entirely ignored (voters who are taken for granted for your side).

            In terms of overall impact I imagine this tends to push against the tendency that otherwise in a 2-party system logically everyone is trying to hug the middle ground and pitch themselves as just left/right of wherever the other guys are to hoover up maximum votes.

          • 10240 says:

            (2) If somebody can’t be bothered to vote, why do they deserve to have their interests taken into account in the first place?

            @The original Mr. X : One issue is that if people in similar circumstances or with similar preferences to you are less likely to vote than others, then your interests get little weight, even if you personally vote.

          • Gray Ice says:

            Alternate proposal:
            – Voters pay income tax at standard rate.
            – Nonvoters pay income tax at standard rate plus minor increase. (enough an individual voter would notice, not enough the government would be trying to prevent voting)

        • 10240 says:

          The probability that your vote decides the outcome is so small that it’s typically not in your interest to take the effort to go to the polling station. Of course the majority of people are irrational and/or altruistic enough that they vote, but since the willingness to vote in spite of the above may be correlated with demographic or personal attributes, and thus with voting preference, this may affect the outcome, which may be seen as undesirable by democrats. Compulsory voting eliminates this.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I really would like to pin down the fallacy name for the persistent notion that voting only matters if your vote decides the outcome…

          • 10240 says:

            @Gobbobobble If you can’t name it, please explain why you think it’s a fallacy.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Two conceptual issues I think of:

            1. It’s a non-universalizable belief. That is, if everyone believed it to be true, then it would cease to be true.

            It’s like saying “traffic is so bad, its faster to walk than to drive”. This only holds true so long as not too many people believe it to be so, otherwise it flips. Its the same with statements regarding the irrelevance of the individual vote. Which prevents the statement from being any sort of actionable advice you could build a system around.

            2. It views the most important vote as the 50%+1 vote, when actually the 50%+1 vote relies equally on the 50% of votes that came before to have importance. Which is to say, no ones vote is the “deciding factor”, everyone’s vote is, among those who voted for the winner.

            Imagine a basketball game. It’s like saying “meh, the chances that you will be the guy who shoots the three pointer that overtakes the other team is so low, why even bother to make shots at all?” But surely anyone can tell you that it isn’t only the shot that takes you past the other team that matters, but all the ones that built up to it as well.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Okay, let’s be real, i’d ban abortion (full stop, no exceptions). If that were for some reason off the table, the more interesting amendment I’d institute would be along the lines of the following:

      I. Congress shall require a 2/3 majority to execute any action, and a 4/5 majority to override a presidential veto.

      II. The power of the president to issue executive orders is hereby revoked, and all previous executive orders declared null and void.

      III. The power of judicial review by the supreme court shall be limited to rulings on federal laws and regulations, which shall require at least a 3/4 majority, and the number of justices shall not exceed 9. All previous decisions not in accordance with this amendment are declared null and void.

      This may sound like multiple things, but it’s really one thing with a couple loopholes plugged: if you want a law, Congress will need a supermajority to pass it, and there’ll be no dodging this requirement via executive orders or crafty judicial decisions. You will learn to work together or this country will go down in flames.

      • cassander says:

        repealing executive orders does you absolutely no good. at their core, executive orders are just formal, written instructions from the president to the executive branch. unless you intend to make the president purely a figurehead, they’ll immediately pop up under a different name, like presidential memorandum.

        • MasteringTheClassics says:

          Fair enough, however you have to modify the amendment to make it clear that the president can’t make defacto law absent Congress is fine with me.

          And I don’t think this makes the president merely a figurehead, (not to minimize the soft power a head of state wields): he still gets to sign/veto legislation, appoint judges, make treaties, command the armed forces, pardon people, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            The real problem is the scope and independence of the administrative state; the President is just the guy directing it. And I don’t think that’s the sort of thing that a constitutional amendment in the conventional (viz. pithy) style is equipped to solve. Maybe if it had come 150 years ago, but not now.

          • cassander says:

            the ultimate job of the president is CEO of the executive branch. If you don’t like what the executive branch is doing, curtailing the power of the president does you no good, you need to curtail the executive he’s in charge of. As Nornagest says, curb the APA and the administrative state. if you cripple the president you won’t get fewer legislated laws, you’ll get more, and there will be no one with any ability to repeal them.

            The secret to happiness is a strong president and a weak (or at least highly limited) executive, not a weak president and a massive executive branch that no one is in charge of.

          • MasteringTheClassics says:

            That… seems broadly correct. Nuts, I was hoping I didn’t have to contend with the executive bureaucracy, as they are clearly outside the scope of a single amendment to reign in.

            Very well, new plan:

            IV. Anyone found to be fucking up my utopia shall be shot.

            I foresee no unforeseeable problems with this plan.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This might be too big for one amendment, realistically it would probably need a new Constitutional Convention, but here goes:

      I would replace the House of Representatives and the Senate with a unicameral Electoral College. Each state keeps the same number of seats as they had under the old system and state legislatures maintain the ability to choose how to apportion their electors however they like. All of the current powers of the House and Senate go to the Electoral College, in addition to it’s normal ability to choose the president and vice president once every four years.

      This move would hopefully restore some sense of federalism by placing more power into the hands of state legislatures. The unicameral nature of the new legislature might also help pull power away from the executive and judiciary, restoring the system of checks and balances somewhat. Putting the electoral college into a higher profile role would also make it clearer to people how Presidential elections actually work so that we don’t have an existential crisis every four years when we’re reminded that the US has never directly elected its presidents.

      • aristides says:

        Why would this give the states more power? The Senate is the body that does more to protect states rights than any other part of government. I would expect the unicameral legislature would have an easier time screwing over fly over states than the current system.

        • Nornagest says:

          It doesn’t give the states more power, but it does give state legislatures more power, as they now get to decide how the state’s representatives are chosen.

    • Plumber says:

      @Scott Alexander,

      No State shall have more than 20,000,000 residents.

      When any single State has over 20,000,000 residents then that State must be divided within 10 years into two States neither of which shall have a population exceeding 14,000,000 at the time of creation.

      (California, Florida, and Texas would be divided, New York likely would be divided soon).

      • brad says:

        I like this one. I’d make the threshold a multiple of the smallest state’s population. Don’t want magic numbers in our constitution.

        • Gray Ice says:

          How about:
          1. Any statistical municipal area over 5 million is a city state.
          2. States under 2 million must combine with other states if there is a land border between them.
          3. Calculate some appropriate scaling for size to adjust the above numbers for future census.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        That’s not very forward-thinking.

        Cities in Asia, like Tokyo, Beijing and New Deli already show that you can have over 20 million people in one city. Assuming that we don’t collapse first, it’s only a matter of time before American cities reach that level of urbanization. It’s one thing to turn Downstate New York into a de facto city state but it’s going to be a lot harder to divide, say, Los Angeles into multiple states.

        • woah77 says:

          Comically suggested solution: Gladiator fights done by raffle? You just have to make it risky enough that risk averse people won’t come to the city and only apply after so many people live there, ceasing if the population drops.

          ETA: Alternatively, Cities don’t get votes. If you want full representation, you spread out.

        • Plumber says:

          @Nabil ad Dajjal

          “…..it’s going to be a lot harder to divide, say, Los Angeles into multiple states”

          Los Angeles seems relatively low density now, but even if it means one floor of an arcology giant skyscraper is a separate State I don’t see the problem, but I suppose an exemption could be made for a certain minimum of land area (still not really seeing the problem) and frankly, except that radical changes usually go badly, I’d be fine with 500 States instead of 50.

        • AG says:

          divide Los Angeles into multiple states.

          I see this as a feature, not a bug.

          On the other hand, this kind of thing could only be feasible after strong anti-gerrymandering regulation is passed, or there will be every kind of political shenanigans in the splitting process.

          (For example, Texas gleefully splitting their big cities to neutralize their growing Democrat voting population.)

    • bean says:

      Changes to the age limits for federal office. Nobody is allowed to be elected/appointed after they reach 65. If we don’t let people fly airliners after that age under any circumstances, why do we let them run the country?

      • kirjaklamber says:

        If a 65+ pilot dies of a heart attack while flying a plane, it’s a pretty different problem from a 65+ congressperson dying of a heart attack while congress is in session.

        • gbdub says:

          But if the person with the big red button, or even just the swing vote on the Supreme Court, has dementia, that’s pretty damn bad.

          • kirjaklamber says:

            I see an age cutoff as a little dubious due to ~15% of the population being 65+.

            A person in a critical position with dementia is a problem over a much longer time frame than a plane crash, and has a longer window for action. I agree an age limit on appointed positions with no term limits makes sense, but otherwise the election or other measures (impeachment? their party/both parties strongly recommending early retirement on medical grounds?) could be used to remove a person with medically disqualifying issues.

            Letting any one person be in charge of the big red button is another issue entirely…

        • bean says:

          The over-65 limit is absolute. You could have every cardiologist in the world swear your heart is in good shape, and no history of heart problems in your family going back to Adam. Want to fly an airliner at 66? You’re out of luck.

          There’s a fair bit of evidence that people start to get at least subtle mental problems in their 60s and later. Age limits solve this, as well as facilitating turnover in government, without the problems of term limits.

          • kirjaklamber says:

            Is the 65+ limit on commercial airliners only or on any type of plane?

            In general flying a plane seems like it has pretty different requirements than holding office. Decreases in physical reaction times, visual and auditory acuity, ect all come with age and could seriously effect plane flying ability while having much smaller effect on law-making/ect ability. I can’t say I know anything about the specifics, but I’d imagine that any major age related issues can be better dealt with over a longer time period in office rather than couple hours in air.

            What do you see as the benefits of age limits over term limits?

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Reaction time. Buffer for unidentified health issues.

    • sentientbeings says:

      (1) Any affirmative vote by a Senator or Congressperson for a piece of legislation (or negative vote for an explicit, complete repeal of prior legislation) can only be cast after having read the legislation in its entirety.

      (2) Any such vote must be accompanied by a sworn (affirmed) statement truthfully acknowledging having read the legislation in its entirety.

      (3) Any Senator or Congressperson found to have violated these provisions will be immediately removed from office and permanently expelled from United States and its territories.

