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Open Thread 128.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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723 Responses to Open Thread 128.5

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Awhile ago, I asked about information on animal bounty hunting here, and didn’t get an answer. The truth is, I don’t care that much about animal bounty hunting, but it just seems like a blank spot in the universe of information. There would be plenty of history, government policy (has there ever been bounty hunting sponsored by something other than a government?), and environmental effects.

    So I asked at Ask.Metafilter and got some answers.

    There’s one thing which should be of interest to researchers. The Library of Congress has search for related subject headings.

    • albatross11 says:

      The first example that comes to mind is a government one: Putting a bounty on cobras wasn’t a big success.. I vaguely recall that there was a bounty on buffalo at some point, but a quick Google search didn’t yield much.

    • LesHapablap says:

      In New Zealand in the 60s and 70s the government put bounties on deer. This was the start of the helicopter industry over here, with huge sums of money made. Many pilots and shooters were killed flying machines overloaded way beyond what they were designed for and in dangerous conditions.

      Here’s a quick clip of an overloaded helicopter dragging a load of deer off a cliff because it doesn’t have the power to pick up: https://youtu.be/tjsxjsVRg5Q?t=88

      And a documentary about it: https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/deer-wars-2007

      • LesHapablap says:

        https://youtu.be/v0mJMNyh9zM?t=218

        At some point they switched to live capture. Above is a video showing off some of the gadgets used: a homemade taser fired from a revolver, a net gun. Some extremely dangerous flying clips: obviously none of that would be legal today. A shooter hanging off the skid shooting taser wires with one hand while the pilot chases a deer close to terrain, then having the shooter jump off onto a deer with live current going through him. Highly skilled pilots and shooters!

    • S_J says:

      I’ve seen articles about hunting Mountain Lion for bounty in the American Rifleman magazine.

      The bounty was ended sometime in the mid-20th Century, so the articles were mostly about late-19th and early-20th Century hunters.

      I can’t recall what other details there were about bounties and hunting.

      Of note: Mountain Lion have rebounded since then. To my knowledge, they are currently protected from hunting. Every once in a while, a Mountain Lion will attack a jogger or bicyclist.

      I don’t think bounties should be re-instated, but I think there is some benefit in limited hunting…if only to discourage predators from hanging around areas where humans congregate.

    • Ketil says:

      In Norway, there were bounties on large perdators (wolf, bear, lynx), which I think was quite effective, causing(?) a stock collapse especially for wolf in mid-1860s, from which the poulation never really recovered. Some graphs here (and maybe Google Translate can help with the text) http://www.rovdyr.org/arkiv/ssb_ulv.html

  2. proyas says:

    A futurist named “Jamie Metzl” recently went on the Joe Rogan show and predicted that we’ll soon be able to make super designer babies thanks to the ability to convert skin cells into egg cells. Using a process of induced pluripotency, he predicts it will be possible to turn 100,000 skin cells from an adult into 100,000 eggs containing that adult’s DNA, and that they could then be fertilized with sperm via IVF, and the zygote with the best genetics out of 100,000 could be implanted in a womb and brought to term. Voila! A super designer baby.

    (Skip to the 23:00 mark to see Metzl describe this himself: https://youtu.be/VBPnjte2UV8?t=1383)

    I am not a geneticist, but I suspect that Metzl is doing an enormous amount of hand-waving here, and that he’s ignoring high failure/mutation rates at every phase of the process he describes. Am I right? Exactly how serious are those problems?

    What technical and cost hurdles need to be overcome before we have a “Metzl Process” that allows for the creation of ONLY 100 human zygotes in one go, for <$25,000? How many years will it take for us to get that?

    Will the "Metzl Process" ever reach yields of 100,000 zygotes?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      “Soon” isn’t happening, but when it does happen, it will be as a surprise.

      Also, when you can make sperm/eggs out of skin cells, you can create someone’s kids without their consent.

      • Viliam says:

        Pro tip: If you do it to a man, you can later sue him for child support.

        • There is a real case that comes close to this with current technology, but I have forgotten the cite.

          As best I recall, a nurse had (oral?) intercourse with a man using a condom, then used the contained sperm to fertilize herself, then claimed child support.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Why only to a man? If you make a woman’s

          Though on the other hand, expensive as this will probably be, if you can afford to do it, then no sane court will think you *need* child support.

    • drunkfish says:

      Is it possible to genotype a zygote without destroying it? That seems like a major assumption here, that isn’t obviously possible. Not to mention we’d need to have a good idea of what genes actually constitute “the best genetics” for this to be useful. Avoiding genetic diseases I’d imagine would be easy (if you can genotype the zygotes), but making an extra-tall or extra-smart or extra-whatever baby seems like it requires a lot of advancement in genetics, in addition to making the embryos in the first place.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Not a zygote, but blastomere biopsy is a thing.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          I have.. trouble seeing how it could ever be a cheap thing, however, so, there goes this entire plan. I mean, if it costs a euro per blastomere, this is now a million euro procedure…
          If you intend to do “search through potential offspring” as a reproductive strategy, I think you are going to have to do that in a computer and then synth the optimal genome entirely.

      • Is it possible to genotype a zygote without destroying it?

        You can do even better than that. The trick is described in an early Heinlein novel. You start with a full set of genes, split it in half to produce a sperm or egg. Destructively genotype a full cell, destructively genotypethe one half, subtract, and you have a full genotype of the other half. The sequence is a little more complicated, but that’s the essential logic of it. I doubt we could do it now, but it should be possible in the not too distant future.

        Selecting on sperm and egg is a lot more powerful than selecting on fertilized eggs. Selecting one egg out of a hundred and one sperm out of a hundred is equivalent to selecting the best fertilized egg or embryo out of ten thousand.

        • The Nybbler says:

          With eggs, this trick starts with a “polar body biopsy”, and indeed can be done, but couldn’t be done when Heinlein described it. I’m not sure it can be done with sperm yet.

    • vV_Vv says:

      “Jamie Metzl is a technology futurist and geopolitical expert, novelist, entrepreneur, media commentator, and Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council.”

      Crackpot.

      • proyas says:

        In this interview, Metzl talks the same way I did when I was in my early 20s and had just discovered transhumanism. When I look back on that part of my life, I chuckle but also feel and tinge of embarrassment.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      He’s handwaving at the hard part, which is differentiating the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into egg cells. If we were able to do that, then it would be possible, but I think we’re a ways off from that. Making egg cells generally is pretty rough without the support of the whole ovary, or at least an ovary-like chunk. Right now we can make some cell types from iPSCs, like skin or muscle or neuron, but making whole organs isn’t something we can do. We will probably, eventually, be able to do something like that but we’re not there yet and I don’t think we’re particularly close (there’s some work on this, but it’s still in its infancy). Any sort of grow-an-organ-in-a-vat technology is going to do things like lungs, liver, and kidneys before ovaries.

      Plus, there’s bigger problems beyond that. Typically, germ cells are sequestered from the rest of the organism during development. While the rest of the organism’s cells are rapidly dividing, germ cells are slow-cycling and quiescent. This reduces the chance of mutations. Grabbing a random cell (ESPECIALLY a skin cell, which is exposed to lots of UV radiation) will mean having a lot more random mutations – and if you’re starting with a cell that has many mutations, you’re not going to be able to sequence your way out of it.

      • metacelsus says:

        If we were able to do that, then it would be possible, but I think we’re a ways off from that.

        It’s already possible in mice: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature20104

        However there are some important differences between mouse and human biology which make this method infeasible for human egg production. The lab I currently work in is trying to develop a method suitable for human use. It’s quite difficult but we are making some progress.

    • metacelsus says:

      This is directly related to my research that I am doing now (I won’t say more since I might doxx myself). I estimate it will be possible in about 10 years. It is already possible with mice, albeit at low efficiency (only 0.3% of eggs produced are viable).

      Also, it will probably take at least another 10 years after the proof of principle for the FDA to approve it for medical use.

  3. deltafosb says:

    [I’m asking out of genuine curiosity, not in a sarcastic way]
    What are the examples of conservative groups’ positive contributions to society? Progressivists of course do not get everything right all the time (to put it mildly), but their effect on society seems like a net positive (by today’s standards).
    It might be the case that keeping everything as it was is just not compatible with improvement. Or postselection is taking place: we live in what in 19th century would seem like unthinkably progressive society – then it is natural to see 19th-century-progressivism (e.g. women’s suffrage) as positive. Or, dunno, I could be too deep in my liberal bubble to think of a single example (apart from stopping even worse conservatives from taking over control).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Well, what does “conservative” mean in your mind?

