Open Thread 127.25

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1,078 Responses to Open Thread 127.25

  1. J Mann says:

    “It’s over, Sandor! I have the high ground!”

    Some of it is having my expectations lowered, but I liked the episode a lot.

    I was OK with Arya being the viewpoint character in the city because I like Arya, and Maisie did a great job, and it called back to her flight from the city and across Westeros in the first two books.

    I liked Jaime and Cersei dying well enough that I don’t mind breaking the Valonquar prophesy. On the other hand, now I like Jaime sleeping with Brienne a *lot* less. If you’re going to have him be this tragic perversion of knightly love at the end, keep him true to it throughout, and have him turn down Brienne because his heart belongs to Cersei.

    Overall, the episode was much more believable than I thought I would be, and having Jon regretfully kill Dany and Drogon seems like an emotional ending, if a little unearned.

    What I didn’t like as much:

    On reflection, it’s hard to believe Dany would burn the city, but in the moment, I was OK with it just being the logic of war – that once you start, it’s hard to stop. But yeah, after some thought, she was burning down the city she hoped to rule because the people didn’t independently overthrow Cersei? Unless she went full on crazy, it’s hard to explain.

    I still don’t like that Jon does very little actual commanding of his troops. I would have liked it much better if he had offered those Lannister soldiers terms before they dropped their weapons. Also, he doesn’t keep any kind of discipline over the Northern troops. Stannis would take back his approving head not if he could – it would have been much better to show Jon using his command responsibly, as opposed to looking pensive and shanking the occasional dude.

    • Lillian says:

      Note that the show deliberately took out the Valonquar prophesy, since you never actually see Cersei’s third question to Maggie the witch. So in the show, Jaimie not killing her is not a plot a hole. Moreover, in the books i’m expecting that if Jaimie does kill her, it’s to save her from a worse death. It’s a major part of both Jaime and Tyrion’s characters that they love Cersei despite the fact that she doesn’t appreciate their love and routinely mistreats them, so if she’s killed by her younger brother, it will most likely be as an act of love.

    • Walter says:

      The prophecy is that she dies with her brother’s arms around her neck, right? That’s what happened.

      • J Mann says:

        As Lillian points out, the show left the last sentence out, but unless the rocks fell just the right way, the show didn’t meet the terms of the book prophesy, so I assume it doesn’t track the book ending for Cersei.

        Cersei: When will I wed the prince?
        Maggy: Never. You will wed the king.
        Cersei: I will be queen, though?
        Maggy: Aye. Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.
        Cersei: Will the king and I have children?
        Maggy: Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.

    • J Mann says:

      PS – I was also disappointed that Qyburn and Harry Strickland went out like such toadies. Have Harry die facing the enemy, and let Qyburn try to abandon Cersei when it’s clear all is lost.

      I know it’s thematic for Qyburn to die to his own monster, but I would much rather have seen him flee, then have Jaime and Cersei find him trapped in the skull chamber.

    • Plumber says:

      It’s easier for moderns to romanticize cavalry charges and sword fights than “death from above” burned bodies, collapsed buildings, and survivors covered in ash, and where I thought the episode was in showing the fruits of war in a way that would resonate with a modern audience. 

      I have my quibbkles, and if they had done the whole episode from Arya’s point of view it would have been a better 85 or so minutes, but what they had was still stunning.

      As a work of art, on it’s own, considered seperately from the rest of the series, it was a far better episode than I expected.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      As an aside, I just went over to r/freefolk to read the spoilers. I figure I don’t care anymore, this show can’t get much worse, so I should at least prepare myself.

      It gets so much worse.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I haven’t watched. Can someone explain why people are so upset about the bells?

      • ana53294 says:

        The bells where a signal of surrender. Tyrion convinced Dany to let the city surrender, and she agreed. When the soldiers enter the city and they meet part of the Golden Company, and they surrender (by throwing their swords to the ground).

        Dany is in the city walls, and she’s looking at the Red Keep, and she goes full Mad Queen when she hears surrender bells. Instead of going to the Red Keep and torching it, she goes in a criss cross pattern burning all the city, actually giving Cersei a chance to escape. The Unsullied then procede te butcher the soldiers who have surrendered by throwing their swords.

        It isn’t just cruel. It’s stupid. If she wanted to burn the city, fine; but why not start with the Red Keep?

  2. johan_larson says:

    Re: Game of Thrones S8E5

    Well, that was dramatic.

    Daenerys can go a bit loopy when someone defies her. This seems like something the writers should have been signalling for a long time. I don’t remember anyone talking about it until S8, at least about Daenerys specifically. Other Targaryens had some mental problems, sure. But were there signs earlier about Daenerys?

    She did have a couple of people locked in a vault in an early season. (S2?) And she nailed some of the Kind Masters to posts, after they nailed a lot of children to posts. (And really, who wouldn’t?) Anything else?

    I still don’t see a good reason for burning the city. Daenerys had already won. Burning the city at that point was just a waste.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Dany is obviously ruthless, but she went from Machiavelli to Hitler really fast. The “inside the episode” suggested it was because seeing Red Keep just stirred up all these violent emotions and made her crazy. Uhhh…I guess?

      I prefer Comfortably Smug’s headcanon on Twitter: Dany made a calculated decision. The truth about Jon Snow will come out. And the people will love Jon Snow. But their fear of Dany will forever be greater than their love for Jon Snow.

      • ana53294 says:

        But the thing is, fear would keep her in power if she kept her strategy of only burning those who don’t kneel to her. Now that she has shown she is capable of burning anyone, including some of her own soldiers, what’s the point of fearing her? If you’re gonna die, might as well not die kneeling.

        It didn’t make any sense, and it isn’t any kind of calculation.

        • CatCube says:

          Yeah, that was why Jaime originally became the Kingslayer–because the king he slayed (Daenerys’ father) was about to burn the whole city to the ground.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Dany is obviously ruthless, but she went from Machiavelli to Hitler really fast. The “inside the episode” suggested it was because seeing Red Keep just stirred up all these violent emotions and made her crazy. Uhhh…I guess?

        The writers wanted to make her “Jump off the Slippery Slope” in order to justify Jon turning against her in the next episode.

        They could have gone for a more ambiguous finale, where the battle was less one-sided and Dany caused high collateral damages in order to prevail, but then didn’t engage in gratuitous mass murder. Then Jon either overthrew her or stood by her side, in either case ending we would have been left wondering whether it was the right choice. Instead they just made her the fire-based version of the Night King to be slain in order to achieve the happy ending.

        • Dack says:

          A wise man once said:

          “If you think this is going to have a happy ending…you haven’t been paying attention.”

    • John Schilling says:

      “Dramatic” in the sense of dramatically arbitrary and stupid. Scorpions that could bring down dragons in flight at several miles are now useless, and dragons that were uselessness are now invincible, because there’s only two episodes left and Danny has to beat Cersei right now. Danny has to burn King’s Landing even when everything is going her way, because the Showrunner Gods have decreed that plot point. Nobody needs more than fifty IQ points if the plot is in their favor, and nobody is allowed more than fifty IQ points if a smart move would derail the plot.

      Whic in another way makes not to the least bit dramatic, because they’ve managed to make it so that I no longer care what happens to any of these people. Without caring, there is no drama.

    • The Nybbler says:

      still don’t see a good reason for burning the city. Daenerys had already won. Burning the city at that point was just a waste.

      Varys answered that. When a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. Hers came up “madness”. It was not a rational decision.

      Incidentally, I claim a minor prediction success, though perhaps deducting something for it not being the final battle (which is now Jon v. Danerys). You see the remains of the Iron Throne on the ruin of a wall after the collapse of the vault Cersei and Jamie are in, just before panning down to Arya.

      (and I second the complaints about the Scorpions suddenly becoming useless and the dragon again invincible)

      • johan_larson says:

        Sure. But we’ve been following this young woman now for almost eight seasons. If she’s a bit crazy, we should have seen it a long time ago. And if she just suddenly went crazy without having been crazy before, there should have been something really big that pushed her over the edge. And there wasn’t, really. Certainly the revelation of Jon’s heritage was nothing compared to, say, the loss of Drogo and her unborn son.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If she’s a bit crazy, we should have seen it a long time ago.

          We’ve seen she likes to execute people by burning them to death with dragons. And the Masters (who, granted, deserved it). And she failed to show mercy to Mossador, starting an entirely predictable riot against her. Not to mention burning all the Khals to death.

          But no insult was needed to push her over the edge. The madness was in her blood (or genes, as we would say). If there was a trigger, it was just the opportunity to strike, not recent harm done to her.

          • John Schilling says:

            We’ve seen she likes to execute people by burning them to death with dragons. And the Masters (who, granted, deserved it).

            But that’s sort of the point. Until now, virtually everyone Dany has had killed has either deserved it, or at very least been an unrepentant enemy – either specifically and personally or as a combatant in fair and open battle. Any inclination she might have had for the mass slaughter of innocents, she has usually been talked out of fairly easily. There is no precedent or support for slaughtering a city that has just surrendered, particularly not for ignoring the Red Keep long enough for a hypothetical not-insanely-stupid Cersei Lannister to have escaped because look, all those innocent civilians to burn, let’s ignore our actual unrepentant enemy to burn innocent civilians!

            That was wholly arbitrary, and the attempt to shoehorn in support for it in the last episode was too clumsy to count. We’re really down to, as B&W seem to be claiming, Dany having a Magic Kill Switch in her brain that automatically turns her into a rampaging killbot if she sees the Red Keep.

            So, OK, why should I care about the moral arc of a character who has no agency, no internal consistency or development, who will do whatever is dictated by the flip of the Showrunners’ coin?

          • gbdub says:

            Yeah, I think they had done an OK job of setting up “Dany will kill a lot of innocent small folk and sleep well that night because she thinks the collateral damage is necessary”

            But we got “Dany slaughters thousands for the lulz because Mad Queen”.

          • Lillian says:

            It would have been a lot better if the burning of King’s Landing had been done as a more organic escalation of what was already going on. Say Daenerys’s forces taking the city by storm, and she has to keep Drogon back because of the ballistae on the walls. After a bloody fight much of the walls are taken, but the fighting continues as brutal street to street combat. Cersei decides to commit her reserves and Danaerys sees them streaming through the roads toward the fighting near the walls, so she decides to swoop down and incinerate them.

            That’s how she starts burning the city, in the effort to take out an enemy unit. Seeing this, some of the city’s defenders give up hope and the city’s bells start ringing. The Lannister soldiers try surrendering, but in the frenzy of battle their enemies simply keep killing them, and start slaughtering civilians as well. Meanwhile Danaerys just keeps burning shit without stopping, until the city’s wyldfire stockpiles start catching fire and eventually her own troops are forced to retreat to avoid being immolated as well.

            This way it would feel like everyone just got caught up in the moment, which is more natural than Daenerys randomly going, “Nope fuck it, killing everyone.” A lot of real life cities were destroyed that way, without any concious plan to annihilate them. Like nobody gave the order to burn Magdeburg and slaughter its inhabitants, the Imperial army was simply sacking the city when a huge fire broke out, and the civilians were unable to escape because there were hostile soldiers in the streets.

          • Aapje says:

            Tolstoy wrote about that in War & Peace. His argument was that fires happen regularly in cities anyway and without an organized firefighting brigade, they grow into big fires.

        • Lillian says:

          It is some people’s opinion that Danaerys has been built up as a blood thirsty tyrant for a very long time:

          I have said this for years about the books actually:
          We only think Dany is a good guy because she’s been POV the whole time
          If we ever had a book of someone else watching Dany, with no look into her head, her justifications, what do we see?
          Girl shows up.
          Army of cult-like slaves utterly dependent on her
          Kills whoever she wants on a whim
          Declares she has a divine right to rule
          backs it up with literal dragons

          Dany did not want a surrender.
          As she told Jon, “Fear, then.”
          Every time Dany listened to her advisors and tried peace, tried it their way, she lost something horrible.
          She listened to a medicine woman; Khal Drogo dies.
          She goes north to help Westeros; dragon dies, and the people love Jon more.
          She listens to Tyrion and doesn’t INSTANTLY sack the Red Keep.
          Cersei kills her best friend and cements her position, killing another dragon in the process.
          Every single time Daenerys tried anything except Burn It All, it went poorly. Every time she listened to other people, it failed.
          So she went “okay, done with that.”
          She turned to the only thing that has never failed her, “Dracarys”.

          (This is a second hand quote from some Discord chatroom i’m not in, so i can neither link to nor credit the original.)

          • Clutzy says:

            I am not a book reader. Regardless I have hated this season. My Lady is a book reader, and hates this season for entirely different reasons. I can only conclude that hatred of the new writing is related to badness.

          • Lillian says:

            Oh yeah, i hate the new season too, but like the person i’m quoting, i’ve long thought Danaerys is a bad person. Anyone who walks the path of conquest has forsaken all claim to righteousness, for they have chosen to tread upon the lives of others and sup on their blood. That’s not to say i don’t like Danaerys, i love her, i love conquerors in general, my first crush ever was Alexander the Great. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re all bad people.

          • Walter says:

            I’m very much on board with this. Like, Dany is just Cersei 2.0. She’s spent her whole career slaughtering. Why stop now? Khaleesi is a Dothraki word, after all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            She’s certainly been portrayed as a would-be and later actual tyrant almost from the beginning. But there’s a line between Danaerys Tyranna and Mad Queen Danaerys. Westeros could survive and perhaps even thrive with a tyrant; it seems to be the normal state of things anyway. With the Mad Queen, it degenerates to chaos.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That doesn’t sound mad. More like ruthless.

            Even then, though, it wouldn’t put her outside the Overton window for ruthlessness amongst historical rulers. As the person you quoted said, Daenerys did try less pyrotechnical means of victory first. “Try the nice way, and if that fails, strike with overwhelming force” is by no means unusually tyrannical by comparison with either Westerosi or real medieval rulers.

            Declares she has a divine right to rule

            Does Westeros have a concept of/analogous to the Divine Right of Kings? If so, I don’t really think it counts as megalomaniacal for the lawful heir to the throne to claim divine mandate for their rule.

          • gbdub says:

            Dany wasn’t ruthless, she was sadistic. Her rampage was unnecessary, destroyed the very prize she wanted to capture, gave Cersei a (slim) chance to flee, and endangered her own troops.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m actually ok with Daenerys burning King’s Landing. It was dumb as hell but it felt like her kind of dumb. Up until now she has always basked in the adoration of her underlings, whether as Khalessi or as the Mother of Dragons or as the Breaker of Chains, but ever since she got to Westeros she hasn’t gotten her fix. Nobody worships her there and she just can’t stand it. “It’s fear then” indeed.

      Other miscellaneous notes:

      Jumping off the deck of a ship continues to have a 100% survival rate. At this point there’s no reason to actually sail anywhere, just hop off and you’ll be swept to shore wherever you needed to go no worse for wear.

      Jaime Lannister has a golden hand but not as many people knew about his golden kidneys until this episode. Lucky thing or getting stabbed there on both sides might have prevented him from climbing up several long flights of stairs.

      It’s a pity Qyburn only made the one Frankenstein. Maybe if he had given the whole Queensguard the Mountain treatment they wouldn’t have been killed off like punks in twelve seconds. Then again they clearly have some design flaws…

      How many death fake-outs did we get with Arya this episode? I swear to God every time they cut back to her she had miraculously survived something falling on her. Those scenes would have been much more tense if it had been Davos or someone else who could actually die running around.

      The Golden Company ended up being a shaggy dog joke after all. They couldn’t have fought even a little bit after a whole season and a half of buildup?

      Who the hell was Nora? Why does she get a name? I had closed captioning on and the random mother Arya kept running into until she was slashed and barbequed had an actual name. For a while I was racking my brain trying to remember if we had met her before. It’s not actually pathos to name a character if that name only shows up in the closed captioning and end credits, it’s just random as hell.

      • vV_Vv says:

        How many death fake-outs did we get with Arya this episode? I swear to God every time they cut back to her she had miraculously survived something falling on her. Those scenes would have been much more tense if it had been Davos or someone else who could actually die running around.

        In the post-episode the showrunners said that they focused on Arya because she’s the audience favorite so the viewers would be more invested, but I don’t think it worked because at this point everybody knows that Arya has plot armor, no way she was going to die crushed by some rubble or stampeded by the crowd. A less plot-armored character like Davos who could actually die would have made these scenes more tense.

        The Golden Company ended up being a shaggy dog joke after all. They couldn’t have fought even a little bit after a whole season and a half of buildup?

        Yep. And why were they even outside the wall? I guess the writers don’t understand the purpose of fortifications.

        Had they put up a decent resistance, it would have sort of justified Daenerys resorting to firebombing the city, instead of she just going postal after the battle was already won.

        Who the hell was Nora? Why does she get a name? I had closed captioning on and the random mother Arya kept running into until she was slashed and barbequed had an actual name.

        I’ve also noticed it, I think it was an error in the subtitles, since they never name that character in the dialogue. Possibly in some earlier draft she had a bigger role which was cut and they forgot to change the subtitles after the scene was shot.

      • Plumber says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        “…How many death fake-outs did we get with Arya this episode? I swear to God every time they cut back to her she had miraculously survived something falling on her. …..”

        True, Arya had as high a Constitution as Danny Glover’s character in Predator 2.

    • meh says:

      Inside the episode quote by the showrunners perfectly sums up the post book series
      “we’ve always wanted to see these two face off again, and they finally did”

      Could you imagine GRRM ever saying something like that?

      • Lillian says:

        Hey, people have been hyping Cleganebowl for years now. It would have been a crime against humanity not to have it. The series even kind of lampshades it, since Qyburn’s cause of death is basically, “Tried to stop Cleganebowl.”

        • meh says:

          I think this was my point (not sure how tongue in cheek you are being).

          As soon as something is hyped, and people need/want to see it, and it becomes what is ‘supposed’ to happen, that is when GRRM would not have it happen. Without him, the writers seem to be giving the characters the endings they are ‘supposed’ to have.

    • meh says:

      I was really disappointed Sandor didn’t have to see someone else kill his brother, or at least be alive after he killed him. Instead they did the most uninteresting thing possible.

      • Lillian says:

        There is nothing in the world that could have possibly been more interesting than Cleganebowl, except a longer Cleganebowl.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Am I the only one that always found the Clegane brothers quite boring characters?

          • gbdub says:

            Gregor, no. Sandor, probably yes – c’mon The Hound has been excellent in the show.

            The biggest issue with Cleganebowl is I feel like we got about 75% of a good explanation for Sandor being hellbent on killing Gregor, but we get zero motivation for Gregor being equally obsessed with killing Sandor.

            I don’t even remember the books doing much to flesh him out – Gregor was just a cruel bully to his younger brother. Cruel, but not “obsessively murderous”.

      • meh says:

        the only thing more interesting than Cleganebown would have been a more interesting Cleganebowl.

        Consider 3 options

        1. Sandor, you’ve devoted your entire life to hating and wanting to kill your brother, and now you had to watch Arya kill him instead of you, how does that feel?

        2. Sandor, you’ve devoted your entire life to hating and wanting to kill your brother, you’ve now done it, so what do you live for?

        3. Sandor, you’ve devoted your entire life to hating and wanting to kill your brother, you’ve done it, but died in the process so there is no need to reflect on anything. It’s all tied up. The people got to watch you pointlessly slash at your brother and cheer, and now it’s over. What a journey!

        • Lillian says:

          Option 1 would have been horribly unsatisfying, and Option 2 is not viable because there is only one episode left. There is simply no time for Sandor to ponder the meaning of life. Certainly if the show’s ending hadn’t been horribly rushed for no good reason, it may have been interesting to see how Sandor copes with attaining his goal in life, but as it is the Hound and the Mountain both dying is the best way to tie it up.

          • meh says:

            Just my opinion, but it is the unsatisfyingness of option 1 that makes it so satisfying (if that makes any sense).

            Option 2 not viable? They get to decide how many episodes and how long, so I don’t see how that is a defense. Like you say, the ending was horrible rushed *for no good reason*.

            As it was, the fight was so inconsequential as well. It didn’t change the outcome of anything; they could have sat there and did nothing and they would have died from the structure collapsing.

        • Walter says:

          I took the Clegane showdown to be a commentary on the worthlessness of vengeance. Like, in all the ways that mattered it was over when the Hound denounced it to Arya. We got a cool fight scene after that, but the only participant we cared about had already explicitly denounced it.

        • paulharvey165 says:

          Would have been better if right as Gregor blinded Sandor a giant rock crushed his head. Then we have blind Sandor and dead Gregor, with Sandor having failed yet again and having to live on.

    • Lillian says:

      Whether or not it made sense plot or character wise, watching King’s Landing burn was glorious. A full on wall to wall firestorm. The screaming, the flames, the merciless slaughter. Beautiful. Of course, now Danaerys damned herself, there is no coming back from this, no apologies or amends that can be made, and with it she has doomed her crown. Nobody will surrender to her after this, no Westerosi will trust her not to murder them on a whim. She has destroyed herself and her reign just as surely as she has destroyed King’s Landing. Danaerys Stormborn will not be queen, not even of the ashes.

    • ana53294 says:

      While I agree that the filming was gorgeous, especially the dragons, after the letdown of the battle of Winterfell, it just didn’t feel real.

      It feels rushed, because it is rushed. I hope GRRM gets around to finishing the series (I won’t read it until he does), and gives a more satisfying ending. Or at least builds up to it.

      Where did the Dothraki come from? I though most of them died, and only the Unsullied were left. Did I miss anything?

      • vV_Vv says:

        Where did the Dothraki come from? I though most of them died, and only the Unsullied were left. Did I miss anything?

        Bad writing mostly.

        It’s not the first time that armies are all but destroyed just to show up in full force shortly after: e.g. Stannis’ army is almost wiped out at the Battle of Blackwater, yet he has enough units to turn the tide of the Battle of Castle Black two years later, the Northen armies almost annihilate each other in the Battle of the Bastards, yet two years later they still have some 10,000 men to garrison Winterfell at the Battle of Ice and Fire.

        The Dothraki appearing in significant numbers at the Battle of King’s Landing after having being wiped out just two episodes before, without any possibility of reinforcing, is the most egregious example though.

        • gbdub says:

          To be fair, the Dothraki were hardly “in full force”. The shot of the army assembling showed them kind of scattered among the troops rather than the separate horde we saw at Winterfell.

        • mendax says:

          There’s a scene in Ep4 where they’re looking at the counters on the war table and say they’ve lost half of the Dothraki, and half of the northern troops. Anyone who saw Ep3 would be skeptical of that, but apparently that was how it was.

    • johan_larson says:

      Anyone want to take a stab at naming the point where GoT jumped the shark? S8 has plenty of problems, and even S7 was often criticized for being rushed. But was there a specific episode that marked a boundary between good stuff with occasional problem and bad stuff that occasionally exceeded expectations?

      • cassander says:

        when they ran out of GRRM plot in season 5, more or less. The show’s terrible handling of dorne, and the ludicrous sand snakes in particular, might be a good marker.

        • gbdub says:

          Honestly I kind of forgive them for Dorne (forgive, not excuse) because Dorne was the most bloated of Martin’s many, many shaggy dog side plots that a TV format was never going to be able to support. I think the show runners realized this and just pulled the ripcord awkwardly. Their big mistake is in not making that call earlier and never introducing the Sand Snakes in the first place.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Pretty much on board with this. There was no way they were going to do Dorne right. GRRM can’t even do Dorne right. Just don’t do Dorne.

          • J Mann says:

            I love Dorne, but B&W were never going to be able to do it justice. That said, the Bron and Jaime road show was an awful way to short-circuit it.

            If the goal was to kill Myrcella, just have Elia and one or two Sand Snakes show up in King’s Landing and kill her, then let Cersei get her revenge. (Better yet, have Elia try to talk the Snakes out of revenge and then have Cersei kill Elia AND the snakes).

        • Nick says:

          Nitpick: as I recall, the Dorne plot was a deliberate revision of the book plot, so it’s not that they ran out exactly. People just ended up hating their version of Dorne even more than the book’s. But in retrospect, with how badly they’ve screwed up writing their own ending to the show, it was a big sign of what was to come.

          • cassander says:

            That was really what I was trying to say, drone showed how badly things would go when d&d struck out on their own initiative.

          • gbdub says:

            But I think it was different because they were trying to include a streamlined version of Dorne as a middle ground between GRRM’s bloated Dorne and in Dorne at all. But he middle ground was worse than either.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          This. The Dorne subplot in Season 5 is the moment I ceased enjoying the show.

          Not only was the plot itself bad, but there was a significant problem where too many subplots being pursued at once, to the point that the show bogged down and the plot hardly advanced from episode to episode – and then now we get here and everything feels rushed.

          They spent their screentime on all the wrong things since Tywin Lannister took a crossbow bolt to the gut.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Season 5 was poorly executed and boring as hell. There was some really fantastic stuff, like Hardhome, but mostly “meh.”
        Season 6 I think was “Jump the Shark,” in the sense they abandoned GOT 1.0 and replaced it with D&D 4E. Dany torching all the Khals and instantly becoming the head of the Dothraki. Stupid Battle of the Bastards. Terminator Waif vs. Arya. Varys teleporting across the ocean. Jorah’s highly contagious Greyscale not affecting anyone other than himself. Most of these weren’t that bad, but those were obviously a departure from prior seasons, and an indication that all was not well.

        • meh says:

          There was also the explosion of the Sept. I think once that happened, there was a lot less political intrigue in the story, and more D&D4E as you say.

          • Protagoras says:

            I think the explosion of the Sept was a significant turn for the worse as well. Though understandable, I generally didn’t like the simplification of characters and factions and plots in the TV series, and yes, obviously, that got even worse after the High Sparrow and his supporters, as well as key Tyrells, were all killed in the sept explosion. It didn’t have to be that way; the death of the High Sparrow could easily have prompted the rise of hordes of religious fanatics seeking to avenge him, and there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why the army that almost put Renly on the throne or the largest fleet in Westeros (both canonical Tyrell resources) couldn’t similarly have been used by somebody (surely Olenna could have found somebody, even if she’s not one for leading armies herself?) But instead the showrunners used it as an excuse to shelve those factions and, as you say, drastically reduce the possibilities for intrigue.

          • gbdub says:

            Imagine how much more rushed this would all feel without the sept explosion taking out half the characters. Plus that sequence was one of the best in TV history.

            The tradeoff was supposed to be a more thoughtful, deliberate plot with those that remained. But, well, no.

          • albatross11 says:

            The sept explosion was an amazing fifteen minutes of storyline, but the endpoint (after Tommen committed suicide) was that Cersei should have been almost powerless–she’d alienated all her allies, blown up/burned up a big chunk of her own city, and destroyed a church and killed a revered religious leader in the city. The next scene with her needs to be her fleeing the flaming ruins of Kings Landing for Casterly Rock or some other place.

            Cersei thinks she’s more clever than she really is. Her big advantage over other people is that she’s so shockingly ruthless that she’ll do things nobody else would imagine doing, like blowing up a church full of her allies in her own city to remove several rivals for power. But that has consequences and the only one we were shown was Tommen’s suicide.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I liked the Sept explosion. Instead of a long plot arc, Cersei blows all of her enemies to Kingdom Come because she knows about the Self-Destruct switch.

            The consequences are that Cersei loses her most powerful allies (the Tyrells) who immediately side with Dany and bring an invading army to Westeros. The small-folk got pushed to the side a long time ago, only the Sparrows themselves represented the small-folk fighting back, and their leadership is all dead.

          • John Schilling says:

            The next scene with her needs to be her fleeing the flaming ruins of Kings Landing for Casterly Rock or some other place.

            I don’t see the Lannister soldiers or the Kingsguard are going to shed a tear over the High Sparrow and his followers. They would probably see a “return to normalcy” as a winning proposition for them and Cersei as the only contender to provide that. And I do see a leadership void for anyone inclined to resist her; that’s not a role Lady Olenna can provide on the ground in King’s Landing.

            So I don’t object to Cersei being able to effectively hold power in King’s Landing and solid Lannister territory. But you’re right that this would not plausibly be as solid a power base as it is presented for the remaining seasons.

      • vV_Vv says:

        There has been a constant decline since season 5, but I’d say the series really jumped the shark between season 6, when the Sand Snakes publicly murder the ruling prince of Dorne, his heir and a royal princess and somehow this results in Ellaria Sand becoming their ruler instead of being hanged for treason, and season 7, with Littlefinger’s show trial where he doesn’t even attempt to talk his way out of the unsubstantiated accusations they were throwing at him, and of course the ridiculous zombie hunting party.

      • CatCube says:

        I don’t know that I dislike it the way other people here seem to, but if I had to identify a point, it’d actually be S1E1. The problems in Season 8 stem from the fact that at the pace the show (and the books!) were moving, it’d take like 17 fucking seasons to finish the story. If they had sacrificed storylines further and simplified things they’d have had time to wrap things up, instead of “rounding” the action to the nearest thing that moves on to the next plot point. Of course, if they had done that in early seasons, it probably wouldn’t have been as big a hit as it was.

        That’s also why I’m not quite as down on it as others–I’ve got some nerd quibbles with individual plot actions, but I also can’t see huge changes the writers could be making to fix that fundamental problem: finish the story, but only do it in one season.

        • Nick says:

          I don’t think that’s fair. The first few books moved plenty fast—it was four and five, which were originally intended to be one novel, that bogged down. And five was an even bigger problem here than four, since it introduced so many more plots and didn’t even include the major battle it was supposed to end with, the Battle of the Bastards.

          If we imagine a world where 4 and 5 were one book ending with the Battle of the Bastards, and no Dorne plot or Brienne travelogue or Young Griff or Oldtown teaser or Iron Islands kingsmoot (a plot I actually liked 🙁 ), we wouldn’t be in this position.

      • Lillian says:

        A man attempted to determine this scientifically, by showing GOT to his normie wife, and came up with the following answer: S7E6 Beyond the Wall. This answer fits to me, because while the show started having problems in Season 5, there was still a lot of good stuff to be had. It’s during Beyond the Wall that magic breaks, and it’s stayed broken for most of Season 8.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The Red Wedding. After that the show just kind of wandered aimlessly for a while. Then they rushed a finale.

        • Jaskologist says:

          That was the point that the books jumped the shark for me. Killing Ned was gutsy, but doing it again got rid of all of the characters I cared about, and dropped most of the story I’d been invested in up until that point. I know a lot of people love it for subverting expectations or whatever, but my feeling was that we were just being led on and he wasn’t going be able to draw the whole mess to a satisfying conclusion.

          Given that that was a decade ago, and GRRM has conspicuously failed to draw it to any sort of conclusion in the time since, I’m pretty good about that judgement.

          • John Schilling says:

            I know a lot of people love it for subverting expectations or whatever,

            More like continuing the show’s by then well-established tradition of actions having (plausible) consequences. Betraying Walder Frey by marrying the common hottie, and then failing to respect Walder Frey as a mortal enemy with no reason to be bound by oath or honor, is the sort of mind-numbingly stupid action that usually leads to “…and they lived happily ever after because Twue Wuv conquers all”, and I was surprisingly glad to see the more plausible outcome and the end of an annoying idiot.

            But I was never that interested in the Honorable Starks as the One True Faction in the Game of Thrones. I still cared about Sansa and Arya as effectively orphaned ex-Starks, about most of the players at or north of the Wall, about Team Dany, and about Tyrion and Varys and in a negative way about Cersei and Jamie. So I thought Martin (and B&W) still had the materials they needed to round out a good story. My bad.

          • meh says:

            my feeling was that we were just being led on and he wasn’t going be able to draw the whole mess to a satisfying conclusion.

            That is clearly spot on, but I’m surprised you say the Red Wedding killed all the characters you cared about. If I remember correctly, the only POV character who died is Catelyn

          • Jaskologist says:

            I was interested in the War of the Roses. Nearly the entire first book was oriented around that, and that’s the one that drew me in. IIRC, they also burned down Winterfell around the same time, essentially ending the primary plotline with “and they all died.”

            I never cared much about Daenerys’ subplot; she had basically no interaction with the main characters at this point. I felt like I could have cared about the ice zombies had they been split off into a different book, but again they had done very little at this point in the story, so I mostly considered that to be just bloat which was getting in the way of finishing off this story. So that left Arya and Sansa, and Sansa was insufferable.

            I guess it boils down to me being interested in the War of the Roses, and GRRM just using that as an intro to the story he really wanted to tell, even if he never got around to telling that story.

          • Clutzy says:

            Is it bad if I still love the Bran story and think Bran is the greatest thing? The creepier and more cryptic he is the more I love it.

          • gbdub says:

            Ugh. Bran’s story is an interesting concept but it’s basically gone nowhere. His only contributions as “The Three Eyed Raven” have been confirming things people already know (Sam had figured out who Jon was, Bran confirmed Littlefinger’s crimes but only after Sansa and Arya had begun to suspect him, and Bran helpfully notes that the Night King is going to try to kill them all).

            What’s his big moment that pays off all the dragging him around poor Hodor had to do?

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I’m not sure the shark-jumping model really fits. After the Ramsay Bolton Show there was nowhere to go but up.

      • John Schilling says:

        There were a lot of bad moves in S6 that foreshadow shark-jumping, and I’m going to particularly call out the Battle of the Bastards in that regard. But there isn’t anything the story couldn’t have recovered from, and doing so wouldn’t have required more than the quality of writing we saw in the better episodes of S6.

        The nerfing of Tyrion and Varys in early S7 was the shark-jumping point for me. The earlier missteps had at least been true to the characters as we had seen them up to that point; this wasn’t. And more than that, it was a clear indication that they had written themselves into a corner where they could not reach even half the Great and Shocking Moments they had planned without resorting to complete idiot-plotting. Which required making all the formerly smart characters with power or influence into idiots, and which the writers were clearly not capable of doing with any tact or skill.

      • Nornagest says:

        It was all downhill from the end of Season 4, but it didn’t start feeling like a waste of time to me until episode 3 or 4 of Season 7. That’s around the time when characters started jumping around the map with no justification for the sake of a dramatic scene, and when the battles started feeling like pure spectacle with no real stakes and no in-universe strategic logic behind them.

        I started feeling acutely disappointed sometime in Season 6 — if I had to pick a moment, it might be when Bran walks into a Dungeons and Dragons skirmish featuring Harryhausen skeletons — but there was enough good there that I could ignore it, and the show’s internal logic still mostly made sense. Not in the next season.

      • fluorocarbon says:

        I’m a sort of casual watcher. I’ve never read the books or rewatched an episode, but I do talk about it a lot with my coworkers, some of whom are really big fans. There are a few scenes that stick in my memory as approaching and eventually jumping the shark.

        It’s no longer the same show:

        Season 5, episode 10: Stannis loses the battle against Ramsay. First result of a battle that’s plot-driven and not the natural outcome.

        Same episode: Elaria Sand kills Myrcella. First time someone acts ridiculously out of their established character for shock value.

        Approaching the shark:

        Season 6, episode 2: Ramsay kills Roose Bolton. The actual murder makes sense, but there were no consequences. This is the first symptom of the bad habit that the show has had since of making the villains’ actions have no consequences.

        Season 6, episode 10: Cersei destroys the Sept. Again, destroying the sept is fine, but it’s never even mentioned after that. Wouldn’t there be riots? Wouldn’t the common people turn against Cersei? Shouldn’t the other septs fund a different claimant to the throne?

        Jumping the shark:

        Season 7, episode 6: The mission to capture the wight was so stupid that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief any more. It was especially stupid because the Night King used the dragon he captured to break through the wall. Apparently the underlying theme of the series isn’t “humans are tragically disposed to petty power struggles even in the face of an existential threat,” but “just ignore existential threats lol.”

        Going to a combined aquarium/trampoline park:

        Season 8, episode 3: The battle for Winterfell wasn’t only stupid, it also served no narrative purpose. The Night King only came to kill Bran after everyone was already dead. The army could have literally just waited in the south and everything would have turned out exactly the same. Why even have Jon and Dany there?

        • ana53294 says:

          Ramsay, that perverted bastard, having won any battles, and being able to command any loyalty, especially after killing his father, doesn’t make any sense at all. He is not as smart as he thinks he is; just pointlessly cruel. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have tortured Sansa, the woman who gave him the legitimacy he needed as a bastard.

          I also thought Cersei was finished after destroying the Sept. They spent all that time showing how much influence the Sparrow had achieved, how we was popular and loved. And now that he becomes a martyr, people go back to normal?