      (You might also have to include something about only using roll call votes)

      Other idea: a negative legislature, but I’m not sure what exact formulation I’d endorse

      • Theodoric says:

        Other idea: a negative legislature, but I’m not sure what exact formulation I’d endorse

        Maybe this from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: one house of legislators, another whose single duty is to repeal laws. Let the legislators pass laws only with a two-thirds majority… while the repealers are able to cancel any law through a mere one-third minority. Preposterous? Think about it. If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?

      • gleamingecho says:

        @sentient:

        1,000,000 times this.

      • bullseye says:

        This would force fewer and shorter laws, which I feel would result in Congress delegating even more power to the President and bureaucracy.

        • sentientbeings says:

          This would force fewer and shorter laws

          Yes

          which I feel would result in Congress delegating even more power to the President and bureaucracy.

          That would be a bad consequence, and certainly is not outside the realm of possibility. I think it would moderately unlikely/unimportant, though. The executive bureaucracy gets its massive power not so much through its leeway in deciding the enforcement of legislation but through the incredible breadth and depth of legislation passed by the legislative branch (for which it then has leeway in deciding the particulars). I also think that Congress prefers delegation through obfuscation as opposed to direct ceding of power.

          As for increased delegation of power to the President himself, we could grant that as likely without it necessarily being an issue – the President has fewer hours in his day than Senators and Congresspeople do to make mischief.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d like to repeal the 16th, or pull the rug out from the Administrative Procedures Act, but they’d just put them back.

      So probably the most I could get away with is drastically limiting the scope of the Interstate Commerce Clause, so it really applied only to things ordinary people would consider “interstate commerce” and not to everything that might affect it; I’d need a tricksy lawyer to draft it (e.g. to translate into lawyerese “…and no using the elastic clause either!”) but it shouldn’t need to be longer than the Fourteenth Amendment.

    • We really need an alternative to the first past the post voting system so I would reform the system so that if a candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote, there’s a run off.

      • Nornagest says:

        We already have a vaguely similar mechanism: if a candidate doesn’t get 50% of Electoral College votes, the decision falls to the House of Representatives. It’s just that the founders thought that would happen a lot and it turned out to happen never.

          • Nornagest says:

            Huh, my mistake. Once, then.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Once for President since the ratification of the 12th Amendment. Plus once under the original Article II procedures in 1800, when Jefferson and Burr tied for first place (with each elector casting two votes) and the House got to pick which would be President and which Vice President.

            There was also a contingent election for Vice President in 1836, when Virginia’s electors (elected on a Democratic ticket) refused to support the Democratic VP nominee (Richard Johnson), denying him a majority in the electoral college. So the Senate got to pick between the top two candidates (Johnson and the Whig VP candidate Francis Granger). Unsurprisingly, the Democratic-majority Senate elected Johnson.

    • BBA says:

      I can’t. There’s just too much wrong with it. It’s unsalvageable.

      If I could wholesale adopt some other country’s constitution with the serial numbers filed off, that’d be…interesting.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Which country do you think has a better constitution?

        That’s not meant as a challenge exactly, it’s just an odd statement. Most constitutions are too recent to get a sense of how they work, only being drafted in the late 20th century, and the rest belong to minor countries like Luxembourg or Norway. Other than the Republic of San Marino the US has the oldest constitution and given our prominence it’s had to weather the most exposure to geopolitical stresses.

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          So the UK doesn’t have a formal written constitution, but I think that in most cases (apart from the House of Lords, obviously), the choices we’ve made on the issues the US constitution covers are more sensible.

          :- We have a single parliament, which then elects the executive (guaranteeing that most of the time they’re at least reasonably sympathetic to one another, although this is being tested at the moment), and the government can and does overrule filibusters. Compare with the US system of two houses, a presidency, and various state-level institutions with constitutionally-protected powers, all elected separately and with the power to block one another’s actions. This means that we get far less gridlock than the US does, and our government doesn’t sometimes randomly BSOD.

          :- We have a non-partisan electoral commission, and nothing as obviously undemocratic as the Senate, meaning that our elections probably reflect the will of the people a little better than yours do, although still not brilliantly (I think we do a pretty good job of deciding fairly which of the two main parties gets to form the government, but a very bad job of treating smaller parties fairly – regional parties get too many seats compared with national ones like the Lib Dems and UKIP).

          :- The fact that we don’t have an extensive written constitution means that we place less power on issues that I think ought to be decided democratically in the hands of judges and more in the hands of politicians. Human rights legislation is making this less true than it was, but it’s still somewhat true.

          :- We don’t have anything like the second amendment, which almost certainly contributes to our much lower homicide and suicide rates (although there are other factors at play there too, obviously).

          :- On the flip side, I think that the stances we take on the issues the first amendment covers are generally ones I agree with much less than yours – freedom of speech is one area where I think the US genuinely is a model of how to do it right.

          The US constitution was written for a very different situation, and because it’s purposefully designed to be hard to change there are a lot of aspects of it that are optimised for meeting the specific demands 13 18th-century colonies want satisfied before they’ll agree to an alliance, rather than for running a large modern state.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Compare with the US system of two houses, a presidency, and various state-level institutions with constitutionally-protected powers, all elected separately and with the power to block one another’s actions. This means that we get far less gridlock than the US does, and our government doesn’t sometimes randomly BSOD.

            Y’all also sleepwalked into Brexit. Gridlock is not a bug, it’s a feature.

          • Jaskologist says:

            One modus ponens is another’s modus tollens. I’m reading your list and all of the things you see as problems I see as clear advantages of the US system.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            So the UK doesn’t have a formal written constitution, but I think that in most cases (apart from the House of Lords, obviously), the choices we’ve made on the issues the US constitution covers are more sensible.

            :- We have a single parliament, which then elects the executive (guaranteeing that most of the time they’re at least reasonably sympathetic to one another, although this is being tested at the moment), and the government can and does overrule filibusters. Compare with the US system of two houses, a presidency, and various state-level institutions with constitutionally-protected powers, all elected separately and with the power to block one another’s actions. This means that we get far less gridlock than the US does, and our government doesn’t sometimes randomly BSOD.

            Features, not bugs. The American system was deliberately designed to crash if small majorities tried to force through major changes.

            All the different power sources with different spheres of authority make it hard to covertly co-ordinate intentionally. It’s almost impossible to get multiple governments working together on something secretly, which means if a state’s population opposes something, the state government generally will as well.

            :- We have a non-partisan electoral commission, and nothing as obviously undemocratic as the Senate,

            Isn’t the House Of Lords appointed? Don’t they have some actual influence, even if generally they just roll with the Commons?

            meaning that our elections probably reflect the will of the people a little better than yours do, although still not brilliantly

            The issue with Brexit is that a large majority of the Commons is still Remain. Even the PM is Remain. They’re trying to appease the population that narrowly voted Leave and the population that would be apoplectic if the referendum is ignored while not actually quitting the EU. Not so much “Will of the people”, there.

            (I think we do a pretty good job of deciding fairly which of the two main parties gets to form the government, but a very bad job of treating smaller parties fairly – regional parties get too many seats compared with national ones like the Lib Dems and UKIP).

            You’d support proportional representation over accountable individuals, it sounds like. Am I correct in that presumption?

            :- The fact that we don’t have an extensive written constitution means that we place less power on issues that I think ought to be decided democratically in the hands of judges and more in the hands of politicians. Human rights legislation is making this less true than it was, but it’s still somewhat true.

            That’s less to do with the constitutional structure and more to do with over-reach, but I don’t like it either.

            :- We don’t have anything like the second amendment, which almost certainly contributes to our much lower homicide and suicide rates (although there are other factors at play there too, obviously).

            If you control for race (NOTE: I think the real issue is culture but the two are strongly correlated for historical reasons) there really are two Americas – the white one is very close to both the UK and Europe in terms of criminality, and the mixed-race one is really awful.

            :- On the flip side, I think that the stances we take on the issues the first amendment covers are generally ones I agree with much less than yours – freedom of speech is one area where I think the US genuinely is a model of how to do it right.

            I agree completely.

            The US constitution was written for a very different situation, and because it’s purposefully designed to be hard to change there are a lot of aspects of it that are optimized for meeting the specific demands 13 18th-century colonies want satisfied before they’ll agree to an alliance, rather than for running a large modern state.

            The Constitution was written with expansion and modification in mind.

            More importantly, virtually everything you see as anachronistic is really a different structural choice: You see a “modern” government as a unitary, largely unconstrained government that can directly address social ills, but the Constitution was built on the core concept that a distant government overseeing a large territory could itself cause untold social ills. (A theory which I believe has been proven true)

          • DeWitt says:

            If you control for race (NOTE: I think the real issue is culture but the two are strongly correlated for historical reasons) there really are two Americas – the white one is very close to both the UK and Europe in terms of criminality, and the mixed-race one is really awful.

            Wha?

            The homicide rate for non-hispanic whites in 2015 was 2.6/100,000.

            Compare this with what Wikipedia lists:

            France: 1.35
            Belgium: 1.95
            Germany: 1.18
            Spain: 0.63
            Italy: 0.67
            UK: 1.2
            Netherlands: 0.55

            I’ve not really bothered controlling these for race, but the data seem to show a wide margin between the white American and general European murder rates. The only countries to approach and exceed the murder rate of white America are quite far to the east, and even non-EU nations like Serbia and Bosnia have less murder than the US does.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @DeWitt

            Are you certain that source isn’t showing the death rate from homicide? It’s a CDC graph and it keeps using the term ‘deaths from homicide’

            https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-43

            which was sourced in wikipedia

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States#Homicide

            Using Wikipedia as you did it shows

            (3,799/198,077,165) is the percentage they give which translates into a rate of 1.4 per 100k, which is maybe on the more violent side for western Europe (which makes sense if half of america’s founding stock was cavaliers and borderers) but it’s well within the range of EU countries.

            Note that this is arrest data, There’s the national crime victimization survey but I can’t find out of they have homicide data. The counter argument is that the police are racist and so using arrest data is biased.

            It would also make sense that the arrest rate would be lower than the death rate since 1. A homicide offender can kill more than one person 2. A homicide victim can die from members of another race or ethnic group

            Supposedly the US Government stopped publishing this data after it kept getting cited by unsavory sorts of people, to the point where ‘Table 43’ became a meme so i don’t know if more recent numbers exist.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Using FBI expanded homicide data I find 6579 white homicide victims in 2017. Census estimates give me 249,719,910 as the white population of the US in 2017. This gives 2.63 white homicide victims per white person in the US, total — not non-Hispanic. There does not appear to be enough information to calculate a white non-Hispanic homicide rate from FBI data, since ethnicity data is incomplete and is not broken out by race.