      The conservative impulse: “We should generally favor keeping things as they are rather than changing things, because things as they are is what we know. It is precious and has been proven by surviving over time.”

      There is a great deal of wisdom in that. “First, do no harm” applies not only in medicine. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and unintended consequences are legion.

      Proper conservative impulses balanced against more liberal ones is much more robust system than simply following one impulse or the other.

      • Randy M says:

        It would be hard to see the good done by conservatives defined so, because you are comparing it to a counter-factual, and you’d only count, say, not abolishing the electoral college as a good if you bought the premise that the electoral college still served a legitimate purpose.

        If a progressive implements a change that you were against, but ended up liking, you could be convinced by the evidence (inasmuch as you could trace any change primarily to that particular policy); if a conservative actually prevents a genuine catastrophe, it looks like them denying you the good thing you had believed the policy would bring rather than preventing the bad it would have actually brought about.

        That said, what have conservatives actually conserved? Gun rights, maybe; stopped the ERA way back when. Neocons have certainly implemented some policy changes, but those weren’t really conservative in this sense.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It would be hard to see the good done by conservatives defined so, because you are comparing it to a counter-factual

          Conversely, in your formulation conservatism can’t be seen to have a negative outcome (because you are comparing it to a counter factual where change did occur). Whereas “liberalism” can have negative outcomes.

          Actually, I think things are more nuanced than this. We frequently see a retreat to previous policies or ideas as a reaction to negative outcomes of change. This especially possible because usually liberal ideas are not adopted everywhere in uniform fashion, and changes are not effected everywhere immediately even under a new policy regime.

          Perhaps even more to the point, there is a a strong status quo bias in all things. Conservatism is the more rule than the exception.

          That said, what have conservatives actually conserved?

          Everything which has not changed!

          In addition, I think it’s something of a mistake to think of it in this way. I’d view it more as a moderator, preventing the change reaction from running away into explosion. As such, everything is a process of successfully conserving (as well as successfully changing).

          • Randy M says:

            Actually, I think things are more nuanced than this.

            True, though this is hard to see in retrospect. Small changes at the town or state level that get reversed or adopted late might be noted by historians but not more widely known.

            Everything which has not changed!

            Nice slogan, but not actually true. Plenty of things remain constant despite no one fighting to keep them, because they are hard to change, or no one imagines that they could, or because nobody in fact ever wanted to change them. The continued existence of cancer, or poverty, or medicine, are not conservative victories. So you mean every policy for which a change was proposed but (supposedly) wiser heads prevailed, preventing the implementation. Which is a subset of everything small enough for the question to deserve an answer.

            In addition, I think it’s something of a mistake to think of it in this way. I’d view it more as a moderator, preventing the change reaction from running away into explosion.

            This implies that there is a single lower energy state towards which society must evolve, with the only question being how fast. That’s not in all cases so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Randy M:

            Change is inevitable. Policies, mores, cultures, almost all change inevitably. We can look at certain subcultures like the Amish to see what it takes for change to occur nearly imperceptibly slowly.

            We can imagine the negative consequences of change just as easily, more easily in many cases, than the negative consequences of stasis. Thus we can easily imagine the benefits of conservative principles.

            Going on to talk about “cancer” or “poverty” as things that have not changed is a red herring. It’s not what I am talking about and it’s uncharitable to throw it in there.

            It seems to me to be a huge mistake to ignore all the policies and cultural elements that have not changed as if they do not count as benefits of conservative thought processes. It’s along the lines of “What have the Romans ever done for us?!”

          • albatross11 says:

            An example of retreating from a progressive/liberal reform in the US can be found in how many people we imprison. We had a big liberalization of the justice system, more rights for accused and convicted criminals, etc., and then a subsequent rise in crime and backlash that left us with a huge prison population and harsh minimum sentences.

          • Randy M says:

            We can imagine the negative consequences of change just as easily, more easily in many cases, than the negative consequences of stasis. Thus we can easily imagine the benefits of conservative principles.

            The asymmetry that I brought up in my original reply was that change that is positive is tangible, while change that doesn’t occur is only hypothetical. Your rebuttal that progressive mistakes are also tangible is true, but not relevant to the original question of “what good things have conservatives done?” That they’ve prevented progressives from making even bigger messes may be true, but it isn’t persuasive to a progressive who believes that progress is desirable or vital. The “we have to do something!” crowd is rarely dissuaded with “but what if it’s worse?”

            Going on to talk about “cancer” or “poverty” as things that have not changed is a red herring. It’s not what I am talking about and it’s uncharitable to throw it in there.

            Don’t call your lack of clarity my lack of charity. I’m trying to narrow the scope of your “everything”.
            After all, there was actually a progressive “war on poverty”. Yet, to an approximation, poverty has not changed. It seems not unreasonable to question if this falls under your “everything that hasn’t changed is due to conservatism” aphorism.

            It seems to me to be a huge mistake to ignore all the policies and cultural elements that have not changed as if they do not count as benefits of conservative thought processes. It’s along the lines of “What have the Romans ever done for us?!”

            Specifically asking for something is not ignoring it. Note that in the source you reference, the many advantages of the Romans are spelled out.

            Change is inevitable.

            A change of some sort is likely, but any particular change is not necessarily so, and to frame the conservative role as facilitating the inevitable course of history is granting progressives more than I am willing to.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “…there was actually a progressive “war on poverty”. Yet, to an approximation, poverty has not changed…”

            I dispute that.

            Since the mid-1960s, average incomes among the poorest fifth of Americans have risen significantly, infant mortality has dropped sharply, and severe child malnutrition has largely disappeared.

            Not everywhere can be Utah, and in much of the Nation people would fall even farther without governmental “safety net” programs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yet, to an approximation, poverty has not changed. It seems not unreasonable to question if this falls under your “everything that hasn’t changed is due to conservatism” aphorism.

            Dude.

            Seriously, I am in here crediting conservatism as a positive force for good and your response is to accuse me of secretly condemning conservatism for cancer and poverty?

            Listen to yourself, man.

          • Randy M says:

            Let’s recap:
            HBC: Everything that doesn’t change is due to conservatism.
            RM: Not really, here are three reasons something might not change without it being right to credit conservatism. Here’s three quick examples of those reasons.
            HBC: Are you saying I accused you of giving poor people cancer?
            ~
            No, I’m saying you can’t call every static thing a result of conservatives.

            This is me trying to be fair to progressives; I don’t think (for example) murder being illegal for as long as it has is due to them losing the fight for progress. That’s an example of something largely unchanged that no one actually tried to change.
            ~
            edit: Perhaps you are making a broader point about entropy? Without maintenance, civilization will fall, and it is largely tempermentally conservative groups that do this maintenance? I’m not sure that falls under the purview of the original question, but it could be a reason we’re talking past each other. Other people’s examples point at this, so that could be what you meant. I wasn’t trying to be uncharitable; that interpretation only just now occurred to me.

            @Plumber: Okay, I was glib. Poverty has certainly changed, by quality and quantity. Mostly through technology rather than policy, I think, but you’re welcome to convince me otherwise.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M,
            I found the link in my earlier post convincing, but besides the differences between then and now from ’65 to ’73 there was an impressive drop in poverty (before the oil embargo made everything worse).

            In any case I think quickly ending the ‘Great Society’ “War on Poverty” programs after they’ve been in place for generations is dangerous.

            Maybe it wouldn’t be as much of a shock if there was first mass conversions to be Old Order Amish or Mormon who maintain their own social welfare for co-religionists, but I don’t think that’s likely.

          • John Schilling says:

            Conversely, in your formulation conservatism can’t be seen to have a negative outcome (because you are comparing it to a counter factual where change did occur).

            You could still see negative outcomes in cases where conservatism delayed but did not prevent the adoption of a new idea, and the new idea turned out to be pretty good after all. For example, openly gay servicemembers in the armed forces. For decades, the conservative position was that this could cause great damage to morale and cohesion and so homosexuals should either be barred from service or forced to remain closeted while they did serve. A solidly defensible conservative position. Eventually they were overridden, and it turned out(*) that the feared harm did not manifest.

            Every career destroyed or preempted, and every talented specialist barred from service, can be fairly counted as a negative outcome from conservatism.

            * With the caveat that our dataset is weighted towards peacetime service and low-intensity conflicts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Perhaps you are making a broader point about entropy?

            This is not quite what I meant, but it’s far closer.

            When I say change is inevitable, I’m more talking about thermodynamics. Entropy is what happens to systems without external energy inputs. But the species isn’t neutral on that front, it’s energetic. Each new member is actively seeking for its own success. They are nearly 8 billion autonomous agents out there, and they interact in chaotic and unpredictable ways.