          The thing with martyrs is, as history has taught us, after a certain point, the worst thing you can do with a political/religious leader is killing them. If they live on, they will eventually do something bad that at least tarnishes their reputation; if they die, they can’t do anything to ruin their own image. It doesn’t matter if the Sparrow was really after power; once he died, he was this saint who cared for the poor. His death having no consequence makes no sense whatsoever.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Ramsay, that perverted bastard, having won any battles, and being able to command any loyalty, especially after killing his father, doesn’t make any sense at all. He is not as smart as he thinks he is; just pointlessly cruel. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have tortured Sansa, the woman who gave him the legitimacy he needed as a bastard.

            Yeah, I think Ramsay’s the sort of character who, realistically, should have been murdered by one of his own underlings many years ago.

          • gbdub says:

            Regarding the sept, I think it’s likely that Cersei played it as an accident / rather definitive act of god.

            Remember that everyone who died was Cersei’s (or at least the King’s) nominal ally. We know that they were actually all engaged in deadly scheming against each other and Tommen was not a strong king but the pawn of three factions, but the public face was that they were all one big happy family. (The Faith and the Crown were both maneuvering to use each other for legitimacy). And there were rumors of lost stores of wildfire, which would have been confirmed by Blackwater…

            She wouldn’t need to convince everyone, just enough to avoid a general riot. And everyone for opposition to cling to, not to mention the Faith’s true belief squad, was dead.

            A better show would have taken the time to show Cersei play grieving queen reluctantly taking power to pick up the pieces from a horrible tragedy, slyly noting that clearly the Seven had judged harshly the extremism of the High Sparrow. Lena Headey would have done it brilliantly.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Season 4 Episode 10 “The Children” with the fireball throwing magic children. There was a steady stream of weird/magic stuff you had to accept before that, which was fine, and then they did something so stupid and spectacle based it showed they had lost what made the show good forever and the second version had begun.

        The world where Game of Thrones stayed a syfy level show that’s mostly people talking and never became a CGI monster showcase was the better one. If every big battle was setup like the one where Tyrion just gets knocked out right when it gets too expensive to shoot like in Season 1 I would not have been happier.

        • Nornagest says:

          It was that early? Huh, I could have sworn that happened a season or two later.

          But yeah, that’s as good a place to put the shark-jumping as any. The weird thing is, the books probably have more magic than the series does; it’s just subtler, more prophecy and skinchanging and generall spookiness, fewer fireballs.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      John Schilling’s prediction is not looking good. Sorry, man.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I dunno, given how many people survived Battle of Winterfell despite being completely buried in Wights, maybe Dany only killed, like, 10 people. That’s not bad!

        EDIT: Plus, Arya might bring people back to life. It was totally overshadowed: why do you think she says “Death” all the time? Subvert expectations!

      • John Schilling says:

        Dany only has to die if the Good Guys(tm) have to win.

        • aristides says:

          My money is on Dany killing Jon. She’s far more ruthless and has the dragon. I doubt Dany will trust him at this point. Of course that doesn’t settle everything, his sister is the best assassin in the 7 kingdoms and the writers favorite. Who does that leave in the end? Either Sansa or Tyrion, and Sansa seems the more willing to rule. Sansa was my prediction in the beginning of this season, though I never would have guessed this route.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          After Jon kills Dany, he’s really not gonna want to be king. So, Bran, who’s not even human any longer? Tyrion, my old favorite, seems out of the running, since they’ve ignored his parentage and he’s turned into a jackass. And what difference does it make? Yeah, he’ll be a good ruler, but they don’t have time for any healing or going forward, just, hey, here’s a good, smart ruler, aaaaaand scene. If Dany had won, they wouldn’t have needed to clean everything up, but now they do, and instead we’ll get more poorly written haste.

          That’s why I expect that the series will end with Dany killing Jon and Arya, probably Sansa and possible Tyrion, and sitting on the Iron Throne, the message being that all the fighting and bloodshed has been for nothing because now they’ve just ended up with a Mad Queen instead of a Mad King.

        • J Mann says:

          After Jon kills Dany, he’s really not gonna want to be king.

          That would work for a decent bittersweet ending. Robert and Stannis both said they didn’t want the throne, and it killed Viserys. (And Robert, Stannis, and Jeoffrey, I guess).

          Sad Jon sitting on the throne because it’s his duty, after killing the woman he loved out of duty, with Sansa as the winner of the Game of Thrones (the North is safe, and the dragons and ice zombies are all gone), would IMHO be an OK ending.

          It would tie into Ygrette’s death, and Nissa Nissa, and it would be sad for Jon, and maybe hopeful for the realm, at least if Davos is still around.

        • gbdub says:

          Jon plunges Longclaw into Dany’s heart. It comes out flaming. He takes Drogon out back and Old Yellers him. He gets in a rowboat, bound for the North to live out his days with Tormund and Ghost.

          Sansa “wins”

        • vV_Vv says:

          Either Sansa or Tyrion, and Sansa seems the more willing to rule. Sansa was my prediction in the beginning of this season, though I never would have guessed this route

          Sansa has no claim to the Iron Throne, and no ambition towards it, it seems. At this point Jon’s claim is also questionable even if he survives: oops, the Targaryen queen turned out to be as mad as her father, let’s try again with her nephew and hope for the best this time.

          On the other hand, if we accept the Baratheon-Lannister dynasty as legitimate, as every lord in Westeros (minus the North) did until Cersei started to blow up people and Dany showed up, then Tyrion is the actual heir to the Iron Throne, or whatever is left of it.

          A reasonable finale would be Tyrion king of everything south of the Neck and Sansa queen in the North. But at this point I’ve lost hope in a reasonable finale.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:


          Gendry Baratheon, who Danny conveniently legitimized a few episodes ago, would be a much more plausible claimant than the queen mother’s dwarf younger brother. Which is why he spent several seasons running and/or rowing away from the various factions who wanted to kill him over his bloodline.

          If Jon somehow manages to avoid sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the next episode, Gendry is the only one left with a claim. Either that or we end up with King Bronn first of his name or something equally absurd.

        • meh says:

          Is there a Catch-22 in Gendry’s claim? In order for him to be legitimate, he would have to recognize Dany as Queen, which would imply there is no longer a Baratheon claim.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Honestly I don’t think anyone would really care one way or another.

          They need an ass on the throne, because as long as it stays empty the entire continent is going to be ravaged by war. Gendry’s ass isn’t an ideal fit but it’s probably close enough for an already war-ravaged Westeros to accept as an excuse to stop killing each other and try to survive the next few years of winter.

        • J Mann says:

          @Meh – the Baratheon line inherits if there are no eligible Tagaryns, which is why Robert was King and Renly and Stannis thought they ought to be King. (Well, maybe not Renly).

          Gendry’s claim is a little thin – basically, “Dany was the legitimate queen, then she was deposed/killed, but before that she legitimized me, and Jon died/abdicated, so I’m next in line.”

          That’s thin, but it’s hard to see anyone left alive with a better claim. The Prince of Dorne doesn’t even have a name, after all, and it’s certainly more plausible than “Yes, I took my Night’s Watch vows for life, but then I died and was resurrected, so now they don’t count!”

        • meh says:

          not saying it is wrong, but what is the law that says Baratheon line inherits?

          also, are there no trueborn Baratheons left? Are they the only house that doesn’t have 8 million cousins?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Legitimacy? Legitimacy is what the people with the most firepower say it is (Was it Cersei or Tyrion who made a similar point? Certainly Bronn did). And a lot of lords who might have been a bit conservative about bloodlines and such are dead now. Suppose Dany and Drogar get killed. Jon holds on to the armies of the North and at least temporarily holds what remains of the Dothraki and Unsullied. If he rules as Jon Stark he shouldn’t face too much opposition in Casterly Rock (with any luck they’ll accept Lord Tyrion as their leader, as the best of bad alternatives. As he would say, at least he has a cock), or the Reach (which is without a leader), or Riverrun. Dorne is almost certain to claim independence regardless. I expect Renly Baratheon’s old territory will get in line as well.

          The interesting part of that scenario would be Sansa; she may be unwilling to bend the knee to Jon, and what would that do to the Northern armies? The Iron Islands don’t matter; whether they bend the knee or not they’ll continue to raid. And I don’t know about the Eyrie; they’re leaderless at the moment. If Sansa were to bend the knee I expect they’d go with Jon, but otherwise they might also claim independence and hole up behind that gate of theirs.

          If Jon were to try to rule as Aegon Targareyan, after what Dany just did, it’s just more bloody war until he’s killed. Unless Drogo survived, in which case he could rule as Mad King Aegon until someone (probably Sansa) had more Scorpions built.

          Tyrion’s an obvious alternative except the whole dwarf thing. And past that, Sansa would never bend the knee to him so there’s no chance of keeping the North in, unless Jon were to be willing to challenge Sansa (which I don’t see). Gendry with Tyrion as Hand might be a possibility.

          King Bronn, First of his Name, Drinker of Ale, Tosser of Dwarves, isn’t looking so bad.

        • John Schilling says:

          They need an ass on the throne, because as long as it stays empty the entire continent is going to be ravaged by war.

          In which case the obvious answer is for that ass to be attached to Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, etc, etc, etc, Mother of Dragons, because she’s probably done with ravaging if nobody pisses her off again and I count at least three types of ravaging lined up if anyone tries to take her place.

          I can see the showrunners imagining that Good Queen Sansa ruling the Seven Kingdoms would be a suitable ending for the show; that would be mind-bogglingly stupid for reasons already enumerated, but here we are and I’m not ruling it out any more. But if we go there, note that Good Queen Sansa will have taken the throne by an act of outright treachery that lead to the destruction of King’s Landing and probably the death of her own beloved quasi-brother.

          Gendry, yes, if everybody agrees that he should be king and that nobody should try to depose the king, he can be king of a peaceful Seven Kingdoms. That’s tautologically true, and just as true of absolutely anyone else down to Random Urchin #3389 barely surviving the destruction of King’s Landing. Including the bit where some people nobody has any reason to trust can say “trust us, we have secret knowledge that Random Urchin #3389 is really the true heir of the last legitimate king”, which is all Gendry has going for him. Again, the showrunners have decided that plausibility is out the window, but it’s a long shot that they’d go that particular route.

          At this point, the plausible-in-story outcomes are Queen Dany, King Jon, or prolonged anarchy and civil war. And King Jon is a long shot, but if he gets the critical Drogon endorsement he could probably pull it off.

        • John Schilling says:

          Tyrion’s an obvious alternative except the whole dwarf thing. And past that, Sansa would never bend the knee to him…

          Wait, she did at one point literally marry him; that’s kind of like bending the knee. And there was a bit more of a reconciliation between the two than the Winterfell storyline really required. And everybody is clearly willing to entertain “someone told us they saw a record of that other inconvenient marriage being annulled” as the basis for royal claims. A Lannister-Stark royal marriage might actually work, now that I think about it.

          I don’t think the showrunners respect the character of Tyrion Lannister enough for them to go that way, but that could be just clumsiness on their part.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Funny I just thought of the same nasty idea. Someone ends up on the throne — Dany or Gendry with someone backing him, perhaps — and to cement the North’s place in the Seven Kingdoms, we get a Lannister-Stark marriage. Tyrion and Sansa. A literal royal marriage between King Tyrion and Queen Sansa seems even less likely, as it means Sansa has to relocate to the remains of King’s Landing and I don’t see her being willing to leave the North. Perhaps that could be avoided, first while it’s being rebuilt and then once she’s had an heir and a spare and one more (to cover Winterfell’s heir), there’d be no need.

          Or there’s Tyrion and Arya, but I think that’s just a short joke.

        • J Mann says:

          not saying it is wrong, but what is the law that says Baratheon line inherits?

          I’m not sure if the show got into this much detail, but Robert’s grandmother was Rhaelle Targaryen. Assuming you accept Dany’s legitimacy order, then under the Targaryen succession laws, Gendry really has the best technical claim to the Throne after Jon.

          (If I recall correctly, the show at least had the scene where Robert tells Ned that Ned should have taken the Throne after the Rebellion, and Ned says that he couldn’t because Robert had the superior claim.)

        • Randy M says:

          Wait, she did at one point literally marry him

          I stopped following the world a book or two after this happened. I remember hoping that they would stay married and help round out the other, a bit of tyrion’s savvy for the princess and a bit of the princess’ hopefulness–and legitimacy–for the Dwarf.
          But it didn’t seem to come to anything.

    • gbdub says:

      The issue I have is that the subversions in the past always felt obvious in retrospect – shocking at the time, but in the cold light of day they were the inevitable outcomes of their characters’ personalities and choices.

      With Dany the problem isn’t with the result, it’s the lack of care spent getting her there. I mean, they literally resorted to adding weird flashback voiceover to the Previously On… to try to sell her Mad Queen turn. Even the show runners clearly realized too late it wasn’t really sold!

      • johan_larson says:

        Agreed. Mad Queen Daenerys needed more support earlier in the series. Varys and Tyron should have discussed this issue many times before, whenever Dani did something a bit severe.

        I think the best option would have been for Varys to go along reluctantly with this new claimant to the throne, mostly because he saw no better option. But when word of Jon’s heritage reached Varys, and Jon had proved his fitness to rule, Varys could have withdrawn his support of Dani. I think that would have worked dramatically. But it may have required changes way back into the early seasons of the show.

      • meh says:

        I prefer to think not that they were ‘obvious’, just that the characters didn’t have to act stupid. Ned’s death, and the Red wedding didn’t require characters being stupid to happen.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Ned’s death was all about Ned being stupid. Varys and Cersei and Littlefinger even rubbed it in.

          The Red Wedding required Robb to be stupid. Robb marrying Talisa before the war was won, and Robb executing Lord Karstark and thus requiring the support of the Freys.

        • meh says:

          Well, it’s degrees of stupid. It was stupid in a much more believable way, or even more naive than stupid. Nothing too short-sightedly stupid.

          1. Ned’s death was actually Joffrey being stupid; Cersei and Littlefinger though he would take the black. Joff is a kid so is allowed to be stupid. Maybe Ned was stupid in the events leading to his capture, but I think more accurately he was naive. He trusted Littlefinger to get the gold cloaks, and though his letter from the king would stand. What choice did he have assuming he would always keep his honor to the king?

          2. Robb’s actual death was not stupid. They had taken the Guest right, and thought they had re-negotiated the alliance. Nothing too obviously stupid in assuming you are probably safe there. As to events leading up to it, Robb is 15, so yeah, he is going to be stupid when it comes to a girl. Karstark is debateable, who knows what would have happened if he let him live. He may have turned on Robb anyway.

        • gbdub says:

          Right. There is “believable stupid” and then there is “The Idiot Ball”.

          GRRM was good at exploring the former and not letting plot armor protect characters from it. And he usually avoided the latter.

    • Walter says:

      I wasn’t surprised.

      Like, the line that the Hound gave to his brother was also to her. “Yeah, that’s you. That’s who you’ve always been.”

      Like, the woman who crucifies prisoners is a dirtbag. The woman who uses collective punishment when she can’t figure out who is guilty is a war criminal. The only reason that the woman who burned the Dothraki leaders to death ever had any sympathy at all was that she was surrounded by monsters.

      But the thing of it was, she wasn’t burning the rapists and slavers because they were rapists and slavers. She was burning them because they didn’t love her. She didn’t teach the Dothraki to become farmers, she used them to slaughter her enemies. She didn’t free the Unsullied to become civilians with lives, they became her army to, once again, slaughter enemies.

      Her heroism with the Night King was real, but it was also ‘cheap’, in the sense that even Hitler would have fought the Night King. Fighting together versus a genocide fiend isn’t a test that is impossible to fail (hat tip Cersei), but it is as close as you are going to get. Once it was over we got to see the last Targaeryan among the people we actually like.

      As soon as you put her somewhere where the people around her were remotely sympathetic she was going to be hated. How could she not be? She’s just Conan, just another turn of the wheel she lies about breaking. Tyrian’s ‘tens of thousands of innocents’ are just words to her, and she parries right back with talk about how by teaching the world that hostages don’t work she is saving future innocents. Like, w/ever brah, I can say stuff too! The person who was real to her was Missandei, who loved her and obeyed her. She told Dany to burn down the city, so that’s what will happen.

      • ana53294 says:

        But Missandei loved her because she freed her. She did it to use her, but she still gave her something.

        You don’t get loyalty and love for nothing, not when you are burning people alive.

        There was no way she would earn the love of slavers, but she did have a chance of earning the love of Westerosis.

        • Walter says:

          I feel like ‘earning’ love is not really a thing. You do what you do and people love who they choose.

          Dany’s go-to move is to burn the top off a hierarchy.

          In Essos, the hierarchies are the worst of the worst, vile slavocracies and such. The survivors love and follow her for saving them from their tormentors.

          In Westeros the hierarchies aren’t quite so bad. The survivors of the Loot Train battle don’t throw her up on their shoulders and chant ‘Mother’, when she burns their general and his brave son.

          Missandei loved Dany and Samwell did not. That’s not to say she didn’t do enough to ‘earn’ his love, just that his dynamic with his abuser was different than hers with her owners.

        • gbdub says:

          Yeah, Dany has never managed to earn the loyalty or alliance of anyone except through miracles and sex. (She has slaves that fight for her because she freed them through trickery, Dothraki who fight for her because she murdered their leaders and survived through magic, and a bunch of male advisers who are loyal because they want to get in her pants) She’s a horrible diplomat, and not naturally inspiring of loyalty the way Jon apparently is.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think Meereen was legitimately won (including the loyalty of most of its citizens) by mundane strategy, tactics, and leadership. I don’t recall any miracles or sex involved, and the dragons were still too small to be of much use.

            Of course, Meereen’s population was IIRC the only one to support a rebellion against Dany after she had taken up as Queen, so you may be on to something.

          • J Mann says:

            In the books, Dany is kind of an Alexander figure – she confronts a series of military obstacles in Slavers Bay, and solves each one by synthesizing the counsel of her advisers, then being smarter and more creative than anyone else on the battlefield.

            She then discovers that actually governing a conquered population is difficult, as she tries her best to mediate between the former elite and the new revolutionaries, and to transition the area away from a slave trading economy. By the end of the books, she is beginning to think that it would be easier to just burn everything down and start again, but hasn’t yet transitioned to burning.

            The popular theory among book readers is that Martin is intending her to have a shift from Marshall plan to fire and blood as she heads to Westeros, and that B&W are telling a simplified, less compelling version of that.

      • J Mann says:

        Burning the City was so unnecessary, though.

        Burn the Red Keep to slag if you want – that’s what Aegon the Conqueror did to Harrenhall, and he had a decent reign. Burn every collection of Lannister troops, surrender or not. That’s ruthless, but OK.

        But at the end, Dany was just burning the smallfolk, and for what?

        • Walter says:

          Missandei (her last friend) asked her to? Like, I think she didn’t ask ‘why’ so much as ‘why not’? These people are nothing to her. Burning them might make her feel better, might inspire the fear she intends to rule with a little better.

          • J Mann says:

            Not to be too much of a lawyer, but Missandei was ambiguous about who specifically should burn. I can’t believe she meant “burn the small folk.”

          • Walter says:

            She didn’t specify the target, so Dany made sure to get everyone she might possibly have meant.

    • meh says:

      It seems like nobody is that interested in Varys death. Anyone have any thoughts?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Predictable, boring, and deserved.

        The worst part of that was Dany seemingly knowing everything before Tyrion told her; how would she know, unless she has an independent set of spies (which haven’t been shown)?

        • J Mann says:

          I was assuming a dream, but that’s a lot to leave off-screen.

        • aristides says:

          To me it looked like she’s didn’t expect Varys to betray her, but she knew someone would. She knew Jon would tell Sansa and Sansa would tell the people most likely to betray her, but she didn’t know her advisors well enough to know who would stay and betray. Since Tyrion decided to rat, she knew it wasn’t him. Her next thought was Jon, but since Tyrion name did Varys, she didn’t have to guess further.

      • Walter says:

        I think he kinda always knew he’d go out this way. Like dude said to Jon, he’s seen them come and go. One day one would get sick of him.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Varys was the only one amongst them all who had what we might call a modern view of politics. With everybody else, it’s all about who reigns, but with Varys it’s all about the nation being reigned.

      • Protagoras says:

        I didn’t like it. He used to be clever, sneaky, and cowardly. He was executed because he was engaged in poorly movitated, poorly executed, and extremely risky plotting. About the only way it could have been more out of character would have been if he’d tried to assassinate Dany himself instead of trying to enlist others in his schemes.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Epistemic status: I read the books, watched seasons 1-3, then skipped the rest because books 4-5 were so dull and then heard the writing got still worse after they ran out of Martin’s stuff. But then last week I was with some friends still watching the show so I caught up on all the spoilers.

          Yeah, my memory of Varys was that he was very clever. He didn’t tell you his plot, he didn’t tell you what he wanted you to do. He read the motivations of the people around him, and then told them secrets and information that he was reasonably certain would get them to act the way he wanted, while the actor thought the actions were their own idea. So the idea of him trying to convince Jon to do something is silly. He should instead tell Jon horrible but true things about Dany that will make Jon decide to overthrow her on his own. It seems the problem is that Varys is very smart, and the writers are not, and cannot very well write characters smarter than they are.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Writing characters smarter than you are is fairly easy, after all you control the world they live in and can make any of their predictions come true. The difficulty is not Mary Sue-ing them to death, or not diminishing other characters by making them perpetual puppets of the brilliant character.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Fine. The point is Varys was an interesting character because he was smart and cunning. He died by being stupid and brazen.

    • honoredb says:

      I think the show has become an unusually bad example of the syndrome where you decide on the ending in advance, then the show runs for a long time and evolves to the point where the ending no longer fits, and you stay in denial about that until the last minute and then jarringly switch back onto the main track. I’ve seen the same critique of How I Met Your Mother, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and the Harry Potter epilogue, but this is the first time I’ve really felt, ahem, burned by it.

      The main problem with Daenerys’s turn is that they leaned in to the discontinuity because they think Diabolos Ex Machina is part of their brand. If they’d treated it as a problem that she’s supposed to become a Dark Lord but has been learning too many lessons about the dangers of indiscriminate violence and the value of empathy, it’s pretty solvable even without changing the ending–just give her a brutal choice between ruthlessly burning the city or abandoning her destiny, and have her choose wrong and commit to the decision. But instead they treated it as an opportunity for a shocking swerve, which superficially adheres to their brand, but doesn’t leave the same kind of aftertaste because it’s not a case of realism beating story logic; whoever heard of a genocide gene? Maybe they’ll walk it back somehow next episode (this was all a Bran vision, not the true future? Or Bran telepathically told Dany this was the only way?) but I doubt it.

      To a lesser extent I think Jaime suffered from the same phenomenon, and also kind of Sandor–if the Hound’s only desire for all those years was to kill his brother, he did a really bad job of maximizing his expected utility.

    • Plumber says:

      As a depiction of war the episode worked.

      It’s a shame they were saddled with these legacy characters though, they really detracted from what was shown, most of the dialog could’ve been well dispensed with, it would’ve been better if it was all from Arya’s P.O.V., or even better would’ve been to follow the mother and daughter (who Arya and “the Hound” push out of the way as they desperately try to get into the Red Keep, start with them or any other “small folk” hearing of the rumors of what’s coming to the city, briefly show Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane getting into the Red Keep, definetly show the crowd screaming and begging to ring the bells signalling surrender, only show the dragon and it’s rider from ground level, then show the P.OV. characters trying (and ultimately failing) to survive the destruction of their city, and only in the last minutes cut to Arya and the rest of the main cast amid the destruction.

      That would’ve been a better set-up for whatever will be the finale of the series.

      • cassander says:

        Having what actually happened be ambiguous am not knowing who made what decisions is a really great idea for going into the finale.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yeah I agree that would be a really interesting and engrossing way to tell the story.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho,

          I appreciate that!

          I was thinking of stuff along the lines of some scenes in WW2 setting films like Atonement, Hope and Glory, and Saving Private Ryan.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I loved this episode despite some of the real dumb plot and tactics moments. At that moment that Jon Snow lost any control of the situation on the ground and the fighting turned to pillaging, the episode took on a very different feel to anything before in the series. It all had a feeling of tragic resignation. It’s very rare in movies and TV to have an all-out battle like that with the good vs. evil stripped away, so that we see the real tragedy of war.

      Other notes:
      -Kit Harrington and Lena Headey did a brilliant job. I actually felt sorry for Cersei in the end.
      -I never understood the anticipation of Clegane bowl. Gregor doesn’t talk so how was that ever going to be more interesting than any other fight on the show?
      -The music was fantastic, just as in episode 3.

    • Theodoric says:

      Annnd now there’s a petition to fix season 8.

  3. sandoratthezoo says:

    Happy mother’s day!

  4. Plumber says:

    @Scott Alexander,
    I notice that

    “Matt M for six months (10/27/18 – 4/27/19)”

    hasn’t been crossed out in the Comments thread despite it now being 5/12/2019.

  5. Uribe says:

    In Defense of Trolls

    I think this is one of the greatest blogs ever, and love that it has attracted such a brilliant readership. The open threads reflect the quality of the blog, to a degree, and I like how smart and civil the comments are.

    That said, speaking for myself, I miss the ability to troll on the internet. I was a great troll back in the day. Wouldn’t think of being one here because it wouldn’t work. My trolling style was to say something really dumb and then defend it at all costs. The fun was in the reactions you would get. If people believed you believed your crazy positions, you won, in a way.

    You can’t do that on the interwebz these days, and I miss it. Used to be fun to have fun with people. Such fun required a rude commentariat — another reason a troll couldn’t succeed here — because the ruder the comments the better. It was such fun to make dumb arguments and have people not only take them seriously but take such strong issue with them that they give crazy angry responses.

    That was the webz I knew and grew up with but it is all gone now and I miss it. I miss trolling. Used to be, you could do it anywhere. Now I don’t know anywhere on the webz where you can do it, not really, where others would take it seriously or where you wouldn’t get banned immediately.

    Make no mistake. I’m not complaining at all about SSC. Even if there were no moderation, you couldn’t troll here because the readership is too smart not to see it for what it is.

    Anyway, I just miss the more anarchistic days of the www when it could be very fun to troll a crowd.

    • Plumber says:

      When was that?

    • Nick P. says:

      I won’t claim to miss trolling.

      But I will say I would take the era of Trolls, Geocities, Webrings, IRC Chatrooms and the like over the current age of the Google/Facebook/Twitter borg omniplex.

    • brad says:

      I don’t see any actual defense. Just the statement you got joy out of making other people upset and a bunch of superfluous ‘z’s.

      • Deiseach says:

        To be fair, sometimes trolls could be a lot of fun. If you recognised (or thought you did) that so-and-so was trolling in the hopes of getting “crazy angry responses” then it was fun to react in the faux-wide eyed innocent “Oh my, I don’t know if I’m getting quite what you mean, can you tell me more?” style and get them trying to get a rise out of you with ever more outrageous outrage, and/or answer in the po-faced chin-stroking “Well you raise a very interesting point there, let’s dig into it” style and haul out as deliberately boring and obscure facts’n’figures as you could, to see if you could bore them into defeat 🙂

        • Nick says:

          Trolls are usually looking to get a rise out of you, or, that failing, to waste your time, so I don’t think being the one to go out and do research is helpful. Playing the doe-eyed naif, on the other hand, is very great fun.

        • brad says:

          It’s true that sometimes people can get an Albert and Castello routine going. Everyone knows what’s going on and everyone is having a good time. I don’t take that to be what the OP is talking about. From what he wrote it appeared other people being upset was the fun part for him.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah, I see nothing good in being a troll. Maybe it is fun for the troll, but not others. It keeps conversations from advancing in any way. And I don’t really understand the “fun” even from the troll’s point of view. At best, it is a sense of power over those you fool, which is a pretty mean way of achieving pleasure.

    • meh says:

      This is some next level trolling

    • theredsheep says:

      “Trolling” is “being an asshole, but ironically.” Which is difficult to distinguish from plain ol’ “being an asshole,” because in practice the main thing distinguishing you from someone who really believes [badthing] is that you lack sincerity. And basically, the joke is that you aren’t really a horrible person, but you’ve managed to convince other people that you are. Those suckers! Actually believing you’re an asshole, when you’re really just someone who aggravates others and disrupts conversations for fun! Ha ha!

    • Deiseach says:

      Uribe, trouble was, even back in the Wild Wild West days there were people out there that it was genuinely difficult to distinguish “Troll or Legitimate Nutter?”

      About ten years ago, on a now-defunct blog where I used to hang out, there started a discussion women/feminists couldn’t just condemn The Patriarchy for all the violence that befell women because women were plenty complicit in being horrible to other women (this was on a hugely majority as in nearly 99% female space, just so you know). This involved discussion of FGM (female genital mutilation) as one form of violence that women did to women and maintained and upheld.

      Anyway, a guy slid into the discussion and started off fairly reasonably. Yes, terrible, but what about male genital mutilation? Oh, didn’t you know that’s what circumcision is? So we argued a bit around that, and then it got onto rape (nobody takes account of men being raped, prison rape, etc.) and domestic violence (ditto) and while we were conceding on some points (yes, men too are victims of domestic violence, yes, male rape victims don’t get the same support) he kept circling back to circumcision.

      This was the first time I had ever encounted the idea of intactivism, and he never mentioned it by name, but his positions and arguments and, frankly, demands got weirder and louder and nuttier until it made me look up “who the hell is so exercised about circumcision?”, which is how I found out the movement existed.

      There were calls from some to ban him, and others defended his right to participate in discussion, so we basically gave him enough rope to hang himself.

      He eventually got booted off when he had failed to get us all grovelling at his feet about how he was so right, men were so oppressed, and circumcision was a ploy of feminists to castrate all men and take over the world (no, really, he went there: all women are ‘feminists’ and all ‘feminists’ want to literally not metaphorically castrate men, hence circumcision). And he was not joking about that, he wanted us to admit that yeah, basically, us women wanted that.

      Troll or Nutter? Even those of us arguing “troll” at an early stage had to admit by the end, no, this is a genuine 24-carat whackjob!

      • albatross11 says:

        One side effect of this is that in a forum where there’s a lot of trolling, the most natural assumption to make when confronted with a weird point of view is that it’s someone trolling. That means you tend not to be willing to engage with weird points of view, which probably means that correct-but-weird-sounding ideas have a hard time getting a hearing from sensible people.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Are the comments at Marginal Revolution moderated?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Trolling is alive and well on the subreddit.

      • Well... says:

        Also: aren’t there plenty of other places where you can troll? Twitter, for example (as long as you stay away from certain topics)?

        I guess the hard part is finding places where 99.99% of people aren’t trolling so that your trolling will have its desired effect and not get lost in the noise of all the other trolls or, worse, be automatically recognized as trolling (as on 4Chan or something).

        • ana53294 says:

          Places where 99.99% of users aren’t trolls stay like that by ruthlessly banning every troll and troll-adjacent creature.

    • albatross11 says:

      You can’t see your audience, and your audience may contain a fair number of children, crazy people, extremely gullable people/natural followers looking for a cause to follow, etc. So it’s really hard to know how much harm you’re doing as a troll, to weigh against your fun.

  6. Guy in TN says:

    I have an economic question I’d like to bounce off you guys. It’s in regards to non-market transfers (gifts, ect), economic value, and specifically how it relates to the velocity of money. Me and Controls Freak have been having a near-month-long debate over a variety of subjects, this being one of them, that has finally come to a sputtering and bitter end. But this one question is lingering with me, specifically, that I’ve been googling for the answer but its difficult to find.

    Let’s say I buy an item for $20. This means I must value it at more than $20, and thus economic value is created when I purchase it. However, as a gift, I then give that item to someone who did not buy it. Because the recipient of the gift did not buy it for $20 dollars, they must have valued it for less than $20. If this is the case, does this type of non-market transfer actually produce negative economic value? Since I, who valued it at >$20, have now given it to someone who values it at <$20, is the difference not economic value lost?

    If this is correct, then can an increase in the level of non-market exchanges actually create a negative velocity of money, and therefore negative GDP?

    • sorrento says:

      The fact that someone didn’t buy something doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t value it at more than its price. It just might mean that the transaction cost of buying it, plus the cost of the item, was more than they were willing to pay. In other words, they might want the item, but simply not want to waste time buying it. Even in the age of online shopping, you often still have to do research on an item before you buy it. Another possibility is that the gift recipient didn’t know about the item in question.

      Also, the fact that I bought a gift for $20 doesn’t mean I thought the item would provide $20 of value to myself. I’ve bought plenty of gifts for people that I wouldn’t enjoy myself: toys for kids, clothes I couldn’t wear, and so on.

      Basically none of the assumptions here are right, so the only answer is mu.

      • Guy in TN says:

        The fact that someone didn’t buy something doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t value it at more than its price.

        Right, but the recipient could value it for less than its price. I agree that in gift-giving scenarios where the giver is essentially just covering the transaction costs, my reasoning wouldn’t apply.

        Also, the fact that I bought a gift for $20 doesn’t mean I thought the item would provide $20 of value to myself. I’ve bought plenty of gifts for people that I wouldn’t enjoy myself: toys for kids, clothes I couldn’t wear, and so on.

        Isn’t the value gained from the enjoyment of gift giving already covered in the $20 you spent, though? Like, if I would value $10 for the item for myself, but $20 for the item for someone else, then the value from the enjoyment of gift giving is that extra $10. I don’t get that $10 of value again when I give the gift.

        • Uribe says:

          Isn’t the value gained from the enjoyment of gift giving already covered in the $20 you spent, though?

          This is the correct answer.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Just to clarify, I’m not wondering whether gift giving always produces negative economic value, but rather whether it can.

          • LesHapablap says:

            My guess is that if you just count the utility of the gift-receiver, the value is way less than the purchase price on average. There is a whole lot of bad gift giving out there since most gifts are socially mandatory.

            Does satisfying a socially mandatory requirement provide utility to the gift giver that you’d add on to the total utility of the purchase? I guess, in which case you’d make a judgement about the social requirement being wasteful, but the actual purchase has economic value.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The idea of mandatory gift giving reminded me of mooncakes. I believe in China it’s considered something of a requirement that gifts of mooncakes be exchanged around the lunar festival.

            I wonder if any economists have studied this in any sort of rigorous manner.

    • Uribe says:

      can an increase in the level of non-market exchanges actually create a negative velocity of money, and therefore negative GDP?

      If no money is exchanged, don’t see how that could produce a negative velocity of money. Perhaps returning a gift to the store would be a negative velocity of money, but at most it would reduce the total transaction to zero.

      • acymetric says:

        Yeah, it doesn’t seem like this could produce negative velocity of money. At worst, we are allocating money in a way that doesn’t align perfectly with preferences, but we already don’t do that and it isn’t obvious to me that it would necessarily be bad for the economy for this to happen as long as the money keeps moving.

      • Guy in TN says:

        If no money is exchanged, don’t see how that could produce a negative velocity of money.

        This is what I initially thought as well. But then when I considered that the velocity of money is measured as [price level*real value of transactions / total amount of money], to my naive eyes it looks that any changes in the value of transactions (whether the transactions involved money or not) would effect what we call the “velocity of money”.

        This is highly out of my intellectual comfort zone, so if this sounds like nonsense I apologize.

        • acymetric says:

          Is that actually the right formula? I can’t find anything suggesting that as the calculation to get velocity…how are you (or your source) defining “real value” of transactions?

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’m getting the formula from the Wikipedia page.

            Another line of thinking, that Controls Freak brought up, comes from the equation of exchange [ total money * velocity of money = GDP]. Since we aren’t affecting the money supply, then surely for example trading an apple for an orange, resulting in each recipient having a higher-valued item than they began with, must constitute a “velocity of money” increase, since it increases the GDP.

    • The puzzle is why we gives gifts in any form other than money. There are at least three possible answers:

      1. You believe that, in this particular case, you know the recipient’s interest better than he does. You are buying him a book that you are confident he will enjoy, but since he, unlike you, hasn’t read the book, he doesn’t know that.

      2. You have an objective other than the recipient’s utility. You are buying him a book that you believe will change him in ways you want him to be changed, not necessarily ways he wants to be changed.

      3. In order to buy him a gift that he will like as much, or at least almost as much, as he would like what he would buy with the same amount of money, you have to know quite a lot about his utility function. Your gift is signaling that knowledge.

      Why do you want to do so? One reason comes from Gary Becker’s analysis of altruism. You are an altruist with regard to him, meaning that his utility is an argument in your utility function. That makes it in your interest to learn about his utility. It is in your interest for him to know you are an altruist with regard to him, because that affects his incentives in ways that benefit you. I explain the logic in the discussion of altruism in a chapter of my price theory text.