            Also Table 43 is still available. The homicide victim table (Table 1 of expanded homicide data) is bad enough by itself; more blacks than whites are killed in the US, despite there being many more whites.

        • cassander says:

          @Tatterdemalion

          The british political system is impressive in some ways, but I have a hard time imagining it working anywhere but the UK. And as you lot are fond of saying, it made Britain what she is today….

        • BBA says:

          Eh, right now it feels like every country on earth is going to hell simultaneously in its own way.

          A major problem in America is that election results have become totally disconnected from policy. A party needs the presidency and both houses of Congress to be able to even try to change anything – and as 2009-10 and 2017-18 showed, even then it’s a heavy lift. The normal state of affairs is deadlock. (The civil service and the courts have become the main centers of policy-making, but they’re unaccountable and lousy at it.) A parliamentary system, or one with explicit rules for power-sharing in divided government, would solve this… but look at the crises in Britain and France, which their less deadlock-prone constitutions have failed to prevent. I just don’t know, man.

          • DeWitt says:

            it feels like every country on earth is going to hell simultaneously in its own way.

            Stop reading any news.

            Britain’s biggest political issue right now isn’t one caused by its political system, as best I can tell. I’m not sure what crisis in France you’re referring to. The world is ostensibly getting better in very many ways, and giving in to the doomsaying so popular across all ages isn’t helpful 😐

    • Lambert says:

      Electoral reform, implementing STV.
      Maybe throw in a prohibition on voting machines, if i’m allowed.
      And an irrelevant prefatory clause to annoy legal and political scholars.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Only one agency (the FBI) shall be authorized to make arrests and execute searches within the land of the United States. Exclusions/exemptions: the border patrol can still operate at the border and ports of entry, on federal lands (national parks, national forests, etc) rangers can continue to operate, and at sea the coast guard can continue to operate. This amendment applies federally so it doesn’t affect state and city police forces. But agencies like the DEA, BATFE, ICE, and all the random departments that keep a SWAT team or two on staff have to come under the FBI (or cease operations). The purpose of this is to get rid of questions of jurisdiction for police powers at a federal level and facilitate civilian oversight by having all federal domestic law enforcement in a single chain of command so it’s clear where the buck stops.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Wait, are you proposing eliminating state and local police forces?

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          I read it as proposing maintaining the facts on the ground but changing the administrative and legal structures – state and local police officers would become FBI agents of a sort, and hence subject to the same rules and oversight.

        • liate says:

          This amendment applies federally so it doesn’t affect state and city police forces.

        • Tenacious D says:

          No, this only applies to the feds. The idea is to get some consolidation of this list. Not complete consolidation, since the border (including at sea) deserves to be its own thing and military policing should be separate from civilian. Agencies that are only operating in federal areas (park rangers, Capitol police) or only doing inspections or protection rather than arrests can also stay. But if search or arrest warrants are being served to civilian in the US by the feds it should be a single agency that everyone has heard of. The hope is also to provide a (slight) impediment to over-criminalization by not being able to set up a niche agency to enforce an obscure law.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The Daily Wire isn’t my favorite source, but:

            between 2005 and 2014, the IRS spent $11 million on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; the Department of Veterans Affairs spent $11.66 million, including over $200,000 on night-vision equipment, $2.3 million for body armor, over $2 million on guns, and $3.6 million for ammunition; The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service “spent $4.77 million purchasing shotguns, .308 caliber rifles, night-vision goggles, propane cannons, liquid explosives, pyro supplies, buckshot, LP gas cannons, drones, remote-control helicopters, thermal cameras, military waterproof thermal infrared scopes and more.”

            There’s more: The Environmental Protection Agency spent $3.1 million on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; The Food and Drug Administration has 183 heavily armed “special agents.”

            And more: the Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, National Institute of Standards and Technology have all increased their arsenals.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            I can do you one better, the Government Printing Office has 53 uniformed police officers and I’ve seen at least one squad car. Assuming they make the DC average, that’s 3.2 million a year in salary, not counting benefits, equipment, or any other costs.

          • Gray Ice says:

            How about:
            1. A Federal police force is established.
            2. Counterintelligence functions of the FBI are part of a different agency.
            3. Federal Law enforcement based on all other agencies is rolled into the Federal police, or disbanded.

      • gleamingecho says:

        That would do away with the plot line of roughly half of all cop shows. Unacceptable!

    • cassander says:

      One senator per state, and he serves at the pleasure of that state’s governor.

      Screw repealing the 17th, this is a move that would actually transfer a huge amount of power to the most accountable people in the system, state governors. For bonus points, you could also make it that only current and former governors, cabinet officials, and general officers are eligible for the presidency.

      • albatross11 says:

        Why not just go back to state legislatures selecting senators?

        • cassander says:

          (A) state legislators elected every 2 years can’t exercise much practical control over senators elected for 6.

          (B) Because he can’t really control senators once appointed, the most rational choice for a legislator was to try to auction off his vote to the highest bidder. This led to corruption. See also blagojevich, who also realized that he had a valuable gift to sell, not a servant to appoint.

          (C) the most accountable position in our federal system are state governorships. Because they’re the most accountable, that’s where most of the power should be vested. Making senators the servants of governors makes governors more powerful without the potential for corruption that independent senators represented.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Some states have been gerrymandered to death, like North Carolina.

      • Dan L says:

        Thank you for proposing a method for choosing Senators that actually acknowledges the reasons the 17th was passed in the first place. I don’t know why that’s so rare, but it annoys me to see the assumption that something as difficult as a Constitutional Amendment was advanced without there having been some powerful justification.

        That said, I’m not sure about leaving it in the hands of Governors – I fear this would be more liable to make Governors worse than Senators better. In particular, I think that would dramatically increase partisanship for an office that actually tends to do well when it’s holder bucks their state’s trend.

        (Come to think of it, I’ve voted for an R governor in every D state I’ve lived in and vice versa. Huh.)

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          How about Senators appointed by Governors with the advice and consent of their legislatures? Then they function as, essentially, the States’ ambassadors to the Union.

          • Dan L says:

            At first that seemed too obvious,but on second thought I think it just might work. I’d need to think about the degenerate cases a bit more, but at first blush the gridlock scenario would simply decrease the state’s influence until they got their act together. And appointed a consensus centrist, if we are very lucky.

            @ cassander:

            What do you think? Did we miss the obvious failure mode?

          • cassander says:

            the point is to make senators actual ambassadors for their states. i.e. the ideal would be that the senate is literally just the 50 governors, but we don’t want governors spending all their time in DC, so we have them send someone in their place. My goal is to make it so that Senators wouldn’t really be independent officials anymore, (they aren’t appointed for a 6 year term, they serve at the pleasure of the governor, period) they’d be delegates from the state governors.

            By making them a pure creature of the governor, you remove politics from the realm of selection a bit. it looks more like the selection of a white house chief of staff and less like a cabinet official. appointing senators with advice and consent of state legislators isn’t terrible, but I don’t that it buys you much besides the opportunity for the legislature and governor to disagree over the selection. But I’d certainly prefer that to what we have now and it’s probably a more politically palatable option, not that it would ever happen anyway.

          • Jaskologist says:

            You might instead end up making the central issue of all gubernatorial campaigns what person they are going to appoint to the Senate, kind of like how Republicans view presidential races and Supreme Court nominations. If you don’t first shrink the federal government enough to be less impactful on people, you have probably succeeded only in making state campaigns little more than proxy wars for federal control.

          • cassander says:

            @jacksologist

            I think the risk of that happening is relatively unlikely for two reasons. One, because unlike the supreme court, you’re not appointing a senator who sticks around. he’s just the governor’s guy in DC. so it becomes a bit of a fight about what the governor wants to do in DC, which I think is fine.

            And two, the governor controls a whole lot of other things.
            it’s too important a position to get swamped by purely federal concerns.

          • Dan L says:

            @ cassander:

            And two, the governor controls a whole lot of other things.
            it’s too important a position to get swamped by purely federal concerns.

            I don’t think it works that way – that’s as an observation, not theory. Federal politics sway vastly more directly-powerful local elections all the time, and if nothing else it’s an extremely ripe wedge issue.

            I don’t know if the National Governor’s Association would survive as a nonpartisan organization if the Senate is turned into a battleground for the same. That’s just one group, but I think it’s an example of how this particular power could be corrosive to the very things that currently make Governors one of the more effective offices in the US.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I’d make America a parliamentary democracy rather than a Republic.

      :- Congresspeople elected at the same time as the President, for four year terms, with non-geographic top-up seats to ensure that the results reflect the popular vote regardless of its geographic distribution, and that gerrymandering doesn’t help.
      :- President elected either by popular vote or by Congress.
      :- Senate stripped of most of its powers, or just abolished.
      :- Concept of “states’ rights” completely abolished. The states shall exercise such powers as Congress chooses to delegate to them.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Force states to apportion electoral votes by proportion of in-state popular vote. Get rid of “electors” as such.

      Hopefully this will stop everyone’s whining. This seems like the amendment least likely to be overturned to me.

      Alternatively, “the following is hereby appended to the fourth amendment: Any property siezed in the manner hereby prescribed shall be returned to its proper owner promply, unless the owner is found to be guilty of a crime and is ordered to forefiet said property by a court of law.”

      Let the courts and legislature chew on “promptly.”

      • itex says:

        Beat me to it. Electoral college upsets are almost entirely the result of the winner-take-all system used by 48 states, not unequal representation as is often assumed. Currently, a statistical tie that randomly goes the wrong way in a couple large swing states can override a weak preference by the rest of the country.

        • meh says:

          How do you determine this? I see it as one of each in the last two times it has happened.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Here are two hypothetical ways of running elections. In system (A) a state gets a number of electors equal to its population, but they all vote the same, according to the popular vote in that state. In system (B) a state gets a number of points equal to its electors in the current electoral college, but they are divided into fractional votes proportional to the vote in that state.

            (A) shows the effect of winner-take-all state voting systems. (B) shows the effect of weighted voting power. I claim that in every historical election (A) has the same result as the electoral college and (B) has the same result as the popular vote. (Except that the second claim has to be made carefully. Let’s say since 1900.)