            We are social creatures, attempting to influence our corner of society. We are constantly seeking to change things to better our own lot. And we are inventive. This means that society as a whole cannot be static. Change is inevitable.

            Only by sharply repressing the individual autonomy of individuals within a society, and eliminating technological change, can you achieve the kind of stasis of society that we see in communities like the Amish.

            Does that explain more what I meant?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Agreed. The statement I made was echoing Randy’s formulation, but I don’t actually agree that the formulation is the correct one. In practice we see the results of the counterfactual frequently.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I found the link in my earlier post convincing, but besides the differences between then and now from ’65 to ’73 there was an impressive drop in poverty (before the oil embargo made everything worse).

            The poverty drop from ’65 – ’73 was not impressive, the drop from the late 50s to ~1970 was impressive but much of that came prio;r to 1965 and 1965 was only the introduction of legislation for the GS with little funding. It was not until 1967 at least that it was heavily funded and it really hit its stride in 1969. Actual dollars spent by the Us government on the War on Poverty do not correlate well with reductions in the poverty rate.

          • 10240 says:

            Eventually they were overridden, and it turned out(*) that the feared harm did not manifest.

            @John Schilling Has there been a serious (and hopefully not too biased) attempt to measure/study the effects?

          • “…there was actually a progressive “war on poverty”. Yet, to an approximation, poverty has not changed…”

            I dispute that.

            Since the mid-1960s, average incomes among the poorest fifth of Americans have risen significantly, infant mortality has dropped sharply, and severe child malnutrition has largely disappeared.

            Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

            Since the mid-1960’s, average incomes of the top 4/5 of Americans have also risen. During the century prior to the War on Poverty, average incomes of the bottom fifth rose a lot.

            During the period from the end of WWII to the War on Poverty getting going, the poverty rate in the U.S. fell sharply. Since the War on Poverty got fully staffed and funded, it’s been close to constant.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To go further, if you use the Wikipedia graph that I linked you that the poverty rate fell from ~22% in 1961 to ~15% in 1966, and from 1965 to 1969 its from ~17.5% to ~12.5% and the drop to ’72 is only to 11.5%. So the drop from ’69-’72 is an unremarkable 1 percentage point, the decline from ’65 to ’69 is a very notable 5 percentage points but roughly half of that is in the first year, and its not as good as the 7 percentage point drop from ’61 to ’66.

            The 1960s decline in poverty is only remarkable when viewed together, there was a 4 percentage point decline from ’93-’99 after all, and it makes no sense to use ’65 as a hard cut off when we see that poverty rates fell in every expansion except the 2001-2007 period (and the few months in 1980). Attributing half of the largest drop in poverty to the GS when poverty was already falling and the period in question was one that matches up with other declines in poverty fails Occum’s Razor.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      What’s a “conservative group” though? When I think of “groups that do things almost certainly positive for society based on traditional American values” I think of church charities or the Boy Scouts (before they went SJ) but those aren’t explicitly conservative groups and are formed around non-political activity.

      If you’re talking about explicitly conservative groups, “good for society” is going to depend entirely on your definition of “good.” The NRA protecting my God given right to self defense is good from my point of view, and bad from the point of view of gun control advocates. Pro-life groups saving babies is good from the pro-life point of view and meddlesome from the pro-choice point of view.

      But if your definition of “good for society” is “progressive stuff” then no, no conservative group has ever done anything good for society.

      • deltafosb says:

        What’s a “conservative group” though?

        My personal definition is “group which description fires my `conservative group’ neuron”. It’s not exactly helpful and probably is full of bias (i.e. subconscious “I dont like them → they are conservatives”), so it’s probably better if you just use your own terminology and we agree not to argue about this here.

        But if your definition of “good for society” is “progressive stuff” then no, no conservative group has ever done anything good for society.

        Not exactly, but I’m afraid today-“universally regarded as good” might be pretty close to until-mid-20th-century-“progressive”. I’m actually looking for reasonable (not exactly 100% convincing – that’s probably impossible due to my biases) counterexamples to this hypothesis.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Can you give me some examples of conservative groups? And they need to be things that do…something. Not think tanks. Sure, The Heritage Foundation is “conservative” but writing policy papers is not really a direct attempt to “do good in the world.” Scratch think tanks from both sides.

          • deltafosb says:

            Catholic church. Stalinists. Radfems, TERFs, and such. Islam. Haredim. The intersection of libertarians and proponents of social darwinism.
            Sorry for only few examples, it’s not that easy to get a random sample – best I can do is just thinking about random movements and deciding whether they are “conservative” or not.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Radfems, Stalinists and TERFs. That’s the weirdest definition of “conservatives” I’ve ever heard. Please explain, I am fascinated by this.

            The Catholic Church is easy. It’s the largest charitable organization in the world and the scaffolding on which western civilization was built. Super sorry not sorry about stomping out some human sacrifice volcano cults and such.

          • deltafosb says:

            Ad radfems/TERFs: I don’t know either, perhaps it’s the bias showing up or “exclusionary ∧ violent” is automatically interpreted in my mind as “conservative”.
            As for (20th century, when they were relevant) Stalinists, I don’t have any doubts. I mean, strict, hierarchical group, under which rule Overton window had epsilon width and every transgression was heavily punished doesn’t exactly sound like progressivism.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Overton window had epsilon width and every transgression was heavily punished doesn’t exactly sound like progressivism.

            This part sounds exactly like progressivism. And it’s not like modern progressives are much about dismantling state power…

          • deltafosb says:

            That’s the point our intuitions diverge, I guess. Where I live it’s not the progressivists who use these tactics; it’s the Catholic church – perhaps it is just an universal way of maintaining own status?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Do you live in the Vatican or something? Are you unaware of no-platforming and protests to censor political opponents?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            On Easter Sunday church was PACKED. Overflow in the side chapels. Standing room only. But last week there were at least 3 rows empty. Seems to me an awful lot of parishioners are breaking the very basic rules of the Church like “show up to Mass every Sunday.” Yet, we did not go through the rolls, find the sinners, mob them, shout outside their homes, try to get them fired from their jobs. They weren’t even so much as excommunicated from the Church! Witch hunts, apparently, ain’t what they used to be around here.

            Now go to a progressive space and say, “You know, I am 98% on board with the social justice agenda, but just maybe there’s a difference between transwomen and women and so maybe it’s not fair to let transwomen compete in girls’ sports?” Or perhaps, “Love is love. Absolutely. All for gay marriage. But ya know, given the male sex drive, tendency for risk taking, etc, the gay community and gay lifestyles aren’t exactly the same as heterosexual lifestyles and so media portrayals of gay male and straight relationships as equivalent is false and misleading.” Try that, see what happens and report back after you find a new job.

          • Nick says:

            Man, if you ever find a Catholic church where any of my transgressions will be punished, much less every, let me know so I can sign up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What nick said. Even just a priest whose homilies use the dreaded S-word more than once a year would be great.

          • deltafosb says:

            Close: Poland. These things do happen in public institutions and it is precisely because of Catholic church influence.
            …almost all public institutions: the universities are independent from the government, despite being financed by it and relatively liberal. Liberal not in the US sense: a lecture given by $right_wing_politician_or_journalist would face (nonviolent) students protests, but cancellation is unlikely. The same applies to opposite case with left-wing lecturer (the protests might attract less people and be more violent though).

          • deltafosb says:

            Now go to a progressive space and say (…) Try that, see what happens and report back after you find a new job.

            In my social circles it would be just a (somewhat risky?) invitation to sharing each other views. The thing is if that’s *all* you are talking about and start every conversation with offhand mention about mean sub-Saharan Africa IQ, people might start to suspect that, in fact, you *do* have an agenda.

            As for

            the gay community and gay lifestyles aren’t exactly the same as heterosexual lifestyles and so media portrayals of gay male and straight relationships as equivalent is false and misleading.

            in my experience (I’m male bisexual, currently in 5 year long homosexual relationship) much of it has cultural origins. That’s a topic for a different thread though.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Islam, like Catholicism, provided (and provides) a scaffolding for civilization and individual purpose, and preserved and expanded on important scholarship through the dark ages. It also replaced “rule of men” tribalism with a coherent and reasonably fair legal architecture, and vested women with social and legal rights that they had heretofore been denied.

            I am also weirded out by calling Stalinists, radfems, and TERFs conservative. When you say “conservative”, do you mean “someone who adheres to a rigid belief about what is right and what is wrong, and gives up their individuality in favor of a larger movement”?

          • deltafosb says:

            When you say “conservative”, do you mean “someone who adheres to a rigid belief about what is right and what is wrong, and gives up their individuality in favor of a larger movement”?

            Seems like a good candidate for a necessary condition.