      • Uribe says:

        4. You believe that gift giving itself has a value beyond the gift.

        I know that when my girlfriend gives me a gift it usually has a utility value much less than I would pay for, yet the love/thought expressed in the gift has more value than that.

        The value of a gift is in the emotional expression not the material exchange.

        This has nothing to do with altruism unless the gift is to a stranger. Gift-giving to friends is symbolic. I don’t want to over-analyze the psychology of it, but to a first order approximation the value is equal to the amount spent. A $20 gift is worth $20.

        • But why do you give a $20 gift instead of a twenty dollar bill? That’s the puzzle.

          • albatross11 says:

            One especially weird thing is the phenomenon of buying someone a $20 gift card instead of giving them a $20 bill. For weird social reasons I don’t begin to understand, giving a $20 bill seems less thoughtful than a $20 Starbucks gift card, even though the $20 bill is strictly more useful (even if you don’t like Starbucks, you can use it).

          • Lillian says:

            Buying someone a gift signals that you put some thought into their wants and needs and have gone out of your way to try to fulfil one of them. Buying someone a gift card is a lower effort version of this, it signals you at least know where they like to shop. Just giving someone money is has no signal above and beyond the value of the money. You don’t need to know anything about anyone to know they’ll appreciate a $20.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        As my gang got order, we slowly got to the point where birthday presents to some people have insignificant monetary value to them. A socially reasonably collective gift might be $1-200 – so what do you get somebody that won’t notice if he misplaces the same amount? Giving the cash amount is obviously less then useless. And you can’t up the amount, because part of the gang won’t afford it.

        Turns out there are at least three distinct reasons to continue gift giving:

        – the enjoyment of buying and receiving the gift – the thrill, the surprise etc

        – the effort invested in finding a gift the recipient will use – time in particular is not easily bought with money, so just the act of researching which motorcycle gloves to buy has value distinct from the price of the gloves, and is much less affected by the wealth of the recipient

        – the feeling of belonging you get when people make the efforts above.

      • LesHapablap says:

        How would you change gift-giving societal norms to be less wasteful?

        • Deiseach says:

          How would you change gift-giving societal norms to be less wasteful?

          Do like the Hobbits, and circulate unwanted gifts around (who knew they invented re-gifting?)

          The Mathom-house it was called; for anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away, they called a mathom. Their dwellings were apt to become rather crowded with mathoms, and many of the presents that passed from hand to hand were of that sort.

          Not, of course, that the birthday-presents were always new, there were one or two old mathoms of forgotten uses that had circulated all around the district; but Bilbo had usually given new presents, and kept those that he received.

      • ana53294 says:

        There are many arguments about the utility and symbols gift giving has. But my main objection is that money giving is tacky, and bad manners. It devalues the gift, strips it of the care and love, and makes it seem like a monetary transaction.

        I think giving money is only acceptable when you give money to kids.

        There are social messages in gifts, and gifts are a way to say some things non-verbally.

        If a man gave me 20 euros after a date, I would get offended and never talk to him again. It would be rude. If he gave me a flower bouquet worth 20 euros, I would be happy and think he must really like me to give me such a nice bouquet (if I like him back; otherwise it would be burdensome).

        The point of the flower bouquet, and many other such gifts, is that it’s not fungible. The bouquet says that the man values his date’s presence in at least the 20 euros he’s willing to spend, but it doesn’t imply that he is buying her presence for the 20 euros, because the woman is not getting 20 euros.

        In any friendship where the economic levels are vastly different, a gift of money will offend the person who has less, because they can’t reciprocate, and it makes it seem as if their friendship is for sale.

        A poor person can spend the time researching the nicest gift they can make for their budget, and compensate the lack of money by making a really really nice gift.

        A rich person can just go to the ATM, and stuff the approppriate amount of money in a cash envelope.

        It just doesn’t seem the same.

        • But my main objection is that money giving is tacky, and bad manners. It devalues the gift, strips it of the care and love, and makes it seem like a monetary transaction.

          The puzzle is why we feel this way, why money payments feel somehow more base than payments in kind.

          • ana53294 says:

            Giving money to adults being tacky and bad manners is not something for just the middle class.

            Poor people* will get very offended if you gift them money.

            I remember I read a story in the New York Times about a guy who got stuck with a flat tire, and his jack got broken. A Mexican illegal immigrant family stopped by, helped him, and even gave him some tamales, and absolutely refused the gift of money he tried to give them. I am sure he had a political angle there, but it does sound true.

            If you get help on the road, or somebody helps you, gifting money will be very, very offensive. But if you give a box of chocolates, or a nice bottle of whiskey, sometimes they will accept it. Frequently they won’t, but they may sometimes accept a gift in kind, whereas they would never accept a gift of money.

            I don’t know if it’s the same in all cultures. I know it is like that in Europe, it seems to be like that in America, north and south.

            The only place where it’s not bad manners to gift money is weddings, where guests gift money. I heard in the US they have gift registries so people buy stuff from a list, which is quite close to giving money. I have heard that in China they give big sums of money as gifts in weddings.

            *At least poor working blue collar people will get offended.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The fact that economists have a hard time accepting that this behavior is actually part of how the world works is a problem for economists though, not really a problem for the world.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The puzzle is why we feel this way, why money payments feel somehow more base than payments in kind.

            Its not actually an economics puzzle at all, a gift is both a gift of monetary value and time value. If I find a gift that I think you would spend $100 on and buy it for you then the economic value to you is >$100 as the cost of you finding the gift and then buying it exceeds $100.

            Thus gift cards are a good gift for people who like shopping and a terrible gift for people who hate shopping.

            To put it very simply a well thought out gift is a gift of money+time+knowledge but cash is just money.

          • ana53294 says:

            Gifts that don’t require much thought or knowledge (liquor, chocolate, flowers, wine) are still valued more highly than money. There are many social situations where chocolates would be appropriate where money wouldn’t.

          • Aapje says:


            It’s because a transaction is not the same as a gift. People often prefer not to have social bonding mixed with their business transactions; nor to have their attempts at building social bonds be undermined by people creating a business transaction.

            This goes both ways. Have you ever paid for a colleague in a canteen or such, after they forgot their money, where they were clearly very insistent on paying it back, even though you are fine with letting it go and indicated such?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Gifts like these are typically aimed at personal tastes, or situation specific (ie flowers to a person in a hospital), and still contain the time element.

      • Nick says:

        3. In order to buy him a gift that he will like as much, or at least almost as much, as he would like what he would buy with the same amount of money, you have to know quite a lot about his utility function. Your gift is signaling that knowledge.

        This reminds me of a plot I used to see on TV a lot as a kid: a family/group of friends is trying to get the perfect gift for someone’s birthday or the perfect gifts for each other. Since I’ve never observed this sort of thing happening in real life, I can only conclude it’s the sort of thing we’d get up to in a post scarcity future. These Disney channel or Nickelodeon characters are usually wildly well off, so they’re living in a post scarcity utopia already.

      • Walter says:

        The ‘real gift’ is the portrait. Someone giving you something is also giving you their impression of what you like. Whether or not I like the gift itself, I am always glad to know that my family think I’d appreciate an X.

    • Uribe says:

      This strikes me as insane.Who’s to say what something is worth? Only the buyer and seller. I don’t believe economics is perfect in how it values things, but what’s the more objective alternative? It’s the best estimation we got, that’s all.

      The economist who thinks Christmas gifts are wasteful doesn’t understand what Christmas gifts are about. Hint: They are mostly an expression of love.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        You’ve never received the proverbial fruitcake at Christmas?

        By which I mean a gift that you don’t want, and the gifter didn’t particularly value.

        It’s not like there is nothing to this question.

    • rlms says:

      I don’t know about negative velocity of money (because I don’t know about velocity of money) but the answer to the question about economic value is obviously yes.

    • Deiseach says:

      Let’s say I buy an item for $20. This means I must value it at more than $20, and thus economic value is created when I purchase it.

      I’d stop at that first step – why would you value it more than $20? There are many items I’d buy at price X which I would not buy at price Y, so plainly I don’t value them at price X+.

      Gifts are tricky, anyway, since there are several reasons you could be buying a gift: an engagement ring, which is meant to be valuable and which the other party is not meant to buy for themselves; you could be giving a gift of money or property now rather than leaving it as a bequest in order to get around tax liabilities for both yourself and the recipient; you could be putting the property in your wife’s name as an act of love instead of as a dodge to get around bankruptcy so your creditors can’t seize it (ahem).

      • bullseye says:

        You wouldn’t bother trading a $20 bill for another $20 bill. So it’s assumed that anything you do trade a $20 bill for is worth more than $20 to you.

        • Deiseach says:

          You wouldn’t bother trading a $20 bill for another $20 bill.

          But if I had $20 in change, or two $10 bills, I might. The convenience of having one bill instead of a purse full of change, or obliging someone by ‘breaking’ the bill for them, means I’m giving 20 for 20.

          There’s intangibles there, and while I think most cases are covered by “I’m paying $20 for this saucepan because I need something to cook my food in/I’m paying $20 for this pair of socks because my old ones are worn through and I need a good warm pair for winter” so the convenience is ‘baked-in’ to the exchange, I don’t think you can get too fine-grained on it: is the ‘good warm’ quality worth $5 to you? $10? $1?

          As I said, if I’d buy it at $20 but not at $30, then whatever extra value it’s worth to me above $20 may not be all that much – I might not judge the quality of the product to be worth $30, or I don’t want/can’t afford to spend that much on product X for purpose Y.

    • bullseye says:

      As other people have noted separately, it can go either way.

      If the gift is a dud, the recipient may well value it less than the money that was spent on it.

      However, the act of giving can increase the gift’s value in the eyes of the recipient. A gift can be a symbol of the giver’s affection toward the recipient. I think this is the origin of the idea of money being a bad gift; giving something other than money requires the giver to think about the recipient.

      The gift might also be something the recipient didn’t have an opportunity to buy, perhaps because they didn’t know it existed.

    • J Mann says:

      I think you’re mixing up some concepts.

      For the purposes of simplicity, let’s say your neighbor just moved in, and you buy and gift him a $20 bottle of wine to welcome him to the neighborhood. If you just gave him $20, he would use it to buy a different bottle of wine that believes he would like better.

      1) Velocity of Money: Does you buying a gift and giving it to someone who wouldn’t willingly have purchased the item reduce the velocity of money? As I understand it, no. You gave $20 to the store, who now has $20 to spend. Roughly stated, the velocity of money is how many times that same $20 bill gets spent in a year, but for the whole money supply. What you do with the item doesn’t affect the velocity of money.

      2) GDP: Does the fact that you gave the gift to someone who doesn’t value it at $20 reduce GDP. Again, no. Assuming I understand correctly, GDP is a measure of the total amount of stuff produced, valued at its market price. Someone produced a widget, and you bought at the market price of $20. The GDP measurement for that widget is $20 whether you keep it, gift it, or hammer it into scrap.

      3) Total Utility: Here we go. This is the Christmas paradox – did you reduce total utility by giving the gift to someone who we assume doesn’t value it by $20? Arguably you did, but maybe not.

      a) First, we can assume that you get at least $20 of utility out of giving the gift, or you wouldn’t do it. Compare if you had bought a cream pie to throw in your neighbor’s face. Even though he might get negative utility from being cream pied, you still bought the pie. This transaction gets you the >=$20 in utility that you bargained for, plus whatever utility he gets.

      b) He may get more than $20 in utility. Maybe you have superior information and you buy a wine he hasn’t heard of that he likes better than the one he would have bought. Alternatively, maybe he gets $16 in utility from the wine itself, but also some utility from the positive feelings he gets that you are signalling you are a thoughtful guest who cares about his welfare.

      c) In the worst case, he can always sell the wine, or re-gift it, although there may be some dead-weight loss.

  7. Uribe says:

    What is the most right wing theory for why Argentina is so economically stagnant? Policy? National IQ?

    What is the most left wing theory? Geography? The IMF?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Disregard this post, I mixed up my troubled South American countries. Left below so the reply makes sense.

      What is the most right wing theory for why Argentina is so economically stagnant?


      What is the most left wing theory?

      “American imperialism” (Maduro’s claim)

      • ECD says:

        What does Maduro have to do with Argentina? Are you confusing Argentina and Venezuela?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Ah, yes, I was not reading carefully. “Most left wing” answer (except parenthetical) doesn’t change though, I think that one works for any problem in South or Central America. Since I know nothing of the situation in Argentina I don’t know the right wing answer.

      • bullseye says:

        This pretty much works for any country. Even if its policies are close to what you would advise, you can still always say that they just aren’t capitalist/socialist enough.

    • broblawsky says:

      Off the top of my head:

      Right Wing: A combination of the Peronist welfare state and Peronist protectionism of local industrial interests, combined with run-of-the-mill corruption.

      Left Wing: Severe income inequality, coupled with the aftereffects of unfair debt restructuring facilitated by US banking interests. Also, run-of-the-mill corruption.

  8. Deiseach says:

    Interesting two-part video series on Youtube about the behind-the-scenes Brexit negotiations from the EU side. A Belgian film-maker got access to the meetings involving Guy Verhofstadt, who is the co-ordinator of the negotiation team for the European Parliament.

    First, it’s interesting in how Verhofstadt was insistent that the Parliament would be involved and secondly, how frustrating it was (and is) dealing with the British, who tried the usual tactics of going around the committee, divide-and-conquer, and spin in the press and thirdly, how surprisingly united the EU side was (is) despite internal divisions. Honestly, I would have expected that the divide-and-conquer thing would have worked better because of those real splits between member nations, but it’s also true that the memory of the long European history of wars and the ideal of the EU as a post-war union to prevent ever going back to that state of affairs looms very large in the organisational memory of the EU.

    Part one and part two links.

    • Aapje says:

      The unitedness of the EU supports the populist claim that a globalist, rootless* elite are running the EU.

      The latest Dutch populist like talking about the party cartel, that keeps out outsiders.

      * The ‘everywheres’ vs the ‘somewheres’

  9. HeelBearCub says:

    @bean @John Schilling:
    The plot becomes (potentially) a little clearer on the 737-MAX issue.

    According to the The Seattle Times

    On the newer 737 MAX, according to documents reviewed by The Times, those two switches were changed to perform the same function – flipping either one of them would turn off all electric controls of the stabilizer. That means there is no longer an option to turn off automated functions – such as MCAS – without also turning off the thumb buttons the pilots would normally use to control the stabilizer.

    To me that looks like it explains some of the confusion in the Ethiopian Air transcript. The pilots were surprised that the electric trim stabilization was non-functional with the cutout switch off.

    • John Schilling says:

      Good catch, and that may explain some of the Ethiopian Air crew’s otherwise baffling behavior.

      They should still have been able to fly under pure manual trim control, and I’ll be disappointed if the resolution of this whole mess doesn’t address that. Maybe that means changing the gear ratio on the manual trim control, maybe it just means changing aircrew training, but that capability should remain functional and useful in the event that some other problem (e.g. a short in the wiring harness to the yoke switches) requires it.

      However, it does look like Boeing removed an option that would have made it much easier for the Lion Air and Ethiopian crews to deal with this particular problem. I can’t see what advantage they thought they were gaining by the change, and I in particular can’t see why they didn’t explicitly document the change. Some of the comments seem to suggest a philosophy that “pilots can’t be expected to deal with two different switches in a trim runaway, so let’s take that away and not worry their tiny little minds with telling them about it”. In which case, shame on Boeing, because EA 302 starts to make sense as a crew who, from their NG experience, understood that there should be two different switches, one of which gives them back the yoke control while still cutting off the autopilot. Then, in trying to find that useful but quietly removed functionality, inadvertently gave control back to the known-bad MCAS.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        one of which gives them back the yoke control while still cutting off the autopilot.

        I think you are speaking loosely here, but I find your choice of words interesting, because when we first discussed this I (paraphrasing from memory) asked if “cutting off the auto-pilot would prevent runaway trim?” Now, this isn’t precisely that, but more like you used to be able to cut out auto-trim, and can’t anymore?

        • John Schilling says:

          No, both the old and new configuration allow the pilot to cut out auto-trim.

          On the pre-‘MAX’ system, the “STAB TRIM AUTO CUTOUT” switch disconnected the autopilot from the trim control, which both cuts out auto trim(*) and disables the autopilot as anything but a yaw-steering device but leaves the thumb switch on the yoke capable of controlling trim. “STAB TRIM MAIN ELECT” cuts both the autopilot and the thumb switches.

          On the -‘MAX’, both switches now apparently cut both the autopilot and thumb switch sides of the circuit, completely disabling all electric trim and leaving just the hand crank.

          So either switch on any version of the 737, completely kills auto-trim. It’s just that prior to the ‘MAX’, you had one setting that still allowed the pilot to use the thumb switch to control trim without having to use the more cumbersome hand crank.

          * All of the automatic trim functions including MCAS should run through the autopilot’s wiring harness even if the autopilot isn’t flying the plane.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I think you slightly misunderstood where I was going.

            Boeing essentially removed a feature that used to be “cut out the automated stuff and let me fly the plane (electrically)”. Now, the only way to do that only lets you fly the plane mechanically.

            It’s in the same problem space as my previous question about auto-pilot. It removes control from the pilot by preventing them from maintaining full control of the plane electrically. In essence, they did remove the capability to “turn off the auto-pilot”. But they did it in the opposite way, by saying “the only way to turn off auto-trim is to turn off electrics”.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I can’t see what advantage they thought they were gaining by the change, and I in particular can’t see why they didn’t explicitly document the change.

        According to the article linked, it is apparently documented in the flight manual, although I suppose that’s one detail in some hundred pages, and the switches look the same except for a change in the labels, so the pilots might not have been aware of it.

        Anyway, this change reinforces my hypothesis that the 737 MAX flies strangely, and possibly unsafely, without the MCAS: they wanted to make sure that nobody used the autopilot stab trim cutoff switch to disable all the automated things outside a true emergency and find out that the aircraft started to do weird things, which could have lead to a FAA investigation.

        • John Schilling says:

          Anyway, this change reinforces my hypothesis that the 737 MAX flies strangely, and possibly unsafely, without the MCAS: they wanted to make sure that nobody used the autopilot stab trim cutoff switch to disable all the automated things outside a true emergency

          I’m not seeing any evidence of that anywhere, and I don’t think it is a reasonable suspicion. Using either of the switches on the old -NG configuration would effectively disable the autopilot, which nobody will be doing outside of a “true emergency”. Among other things, since 2005 autopilots have been required to fly above FL290 (roughly 29,000 feet) in the airspace of any ICAO nation, and the cruising altitude of a 737 is pretty much always going to be above FL290.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m unclear on why the cruising altitude is important. Can you explain that a little bit?

          • John Schilling says:

            Below FL290*, atmospheric density is high enough that fuel consumption per mile starts to increase noticeably and/or cruising speed has to be reduced to keep fuel consumption per mile constant. Airlines don’t like either. Between FL290 and roughly FL410 is the sweet spot for maximum efficiency for a fast subsonic aircraft – above FL410, the optimum airspeed pushes up against Mach 1 (or beyond, the Concorde cruised at up to FL600), and that’s associated with entirely new sorts of drag and inefficiency. Unfortunately, above FL290, atmospheric pressures are low enough that barometric altimeters start to become coarse and inaccurate, and pilots flying airplanes manually cannot be expected to control altitude to better than +/-1000′ and ATC has to separate crossing traffic by at least 2000′. That used to be OK, but airspace is more congested in the 21st century. So the new rule is, 1000′ separation, so aircraft have to control altitude to +/-500′, which above FL290 is only practical with an autopilot. If you’re not using an autopilot (with the right paperwork), ATC will restrict you to the lower altitudes with the thicker air and the higher fuel consumption, and if you’re working as an airline pilot, your boss’s boss will be mad at you when he sees the fuel bills. If you cheat and fly above FL290 without using an autopilot, ATC will be mad at you when they see your altitude wandering dangerously close to other planes.

            So, the theory that pilots were or were expected to be quietly hitting the auto-trim kill switch because they didn’t trust the automatics, and Boeing wanted to stop them from doing that, doesn’t work – hitting any of the kill switches on any version of the 737 disables autopilot pitch control (which works only through trim) and results in a noticeably off-nominal flight that will have somebody mad at you if you don’t have a good explanation.

            * A “flight level” is defined by atmospheric pressure but corresponds to 100′ of altitude under standard conditions.

      • LesHapablap says:

        John Schilling,

        Worth noting that I believe that the 737 is the only Boeing airliner that still comes with a manual trim wheel.

        One of the bonkers things about that change to the switches: why have two switches then if they both now do the same thing?

        Another note: does this mean that the only way the crew had to disengage MCAS while still being able to use electric trim would be putting some flap down?

        • John Schilling says:

          One of the bonkers things about that change to the switches: why have two switches then if they both now do the same thing?

          It looks like the logic was that older 737s all had two switches and the first-order emergency response was “hit both kills switches!”, with some fine print about how you could then re-enable yoke trim, and Boeing wanted to keep the cockpit layout and the first-order emergency response because they didn’t trust the pilots to read the fine print.

          Another note: does this mean that the only way the crew had to disengage MCAS while still being able to use electric trim would be putting some flap down?

          I think that would work, but that’s a bit of cleverness that requires the pilots to read the fine print and Boeing is deprecating the fine print.

          • LesHapablap says:

            After the Lion crash, would most 737 MAX pilots have been aware of that? We really need a 737MAX pilot to come and answer some questions here.

            One of the things you should know as a pilot is all the possible ways to disconnect autopilot on your machine. Typically that’s something like 1) overpower yoke 2) yoke disconnect A/P button 3) panel A/P button off 4) A/P circuit breaker pull 5) activate yoke electric trim etc. I would think that after Lion Air, 737 MAX pilots would try to have a similar list for ‘ways to disconnect MCAS.’ But I don’t know how forthcoming Boeing was with all that info and I haven’t read the AD that came out after Lion Air.

          • bean says:

            The AD’s not going to tell you much. ADs themselves never do. They’re essentially containers for other documents, usually prepared by the manufacturer. I did look at the LionAir one, and it basically said to follow trim runaway procedures if the MCAS gave you trouble. The trim runaway procedure is in the flight manual somewhere, and finding a copy of that might be tricky.

          • Dan L says:

            @ bean:

            The trim runaway procedure is in the flight manual somewhere, and finding a copy of that might be tricky.

            Looks like it was reproduced on page 28-29 of the Ethiopian report here. It doesn’t look like the procedure would call for only one switch to be thrown, but it doesn’t sit well that the option was taken away.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Oh boy, the gift that keeps giving.

      First the AOA sensors disagreement light that was present but disabled unless the airline purchased a special upgrade, except that the airlines didn’t actually know that the light was disabled.

      Now, the change to the logic of the cutoff switches.

      The 737 Max will end up in safety engineering textbooks as a case study of how not to design something. How could a reputable company like Boeing produce such a failure?

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        … A light? They turned on a light if the sensors disagreed? And that only if paid extra? If the sensors disagree, you know for a fact that at least one of them is wrong. At which point, the proper behavior of automated systems that require accurate input is “I am turning myself off now, PILOT, PAY ATTENTION”.

        • John Schilling says:

          Depends on where the light is. Having a section of the panel that is nothing but annunciator lights that stay off or green unless something that requires immediate attention is happening, and trusting the flight crew to notice a red light suddenly appearing in the sea of green, is generally considered adequate. An audio alert would also be helpful, but at that point may be just a buzzer indicating that the pilot should look at the annunciator panel.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why is all this sounding uncannily like the various updates to Microsoft Office where they turn off or remove the bits you are accustomed to using and find actually useful, but put in new bells and whistles you never asked for and which you have to hunt through all the non-obvious* menu options to find before giving up and Googling (as Microsoft online Help is no earthly good to man or beast) to find out “How do I get back the commands I need to use and have always used up to now?”

            *Because putting it in the obvious place with the obvious name would be a waste of the time of all those highly-paid engineers and designers if their hours of work re-tooling just meant any idiot could pick up the new changes by simply looking, right?

    • bean says:

      OK, I’ve generally been a strong defender of Boeing, but the bizarre design/documentation decisions are starting to pile up to an alarming degree. That is indeed a good explanation for what happened with Ethiopian Air, and I’m really wondering where Boeing’s human factors people were in all of this. (Or maybe they’re just all terrible. This would explain some things…)

  10. drunkfish says:

    Scott, (if you don’t respond here I’ll ask at the next OT, since this one is kinda old), I just ordered a printed copy of Unsong. I want to make sure it’s a decent copy, but once it comes, would you be ok with me posting a link to buy it on here? I wouldn’t be making any money, though the printer ( obviously would be. My inclination is to ask people to donate the price of the book to your blog when they purchase, but that’s totally up to you and I’d have no way to enforce it anyway.

  11. dodrian says:

    What’s the best way to have a second phone number?

    I’m about to take on a community volunteer position where it would be helpful to give out my phone number to anyone who asks, but also helpful to keep it separate from the number I give to my friends and family in case of harassment, or allowing me to turn off calls from one line when I’m on vacation, or for whatever reason.

    I do already have an android phone that accepts a second SIM (OnePlus 5T). Do people have any opinions on getting a secondary voice/text SIM from a cheap provider vs a virtual number (Google Voice or something)? Most helpful feature would be auto-switching outgoing calls based on something in the contacts. WhatsApp functionality would be nice, but not essential.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If it’s important not to make a mistake, keep it very simple: get a separate phone.

      • acymetric says:

        Especially if you’re just using the 2nd phone for calls/SMS…it can be a cheapy with a cheap plan (or a shared plan with your existing phone).

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve had good luck with the Burner app — which isn’t free, but is cheaper than getting a second phone will be. Only caveat I’d offer is that the need for this sort of thing often lasts longer than you think it will.

    • J Mann says:

      Google voice is easy and cheap – it will get you a separate number and voicemail box, and you can point that number at different phones. For outgoing calls, if you place calls with the Google hangouts app instead of your phone app, the calls should come from your Google voice number, but I’d double check.

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    A woman adopted an abused pit bull from a kill shelter, even though he was aggressive to her. It took her seven months to figure out that the unconditional love of a sibling would practically instantly turn him into a good dog (that is to say, a perfectly average dog).

    “There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’; that a thing must be loved BEFORE it is loveable.” — G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

  13. albatross11 says:

    This Twitter thread makes the claim that a huge amount of the rise of the social justice media and online community is due, ultimately, to venture capitalists funding online media based on metrics, discovering that this was the kind of content that maxed out the clicks, and then a subsequence boom and bust in those online outlets (with all kinds of horrible societal effects).

    I’m not sure whether this is right. However, it tracks with another story I have heard–that a lot of the most outrageous online right-wing world arose originally as a kind of in-joke in certain online fora, and then expanded until people took it seriously.

    Societies and social dynamics are complicated. People have a hard time being individually rational given some (maybe most) social dynamics–especially where there’s tribal conflict and beliefs become tribal markers. I don’t think anyone in the world knows enough to predict how all this stuff will play out, or what the media/online world of 2030 will look like.

    • Urstoff says:

      Is this substantially different from cable news resorting to the dumbest, most outlandish stories / personalities to generate ratings? The feedback / outrage cycle is just much faster online, and faster still on social media in particular.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Albatross when you say ‘outrageous right wing media’ do you mean right wing as in ‘TheBlaze’ or right wing as in something like the Daily Stormer.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m thinking Daily Stormer, not Fox News.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Well i can say that a lot of right wing memes are inside jokes, including things from the daily stormer, but the underlying content is genuinely sincere in terms of the meaning. That website’s creator has stated on a few occasions that the point of making the content so over-the-top and edgy is that the seeming lack seriousness is a more effective propaganda tool.

          The other thing has to do with diffusing negative propaganda value. So making jokes about hitler causes people to take accusations of naziism less seriously.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right. I think there’s a general phenomenon, where the in-the-know folks make in-jokes about one-way helicopter rides or ZOG or the sinister pizza parlor or something, and then the gullable, young, stupid and crazy types take it seriously and run with it until it starts having some power in the world. Most people judge which beliefs they should take seriously largely on social proof, so if there appears to be a large set of people around who believe X, then X must be a reasonable sort of thing to believe.

            There’s a parallel on the left, where in-the-know types make some pretty nasty jokes about the evils of white men or the patriarchy or drinking white peoples’ tears or something, and then the gullable/young/stupid/crazy on their side take that and run with it.

            My main lesson from this is that it’s a lot more important to be honest and clear in what you’re saying than most people imagine. Verbally clever put-downs and snark and jokes are great for showing off, but online, you can’t see that there are people in your audience who didn’t get the joke and took your crazy/horrible thing literally.

    • Uribe says:

      This reminds me of how the Flat Earth Society was a joke for a decade or so, yet now there are hundreds of thousands of people who earnestly believe the Earth is flat because they didn’t get that it was all a trolling competition.

      • Nick says:

        My favorite part of the Flat Earther thing is still No Forests on Flat Earth.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Oh man, that’s beautiful. Gaia was alive (or Tiamat, as the author points out), not just in a panpsychic way or worse a metaphor, but as a giant colony of trees of which Yggdrasil would have just been the tallest.
          … then apparently it goes off into nonsense about an invisible technological civilization mining our dead Earth and a nuclear war in the 19th century.

      • There used to be, perhaps still is, a very entertaining flat earth web site with some clever arguments. My guess was that it was a joke, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

    • vV_Vv says:

      This Twitter thread makes the claim that a huge amount of the rise of the social justice media and online community is due, ultimately, to venture capitalists funding online media based on metrics, discovering that this was the kind of content that maxed out the clicks, and then a subsequence boom and bust in those online outlets (with all kinds of horrible societal effects).

      This sounds like “wet streets cause rain” thinking. Why was the SJW outrage content the one that generated more clicks?

      • BBA says:

        We’ve had some other boom-and-bust cycles from changes in Facebook’s algorithm – the “life-affirming” sites like Upworthy and the “pivot to video.” In all cases there’s probably some underlying “natural” demand for this stuff, but it’s being greatly magnified and distorted by whatever metric Facebook has decided to optimize for this week.

      • toastengineer says:

        Can it not be that they were saying more extreme things than anyone else did at the time, and so they had the Alex Jones-esque clickbait factor?

        You could click on the rightie saying laws are good and border-hopping is bad, you could click on the leftie saying that poverty is bad and regulations are good, or you could click on the neon-haired whacko saying that farting in public is rape and snowplows clearing the road to the hospital before the one to the day care is sexist.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Interesting idea. At a personal level, I don’t participate in any social media where the algorithm that decides what I see – or what of my work other’s see – is anything other than “what they asked for”, where that includes “the n most recent posts from this group of posters”.

      This means that by modern definitions, I don’t participate in “social media” at all, since ancient, well behaved media have been forgotten by just about everyone who uses that term. (I remember being surprised when I first found that answering “yes” to the social-media question on surveys got me a list of things I’d never been on, as choices for which social media I used.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I feel unsure about the timing.

      So far as I know, ideas very like social justice were common enough on campuses for decades earlier, but got out into science fiction fandom in 2009 (racefail), which happened mostly on livejournal– a site which doesn’t monetize clicks.

      I’m realizing I don’t know the trajectory which went from fandom (and possibly other sources) to the mainstream.

    • Walter says:

      I think this is tied in with what Scott was talking about re: PETA vs. sane activists, or controversial police brutality cases vs. open and shut ones.

      Controversy is king on social media. Social Justice outcompetes regular concerns about injustice, because no one has anything to say about the obvious, but everyone can produce a hot take on a borderline case.

  14. dndnrsn says:

    Does anyone know the exact word count limit? I’m putting together my next effortpost and can’t figure out what it exactly is. I’m pretty sure it’s in the 1800-2000 word territory. Some quick searching of the site hasn’t helped. I’m hoping I’ll be able to cut down my post to fit, rather than break a subject into two.

    • rlms says:

      Make a top level comment and immediately reply to it?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I thought of putting the first chunk (mostly uncontroversial stuff about historical background, summary, etc) in the main post and the stuff people will ask/argue about in a reply. It can’t be done the other way around, because of the flow of the writing. It’s a possibility, but the major problem there is that replies will hit the lowest level quicker, which makes it harder to read.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’ve targeted 1500 words in my effort posts; a few went a bit longer than that and went through when I posted on “let’s see if this works, if not I’ll edit more” attitude. So if you’re at 1800-2000 and think you can cut it some more, try that and see. If it doesn’t go through, then I second rlms’s plan of splitting it into a top-level post and reply. That’s what I did in my first Diplomacy game report, which worked nicely as the replies then wound up sorted by which part they were replying to.

  15. helloo says:

    Suppose some far future archaeologist find these comments, or some fragments of them, and is trying to build a picture of the “entities” and “community” that existed here.

    How badly could they mangle your identity?

    I might not exist to them.
    I doubt that the syntax and formats will be properly “translated” in time – even things like sometimes has problems displaying pages, and then my username may very well be seen as sort of a general boundary phrase for a new idea or message. For example, for example, ., desu.
    And thus, my posts might be combined with those above or below, my own individuality and existence nowhere to be seen.

    • bullseye says:

      My name being in lower case might trip them up, though I don’t know if they would have any guesses as to its meaning.

    • Hey says:

      I’d have the same problem. That being said, comments begin with “X says:“, so as long as future archeologists understand 2010s English, they should be able to separate usernames from comments.

    • I hope they find archives here and think it’s representative of the general population.

      “What is it with people from the 2010’s and battleships?”

      • Watchman says:

        Speaking as a historian, I’d happily bet that one school of thought on this would be based round the consideration that the normal comment thread round here will display awareness of climate change, a lack of ability to grasp scale of change and a major conflict (the Culture War) with increasingly fractured and inward-firing alliances. A lazy historian might therefore hypothesise that a war was on, and it seemed to threaten all our society; further, as the sea level was perceived to be rising fast, obviously many combatants were involved in trying to develop their naval capability.

        Clearly this would involve cherry picking data, but if there’s one sin history as an academic subject has not faced up to, it’s our love of cherry picking!

        • woah77 says:

          To be honest, I think you’re forgetting the significant faction that wants to fight the navies of the world from SPACE, using all different kinds of techniques and weapons to defend themselves from the problems of living in a vacuum. Another significant faction is just going to cut their own heads off and freeze them to hope they get resurrected in the future, while several others attempt to convince them to join either of the other factions because “Do you want to live forever?”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so would this 21st century Earth with its factions make better grist for a game or a TV series?

          • woah77 says:

            porque no los dos?

            Like really, if you’re digging through SSC for inspiration, you should do both.

          • beleester says:

            Game, definitely. Multiple factions with different styles of waging war is the perfect setup for an RTS. Maybe something in the vein of Tom Clancy’s Endwar?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Archeology in antiquity has the problem of incomplete data so whatever sources exist are generally known by experts in completeness but the task becomes interpreting their significance.

          SSC comments exist in a sea of forums and archeologists would likely have a problem of ‘TOO MUCH’ data to work with. In which case The archeologist likely studies and publishes the findings because the SSC comments tell a good story. [i.e. cherry picking]

        • JPNunez says:

          The fast sea rising theory is supported by the popularity of the Naval Gazing thread.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Depending on what comments were recovered, they’d know I’m not a mineral from Alpha Centauri, at least…

    • Aapje says:


      As long as the mangling is consistent, which it is very likely to be, parsing the comments should be fairly straightforward. If anything, you can just take the bit before “says:” as the name of the poster, and everything afterwards until “Reply Hide” as the comment.

      Then they can do whatever state of the art text analysis they have at that moment.

      The issue is more whether they will care about our community in the first place. They might if the singularity happens and we, with our high percentage of programmers and people who are involved with singularity research, end up producing some significant actors. For example, future people may want to research the origins of dictator John Schilling, who took control of a world in chaos, with the same skills that allowed him to dominate the Diplomacy games.

    • Watchman says:

      I’d probably be OK identity-wise, so long as there’s no discussions of the opera (yes that’s the plural of opus) of Alan Moore or Harper Lee preserved.

    • acymetric says:

      Are we assuming the fully rendered HTML is going to be archived, here?

      Things change quite a bit if instead they are having to mine mysql databases for the records.

      • Nick says:

        As long as the database was done reasonably, they should be able to reconstruct threaded discussions like these with (say) the columns comment ID, replied to ID, username, timestamp, and comment text, right? I don’t think the particular way we display them matters.

        • acymetric says:

          Depends a bit on what technology they have. Do they have a modern copy of mysql, or do they just have the data files stored on a disk somewhere?

          Also, this:

          As long as the database was done reasonably

          is doing a lot of work here 😉

          • Nick says:

            Haha, in fairness, the data for the comments can’t be that complex, so I feel like it’s hard to screw up. It’s not like we’re talking about a bunch of many to many relations—though I’m sure I am leaving out a bunch of columns like gravatar ID, email….