          • meh says:

            since 1900 differences have only happened twice, so we’re just talking about 2 elections.

            In our current system, each state is given approximately 2 more votes than would be given according to population alone. For Bush/Gore, Bush won 30 states to Gore’s 20, giving him +20 electoral votes due to state advantage, yet he won the EC by only 5 votes. This seems to be a counterexample to System (A) giving the same result as the EC.

            Trump/Clinton was also 30/20 state split, but Trump won EC by 77, so the extra electors per state alone was not enough to over come popular vote, winner take all in close states was also needed.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If that’s your calculation, then Bush needed both winner-take-all and senate votes. You could say that that contradicts itex, but your previous statement seemed to say that you counted him in the senate column and not in the winner-take-all column.

          • meh says:

            You could say that that contradicts itex

            I would say it contradicts itex, as well as your system A/B distinction.

            Bush needed both winner-take-all and senate votes.

            Maybe. The proportional electors approximation seemed more tedious so I honestly did not do it. I would be interested in seeing what your results of this calculation were.

          • meh says:

            @Douglas Knight
            Ok, I found a spreadsheet of 2000 results that made calculations easier. IF states gave EVs proportional to popular vote, I get

            Bush: 259.3
            Gore: 258.4
            Nader: 14.8

            Which seems to me that Bush still wins without winner take all. All I did was multiple the states # of EVs by popular vote percent. What method did you use to conclude Bush needed winner take all?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yeah, my claim was wrong.

            But I meant that your calculation implied it about your model. Unfortunately, I can’t reconstruct what I thought your model was.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Even with proportional voting don’t states have to assign EVs in integer amounts?

          • meh says:

            Even with proportional voting don’t states have to assign EVs in integer amounts?

            In a hypothetical voting system that you make up, I think you can do whatever you want.

            Is there some claim you are getting to?

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          A more modest tweak would be to mandate the Maine-Nebraska system (winner of the vote in a Congressional district gets the 1 EV associated with it, statewide winner gets the 2 EVs associated with the Senators).

          This also not only preserves but enhances the EC’s function as a bulwark against localized shenanigans; a rogue precinct can effect at most 3 EVs, which would probably not be determinative.

    • Walter says:

      Presidents can serve just one term.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Paring back the commerce clause was already mentioned, so I’m going with making the size of the House grow with each census. Not sure between cube root or Wyoming rule, but the results are similar anyways.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      No Act of Congress shall have the force of law beyond ten years, and no treaty shall remain binding more than twenty years since its last ratification.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        So the next Government Shutdown game leads to The Purge?

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          They’d just pass a continuing resolution for all laws right before the shutdown.

          In general, this whole ideal of term-limiting laws is a nice idea, but in practice it would just mean that every X years, Congress passes the “Re-Enact The Entire Legal Code Omnibus.”

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            In general, this whole ideal of term-limiting laws is a nice idea, but in practice it would just mean that every X years, Congress passes the “Re-Enact The Entire Legal Code Omnibus.”

            I doubt any GOP legislators would vote for such a thing, since they could just not and Obamacare expires on its own without them having to take ownership of the repeal; likewise for the Dems & the Patriot Act.

            In general, I think both sides would be more satisfied eliminating the other’s bad laws than enacting their own, but the ratchet effect plus concentrated-benefits-diffuse-costs makes that less feasible than continuing to add Byzantine cruft.

            ETA: If I’m wrong and there is a pro forma renewal, then there’s no change (i.e., no damage) relative to the current muddling along; humility when making changes to something so fundamental as the Constitution is a virtue.

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          No more than now; shutdowns are just about the budget, which is already an annual activity (so my proposal wouldn’t be a binding constraint on it).

        • Nornagest says:

          Nah, most of the laws against MurderDeathKilling people for fun are state and local. Washington, DC is an interesting edge case, though.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Ban political party affiliation being listed on election ballots and, if it doesn’t count as a two-fer, require candidates to be listed in alphabetical order (random would be better but easy to lie about so I’ll settle for transparent).

      I’d like to ban parties altogether but that’s not practical. Anything to undercut the duopoly would be great but I can’t think of something elegant at the moment so I’ll settle for the Fair Ballot Amendment.

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        In the past I’ve toyed with the idea of making all candidates write-ins (modulo some assistance for the illiterate among us).

    • gbdub says:

      5. Is the kicker, because otherwise I would just say “actually enforce the 10th Amendment”.

      Maybe you could amend the Commerce Clause in such a way as to actually force a limited scope, originalist interpretation?

      • MasteringTheClassics says:

        Can you add an amendment along the lines of: for purposes of judicial review, all rulings shall be made in accordance with what the framers of the constitution actually meant at the time of writing?

        • Jiro says:

          You’d need to add an “or would have meant” to allow for things like the Founders not having heard of TV and the Internet so you don’t have free speech on them.

          Then you’d have to phrase it very carefully so this doesn’t get used for “the founders never heard about ___ theory about guns and I’m sure they would have banned all the guns if they had just known”.

    • JonathanD says:

      I like what Gray Ice did. I think, repeal the 2nd and 10th. Barring that, something to eliminate the electoral college and give one man (person), one vote some teeth.

      • gbdub says:

        So, one country, ruled entirely by the whims of California. Hard pass.

        • JonathanD says:

          One country, ruled by the will of the majority. If California has half the people and they all vote the same way, then sure. Should Californians have their franchise diluted because you don’t like them?

          • Randy M says:

            No. Californians should have the maximum state autonomy consistent with maintaining common defense of and commerce in the Union, same as the minorities elsewhere.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          If I wanted to live in California, I would move there.

        • Don P. says:

          Do you think there are 200 million democrats in California, and no Republicans? The fact is, in raw totals, 39.5 million out of 327 million, or 12% of the US population, lives there, and in 2018 the Dem won the Senatorial race 54% to 46%. You’re not going be “ruled entirely by the whims of California” under a popular vote system.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            Your broader point stands, but it is worth noting that the 2018 senatorial general election was between *two Democrats* so in fact Dems got 100% of the vote in that round. This is partly because the “jungle primary” in June was a total mess, but: if the California Republican Party had a candidate who could have gotten 46% against DiFi, that candidate would have gotten the second slot in the primary. They didn’t, so no serious Republican even bothered to run, a bunch of vanity candidates split what remained of the conservative vote, and de Leon got the second place slot with 12% of the primary vote running to DiFi’s left.

            A better approximation of the statewide partisan split is the gubernatorial race, which Newsom won with 62% to 38% for Cox.

        • rlms says:

          That wasn’t very meta level of you.

    • Etoile says:

      Need to think about the phrasing, but good candidates might be:
      -Forcing what should go throigh courts to go through courts – notably, not letting EPAs/DOLs/etc. Be just jury and executioner without reasonable recourse in normal court
      -clarifying that the fourth amendment means what it makes sense for it mean – i.e. includes your emails and such, obviates stupid technicalities like “well Google can reach your email so you have no expectation of privacy”
      -Sunset law for regulations

    • SamChevre says:

      The 14th Amendment is hereby repealed.

      The 24th Amendment is hereby repealed.

      1st amendment shall limit Congress only, and shall not restrict governments other than the national government.

      Freedom of association shall not be infringed.

      Any funds distributed by the national government to the states or any entity within a state shall be distributed either on the basis of income or of population.

      No federal court shall adjudicate any dispute between a state and citizens of that state.

      Need an idea for wording: Only Congress can make laws; reduce the power of agencies to the pre-1930’s norm. (No law-like administrative rulings.)

      • greenwoodjw says:

        You realize that would re-enable Jim Crow, as well as protect every state’s violation of rights and a lot of other things, yes?

        • SamChevre says:

          I’d much prefer state-level violations of rights (given the visible lack of agreement on what things are rights, and the fact that people can move to another state) to the “make stuff up and call it a law” jurisprudence of the last 100 years. If only Massachusetts, rather than the federal government, restricted freedom of association, I could plausibly move somewhere else.

          If there’s sufficient agreement that some specific thing is a right to get it through the Amendment process, do so. That ensures a stable, widespread consensus that said thing actually is a right. (I think that some additional limit on searches, for example, will soon pass that test.)

          • greenwoodjw says:

            There’s certainly been some overreach by the courts, but “If there’s sufficient agreement that some specific thing is a right to get it through the Amendment process, do so.” was basically the 14th Amendment.

          • SamChevre says:

            I think our perceptions are different: I would count all the desegregation decisions, and all the gender-related decisions, as having been very unlikely to make it through the amendment process as a tightly-defined specific right.

            Or–in the form I put it when annoyed–“you do know the ERA failed to pass, right?”

          • Andrew Cady says:

            SamChevre the ability to move is definitely not a sufficient remedy for all possible rights violations. If the government seizes or destroys your property, imprisons you, enslaves you, or kills you, then the power to move is either insufficient remedy or not actually available.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Need an idea for wording: Only Congress can make laws; reduce the power of agencies to the pre-1930’s norm. (No law-like administrative rulings.)

        That’s what I meant by pulling the rug out out from under the Administrative Procedures Act, but they’d reverse it.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I hate as much as the next guy the fact that the executive bureaucracy is effectively making laws outside the legislative branch. I imagine sometimes: what if Congress had foreseen that problem, and housed the FTC, EPA, OSHA, etc. under itself rather than under the President? Is there any chance things would have turned out better?

        Sometimes I think yes, if there were a concerted and consistent effort to divide things properly, with policy set by the legislative bureaucracy and enforcement by the executive bureaucracy (and, I guess, penalties and appeals handled by a legit judicial bureacracy). But sometimes I think no, it would be even worse than what we have now, because the bureaucracy would probably be three times as big.

    • AG says:

      Choice 1) Something enshrining aggressive trust busting as the order of the day. Limit corporations to some percentage of GDP AND some percentage of the industries they’re in, unless they submit to utility status?

      Choice 2) Something preventing a corn subsidies situation from ever arising again

      Choice 3) A word count limit on laws. They can only do one thing, address a specific mechanism. In practice, though, I think this would result in an “all potential Brexit deals get shot down” situation. So, perhaps then:

      Choice 4) Rather than yes/no votes on bills, each legislative session is organized by a slate of Issues/Problems determined at the end of the last session. Each Issue/Problem has a submission period for representatives to submit solutions (new laws), and then a period for representatives to read all submissions, do their negotiations and such. At the end of these two periods per Issue, there is instant runoff voting on the submitted solutions.
      Any sort of population-referendum approach to passing law is also subject to this Issue/Solution/Runoff model.