          • Clutzy says:

            The thing is if that’s *all* you are talking about and start every conversation with offhand mention about mean sub-Saharan Africa IQ, people might start to suspect that, in fact, you *do* have an agenda.

            But even the most crazy white supremacist never does that. Mean IQ is almost entirely employed as a rebuttal to the ubiquitous and surface level assertions related to “inequality of outcome=discrimination”. I’ve seen the Spencer types and the David Duke types and they almost always focus on nebulous things like “Character” and “Spirit” in their rhetoric.

            Race/IQ is a rebuttal argument employed by those who are skeptical of affirmative action and intersectional arguments.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Ah. Well in that case I’ll chalk our differences in perspective up to differences in what has cultural hegemony in our respective lands. I’ll gladly trade you cultural hegemons though, though.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I’ll gladly trade you cultural hegemons though, though.

            You don’t even need to trade, I doubt it would be that difficult to get a long-term visa. This guy seems glad he did it.

          • deltafosb says:

            You don’t even need to trade, I doubt it would be that difficult to get a long-term visa. This guy seems glad he did it.

            The current status is somewhat fragile though, with all the interference of religion and politics, secularisation of Polish youth and (surprise!) new cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic church priests being brought to public attention every few weeks. I would be surprised if the Church maintains its position for next 10-15 years.

            But even the most crazy white supremacist never does that. (…)
            Race/IQ is a rebuttal argument employed by those who are skeptical of affirmative action and intersectional arguments.

            My (ex-)friend who was frequently using this argument is certainly sceptical of modern progressive movements. Which is interesting, since I remember him being kind of a SJW just few years back. IIRC, he switched sides when (after moving to USA) he encountered exactly the kind of behavior I described previously,

            Overton window had epsilon width and every transgression was heavily punished doesn’t exactly sound like progressivism.

            Let it serve as a lesson.

            I remember arguing with him about pathogenic hypothesis of homosexuality, he even backed it up with research papers finding no instances of homosexual behavior in remote, isolated tribes (a pattern one could link with pathogen nonpresence). However, when I delved deeper, the tribes in question didn’t also have a concept of masturbation and, I mean, there is a limit to things I can believe. In our last conversation (prompted by one of comments here on SSC) he was trying to imply that since black people are less inteligent on average and intelligence correlates with workplace accidents, it is natural for them to earn less in manual labor market. I just couldn’t stand it (also, the rate of accidents is about the same for all races in the US).

          • albatross11 says:

            Re: Considering Stalinists conservative:

            After the revolution, I suppose the conservatives are the ones who want to maintain the institutions and order established by the revolution. It seems weird to me to think of Stalinists in this light, but I don’t have any trouble at all thinking of American constitutional originalists as conservatives, even though they’re also trying to maintain the institutions and order established by a revolution.

            Of course, in modern terms, just about everyone running a country in 1940 was a knuckle-dragging far-rightist in terms of, say, gay rights, womens’ rights, racism, etc. Hell, Fidel Castro’s response to AIDS was a pretty classically conservative response, and if you find yourself defining Castro as “right wing,” you’ve probably gone wrong somewhere.

          • Nick says:

            Ah. Well in that case I’ll chalk our differences in perspective up to differences in what has cultural hegemony in our respective lands. I’ll gladly trade you cultural hegemons though, though.

            Agreed. One note I feel I should make, though. Like with deltafosb’s friend, it’s easy to think kindly of your local underdog, but they might not act so virtuously if they were the local hegemon. Compare Scott’s Right Is the New Left. The Catholic Church is far and away better for us than social justice circular firing squads, but it has its own problems, sex abuse coverups—and more broadly networks of sexually active clergy—being one of them.

            I’m not sure Poland is the best example for his point, though; I’ve heard that Polish Catholics have taken the revelations better than their American counterparts (i.e., us). Can’t remember where I read it, maybe Dreher, but a reporter said that the faithful took it as a sign that they had failed the Church, not vice versa. In the West we often externalize the Church; it’s priests and bishops and popes, not us, and if there is a serious institutional failure, that’s them failing us, and if it’s not getting fixed we can just go somewhere else. Polish faithful, according to the reporter, don’t generally think of it that way at all. I wish it were true, anyway, and not only there but here; it’s the sort of reframe that I feel can inspire renewal and a serious commitment to reform.

          • Randy M says:

            (Speaking as a protestant who isn’t terribly well informed here and open to correction)…

            I’m not sure Poland is the best example for his point, though; I’ve heard that Polish Catholics have taken the revelations better than their American counterparts

            You mean the revelations of clerical sexual abuse? That was covered up from the lay church with transfers, hush money, etc.?

            It feels unfair for you as the church congregation to blame yourselves rather than the bishops and priests that did the crime and covering up.

            Yes, it is the lay members that constitute the church and have the responsibility to make disciples and edify one another. Having oversight over your leaders should be there too. However, it seems to me one needs to in this case make sure the bulk of the blame is on the leadership of the church, and a focus on your role as a member of the church body, while not wholly useless, could also serve to let the truly culpable off easy.

          • Nick says:

            Yes, it is the lay members that constitute the church and have the responsibility to make disciples and edify one another. Having oversight over your leaders should be there too. However, it seems to me one needs to in this case make sure the bulk of the blame is on the leadership of the church, and a focus on your role as a member of the church body, while not wholly useless, could also serve to let the truly culpable off easy.

            Letting the culpable off too easy would be a serious problem, yes. But frankly, we as laity are culpable too—the clericalism that leftcaths have fixated on as the one true cause is a real thing, and a factor both in laymen’s foolish trust in priests and bishops and in aiding coverups, to take one example. I don’t see why recognizing that would make us any less committed to seeing conniving or spineless bishops pay; that hasn’t been my experience, anyway.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Catholic Church is far and away better for us than social justice circular firing squads, but it has its own problems, sex abuse coverups—and more broadly networks of sexually active clergy—being one of them.

            Yeah, but it’s worth pointing out that rates of sex abuse amongst Catholic clergy seem to be about the same as rates for Protestant clergy, which in turn seems to be somewhat lower than the rates of other groups who have access to children (like school teachers, sports coaches, etc.). Of course, even one instance of sex abuse is one too many, but the narrative that the Catholic Church is uniquely bad in this respect is, according to the data, completely false.

          • Randy M says:

            @Nick
            Okay, that makes sense. And it shouldn’t have been unthinkable that priests could sin gravely, so there was no reason for the sleeping watchman to escape blame. And it’s true that blame can sum to more than 100%.
            Maybe I’m pattern matching to the trope where the criminal is excused because society failed them.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, but it’s worth pointing out that rates of sex abuse amongst Catholic clergy seem to be about the same as rates for Protestant clergy, which in turn seems to be somewhat lower than the rates of other groups who have access to children (like school teachers, sports coaches, etc.). Of course, even one instance of sex abuse is one too many, but the narrative that the Catholic Church is uniquely bad in this respect is, according to the data, completely false.

            Yeah, I agree. The coverups among school administration are, as I understand it, similarly very serious. Sexual abuse seems to proliferate without any natural checks when there’s access to the vulnerable, kids in particular; curtailing it requires certain procedures and policies and commitment to those at every level, and even that will never eliminate abuse.

            So when I say sexual abuse coverups is one of its problems, that’s the sense in which I mean it—no more or less, necessarily, than how it’s a problem for, say, the teaching profession. Well, except the networks of sexually active clergy are a unique problem for churches like ours with a celibate clergy; the rate of abuse itself is similar among non-celibate, but the ways these networks can trade information and favors and protect each other is especially pernicious, as seen most infamously with McCarrick.

            @Randy M
            Yeah, I definitely didn’t mean the “society has failed you” stuff; sorry if it came across that way.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Yeah, but it’s worth pointing out that rates of sex abuse amongst Catholic clergy seem to be about the same as rates for Protestant clergy

            According to a study funded by the Catholic church, which is not exactly impartial.

            But even granting 4% figure, that’s only for the US. The figure in e.g. Australia is 7%, and 15% in some dioceses. And even if rates of abuse are comparable to those in other organisations, evil responses to it (protecting abusive priests, secret compensation payments) seem particularly common in the Catholic church.

          • The intersection of libertarians and proponents of social darwinism.

            (in examples of conservative groups)

            Libertarians want to radically change the society–reduce government expenditure from about a third of national income to something between a tenth and zero, legalize drugs and prostitution, eliminate FDA regulation, abolish the minimum wage and rent control, … . Those may be good ideas or bad ideas, but I can’t see them as conservative ideas; they are proposing change, not opposing it.