        • Matt says:

          Does it reconstruct the icons? By my count, there are at least 4 people (past and present) here going solely by the name “Matt”. I am the orange-icon Matt.

          • acymetric says:

            You should each have separate identifying IDs?

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I imagine the column is an email address and it’s using that to get the gravatar. Isn’t a gravatar literally generated using an MD5 hash of one’s email or something? If they have email they could show that in their modified reconstruction, or show it in place of display name/gravatar, or whatever they want.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I wonder whether people who post under what look like ordinary names will seem to be peculiar. I think we’re very much in the minority.

      How might future archaeologists parse the Reign of Terror?

      Will this thread turn out to be useful for them?

    • Jaskologist says:

      The inhabitants of the Slate Star were a vicious lot, who often fantasized about running over people with trains. They occupied much of their time with constructing ever more elaborate scenarios with which to justify these multiple murders.

      Sometimes they would even fantasize about placing dust specks in the eyes of 3^^^3 people, which our moralogists have proven to be one of the most objectively immoral acts possible.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      As a serious answer, though not sure if that’s what you’re looking for, with a lot of software, most of which is in the domain of what we call AI (though probably just specialized and very very good).

      So they’ll probably be able to guess more than we currently know. We can already tell with some confidence if the author of a text is a man or a woman, and Robert Galbraith was confirmed as JK Rowling based on text analysis. So they’ll know with better confidence the authors of multiple accounts, plus things, like sex, orientation, education, background, place of birth etc. It’s reasonably easy (with current technology and a bit of effort) (and this comment just got scary) to construct profiles for each poster and collect pieces of information from each comment. Connecting alt profiles from different sites is less easy but still in the realm of what’s currently possible, automatically.

      So yeah, it’s not like you’ll exist to them. It’s more like how good a simulation they’ll be able to reconstruct. My personal guess… your parents would be fooled.

  16. DragonMilk says:

    Does anyone have a good recommendation for substituting imitation crab meat? It was $6/lb at the grocery store, which is way cheaper than crab, but considering it’s starch plus fish paste, seems awfully expensive and quite carby.

    Context: Made my own version of crab rangoon using pizza dough that was lightly fried then baked, but am trying to think of what to replace the imitation crab with.


    • broblawsky says:

      Tilapia marinated in crab broth?

    • SamChevre says:

      Do you have a friend with access to a wholesaler? Imitation crab is less than half that price at any restaurant supplier.

    • Aapje says:


      Once you start substituting the substitution, shouldn’t you just give up and make something else? Surimi is already really crappy, so accepting a lesser product for even less seems silly.

      Crab rangoon is just fried wontoons with crab filling & you can fill them with other things that are cheaper.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I suppose the proper question would have been, what are some other possible substitutes for real crab – wasn’t intending to downgrade from surimi, haha

    • AG says:

      1) What kind of grocery store was this? Asian stores may have a wider selection, and with a better handle on sourcing, they may have better pricing.

      2) There’s a chain here called “Grocery Outlet,” and while their product lineup is unstable, when they do have crab in, it’s heavily discounted from regular store prices. Find a similar chain in your area.

      3) Maybe really thinly sliced cooked nopal? Jackfruit?

      • DragonMilk says:

        Shop&Stop in Greenwich, CT 🙁

        • AG says:

          Yeah, I would definitely try some of the local ethnic stores. Imitation crab showing up in American groceries in the first place is relatively recent, so they may not sell enough of the product to lower their price (since most people looking for it probably already go to the ethnic shops).

    • Dack says:

      All you really need in there is cream cheese, but some minced onion and garlic would go well.

      • AG says:

        Yeah, at that point, some shredded chicken or pulled pork would get you the texture of the crap bits, since the cheese/onion/garlic would dominate the flavor.

        Seems like there’s an opportunity here for oyster rangoons, too…

  17. Uribe says:

    Is it possible that some alcoholics are better off being alcoholics than if they weren’t?

    It’s sometimes said that drunks or stoners are “self-medicating” to treat an underlying mental illness. Perhaps frequent heavy drinking or smoking dope wards off depression for some people. Isn’t this possible? Perhaps for some people, it does a better job than any prescription medication meant to treat depression. Has this ever been tested?

    Consider it from this point of view. Imagine a world in which, for whatever reason, almost nobody drinks alcohol, but alcohol is nevertheless available. Wouldn’t it seem kind of intuitive, given the strong effects of alcohol upon mood, that it would be an obvious drug candidate for treating depression or anxiety?

    Or no?

    • woah77 says:

      There are plenty of alcoholics who are more tolerable while drinking. This isn’t saying that alcohol is the best choice for them. This is saying that the underlying causes of their alcoholism need to be addressed, so that self medicating in a self destructive way is less desirable. I don’t think there are people for which alcohol is the best solution to their problems, but I do think it’s an easy to obtain solution. If you want to eliminate alcoholism, making other solutions easier to obtain is the best method for making alcoholism less prevalent. That said, I’m not certain what the better solutions are, so maybe I’m dead wrong about the efficacy of other solutions.

      • Theodoric says:

        If you want to eliminate alcoholism, making other solutions easier to obtain is the best method for making alcoholism less prevalent. That said, I’m not certain what the better solutions are, so maybe I’m dead wrong about the efficacy of other solutions.

        To the extent that people are using alcohol to self medicate for mental health issues, one solution would be for licensing bodies to not require disclosure of mental health treatment, so people would be less reluctant to seek it. One source describes a mandatory program for physicians who disclose mental illness as “expensive, degrading, and time consuming.” (page 20 of the PDF). Likewise, attorneys are required to disclose mental health issues (specifics vary by state), and uncertainty about what a licencing body will do could dissuade people from getting treatment (can’t be required to disclose a mental illness if you have’t been diagnosed with one!). I understand that the licensing bodies are concerned that a professional will have some sort of psychotic break and blow something for a client, but they don’t seem worried that someone diagnosed with high blood pressure will have a heart attack or stroke and blow something for a client (eg lawyer not showing up for crucial court appearance due to being rushed to the hospital with a heart attack).

    • albatross11 says:

      I have relatives whom I’d classify as highly functional alcoholics–folks who’ve had a full and successful life and career, but who seem like they’d have had a very hard time getting through their days without a fair bit of alcohol. This involved a few times where their drinking visibly caused them some serious problems, but nothing that they couldn’t route around. I’m not sure they’d have had better lives up until now without alcohol.

      The trope-namer for addiction+functional life is nicotine addiction–if smoking didn’t cause a big bunch of nasty health problems, the only issue with the nicotine addiction would be the cost. (Vaping probably gets rid of most or all of the health risks, I think.)

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        The funny thing is that the cost is a completely artificial problem, at least around these parts. Smoking is expensive because of taxes.

        Currently in Poland, taxes constitute 80+% of the price of cigarettes, and the way the law is constructed, they increase every year.

        The cost problem could literally be solved overnight by getting rid of nicotine-specific taxation.

        The health risks are a completely separate issue, of course, but mostly irrelevant it seems. The legislative thrust is towards taxing alternative nicotine-based products exactly the same way as tobacco. Given that nicotine taxes constituted around 9% of Poland’s budget income in 2016 (taxes and prices have gone up since), I’m not surprised.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The health risks are a completely separate issue, of course, but mostly irrelevant it seems.

          The health risks are, roughly, the reason the taxes exist in the first place. Absent the the heavy health risks, the tax wouldn’t have been nearly so attractive. Compared to another sin tax, alcohol taxes, the tax on cigarettes is much higher.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            You seem to have missed the subsequent sentence about alternatives – where the science isn’t in, yet – being taxed in exactly the same way as POT (plain ol’ tobacco).

            I’m willing to put dollars against peanuts that the main reason taxes are so high aren’t health risks, but that smokers are an acceptable target – that is: the non-smoking population supports tobacco taxes (and similar taxes on alternatives).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m acknowledging that “sin taxes” exist and are based around the idea of something “sinful”.

            The question I’m addressing is why cigarettes are so attractive for extremely, absurdly high sin taxes. The vape taxes you are pointing at aren’t particularly good counter evidence. These products aren’t completely divorced from the ones they are replacing, especially as their explosive growth is driven by the same companies who are looking to replace cigarettes.

    • There’s something strange about how we use the term “alcoholic”. Take what the average Brit drinks, and have an American drink that much, suddenly they’re an alcoholic. The connotation of the term is that the person has an underlying need for alcohol but I’m not convinced that applies the majority of the time. Take your average person labelled as an alcoholic and put them in a tense, stressful scenario over the course of a week where they are constantly doing some activity and have little time for themselves. How many “alcoholics” would be craving alcohol so much in there that it seriously affects their performance? Maybe I’m typical minding here, but it seems that most addictions are more psychological, in that you could go about your business without it but the mere act of thinking about addiction is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • SamChevre says:

        Take what the average Brit drinks, and have an American drink that much, suddenly they’re an alcoholic.

        I’m surprised to learn that–I thought the average Brit drank only slightly more than the average American (from here). Do you have a source?

        • Uribe says:

          The averages may be similar, but there is little doubt that many drinkers who are considered “alcoholic” in America would not be given that label across the pond.

          • acymetric says:

            That chart also doesn’t give the complete story, because not all liters of alcohol are created equal, and also “everyone 15 and older” is too broad a demographic to draw much meaningful conclusion about “typical lifestyle”.

            Breakdown by age, alcohol type/abv, and maybe gender would be more informative. Also important (given some definitions of alcoholism) would be some kind of frequency thing (3/day every day vs sober 5 days a week and 12 drinks on Friday).

            That said, I agree that the biggest part is probably a wider range of tolerance for people outside the average.

          • Nornagest says:

            not all liters of alcohol are created equal

            If I’m not mistaken, those numbers are given in pure alcohol equivalent — that is, they adjust automatically for stronger vs. weaker drinks. If they weren’t, the average adult American would be drinking about 27 beers a year, which is obviously far too low — but an average of 450 beers/year at 6% ABV sounds about right, accounting for non-drinkers.

          • acymetric says:


            You are correct…I should have actually read through that instead of glancing at it.

            Consider that point retracted, I’ll revert to just supporting Uribe’s point.

            Well, I do think that looking at more specific demographics would be informative (25-40 year old men, etc).

          • SamChevre says:

            I have no sense for British drinking culture.

            I’ll agree–what you really want is a “how much does the average drinker drink, on the average day they drink”; having a younger-on-average population, hence more kids who haven’t started drinking, or having a significant group of teetotallers, doesn’t tell you much about alcohol use among drinkers. I was hoping someone had a source better than wikipedia (and that used a helpful measure, not the “units of alcohol”/”drinks” measure that’s really confusing because a British unit is half an American drink.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            but an average of 450 beers/year at 6% ABV sounds about right, accounting for non-drinkers.

            FWIW, 6% would be unusually high for a British beer (4% or so would be more normal), so if American beer is generally stronger than British, that might explain why an American drinking X pints would get labelled an alcoholic, whereas a Brit drinking the same amount would not.

          • rlms says:

            I think the British unit is defined so that a small shot of typical spirit is around 1 unit; most drinks will contain more.

            One difference is that Britons presumably start drinking earlier than Americans on average.

          • Nick says:

            One difference is that Britons presumably start drinking earlier than Americans on average.

            Earlier in age, or earlier in the day?

          • Nornagest says:

            FWIW, 6% would be unusually high for a British beer (4% or so would be more normal), so if American beer is generally stronger than British, that might explain why an American drinking X pints would get labelled an alcoholic, whereas a Brit drinking the same amount would not.

            Mass-produced American lager is usually around 4%, but craft brews are typically higher — most often somewhere between 5 and 7%, though 8% or higher isn’t unheard of for double IPAs and the like. There’s been a trend back towards low-percentage session beer in the last couple years, though.

            Most of the beer sold in the US is probably still macrobrew lager despite the craft brewing renaissance. Honestly, I just picked 6% because it’s more typical of what I drink.

          • rlms says:

            Maybe both! (But I meant age)

          • Theodoric says:

            British drinking age=18, and it is legal people aged 16 to drink beer, cider or wine with someone 18+ when eating a table service meal, and it is legal for people 5+ to drink in private homes. Contrast with the US, where some jurisdictions threaten parents with jail time for hosting parties in private home where people under 21 are allowed to drink and car keys are confiscated.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I drink a glass of red wine or sometimes a beer almost every evening, justifying it as being on the left side of the curve where drinking is beneficial to your cardiovascular system without exceeding your liver’s ability to process: studies say that’s 1 serving/day for women and 2/day for men. Is a man who limits himself to 2/drinks a day but is consciously self-medicating for crappy stuff in his life an alcoholic?

          • DeWitt says:

            British drinking age=18, and it is legal people aged 16 to drink beer, cider or wine with someone 18+ when eating a table service meal, and it is legal for people 5+ to drink in private homes. Contrast with the US, where some jurisdictions threaten parents with jail time for hosting parties in private home where people under 21 are allowed to drink and car keys are confiscated.

            Both the British and American laws are honored in the breach, so looking at whatever the law says is absolutely laughable.

  18. The original Mr. X says:

    Since the internet (and a previous Open Thread) is full of people ragging on the tactics used at the Battle of Winterfell, I thought people might be interested to watch somebody who argues the tactics were actually good.

    • Clutzy says:

      No. 18 minutes is not for me.

      • cmurdock says:

        Same here. 18 minutes isn’t nearly long enough to make an interesting and detailed argument about something like this. 🙂

      • brad says:

        The fact that it is minutes and not pages is enough for me. We invented writing for a reason.

        • acymetric says:

          This. I am so, so tired of everything being a vlog, or a podcast, or what have you.

          I can take in a lot more information, and do more with it, via written text and images. Save the videos for how to stuff and the like. If you’re going to expect me to sit there and listen to you talk for 15, 20, 30 minutes (god forbid going into the hours range) you better have something pretty darn good to say.

          • Nick says:

            The “pivot to video” has been one of the worst things ever. I am so glad the ancients did not have cameras.

          • gbdub says:

            Podcasts at least have the advantage of not requiring your visual attention.

            I’m guessing the issues are a) many people are terrible writers and know it but think they are great conversationalists b) setting up a camera and blabbing is easier than writing a coherent, well formatted article and c) YouTube is higher profile than available text blogging platforms.

          • Nick says:

            I’m not actually convinced a lot of these people are great conversationalists. But it is lower effort than writing a good article, yes.

            I think if Youtube channels like Markiplier have shown anything, it’s that most folks are always looking for more content. More, more, more. That inevitably means less polish on the content itself, with the transition to uploading six hour streams the epitome of this. Nobodies like us who ain’t got time for that are just too small a share of the market.

          • cassander says:


            You can use machine reading on text these days that I think is pretty good, especially for non-fiction.

          • Nornagest says:

            I would much rather write 15 minutes’ worth of text than talk for 15 minutes into a mike, and I’d much, much, much rather read it. Partly because it’s faster and easier to review, but mostly because I don’t want to take fifteen minutes out of my day to listen to nasal nerd-whine.

          • Nick says:

            The most annoying thing about listening to something is transcribing it, because I’m a stickler for getting it all right, and I mostly don’t trust myself to paraphrase.

            This method is nice, but it hit its practical limit when I did the Zizek-Peterson summary. I took a few quotes from that, but doing it for everything I paraphrased would have taken many, many hours.

        • DinoNerd says:

          I also have a strong bias against “consuming” video. Something has to be much more highly recommended and/or unique for me to watch it, as compared with reading it, or even listening to it.

          • bean says:

            There is one thing that SSCers of all stripes, ideologies and nations are united by. Our hatred of people using video or audio when text would work better.

          • John Schilling says:

            Youtube’s corporate headquarters in San Bruno is only a few miles from the sea. How long will it take to get Iowa ready for a short cruise up the coast, and where did you stash that last batch of 16″ HC?

          • Plumber says:


            Preach it!

          • albatross11 says:

            I like podcasts for information that I can absorb while doing something else that needs my hands and eyes, like cooking, driving, doing dishes, walking on a treadmill, etc. I wish all podcasts had transcripts, and also that all long-form written things had podcast versions. Video is better for stuff that’s visual–watching someone work a math problem or fix a machine, for example.

          • brad says:

            There is one thing that SSCers of all stripes, ideologies and nations are united by. Our hatred of people using video or audio when text would work better.

            This sometimes comes out in hilarious ways. Like when that one holocaust denier guy that got a ton of pushback because he wanted everyone to watch a two hour video “proving” the holocaust didn’t happen, went away for weeks to transcribe it, and then promptly got banned after posting the transcript.

    • Walter says:

      They worked.

      • Nornagest says:

        A lot of things work if you have the author on your side.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This is the difference between fiction and RPGs: in the latter, you can’t have a Idiot Plot. “They won or lost because the author said so” doesn’t satisfy anyone, even if it’s the PCs idiotically winning.

        • gbdub says:

          On the other hand, authors, even if they are on your side, will also tend to throw a bunch of unlikely obstacles in your way, give your allies the idiot ball, etc, in order to make sure you only succeed at the last second by the skin of your teeth, because well-laid plans that go perfectly tend to be boring.

          • Protagoras says:

            Is it just because I’m old and crotchety and perhaps contrarian that when they’ve got their plan together and it’s obvious that it’s going to work because they’re the good guys (and it might even be a sensible plan), I get really bored by all the last minute obstacles they throw in to make the success only happen at the last second?

    • paulharvey165 says:

      Mild spoilers below:

      Based on the fact that despite being completely overrun they somehow only lost half of their troops, I would be forced to agree.

      What frustrates me about the poor tactics is it lets the wights take center stage in the battle. Wights are boring. With the armament the defenders had (and consistent rules in worldbuilding when it comes to the flammability of wights) they should have been more than capable of holding off the wights, forcing the Night King to commit his white walkers to the battle. The White Walkers facing off against heroes in the battle would have been intense, and with Valyrian steel and dragonglass the defenders may have been evenly matched. Instead, the white walkers didn’t do anything except be useless bodyguards.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        But that wasn’t the story they wanted to tell. Game of Thrones is trying for an idiom where armies matter more and heroes less than in higher fantasy – having the whole thing boil down to one hero with a fancy knife stabbing the enemy general was already a step away from that; centering the episode around heroes vs white walkers rather than an army of the living against an army of the dead would have been a much bigger one.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Game of Thrones is trying for an idiom where armies matter more and heroes less than in higher fantasy

          If so, they’ve utterly failed. The only battle that went anything like that way was the Battle of the Bastards.

    • cassander says:

      The argument is premised on the assumption that the living couldn’t possibly win the battle. If that was the case, the night king should never have exposed himself the way that he did. for the living plan to make sense, they have to at least be a threat to the army.

      He’s right that they needed to attack, and their goal should be killing the night king, but nothing they do actually seems to be designed to achieve that. they didn’t even have Arya hiding in the heart tree above bran.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Need to attack” and “can’t win a fair fight” point to skirmishing and harassment tactics, not an impetuous frontal charge by light cavalry. And after that one frontal charge, the Living didn’t attack.

        And as you say, if the one chance was to sucker the Night King into a weakly-supported attack on Bran in the Godswood, then they needed a lot more coverage of the Godswood. Arya, yes, and two dragons not wasting their time torching irrelevant zombies, and a few squadrons of Dothraki cavalry in reserve, and a prearranged signal to summon those reserves, and delaying obstacles and traps, and a spider hole for Bran to crawl into that the Night King would have to work at prying him out of, etc.

        Beyond that, if there’s a transcript I’ll read it, otherwise this guy’s got the wrong format for whatever case he’s trying to make.

        • Clutzy says:

          I agree with this. Partially. The idea of baiting in the Knight King is valid. To do that you have to demonstrate that his wights are useless.

          The only method for doing this is Fire Trebuchets behind walls/trenches/treval de frises with dragons protected by infantry behind a fire trench. So, you make a fire trench. You shoot lots of fire artillery into the wights until they get to fire trench. You torch it and they all die. then if they try to get past the trench you burn them with dragons and do an orderly retreat to trench 2 (all the trenches you can make should have siege machines with fire and various fire traps to activate on retreat). Repeat up to the Walls of Winterfell. The primary purpose of calvalry here should be as harassers/archers to prevent excessive flanking which would nullify lines of defense too early before dragonfire can burn wights.

          This is how you draw out the Night King. The proposed plan is 100% idiotic. The Night King only lost because of pure arrogance, and hes basically a robot as far as we know.

          • John Schilling says:

            I agree with this. Partially. The idea of baiting in the Knight King is valid. To do that you have to demonstrate that his wights are useless.

            The story indicated that the Night King could be most effectively baited by just dangling the Three-Eyed Raven somewhere within reach, which is pure mythobabble but OK part of the premise so we’ll buy it. But in that context, wights are not useless. They can at very least be used as meat shields against anyone who tries to interfere as the Night King moves against Bran, and possibly a large force of Wights under lesser Walker command could have been tasked with delivering a hogtied Raven to a Night King safely in the rear.

            To win, the Living needed to convince the Night King that his Zombie Horde was more useful somewhere else than in accompanying him while he went after Bran. And ideally annoy and provoke him to the point of not thinking straight in the process. Deploying the Living army in a manner tough enough to require the full attention of a Zombie Horde to overcome but offensive enough that it can’t be ignored, is a good approach for that.

            I’ll give the Living and their writers credit for at least a clumsy attempt at the first part of that. But if their only offensive plan was the Dothraki frontal assault, that’s a bad plan.

        • albatross11 says:

          I just remember Sansa asking the obvious question about how they were going to feed this giant army Dany had brought north, and thinking “Don’t worry, after the impending battle you won’t have so many mouths to feed.”

    • gbdub says:

      Here’s an article discussing the tactics from Robert Farley at Slate.

      I think Farley makes some decent points addressing some of the most common complaints about Team Living’s tactics (many of which John Schilling laid out well in the last thread on the episode).

      The Dothraki charge was heavily criticized, and Farley doesn’t fully excuse this but makes a couple of partial rebuttals. He raises an interesting possibility that a frontal charge with cavalry against undisciplined troops could have been an effective way to punch through to the leadership (the White Walkers) and decapitate the army, a la Alexander at Gaugamela. Farley does note that the best thing to do with the Dothraki would have been to use them for hit and run skirmishing against the dead in the days leading up to the main assault, but this could have exposed them to devastating attacks from Viserion.

      As for the use of dragons, Farley argues they were hampered by knowledge of the Dead’s effective anti-dragon weaponry and the need to preserve the dragons for use directly against the Night King. Of course Qnal orvat fzneg nobhg nagv-qentba jrncbaf jnf qrohaxrq cerggl uneq va gur ynfg rcvfbqr, ohg znlor Wba jnf erfcbafvoyr sbe guvf ovg bs gur cyna. The Living were also in a position where the Night King hitting Winterfell with dragon fire would have been devastating, so they had to keep close in to defend until he was on the field. And of course the blizzard was an unexpected factor that put a wrench in the works.

      In general, I think the living overestimated the degree to which their fire and dragon glass weapons would turn the Dead into basically just a very large but undisciplined mob. In reality, the reasons that shock cavalry and disciplined heavy infantry tend to tear up mob infantry is because of psychological factors – but the dead don’t run, and were quite willing to throw themselves into the fight as a devastating and overwhelming zombie wall. Jon didn’t learn the right lessons from Hardhome – the dead weren’t just numerous and immune to plain steel, but a fundamentally different foe.

      • proyas says:

        We should be clear here about Team Alive’s strategy; it needed to induce a fight in order to avoid the threat of a prolonged siege. With horses, dragons, and lots of infantry, Team Alive would consume food at a much greater rate than Team Dead, which, uniquely among fighting forces, wouldn’t consume food at all.

        The problem with this is that, had Team Dead formed a big circle around Winterfell for a siege, Team Alive could have torched it or blown wide holes in its ranks with the dragons. A siege also would have taken a few weeks to succeed, giving Team Alive many chances to fit during the daytime on various days.

        Also, why would anyone assume Team Dead would try siege tactics? Did they ever do that before?

      • The Nybbler says:

        At the time of the Dothraki charge, Team Living didn’t know where the White Walkers were. If they wanted to use the Dothraki as a decapitation force, then once they located the White Walkers, they should have blasted a lane through the wights with a dragon (or artillery, but their artillery was not effective enough for that) at a point outside likely ice-spear-throwing range. A blind frontal assault supported by inadequate artillery wasn’t smart at all.

        Team Alive didn’t actually have to worry about a prolonged siege, since they had reliable intelligence that the Night King was definitely going to take a shot at the Three-Eyed Raven as soon as he could. You’d think Death would be more patient.

        Team Dead’s tactics weren’t great either. But there were lot of dead, they never have morale problems, and they’re quite replaceable. The biggest mistake was that they knew they had a serious Achilles Heel: lose the Night King, the war is lost. So by all rights the Night King should have simply stayed in the rear. Either have the wights finish off everyone else first and walk in and kill Brandon unopposed, or send in some of the White Walkers (preferably some who haven’t raised a lot of wights) to kidnap Bran and bring him to the Night King. After searching him for dragonglass and/or Valerian steel.

  19. Well... says:

    In psychology, what is the favorite term-of-art for the behavior of going against received expectations of oneself?

    For example, a black teenager who grows up hearing that black teenagers are scary/antisocial/criminal/etc. and so he rebels against this stereotype by making himself approachable/friendly/productive/studious/etc.

    Or for another example, a white computer programmer who is on a team developing a facial recognition algorithm and knows there is an expectation that because of his unchecked privilege he will only feed it a learning input dataset (or whatever it’s called) that includes white faces, so he makes sure to introduce a dataset in which a racially diverse set of faces are well-represented.

    To restate: in psychology, what is the term for the behavior the people in these examples are displaying? (Bonus points for links to abstracts/papers in which the term is operationalized.)

    • rlms says:

      Sounds more or less like “reactance” (found by reading the Wikipedia page for reverse psychology).

      • Well... says:

        That could be it, although from perusing Google Scholar it sounds like reactance is something people do sort of automatically in response to a perceived trespass upon their freedom/independence; I’m interested in times when people make a more deliberate choice to contradict expectations of or stereotypes about themselves, arising more from a personal tendency to be deliberate and independent. (Maybe I’m wrong and reactance still describes this?)

        • J Mann says:

          There’s also the Legally Blonde/Any Martin Lawrence movie where you lean way in to the stereotype just to stick it in the eye of the person judging you when you show that you are also a better lawyer/cop/whatever than they are.

      • Well... says:

        OK, confirming now:

        If someone who selects the most contrarian answers to these questions is meant to be demonstrating “reactance”, then reactance is not what I’m looking for. (Besides, it seems like a truly “reactant” (?) person would Lizardman a test like this.)

    • acymetric says:

      Is there a reason psychology would have a specific name for this?

      Consciously avoiding stereotypes is probably how I would word it. I don’t think reactance is right.

      • Well... says:

        Is there a reason psychology would have a specific name for this?

        It might not, in which case I’d hope a psychologist or psychiatrist who reads this blog (surely there must be some, right?) will speak up and say:

        “[Here is an accurate picture of my credentials as “someone who would know whether psychology has a specific name for this”, and] as far as I know, we don’t have a specific name for this.”

        • albatross11 says:

          You’re basically asking for the opposite of stereotype threat, right? Where being told “girls can’t code” makes you say “I’ll show you bastards who can code.”

    • Aapje says:


    • AG says:


  20. Randy M says:

    I watched a bad movie last night, and you get to read me rant about it.

    I don’t mean bad directing or cinematography or other movie words that I couldn’t define or judge well. No, morally bad, or at least tonally dissonant. It was moderately interesting, at least, and I’m not actually disrecommending it, though I don’t hesitate to spoil it here.

    The movie was Andover, which I saw according to my custom of watching quirky sci-fi movies on Amazon when my wife is gone, usually things having to do with memory or time-travel. Andover is about cloning. It’s kind of science-fiction; the technology hand-waved at best and there isn’t any discussion of the wider impact of the novel technology, in this case cloning, but the plot does require the sci-fi element.
    The main character is a geneticist who loses his wife, and so he decides to clone her in secret, which he apparently has the facilities to do at his university job. Hi-jinks ensue.

    Which is the problem. The ensuing plot would work fine as a dark examination of grief, or a horror movie. But it plays out like a romantic comedy with an unusually high body count.

    Smartly enough, the clones don’t emerge fully grown from the clone vat, but as babies. And since the protagonist is looking to slot his wife back into her old role, he gives the clone accelerated growth. First clone dies in a matter of minutes because he overshoots the growth and forgets to turn it off. Oops!

    Second clone, he apparently dials that in better, and gets one that he can raise as a daughter in an ambiguously short time. After she zooms into her adulthood, he discovers that he has paternal feelings for her.

    Well, duh genius! What did you expect? I don’t recall what happened to that clone; maybe she got hit by a convenient car or else he let her age into an early death. But the cavalcade of clone death carries on, undeterred.

    The next clone his assistant raises so he doesn’t have these feelings, but strangely this woman doesn’t accept her destiny of being given to a stranger as a bride–this isn’t surprising, since emotionally she should be a few weeks old. She may have the brain development of an adult, but she’s had the experiences of a couple scenes (and no other character ages appreciably throughout the film). This clone has the courtesy of slitting her wrists, and soon there’s another urn in the attic.
    This is where I acknowledge that the film could well be saying the character is being driven to rash behavior by his grief, and we aren’t supposed to root for him. Or else it is a dark comedy. But the tone doesn’t line up with these interpretations, imo. It plays it more like a rom com. He’ll get the girl, he just has to figure out how to ask her!

    He realizes that he needs to raise the clones exactly like the wife was raised if he wants her to come out like his wife was and thus be amenable to falling in love with him. Well congratulations on not being a bio-determinist straw-man, but besides the laughably short list of her life events–a few notes scrawled on one sheet of a legal pad–there’s the obvious and glaring problem that his wife didn’t under go accelerated aging. Even if you posit that that could happen without trauma, it’s a far more radical departure from her childhood than “didn’t have braces” or “didn’t have a prom”! But the movie doesn’t even lampshade this.

    Speaking of “doesn’t have a prom”, the next clone gets to relive the prom of her (is there an english word for this relationship?) original self. With the same man, who conveniently never got over her. Guess what? Of course this time she falls in love and doesn’t want to leave him. So the protagonist proceeds to blackmail the rapidly aging woman into coming back to him or else die of old age in a few days. She refuses, and dies. Another urn in the attic.

    Remember, these are the recreations of the woman he loves so much he can’t let her go. But he’s okay seeing them age to death before his eyes, over and over again.

    Bah, I’m not going to detail every other plot point, such as the casual murder and replacement of the insurance investigator, or his assistant cloning him and attempting to seduce the very childlike version of the main character. In the end, he realizes his happiness lies in being with the assistant and he shouldn’t try to cheat death any more, the last surviving clone goes off with the clone of him, and they all live happily every after. No comeuppance–or even acknowledgement of casually throwing away all those lives.

    So, as a reward for reading this nonsense, a question for you–what book or movie best handles the ethics of cloning, acknowledging them as human beings that deserve protection and equal rights? Or alternatively, convince me they aren’t and don’t.

    • J Mann says:

      I take your word for how the movie reads when played, but on paper, I don’t see how the movie you describe could be anything other than a dark comedy. It sounds like it should be played as a double-bill with The Reanimator.

      • acymetric says:

        Right, this sounds like it definitely had to be a dark comedy take on romantic comedies. Keep in mind a dark comedy isn’t necessarily grim. In fact, the unnaturally upbeat nature in the face of what ought to be incredibly dark material is…kind of the whole thing isn’t it?

      • Randy M says:

        I’ll assume it was meant to be a surface level comedy that turned disturbing when you think about it, but failed to be thought provoking or funny enough to justify it.

        Usually there’s some kind of tell that the film maker is in on the joke, but it comes off as “he got rather carried away, but isn’t it sweet, and it’s not like anyone really got hurt, because clones with short life expectancy aren’t people, except that the entire premise is that he can use cloning to get one specific person back.”* I’d think it was trying to say something about abortion or reproductive technology or something if the message wasn’t so muddled. And it was far from a realistic depiction of what the average person would think in that situation–unless we’ve gotten much more crass about dying bodies.

        Here’s how a USA today reviewer described it:

        It’s not particularly funny, the romantic aspects are just creepy and off-putting, the plot is disjointed and, above all else, the whole enterprise is tone-deaf.

        Pretty similar to how I found it. Also this:

        SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: “Andover” is just good enough that and audience may or may not be able to overlook how thoroughly misguided it is at a fairly fundamental level, to the point where it’s actually kind of impressive how precisely writer/director Scott Perlman finds the no-man’s-land between a deliberately heightened dark comedy and hiding from the cruelty of the premise. It’s hard to recommend despite getting frequent laughs, and probably needs to hit a viewer just right to work at all…. It can work and often does, but a lot of viewers will quite reasonably wonder why the filmmakers want them to like these people.

        *We should have a quotation mark that signifies a paraphrase. That wasn’t an actual quote.

    • Walter says:

      As always, the answer lies in the works of Arnold schwarzenegger. You need to watch The Sixth Day.

      The above is facetious of course, but it honestly sounds better than the movie you are describing.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m not going to say bad or good movie qua movie, but I did enjoy articulating the dissonance even if I’m not sure whether or not it was intentional.

    • John Schilling says:

      Parts of the Vorkosigan saga, starting with Brothers in Arms, get this about right. Miles Vorkosigan was born the son of a high-ranking hereditary nobleman of the Barrayaran Empire, so a group of anti-Barrayaran extremists took a chance and commissioned an illicit clone to exploit any opportunities that might show up a decade or two later. No magic insta-grow clone-babies here; they only get to be adults the hard way. The very hard way in clone-Miles’s case, because actual-Miles undergoes experiences like a crippling biological warfare attack in infancy that have to be duplicated if the clone is to pass. Plus being raised and trained from birth as a one-trick expendable secret agent for a group of fanatics.

      Completely independently (and several books earler), actual-Miles rebels against and then reconciles himself with his hereditary destiny in ways that would be awkward to explain in polite company So he invents the alter ego of “Admiral Naismith”, a cloned duplicate raised to impersonate Miles but rebelled against his handlers and took up as a mercenary adventurer. All the stuff that can’t be admitted to but can’t be covered up, “Admiral Naismith” did that. Anything the Barrayaran Empire needs doing but a proper Vor lord can’t be seen doing, “Admiral Naismith” can get that done. So there’s plenty of entertaining wackiness when clone-Miles shows up at the same time that actual-Miles is switching between his two identities as part of an intrigue.

      But there’s also the bit where clone-Miles has the genetic predisposition to rebel against and then reconcile with his assigned destiny. And the bit where actual-Miles responds to this with a quite proper “Holy crap, I have a twin brother who has been horribly abused“. Enter Mark Vorkosigan, as an accepted member of the family but with no easy path to recover from everything he has been through to get there. Does things like gorge himself to obesity because Miles is a skinny guy and Mark is Not Miles.

      • Randy M says:

        He pretended to be his own clone, then met the clone of himself he was unwittingly pretending to be. Nice.

        Reminds me of Cable, the Marvel X-men characters, son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey who was taken to the future to be raised, because he was infected with an engineered disease that was slowly turning his flesh into metal by an immortal villain. A clone of infant Cable was made in case the original died, but it was captured by that immortal villain and raised as his son; he became the villain Genesis.
        Cyclops and the real Jean Grey, after marrying, were mentally taken to the future and placed into cloned bodies of their closest descendants (which doesn’t make a lot of sense, as without significant inbreeding, after a millennia, no descendant is terribly close) to raise their son.

        That’s needlessly complex in a comic book fashion, and does take the unfortunate tack of having all the clones turn out to be villains or disposable. But it probably takes the award for the most mentions of clone needed in a character’s origin story.

      • albatross11 says:


        Also, watching Mark interact with Cordelia, Aral, Ivan, Simon, and the Koudelka girls is fun.

        • LHN says:

          Early-to-mid-career Bujold had an amazing talent for taking plot devices that really should be just ridiculous (teenaged Miles fast-talks his way into running a professional mercenary organization– twice; Miles gets captured and just happens to run into the disguised-and-AWOL Emperor of Barrayar in a coincidence of cosmic proportions; Miles has a cloned assassin set upon him at the exact right/wrong time that it can be used to shore up his secret identity) and turning them into books that are simultaneously great fun and emotionally affecting.

    • Butlerian says:

      This seems like a good occasion for me to put forward my “This, but unironically” horrible moral theory that, not merely are clones not people, but sufficiently similar people aren’t people.