      • woah77 says:

        A word count limit on laws. They can only do one thing, address a specific mechanism.

        I foresee this not going well. Likely it would result in the law referencing other documents that were as long as old bills were.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Laws can’t incorporate things by reference, save for regulations by government agencies, but if word counts apply to those too…

      • 10240 says:

        unless they submit to utility status

        It would have little consequence if the government is free to decide what restrictions (if any) come with utility status.

        • AG says:

          Fair enough. But the current regulations on utilities seem to be on the right track. I’d prefer that the legislature got to decide those things, though, rather than appointed department heads.

          • 10240 says:

            Legislatures can already decide to expand antitrust regulations, and break up very large companies or submit them to utility status, if they want. If they don’t do so (more than they are currently doing), that suggests that they don’t want to. Then, even if the current utility regulations are right, if you put it in the constitution that very large companies must submit to utility status, but legislators don’t actually want to regulate them more than today, then they can always redefine utility status in such a way that it doesn’t come with significant restrictions (at least in some cases), so your constitutional amendment has no effect. (In any case, I don’t see what would be the point of putting something like that in the constitution, compared to having the legislatures decide it.)

          • AG says:

            This is very true.

      • Nornagest says:

        At the end of these two periods per Issue, there is instant runoff voting on the submitted solutions.

        Sounds like a good way to get “something must be done, this is something, therefore this must be done”.

        • AG says:

          Right, but you have vigorous Politicking over whether or not an Issue makes it to the slate. If the parties agree that there are no good solutions ready, they would fight against the Issue being brought up that session.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re a lot more optimistic about political parties’ willingness to recognize bad solutions than I am.

          • AG says:

            The status quo is “all Brexit deals are voted down, including no-deal.” This burns political capital for nothing, because representatives do a whole lot of horse trading to get votes and then things still don’t pass. However, it also demonstrates that parties would much prefer “issue never comes up for a vote” than “a slew of half-assed solutions come up for a vote, with the risk that a bad dark horse solution wins.”
            We’re also seeing that the people on the state level are already moving towards this anyways, forcing laws to get made through referendums because nothing gets done by the legislature because they’re all burning their political capital on losing votes.

            The proposed system moves the legislature closer to the Supreme Court model, in which decisions must be made, but there is leeway in which cases they decide to hear. Representatives do a whole lot of horse trading to get their pet issue on the slate, but only if they’re very very confident that they can live with the results even if they lose. Their political capital is never spent for nothing.

            In practice, though, I expect that someone will always submit “no change to status quo” as a solution, which will de facto replace a basic “nay” vote, and then we’re back to first-past-the-post nonsense. So better forbid those in the amendment while we’re at it.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s probably a better system than the status quo in the specific example of Brexit, but Brexit’s an unusual case in a lot of ways. I think it’s more common for legislatures to be faced with problems arising from moral panic, where all the competing policy proposals are worse than useless but the public wants to see their representatives Doing Something, or at least debating it. So it’s useful to leave a way for the legislature to posture and run out the clock. If the legislature’s being idiots too, then at least there’s a good chance that any actual policy changes will die of partisan gridlock since there isn’t a clear best choice.

            The Supreme Court refuses to hear stuff related to the moral panic du jour all the time, but they’re getting away with that because of their life terms, their nominal nonpartisanship, and their role as referees rather than representatives. I think a legislature would have much harder time with it.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The things really required for government to function are paid for by a highly progressive income tax.

      The optional things that make things better for people are paid for by a VAT.

      Obviously everyone would say their pet issue is “required” so this would be unworkable. Also, money is fungible.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    • honoredb says:

      The ratio of U.S. non-military foreign aid spending to all U.S. military and military aid spending must exceed (current year – 2000)^e / 50000. The charter for all federally funded military entities is hereby expanded to include promoting global welfare through non-military means.

      My goal here is to make U.S. spending more non-zero-sum without making an enemy of the military-industrial complex or setting a ceiling on defense spending. The amendment does very little at first and can be satisfied by repurposing existing military infrastructure so nobody loses their jobs. By 2054, the ratio becomes 1…so we can still fight a world war if we have to, we just have to also spend the same amount to pre-fund the rebuilding effort.

      Numbers chosen for looking appealingly round; the only reason the exponent is e is that 2 seemed too small and 3 seemed too big.

      • bean says:

        1. What happens when WWIII breaks out in 2064?
        2. The military already does a lot of aid work. We have whole ships that spend almost all of their active lives cruising around giving medical care to the impoverished in other countries. When a major natural disaster hits, the US military is often the first group to show up with food and water.
        3. Despite 2, the point of the military is to kill people and break things. Saying “we’ve added non-military humanitarian work to their charter” isn’t going to change culture overnight. If you try to do that, you’re likely to cause all sorts of cultural problems. Yes, foreign aid is valuable. I agree that basic foreign aid is a good thing and can give a lot of soft power, and that spending more on that might be a good thing. In theory, I think this is what the Peace Corps was supposed to do. Expand it and start paying.

    • Garrett says:

      The biggest issue I see right now is that some of the language in the 14th Amendment no longer makes sense. The opening clause “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” was intended to address post Civil War / Reconstruction issues where the Southern States declared black people as non-citizens and therefore not eligible to vote. This was made more complicated due to lack of birth or other records which could have allowed for foreign citizenship to be determined. The cost of sending these folks “home” would also have been astronomical. The only reasonable thing to do was to declare them citizens and move forward.

      As a thought experiment: imagine a pregnant executive flying from Portugal to Brazil for a business trip. For whatever reason, the plane diverts to Florida. While on the ground, the woman goes into early labor, is taken to a hospital and delivers a healthy child. A few days later they both return to Portugal, and she re-schedules her business trip for a later date.

      In the case of the businesswoman, she and her child were not intending to be the US at all. It was only against their will that this occurred. But unlike the freed slaves, she and her child had a home and life to return to. The trip to the US was accidental and very brief. In the case of the freed slaves, many of them had lived in the US for generations. The idea that the child who was born in the country only by accident and with the means to go home should be treated to US citizenship the same was as a freed slave with no written history and no home country to go back to is ludicrous.

      Instead, we should be allowed to have citizenship of children born in the US reflect the status of their parents in the country. For example, children born to parents admitted under non-immigrant visas might not automatically get citizenship.

      I’m not certain how to phrase the change, however. Ideally, the power should be delegated to Congress without the policy being explicitly codified. Putting policy like that into a Constitution frequently causes problems.

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        subject to the jurisdiction thereof

        There’s some movement toward trying to get the judiciary to clarify exactly what this clause means, with the hope that they do so in a manner consistent with what you’re advocating.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I sympathize with the policy goals of your amendment. However, I’d like to tread carefully for two reasons.

        First, your policy would make it much harder to prove citizenship. As it is, I can point to my birth certificate saying I was born at place X in the State of North Carolina; nothing else matters; I’m a citizen. If your policy were in place when I was born, I’d also need to point to several things about my parents’ legal status. In theory, that could also be included on my birth certificate, but that’d be a significant administrative overhead for hospitals who currently have no reason to even care about such things let alone uncover lies from the parents.

        Second, if we have the status of the children reflect the status of parents across the board, we’d be left with a number of children growing up in the United States for ten years or more – whether their parents are working on “temporary” work visas or illegally present or whatever other reason – who end up without citizenship. I consider them enough a part of American culture to be given citizenship. Of course, we could do this without impacting the rest of your policy – but then we’d run afoul of my first point even worse.

        • Garrett says:

          For point 1, I’d note that not all other countries have jus soli and manage to do just fine. Likewise, there are lots of US citizens who are born abroad (like myself) who also manage to handle things without much of an issue. Yes, it involves a bit more paperwork. But we’re getting really good at paperwork.

          For point 2, this can be addressed in multiple ways. The illegally-present is the topic of the day, and addressing that US Citizenship is valuable and thus an inter-generational benefit for parents who enter illegally is an incentive which should be addressed. But on the larger point, the legislature should decide who gets to have US citizenship as a result of being born here to visitors. Perhaps we want to provide it automatically if the parents are citizens and longtime residents of some countries, but not others. Perhaps we really want to enforce the non-immigrant part of the non-immigrant part of the visa. To address concerns over being stateless we only let in visitors who come from countries which would provide jus sanguinis to any children born.

          > I consider them enough a part of American culture to be given citizenship.

          I disagree. Or, more specifically, I think it is bad policy. And I agree that this sort of thing should be debated and able to be adjusted by Congress as appropriate.

    • Dack says:

      What if an amendment incorporated the important bits of the declaration of independence into the constitution?

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men humans are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      • Randy M says:

        Well, what if it did? What would that change?
        As I see it, you’d have a lot of cases of people alleging that this or that law was infringing on someone’s right to pursue happiness.
        And no end to arguments about how you are violating the first amendment’s prohibition on establishing a religion by putting Creator in the constitution.
        And you probably give the pro-life cause another argument to use, as well as anti-capital punishment. Heck, anti-prison, as well. They are unalienable rights, not contingent rights!

        • Dack says:

          As I see it, you’d have a lot of cases of people alleging that this or that law was infringing on someone’s right to pursue happiness.

          This is the problematic part. Basically, Liberty and Happiness both reduce to a base state of “Don’t pass any laws, all laws will inherently infringe on someone’s liberty/happiness.” That doesn’t mean there would be no laws, it means that legislators would need to demonstrate a need for every single thing they pass instead of just passing whatever they (collectively) want. Which sounds good to me. But hard for many people to grok from the text, I expect.

          And no end to arguments about how you are violating the first amendment’s prohibition on establishing a religion by putting Creator in the constitution.

          I don’t think that would actually be a problem. As far as the first amendment goes, the Free Exercise Clause guarantees a person’s right to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to freely exercise that belief, and its Establishment Clause prevents the government from designating an official national religion or favoring one religion over another.

          And you probably give the pro-life cause another argument to use, as well as anti-capital punishment.