          • As for (20th century, when they were relevant) Stalinists, I don’t have any doubts. I mean, strict, hierarchical group, under which rule Overton window had epsilon width and every transgression was heavily punished doesn’t exactly sound like progressivism.

            If the distinction is between supporters of change and opponents of change, Stalin clearly fits the former category. He abolished private property in agriculture, attempted to create a centrally planned industrial economy, did lots of (bad) things in an attempt to reshape society.

            Do you only count changes as progressive when you agree with them?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The usual thinking about Stalinists seems to be something like “Conservatives are punitive hardasses. Stalinists were punitive hardasses. Therefore, Stalinists were conservative.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            According to a study funded by the Catholic church, which is not exactly impartial.

            The John Jay report is usually highly-regarded for its accuracy and thoroughness, and I’ve not come across any experts on child protection disputing its impartiality or methodology. If you have any proper criticisms of it, as opposed to lazy ad hominems, feel free to share them.

            But even granting 4% figure, that’s only for the US.

            Yes; for some countries the figure is even lower: e.g.,

            Every year since 2002 the Catholic Church in England and Wales has made public the exact number of allegations made within the Church, the number reported to the police, the action taken and the outcome. As far as I know, no other organisation in this country does this… In the past 40 years, less than half of 1 per cent of Catholic priests in England and Wales (0.4 per cent) have faced allegations of child abuse. Fewer have been found guilty.

            And, to pre-empt the obvious criticism: yes, these are figures published by the Catholic Church, and yes, they are widely accepted as accurate even by critics of the Church. If you have any better data, or any evidence that the Catholic Church in England and Wales isn’t actually publishing the real number of allegations, feel free to provide it.

            The figure in e.g. Australia is 7%, and 15% in some dioceses.

            That’s a figure for accusations, including ones that ended up being thrown out by the courts or where the alleged victim declined to substantiate. So the figure of actual abusers is going to be lower.

            Also, there are orders and dioceses with accusation rates far lower than the average; e.g., the Sisters of Mercy have just 0.3%, and the Diocese of Adelaide has 2.4%. So given that there are wild variations between dioceses and religious orders, the explanation for the prevalence of child abuse is going to be far more complex than “Catholic Church bad”.

            And even if rates of abuse are comparable to those in other organisations, evil responses to it (protecting abusive priests, secret compensation payments) seem particularly common in the Catholic church.

            “This seems particularly common” is far too subjective and coloured by reporting bias (scandals involving the Catholic Church are likely to get far more media attention than comparable scandals involving other religions or secular organisations) to form the basis of a proper critique. And there certainly are examples of “evil responses” to paedophilia in secular organisations; for example, the Wood Royal Commission in New South Wales found similar patterns of behaviour — victims being ignored, offenders being merely shuffled around, lack of accountability — in the state education system. Here in the UK, Jimmy Savile’s paedophilia was an open secret at the BBC, but precisely nothing was done to stop him.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @The original Mr. X

            That’s a figure for accusations, including ones that ended up being thrown out by the courts or where the alleged victim declined to substantiate.

            If you had actually read the John Jay report, you would know that they also consider allegations. As such, I’m not particularly convinced by your claims that “experts” think the report is perfect, given that you don’t appear to have read it yourself.

            In any case, I wasn’t arguing that the report is necessarily inaccurate, merely that its origin is relevant. But since it relies on self-reported data from bishops, I struggle to believe it overestimates the prevalence of abuse. Furthermore, it appears that some of the bishops who gave data *were themselves being investigated for abuse*.

            So the figure of actual abusers is going to be lower.

            That’s not a justified conclusion, given the vast under-reporting of child sexual abuse.

            Also, there are orders and dioceses with accusation rates far lower than the average; e.g., the Sisters of Mercy have just 0.3%, and the Diocese of Adelaide has 2.4%. So given that there are wild variations between dioceses and religious orders, the explanation for the prevalence of child abuse is going to be far more complex than “Catholic Church bad”.

            I think the explanation for the Sisters of Mercy having a lower rate is obvious. But the situation isn’t symmetrical. Having a below average rate is obviously good, although it seems like a pretty low bar for people who are supposedly acting as representatives of god. But having a significantly above average rate doesn’t just mean an institution contains more abusers than average, it also condemns the institution for failing to detect them.

            And there certainly are examples of “evil responses” to paedophilia in secular organisations; for example, the Wood Royal Commission in New South Wales found similar patterns of behaviour — victims being ignored, offenders being merely shuffled around, lack of accountability — in the state education system. Here in the UK, Jimmy Savile’s paedophilia was an open secret at the BBC, but precisely nothing was done to stop him.

            Yes, and those are also damning indictments of those organisations. But in contrast to the situation with the church, I’m not aware of scandals involving the state education systems of all of Kenya, Tanzania, East Timor, Japan, Philippines, India, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, United States, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s not a justified conclusion, given the vast under-reporting of child sexual abuse.

            Its a fairly likely conclusion given that most sexual predators trend toward being serial and not one off types. Even if only 20% of assaults are reported you could still have the overwhelming majority of abusers accused over time if they have multiple victims.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you had actually read the John Jay report, you would know that they also consider allegations.

            Yes, so it’s quite possible that the figure in the US is lower than 4%.

            As such, I’m not particularly convinced by your claims that “experts” think the report is perfect, given that you don’t appear to have read it yourself.

            By all means, show me a sociologist or child-protection expert who disputes the study’s findings.

            That’s not a justified conclusion, given the vast under-reporting of child sexual abuse.

            As Baconbits pointed out, most abusers are serial abusers, so not every victim needs to come forward by any means for them to be caught.

            Also, priestly sexual abuse has been covered in the news a lot recently and the people running these sorts of studies generally explicitly encourage people to come forward and report to them, so I’d expect that a higher proportion of priestly abuse has been reported than of abuse from other sources.

            I think the explanation for the Sisters of Mercy having a lower rate is obvious. But the situation isn’t symmetrical. Having a below average rate is obviously good, although it seems like a pretty low bar for people who are supposedly acting as representatives of god. But having a significantly above average rate doesn’t just mean an institution contains more abusers than average, it also condemns the institution for failing to detect them.

            It does indicate that blaming “the Catholic Church” as if the Church were a monolith is likely to be inaccurate. It also indicates that the usual whipping-boys (priestly celibacy etc.) are probably not to blame, since they apply equally to the places with low abuse rates.

            But in contrast to the situation with the church, I’m not aware of scandals involving the state education systems of all of Kenya, Tanzania, East Timor, Japan, Philippines, India, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, United States, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.

            How many of those countries have had major national inquiries looking specifically into abuse into the state education sector? How many cases of schoolteacher abuse make it into the international press? How often do media outlets link abusive schoolteachers with the education system as an institution, and how often do they portray it as just being the fault of the individual teacher?

            Absence of evidence is only evidence of absence if we have good reason to suppose that we would see evidence if something were going on, which isn’t the case here.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Just to jump in and agree with everyone else: Stalinism was a political project to “smash the bourgeoisie of our country, deprive it of the land, factories, mines, etc., and by its own efforts build a new, classless society, complete Socialist society”, and recognizing this, Stalin’s allies at home and abroad were people who broadly had the same aims and his enemies were people who broadly opposed this doctrine.

            Whether or not the above counts as “progressivism”, it most certainly is not “conservatism” under more or less any meaningful definition of conservatism. Combined with the fact that Stalin’s allies and followers did not align with conservatives in their own countries, I think we can conclude that Stalinists were not conservatives by any very useful definition of the word.

          • Nick says:

            I want to clarify a few things:

            1) False negatives are ubiquitous with sexual abuse, especially child sexual abuse; while things have improved, we can be certain that most of it goes unreported. The John Jay report says as much on p. 23 (29 in the pdf).

            2) False positives happen too. Accusations are often separated into substantiated (or credible) and unsubstantiated accusations. This is not the same thing as considering an accusation worthy of investigation, much less conviction. Conviction rates are necessarily much lower than rates of abuse; many of the perpetrators are deceased and/or statutes of limitation had passed by the time the abuse was reported. Mr. X is correct to point out that false positives occur, although it’s misleading to say that this means the total number of abusers is lower than reported; we’re pretty sure (2) is outweighed by (1) here. It’s important, therefore, to compare apples to apples when we cite figures. The John Jay report only used credible accusations of abuse. The driving criticism of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report last year, however, was that it lumped in the many priests who had had accusations of abuse that were never investigated or substantiated with the relatively few whose accusations were credible.

            With the Australian report, its methods are so different that a direct comparison to the numbers in the John Jay report is misleading. As far as I can tell, the Australian report claims to have only used substantiated accusations in their report; however, they were seeking out accusations, in a systematic way across the entire country, which the John Jay report did not do. To me, this suggests they have probably uncovered closer to the “true” rate of abuse—but for this reason, again, the John Jay report is an inapt comparison.