      OK, that’s maybe a bit hyperbolic, so I’ll start from the reduction ad absurdem that led me to the broad position. I read a sci-fi book, Century Rain by Alistair Reynolds, where some unspecified galactic hyperpower for some unspecified reason duplicates the Earth, and so Earth-1’s Star Trek explorers become quite confused when they warp into this distant solar system and find a thriving Earth-2. (For nitpickers, specifically it’s 2200s Earth-1 finds alt-1950 Earth-2, but it got me thinking about the case where one literally duplicates identical Earth’s with identical people.)

      So say you have Earth-1, which represents X utils, qualia, vitrueons, or whatever metric your preferred ethics uses to quantify “It is good that this thing exists”. Then you make an identical copy Earth-2. The problem (“”problem””?) is that I feel rather strongly and for not easily articulable reasons that Earth-1 + Earth-2 does not sum to 2X utils. You don’t have 7+7=14 billion people with morally relevant inner lives; you have 7 billion people with morally relevant inner lives, instantiated twice. Blowing up Earth-2, I feel, is a lot less bad than blowing up a UNIQUE 7-billion people world.

      But if we march along that logical path, that people’s moral worth is mediated by the novelty of their experience, then quickly I find myself at unpalatable positions. I’ve read esoteric Less Wrong papers which agree that EXACTLY identical clones have less/zero moral worth but the moment the first quantum fluctuation sets in they step-function from 0 to person hood as “unique people with unique experiences and all the moral calculus that comes from that”, but this seems like an obvious cop-out – come on, it’s one quantum fluctuation, it can’t take you from zero to one in Planck time. I’ve read a Bostrom paper where he thought-experiments about a sentient machine made of copper wire and you start slicing bits of the copper wire lengthways so certain pieces of the consciousness subroutine *physically* run twice but certain bits don’t, and this constitutes there being a non-integer number of sentiences. But he doesn’t really examine the moral implications, he just sorta goes “Hey you can have non-integer numbers of sentiences isn’t that cool”.

      When you DO examine the moral implications, however, I end up at the 4chan-but-unironically position that normies deserve the rope because unless a person has radically deviant thoughts he’s just a Ctrl+c Ctrl+v NPC.

      So, in conclusion: if you thought the movie was morally bad because the scientist was mistreating clones of a woman he allegedly loves and mistreatment is not love, fine. But if you thought the movie was morally bad because “Clones are people too”: no they’re not, fite me.

      • Randy M says:

        if you thought the movie was morally bad because “Clones are people too”: no they’re not, fite me

        Put up your dukes, good sir!
        By what basis are experiences, let alone unique ones, the sum total of morality? When you pass, all your experiences are gone, or reduced to mere shadows as written or video replicas of such, without your emotional relation to the experience. Indeed, I’d go farther–a few hours later, the experience is gone; memory is a pale imitation of experience.

        Maybe you suppose that experiences change a person such that once they are sufficiently different they have increased worth because they are now a unique entity; but any clone is going to rapidly–immediately–develop uniqueness in this manner. If I put a dozen copies of you in different environments, they would react similarly to how each other would have, but they would all be experiencing their own lives, no less real or relevant than the originals.

        But if we march along that logical path, that people’s moral worth is mediated by the novelty of their experience, then quickly I find myself at unpalatable positions

        The ending point of that unpalatable path maybe logical given the axioms–indeed, I was tracking with you, wondering how much really significant difference there is between any two given people from similar backgrounds? If you’ve met one [insert random profession here, I don’t care to risk the offense at the moment], haven’t you met them all? But there’s no reason to start with those axioms.
        I think you need to separate individuality from uniqueness. You can in fact be an individual, just like everyone else.

        In the end, you’ve chosen to bottom out your metaphysical valuation of human beings on this one quirk, but it’s no more objective or fundamental than a belief that human souls or consciousness.

        Appreciate the interesting response

        • Butlerian says:

          I kinda see it as a moral (meta-moral?) Catch-22 situation.

          If you think utils are generated by “Quality Adjusted Life-Years” then you open yourself up to a Pascal’s mugging style situation where a guy comes up to you in 3000AD and says (truthfully) “I am currently running 2 identical Matrix simulations of Earth-2000AD containing 6 billion sentiences each, give me 500 Space Dollars or I’ll turn one of them off”, and this goes on day after day until every “qaly-maximising” ethicist is penniless.

          But if you’re a “Only sufficiently novel qalys generate utils” ethicist, your response to the mugger is “Lol I don’t care, in fact turn both of them off because even the first Matrix simulation is just an approximate re-instantiation of person-moments that occurred already a thousand years ago”, then you keep your 500 Space Dollars. BUT when you’re faced with a trolley problem of 30 school children from the same class vs. 15 school children from different classes you are obliged to mow down the lower-varience group even though that doubles the number of deaths.

          Neither of these seems correct. But then if you’re not going to maximise qalys OR novel qalys, what ARE you going to maximise?

      • alef says:

        Clones are people too! A clone of me is of no less moral significance than I am! But yes: the two of us together aren’t as good to have around as two more diverse people (e.g. you and I instead of my clone and I). But on the third hand, even once cloned, neither I nor my clone any individually are any less morally significant (e.g. half) than you. (In general the total goodness of a world cannot usefully be expressed as sum_over_individuals( “value”/”utility”(individual)).)

        And that’s because of your ‘diversity of experience’ idea, which I don’t believe is quite on target, but points in an important direction. (I also don’t believe this line of thinking necessarily leads to abhorrent places, but came easily become abhorrent-adjacent)

      • albatross11 says:

        From the instant of the duplication, Earth 2 will start to diverge (lots of chaotic systems whose behavior is determined by exact positions of molecules, which can’t be perfectly copied/duplicated thanks to Heisenberg), and within a year or two will be quite different from the past of Earth 1. Find Earth 2 in its version of 2000, and global civilization is centered on the Southern hemisphere, since North America and Europe and much of Asia were wrecked in WW3.

    • beleester says:

      Schlock Mercenary touches on this trope in a couple of ways. Several early arcs involved “gate-clones” – people who were copied while going through a wormgate. The Gatekeepers didn’t consider clones people – they created clones, interrogated them for useful info, and then killed them – but the rest of the galaxy considers gate-clones to be their own people.

      (Although they do squeeze out some jokes from the concept before the legal system catches up. One guy ends up killing his gate-clone in self-defense, which a police robot describes as “attempted suicide.”)

      More recent story arcs have used clones as resurrective immortality – if someone dies and their body isn’t recoverable, you load up their most recent backup and put it in a cloned body. This isn’t quite as big a can of worms (since only one of them is alive at a time, there’s no practical issues with letting the clone use the dead guy’s identity), but they still consider the dead guy to be a separate person at the moment of death (since the clone won’t have any memories of whatever killed them). In short, people aren’t eager to die just because they know a backup will survive.

      Tagon gives a great speech on his relationship with his dead original here.

  21. J Mann says:

    Question: if it’s true that the Bank of Japan can print any amount of money, use it to buy real world assets, and not cause inflation to reach 2% or higher, how could this power be used productively?

    Could Japan cut taxes and just start paying its government obligations with printed money? Alternatively, could Japan just mail a big packet of banknotes to every citizen?

    • ana53294 says:

      The problem is not that they can indefinitely print money. The problem is that if they start printing money, they may first get 0-1 % inflation, and after a certain point, inflation jumps to 4%, without ever* being 2%.

      EDIT: *to clarify, it may go very quickly from 1% to way over 2%, and it may be hard to stop at 2.

      • J Mann says:


        So is the theory that if the BOJ says “any time the inflation rate is below 2% we’re going to buy assets, and any time it’s above, we’re going to sell assets” and then they start buying assets, they can really get stuck at 4%, or is the concern that inflation will just be spikey between periods?

        I mean if inflation is 4% every other quarter an 0% every other quarter, does that cause many problems that a smooth 2% doesn’t?

        • greenwoodjw says:

          The real issue isn’t so much 4% as 30%. Inflationary increases can be sudden and dramatic and that’s catastrophic.

          • J Mann says:

            The more I think about the hypothesis that Japan only has two options: 20% (for example), the less likely it seems.

            1) As I understand it, the reason people believe that Japan hasn’t reached 2% inflation yet is that the market doesn’t move for money supply changes that are widely believed to be temporary. This is the Bank of Japan – if they say “we’re going to take action if the inflation rate rises about 2.25%, are we saying markets won’t believe them?

            2) On top of that, given sticky wages and a largely salaried employed base, what’s the mechanism to get 20% annualized inflation between one quarter and the next? Are we hypothesizing that people will refuse to work if they don’t get an immediate raise?

      • quanta413 says:

        While possible, it seems like you likely still pass through the 2% inflation point to reach 4%. So it’d have to be that you can’t measure inflation fast enough. Which is reasonable, but I doubt anyone really knows where that cutoff is.

        If you haven’t managed to exceed 1% inflation for so long despite supposedly trying really hard, maybe it’s better to risk overshooting. If you’re engaging in level targeting, shouldn’t you overshoot your target if you’ve been undershooting it for decades?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Why would you have to pass through 2%? If you have a store and raise prices do you first have to raise them 1% to then raise them 2% or can you just raise them 2%? Why can’t you just raise them 10%, 100% or 100,000,000%?

          • quanta413 says:

            True, but if you control the printing of money, you have a strong amount of control over how much money is added to the economy no?

            Obviously if you increase the money supply 1000000 fold inflation will jump a lot. But I see little reason to believe that if you commit to increasing the money supply each month until you measure 2% inflation and track how prices respond each month that there should be some sudden step function between 1% and 4% or 2% and 30% or whatever. No one ever points at a model that would have this result.

            Maybe I’m missing some important empirical knowledge and countries with low unemployment, strong economies, and multiple decades of low inflation have suddenly jumped to hyperinflation despite only increasing MX (pick whatever you can change by central bank operations) by a few %.

          • John Schilling says:

            True, but if you control the printing of money, you have a strong amount of control over how much money is added to the economy no?

            Yes, but inflation isn’t just a function of how much money is added to the economy, but of how much money other people believe you are going to add to the economy in the future. And that is a function of unstable group-think, not an averaging of independent opinion.

            So “we will print enough money to produce 2% inflation!” is a lie, and an obvious one. You can’t read minds and you certainly can’t control them, so at best you’re going to make an honest guess and overstating your confidence. And since everybody knows you are lying, they’re going to make their own guesses as to which lie you’re telling, which will collapse into an end state you can’t really predict unless you target one of the extremes.

            For the past few decades, everybody has assumed that when the Japanese say “we want 2% inflation”, they really mean “we would prefer 2% inflation but are really really paranoid about going over that so we’ll probably undershoot”. They’re probably right about that, but either way they expect Japan to print about enough money for ~1% inflation and to no one’s great surprise Japan experiences ~1% inflation.

            If Japan were to shift gears and either say or do things that cause people to believe the new underlying truth is “at least 2%, no matter the cost”, they’ll assume Japan is going to overshoot the 2% target. And no matter how much or how little money Japan prints, they’ll probably see a spike to say 5% inflation.

            And then a bunch of Japanese pensioners on fixed incomes start complaining, and everybody thinks the Japanese government is lying when it says it values its inflation targets more than it does its pensioners’ well-being, so inflation goes to 10%. Then the Japanese start actually printing enough money to inflation-index the pensions, and now it’s 20%.

            Or it could do something completely different. It’s an unpredictable system because it depends on human group psychology, and in parts of the phase space it is a chaotically indeterminate system.

          • quanta413 says:

            Sure overshooting 2% to hit 3% or 4% for a year is plausible and expectations matter, but has anyone ever actually managed to spike their inflation to 20% without greatly increasing the money supply, a supply shock, or doing something crazy?

            The claim that there’s 1% and then 20% inflation even if you commit to a level target of 2% on average relies on levels of irrationality occurring in a specific manner.

            It’s an extreme extrapolation to say “No one expects the Japanese to have more than 1% inflation therefore if they print any different amount of money ever it’s straight to double digit inflation.” Up the frequency of price measurement and commit to your level target. It is worse to average 2% going 3, 1, 3, 1 or is it worse to permanently be stuck near 0?

            Lots of places with higher yet not hyper inflation than Japan exist. The just-so story being told basically claims that monetary policy is nigh impossible to change once you make a decision for a few years. And yet there are places with higher inflation that have had their inflation change over time. The U.S. has had fairly different rates of inflation from decade to decade and hasn’t had a year of 20% inflation that I can find in any random dataset I’ve checked.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ quanta413

            To sort of address everything at once-

            The first point to note is that the current monetary system is new, 40 years old or so, meaning that the lack of similar situations happening followed by an inflationary collapse (or just difficult inflation) isn’t particularly indicative.

            The second point, and the major one, is that the Fed is not independently free to manage the money supply. Consider what choices the Fed would have to make if inflation jumped to 5% next year. What is happening to the banking system in this situation? One plausible path would be

            1. Inflation jumps to 5%
            2. Interest on deposits rises a significant amount, say to 4%.
            3. A great many banks are now on the path to bankruptcy, they have large portfolios of loans yielding 3.5-4.5% for long term fixed rates, and have to cover them with deposits which are now paying out similar amounts. With costs of operation some of them are going to quickly be in the red.
            4. Housing prices might drop significantly in this environment as higher interest rates = higher payments = more difficult to make payments at higher prices. Declining prices + higher cost of capital = financial crises on the horizon.

            There are many potential forks here, but I will try to keep it simple. One way out for banks is to increase their loans by large amounts under the (supposedly) higher interest rates to maintain solvency. Typically increases in loans are seen as inflationary, taking some of the control of the MS out of the Feds hands.

            Alternatively the Fed could increase its IOR rate, and functionally pay banks not to lend, but the Fed would literally have to create money to pay the IOR rate once it was above its earnings from the balance sheet, again taking a portion of the MS out of their control. Speaking of the balance sheet of the Fed, all of the loans/Treasuries that they hold would lose market value, meaning that selling them back to contract the money supply would have a lesser effect than it would in the current environment.

            The Federal government will likewise have issues of independence. If the Fed is paying its earnings to banks for IOR then there is immediately an $80 billion increase in the deficit. The last I looked the average maturity for Treasuries was ~ 5 years, so they are rolling over ~ 10% of ~ $16 trillion in public debt every year, adding another 16 billion in interest for ever 1% in interest rate increases in the first year, and every year that inflation stays high. You then have to do this calculation over for every government contract that has an inflation adjustment to it, Social security, Medciare/Medicaid payments, union contracts, TIPS securities, etc, etc. In all likelihood the deficit would jump 200-300 billion in year 1 from a 3% increase in inflation and more each additional year if major measures (spending cuts/tax increases) weren’t instituted.

            Its fairly safe to say that the Fed knows all this, the stress tests they put the banks through after the 2008 crisis would have revealed some of these issues on their own, and they likely understand that a jump to say 4% inflation would require them to quickly slash inflation back to under 2% or accept higher inflation for multiple years and tackling those problems as they arose. This likely explains their highly conservative moves over the past decade, far more so than the overly simplistic monetarist explanations.

            Likewise for Japan.

    • John Schilling says:

      Question: if it’s true that the Bank of Japan can print any amount of money, use it to buy real world assets, and not cause inflation to reach 2% or higher, how could this power be used productively?

      They could e.g. build a city on Mars, in no more than a few years. I mean, sure, that seems impractical on account of it being extravagantly expensive to send even a few small robots to Mars with current technology, but a Falcon Heavy can deliver ~3.5 tons to the Martian surface using existing lander designs, at an advertised price of $90E6. So if you need a hundred million tons of tools and materials on Mars to build your city, just have Japan print two hundred and sixty trillion dollars (OK, twenty-nine quadrillion yen) and tell SpaceX to go ahead and provide those 2,860,000 Falcon Heavy launches next year. Since I am told that inflation won’t exceed 2% no matter how much Magic Japanese Money is used to buy how many real non-magic assets, it will always be possible to buy one more Falcon Heavy launch in the current fiscal year for no more than $91.8E6 and this should work. Same goes for everything else they’ll have to buy for the project.

      This is a thing Japan can do under your stated conditions as I understand them. If it isn’t the answer you are looking for, restate your conditions.

      • J Mann says:

        Well, I’m getting some clarification on what people understand it to mean that the BOJ is trying to create inflation and failing, which is very helpful to me.

        (If the problem is that they can’t create 2% inflation and that their only choices are < 1.5% and catastrophic, that's less interesting as a fun question, but maybe more interesting on the why question).

    • baconbits9 says:

      Question: if it’s true that the Bank of Japan can print any amount of money, use it to buy real world assets, and not cause inflation to reach 2% or higher, how could this power be used productively?

      So the big question remains- is the BOJ actually buying real world assets? Do paper assets = real world assets? Your mortgage is not the same things as your house after all.

      What the Fed (I’m substituting the Fed here because I am way more familiar with them than the BoJ) started quantitative easing they were printing money to buy treasuries and mortgage backed securities. Now does it particularly matter if one bank holds your mortgage or another? Why would it matter if the Fed swapped out some cash for some securities that otherwise would have been held by a bank?

      • albatross11 says:

        That meant there were more dollars in the hands of the former owners of those assets that could be used for other stuff, hopefully some of which was productive and valuable stuff that gave people jobs.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Not really, they are paper assets swapping for paper assets. A mortgage returning 4% vs cash returning 2.5% when parked at the Fed are highly fungible assets, and you shouldn’t expect large changes in behavior from the people/institutions holding the new money.

    • JPNunez says:

      Yes, they could just mail a big bag of money to each citizen. Maybe some of them will have to mail it back to the government for taxes, maybe with some extra money in it. Quantitative Easing is normally done to banks, but it has been proposed to do it for individual citizens too. Dunno if cutting taxes dramatically is a solution.

      I guess that the best thing Japan could do with its money printing power would be to try to attract young foreigners to revitalize the population, but there are problems there that simple money printing can’t solve. But they could do the Quantitative Easing thing to foreigners who agree to go there to work.

  22. weird_library says:

    Hi folks,

    I’ve been around the block a few times with psychiatric treatments, and it’s gotten to the point where a few mental health professionals have suggested (some more gently than others) that I consider ECT and ketamine treatments. I’m concerned about long-term effects, but I’m not sure how many options I have.

    Is there a resource where I can find more information about the long-term effects of these interventions? I’ve checked Cochrane and a few other places, but I’m having trouble putting things in relative terms.

    For context, in the past, I’ve been diagnosed with MDD, GAD, type II bipolar (which I think was in error; in retrospect, I think, and some MHPs have agreed, what was previously considered hypomania was something else). It’s also been suggested to me that I may have BPD.

    To be clear, I’m not looking for medical advice. I’m just trying to find places to learn more about this, because I’ve had a huge amount of variance in the perspectives I’ve gathered from MHPs.

    Any resources or insights are welcome. I’m also open to suggestions for other interventions. I’ve also tried several psychiatric medications (more than 10), done outpatient treatment, and done TMS multiple times. Thanks.

    • Aido says:

      I don’t have anything useful to say re: long-term effects.

      I just want to say I have a sibling who was in a similar boat (10+ psychiatric medications, TMS many types, ECT a few times) and ketamine was incredible for them. Nothing else even came close.

  23. Eugene Dawn says:

    South African election results seem to be firming up, and while the overall result is in line with expectations, there are surprises: The ANC won, with a diminished share of votes as expected, declining from about 62% to 57%. This is almost certainly because of the innumerable corruption scandals surrounding ex-President Zuma.

    However, the main opposition parties seem to have capitalized on this much less than you’d expect: the Democratic Alliance only seems to have gained a fraction of a percent over 2014, and while the radical-left EFF gained from 6.35% in 2014 to 9.58% they were projected for 10-14%, so if things stay on track, this is a bit of a disappointment for them as well.

    None of the other smaller parties seem to have gained much either, except the Afrikaans Freedom Front +, who seem to have tripled their share of the vote from .9% to 2.7%. I’d guess this is a result of Afrikaners frightened by the prospect of land reform in particular, or maybe the rise of the EFF more generally defecting from more centrist parties like the DA.

    It seems that voter turnout fell, suggesting that most voters were turned off by all their options: rejecting the ANC, but not particularly enthused by any of the other options.

    Overall, it seems not much will change then: the ANC even looks like it will hang on in some closely contested provincial legislatures like Gauteng, where it had seemed they might be ousted by a coalition. However, the big concern is that a weakened showing by the ANC will strengthen the Zuma holdovers in the administration against current President Cyril Ramaphosa, and take away the momentum from his current campaign to root out the worst of the corruption from the Zuma years. It will be interesting to see who makes Ramaphosa’s cabinet, and what that portends for the internal battles inside the ANC.

    • Urstoff says:

      Semi-related question: how does one reduce corruption in a given institution? Is there any empirical work on this topic?

      • Uribe says:

        I believe the best method for reducing corruption historically has been war. National existential threats motivate a desire for meritocracy.

        It’s been said that corruption is high in South American governments because, mainly due to geography, they haven’t fought many wars.

        I don’t know what the second best method is.

        • abystander says:

          Black markets usually spring up after war rationing efforts. The existential threat has to be just strong enough to encourage the normally corrupt to sacrifice without being so overwhelming that they just make merry today because we die tomorrow. South Vietnam stayed corrupt after the U.S. pulled out.

          Actually losing a war to the point a corrupt government is replaced might be a way to reduce corruption.

      • Watchman says:

        Enforcing the law. I believe this is credited with clearing up much of the illegal corruption in US politics?

        More generally, there’s a whole field of literature on this in international development studies.

        • AG says:

          Yeah, but if the government is corrupt, then enforcing the law isn’t on the table in the first place.

          My instinct is that “burning it all down” is the only solution that works, at the minimum in a Ship of Theseus way, enforced by an external force sufficiently long for a new generation to come up under the new norms with little to no contact with the old ones.

      • cassander says:

        With great difficulty. Usually it’s easier to start over from scratch. But if you have to, take an inkblot approach. Carve out small areas that lack corruption (you can steal what you like but not from district 10!), then try to expand them over time in the hopes of eventually reaching a cultural tipping point.

  24. J Mann says:

    A funny Onion piece about how the patriarchy harms women by making men tell them about their feelings too much, unlike women, who apparently don’t tell their male partners about their feelings and issues.

    A bunch of random thoughts:

    – Because of the atomization of society (maybe?), it does feel like I know more and more people, male and female, whose only friend close enough to confide in is their romantic partner. If you’re not comfortable processing your deepest traumas with your parents or siblings, and don’t have a therapist or a minister, who’s left?

    – It’s probably broadly true that more women have a close friend they can meet and discuss their problems with then men.

    – On the other hand, one easy response to this is men’s groups – fraternal societies like the Elks or the Knights of Columbus, or church prayer groups. (I do endorse them if you can find a good one, FWIW).

    • baconbits9 says:

      Why take responsibility for your own flaws when the system can be blamed for everything?

    • Randy M says:

      Is that what’s meant by the phrase ’emotional labor’?

      • Eric Rall says:

        The phrase seems to be overloaded. I’ve heard it to mean that, but I’ve also heard it to mean executive and administrative responsibilities in a social or household context: keeping track of appointments and schedules; identifying the need for chores and errands and deciding when, how, and by whom they should be done (and following up to make sure they get done); choosing gifts and writing cards; etc.

        This can get confusing, since the two different definitions are only very tangentially related.

        • roystgnr says:

          IIRC the oldest definition was “emotional self-regulation required by the labor market”, e.g. your cashiers or waitstaff being required to smile and act chipper even when they actually feel awful.

          So that’s three definitions, no pair of which are closely related, despite all being natural interpretations of the same phrase. I’m not sure whether the newer definitions were misinterpretations of or deliberate expansions of or unintentional collisions with the older uses.

        • Randy M says:

          executive and administrative responsibilities

          I think you are right it is used this way, but that’s a bad use of the term. The problem with that labor isn’t that it makes you feel sad any more than digging a ditch does. Administrative tasks fall more into categories like “working memory labor” or “cognitive drain labor”. Having to remember a large number of tasks is a mental task, not an emotional one.
          Okay, so this is SSC, and obviously we know emotions are mental (and hormonal); let me refine that and say that having to remember things is taxing a different portion of the brain than is called on when required to be empathetic.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The phrase seems to be overloaded. I’ve heard it to mean that, but I’ve also heard it to mean executive and administrative responsibilities in a social or household context: keeping track of appointments and schedules; identifying the need for chores and errands and deciding when, how, and by whom they should be done (and following up to make sure they get done); choosing gifts and writing cards; etc.

          Also, it’s used inconsistently depending on the sex of the emotional labourer. A wife who decides which chores her husband does, and when and how he does them, is shouldering a burden of emotional labour and her husband’s a bad person for making her do so; a husband who decides which chores his wife does, and when and how she does them, is controlling and misogynistic and generally a bad person.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, this.

          • g says:

            That makes it sound as if genuinely symmetrical situations are being described in radically different ways, but I’m not convinced. My impression is that the two things that commonly occur are:

            (1) Wife does the great majority of the chores. Without intervention by the wife, the husband would do approximately none of them, but there are some he will do if reminded, so the wife keeps track of when they need doing and reminds him. Some people complain that the wife is shouldering a burden of emotional labour and the husband is bad for making her do so.

            (2) Wife does the great majority of the chores. Without intervention by the husband, she would do approximately half of them, but if pushed she will do more, so the husband pushes. Some people complain that the husband is being controlling and misogynistic.

            Those complaints don’t seem unreasonable to me, and the two situations aren’t symmetrical. The actual symmetrical equivalents would be ones where the husband does almost all the chores and (case 1) would have to do even more if he didn’t keep track of the things his wife has said she’s willing to do, and make sure they get done, or (case 2) would rather split things more equally but is pressured by his wife into doing much more. Neither of those situations looks at all common to me.

            I am not claiming that situations 1 and 2 are necessarily bad overall; e.g., perhaps the husband is doing much more paid work than the wife, and having her do almost all the chores is actually an equitable division of labour overall. I’m sure husbands in these situations very often think it is, rightly or wrongly.

            (Full disclosure: I am married, I do much more paid work than my wife, she does most of the chores, I do need frequent reminding to do the chores I say I’m willing to do; I think the division of labour probably is more or less equitable overall but my wife certainly does more keeping track of household admin than I do. I was extremely bad at keeping track of such administrative stuff before I was married, so when I say we do it this way because she’s better at it than I am I don’t think it’s strategic incompetence. I wouldn’t myself use the term “emotional labour” for the household-admin stuff; I suspect it gets called that just because both are things that tend to fall disproportionately on women and that get underestimated by men.)

    • Urstoff says:

      Well that’s an unfortunate last name for a journalist.

    • Nick says:

      You joke about it being an Onion piece, but that opening paragraph truly sounds like satire. Granted, the problem is Hamlett’s article, not this one.

      Re the latter part of the article, I’m going to raise the point I’ve raised fifteen million times before: the problem for close male friendships isn’t as simple as “internalized homophobia.” This wasn’t a problem before gay relationships were normalized but after, because two boys getting it on wasn’t a live possibility before. How many boys sixty years ago were saying “no homo”? And this “homophobia” is going to be a problem for so long as having a close male relationship implicitly takes a guy off the market. Jimmy might love Tommy, but he really likes Susie, and he doesn’t want to give her the wrong idea.

      • J Mann says:

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s homophobia. It’s more, IMHO, performative masculinity.

        A modern man isn’t supposed to spend a lot of time complaining about his problems. I have a lot of close male friends, but outside of prayer groups, it’s hard to imagine someone talking about his problems much except for as jokes or as technical discussions.

        Maybe that’s part of the problem too – stereotypically, if you tell a man about your problems, you’re likely to get a response that’s has a higher ration of proposed solution/sympathy.

        • Nick says:

          This is a big chunk of what feminists mean by “toxic masculinity,” the stoicism. It’s what Onion is getting at when she says older boys are socialized to, well, you know, man up. I’ve always been really irritated by the term, and especially the (intentional or not) implication that men are just so goshdarn evil they’re even oppressing other men, but there’s a kernel of truth there: if the stoicism isn’t working, then it isn’t working. That’s why I’m entirely open to proposals that don’t lead to men being friendless losers who can’t talk about their problems except with their girlfriends or (for those without girlfriends) anonymously on reddit. Onion seems happy to throw traditional masculinity out the window entirely, though, and I wonder whether there aren’t better or more realistic proposals out there.

          • woah77 says:

            I’m fine with saying if stoicism isn’t work, then let’s get something else that works better. In my personal experience, however, if I’m not being stoic, it’s cause for alarm and panic. Me coming home from a hard day at work and not being serene and ready to help, no matter my feelings, is not ok. I get far more leniency to express my frustration at the world and life from the men I’m merely acquainted with than with my partner whom I live with. In my great and overwhelming experience, women do not actually desire men to have feelings. Men having feelings is treated as wrong. What they appear to desire is a soft and tender side for them to rest in. If you have feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, depression, or any other negative emotion, you are not having the desired feelings and are now a burden.

          • acymetric says:

            that’s why I’m entirely open to proposals that don’t lead to men being friendless losers who can’t talk about their problems except with their girlfriends

            Maybe the term has just been co-opted, but I always associated “toxic masculinity” more with “bro culture” which doesn’t really overlap with the above.

          • Nick says:

            When I say friendless losers, I mean specifically in the sense that they don’t have close male friends (I get that this is very much not what most folks would mean by “friendless loser,” but I think it was rhetorically justified). I think the stoic thing is absolutely a component of the usual critique of toxic masculinity. Wiki:

            toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall; this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.

            Toxic masculine norms are a feature of life for men in American prisons, where they are reflected in the behavior of both staff and inmates. The qualities of extreme self-reliance, domination of other men through violence, and avoiding the appearance of either femininity or weakness, comprise an unspoken code among prisoners.[11][12] Suppressing vulnerable emotions is often adopted in order to successfully cope with the harsh conditions of prison life, defined by punishment, social isolation, and aggression. These factors likely play a role in suicide among male prisoners.[11][13]

          • woah77 says:

            Toxic Masculinity is a term older than any present usage dating to the Myopic Men’s Movement and is used in wildly inconsistent ways by everyone today. I hear people rail against it because men shouldn’t be stuffing their feelings, but I also see men being called toxic for being angry (the wikipedia article even states that being angry can be part of Toxic Masculinity).

            The problem is: sometimes men are angry. This isn’t a problem, this is normal. By treating men as toxic because a negative emotion exists, you are literally saying “You are not allowed these feelings.” What then is someone in that position supposed to do? Being stoic is harmful, being angry is harmful. If you are having a bad day, it is literally abusive to tell someone that having that bad day shouldn’t bother them. I believe the term for this is gaslighting.

            So I suppose the real question is: when is the world going to be ready for men to actually have feelings, good and bad? Are people like Ms Onion ready for men to express their anger? Or does she just want a quiet refuge from the world with soft joyful reassurance and compliments? Because I’ve done that. I’ve done it by being stoic. If we want men with emotions, then you need to be prepared to listen to them and let them express their actual feelings.

          • acymetric says:

            Ah, ok I can get on board with that.

            Unrelated: using prison as an example seems weird. Prisons of either gender are just…toxic in general. Like, I guess it provides an extreme example of traits that would be considered toxic masculinity, but…I don’t think the problem with prisons is that the men aren’t willing to open up to each other.

          • Randy M says:

            I like stoicism, and dislike calling it toxic; I think it is a very healthy ideal.

            But, I do notice a parallel situation where I have become somewhat more sympathetic.

            Being able to act according to your rational desires rather than emotional impulses is a lot of what makes civilization possible, and an important part of masculinity as I see it. But it’s not always easy to just do it. Similarly, being able to pass on taking seconds at dinner, fast the occasional meal, and turn down sugar is a good step towards keeping weight off. But “eat less”, while absolutely useful if followed, is not often useful advice to give. And it’s worth looking at other factors at play, such as food reward, peer influence, reliance on prepackaged food that is designed to taste good but isn’t sating, hormone regulation, whatever.
            “Man up” is a good attitude (imo), but it’s worth examining society or one’s life if it is difficult advice to follow, and actually making positive changes rather than gritting teeth and pushing through.

            I get far more leniency to express my frustration at the world and life from the men I’m merely acquainted with than with my partner whom I live with.

            That’s a shame. But, to offer a likely wrong, stereotype informed explanation, women look to men for strength. Ideally, your wife will see the relationship as a partnership and seek opportunities to help you; but emotionally your feelings may be sending her messages that she can’t rely on you, agitate her, and lead to conflict.
            Possibly you can work through this and she’ll change–but possibly you will just need to develop male friendships elsewhere you can get emotional support there while putting on a strong facade at home. Hopefully the romantic relationship provides you enough other benefits.

          • Hoopyfreud says:


            Me coming home from a hard day at work and not being serene and ready to help, no matter my feelings, is not ok. I get far more leniency to express my frustration at the world and life from the men I’m merely acquainted with than with my partner whom I live with.

            Is this actually nicer for you than being alone? I don’t think I could deal with this tbh.


            Being able to act according to your rational desires rather than emotional impulses is a lot of what makes civilization possible, and an important part of masculinity as I see it.

            There’s a version of this that’s extremely *eyeroll,* which is “men who have feelings are inefficient and that’s terrible.” Who is civilization for if not you?

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a version of this that’s extremely *eyeroll,* which is “men who have feelings are inefficient and that’s terrible.” Who is civilization for if not you?

            “Me” is the rider, not the elephant. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings, but getting carried away by them does me no favors, however right it feels to the six-ton pachyderm.

            That keeping one’s emotions firmly controlled is also a lot better for keeping civilization running is a nice bonus, but it’s not why I try to do it.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s a version of this that’s extremely *eyeroll,* which is “men who have feelings are inefficient and that’s terrible.” Who is civilization for if not you?

            Yes, you are right, one should avoid exaggerating things into parodies.

            I accomplish more of what I want when I’m able to act despite anger or boredom or curiosity about what’s been posted on SSC… wait, hold on, gotta go do stuff.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Randy M

            I’m glad somebody here is standing up for stoicism. What’s with all this pressure to be more emotional? Plenty of us men are stoic and like it that way.

          • Nick says:

            I’m glad somebody here is standing up for stoicism. What’s with all this pressure to be more emotional? Plenty of us men are stoic and like it that way.

            If Le Maistre Chat were here she’d be standing up for stoicism too (it’s not just for men!). And for the record, I definitely don’t think stoicism should be tossed out entirely. My concern, again, is that close male friendships are in trouble. Maybe I should have said “if the stoicism as currently practiced today isn’t working…” above.

          • Randy M says:

            Let’s say I’m sort of squatting for it. It’s a healthy ideal, but I don’t assume it is easy or judge people too harshly for failing it.

          • acymetric says:

            I wonder if part of the problem of lacking “close” relationships (which seems usually to be used as a proxy for relationships where personal details can be shared) has to do with the greater risk of breach of privacy.

            Gossips have always been a thing, but it used to be if the wrong person gets the wrong juicy tidbit “everyone” would know. Now, if the wrong person gets the wrong juicy tidbit, everyone will know. I don’t think this is the whole story, but it seems like it could be a contributing factor.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            My point is that stoicism can be healthy only insofar as it’s not orthogonal to the things one actually wants in life. Personally, I’m a lot happier when I’m not repressing my emotions, and not for reasons that have to do with the “payouts” of doing so. The part where I’m not repressing my emotions is what makes me happy.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m pretty sure there are multiple definitions of stoic in use in this conversation.

          • acymetric says:


            I’ve said before in other open threads that All Debates Are Semantics Debates.

            I think several topics in this OT demonstrate that fairly well.

          • Nick says:

            I’m pretty sure there are multiple definitions of stoic in use in this conversation.

            That’s my fault, I guess, having been the one to use the word. The characteristics I have in mind are:
            1) not showing emotion—especially negative ones like anger, frustration, and sadness, but also the wrong sort of affection, of course
            2) not showing vulnerability—though anonymously, I understand, is an exception for many men

            This is related to an ethic of self reliance and reliability—also good things, if you ask me—but not quite what I meant.

          • acymetric says:

            My big problem with pinning this stuff on male stoicism is simply…are men more stoic now than in the past? If anything, the social pressures to be stoic are smaller than they used to be. In fact, the article that started all of this is complaining that these men aren’t being stoic enough. So then it only makes sense if somehow men are being pressured into being even more stoic around other men but not around women. I need someone to show some work on this because I just don’t see the pressures to remain stoic in the face of whatever being higher now than they were 30, 50, 100 years ago.

            This is why I’m looking for other suggestions, like having a higher threshold for high-trust relationships due to the ease with which such trust can be (quite publicly) violated.