          Now that’s a feature, not a bug, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Randy M says:

            Establishment Clause prevents the government from designating an official national religion or favoring one religion over another.

            In practice it seems to do more than that, or at least there would be argument thereof; it’s not enough (for some) that the government doesn’t promote a specific religion; any governmental actions that promote religion are opposed. I agree that this is not likely the original intent.

            Now that’s a feature, not a bug, as far as I’m concerned.

            Okay, wasn’t sure. FWIW, I don’t think it would actually move the window legally on abortion (we simply declare the unborn not ‘human’ in legal parlance) but would probably lead to capital punishment being outlawed. Basically it would be a way to trick conservatives into trading away capital punishment for an ineffective movement on abortion.

      • Deiseach says:

        What if an amendment incorporated the important bits of the declaration of independence into the constitution?

        You’d have the screeching about including the phrase “their Creator” because it would be too religious for some and not religious enough for others, and the yelling over “there are no such things as rights, much less inalienable rights” and what is or is not a right anyway, and abortion being legal has pretty much knocked “the right to life” as an inalienable right on the head (turns out it’s fairly well alienable if you can define the being as “not a person, only a potential person”).

        What is “the pursuit of happiness”? Everyone gets the guaranteed thousand dollars a month? You’ve already seen the arguments on here about how the heck do you fund that. If Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg can have a lifestyle of potential wonderful happiness, why can’t I, look it’s right there in the Constitution guaranteed to me as an inalienable right, I want my own private island and millionaire lifestyle!

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The power granted Congress in Article I, Section 8 to regulate commerce shall be limited to the regulation of activity which is commercial in itself, and shall not be construed to extend to the regulation of any non-commercial activity on the grounds that it will or may affect commerce.

    • Clutzy says:

      #5. Kinda makes any suggestion that is not structural and simple kind of useless. To that end Gray Ice, Nabil, Wrong, cassander, and some of samchevre’s seem to be the only one’s that would hold up to this requirement.

      I do think I do have one that I’m not sure would work, but it would be good.

      Any territory of the United States must become an incorporated US state within 20 years of acquisition, or be released from control of the United States.

    • bullseye says:

      I’d try to do something to put centrists in power. Not because I’m a centrist (I’m not), but for as long as I can remember half the country has regarded the president as the devil, which I don’t feel is healthy. Also I’d rather have a bland centrist most of the time than have to put up with the other party’s psychopath half the time.

      I’m not at all sure how to do this. My best guess is:

      House of Representatives elected by proportional representation in states with enough seats for proportional representation to work. (Three, maybe?) No districts, each representative serves the whole state. Electors in the electoral college chosen by the same method. Senators are elected by instant-runoff, as are representatives in states with only one or two seats.

      If no presidential candidate wins a majority of the electoral college, they discuss and try again, as often as necessary, for up to a month; only then does it get kicked to Congress.

      • cassander says:

        if you want centrist candidates, you want single member districts. PR systems empower lots of pandering to extremist/single issue parties that have very little incentive to cooperate.

      • Aapje says:

        @bullseye

        I’d try to do something to put centrists in power. Not because I’m a centrist (I’m not), but for as long as I can remember half the country has regarded the president as the devil, which I don’t feel is healthy.

        Putting ‘centrists’ in power merely means that those who disagree strongly with those centrists strongly hate the president. If you have a strongly polarized country, then a centrist president will be hated by both sides. His/her blandness will be offensive to those who demand change.

        If people strongly desire change and politicians are unresponsive to this, then people tend to radicalize, supporting increasingly extremist candidates until something actually changes.

        Anyway, if you want the least objectionable president, you should ask for a switch to a voting method that favors a less objectionable president more, like Condorcet or approval voting.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Yeah, I’d be strongly tempted to choose an amendment requiring RCV or approval voting for all elected offices.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      Can I get both gerrymandering and campaign finance reform? Can I get approval voting as well?

      Can my amendment be: “this is the rules we will use for all elections”?

      If you made me choose, I’d probably fix gerrymandering first, but it would be a tough decision.

      I think these steps will lead to more centrists being elected and will end a lot of the partisanship we’ve been seeing.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Campaign finance is incumbent protection. If you mean RCV by approval voting I can give you 2/3. I’ve been involved in the effort to reform gerrymandering in MD.

        • meh says:

          If you mean RCV by approval voting

          If you mean hamburger by steak

        • littleby says:

          I agree that the current state of the campaign finance system gives an advantage to the incumbent. If we reform the campaign finance system, for example by giving every candidate X amount of government funding and having a broadly worded ban on all campaign donations, that would remove some of the incumbent advantage, and also hopefully would cause our politicians to spend less time thinking about fundraising.

          You’ve said: “Campaign finance is incumbent protection.” like you think that’s an argument against campaign finance reform. Why do you think that?

        • littleby says:

          I’m not sure what you mean when you say “RCV” — I mean, the acronym seems to mean “Ranked Choice Voting”, but there are many voting systems that use ranked choices.

          Most of what I know about voting systems, I learned from Ka-Ping Yee’s excellent voting system visualizations. This page compares plurality and approval voting to three ranked-choice systems, and approval voting comes out looking pretty good.

          • Protagoras says:

            Hmmm. Interesting analysis. I do kind of feel like the exceptionally odd results are partly an artifact of the unrealistic assumptions, but nonetheless, Yee has pushed me further toward approval. Approval, Condorcet, and Borda all look like they should work, and they all get similar, plausible results in the simulations. While their getting similar results may mean that they have a related weakness, it is hard to see what that could be, and again the results also look reasonable, so I’m more inclined to conclude that they’re all getting good results. And approval is obviously the simplest of the three, which if they’re all getting similar results seems to make it the one to choose.

          • meh says:

            RCV was a rebranding by IRV proponents, since too many people knew IRV was a poor system.

            If you don’t mind harsh and unforgiving writing and analysis, written by a crazy person, then this site is an excellent resource
            https://rangevoting.org/

            if you prefer a click-baity for the masses style, but less precise information, than go here
            https://www.electionscience.org/

    • Two McMillion says:

      Right, so the longest amendment thus far passed is the fourteenth amendment, ~430 words. So let’s see what we can work with inside that limitation.

      The Constitutional Modernization Amendment of 2019

      Section 1. The seventeenth and twenty-second articles of amendment to the United States Constitution are hereby repealed.
      Section 2.The House of Representatives shall consist of seven hundred and fifty members, unless Congress shall by law establish a different number. The method of election for representatives shall be the single stochastic ballot. Elections for the House of Representatives shall occur every third year, or in a year in which a presidential election occurs.
      Section 3.The Senate of the United States shall consist of eight times as many Senators as the number of states. Half of the seats in the Senate shall be chosen in every year in which there is an election for the House of Representatives. The people of each state shall elect two Senators. The executive authority of each state shall select two senators. The remaining senate seats shall be distributed as seats to political parties in proportion to their share of the national popular vote, half of such seats being allocated at each Senate election. But the persons chosen as Senators shall consist of an equal number of persons from each state.
      Section 4.Congress may by law provide for the rapid temporary filling of Congressional seats in the event of a disaster causing the death or incapacitation of more than one-fifth of either House.
      Section 5.The President shall be elected for a term of six years, and in the fifth year may stand for referendum by the people. A President approved at referendum shall serve an additional two years. No person may be elected President more than once.
      Section 6.In presidential elections, the person receiving the largest share of the national popular vote shall receive electoral votes equal to the number of Senate seats distributed to parties.
      Section 7.The President shall have no power to fill any vacancies in the Supreme Court which may hereafter arise, other than a vacancy in the office of Chief Justice, but at the beginning of any future session of the Supreme Court, any vacant seat shall be filled by lot from among judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the duration of that session.
      Section 8.A future convention to amend this Constitution shall be proposed by a majority of the states passing identical resolutions calling for such a convention, such resolutions explicitly listing the topics to be considered at said convention. Congress shall have authority to regulate such conventions by law.
      Section 9.A future constitutional amendment shall be valid if ratified by two-thirds of the states, or by conventions in two-thirds of the states.
      Section 10.Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

      425 words, not counting the title and section headers. I think that’s a pretty solid set of amendments. Possibly falling afoul of the “you can’t put your party’s platform as an amendment”, but I don’t think this is the platform of any political party.

      To explain:

      Section 1 – repeals contradictory current amendments.
      Section 2 – Aimed at making the House more representative and slightly less concerned with elections. Single Stochastic Ballot is, in my view, the best system at producing both proportionality and local accountability. Extending their term to three years should give them another year to focus on governing before being focused on reelection. Also, Single Stochastic Ballot provides far more rotation of Representatives than the current system. Fitting for the house of the people, IMO.
      Section 3 – Reforms the Senate. Goals here are to give the states some representation that was lost with the passage of the 17th amendment, let the people of each state choose some congressmen without random elements, provide somewhat better proportionality than with the current senate, and not fall afoul of the rule that each state gets the same number of senators.
      Section 4 – Closes a major gap in the present Constitution, namely weak continuity of government provisions.
      Section 5 – Alters the scheme of presidential elections. Presidents now serve either six or eight years, and are elected with the entire House and half the Senate. There are many implications to unpack here, but I think that in general this would reduce partisanship.
      Section 6 – Self explanatory, needed because under this scheme the electoral college is potentially even less democratic than it is now. Still doesn’t quite eliminate the possibility of someone winning the popular vote and losing the election, but makes it less likely.
      Section 7 – Lowers the stakes of supreme court appointments, hopefully preventing anything like the BK fiasco from happening again. Likely makes the supreme court less partisan.
      Sections 8&9 – Make the Constitution easier to amend in the future. IMO inflexibility is the source of a lot of current problems.
      Section 10 – self-explanatory.

      —-

      That’s all of my words, but if I had more I might do things like:
      – The runner-up in presidential elections becomes the Attorney General
      – Ex-presidents (and maybe attorney generals?) can become Senators for Life
      – Split the office of President into two roles, making us a semi-presidential country

      • cassander says:

        >Section 2

        People whose career prospects are determined by election results will never be less concerned with elections. And it seems like it massively increases the opportunity for fraud.

        Section 5

        I fail to see the point of a two year extension or how it might reduce partisanship.

        Section 6

        If you want to repeal the EC, just repeal the EC. This seems unnecessarily complicated.