            3. Child sexual abuse is a heterogeneous phenomenon; most of it occurs in families, some of it in institutions, some of it outside either. Pedophiles are heterogeneous as well; there is a type which will pursue any sort of child of either sex, while another is sex-specific or age-specific. Male victims are generally a little older. Pedophilic perpetrators, if I remember correctly, tend to have many more victims.

            4. The victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church mostly do not look like the victims of pedophilia. While there are features in common, like grooming, these victims are overwhelmingly male—the John Jay report had a figure of a little over 80%, the Germany report had as I recall about 81%, and glancing at the Australia report now, it had an incredible 90%. Some of the perpetrators are pedophiles, and are predominantly the cause of younger victims. The male-female distribution is much closer to parity the younger the victims are; the older the victims, the more male they are, including a staggering 85% of victims 15-17 (p. 53; 59 in the pdf).

            5. The number of accusations per accused is actually 55% only 1, per the John Jay report (p. 51; 57 in the pdf). In other words, only 45% of accused had two or more victims. So it’s technically false that you can catch most accused that way. However, at the tail end of the distribution are relatively few with dozens to 100+ victims, so it is true, as far as I can tell, that you can stop the great majority of incidents of abuse by stopping relatively few perpetrators.

          • gbdub says:

            @HeelBearCub – it’s the use of “deception” that’s making me disagree with you.

            It’s of course not “deception” for PP to highlight their non-abortion services. It’s maybe not 100% honest to downplay how important they consider access to abortion to be. It is and always has been a key part of their mission, they are the nation’s largest abortion provider, etc.

            But that’s the normal dishonesty of effective argumentation / advertising, not “deception”.

            I would argue anti-abortion advocates targeting their pitch and buying ads where abortion seekers are likely to see them are equivalent.

            “Deception” would be saying “we offer comprehensive reproductive health services” or “we can schedule an abortion for you” if they’d don’t. But at least the example that was pointed to does not do this. Their only “dishonesty” is in not blaring on the front page “We really hate abortion and will do our best to talk you out of it”. And I don’t think that’s “deception” any more than PP’s targeted arguments are.

            The fact that you find PP’s services more valuable (an opinion I actually share) is not really relevant to whether the tactics are “deceptive”.

          • gbdub says:

            Whoops, commented on the wrong sub thread.

          • baconbits9 says:

            5. The number of accusations per accused is actually 55% only 1, per the John Jay report (p. 51; 57 in the pdf). In other words, only 45% of accused had two or more victims. So it’s technically false that you can catch most accused that way.

            This doesn’t follow at all, as you appear to be assuming that those with only 1 accuser only had 1 victim. A person with multiple victims could end up with 1 accuser, a person with 1 confirmed accuser had AT LEAST 1 victim, not exactly 1 victim.

          • Nick says:

            This doesn’t follow at all, as you appear to be assuming that those with only 1 accuser only had 1 victim. A person with multiple victims could end up with 1 accuser, a person with 1 confirmed accuser had AT LEAST 1 victim, not exactly 1 victim.

            Yeah, I think you’re right.

          • dick says:

            The usual thinking about Stalinists seems to be something like “Conservatives are punitive hardasses. Stalinists were punitive hardasses. Therefore, Stalinists were conservative.”

            Coming up with creative ways to prove the other side owns historical baddies (Stalin was a conservative, Mussolini was a liberal, etc) is a popular pastime anywhere politics are discussed online, and exactly the sort of thing I once naively imagined would be frowned upon in a forum full of SSC readers.

          • Randy M says:

            @dick,
            Couldn’t frown, too busy laughing.

        • rubberduck says:

          If your actual question is “what have [groups I dislike/disagree with] done for society?”, please consider using that wording in the future, or listing specific movements, rather than throwing everything under “conservative”. As far as I know no common definition of “conservative” would include both TERFs and Stalinists, and self-identified conservatives (in the USA at least) would be offended at being put in a common category with them.

          Then again, if everyone in your circle uses “conservative” the way you do I would be fascinated to hear more.

          (Side-note: libertarians and Stalinists in the same category? How are you even judging conservatism?)

          EDIT: read your reply above, I understand a bit more now but still ask to reconsider your use of the word “conservative” in this situation.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          Following my previous question about conservatives as people with rigid ideology: would you consider a rigidly ideological abolitionist or desegregationist to be conservative? If so, does that qualify as a meaningful conservative contribution? If not, then what properties separate conservatives, as you define them, from the aforementioned ideologues?

    • S_J says:

      Many pro-life activists and organizations fund and run “crisis pregnancy centers”, seeking to support women who have unexpected pregnancies, and choose not to abort. They try to source baby supplies, offer help with the pregnancy and child-birth, provide social support for women who have none, and will refer for adoption if the mother decides.

      This is a newsworthy action by opponents of abortion that somehow never gets any news attention. To the point that it is a regular refrain of abortion-rights activists that pro-life activists do nothing to support women with unplanned pregnancies.

      I view this as a good deed done by conservative organizations.

      As a reference: this kind of organization was recently part of a case argued at the Supreme Court of the United States. Opponents argued that the organization was doing women a disservice by not advertising any sources of abortion at their crisis-pregnancy center. The organization argued that a California law mandating that they provide pamphlets and references about places to procure abortion was a violation of their free speech.

      • Murphy says:

        unfortunately a fraction of bad actors apparently intentionally present such clinics as if they’re abortion clinics or places to get info about abortion in an attempt to delay people until it’s too late to legally get one.

        NIFLA argue that it’s a myth… but the ads are very much presented and targeted to make people believe they’re for real clinics vs religious groups trying to delay.

        They’re not subtle

        Throw in some getting caught implying staff with no medical certifications to be medical professionals and the well is thoroughly poisoned.

        Thanks to that minority such clinics are viewed as basically chaotic evil by a lot of people and I doubt it can be salvaged.

        If a similar group don’t want to be tared with that brush and want to collect kudos instead then they should make sure their names and advertising makes it reeeeeally clear that they’re pro-life non-abortion-providers there to help people in crisis rather than names chosen to catch out “an idiot in a hurry”.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I note that the media doesn’t seem to be much concerned with drawing attention to “bad actors” when it comes to people like Kermit Gosnell. Funnily enough, it’s only the pro-life groups that get tarred with the same brush when one of their number does something bad. How curious…

          NIFLA argue that it’s a myth… but the ads are very much presented and targeted to make people believe they’re for real clinics vs religious groups trying to delay.

          Maybe that’s true, but I don’t think the image you linked to is sufficient evidence. The advert only mentions “info on abortion types and risks”, it never says that the organisation actually performs abortions.

          Also, by “for real clinics” do you actually mean “for real abortion clinics”? Because I’ve seen people insinuating that not providing abortions precludes any clinic from being genuine (even clinics which make no claims, explicit or implicit, to provide abortions in the first place), but I don’t want to ascribe to you a belief which you don’t actually hold.

        • gbdub says:

          I followed the link referenced in the image and nowhere on the website do they claim to provide abortions. They describe their medical services as “limited” (they only specifically mention pregnancy tests and “limited” ultrasounds). Their page has a disclaimer at the bottom that specifically says “Abortion and abortion referrals are not services we provide”.

          They bought an ad that pops up when you search for abortion in the hopes that they can get a chance to pitch abortion alternatives to you. Among general activist tactics that seems frankly pretty tame.

          Admittedly they are not terribly upfront about the fact that their goal is to talk you out of an abortion.

          Then again, look at how much of Planned Parenthood’s activism focuses on “women’s health” and downplays their role as a major abortion provider.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Planned Parenthood’s goal is to provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women at all stages of life. Abortion is a small part of what they do. In their “utopia” they wouldn’t ever provide an abortion because no one would ever need one, but they would still provide the vast bulk of the services they currently provide.

            The goal of pregnancy crisis centers is to convince women who are pregnant and considering an abortion to continue the pregnancy. In their utopia they likely wouldn’t exist.

            This is an important difference when we think about how to assess the honesty of those promoting the services of one or the other.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Planned Parenthood’s goal is to provide comprehensive reproductive health care to women at all stages of life. Abortion is a small part of what they do. In their “utopia” they wouldn’t ever provide an abortion because no one would ever need one, but they would still provide the vast bulk of the services they currently provide.

            AFAICT, when Planned Parenthood clinics can no longer perform abortions (due to increased regulation or whatever), they tend to shut them down entirely, not to keep them open to provide every service except abortion. That’s not really congruent with the “Abortion is just a small portion of what they do” narrative.