            Or even something like: Men aren’t actually more stoic, they’re the same or maybe even less stoic than before, but stoicism isn’t as good a tool for dealing with modern stresses as it was for the historical stresses of past generations.

            Or something.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Hot take: Men are less stoic than in the past, and that’s the problem. Stoicism actually does work pretty well for the reasons put forth by the original Stoics.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the women want the men to be emotional, just not around them.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This is why I’m looking for other suggestions, like having a higher threshold for high-trust relationships due to the ease with which such trust can be (quite publicly) violated.

            Here are a couple of random ideas I’ve just thought of off the top of my head, and which are therefore almost certainly wrong, but I thought I’d see what you guys think anyway…

            (1) Lack of spaces for all-male bonding. Men bond differently to women, and men behave differently in all-male groups than they do in mixed-sex groups. The ability to bond with other men and feel like one of the boys is probably important (I don’t have much evidence for this, but it seems plausible). But nowadays there aren’t many men-only workplaces left, and men-only social clubs and societies get publicly shamed and pressured into letting in women as well. So now there just aren’t many environments where men can bond with other men in an all-male atmosphere, and this has a negative effect on their emotional connections and wellbeing.

            (2) Carrot and stick. Men in times past were shamed for showing emotion, but they were also given respect when they acted stoically, acted as a dependable provider for their families, and successfully fulfilled other masculine roles. Men nowadays still get shamed for showing emotion, but unlike in previous generations, men who fulfil traditionally masculine roles are more likely to get called out for promoting “toxic masculinity” than praised for being stoic and dependable. So whereas in the past getting respect from society for being stoic would (more than?) compensate for not getting to express your emotions, nowadays there isn’t really that compensation any more.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think the women want the men to be emotional, just not around them.

            I think it’s a matter of revealed preferences. Women kind of vaguely want men to be more emotional, but when the rubber hits the road their innate (?) preference for stoic and dependable men wins out.

            (I guess it’s the same kind of phenomenon as women who say that they want to date a kind and sensitive guy, but actually spend their time going out with confident arseholes.)

          • ana53294 says:

            But nowadays there aren’t many men-only workplaces left, and men-only social clubs and societies get publicly shamed and pressured into letting in women as well.

            My perception is more that male-only clubs for the powerful men, that bring prestige and the opportunities to network a good job, are shamed.

            If you make a geeky club where everybody builds model planes, and allows anybody who wants to build model planes, and it just coincidentally happens to have no women at all, then that’s OK, as long as the members of the club are not CEOs or something.

            And if making a club about geeky technical stuff is not enough to scare women, make it geeky, dirty and physically taxing (building live-size steam engines?).

          • John Schilling says:

            If you make a geeky club where everybody builds model planes, and allows anybody who wants to build model planes, and it just coincidentally happens to have no women at all

            But it is exceedingly unlikely to have no women at all, for even the most manly and/or nerdy hobbies, and having any women at all changes everything. Forty years ago you could post “no girls allowed” signs, and twenty years ago you could say “OK, but this space runs according to Guy Rules so deal with it”, but neither of those really works any more for anything that has any formal or institutional existence.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            My impression has always been that when women don’t want to hear about your feelings, it’s because they’ve already decided what your feelings are and don’t care to be contradicted.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:


            If Le Maistre Chat were here she’d be standing up for stoicism too (it’s not just for men!). And for the record, I definitely don’t think stoicism should be tossed out entirely. My concern, again, is that close male friendships are in trouble. Maybe I should have said “if the stoicism as currently practiced today isn’t working…” above.

            Oh, hi.
            Well yeah, the Stoics had some strong arguments for why emotions ought to be controlled. But break down how it could be harmful:
            1) The Stoic truth claims are imperfect, and somehow men are hitting up against where it’s false.
            2) Men aren’t taught to practice the real Stoicism of an Epictetus, but a bastardized version (see also: colloquial cynics vs. Diogenes, or idealists meaning “believes the material is an illusion” vs. “has high ideals, not a political realist” 😛 ) with harmful flaws.
            3) Stoicism was perfect for men in a patriarchal society with lots of male-male bonding opportunities, and never suited the average temperament of women (who gravitated to Platonism when smart enough to be philosophers) or a de-masculinized society. This is the point I least credit, but my female psychology is atypical…

          • Aapje says:


            Sure, but the men in that model plane club are not actually allowed to bond as men.

            One of the most basic components of healthy intrasexual bonding, for men and women, is to complain & commiserate over issues with the other sex. Interacting with partners and potential partners, produces some of the strongest emotions and frustrations in people. So if you really want to bond with the same gender in an open manner, you need to feel free to express these emotions and frustrations, including in politically incorrect ways.

            Venting provides a catharsis that liberates and communicates things that cannot be said openly. The text may be crude, but the subtext is loving. The explicit meaning is A, but the implied meaning is A, B, C and D.

            A man calling his wife his “ball and chains” for demanding something that he prefers not to do, is communicating a frustration with the price he has to pay for her companionship, but is not implying that he wants a divorce. There is an assumption of love and mutual benefit that is not made explicit.

            Such venting allows men and women to establish norms and standards, in a subtle way. For example, if Bob and Jack vent over not being allowed to get a motorbike, then John knows that if his partner objects to him getting one, she is not being overly demanding (or even abusive), but making a demand that is considered fairly reasonable by their (sub)culture.

            A major issue with modern society is that men are no longer allowed to do this, as it is considered misogyny, while women are allowed, without it being considered sexist.

            So the end result is that you can have (offline) spaces with men, but not really ‘male spaces’ where proper male bonding is possible.

          • RalMirrorAd says:


            The problem with *all* of these terms is one of motivation. Someone can say that they’re not actually opposed to X, just ‘bro culture’ — but whose to say that what gets said between two males isn’t bro culture if it isn’t being properly supervised?

            Co-opting is a natural and inevitable effect of different people having different motives and also being aware that other people aren’t willing to carry things as far as they can, hence the frequent reliance on motte and bailey language.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not a deep student of Stoicism, but I’m pretty sure there was more to their teachings than “don’t show negative emotions.”

          • Faza (TCM) says:


            Toxic Masculinity is a term older than any present usage dating to the Myopic Men’s Movement

            That is either a skilful sideswipe, an unfortunate mistype or a society I should consider joining.

    • acymetric says:

      This is a real issue, it just isn’t a gendered one.

      Remember when the complaint was that men were emotionally unavailable (which, of course, was also a complaint some men had about women they dated anyway)?

      • J Mann says:

        Friends covered this all 20 years ago. If I recall correctly, Rachel regretted getting Bruce Willis to open up emotionally.

        Phoebe also dumped Alec Baldwin for being too cheerful, so it’s a narrow emotional window to date a Friend. Based on who the three women end up with in the series, I take it they’re looking for neurotic, funny, and not too afraid of commitment.

        Hmm – Joey, Ross and Chandler aren’t necessarily prizes, but they are willing to tell each other about their problems. Maybe Ms. Onion is on to something!

    • quanta413 says:

      Some of these women need to realize the problem is that the guys they dated sucked and they should’ve dumped them sooner.

      Like what is up with the guy who doesn’t want to talk deeply (which is fine if you prefer that) and keeps breaking furniture (which is very bad)? That’s really, really far from being normal behavior. That was a married couple though, so a little late to easily unwind that relationship.

      Another possibility is some couples tend to bring out bad parts of each other, but it’s not necessarily that either person sucks individually. They just suck together.

      Also this quote from the article linked to by the one you linked

      We use sports as an excuse to bump up against each other, so desperate we are for human touch and intimacy. But this kind of closeness is based in camaraderie and aggression, not vulnerability and trust.

      If that’s your thing, don’t tell me and don’t get too handsy. But at no point grappling with someone have I thought or felt, “trying to twist this person’s arm is really a great substitute for a hug!”.

      Maybe some of these dudes could use pets? I’m pretty sure it’s socially acceptable to hug your large manly hunting dog even among the most repressed of Americans. Dogs are also great listeners. They’ll sit there looking at you, they don’t talk back, and they can’t tell anyone what you told them. That’s half a therapist right there, but they’re cheaper and you can play tug of war or fetch with them.

      • J Mann says:

        I also wonder how gendered it really is.

        As far as I can remember, every woman I’ve been in a serious romantic relationship saw me as their primary emotional confidant. They probably had more secondary confidants than I did (at least before I joined a men’s church group), but my impression was always that I did more therapy and offered more sympathy than I got.

        • woah77 says:

          Yeah, it doesn’t ring true to me either. I’m 100% certain I spend much more time doing “therapy” than my partner does, and have for every relationship I’ve had. Often I’m the sole person giving therapy for my partner and receive active resistance to the idea that maybe they should make some friends. Articles like this that suggest that men are taxing on their partners do not level with my experience in any way and I end up reading them very defensively as a result.

        • quanta413 says:

          I’ve been in relationships where I and the other person were both sometimes a hot mess (usually at the same time), and relationships where we are both pretty content and talk to each other often but it’s not therapy. We’re not excavating past or current traumas or whatever.

          I can believe some people keep ending up in a particular type of one-sided relationship without realizing why (I don’t think it’s likely to be dumb luck if it happens too many times in a row although that could happen). Unfortunately, if you conclude that most men (or women) are whatever way and the solution is to change everyone else, you’re very unlikely to solve your problem. It’s better to either change the type of partner you choose or learn to accept that trait in your partners.

          • Nick says:

            It could be the women are overcorrecting against the more typical problem (men not being willing to share their feelings) and ended up with the basketcases as a result. Or there’s no trend, just a strong selection effect on responses; that paragraph is, what, a bunch of Twitter responses to the Hamlett article?

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          It certainly doesn’t reflect my personal experience, either – quantitatively anyway.

          However, I am a pattern recognition machine and I can’t help but notice a marked similarity to the NYT article discussed elsewhere.

          The common thread is women complaining about the men in their life and how they aren’t everything the woman would like them to be.

          I work in a female-majority firm and I hear my co-workers discuss their husbands’ failings often enough to know that this is a perfectly typical thing.

          It isn’t even anything particularly new (that’s a 1950 vintage, folks).

          What is new is that it’s being published – in all seriousness, apparently – in the (inter)national press.

          My question thereto is this: would the ladies like to read more about what men have to say about the failings of their significant others? (Nobody’s perfect, after all.) I’m sure it would be educational.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m fairly sure this kind of thing has been the staple of supermarket tabloids decades. The same outlet is likely to publish a story about how men are emotionally unavailable and won’t discuss their feelings with their partners, without demonstrating the slightest awareness of the dilemma this creates. It doesn’t deserve to be engaged with, it deserves to be dismissed out of hand.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I’m fairly sure this kind of thing has been the staple of supermarket tabloids [for] decades.

            Ah. I can see my problem right there!

            However, that would imply that the NYT and Slate are becoming supermarket tabloids, which seems sad, in a way.

    • LesHapablap says:

      As a side note: how do depressed men or men with other mental problems act around the wife? Do they keep a stiff upper lip, do they withdraw to brood by themselves, or do they talk to the wife about it? Which works best for relationships and mental health?

      Same question but instead of depression let’s say it is a very bad week at work. How do people here interact with the wife and family?

  25. broblawsky says:

    Can anyone explain to me why some organic compounds are much, much more expensive than others? I’m specifically interested in LiTFSI, but a general explanation would be great too.

    • Anthony says:

      Most likely, the synthesis is that much harder.

    • rubberduck says:

      It’s a combination of supply/demand, difficulty of synthesis, and supply of precursors. The more steps synthesizing the compound takes, the higher the price, and the cheapest organic compounds are those that are a) widespread in industry (so they have high production and highly efficient industrial processes to be made), and b) made from a cheap or unwanted precursor. The price will also depend on the difficulty of purification, and on the purity you need. To a lesser extent, you also have to consider the stability and storage.

      In practice, you can get just about any small molecule if you’re willing to shell out for it. I hear there are labs in China that will custom-synthesize a large variety of molecules.

      I don’t know much about LiTFSI in particular but just from a glance, the high price is probably due to:

      a) Fluorination being difficult and dangerous and requiring really specialized equipment (you have to work with fluorine gas or hydrogen fluoride)
      b) The recent interest in lithium battery research and also ionic liquids.

      Interestingly, the sodium salt is even more expensive. I didn’t expect that.

      Out of curiosity, why are you interested in LiTFSI?

    • Eric Rall says:

      The first part of the answer is that some compounds (organic or otherwise) are much, much harder to synthesize (or extract from natural sources) than others. Sucrose, for example, is dirt cheap because there are domesticated plants which make it for us and it’s relatively simple to extract and purify it. Similarly for ethanol, which is made for us by yeast fermentation of any of a number of sugary/starchy vegetable/grain mashes and readily purified by distillation and filtering. There are other organic molecules that occur naturally (e.g. hemoglobin or insulin) but in much lower concentrations and in company of other molecules that make them relatively hard to purify; my two examples here are further complicated because they’re long-chain polypeptides (proteins), which limits options for purifying because heat and many solvents will denature them and make them useless for the purposes we want to use them for. And then there are molecules that aren’t produced by biological systems at all and must be synthesized, and difficulty of synthesis tends to go up with the complexity of the molecule (methane is very easy to synthesize, but a custom protein-like molecule is extremely difficult) and the amount of energy that goes into the molecule’s chemical bonds.

      The next part is quantity and economies/diseconomies of scale. Things that have lots and lots of uses (or a few uses that have demand for large quantities at plausible prices) tend to get produced in quantity, which produces economies of scale, but at extremes may run into bottlenecks (e.g. chocolate is more expensive than it would be at lower demand because we’ve saturated the areas where cacao cultivation is commercially viable). Whereas a specialized chemical only used by research chemists in minute quantities have little or no opportunity to benefit from economies of scale and research into how to produce it cheaply in bulk.

      And then there’s “what is it used for”, and complications stemming from the answers to that question. Just about everything will produce at least trace levels of impurities, and depending on what the impurities are and what you’re using the thing for, the acceptable quantities of the impurities will vary wildly. And if you need a very low level of impurities (because it will interfere with a reaction you’re trying to feed with the compound, or because it’s a deadly toxin in a compound you want to use as food or medicine), then that means you need to do more work to purify to a higher level and do more quality control (testing impurity levels, then dumping or reprocessing batches that don’t meet standards), which runs into money.

      And some uses run into legal and regulatory complications. In particular, pharmaceuticals are heavily regulated (see many, many articles Scott has written about this for a start), and some organic compounds (e.g. cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine) are outright illegal for their main uses and governments go through a lot of effort and expense to suppress their production and distribution, which drive up prices.

      I can’t help you on LiTFSI in particular, since I’ve never heard of it before today. My guess is that 1) it’s probably fairly specialized, with little economy of scale, and 2) it’s moderately complicated (not a protein, but not methane or glucose), doesn’t look likely to occurs naturally at reasonable concentrations, and has several fluorine atoms (fluorine compounds tend to be hard to work with, since many forms of fluorine and fluorine compounds are highly toxic, highly corrosive, massive fire hazards, or in some cases all three).

      I did notice that your link lists several different variations of it, with order-of-magnitude differences in prices for the same compound. The difference there is that the different LiTFSI products all specify different levels of purity and different types of acceptable impurities. Part of the price difference is likely driven by the costs of manufacturing and certifying the material to a higher standard, and part of it is likely price discrimination (people who need the higher guaranteed purity are likely to be less price sensitive because the costs of a bad material are likely higher for them).

    • Shion Arita says:

      Organic chemist here: Basically there are two factors in the price. The first is difficulty of the synthesis, which is based on how many steps you have to take and how difficult they are to execute in terms of setup, purification, availability of starting materials/reagents, etc.

      The second factor is supply/demand. If fewer people want it, economy of scale is working against you, so you have to pay more for it to be worth it to them to make the thing.

      LiTFSI is also not particularly expensive as far as specialty chemicals goes; that’s pretty middle of the road. 10G for ~US60 is far from the cheapest, and far from the most expensive thing I’ve ever ordered.

  26. Keilone says:

    Alternatives for daily news?
    For years, I have been a subscribing reader to the NY Times. I just ended my subscription because I can no longer tolerate the editorial perspective. I was wondering what other SSC readers use as a main news source or how you build your news reading from multiple sources. This would be for core news, not specialty subjects. Can you list what you read? Has there been a thread on this in past, if so, can you link? Many thanks!

    • marthinwurer says:

      My main go-to is Reuters. It’s a news wire service, so things are pretty brief and to the point. Not too much editorial stuff, aside from their deeper pieces.

    • Urstoff says:

      I find too much news to be a bad thing, so I just listen to NPR’s Up First podcast (70% US Politics) and read The Economist’s Espresso app (a mix of world politics and business) and consider that sufficient. Both present natural stopping points, so there’s no psychological question about how much news to consume on a website or in a newspaper.

    • achenx says:

      Took me awhile of trying different sources but I have settled on Reuters as well. Seem to resist the clickbait style headlines and generally keep editorial perspectives out.

    • DinoNerd says:

      My main site is the BBC, even though I live in the US. I chose it because it’s less attached to US politics, and has more world news than I’d get from a typical US news source.

      I supplement this with Apple News, which selects from a broad range of sources, giving me a potential check on BBC biases and blind spots.

      And I listen to enough CBC podcasts to become aware of major Canadian news issues – beyond the very few that make it into world news. (I’m Canadian.)

    • I read Google News. It selects from a substantial range of sources.

      • Jon S says:

        Same. When a story has multiple sources showing up on Google, I’ll frequently seek out the WSJ (specifically for news, their opinion pieces are sometimes terrible) or Bloomberg.

    • AG says:

      Daily news is bad, incentivizes hot takes. I’d like it if all news was obligated to a 5-day delay.

      I’ve promoted The Week’s print edition before (their web articles are garbage hot takes), as they compile the news to get you reactions from various sides on each story. The cool down from having to wait to publish helps get perspective and additional context, not getting thrown by Brand New Twist Information. Waiting for a week also allows them to filter to what’s actually important, instead of need to puff up some fluff to make the daily quota.

      Ignoring the news (outside of a controlled less frequent update) is great for mental health.

    • Well... says:

      The news is what happens when a bunch of English and Acting majors get together and put on a show where they pretend to be experts on everything. I recommend avoiding journalism products as much as you can. In fact, the whole notion of “being up to date on what’s going on in the world” is overblown, and is really just a dressed up form of gossip, with a weird status signalling aspect mixed in.

      “But what about important things that might affect me?”

      The more a given event is likely to affect you, especially if it’s something you can take action in response to, the more likely you will find out about it in other ways. Same goes for if the event is of global importance.

      “What about staying up to date in a given area of interest?”

      There probably was a time when the news was critical for this, but now we have access (via the internet) to so many communities of people who actually know what they’re talking about, there’s no reason not to go there instead. There are forums, discussion groups, and direct sources through which you can get a constant feed of the information you want.

      BTW, sometimes someone will link to a journalism piece, and it’s OK to go and read/listen to/watch it — sometimes you even get lucky and you find a rare instance of genuinely high quality reporting — but having a default of “no journalism in my daily life” will (IMO) help give you a more critical eye toward what you’re consuming in those cases.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I recently came across The New Paper (, which is (at least for now) free, terse, and fairly even-handed:

      I also am subscribed to Geopolitical Futures.

    • Plumber says:


      “…how you build your news reading from multiple sources. This would be for core news, not specialty subjects. Can you list what you read?”

      Besides reading SSC?

      The times when I have most avidly followed the news this last decade was for when Obamacare was being voted on in Congress and during the Presidential primaries.

      I’d recommend checking out the polls from Gallup and Pew research.

      Mostly I just go to the snack counter at the building where most of my Service Orders are and look at the front pages of the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and buy a copy if anything looks interesting (they used to also have the Wall Street Journal as well but not lately). Online I regularly read the opinion columns of Ross Douthat and Paul Krugman (who I suppose both serve to confirm my biases), and follow the links from there, a little less regularly I follow David Brooks and Thomas Edsall (both NYT), E.J. Dionne Jr., and George Will (both Washington Post). Based on previous SSC recommendations I sometimes remember to look at, and I sometimes watch the PBS Newshour, and there’s what I catch from the radio when I commute, and sometimes at lunch the crew at work puts on local TV news instead of game shows.

      Usually two to three days after “breaking news” starts being discussed at SSC it gets to newspaper opinion pages and the radio (if it ever does), unfortunately SSC commenters often seem to assume prior knowledge of the “breaking news”, when I asked “Where did you learn that?” the answer was usually “Facebook”.

      (With hyperbole) I’d break down the “breaking news” discussions I see and hear as:

      Guys at work: “What about that [latest grisly crime]?”

      SSC: “What about the actions/statements of [‘SJW’ I’m ignorant of]?”

      Ross Douthat: “Maybe this time abortion will get banned? Otherwise birthrates will plummet and we’re doomed I tell you DOOMED!”

      Paul Krugman: “The Republicans are lying stealing liars I tell you, and if we don’t stop them we’re doomed, DOOMED I say”.

      Radio: “What till you hear about what Trump just tweeted!”.

      Local TV news: “Latest grisly crime and stories about ‘Apps’ that you don’t care about!”

      I think I get pretty balanced reporting overall.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The problem of getting broad information is it generally requires consulting multiple sources and having to filter through an enormous amount of hysteria and punditry, since no one source is willing to provide all key and relevant information.

        Even sources that try to report in a non-hysterical way have a habit of omitting important details because they often share different priors from the you [or the reader]

        I can liken it to judge judy, for a given case you [judy] know what key facts are relevant to come to a sound judgement whilst the plaintiff/defendant are both attempting to derail you with tangential but ultimately irrelevant details.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, when there’s a coordinated PR push on some story, it’s often really interesting to see how that story is reported in, say, NPR and the Economist. The payload is the same, but the villains/good guys/reasons why are often rearranged to suit the audience. (Is the villain the prison guards’ union or the private prison owners?)

    • albatross11 says:

      My normal news diet is NPR for headlines and articles, WSJ for some in-depth stories. As others have commented, most day-to-day news is about things that are *urgent* but not *important*[1]–very often the latest scandal/outrage/Thing We’re All Supposed to Care About. I will sometimes read something on BBC, but it seems like it’s about 50/50 split between news and clickbait at this point. When I’ve got time, I try to read some articles in El Pais, and about half of my mornings, I’ll at least watch the headlines from TVE in Spain–this is partly to get more information about the world, and partly to practice my Spanish.

      I get a moderate amount of news from reading Twitter feeds, and reflecting on it, I think they’re about 90% bad for me–things that get me angry or engage my tribal circuitry, rather than things that inform me about something worthwhile. I am going to try to consume less Twitter overall, though there are some people whose feeds are pretty worthwhile. But the medium rewards snark and hot-takes and omitted context, so the most successful people there are the ones who do those things, and even the high-quality people there are incentivized toward those things.

      Podcasts are a big part of my long-form news intake, for some value of “news” that mainly involves in-depth discussions about serious issues and deep dives into some areas of biology. But the ones I’m listening to focus on *important* and usually ignore *urgent*.

      There are also very high quality reports put out by The Pew Center(summaries of polling), the Department of Justice (crime statistics plus summary and explanation), CDC (mortality statistics), etc. In my experience, you can often learn way, way more about the world from spending 30 minutes reading one of these reports than from reading news coverage. Also, it’s a bit shocking, at first, how *different* a picture of the world you get looking at actual data/statistics from what you get when reading even pretty serious news coverage. Journalists are very much herd animals, and it shows in their stories. OTOH. the Washington Post’s police shooting database is a wonderful resource–spending 20 minutes making queries and looking at results is worth more than reading a dozen articles on the latest questionable police shooting.

      I’d love to see other recommendations for high quality information sources that are more-or-less nonpartisan /non culture-warry and are also more focused on important things than urgent things.

      [1] I find this distinction very useful in my life. Important things are things you’ll care about in a year or ten years; urgent things are things that need a response right now. Some things are both–if someone’s having a heart attack, it’s important *and* urgent. But most news is focused on the urgent stuff–the latest plane crash or mass shooting or political gaffe. A steady diet of headline news, especially, is likely to be all urgent and seldom important.

  27. fion says:

    I was really surprised to see, further down this thread, what seemed to be a general consensus that austerity (in the economic sense) was foolish. I also think austerity is bad, but I didn’t expect you guys to think so.

    My bias is that of a left-winger in the UK. In the aftermath of 2008 pretty much every political party seemed to agree that austerity was the way out of our economic problems. There was a debate in my party, the Labour Party, about it, with the left fringe (including me) being opposed to austerity and the right fringe being in favour. One of the big shocks of Jeremy Corbyn being elected Labour leader in 2015 was that we finally had an anti-austerity politician at the forefront of British politics.

    So that’s one reason why I’m surprised: if the right, the centre and even the centre-left in the UK are in favour of austerity, the right-wingers who comment on SSC should certainly be! (I realise this is somewhat naive, but to be fair to me, “the SSC commentariat will agree more with David Cameron than Jeremy Corbyn” is a pretty good rule of thumb most of the time.)

    The other reason is that to me, austerity looks more capitalistic and less social-democratic. It’s basically been a decade of cuts to public services and welfare. Isn’t that what believers in the free market should be in favour of?

    I guess my confusion probably comes down to not understanding what austerity really means and how it’s different from free-market capitalism. I’d be grateful if somebody could help me understand this.

      • cassander says:

        Just as democrats stopped criticizing deficits when Obama got into power. Remember when he was promising a net spending cut? Politicians are mendacious, news at 11!

        • Plumber says:

          Obama himself is supposed to have come close to a “grand bargain” with Boehner for austerity (which if he had would’ve killed Democrats electoral chances).

          And I recall that “blue dog democrats” were more “fiscally conservative” (and they were overwhelmingly voted out in 2010 leaving only liberal Democrats in congress), on the Republican side the rise of Trump killed any “fiscal conservatism” there (a few Democrats complained about the tax cuts driving up the debt, but the majority response has been “If they can do it so can we!”).

          “Fiscal conservatism” never had broad electoral support, as that spending is high voters acknowledged, but where most spending already is most voters didn’t w ant cut, the only thing that most voters ctied as what should be cut (“foreign aid”) was already a small part of the federal budget, and where most Federal spending is (checks to the elderly, their hospitals and their nursing homes, and the military) most voters didn’t want cut (“The Federsl government is an insurance company with an army”).

          • cassander says:

            Obama himself is supposed to have come close to a “grand bargain” with Boehner for austerity

            A deal he didn’t want and ultimately pulled out of, ruining his relationship with Boehner. I tend not to rate highly the things people almost did when they tell a different story than the things they actually did. And given the fate of democratic party since then, an austerity deal could hardly have been worse for their electoral results.

            “Fiscal conservatism” never had broad electoral support, as that spending is high voters acknowledged, but where most spending already is most voters didn’t w ant cut, the only thing that most voters ctied as what should be cut (“foreign aid”) was already a small part of the federal budget, and where most Federal spending is (checks to the elderly, their hospitals and their nursing homes, and the military) most voters didn’t want cut (“The Federsl government is an insurance company with an army”).

            I agree completely. Meaningful fiscal conservatism is not popular among voters. A small number of republican lawmakers like Paul Ryan actually believe in it, but are invariably powerless to act on it in the face of actual opinion. What is popular is the idea of fiscal conservatism free of consequences, hence the popularity of beating the party in power over the head with charges of reckless spending.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I’m not a democrat, but I do think they have the better of this argument.

          Usually the criticism involves tax cuts in the face of an already existing deficit, enacted by people by who claim to care about deficits. You don’t need to care about fiscal responsibility to have cause to criticize someone that doesn’t care about fiscal responsibility. And since the bush years involved both tax cuts and spending increases making such criticisms is fairly easy.

          My recollection of 2008-2016 was you had a one time stimulus bill, and thereafter a slow down in the growth of spending enough to gradually shrink the deficit.

          Of course this outcome was probably only made possible by a split-government gridlock.

          The only *really* mendacious part is the misleading of voters into just how much deficit reduction narrowly focused tax increases would provide, since most deficits most of the time are driven by year after year spending growth. (As a single tax cut in absolute terms don’t usually cost you 1-1 year over year)

          • cassander says:

            Usually the criticism involves tax cuts in the face of an already existing deficit, enacted by people by who claim to care about deficits.

            Everyone cares about deficits….when they aren’t in power. ANd no one cares when in power.

            My recollection of 2008-2016 was you had a one time stimulus bill, and thereafter a slow down in the growth of spending enough to gradually shrink the deficit.

            A slow down in spending that was opposed by the obama administration and decried by his party.

            The only *really* mendacious part is the misleading of voters into just how much deficit reduction narrowly focused tax increases would provide, since most deficits most of the time are driven by year after year spending growth. (As a single tax cut in absolute terms don’t usually cost you 1-1 year over year)

            there’s also a fair bit of mendacity around how much various proposals will cost, be it tax cuts pay for themselves, the ACA reducing the deficit, or the million other examples. I’d say the democrats are worse about this, but only because the lying is generally far worse for spending proposals than tax cuts.

      • Incurian says:

        As Vice-President Dick Cheney once said “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter“.

        Does that imply that the Soviets lost the cold war because they couldn’t run a budget deficit?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          They couldn’t run as large a budget deficit, in all likelihood. Military spending was already a large % of USSR GDP iirc.

          I believe Cheney wanted to be understood as saying that deficits don’t matter as long as the country in question isn’t overwhelmed by the interest payments associated with the debt.

          • Incurian says:

            That seems tautological, no?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Incurian – perhaps, but the implication is that deficits can in absolute terms either remain or grow but as long as interest payments relative to tax outlays remain flat [or shrink] the deficits can continue indefinitely.

            Large increases in spending or increases in interest rates will usually violate this condition.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I thought Cheney’s comments were about deficits not mattering for re-election.

      • J Mann says:

        Krugman has the most famous deficit flip-flop I know. His explanation, as I understand it, is that Democrats can be trusted to have only temporary deficits that are well-targeted to grow the economy, and certainly will turn to fiscal virtue in a while, unlike Republicans who are greedy mendacious knaves and probably smell bad.

        More generally, I think everyone agrees that deficits matter at some amount, the question is at what amount, and if you’re sailing too close to that amount, does that limit your ability to respond to crises that arise in the future?

        • There’s also the less mendacious explanation that he was just wrong in 2003, and acknowledged his mistake, which is what the bottom link of that article says.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, but he didn’t “acknowledge that mistake” until seven years later, when the dangerous incompetent spendthrift president racking up debt was safely out of office and the wise prudent responsible president could use Krugman’s seal of approval to start investing in America’s future.

            “Acknowledging a mistake” counts for a whole lot more if you do it when the targets of your mistake are still in a position to benefit from the acknowledgement.

          • J Mann says:

            As opposed to his Republican opponents, who are despicable knaves.

    • cassander says:

      there was no austerity in the UK. Government spending rose from 40% of GDP in 2008 to 45% of GDP in 2012, and only very gradually fell back down to 40%. Spending in actual pounds, of course, grew every single year, even accounting for inflation.

      • g says:

        Government welfare spending was just over 7% of GDP in 2010, just over 5% now. It was just over £120B (in 2005-£) in 2010, just over £100B now. It was £2000 (in 2005-£) per capita in 2010, £1500 now.

        No austerity, my arse.

        (Total government spending doesn’t show that clear decrease, but “austerity” in the UK typically refers specifically to welfare spending, something the Conservatives have always been keen to reduce.)

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          What of all spending? What portion of the total budget is welfare? Does Welfare include schools and healthcare?

        • cassander says:

          I have no idea what they are counting in “welfare” spending, but given that it that doesn’t seem to include pensions and healthcare, I suspect it’s substantially unemployment spending, which would of course fall when unemployment did in 2012. And if you look, those curves seem similar.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          So if welfare spending fell as a % of GDP but overall spending did not, what other category of spending rose to take the place of welfare?

        • g says:

          To answer the various questions and comments:

          1. Those links take you to a tool that lets you experiment for yourself: you can switch between “welfare”, “total government”, “pensions”, etc., switch between “%GDP”, “2005-£”, etc., look at different time periods, and so forth. I already provided three different views of what seems to me the most relevant figure for measuring “austerity”.

          2. Total spending is about £12k per capita (in 2005-£) and has gone down only modestly since 2012. Welfare spending has gone from about £2000 of that to about £1500, which actually isn’t so different from the total decrease. Pensions have gone up by about the same amount, education has gone down by about the same amount, other things have stayed roughly the same.

          3. Yes, unemployment is some of it. I assume it also includes tax credits (for people who are employed but poorly paid), income support (ditto), disability living allowance, housing benefit, etc.

          (Having said all of which, comparing the numbers in those graphs from the ones in the government statistical reports they say they get their data from, it’s not obvious how one corresponds to the other — e.g., the term “welfare” appears not to be used in those government reports at all; make of that what you will.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      “Austerity”, used to mean more taxes and less government spending, is “deficit hawking” over on this side of the Atlantic. Supporting it is a sucker’s game, because the politics of compromise mean you don’t actually get it — instead, your opposition gets all the funding for programs they want, you get funding cut for programs you want, and the blame for the tax increases.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Most of the complaints downthread seem to be about monetary contractionism, which isn’t the same thing as all. Fiscal austerity can take the form of either tax increases or spending cuts, and so (as we have been seeing lately) needn’t have any particular political valence.

    • Civilis says:

      A lot of the right-wing people on SSC are Americans, and ‘austerity’ as such isn’t really a term Americans generally use; Americans discuss the budget deficit instead. Partly, this is in reflection that ‘austerity’ is a politically loaded term. One definition of ‘austerity’ is ‘enforced or extreme economy especially on a national scale‘; that might be an apt description of, say, the rationing and other measures taken by the US and UK during the second world war. However, it’s come to be used when discussing government to mean any attempt to reduce spending. If the government planned to spend $12 million to upgrade the furniture in an undersecretary’s office and the budget is reduced to $11 million, this is an ‘austerity measure’; true austerity would involve the undersecretary put off the furniture upgrade until the government has excess money.

      Austerity also implies that any cuts are a temporary measure required until the government’s coffers are full again or the revenue is back in the black. To most libertarians, almost anything the government can put off is something the government shouldn’t be spending money on in the first place.

      Finally, “capitalism” only indirectly connects with government spending. Free-market thinking tends to be far more concerned with the costs of government regulations than with government spending. It’s perfectly possible for governments to spend money in ways that do not interfere with the economy under all but the most broad definitions. Of course if the government throws enough money around there will be economic distortions and advocates for government spending are almost always advocates for government regulations (and vice versa), so there is a political correlation, and at the most basic level a dollar/Euro the government is spending is a dollar/Euro that the public can’t spend on what it wants. Still, most advocacy for “austerity” or government spending reductions is not based on its effects on the market but on the government’s waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

      • Anthony says:

        Austerity, or “budget cuts” in American, is when this year’s furniture budget is $11 million, and would have gone to $11.5 million, but instead is only increased to $11.2 million.

      • fion says:

        Thanks for this explanation.

    • J Mann says:

      I’m an SSC right-winger who will defend austerity, sort of!

      1) If the argument against austerity is that it will cause a recession as a Keynsian market reaction to the reduced spending (similar to arguments that the US economy would take a hit when we shut down WWII spending), then I think that argument is almost certainly wrong – it’s pretty clear that if your monetary policy responds, you can avoid contractionary effects. Tim Worstall and the articles he links summarizes it.

      2) In addition, it’s often unclear how much austerity there actually is in practice – in most cases, government spending continues to increase under an “austerity” budget, just not as much as the anti-austerity people would prefer.

      3) On the other hand, if the argument is that austerity cuts spending that shouldn’t be cut, that’s a policy discussion, and really depends on the cuts.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I am not really sure you can conclude that the SSC right-wingers are opposed or are in favor of austerity based on simple comments to the below thread. I expect that most SSC right-wingers actually believe one or a combination of:
      1. Western governments aren’t seriously engaging in austerity, by and large
      2. Counter-cyclical policy is a fool’s game
      3. Counter-cyclical policy done by the government is largely ineffective
      4. Counter-cyclical policy done by the government is an excuse for permanently largely government
      5. Counter-cycical policy is best handled by the Fed through monetary stimulus, not the government through fiscal stimulus

      I suspect that most right-wingers here are not going to agree with Krugman et all on the center-left, that suggested we needed a 2nd stimulus of comparable size to the 1st stimulus.

      Also, I don’t see “austerity” as having a direct relation to “free-market economics.” There’s also a difference between austerity in the sense of “The government should spend less money on social programs” vs austerity in the sense of “Government needs to tighten its belt during the recession.”