        Section 7

        This is unclear to me. Do people stay in their SC seats after being appointed or do you pick the names out of the hat again at the next session? and where does the Chief get appointed from?

        Section 8

        The whole point of the states convention is that it can’t be controlled by the feds.

    • Urstoff says:

      To avoid the major institutional and social dislocations that a lot of the changes proposed so far would entail (as I am an incrementalist at heart), I’d propose something more modest, like changing the voting method for national elections to Condorcet, STV, or whatever, given that almost any alternative is better than FPTP.

      A more ambitious goal would be to somehow extremely limit the power of the executive branch, although I don’t have any specific ideas.

    • sharper13 says:

      An amendment to reign in the out of control growth in spending of the last few decades under both parties would cure a lot of other issues as well, because the government would finally have to prioritize between different spending, similar to how most State governments need to:

      1. Total outlays for each fiscal year may not exceed total receipts for that fiscal year, unless four-fifths of the whole number of each House of Congress shall provide by law for a specific excess of outlays over receipts by a roll-call vote.
      2. Total inflation-adjusted per capita outlays for each fiscal year may not exceed 98% of the total inflation-adjusted per capita outlays for the previous year until the total inflation-adjusted per capita outlays for a year equal those of 1950, after which they may not exceed the previous fiscal year total.
      3. Prior to each fiscal year, the President shall transmit to the Congress a proposed budget for the United States Government for that fiscal year which complies with this amendment. Until such a proposed budget is transmitted by the President to Congress and a budget complying with this amendment adopted by Congress, no law appropriating funds may be approved by Congress.
      3. Total receipts shall include all receipts of the United States Government except those derived from borrowing. Total outlays shall include all outlays of the United States Government except for those for repayment of debt principal. Annual inflation adjustments shall be made using the current CPI methodology.
      4. The provisions of this article may be waived for any fiscal year in which the United States is engaged in military conflict which causes an imminent and serious military threat to national security and is so declared by a joint resolution, adopted by a three-fifths majority of the whole number of each House. Any such waiver must identify and be limited to the specific excess or increase for that fiscal year made necessary by the identified military conflict. Any such increase via waiver shall not be counted for the purposes of determining the limits under this article for future year outlays. Regardless of whether a proposed waiver under this article passes or not, the salary of any member of Congress voting for a proposed waiver shall be reduced for that fiscal year by the percentage the waiver amount causes the regular outlay maximum to be exceeded.
      5. The Congress shall enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation, which may rely on estimates of outlays and receipts. Before appropriating funds for the next fiscal year, Congress must publish a summary of the receipts and outlays of the previous fiscal year. Any outlays during a fiscal year in excess of the requirements of this article shall be collected in the following fiscal year by a direct tax proportionally paid by every adult resident of the United States equally.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Abandon this absurd “republicanism” idea, and give the US a proper monarch with powers modelled after those of the princes of Liechtenstein. Allow him to grant titles of nobility.

      Or, if that’s too radical, enshrine something like the Sherbet Test into the Constitution.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Just for the meta value, repeal the twenty-first amendment.

    • sorrento says:

      My amendment would ban any future referendums at either the federal or state level.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Eliminate all re-elections. President, senator and representatives all serve one six year term (staggered like the senate is now). Currently every decision that anyone makes is made to maximize chances of re-election. Decisions would change dramatically if the maker was not primarily concerned with re-election. Knowing what the right decision is is seldom difficult. What is difficult is making the right decision when doing so hurts your chance for re-election.

  19. fion says:

    Ok, I give up. Can anybody give me a hint for Metamechanical’s puzzle game? (By the way, if you haven’t given it a go yet, you should!)

    I’ve got to the last level and I just can’t figure it out. I’ll describe my thoughts so far in rot13 below. Please rot13 your hints to avoid giving others spoilers. If you’re able to give a small hint that points me in the right direction without completely giving it away that’s great, but if that’s impossible I’d be happy just to be told the answer at this point. I’ve wasted too many hours staring at it! 😛

    Vg frrzf gb zr gung ng gur fgneg lbh unir gjb bcgvbaf: lbh pna rvgure serr gur “sevraq” naq trg gur xrl be lbh pna tb ivn gur obggbz genpx naq qb fbzr cerc orsberunaq. Vs lbh serr gur sevraq svefg naq gura gnxr gur zbfg qverpg ebhgr gb gur raq (guebhtu gur zvqqyr gura qbja guebhtu gur iregvpny fyvqref gura evtug gura hc gura evtug) gura lbh jvyy nyjnlf or ‘orngra’ gb gur iregvpny fyvqref ng gur raq naq gur sevraq jvyy chfu gurz hc naq oybpx lbhe cngu.

    Vs, ubjrire, lbh qb nal cerc (sbe rknzcyr chggvat gur ubevmbagny fyvqre ba gbc bs gur svany iregvpny fyvqref fb gurl pna’g oybpx lbhe cngu, be zbivat fbzr bs gur inevbhf bgure iregvpny fyvqref gb oybpx gur sevraq’f cngu) gura lbh zhfg zbir gur bofgnpyr ng gur obggbz bs gur ovt punva gung pbafgenvaf gur sevraq, naq nf sne nf V pna gryy vg’f vzcbffvoyr gb chg vg onpx, be gb chg nalguvat ryfr va n fvzvyne cynpr. Guvf zrnaf gung jura lbh serr gur sevraq vg pna rfpncr ivn gur obggbz bs vgf pntr naq urnq lbh bss, genccvat lbh va gur gbc-yrsg.

    Naq vg’f qbvat zl urnq va, orpnhfr nyy gur bgure uneq yriryf unq ybgf bs bcgvbaf fb V gubhtug “jryy pyrneyl V whfg arrq gb jbex bhg gur evtug frdhrapr naq riraghnyyl V’yy svther vg bhg” ohg guvf bar bayl ernyyl frrzf gb unir gjb bcgvbaf naq arvgure bar jbexf! Boivbhfyl V’z zvffvat fbzrguvat, ohg jung???

    • metamechanical says:

      If you do anything other than get the key right away, the level becomes unwinnable. Don’t touch the two blocks at the top left of the friend room.

      Try the path at the very bottom. You will have to think creatively to find the solution.

      • helloo says:

        You might have wanted to spoiler that.

        Yeah, if you looked at my comment spoilers the last time it was mentioned, that’s pretty close to what I figured after a “Duh” moment.
        Still took a bit after that to work out how to do it, but the hard part of figuring out which “options” are actually traps was already done.

      • fion says:

        Ah, got it now! Thanks. 🙂

  20. Ketil says:

    https://quillette.com/2019/04/17/why-everyone-values-freedom/

    He argues against the right-wing concept of freedom as freedom from oppression, or at least proposes alternative definitions of freedom that are helpful in interpreting left-wing ideology. Specifically, freedom can be interpreted to mean having more choices, and redistribution or social safety nets is one way of giving people more choices than they would otherwise have. While taxation is coercion by the state, poverty can also be coercive. (My strawish attempt at steelmanning, please go read the actual article before arguing.)

    Anybody read this? Thoughts?

    • baconbits9 says:

      He, along with much of (most, all?) left wing though on freedom skips half of the equation. Actually more like 2/3rds, he takes a group/class of people and defines freedom within that framework treating everything else as exogenous. Like here

      A bumper sticker sold by the Libertarian Party bears the slogan “Pro-Choice About Everything.” From our perspective, however, the Libertarian Party isn’t as meaningfully pro-choice as the socialist Left—even on the narrow issue of abortion. If a pregnant woman has the legal option to abort but is unable to raise a child in her financial circumstances, she has fewer meaningful choices than a woman who lives in a society with legal abortion and generously state-subsidized childcare.

      Here the only freedom that matters for the discussion is the individual woman’s. Not included are the freedoms of the person paying for the welfare, and not included are the infringement on the mother’s economic possibilities as welfare reduces social mobility (both theoretically and empirically).

      • Ketil says:

        Here the only freedom that matters for the discussion is the individual woman’s.

        Dragging abortion into this seems to me like a uniquely American sidetracking of the issue. This is a matter of defining the limits of a woman’s body and/or when a fetus is granted human rights as an individual. Whatever your stance on abortion, it’s perfectly defensible anywhere on the libertarian/social-democratic/collectivist/authoritarian spectrum.

        Back on topic:

        But I think the issue of freedom could use some nuancing. Often, for instance, freedom of speech is considered only to concern limitations of speech by the state, and maybe even there limited to the judicial system. But speech is mostly limited by other factors, for instance twitter mobs whipping up storms to get people with opinions they find offensive fired. Laws protecting employees from being fired without (narrowly defined) reasonable cause could be important to secure a free and open debate, much more so than relaxing laws directly affecting speech.

        And if we agree¹ that some government is needed, and that some tax collection is necessary, wouldn’t some redistribution in order to give poor people more choices make sense? Funding public education, for instance?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Dragging abortion into this seems to me like a uniquely American sidetracking of the issue. This is a matter of defining the limits of a woman’s body and/or when a fetus is granted human rights as an individual. Whatever your stance on abortion, it’s perfectly defensible anywhere on the libertarian/social-democratic/collectivist/authoritarian spectrum.

          He uses abortion to make a point about economic freedom, claiming that the a pro choice libertarian isn’t for as much freedom as a pro choice + welfare state democrat. That comparison seems reasonable to me, except for the part where he ignores all the costs of the welfare state and pretends like it is obviously increasing freedom.

          And if we agree¹ that some government is needed, and that some tax collection is necessary, wouldn’t some redistribution in order to give poor people more choices make sense?

          The case has not been made that it does, which is the complaint. Obviously if someone gives me more money the *I* am in a different, and probably preferable situation, but ignoring the person who gives it to me is ridiculous, and ignoring the apparatus that does the transferring is ridiculous and ignoring the system that built enough wealth that we could make the transfer is ridiculous.

          But I think the issue of freedom could use some nuancing

          Sure, but nuance would be a discussion of the costs and benefits, not only the benefits or the costs.

          • Ketil says:

            The case has not been made that it does

            I lost the footnote I intended to put there, sorry. But I think a very large majority would believe in some government, so I don’t think it is fair to interpret the article as aimed at libertarian anarchists. Which is why I think I may make that assumption.

            nuance would be a discussion of the costs and benefits, not only the benefits or the costs.