            The goal of pregnancy crisis centers is to convince women who are pregnant and considering an abortion to continue the pregnancy. In their utopia they likely wouldn’t exist.

            If you’re suggesting that in a world where abortion was illegal but women still had crisis pregnancies nobody would bother operating crisis pregnancy centres, then citation needed. If on the other hand you’re suggesting that in their ideal world crisis pregnancies wouldn’t happen in the first place so the need for a crisis pregnancy centre would never arise, that’s probably true, but irrelevant. No doubt many people who run homeless shelters, soup kitchens, shelters for battered women, etc., etc., etc. would agree that in an ideal world their services wouldn’t be needed, so crisis pregnancy centres would be in good company in that regard.

          • acymetric says:

            AFAICT, when Planned Parenthood clinics can no longer perform abortions (due to increased regulation or whatever), they tend to shut them down entirely, not to keep them open to provide every service except abortion. That’s not really congruent with the “Abortion is just a small portion of what they do” narrative.

            The information I’ve seen is that only about half of PP locations offer abortion services, and only 12% of their patients receive abortions. It isn’t totally clear to me how many of the remaining 88% went to PP considering abortion but decided against it vs. those who went for the other services (including non-abortion pregnancy and post-birth services).

            That seems pretty congruent with “a small portion of what they do” to me, and would also appear to contradict the idea that they just close up shop every time they become unable to provide abortions (given that ~half of them don’t anyway).

          • Nick says:

            AFAICT, when Planned Parenthood clinics can no longer perform abortions (due to increased regulation or whatever), they tend to shut them down entirely, not to keep them open to provide every service except abortion. That’s not really congruent with the “Abortion is just a small portion of what they do” narrative.

            Moreover, look at abortion rates by state—the more liberal states tend to have higher abortion rates, not lower. New York has the most liberal abortion laws in the country, and a governor who lit the spire of Freedom Tower pink to celebrate it; in their utopia, business is booming.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m sure that someone has made the claim that making abortions available would decrease the number of abortions, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly good argument, and I don’t think it is an especially commonly held belief. Why would you expect fewer abortions in a place where abortions are more accessible?

            Also, your link doesn’t really make it clear how they got their numbers. Is this the number reported by legal practices performing legal procedures or does it somehow account for illegal operations done in states that are more restrictive? It would probably be helpful to see something that was based off actual state of residence as well…is Florida’s rate artificially inflated because people are going there from GA/AL because it is easier to get an abortion?

          • Nick says:

            I’m sure that someone has made the claim that making abortions available would decrease the number of abortions, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly good argument, and I don’t think it is an especially commonly held belief. Why would you expect fewer abortions in a place where abortions are more accessible?

            I didn’t say states with more accessible abortions, I said more liberal states. There’s a difference, and it means all those other things that progressive folks support that are supposed to decrease abortion rates either aren’t happening or aren’t working. Like, I don’t see how a state like New York isn’t in several other respects Planned Parenthood’s utopia with respect to reproductive health services. Yet they have at the highest abortion rate in the country.

            Also, your link doesn’t really make it clear how they got their numbers. Is this the number reported by legal practices performing legal procedures or does it somehow account for illegal operations done in states that are more restrictive? It would probably be helpful to see something that was based off actual state of residence as well…is Florida’s rate artificially inflated because people are going there from GA/AL because it is easier to get an abortion?

            That data actually are all there, although the page I linked to makes that less than clear. Click “Back to Filters” and you can look at data based on state of occurrence vs. state of residence (I’d picked state of residence), abortion rate vs absolute number of abortions (we’re obviously more interested in the former), and a bunch of other categories, like contraceptive use. The citation is Kost K, Maddow-Zimet I and Kochhar S, Pregnancy Desires and Pregnancies at the State Level: Estimates for 2014, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2018 https://www.guttmacher.org/reports/ pregnancy-desires-and-pregnancies-state-level-estimates-2014; unfortunately, the link is broken.

          • gbdub says:

            HeelBearCub, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. PP intentionally downplays the role of abortion in their services (and of COURSE abortion is less common than their other services, I sure hope women are getting fewer abortions than Pap smears) but it’s pretty clear that providing open access to abortion is an important part of their mission, more so than your average ob/gyn clinic. Their rhetoric just downplays it tactically to get support from people for whom abortion is controversial.

            When abortion rights are threatened, it’s “donate to Planned Parenthood to protect women’s right to choose!” (nobody says “donate to your local ob/gyn clinic”) When their gov’t funding is threatened, it’s “no no no look at all these important other services we provide!”

            Which is fine. They are tailoring their argument to the audience.

            But it’s the same thing as an activist for the other side trying to talk pregnant women considering abortions out of getting abortions without being aggressively anti-abortion up front. Probably works better and really just IS better than calling them sluts outside PP.

            You’re scaling your charity based on which side you agree with.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m sure that someone has made the claim that making abortions available would decrease the number of abortions

            As Nick alludes, the argument is typically “well, if you really wanted to stop abortions, instead of Hating Women, you would support [list of liberal policies designed to antagonize religious conservatives, like free condoms, good sex ed, etc], which ackshually reduce abortions.”

            I generally support those liberal policies, but the overall track record doesn’t support the argument that they reduce abortions.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            But we are talking about deception pointed at the individual looking for services. Planned Parenthood really does provide a broad range of services. If the local public health clinics started offering the same range of services as PP, including abortion, PP might indeed diminish its footprint in that area. Crisis centers do not provide a range of services.

            If Planned Parenthood was, hypothetically, buying the search terms “adoption”, “give up my baby”, or similar and then presenting pages to people strongly implying they helped people deal with unwanted pregnancies by offering adoption services, and then offering abortion services instead, that would be analogous behavior.

            PP performing their founding function, facilitating women and families in furthering family planning, is, in no way, limited to abortion.

          • acymetric says:

            I didn’t say states with more accessible abortions, I said more liberal states. There’s a difference…

            I mean, probably some difference. But one is a reasonable proxy for the other…do you disagree that abortions will be more generally be readily available in liberal states than conservative ones (with, I’m sure, some outliers), and also that people with liberal views (who believe abortion is acceptable) would be more likely to seek them out than those with conservative views (in conservative states)? This is parsing out like “People who believe it is ok to get abortions and can access legal abortion services have more abortions than people who do not believe it is ok to get abortions and have more limited access”. Which…I mean yeah hard to argue that, but who was?

            Liberal states having a higher abortion rate is not incompatible with liberal reproductive policies reducing the number of abortions. Your assessment is failing to control for the cultural views that influence people’s decisions. New York’s abortion rate would probably be even higher if not for the liberal policies surrounding sex ed, contraception, etc due to a bunch of confounding factors surrounding the issue.

            That data actually are all there, although the page I linked to makes that less than clear. Click “Back to Filters” and you can look at data based on state of occurrence vs. state of residence (I’d picked state of residence), abortion rate vs absolute number of abortions (we’re obviously more interested in the former), and a bunch of other categories, like contraceptive use. The citation is Kost K, Maddow-Zimet I and Kochhar S, Pregnancy Desires and Pregnancies at the State Level: Estimates for 2014, New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2018 https://www.guttmacher.org/reports/ pregnancy-desires-and-pregnancies-state-level-estimates-2014; unfortunately, the link is broken.

            Thanks, I tried to click the link when I first checked it out and gave up when it was broken, apparently missing the fairly obvious reset filters button above the chart. It remains unclear to me whether these estimates include illegal abortion services/how they arrived at their numbers.

          • Nick says:

            I mean, probably some difference. But one is a reasonable proxy for the other…do you disagree that abortions will be more generally be readily available in liberal states than conservative ones (with, I’m sure, some outliers), and also that people with liberal views (who believe abortion is acceptable) would be more likely to seek them out than those with conservative views (in conservative states)? This is parsing out like “People who believe it is ok to get abortions and can access legal abortion services have more abortions than people who do not believe it is ok to get abortions and have more limited access”. Which…I mean yeah hard to argue that, but who was?

            Liberal states having a higher abortion rate is not incompatible with liberal reproductive policies reducing the number of abortions. Your assessment is failing to control for the cultural views that influence people’s decisions. New York’s abortion rate would probably be even higher if not for the liberal policies surrounding sex ed, contraception, etc due to a bunch of confounding factors surrounding the issue.

            I agree with all of that! And that’s precisely the problem! As Edward points out, the pitch always made to folks like me with moral objections to contraception or sex-encouraging sex ed but an even greater moral objection to abortion, is that the former will actually reduce the number of abortions. But it seems to me you agree that we hardly see the one without the other, that they’re reasonable proxies for each other, as you say. So pace HeelBearCub, I see no reason to support Planned Parenthood here; all it will do is increase, on net, what I consider to be a moral horror.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            You may be misinterpreting the data.