    • albatross11 says:

      My biggest bias is that the 2008 meltdown seems to me to have demonstrated that the serious macroeconomists who were driving and advising policy knew a lot less than they claimed, and similarly that the companies full of smart financial analysts and traders making big investment decisions were less smart and understood less than they claimed. I feel like one result of watching that is that I have a great deal less faith in pronouncements by experts in macroeconomics, beyond really simple stuff.

  28. Nick says:

    Let’s talk division of labor in the home, SSC!

    I was prompted by this op-ed from the New York Times. While men took up a more equal share of responsibilities at home in the 80s and 90s, that has since leveled off, and women still do 65% of the work. Researchers have concluded it is because men continue to resist doing an equal share. The writer, a mother, says that when she became a parent with her progressive husband, she expected they would fall easily into an equal division—but that hasn’t happened, and other progressive couples face the same. She concludes that men have to accept that the world has been built for their needs, comforts, and desires, and that they have to “stop resisting” when their wives tell them things are unfair.

    This is the Times, so they do bring up male perspectives on the discrepancy in the latter half of the article. And this is the Times, so a lampshade is being hung. Our writer, Lockman, interviews several couples, with fathers suggesting explanations for the discrepancy. Three are proposed but go unexplored:
    1) mothers take over certain tasks because fathers do not share the same priorities about when to do them
    2) mothers do certain tasks that fathers feel are valuable but unnecessary
    3) mothers do more because they feel a need to do more, as a matter of personality

    It would be really easy for Lockman to provide some data for (3); she doesn’t. For example, are women more conscientious, as far as Big Five traits? That may explain the feeling of greater urgency/desire to keep working. I believe there are studies indicating women have higher conscientiousness; how reliable are those? Do they explain the discrepancy, or is the effect too small, or am I misunderstanding the trait?

    The article mentions another bit of research: that wives “who view their household responsibilities ‘as unjust are more likely to suffer from depression than those who do not'” (quoting a study). If the explanation is a discrepancy in Big Five traits then this is really a complaint about, like, discrimination against high conscientiousness folks or whatever. This is grounds for a funny image of the next big social cause. Maybe in 2025 folks will be explicitly writing op-eds about Big Five discrimination, shaming low conscientiousness people for making us do all the work, shaming low neuroticism people for making us anxious all the time, shaming extroverts for dragging us to everyth—wait, hold on, I agree with that one. *cough*

    Anyway, the research question is interesting, but so is anecdata. How equal is your own division of labor, couples of SSC? Does your wife or husband grumble about doing all the work? How equal is it for same-sex couples here? I’m single and live alone, but I hear this sort of talk at the office all the time; a major topic for married men in male environments is complaining about their wives. Not having the other perspective on this, I take these things with a grain of salt, but at least complaints about unfairness can be found on both sides!

    • Butlerian says:

      I sit around with my feet up while my girlfriend does all the chores, because my chore is “Paying the rent”.

      I feel this is unfair on me, as the 50% of the rent that she doesn’t pay is substantially more than the cost of hiring a professional maid to give the place a regular clean, but what can I say, I’m a man, Jedi mind tricks DO work on me.

      It is astonishing to me that she would occasionally grumble about this arrangement, but, nevertheless, she does. On such occasions I offer to switch her from rent payment in kind to rent payment in cash, which tends to lead her to rapidly reconsider the topic of conversation.

    • March says:

      Anecdata point.

      I think our division of labor is pretty equitable. M/F couple with one toddler and hopes for a second if the stars ever align. I’m the F. We’re ‘older’ parents – he was 38 and I was 34 when kid was born.

      I cook more and research parenting things, because I like those things. He takes the car to the garage, drills the occasional hole and researches household appliances, because he likes those things. We take each other’s advice on the things we researched and have similar values anyway. Neither of us win any prizes in terms of keeping the house spotless, but it’s definitely not a pig sty either. I’m a Pareto cleaner who gets the whole house ‘done’ in two hours, he’s a perfectionist who gets fewer things done but leaves them cleaner than I have the patience for.

      We both work 4 days a week. We use Google Calendar and Google Keep to maintain schedules and shopping lists, so there’s none of that ‘oh, what do you mean there’s no school tomorrow’ shit going on in our house. On daycare days, he does the drop-off and I do the pick-up or the other way around. We have fixed days for that but adjust as needed. He works a 20-min drive from home and I have a home office, so that’s all really convenient. Daycare has his phone number as first contact, just to push back against the culture of ‘but can’t your wife pick up sick baby from daycare?’, but his office building is where cell signals go to die so they usually end up contacting me anyway.

      We do grocery shopping as a family. When one person cooks, the other entertains kiddo/enlists kiddo to do some cleanup. We both do laundry/dishes/etc and toss in at least one load of laundry on each of our free days. (He’s got Wed, I’ve got Fri.) The one who does daycare drop-off is usually also on dressing and breakfast duty – on ‘my’ days he leaves early to beat traffic, on ‘his’ days I occasionally sleep in. If we try to put an item of cloting on baby and it turns out to be too small, we toss it in a box. Every now and then one of us will say ‘that box is getting kinda full, let’s go clothes shopping for kiddo,’ and put ‘baby clothes’ on the shopping list. Neither of us judges the other person’s outfit choices for baby. We both do about half the bedtimes; if the other person is at home, they take that time to clean up dinner and reset the living room.

      We do have a Roomba, which I credit for about half of our marital satisfaction, since we both hate vacuuming but also hate sandy floors.

      He has his weekly nights away, I have mine. On my nights away, he cooks simple meals but I really couldn’t care less about that – he’s better about making fruit and veg for kiddo than he is for himself. (And besides, I also cook simple meals when he’s away now – baby is in a picky phase so there’s no point in being fancy.) We both try to let the other have their way of doing things anyway, though he’s kind of a busybody (see also: perfectionist) who is often halfway through taking things over before he even realizes. I do grumble about that; he is getting better at sitting on his hands.

      I used to want to be the kind of Independent Woman who would ALSO drill the holes and take the car to the garage and what have you, but the older I get (and definitely after baby), the clearer it became that that only works if you marry an Independent Man who ALSO cares about food and reading all the parenting books and what have you. I didn’t, and ain’t nobody got time to do EVERYTHING. He’s taller and stronger, he can drill the damn holes. He is the one who takes the car to work – he can swing by the garage.

      One source of inequality in our relationship is that he IS better at just deciding to do something and then doing it without checking with me whether I’m actually in a spot where I can watch baby for the next hour. He’s very reasonable if I go after him, so I can’t hold that too much against him.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Sounds in many respects pretty similar to my marriage, except in your case it seems to work. Possibly, because if the man is the perfectionist, he nevertheless doesn’t nag all the f***g time.

        • March says:

          Ohhh he nags. In this insufferable male way of saying ‘it’s not that I WANT this to be done X, it’s simply more logical that it be done X.’

          I just made that my hill to die on and push back on that a LOT. I was nagged half to death by my mother as a kid and made a solemn vow not to nag myself, and I’m definitely not going to take it. On the other hand (and despite this hard line, ha), I’m a pretty agreeable person so if he wants something done he can just say ‘could you do me a favor?’ or ‘hey, can we brainstorm something about this thing that’s annoying me?’ After almost 2 decades of a relationship, we hardly ever fight about that anymore, ha.

      • J Mann says:

        Do you need to Roomba-proof your house? We got a robot vacuum as a gift, saw that the instructions said “no cords on the floor, and no fringe rugs” and have literally never taken it out of the box. Do people with Roombas not have floor lamps?

        • March says:

          Not really. We don’t have floor lamps, that’s true. Nor fringe rugs. Thick cords don’t tend to be a problem, and we hide them/stick them behind furniture anyway. The Roomba can tackle my office with four computers and six screens and a bunch of audio equipment with no problem.

          It does tend to do a worse job underneath the kitchen table because chair legs, so every now and then we put the chairs in a cleaner spot. And it gets stuck on this one chair, so we put something on the spot that it gets stuck on.

    • albatross11 says:

      Did the article mention the division of outside-the-home labor?

      • Nick says:

        Dammit, when I wrote that at home I could read the article incognito fine, but at work it’s auto hidden. Maybe they’re trying some sort of scattershot approach against nonpaying readers now. Sorry; if I’d known this would be a problem, I’d have put it in pastebin or something.

        ETA: Try this. I added the links in, too. She mentions early on that both her and her husband work. She later produces research that men not picking up the slack impacts women’s earnings and health. She doesn’t mention any discrepancy between how much men and women work outside the home.

        • John Schilling says:

          She doesn’t mention any discrepancy between how much men and women work outside the home.

          Here you go. Working men spend an average of 5.6 more hours per week on the job than working women. Not counting commuting, which is another 0.9 hours per week for the men. Harder to quantify is the greater propensity for men to work physically demanding jobs that require longer post-work recovery periods.

          • Matt says:

            I think we actually need the discrepancy between how much men and women work outside the home for all men and women, not just those couples where both work.

          • John Schilling says:

            People who don’t work, don’t work outside the home. And labor force participation rates by gender should be easy to find. But the original article is talking about a couple where both parties are employed, and that’s really the only place where it at all interesting to discuss domestic labor participation. “Should a non-working domestic partner do a disproportionate share of the housework?” is trivial and boring.

          • Matt says:

            …But the original article is talking about a couple where both parties are employed

            Mothers still shoulder 65 percent of child-care work.

            By passively refusing to take an equal role, men are reinforcing “a separation of spheres that underpins masculine ideals and perpetuates a gender order privileging men over women.”

            Yet at the current rate of change, MenCare, a group that promotes equal involvement in caregiving, estimates that it will be about 75 more years before men worldwide assume half of the unpaid work that domesticity requires.

            I submit that these statements from the article are not specific to couples where both are employed.

        • pqjk2 says:

          Dammit, when I wrote that at home I could read the article incognito fine, but at work it’s auto hidden

          Try this:

      • March says:


        Indirectly, in that women married to conservative men also don’t have an equitable childcare distribution but do not consider that unjust/do not get depressed about it. That may be because they both think the man should work outside the house and the women inside of it.

        Still, many women take a step back from work because they can’t keep up with working full time while also doing the lion’s share of childcare (on top of the lion’s share of housework? that tends to get conflated but are two different things). So cause and effect may be difficult to determine.

      • IrishDude says:

        An EconTalk episode indicated that when summing up paid work and home production time, women work about an hour more each week than men. Close, but a slight edge to women.

        Russ Roberts: It was striking in your book that when you sum up work time plus home production time, women work a little bit more, but it’s a very small difference that is dramatically–the mix has obviously changed, as you said, but they are quite similarly. And I don’t know if those are correctly defined in the survey results. But I was struck by that, that they were relatively close.

        Daniel Hamermesh: It’s about an hour difference each week, maybe at most an hour difference in the United States. In some other countries, like the Netherlands or Norway or Sweden, they are almost identical. I think it’s a fascinating result. I call it ‘iso-work’–they are about the same in total. This doesn’t mean they are doing the same things. If you think of home production–walking the dog, cleaning the car, doing the dishes, shopping–

        Russ Roberts: carpool–

        Daniel Hamermesh: as work–carpool; all kinds of child care, I would argue–all those together, they are work to me. They are not something you would choose to do if you had huge amounts of money. Most of them, anyway. And the same thing for paid work. So, I think making this addition–getting total work and finding they are pretty similar–is just an absolutely striking result. And it holds up in most rich countries. Much less so in poorer countries. In poorer countries, no question women are doing more work in total than men.

    • woah77 says:

      So in my house, I go to work and she stays at home. She probably does close to 80% of the chores, especially on a weekly basis. I do dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc, if asked (which annoys her, but she has a schedule and plans and such, and I’m not inside her head) and we share in taking care of the toddler when I’m home. Of the unusual/infrequent work, I probably do closer to 80%, things like lawn care, car maintenance, assembling the new thing, etc. One of the biggest issues we’ve had is that I spend 10 hours out of the house every day (between commuting, lunch and work) and have no idea what the state of the house is when I get home. I’m not insensitive to her needs for various tasks to get done, but she has a lot of anxiety about asking me, and if I don’t know it needs to be done, I’m not going to realize it on my own very quickly.

    • aristides says:

      My wife and I like to approach the issue as if the main unit is the family, not the individual. We don’t have any kids yet, but we try to do what we are best at, with the flexibility to pick up the slack when the other isn’t feeling well or needs extra help. In practice this means my wife cooks most dinners, though I help with prep, and when I cook I just make Trader Joe’s frozen meals; but I do the dishes either way. My wife cleans constantly during the week, and I help her about every other weekend for a deep clean. I do the laundry, and she folds it, and I put it away. I make phone calls, she send emails. She drives, but we do groceries and shopping together. I assemble furniture, either of us drills holes unless she has trouble reaching. I work 45 hours a week at a desk job, she tries hobbies that are currently a net loss, but has the potential to turn into a profitable business one day. She walks the pets while I’m at work, I walk the other times. She keeps them clean and entertained and I clean the litter box. With a division of labor like this it is impossible and indeed harmful to calculate what percent of the work each spouse is doing. Some chores are harder for others, some people are better at other things. Calculating it would only create unnecessary resentment.

      • spkaca says:

        “With a division of labor like this it is impossible and indeed harmful to calculate what percent of the work each spouse is doing. Some chores are harder for others, some people are better at other things. Calculating it would only create unnecessary resentment.”
        This +1. I recall reading somewhere that in every relationship both of the partners thinks they are doing 70% of the work.

    • acymetric says:

      Disclaimer: I am not trying to play Devil’s Advocate here, but something close to that. I certainly don’t dispute that there are issues related to traditional gender roles and distribution of household responsibilities. I just want to highlight some things that I think may make it appear worse than it is (for the “typical” case, not looking at the extremes where something is clearly wrong).

      The article mentions another bit of research: that wives “who view their household responsibilities ‘as unjust are more likely to suffer from depression than those who do not’” (quoting a study).

      I don’t have access to the paper cited here, and my thought is so obvious that I have to believe it is addressed, but this quote implies a causation of unjust responsibilities leads to depression. Isn’t it fairly possible, even somewhat likely, that it could work the other way (that someone suffering from depression would be inclined to see their situation as unjust regardless of whether that was objectively true)?

      More importantly, it seems that a lot of the issues brought up about household responsibilities are the exact same issues that non-romantically involved roommates have with division of labor, but since marriage is involved people try to bring gender roles into all of it instead of focusing on the places where it is actually a key factor (like child care).

      • March says:

        Gender roles definitely aren’t just a key factor in child care. You can have different gender roles in childcare, like ‘moms do arts and crafts and dads take kids to the batting cage’ or ‘moms kiss booboos and dads give lectures’, without creating unequal workloads.

        The causality of depression & injustice doesn’t seem that much more obvious the way you put it. In most cases, these are straight, married couples who had a ‘just-seeming’ division of labor before kids that only started feeling ‘unjust’ after kids.

        There are definitely similarities with roommate household negotiations, except that with an annoying slob of a roommate you can much more easily move, hoard all your silverware in your own room/locker, kick them out, play a game of housework chicken etc.

        • acymetric says:

          Gender roles definitely aren’t just a key factor in child care.

          I said “like childcare” because childcare is an easy example. I did not say “only and exclusively childcare” and I didn’t say that on purpose.

          The causality of depression & injustice doesn’t seem that much more obvious the way you put it.

          I’m not saying it is obviously the other way. I’m saying it is plausible either direction (more to the point, that in practice it can and does happen either direction, but to imply as the article does that the causation is always in the direction that matches the viewpoint of the writer needs some support). Incorrectly identifying the cause of depression to a person can be actively harmful to them, so I think this is important.

          In most cases, these are straight, married couples who had a ‘just-seeming’ division of labor before kids that only started feeling ‘unjust’ after kids.

          Didn’t I specifically say that division of labor as it relates to kids is one of the main places to look for problems that are clearly gender-role related? I don’t think anything I said contradicts this. That said, the quote related to that study didn’t mention kids at all, so while what you say is certainly a thing that happens, that isn’t what the article was saying. Again, I don’t know what the actual study said because I don’t have access…maybe the study does say or address difference between pre and post kids.

          There are definitely similarities with roommate household negotiations, except that with an annoying slob of a roommate you can much more easily move, hoard all your silverware in your own room/locker, kick them out, play a game of housework chicken etc.

          Yes, it is a harder problem than a typical roommate situation, because it is harder to get out of. No, that doesn’t mean that any time an issue like this arises it is always related to gender issues/gender roles. Of course sometimes it is, but not always. Pretending otherwise makes it harder to actually address real issues with gender role imbalance. Also, worth noting that it isn’t even always necessarily the man who benefits and the woman who is harmed by the imbalance, it can work the other way.

          I think we can find common ground in that there are problems with gender roles in society and in long term relationships specifically. I am totally on board with that. I just making that the root of anything that involves people of different genders confuses the issue and makes it harder to actually make positive cultural changes.

          • March says:

            Sure, the imbalance can be harmful both ways. I definitely know some scum women.

            And I guess I consider the difference between ‘division of labor after kids’ and ‘division of labor as relates to kids’ and ‘division of childcare labor’ very significant, while perhaps you don’t.

          • acymetric says:

            And I guess I consider the difference between ‘division of labor after kids’ and ‘division of labor as relates to kids’ and ‘division of childcare labor’ very significant, while perhaps you don’t.

            It depends on what conversation we’re having, and what our goal is in terms of division of labor. If we just want “equal amount of labor” generally it is less important. If we want “equal amount of labor for each type of task” (50/50 baths, 50/50 cleaning, 50/50 lawn mowing, etc) then the distinction is definitely important.

            In other words, if we’re looking at “who does more work” it is less important. If we’re looking at “who does more of x type of work” the distinction basically is the conversation so it isn’t just significant, it’s the central matter being discussed.

            Maybe we’re in agreement, and were just having different conversations?

      • Viliam says:

        Isn’t it fairly possible, even somewhat likely, that it could work the other way (that someone suffering from depression would be inclined to see their situation as unjust regardless of whether that was objectively true)?

        Or perhaps people suffering from depression are likely to do things slowly, and that increases the time spent doing domestic work. With a job and kids, there is not much time left, so an extra hour a day can make a great difference.

        In case of more serious depression, you also have to consider the time spent in therapy, and the fact that the money spent on therapy cannot be spent e.g. on babysitting.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        I don’t think the issue requires a whole lot of inspired guesswork. Going by the quoted passage it’s wives who view their household responsibilities as unjust that are a depression risk.

        Let’s try to break down what’s being said here:
        1. Someone thinks their life is unfair,
        2. Someone is subsequently depressed.

        Sounds like a paper I wrote a while back, entitled “Duh!”

        The fact that people who aren’t satisified with their lives are at risk of depression is so stupidly obvious, that words fail me.

        However, “someone’s household responsibilities are unjust” does not follow from “someone views their household responsibilities as unjust” – which the article seems to assume implicitly.

        It gets even funnier when we realize that “someone views their household responsibilities as unjust” doesn’t follow from “someone’s household responsibilities are unjust”, either – someone may very well be perfectly content with their unfair burden, for other reasons.

        Those people, presumably, aren’t at risk of depression.

        • acymetric says:

          So I pretty much fully agree with this, maybe this is a better version of what I was trying to say, except:

          I don’t think the issue requires a whole lot of inspired guesswork. Going by the quoted passage it’s wives who view their household responsibilities as unjust that are a depression risk.

          I’m just pointing out that this may be correlation as opposed to causation. The paper may actually address that, but the article appears to just assume it.

          Person is depressed for Reasons. Person (or people around said person) identify cause x as the reason for the depression. That doesn’t mean x actually caused the depression…depression is complicated and people are often wrong about these things!

          Are people who view their household duties as unfair at higher risk for depression, or are people who are depressed more likely to view things in their life as unfair in an attempt to pinpoint why they feel the way they do? I could believe either way, but if someone is going to claim one or the other as correct I would hope that would be supported by someone (or else acknowledge that it is just unsupported intuition).

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Why not both?

            The point is that this is not, in any way, an unanticipated result.

            More importantly, however, it tells us nothing about whether the division of labour is in fact unjust – which is the only thing the article cares about (the thrust being “it’s not just unfair, it’s a health risk, too!”)

          • Nick says:

            If it helps, the pastebin link I gave albatross above has links to all the research that the article gave. Just awkwardly inlined because pastebin is plaintext. Here’s the paper; I don’t have access to it, but some people here probably do.

          • acymetric says:


            At this point I think we’re actually in agreement and either I’m not writing clearly or you misread something.

            “Why not both?” Exactly. My complaint is framing it as one-directional (feels unfair leads to depression in all cases) when likely the opposite is also true (depression leads to feelings that x is unfair) in at least some, and probably a significant number of, cases. I’m also not attributing that framing to you, it is a gripe I have with the article. I agree with the article’s general premise but disagree on the specifics, analysis, and presentation.

          • Faza (TCM) says:


            My complaint is framing it as one-directional (feels unfair leads to depression in all cases)

            This is a claim that I did not actually make.

            My claim is that if someone has a reason for emotional distress (they feel stuck in an unfair situation), it is not surprising in the slightest that they may become depressed. It is not impossible that the causality goes the other way in some cases, but I’m not convinced that this is a useful line of inquiry when considering the big picture (when we’re looking at individual cases, definitely!)

            The difference as I see it in differentiating between the two lines of causality is as follows:
            1. If perceived injustice causes depression, we would expect to see some people who perceive injustice become depressed,

            2. If depression causes the perception of injustice, we would expect all (or rather: most) people who perceive injustice to be depressed.

            I realize this sounds like I’m stacking the deck in my favour, because of a more rigorous demand made for 2. (depression tends to be the result of numerous factors), but this is because of the nature of the proposition. If the feeling of injustice is the result of pre-existing depression – a plausible line of causality – we would expect a much tighter correlation between depression and perception of injustice (people won’t be perceiving injustice unless they are depressed) than when perception of injustice is a contributing cause of depression (which is the claim made in the article, and taken up by myself) – which also happens to be a good enough line of causality for politics (again, individual cases should be examined and treated individually).

          • acymetric says:


            I know you didn’t make it. I even said you didn’t:

            I’m also not attributing that framing to you, it is a gripe I have with the article.

            I attribute that claim (or at least implication) to the article.

            As far as the rest, I don’t think your point two necessarily follows.

            2. If depression causes the perception of injustice, we would expect all (or rather: most) people who perceive injustice to be depressed.

            This is backwards. If depression causes perception of injustice, we would expect depressed people to be more likely to perceive injustice. There are lots of other reasons to perceive injustice other than being depressed, so it doesn’t really follow that most people who perceive injustice would be depressed. For an analogy, consider that drunk driving causes car crashes, but that does not mean that most car crashes are the result of drunk driving (they aren’t) because lots of things cause car crashes.

            I think we agree that the causation could plausibly go either way. I think we probably even agree that it does work both ways in practice. We just disagree on the ratio between the two. I think it is probably relatively balanced (not necessarily 50/50, but not like 90/10 either). You seem to think it is heavily weighted towards #1.

            I don’t think we’re going to be able to hash that out using our competing intuitions, and I don’t know that there is good data readily at hand to get an actual, scientifically sound answer. At the very least, I think even if we’re not on the same page we aren’t exactly miles apart, either?

          • Faza (TCM) says:


            I think we’re as close to being on the same page as is possible (si duo dicunt idem, non est idem).

            To be clear: I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. My position here is mostly based on Occam – it’s simply unnecassary to posit the reverse causality (depression->perception of injustice), because the intially proposed explanation is perfectly sufficient.

            Having gotten that out of the way, I’d like to ask you why you think an examination of that angle is important, looking at the big picture?

            This being the internet, I want to stress that I really am interested in what you think. In a previous comment you mentioned concerns about misdiagnosing the causes in an individual case – concerns that I share – but we aren’t looking at individuals here. We’re asking whether a specific social phenomenon has implications for mental health in society at large, what those are and why do they arise.

            Do you see what I mean?

          • acymetric says:

            Mostly from the angle of “depression is a Big Deal.” Depression is frequently attributed to the wrong things, both by the people suffering from it and the people around them. If the cause of the depression is a sense of unfairness around the household, then either correcting the imbalance (if the unfairness is real) or correcting the perception (if the unfairness is imagined) is a good course of action.

            If it is the other way, though, and we assume the sense of unfairness is causing the depression when in reality something else is causing the state of depression, efforts to fix the situation by dealing with the sense of unfairness directly are likely to be unsuccessful, and maybe even counter-productive.

            Hard to think of something worse for someone with a good home life/family/partner who is suffering from depression than saying “you know what your problem is? Your husband.”

            Your clear distinction between “perceived unfairness” and “actual unfairness” alleviates this to a great extent (though not fully), but when I wrote my original post I wrote it with the idea that not everyone would make that distinction (which I think is true, although obviously you yourself did make it).

        • Randy M says:

          And I’d wager that articles with the premise of “Household chores still not shared 50/50! Women hardest hit!” are probably on net spurring more depression and arguments than they are a more harmonious balance of chores.

        • 10240 says:

          It’s also plausible that there are couples where the distribution of labor is unjust (for some definition of unjust), and those against whom it’s unjust are more likely to be depressed, even though, based on the statistics cited above, the division of labor is not significantly unjust on average (measured in time worked).

    • Matt says:

      My situation

      I married a woman with 3 kids and a career. When we were both working, I did all of the traditionally ‘male’ chores / maintenance / heavy lifting, and we split the other chores about 60% her / 30% me / 10% kids. How much the kids help with these tasks is a bit of an issue between us – she insists that they need time to do homework and participate in sports. My position is that if they had more ‘skin in the game’ they would grow up to be more responsible.

      She has been laid off now for a couple of years, and I do less now, with she and the kids (mostly the girls) picking up my slack. The oldest child, my stepson, used to take out the trash and recycling, but he couldn’t really be relied on so now I mostly do it to make sure it gets done.

      One of the girls is a fantastic cook, and is always helping my wife out with that. She also keeps her room clean. The other two have to be nagged into doing pretty much anything, but my wife would rather nag them until they do the chores than set expectations and punish failure to perform.

      One of the compromises I made when I married a woman with 2 teenagers and a preteen was that she would set the tone on that sort of thing, so mostly I try to resist taking up the tasks she won’t assign to the kids. Except the trash.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      2a) Mothers do certain tasks that fathers feel are an utter waste of time but don’t want to fight about.

    • Viliam says:

      Mothers still shoulder 65 percent of child-care work.

      Does this study control for the fact that men on average work longer hours at job? If the wife is a stay-at-home mom or a part-time worker, while the husband is a full-time worker, it would be very myopic definition of fairness to expect the husband to also do 50% of all domestic work.

      Let’s do some math:

      For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the day has 24 hours, everyone spends 8 hours sleeping and 16 awake. That gives you 16×7 = 112 awake hours a week.

      A full time job takes 8 hours a day, plus 30 minutes of lunch break, and let’s say 30+30 minutes of commute to+from the work. That makes (8+0.5+0.5+0.5)×5 = 47.5 hours a week. Let’s round it to 48 hours.

      Child-care is most time costly when the kid is too small to attend school or kindergarten. But even if the child is of school age, this calculation can describe days when the child is sick (at kindergarten, half the time), or during school vacation (two months a year). Then you need 112 hours of child care a week.

      So, if the man works full time, and you want to split child care equally, the man has 112/2 = 56 hours of child care and 48 hours of job (plus lunch and commute) a week. That is 56+48 = 104 of 112 awake hours; in other words, he has 8 hours a week left for everything other than job and kids. — That includes his fair share of domestic work (half of shopping and cooking and cleaning and washing and …?), duties other than job (random pleasures of life such as doing taxes), self-care, social life, and reading Slate Star Codex.

      Now, these numbers are not exact. For example, kids sometimes sleep after lunch, that time interval does not require babysitting. On the other hand, sometimes both parents do child care at the same time: a family dinner, a trip; or the time when you need to do different things with different kids. You can pay for babysitting, or sometimes grandparents do it for free. Some people have shorter commute, some have longer. Some people work more than 40 hours a week (and then they are expected to work on their GitHub portfolio during their free time, heh).

      • acymetric says:

        everyone spends 8 hours sleeping

        Is this part of that post-scarcity utopia everyone keeps talking about? 😉

        • woah77 says:

          Right? My own sleeping habit is closer to 5-6 hours a night, if I’m lucky. Once in a while (like once a month) I get closer to 8 hours. But that’s anomalous, not the rule.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          You should make an effort to achieve that. It’s good for almost everyone.

          • Butlerian says:

            I put this advice in the same bucket as “You sould make an effort to be fabulously wealthy too, that’s good for almost everyone”.

            Justified true beliefs that X is good does not, alas, translate to getting X.

        • acymetric says:

          Oh, for sure. I was just making a joke about how most of us don’t.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I figured, I just wanted to push back a little against the normalization. 🙂

      • Nick says:

        The linked study is here. I don’t have access, but others might.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I do basically everything. My Wife helps somewhat with laundry, occasionally irons, and cleans the bathrooms. I’m not really sure yet about whether bathroom cleaning chemicals can have an adverse effect on pregnancies, so I’ve been picking up bathroom cleaning.

      My wife will clean prior to someone coming over, and when she has an occasional spurt of productivity. She sometimes takes on a project, like putting in some edging in the garden, or painting a small room.

      This is not really a gender role issue, all the kids on my in-laws side are shockingly lazy. Like, “I will put dirty dishes back in the cabinet before I clean them” level of lazy.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      We both work, but my hours are more flexible and I am more capable of working from home, so I tend to do a lot of the day-to-day stuff, especially during the week: I cook most weeknight dinners and do the dishes plus the necessary sweeping and cleaning to keep the place livable. On the weekend though, she tends to do more thorough tidying up. I’d say maybe that I clean and she tidies: she does major organizing and putting stuff away where it properly belongs, while I wipe down the surfaces and vacuum and sweep.

      I probably end up doing a little more, but it’s hard to be certain.

      Some of this reflects our preferences as well: I don’t mind washing dishes and she hates it, while I find tidying and organizing to be absolutely excruciating, while she thrives on it, but stuff like cooking I think is just a matter of what’s more convenient.

    • J Mann says:

      Regarding your alternate explanations, I think they explain part of it. That’s standard roommate politics – unless there’s a specific agreement, the roommate who prefers a cleaner common space almost always does more cleaning work and resents it.

      And IMHO I don’t think the resentment is unreasonable. If one person prefers a cleaner home, there should be a discussion that takes into account the difference in priorities and comes to some kind of resolution. It’s not fair for Felix to make Oscar clean the house to Felix’s satisfaction, but it’s also not fair for Oscar to shoulder Felix with all the cleaning – presumably, you can reach some agreement in the middle, or that compensates somewhere else.

      Our home:

      My wife and I both work full time. She works from a home office and I commute, so my guess is that sort of evens out – the extra time I spend commuting is balanced by domestic stuff she does like getting the kids snacks, picking them up when necessary, letting the dog in and out, etc.

      During the rest of the time, most of our division is based on comparative advantage and preference. I do most of the cooking, grocery shopping, repair, finances, de-clutter when I notice it, and mow, and other services as requested. She does cleaning, laundry, organizes the calendar, school paperwork, gardening, and most of the kid transportation.

      Still, my guess is she probably does 60-70% of the actual domestic work, and that spurs me to clean more than i otherwise would. We should probably get someone to do the light cleaning.

      • woah77 says:

        The answer I’ve had, for quite some time, is you can tell me a task and let me do it, or you can supervise me and tell me how. You cannot expect me to both take the initiative to do a task you’ve made me aware of and to do it your way. Either I own the task, or you are going to be involved in the task.

      • Randy M says:

        And IMHO I don’t think the resentment is unreasonable.

        Obviously it’s only unreasonable if their standards are unreasonable–ie, different from mine 😉
        Its easy to outline obviously unreasonable behavior that is held by someone–ie, leaving dirty dishes on the table overnight for the bugs to enjoy vs insisting on dusting every surface daily.
        The sweet spot is going to vary wildly, though.

        • acymetric says:

          As an example of this variance: my roommate complains about dog hair and dishes (these are fair, although somewhat exaggerated, complaints).

          On the other hand, when I first moved in (he had lived there for a couple years) the bathroom was like 90% mold which I think is a much bigger deal.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Some combination of #1 and #3 are major causes of issues in a lot of marriages.

      My wife does more work than I do in total, her time at work + time with the kids + chores exceeds my time. However there is no individual thing, or set of things that I can realistically do to reduce the amount of time she works, she rejects my offers to take specific chores (ie putting the kids to bed is the most common) off her plate about half of the time. If she came home and the house was in literally perfect order she would go outside and work on one of the projects in the yard.

      Simply put I cannot, due to her personality, work situation and the nature of the universe, cut her sense of responsibility down. The only thing I could do in the near term is simply take on her personality and priorities and put the same number of hours in as she does. This was a reasonable position when we were less financially secure years ago, and what I did for a short period, but now that would simply be a one sided sacrifice.

      We are still working this out, but there can’t be literal equality between us because aspects of our personalities are so different. Either we work different amounts or one of us has to swallow their preferences and match the other, perhaps in a few years we will be in a place where she can cut back her working hours and then her home chores will feel more like leisure to her.

    • Erusian says:

      I make enough money that I can pay for rent in a major city, utilities, insurance, a car, etc on my own. And I can afford weekly maid service and a few other regular services. I also have a Roomba. So household chores basically consist of walking my dog twice a day and cooking. And the irregular stuff.

      My feeling has always been that means there aren’t that many chores to do in my house to begin with. But my general rule has always been that if my girlfriend contributes half of upkeep, then we split it evenly. If she contributes less than half, we split it fairly (leaning towards her) but I have preferential option to say that work calls or that I need to work instead. If she doesn’t pay in anything or almost nothing then it’s mostly on her as effectively a stay at home.

      I have a relatively small sample size, naturally. But my experience is that feminist women with unimpressive or activist careers (even if those activist careers are impressive) tend to object most strongly. Women who would describe themselves as not feminists with impressive careers, even if those careers pay poorly, tend to have the fewest issues with this. Usually not at all. Though I do bias the sample by breaking up with any woman who insists I foot the entire bill and split the chores 50/50. I could tell you of some truly absurd fights, including one woman who accused me of treating her like a maid while the actual maid was recleaning something because she wasn’t satisfied with the maid’s work.

      What I’ve concluded is that it’s mostly a self-esteem thing. Women who derive their self-worth from independence or feminist credentials will see it as an issue. Women who don’t, or who actually derive their self-worth from fulfilling traditional gender roles, won’t.

    • achenx says:

      I haven’t read this specific article but a lot of similar pieces in outlets like the Times end up reading like “I’m unhappy with my relationship so I’m going to tell everybody in the world about it while generalizing my specific relationship to everyone’s.” Remind me to never marry a journalist.

      I’ve been living with my wife for 15 years, about half of that with no kids and then an increasing number of kids. Roles shift all the time based on current situation. At the moment there’s a lot that just doesn’t really get done because it’s hard for us chasing after multiple young kids and keeping up with cleaning and such. We have a large yard now and ended up paying a mowing service who are much faster and much better at it than I am when I tried to do it myself. As the kids start to get older they’re getting involved more. TBH right now I’m handling most things myself, but when I think something needs to change, I talk with my wife about it rather than writing an article in the Times.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t know how much we should count–we are single income, and live in an apartment. So there is less chores and more man- (or at least woman)-hours. Though she’s not exactly stay-at-home; much of the day time is used for various activities for our homeschooled trio.
      My wife often makes me breakfast and lunch in the mornings, though I try to let her sleep in if she doesn’t wake on her own for it. She’ll do shopping and make dinners, unless she’s running around to an activity, tutoring (a side job) or just wants me to grill the meat. I usually do breakfast on the weekends.
      She does the laundry, partly because we use her mother’s facilities. In return, I make liberal use of the smell test on my own clothes before tossing them into the hamper.
      Whoever notices the dust or remembers the company first will do the vacuuming and ‘straightening up.’
      Children do the dishes.
      When we had babies, we both did diapers (including rinsing the cloth); she breast fed. There was much more work from both back then, of course.
      Occasionally I’ll nag her (and children) about clutter on their desks and surrounding areas, as I find the visual mess irritating. I track the finances.
      She does most of the interaction chores–buying gifts, scheduling appointments, and so on.

      edit: Oh, and we both contribute to putting children to bed, but I don’t consider that a chore–it’s vital relationship building that perhaps we weren’t in the mood for at the moment but brings satisfaction long term. Okay, fine, maybe that’s a lot like a chore.

      So while I’m really not concerned with ‘equality’ in such matters, we make up for it in concern for each other and haven’t argued about it much to date.