            Exactly. And I find he has a point in that most libertarian/right-wing argumentation is quite uncompromising, and very rarely tries to find a balanced view.

          • Aapje says:

            And I find he has a point in that most libertarian/right-wing argumentation is quite uncompromising, and very rarely tries to find a balanced view.

            So is a lot of big government/left-wing argumentation.

            People make biased arguments, leaving out things that clash with their desired policies. These policies are often desired because they benefit the person favoring the policy and/or because they appeal to the intuitions of the person, not because of a rational assessment based on universal values.

            IMHO, the writer of the article fundamentally misunderstands his opponents. They also believe in positive freedom.

            They just believe (more strongly) that positive freedom is something that has to be earned (not necessarily so much in a moral sense, but in a practical sense: that people will only make the sacrifices to generate wealth if the personal sacrifice is offset by a personal advantage).

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Contention that broadly defined help for poor people paid by slightly higher taxes on the rich is a net infringement on aggregate freedom appears to be one of key components of libertarianism. However, as a nonlibertarian, I almost never found it appealing. There are other arguments against tax increases that I think are in some contexts quite persuasive, unlike this one.

        Imho enhancing living standards of poor people in virtually every modern country (perhaps except few outliers, e.g. Sweden) would bring them more freedom than taking away some trivial fraction of their income would decrease freedom of the rich. Wealth brings people more choices, and diminishing marginal utility of wealth with respect to this seems very real.

        • Ketil says:

          There are other arguments against tax increases that I think are in some contexts quite persuasive

          I agree.

          taxes […] is a net infringement on aggregate freedom

          Unless you are an uncompromising and very principled libertarian, you have to accept some infringement on freedom as the price for living in a lawful society. And just like we can discuss how society should be structured for maximizing utility (i.e., one argument in favor of free enterprise, less regulation, and markets), we should be able to discuss how society should be structured in order to maximize freedom.

        • The Nybbler says:

          you have to accept some infringement on freedom

          That doesn’t speak to the question, which was “What is freedom?” The freedom of the welfare recipient to live and eat without working is paid for in more work and less freedom for net tax contributors, whether or not the infringement is justified.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Assuming that the choice is between helping poor people and economic growth (this is debatable of course), then if we take the long view that increased growth brings us luxury space communism in 200 years instead of 300, we should be damning the poor people today and going for the growth if we want to maximize ‘freedom’ or ‘quality of life’ for the greatest number.

          Similarly, if we had decided to help the poor people of 1750 instead of going for growth, then today nobody would have access to modern dentistry.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          @LesHapablap

          Assuming that the choice is between helping poor people and economic growth (this is debatable of course), then if we take the long view that increased growth brings us luxury space communism in 200 years instead of 300, we should be damning the poor people today and going for the growth if we want to maximize ‘freedom’ or ‘quality of life’ for the greatest number.

          Similarly, if we had decided to help the poor people of 1750 instead of going for growth, then today nobody would have access to modern dentistry.

          To take your argument further, we could say that, because the middle class spends most of its wealth on consumption, it would be prudent, in regards to the advancement of civilization, to tax the greater amount of their wealth and to redistribute it to that class which spends the greatest amount of its wealth on investments: the upper class. In that way, we could maximize progress to its fullest.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Isn’t that the “trickle down” agenda in a nut shell?

          • LesHapablap says:

            I don’t know enough about economics to know whether taxing everyone but the rich would maximize progress, but I doubt it for a few reasons.

            For one, a lot of wealth is created by people who are middle class and become wealthy through start ups. Lowering taxes on the wealthy increases the incentive I guess, but taxing the wealth (or income) of the middle class lowers the resources available to create start ups.

            Second, if you lowered consumption through the taxes that seems like it would have some bad macro effects.

            Third, morale would be terrible. Productivity in the work force would drop substantially I suspect.

            I’m not expert on this stuff though and I could be wrong. If, for example, the middle class just stopped drinking alcohol and put that money into savings accounts, what would happen to the economy and growth?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @DinoNerd
            I am pretty sure it is, and despite ‘trickle down’ being, in most cases, a sort of sneer word, I do believe it is fundamentally correct in what it asserts.

            @LesHapablap
            A lot of startups seem to be in retail, which is that sector of the economy entirely devoted to facilitating consumption. So, if you are in the business of reducing consumption in the first place, through taxes, then in addition to reducing possible funds to be spent on retail you are also eliminating the need for much of it in the first place. I do not have an expert view of economics either, but based on my folkish perceptions and intuitions, I believe that there are aspects of the economy that serve little to no function in terms of how the promote meaningful technological progress. Retail and housing development are two industries that immediately come to mind in that way, and they, combined, probably account for most of the middle class’s expenditures. If you taxed the middle class more then I’d expect to see a diminution of those two industries, but I wouldn’t expect it to have a major impact on technological progress. They are sort of like eddies set apart from the main flow of progress.

          • LesHapablap says:

            @The Red Fiolot,

            That raises another question: what kind of progress are we shooting for if we are making sacrifices today for the good of the future. Technological? Which technologies then, and what’s the best way to go about maximizing them? Would $10,000 be better spent on malaria nets to boost human productivity in Africa, thereby creating a stronger economic base for big future projects, or would it be better spent funding technology research directly, and if so what kind?

          • The Red Foliot says:

            @LesHapablap
            That is an easy question. The best technologies to target are those which enhance our ability to make additional advancements. Those would be AI and genetic engineering, as best I can tell. Investments into developing countries with functional governments would also be productive, on the basis that, once developed, those countries could provide additional brains for research, and additional bodies for sustaining those brains.

            Presently, I believe the middle class invests most of its wealth into real estate development and speculation, which, to reiterate my previous point, is one of the worst things they can spend their money on, as it is a closed loop in the economy that doesn’t hold relevance for anything else.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @Dinonerd

            No, that’s not supply-side. Supply-side is basically “Let people figure out how to produce and everyone wins”. It’s sneered at as “trickle-down” because the guy who produces by opening a hot-dog stand grows less (but starts much lower) than the guy opening a hot-dog factory. That’s a result of growth being exponential, not an explicit goal.

          • DinoNerd says:

            More seriously, it appears that modern economies are dependent on consumer confidence. Reduce consumption, and the result is yet another depression (mislabelled to seem less threatening). Businesses that don’t keep constantly growing are seen as failures, and the only way to keep growing is to sell more stuff to more people. and executive pay is based on the stock price, which is mostly sensitive to growth or lack thereof, so that’s all the incentive they have.

            With this overall system, reducing consumption just tends to cause crashes. It’s possible that spare money neither consumed nor kept under a mattress might wind up invested in technological progress, but AFAICT, not very much of it. It’s much more profitable to e.g. over-market Fentanyl, creating an “opiod epidemic” than to attempt to develop pain killers that are equally effective but not so addictive 🙁

            Add to that the overall short termism of modern executive compensation, and I just don’t see much investment-in-progress happening, however much is taken from the poor to give to the rich.

        • Plumber says:

          @LesHapablap

          “Assuming that the choice is between helping poor people and economic growth (this is debatable of course), then if we take the long view that increased growth brings us luxury space communism in 200 years instead of 300, we should be damning the poor people today and going for the growth if we want to maximize ‘freedom’ or ‘quality of life’ for the greatest number….”

          A “pie in the sky” a hundred years earlier in return for 200 years of not easing the lives of the “least among us?

          Given the premise I give that path a hard “Nope!”

          • cassander says:

            Define easing though?

            I think we can all agree to pay for penicillin for the least. But do we all agree on expensive experimental cancer treatments? On round the clock ICU care for years? On reconstructive knee surgery so they can keep skiing at 60? At some point easing their lives will have serious costs, the question is where to set the line.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander

            “….At some point easing their lives will have serious costs, the question is where to set the line”

            Agreed, and that’s what electoral politics is for (well, also tribal signaling, and a hobby).

            As to the parent question, judging by “actually existing socialism” (Cuba, the Soviet Union) hyper-redistribution does retard economic growth and technological development, and how much re-distribution is worth that cost is the question. 

            Since I dislike most change and visible poverty I probably have a higher tolerance for lower growth and progress than the average SSC commenter, most of whom I perceive as more technophillc than me.

            A compelling argument is that “the pie” has to grow enough so that everyone gets more than crumbs (“Equal wrongs for all“), but I don’t buy the “A rising tide lifts all ships” argument when there’s those just treading water to keep from drowning. 

            I do though think that different communities should be empowered to set that line differently which is why I support federalism (and also California being multiple States), but those are secondary to my desire for a stronger safety net here and now.

            If I was in Salt Lake City instead of San Francisco I’d probably judge where the line should be differently as I suspect we have more visible poverty here.

          • As to the parent question, judging by “actually existing socialism” (Cuba, the Soviet Union) hyper-redistribution does retard economic growth and technological development

            Is it clear that the Soviet Union actually had “hyper-redistribution”? My impression is that, despite the rhetoric, it was a very unequal society, probably more unequal than the U.S. It was a poor first world country for the relatively elite, largely in Moscow, and a third world country for most of the rest of the population. That’s based partly on The Russians, partly on one of Solzhenitsyn’s books.

            It was a very unsuccessful economy, but I think that was due to using central planning instead of markets, not to massive redistribution of income.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman,
            That Central Planning retarded growth and progress more than redistribution wouldn’t suprised me, though I have no examples I can think of to test that.

            Most of my co-workers who lived in the former Soviet Union have told me of the “free” stuff they got, and they mostly lived in the Ukraine, with one guy in Georgia – despite mostly being “ethnic” Russians.

            They did stress both that they didn’t see the homeless there – unlike “Sanfransiska” but also how shoddy everything was, and how much petty bribery was required – to get treated by a physician more than cursorly.for example.

            The general impression I get is a higher floor, but a much lower ceiling.

            From what they described, I’d guess if Americans suddenly all had Soviet lifestyles about 15% of us would be better off, 10% would be about the same, and 75% of us would be worse off.

            Self-selected of course, but the guy I know who left in ’79 described it as truly awful, while another co-worker who overheard him who left the former U.S.S.R. in the ’90’s (he stayed till after the fall) told me “Don’t listen to him, it wasn’t that bad”, but he still said he has it better here now (he drives a new German car).

            A consistent complaint about here I’ve heard from the emigres seems to be of our schools, though I suspect they’re just objecting to their kids being more American than Russian