    • quanta413 says:

      My fiancee and I work roughly equal amounts. She’s the brains and handles more of the long term planning like vacations, moves, our wedding, etc. She also does more of the occasional cleaning. We go grocery shopping together. We split the bills currently, but the bills will all be mine soon since she’s going to get another degree while I work. We might switch years from now although I’d just go part time and take over more housework; I never want to get another degree. I try to do more of the daily chores like cooking, dishes, cleaning the kitchen countertops, and laundry because I’m so bad about long term plans. But it varies a lot from week to week depending on who is busy. At best I’m probably getting to 55 or 60% of daily chores instead of 50%.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      My wife does the lion’s share of housework but she’s mostly a stay-at-home mom. I go to work every day to pay for everything. She hasn’t complained, and if she did I would do more (but not 50% because come on, I’m not the one home all day).

      She’s about to apply for a full-time job (it’s really right up her alley, and the pretty soon the kids will all be in school), so we’ll see how that changes when we’re both working.

    • JonathanD says:

      Our division:

      My wife does almost all of the planning and organizing, because I tend to be flaky. That conversation where I’m surprised the kids are off of school today has totally happened in my household, despite a shared google calendar.

      I manage the money, because I’m cheap and that way we get to have nice vacations.

      I do most of the laundry, because I don’t like how my wife folds or hangs stuff.

      She does most of the tidying up, because she’s less tolerant of ambient mess than I am. This reverses when we’re having company, as I have a very strong “clean up for company” imperative from my childhood.

      Dishes are, I think, mostly even.

      Time with the kids is even, I think. (Bed, bath, reading, homework) Maybe shading towards her, but not egregiously so.

      In general, I’m satisfied with out division of labor. I think she is too, though it’s probably worth a conversation.

    • honoredb says:

      My wife and I often drift into lifestyles where she’s doing too much of the household labor, due to a combination of her having higher cleanliness standards and me being selfish/negligent without noticing. I think there’s a lot going on there: gendered differences in social desirability bias/preferences, difference in conscientiousness levels that might be gender-correlated, and just random different preferences (my brother’s much neater than I am). I don’t believe in justice as an end goal but I value my wife’s happiness and effectiveness equal to mine, and my wife does believe in justice, so I basically just try to be extra conscientious about the chores that I do value and cheerfully pitch in with the ones that I don’t.

      Right now we’re in a phase where division of labor works out pretty well because we have a new chore, walking our loud excitable dog, that I enjoy and she often hates, so I can just always be the one to do it when we’re both home, and currently we’re on similar schedules so that’s almost all walks.

    • Clutzy says:

      It is my opinion that this article, and all similar articles are typically built on a bed of lies that they incorporate into assumptions (and they often ignore pay and commute disparities). But I have charitably assume they are the first ever to do this methodology correctly and will directly address the main points.

      1) mothers take over certain tasks because fathers do not share the same priorities about when to do them

      Probably true. But its also likely that this is most likely because of time shifting of when a hobby/entertainment must be done. Its not great to go to the gym or play pickup at 10 PM after the kids are asleep. Also related, lots of women seem to do working out/hobbies in the middle of the day, even if they work full time jobs. Spin classes are the common example. So, yes, obviously if the dishes need cleaning, the man gets back an hour later because he did his hobby/exercise after work instead of midday, and sports TV is the only thing you gotta watch live, then yes he has greater time preferences. Not understanding that is being dumb.

      2) mothers do certain tasks that fathers feel are valuable but unnecessary

      A concept I’ve referred to as the Chore-Hobby duality. Any chore overly done is actually a hobby (some hobbies are never chores). I will personally say in our household, I consider a majority (no kids) of the “chores” done by the other person to be mostly useless. For instance, she bakes, takes care of plants (that produce no food!), and decorates. In other households I know some wives vacuum daily, or more than that. Those are hobbies! We dont give a man credit for the 5th hour he’s spend repairing his motorcycle that day. If I did some woodworking and made a bunch of weird statues to display in the house no one would count those hours!

      3) mothers do more because they feel a need to do more, as a matter of personality

      Probably true in 2 spaces, cleaning and childcare. Cleaning is a neuroticism thing which most men are lower on, and childcare I think is a thing where its evidence that having a man and a woman in the household is usually good for children. There are 2 parenting techniques, and they are both needed.

    • Plumber says:


      “Let’s talk division of labor in the home…”

      (Full disclosure: I didn’t read the linked essay, as it didn’t seem like it’d be anything new, and I’ve seen other essays on that topic over the decades, women do more hours of hoisework, men die or get crippled at work more, what else is new?)
      Anyway, I work outside the home and driving to and from the job and home is a blight I deeply resent (a bit less hours at work would be nice as well, but it’s the driving that frustrates me more).
      My wife is a “stay-at-home-mom” and she resents how much of her time is soent doing childcare (after are second son waa born and my job looked more secure I started bringing home more take out so she resents cooking less now).
      Last night when I came home she expounded for many minutes about how hard it was looking after our almost 3 year-old son (especially now that our older son is taking more classes) while I tried to look like I was listening and sympathetic, but within an hour the little guy said something cute, and she smiled and said “I always want a little kid in the house”.
      Aa to who has it better or worse I can’t tell, when part of my day is soent at Lefty O’Doul’s I’d say I have it better, but when part of it us spent pulling hair out of the drains in the autopsy room I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying: “You think you have it hard, let me tell you what I did today”.
      Mostly, I don’t think we resent each other for not picking up more slack, it’s fate we curse and/or are grateful to.

      • Randy M says:

        Are you unclogging the drain at Lefty’s, knocking back a pint, or both?

        • Plumber says:

          @Randy M,
          Just corned beef and cabbage for me, and that was some years ago when the crew was mostly born in either the Philippines or the Soviet Union, about twice a year we’d go together and have a meal, it was a left over tradition from when the crew was of mostly Irish descent from which only one guy in his 60’s was left by then.
          In some ways we’ve come full circle as now most of the Filipinos are retired, as are half of the Russians, unlike five years ago most of my co-workers are now U.S. born (thought their paremts are immigrants), and both the blue-collar new Superintendent is Irish-American as is the new white-collar Manager (one to direct the trades, the other to interact with the “tenants” which are the cops, courts, et cetera. In theory they’re of co-equal status), though now we go to an Italian restaurant twice a year instead.

          I think that I’ve mentioned this before but, even though the plurality of city staff is now of Asian descent, celebrations are still had at the Irish Cultural Center, and the Italian Athletic Club – just like when those were the dominant ethnicities fifty years ago.

          If you’re temperamentally conservative I highly recommend government building repair work, as unlike the private sector resistance to change is normal despite “new initiatives” from the white-collar side, in my bosses words “Take those new computers they issued us and put ’em in you’re lockers and leave them there, what we do works and we’re not changing anything”.

      • Nick says:

        (Full disclosure: I didn’t read the linked essay, as it didn’t seem like it’d be anything new, and I’ve seen other essays on that topic over the decades, women do more hours of hoisework, men die or get crippled at work more, what else is new?)

        Don’t feel bad; it really wasn’t anything new, although the explanations proposed by the men interested me. I mostly wanted to see anecdata from folks here.

    • J.R. says:

      Another anecdote. I’m the M half of a M/F marriage, American, in our late-20s. We don’t have kids yet.

      Our split is about me 75%, her 25%. It works.

      Some notes for context:

      -We both work full-time, white-collar jobs. I have a more demanding job and a longer commute, so I am usually home ~2 hours later than her on weeknights.

      -Since we don’t have kids and don’t entertain during the week, we push off our major housecleaning items until the weekend. During the week, I do close to 100% of the housework, which is mostly dishwashing every night and doing the trash on trash day.

      -Why do I do ~100% of the dishwashing? My wife has a relatively small appetite and eats very small portions, which means she cooks infrequently. She skips breakfast and eats lunch at her work cafeteria, while I always make a big breakfast and take my lunch to work. I cook dinner ~2-3 times per week, too. Add this up and 80% of the dirty dishes are mine. When we moved in together, it felt awkward to nag my wife to wash the 1 plate she ate dinner off of and her tea mug when I was washing a sink full of dishes that I soiled. In the time it would take for me to ask her to clean up after herself, I could just wash her plate since I was already standing in front of the sink. (She does 100% of the cleaning of cooking utensils, pans, etc. when she cooks, though)

      -When we clean during the weekend, we split the division of labor evenly. I take some of the more masculine-coded (“gross”) chores like cleaning the shower or toilets, while she vacuums.

      -I’m more of a perfectionist, so I do more of the tidying up during the week too. Still, we have a similar tolerance for messiness, which is an underrated component to having a harmonious relationship. As a side note, I seem to enjoy housework more than my wife.

      Overall, I’m fine with the arrangement. I would prefer to do less — who wouldn’t? — but I am responsible for most of the messes I have to clean up.

    • nadbor says:

      Our dynamic is that my wife spontaneously does most of the work and then is exhausted by it and complains. Meanwhile I always try to do my fair share, always fall short and feel guilty about it. It’s the perfect system.

      • nadbor says:

        It’s not that there is a big pile of dirty dishes waiting to be washed – if there was I’d just do them to lighten her load. Besides, we have a lady come over and clean up twice a week (she also does school drop-offs and pick-ups for our two daughters). It’s just that when a child needs new shoes, my wife is always the one to remember about it. When we’re going on vacation she always insists that she packs the bags because I would forget something important (I wouldn’t). Any school and after-school activities for the children, doctor appointments, etc. – she’s on top of that. This stuff adds up.

        There are several reasons for this state of affairs:
        – partly it’s because I’m lazy and not proactive enough about those things.
        – Partly it’s because for her it’s a compulsion. Like – out of her own free will, unprompted she spends time online researching home decor until late at night. Not because she enjoys it, just because she feels she has to do it.
        – for children-related chores a big factor is the fact that she feels guilty about working full time and not spending more time with our daughters. So she compensates by being extra conscientious about child stuff by and attending every school non-event
        – in a small part it is because I’m making more money than she does and if one of us needs to take time off work it makes more sense for it to be her (especially since I’m self employed). But this is more an excuse than a reason. If anything, causation may be in the other direction. It’s not a big deal anyway. We could afford for both of us to take the day off when a child is sick if we wanted to. I always volunteer that I do it and she always refuses.

    • g says:

      Late-40s MF couple, one school-age child. I (husband) work full-time, my wife works from home ~50% time. I’m paid a lot more than her per hour so this sort of division makes sense. My wife does a lot more of the chores than I do. Analysing exactly why is difficult but I assume it’s a combination of (1) that’s reasonable since I’m out working when she isn’t, (2) she cares more than I do about (e.g.) tidiness, and (3) sexism. (I try to avoid #3 but I dare say not perfectly.)

      More specifically, my wife does almost all the cleaning and tidying, most of the cooking (weekday evening meals are hers, weekend meals are mine), almost all the childcare, a minority of the gardening (I do all the mowing and most of the weeding; other garden things are roughly equal), about half the shopping, most of the admin, approximately none of the DIY (not that we do very much of that), approximately none of the car/bike maintenance. Note that the things she does more of are the things that need doing more often and take up more time on net.

      I don’t think either of us feels terribly hard-done-by, on balance. I don’t complain about her to others; whether she complains about me to others, I don’t know :-).

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      M in MF marriage, one kid, both spouses have demanding full-time jobs. I think we end up splitting approx. 50/50 overall, but the big caveat is that we outsource a lot of traditional housework (we have a nanny and a weekly cleaning-and-laundry service and eat takeout a lot) which we are lucky enough to be able to do because of said demanding full-time jobs. I do most non-outsourced dishes and laundry; my wife probably does about 2/3 of the non-outsourced cooking. We try and split the day-to-day non-outsourced childcare (kid transportation, bath and bedtime routine) equally, but my wife ends up doing most of the kid project management (buying clothes, planning parties, playdates etc) while I do almost all of the home repair project management. One of the glaring omissions in the article’s analysis is any discussion of how level of outsourcing (which of course depends largely on income) affects division of non-outsourced work.

  29. tossrock says:

    Once again, China surges past the US in a STEM field, and this time it’s… literal wireheading?

    The next day, he sat across from Dr. Li, who used a tablet computer to remotely adjust the machine thrumming inside Yan’s head.

    “Cheerful?” Li asked as the touched the controls on the tablet.

    “Yes,” Yan answered.

    Li changed the settings. “Now?”

    “Agitated,” Yan said. He felt heat in his chest, then a beating sensation, numbness and fatigue. Yan began to sweat.

    Li made a few more modifications. “Any feelings now?”

    “Pretty happy now,” Yan said.

    He was in high spirits. “This machine is pretty magical. He adjusts it to make you happy and you’re happy, to make you nervous and you’re nervous,” Yan said. “It controls your happiness, anger, grief and joy.”

    On the one hand, yes, the opiod epidemic is a modern scourge, and novel approaches to combatting it are good. On the other, China’s historical lack of respect for human rights, and ethically atrocious medical procedures involving prisoners. And also the literal wireheading.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the decade ending in 2017 — increasingly, from synthetic opioids that come mainly from China, U.S. officials say. That’s more than the number of U.S. soldiers who died in World War II and Vietnam combined.

      At least two U.S. laboratories dropped clinical trials of DBS for treating alcoholism over concerns about study design and preliminary results that didn’t seem to justify the risks, investigators who led the studies told The Associated Press.

      I wonder, in a future where you’d prosecute and shoot people for this, what would the charges be?

    • Walter says:

      Woah, this seems like a really big deal. I didn’t realize that such things could be real so soon.

    • Plumber says:

      “I have seen the future and it works” – and it’s terrifying!

      • SamChevre says:

        A quote from one of my favorite authors–Lincoln Steffens. (I recommend his autobiography frequently.)

  30. BBA says:

    While doing one of my deep dives into obscure topics, I discovered these remarkable descriptions of what getting a degree from Oxford was like in the late 18th century:

    Mr. John Scott took his Bachelor’s Degree in Hilary Term on the 20th February 1770. “An examination for a Degree at Oxford,” he used to say, “was a farce in my time. I was examined in Hebrew and in History. ‘What is the Hebrew for the place of a skull?’ I replied, ‘Golgotha.’ ‘Who founded University College?’ I stated (though, by the way, the point is sometimes doubted) that King Alfred founded it. ‘Very well, Sir,’ said the Examiner, ‘you are competent for your Degree.'”

    Every Candidate is obliged to be examined in the whole circle of the sciences by three Masters of Arts, of his own choice. The examination is to be holden in one of the public schools and to continue from nine o’clock till eleven. The Masters take a most solemn oath that they will examine properly and impartially. Dreadful as all this appears, there is always found to be more of appearance in it than reality, for the greatest dunce usually gets his testimonium signed with as much ease and credit as the finest genius. The manner of proceeding is as follows: The poor young man to be examined in the sciences often knows no more of them than his bed-maker, and the Masters who examine are sometimes equally unacquainted with such mysteries. But schemes, as they are called, or little books, containing 40 or 50 questions in each science, are handed down from age to age, from one to another. The Candidate to be examined employs three or four days in learning these by heart, and the Examiners, having done the same before him when they were examined, know what questions to ask, and so all goes on smoothly. When the Candidate has displayed his universal knowledge of the sciences, he is to display his skill in Philology. One of the Masters, therefore, desires him to construe a passage in some Greek or Latin classic, which he does with no interruption, just as he pleases, and as well as he can. The Statutes next require that he should translate familiar English phrases into Latin. And now is the time when the Masters show their wit and jocularity. Droll questions are put on any subject, and the puzzled Candidate furnishes diversion in his awkward embarrassment. I have known the questions on this occasion to consist of an inquiry into the pedigree of a race-horse.

    It might have been added that at this time the Examiners were chosen by the Candidate himself from among his friends, and he was expected to provide a dinner for them after the Examination was over.

    These come from from the 1852 report of a royal commission on reforming the university’s then 300-year-old statutes. I find the rest of the report pretty interesting too – it shows how this ancient guild of scholastics started to look like a modern place of higher learning. The report comments that, following an early 19th century reform that made the examinations meaningful again, it was found impractical to examine all students on all subjects, so the B.A. degree was divided into “classical” and “mathematical” examinations. The commission suggested adding further subdivisions, and of course now you can get a degree in any subject you can think of.

    The other thing I’d like to note is that it shows what a university looked like before the introduction of the Ph.D.: there were very few graduate students, and higher degrees were a formality. Notably, only a handful of students took medical degrees, as they were not a requirement to practice medicine at the time (but that’s a whole other post). The other doctorates were in divinity and civil law, only useful for attaining higher offices in the university and the church, and only granted to those who had already proven themselves worthy of those higher offices. Today the “LL.D.”/”D.C.L.” are common designations for honorary degrees in America, in a link back to the time when the great English universities had entire faculties in a legal system that their country has never used.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I am intrigued by the use of ”bed-maker”, as that term has survived, though usually shortened to ”bedder”, in Cambridge where it is used to refer to cleaners in student accommodation (who do not make students’ beds). In Oxford the same people are called ”scouts” and have been since at least the 1930s- one is a character in Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1935 mystery novel Gaudy Night, set in a fictional Oxford college modelled on the one she attended from 1912 to 1915.

      • BBA says:

        Always hard to tell with these terminology and other oddities, if the difference is 19th/21st century, or Britain/America, or Oxbridge/everywhere else.

  31. greenwoodjw says:

    Very excited to see people abandon the “hide and wait to die” lockdown model as a response to rampage attacks. The people who rise up and fight against the monsters aren’t just saving the lives of the people around them, but also reducing the number of future attacks by making them less advantageous.

    • The Nybbler says:

      There’s a three-day rule against politicizing tragedies here.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        I’m not talking about this specific shooting, but the larger pattern. And I thought this piece was a retrospective on a recent one, not today’s, but the edit window is passed

        • John Schilling says:

          Taking advantage of the fact that people are focused on a particular instance of tragedy, to promote your policy of how people ought to deal with the larger pattern of similar tragedies, is pretty much the definition of “politicizing a tragedy”. And it is tactically effective in the short term, which is why every mass shooting is followed by countless newspaper stories and editorials about how we as a nation ought to deal with the larger pattern of mass shootings. But it tends to short-circuit rationality and it erodes civility in the long term, which is why we generally don’t do it here.

          Anything that’s not politicizing a tragedy, works just as well next week as this.

    • hash872 says:

      Tell us about the active shooter situation where you behaved bravely & nobly

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Never been in one. I can only hope that I would have the same level of courage as displayed by some of the heroes in recent events.

        But that’s really outside of my point.

      • Plumber says:

        I can’t, but there’s been a couple of times that I’ve been stunned and stupid when shots were fired:
        Twice in the ’90’s I’ve been near gunfire on city streets where I could see muzzle flash, once when I was in a car with my wife at the corner of Ashby and Sacramento in Berkeley where she yelled for me to drive through the red light, and once when I entered the parking lot of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland at night, several shots were fired, I saw the large mass of taxis waiting there take off fast, and I briefly considered walking to the next BART station, but I was really tired after work, so I just waited in the lot without getting closer to where the shots were fired for some minutes until impatience got the best of me and I walked the rest of the way to the station.

        The only times that I can think of that I acted anything vaguely “nobly” around guns was when I was a child in the 1970’s when our dog got loose, and I went to fetch him and found him barking at a neighbor keeping him from coming down the stairs, I tried to lead our dog away and the neighbor announced that “I’m going to get my gun” and I hugged our dog and begged and cried for him not to shoot it, the second time was when I was a teenager in the ’80’s snd I was in my room reading and my brother came in and looked up to see hom pointing a rifle at me while smiling, later that night our father said “Don’t mess with the guns in my closet, they’re loaded”, and I didn’t tell on my brother.

        Thankfully I’ve only had a gun pointed directly at me once more in my lifetime (by a police officer who pulled me over).

      • Incurian says:

        hash872, I think he is approving of a change in policy/strategy rather than questioning the courage of past victims.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Yes. The decades of “active compliance” and “passive resistance” have resulted in mass shootings and high-crime areas, and people are starting to ignore the Official Advice because it’s so obviously wrong. It’s not the fault of the people who reacted according to what they were taught, but of the people doing the teaching.

          • Shion Arita says:

            Well, you want to comply if you believe the crime in progress is about something other than the violence itself. For example, if what’s going on is you’re being robbed, give them the money, and they are extremely unlikely to shoot you. If they just want to kill you, well then, it’s time to go to no quarter.

      • aristides says:

        Personally, my ex-military father gave me and my brother active shooter training, complete with mock exercises, and advocated providing similar training to all high schoolers after Kent State, but I’m sure I’m in the minority. If I remember right the teachers called his suggested mandatory training dystopian. Note he actually was in favor of repealing the second amendment, he just thought training high schoolers was more realistic. Instead we just locked down the schools and put at least one armed officer at every school at all times. Much less dystopian.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Aristides remember that at one point students in school were taught duck and cover. And more recently most schools have some form of lock-down drill. And of course fire drills are a thing and have been for quite awhile. Mind you these are all different kinds of tail risk.

          My old place of work had a learning module on ‘active shooter’ situation — something like ‘run, hide, fight’ [in that order] but no drill associated with it.

          I don’t think most young people can be relied upon to defend themselves in a situation like this, even if they were trained to do so. Teaching them how to quickly barricade themselves will probably have a more reliable outcome but that only buys time. It does no one any good unless there’s someone armed willing and able to engage the shooter.

        • acymetric says:

          Kent State is…kind of a weird example isn’t it? Very different from “typical” active shooter situations.

          • aristides says:

            Agreed, that was probably the one where active shooter training would have helped the most, but more recent shooters are much more sophisticated. I’m not sure what the best policy is, though I think some training would be useful. Run, hide, and fight was basically my training from my father and workplace, but I don’t know how effective it is. It’ll at least be more useful than duck and cover.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What specifically should the students have done differently at Kent State?

          • John Schilling says:

            What specifically should the students have done differently at Kent State?

            Niven’s first law would have been appropriate there, both parts.

            More generally, if there are men with guns promising violence, and you aren’t prepared to win a gunfight or die a martyr, try really hard to Be Someplace Else. AFIK, nobody at Kent State was stopping students from individually or collectively leaving. Not sure how many of the students were trying to die as martyrs.

          • aristides says:

            I am an idiot. I got Kent State confused with Virginia Tech. I’m glad I looked up a citation before giving my explanation. I think my comments will make more sense for Virginia Tech, and probably don’t need as much of an explanation as to how active shooter training would have helped there. Though now that I read the after fact reports, it actually looks like the narrative I heard from the media was wrong. I heard that the students lined up against a wall when threatened, but it looks like that was inaccurate. I’ll have to do more research some time.

          • John Schilling says:

            I am an idiot. I got Kent State confused with Virginia Tech.

            Honest mistake, no problem. And yes, the standard active-shooter doctrine would probably have been appropriate at Virginia Tech.

      • I didn’t.

        When I was living in Philadelphia, about 1975, my then wife and I were witnesses to a shooting at the corner where our house was. I was outside for some reason. The shooter ran down the street towards me. He waved his gun at me and I got out of the way.

        I think the prudent decision under the circumstances.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Yeah, unarmed people shouldn’t go chasing down armed murderers fleeing a sense. Rampage killers are very different.

    • LesHapablap says:

      It seems like for an overall strategy we should lavish huge rewards on anyone who acts heroically in these situations. At the very least their name should be in all the headlines about the incident instead of the shooter’s.

      • albatross11 says:

        The one thing I’m pretty sure of is that the shooters’ names, faces, and manifestoes should not be trumpeted by news outlets. Ideally, you’d bury the f–kers in an unmarked grave and never mention them again.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I have a vague feeling we are turning the corner on this, ever since New Zealand.

          (Ironically, there were attempts to criminalize the possession of the killer’s manifesto/livestream, and attempts to use government force to censor people on the Internet who made it available. Which is completely the wrong response. I sort of wanted to mirror the manifesto as a fuck-you to the censors.)

          But, at least the media wasn’t playing his livestream 24/7 on the news networks.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, suppressing and censoring information is a terrible idea, and I’m completely opposed to it.

            But there’s something crazy about having all the high-prestige voices in the society announce that if you take a gun and murder half a dozen strangers, they will devote a week or two to making you famous and publicizing all your grievances, all the injustices done to you, and your most controversial political and social views.

            I suspect one thing that’s going on here w.r.t various attempts to censor footage/manifestos/etc., is an attempt to get ahead of a race-to-the-bottom. There’s always an incentive to run with the most outrageous, sensational, horrible thing you can find. The latest spree killer’s blood-curdling pre-massacre pictures posted to Facebook and his unhinged manifesto are industrial-strength clickbait. If the big news sources refuse to run that stuff, but the Buzzfeeds and Enquirers do run it, they may make a ton of money and increase their standing until they’re also the big boys. For that matter, Twitter users / Youtubers who want a wider audience have a similar incentive. I have no good idea how to push back on that, though I agree that putting the state (or a coalition of tech companies) into the role of deciding what anyone’s allowed to read/watch is a really bad idea.

  32. danridge says:

    Well, I posted a followup to my music theory discussion from last thread, but I DEFINITELY tripped some spam filters by accidentally including markup by using (less than)-(greater than) to indicate an unordered pair, noticing this wasn’t displaying correctly and trying to edit, not seeing the post show up at all afterwards, then trying to repost twice because I didn’t see it after the first time. I don’t know if it’s in some sort of moderation and maybe it’ll get approved and show up later, if it just got swallowed I have it saved and I could try reposting later.

    • liate says:

      For greater-than and less-than signs:
      > – &gt;
      < – &lt;
      (These comments just use html, I assume with some kind of security stuff to make sure you can’t just use script tags, etc; those are just html entities for characters which have special meaning in anything XML-based.)

      • danridge says:

        Yeah, right as I figured that out the post started disappearing when I tried editing it…the downside of my ‘try random changes until you stop getting compilation errors’ coding style when applied in production I suppose.

  33. danridge says:

    I posted a sort of music theory puzzle in the last open thread, but I guess a bit late in its lifecycle; in short form, white keys on a piano are a major scale on C, black keys are major pentatonic scale on F#, meaning in general the complement of a major scale is a major pentatonic scale rooted a tritone away. Why would that be, and does this have significance for the relation between the scales? Some people got some really good analysis of it, and I actually hadn’t visualized constructing the scales as filling in the circle of fifths before a couple people analyzed it this way. Since that thread is superseded, I’ll put a cap on it by pointing out something about transpositions which I didn’t see mentioned.

    Distance along the circle of fifths is the best measure of ‘distance’ between keys, and you might think that the best argument for this is that keys adjacent on the circle share 6 out of 7 of their notes, the maximum without the scale just being identical. If this were the only justification, then only the most distant key on the other side of the circle should share the smallest amount of notes, but the smallest possible overlap between two sets of seven things chosen out of a possible 12 is 2, and three scales will share that: the one a tritone away, and the two a fifth away from that on either side, e.g. for C major, F#/Gb B and Db major all share two notes. However, if we treat the modulation as a transposition of each note, we can see a difference. When you transpose by one half step, there will be two notes which map onto notes already in the scale, because each scale has two half steps in it (in C these are B->C and E->F). However, when you modulate a tritone away, the two notes that are shared are the only two in the scale that are a tritone away from each other, and these map onto each other. So, if we wanted to come up with a distance function for keys which would assign a greater distance between C and F#/Gb than between C and B, it could be: the number of unordered pairs of notes which map onto notes already in the scale when you move from one to the other; to make it run the right direction and map mostly to the shared notes, just use the 7 minus the number of unordered pairs for the distance. Because the pairs are unordered, BF and FB are not distinct, and so the transposition C->F# has one unordered pair while C->B has two (BC and EF). Note that these two keys MUST be a tritone apart because a tritone, as 6 semitones, bisects the 12 ordered notes, and thus is the only interval that inverts to itself (if you’re not familiar with inversion, a major third (four semitones, e.g. C->E) inverts to a minor sixth (8 semitones, e.g. E->C), according to the formula inverse=-original mod 12).

    Anyway, what does this mean for the relation of the scales? Well as @Anatoly mentioned, the tritone is a good interval to avoid in constructing a pentatonic scale. If I asked you to construct pentatonic scale by removing two notes of the heptatonic scale, and you wanted more consonant intervallic content, you’d quickly realize you wanted to get rid of the tritone; of course, this realization only implies that you should choose ONE of the two notes which form the tritone in order to eliminate it; the implications for choosing other second notes and calling THAT the major pentatonic scale is a good exercise to work through. I found it cool to approach this again with the method of selecting the notes by filling in the circle of fifths; also note that both of the notes in the tritone are parts of one of the two pairs of notes a half step apart in the heptatonic scale. But in any case, take it as proven that to form the major pentatonic scale, we will remove the two notes a tritone apart in the major scale.

    So, given this and the discussion of distance between scales, we can see that the two notes which are shared by C major and F# major are also the two notes which would be removed to form either of their major pentatonic scales, thus the complement of C major pentatonic + F# major pentatonic is the two notes which overlap between C major heptatonic and F# major heptatonic, and this is a consequence of them being the most distant keys along the circle of fifths, a tritone apart.

    Hopefully that is somewhat interesting to mathematically inclined musicians, which I think are probably represented here at least more than mathematically uninclined musicians. I’m going to take this as fulfilling my promise to keep rambling about music theory last thread, but if anyone had questions or something specific they wanted to discuss, I’d be happy to do that.

  34. Tenacious D says:

    In a recent discussion about sports it was noted that athletes from East Africa dominate sports that are quite different from those that athletes from West Africa (or ancestry from there) generally excel at. I know clusters of high achievement (e.g. Hungarian high schools) is a topic of interest at SSC in general. So it seems like someone here might know the answer to something I’m curious about: spelling bees these days feature a disproportionate number of students with South Asian backgrounds, but is it more specific than that? That is, do the spelling bee champions tend to have their family background in a certain region of the subcontinent? Or a certain caste? Or is it something about the schools they attend after immigrating to America?

    • Anthony says:

      I would guess that spelling bee winners cluster within certain higher castes. Anyone familiar with the spatial and caste geography of Indian surnames could collect lists of spelling bee winners and make pretty good guesses just from last names. This seems like obvious Steve Sailer bait.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Although of course you then need to compare it with the surname distribution in Indian immigrants to America to see whether part of that effect is because people from certain castes/regions are more likely to immigrate in the first place.

  35. bullseye says:

    I’ve read that some European countries don’t officially recognize titles of nobility anymore, but the families still keep track of who has what title. To the best of my knowledge this has not happened in the U.S., and I’m American.

    I figure we never had as many lords as England, and the ones we had would have been mostly Tories (and therefore encouraged to relocate), but surely somebody stayed. Did they just stop claiming the title? Or maybe they do still claim the title but they’re very quiet about it and don’t associate with the likes of me?

    There are also parts of the country that seem like they might have French or Spanish nobility.

    The only example I know of is the royal family of Hawaii, who from what I understand don’t claim any title but do keep track of who would have had it.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      The US takes a very dim view of titles of nobility. The US constitution bans the government from giving them out, and there was nearly an amendment added that strips you of your citizenship if you have one from a foreign country. So you can see why people would give up on tracking who has what title.

    • b_jonas says:

      I think that’s just a matter of years? Like eyeballfrog says, the U. S. has decided around 1788 that they don’t want heritable nobility titles. In contrast, in Hungary they were abolished only after world war II, so there are still a few people alive who had the right to wear a title before that. The United Kingdom still has nobility titles as far as I’m aware.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        The UK still does have titles of nobility, though in practice new hereditary titles are not granted to non-royals (though old ones continue to be inherited). I think the only European countries still creating new hereditary titles are Belgium and Spain.

        • ana53294 says:

          In Spain new titles are given, but inheriting a title means a taxable event.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            How does this work? Is a title of nobility assigned a monetary value and taxed with the rest of the estate, or is there a fixed inheriting-a-title tax?

            Given that I assume titles can’t be sold, does the title go extinct if the heir can’t or won’t pay? Or does it go into abeyance until a new heir pays to claim it?

          • Protagoras says:

            According to Wikipedia, the title does not pass automatically, but must be claimed by the heir (though only the heir can make a claim, apparently). There are large fees for claiming a title (presumably for, among other things, the expenses of verifying that the claimant really is the heir), and apparently if a period of 40 years goes by without anybody claiming the title, it becomes extinct.

          • ana53294 says:

            When the possessor of the title dies, their direct progeny have to claim it. Primogeniture is still a thing, so the eldest child (they removed the gender requirements), claims it and pays the tax. If the rightful heir does not claim it within a certain period, the title is declared vacant, after what other heirs can claim it and rehabilitate the title. If 45 years have passed since the title was last used, the title is declared extinct.

            When the previous Ducchess of Alba died, she split her 46 titles among her children, so primogeniture is not an absolute requirement. But if the current Duke of Alba did question it, it could lead to a very long court battle.

            There are three types of taxes, which depend on whether the title has a Grande de España attached to it, or whether it’s a grandeeship alone (superior to any title except the duchal one without grandeeship).

            A title with Grande de España: 2,775.39 €
            A grandeeship: 1,968.14 €
            A title without grandeeship: 807.25 €

            These are taxes for direct transmission; from ascendants to descendants, or between siblings, as long as their parent held the title.

            For transversal transmission, the tax is higher. For rehabilitation, it’s even higher.

            The tax is paid once, when the title is acquired, and no more tax has to be paid.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The ability of the holder of multiple titles to split their subsidiary titles among their children during their lifetime is another major difference between the UK and Spain.

          • ana53294 says:

            They weren’t subsidiary titles. They were duchies and other full, independent titles.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @ana53294- In England, a subsidiary title is any title held by a person with more than one title, other than the most senior one. For instance, one of the Duke of Norfolk’s subsidiary titles is Earl of Arundel. This is a full, independent title- in fact, it has existed for longer than the Dukedom of Norfolk has, and there have been periods of time when the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Arundel were separate people.

        • b_jonas says:

          Oh yeah, that part must have been pretty much automatic. Bestowing new nobility titles is something that usually only monarchs do. Since there was no king of Hungary after 1920, I presume that no new titles could be created.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      The British government do not care where a peer lives, it does not affect their ability to inherit the title. For instance, the current (12th) Duke of Atholl has lived his entire life in South Africa, as did his father the 11th Duke, who inherited the title from his second cousin once removed.

      So if there was somebody in America with the right to a British hereditary title, and the relevant offices were aware of their existence, they would have the title, even if they chose not to use it (as many peers resident in the UK choose not to).

      The numbers may just be smaller than you think, though. Peerages do become extinct. While there are about 800 living hereditary peers, a great many of them hold titles created after American independence.

      EDIT: On checking, there are people in the US with British hereditary titles. The Earl of Wharncliffe is a construction worker in Maine (though that family were first ennobled in 1826) and the heir to the Earldom of Essex is a retired grocery store worker in California. But in both those cases they have an ancestor who emigrated to the US after independence. I think there simply weren’t enough (or any?!) peers in the colonies who stayed.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Just found one, at least in the past. The Lords* Fairfax of Cameron (as in Fairfax County, VA) were American for several generations.

      Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax, was apparently (per Wikipedia) “the only resident peer in late colonial America”. He inherited huge amounts of land in Virginia in 1719, and moved there in 1747. His lands were confiscated by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1779, and he died in 1781.

      There were other relatives of the Fairfax family in Virginia, including Thomas’s cousin William who acted as his land agent in Virginia from 1732. As both Thomas Fairfax and his brother died without heirs (the latter in 1793), the peerage passed to William’s son Bryan. Bryan, when in England in 1798, claimed the title but then didn’t use it again.

      The 9th, 10th, and 11th Lords Fairfax appear to have lived in America all their lives and never used the title. Albert, the 12th Lord Fairfax (Bryan’s great-great-great-grandson) decided for some reason to move to England and become a naturalised British citizen so he could sit in the House of Lords. The current Lord Fairfax is Nicholas, 14th Lord Fairfax, Albert’s grandson.

      *They are Lords of Parliament, a Scottish title equivalent to an English or British baron- baron in Scotland being a lower title. This allowed them to sit in the Scottish Parliament until it abolished itself in 1707. They then had some right to sit in the British House of Lords, either as Scottish Representative Peers (until 1963), automatically (until 1999) or as representative hereditary peers (currently).

      • Protagoras says:

        Adam Smith claimed that the Spanish tried to maintain a hereditary aristocracy in their American colonies, while the British did not, and that this accounted for the much greater wealth of the American colonies. This historical tidbit certainly highlights how dramatic the difference in policies was. And the name made me check, and this was a the same Fairfax family as the Thomas Fairfax who was for a time leade