            According to a 2009 WHO study, when we look at an international level:

            We also find that abortion rates are lower in subregions
            characterised by liberal abortion laws than in subregions characterised by restrictive laws.

            Now, it’s entirely possible that when we look at nations, liberal abortion law and contraceptive law are correlated, so we may just be seeing an effect of contraceptive law, but then that’s what is being debated.

            If contraceptive availability is much less variable than abortion availability, at the level of US states, we would expect that we would expect to see more abortions performed where it is more available. It seems you are arguing against the straw man argument that making abortions illegal increases their prevalence.

          • acymetric says:

            Ok, I think we’re on the same page!

            Certainly if you are opposed to both abortion and liberal styles of sex-ed/contraception you are going to be unhappy with that arrangement.

            A more accurate pitch (hard to say if this was the intended message without seeing a specific source) would be: if you take as a given that abortion will be legal, accessible, and non-stigmatized (which the people making this case probably did), sex-positive/contraception based sex-ed will reduce the number of abortions from what it would be if we did all the abortion stuff but didn’t do the sex-ed and contraceptive stuff.

            Abortion rate increases with availability/destigmatization.
            Abortion rate decreases with sex ed/providing contraception.

            On net it probably increases, but not as much as if abortion were available and no sex ed or contraception services are provided. It isn’t necessarily impossible to conceive a world where the sex-ed/contraception outweighs abortion availability and makes it a net decrease, so that pitch may not have been made in bad faith, but certainly that hasn’t been the case yet and may or may not ever be the case as better education and contraception becomes more widespread.

            I’ll just add as a personal note (to explain why I’m so prone to defending planned parenthood) that my mom used PP services during and after pregnancy. I wasn’t aborted (as best I can tell), so while “availability of abortions” is certainly part of their mission the people who seem to try to frame it as though PP is some kind of abortion maximizing machine rings hollow to me. Data set of one and all that.

            S_J’s post just below this comment sub-thread on the subject has some good points.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Acymetric:

            Liberal states having a higher abortion rate is not incompatible with liberal reproductive policies reducing the number of abortions. Your assessment is failing to control for the cultural views that influence people’s decisions. New York’s abortion rate would probably be even higher if not for the liberal policies surrounding sex ed, contraception, etc due to a bunch of confounding factors surrounding the issue.

            You can’t neatly separate “culture” and “policies”, though. One affects the other, and vice versa. Implementing liberal policies regarding sex ed., contraception, and so forth is going to help normalise recreational sex, which in turn is going to make pregnancy seem less like the normal result of sex and more like an unfair misfortune which people need abortion to get rid of.

            @ HBC:

            It seems you are arguing against the straw man argument that making abortions illegal increases their prevalence.

            I don’t know that anybody’s argued that making abortions illegal increases their prevalence, but “Banning abortion doesn’t stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions” is a common pro-abortion meme, as if “If you really wanted to reduce the abortion rate, you’d be in favour of more sex ed. and free condoms for everybody rather than making abortion harder to access”.

          • dick says:

            “If you really wanted to reduce the abortion rate, you’d be in favor of more sex ed” is what we say to people who are against sex ed, not what we say to people who are against abortion. We want sex ed and the pill and condoms and abortions and prenatal vitamins to be readily available.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “If you really wanted to reduce the abortion rate, you’d be in favor of more sex ed” is what we say to people who are against sex ed, not what we say to people who are against abortion.

            Maybe it’s not what you say to people who are against abortion, but “If you were really pro-life and not just anti-women’s-freedom, you’d support [long laundry list of other things, often including sex ed.]” is a commonly-encountered rhetorical tactic.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I mean, Nick juuuuust said it, he is against abortion AND he is against sex-ed, both for moral reasons.

            The positive correlation of these two positions is high.

          • Nick says:

            What HeelBearCub said. Like, does anyone anywhere oppose sex-positive sex education but support abortion?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Crisis centers do not provide a range of services.

            The crisis center in Raleigh which you linked to downthread says they do pregnancy testing, ultrasound, and STD testing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Paul Zrimsek:
            Uh huh.

            All things you can use to argue for chastity outside of marriage.

            This isn’t “diagnose why I have pelvic pain” or “what do I do about the abnormally heavy menstrual flow I have” or even “I need a prescription for birth control” or the thousands of other things women go to a women’s healthcare provider for.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            There are some who oppose abortion but support sex-positive sex-ed. My sense is that many of them are more liberal Catholics, but that could just be because my mother is one of those.

      • S_J says:

        Replying to myself:

        despite the angst and discussion over whether the overall goals of crisis pregnancy centers, I can confirm this from a pool of friends/acquaintances who work with them:

        1. These centers often work on limited budgets, but do all that is in their power to gather supplies (cribs, other baby-related furniture, diapers, baby food, etc.) to give out to poor women with unexpected preganancies.

        2. The centers often gather their clients and staff into support groups, to help create circles of social aid and practical help.

        3. These centers are typically locally-run, and may be part of a loose regional organization…but they are not typically part of a national chain*.

        4. The structure and membership of the crisis-pregnancy centers that I’m aware of are similar to that of other social-help organizations I’ve participated in or supported.

        One such organization is a regional feed-the-poor-and-homeless effort at a park in Detroit. Another is a large suburban church spending lots of money and volunteer effort to buy and refurbish houses in a poor neighboorhood. Each of these efforts is run by interested volunteers. A healthy fraction of the volunteers are politically-conservative, but a noticeable number are of other political types. The core demographic served may not be a typical potlically-conservative focus. Even if the goal of the organization is apparently politically-conservative, the members don’t make political activism a pre-requisite for volunteers, or for people receiving the help. **

        I suspect if I ask about activists at the regional and local level helping Progressive causes, I’ll end up with a pattern that has many elements in common with what I outline above, modulo the political focus of the leaders.

        5. At its core, a crisis-pregnancy-center is a social-help organization. The good deeds done aren’t big news-making items. The political angst over how these centers interact with State and National politics is a big news-making item. Thus, most people will miss the good deeds done and remember the last time these centers entered the contentious world of abortion politics and Free Speech cases.

        *This may be why there is so little mention of such centers in the news: Planned Parenthood is a national organization with an affiliated national political lobbying firm. it is easy for organizations with a centralized national office to get their statements published to news organizations. It is harder for a group of loosely-affiliated local crisis-pregnancy-centers to get their statements published to news organizations.

        ** I can’t tell whether the separation of political activism from social-help organizations is due to the civility of a bunch of people getting together to help other people…or with the rules of the Internal Revenue Service.
        With respect to IRS rules: even Planned Parenthood Federation of America does not do any political advocacy or lobbying…but there is a related organization called Planned Parenthood Action Fund that does a lot of political advocacy and lobbying.

        • dick says:

          They could also do all the wonderful things you just described, and also not pretend to be abortion clinics.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If any non-negligible proportion of them do pretend to be abortion clinics, I’ve never seen any evidence of it. So far in this thread we’ve had one alleged example, which on closer investigation turned out to explicitly state on its webpage that it doesn’t perform abortions.

          • dick says:

            Everything I know on the subject comes from a) a John Oliver segment on the subject, which among other things featured a woman who runs a crisis pregnancy center addressing her peers at a conference thusly:

            We want to appear neutral on the outside, The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Okay? Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center–the ones that think you provide abortions.

            and b) anecdotal stories from friends who fell for the con and were upset afterwards.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Sadly, John Oliver isn’t a good source for anything. It’s really frustrating, because he’s done some great long-form reporting but signaling Blue Tribe is more important to him than presenting a reasonable picture.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I opened an incognito tab searched for “where can I get an abortion”…

            This link was provided in my search results and seems to have been a paid ad.

            Looking at their google reviews, they appear to be a pro-life crisis center, but good luck figuring that out from the website.

          • dick says:

            Sadly, John Oliver isn’t a good source for anything.

            Are you suggesting that he was wrong? That the quote was fabricated, or unrepresentative, or something else? Or just sharing your opinion on the inner motivations of a person you’ve never met?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Unrepresentative. I don’t mind advocacy journalism, and it can be really useful when done well, but he’s laser-focused on making the Right and the GOP look stupid when he’s reporting politics.

            I’m assessing his motivations by his actions, and assuming he’s rational.

          • dick says:

            Unrepresentative.

            Any evidence for this? Or is the mere fact that it was spoken by someone whose politics you dislike enough reason to assume it’s false?

          • Clutzy says:

            Any evidence for this? Or is the mere fact that it was spoken by someone whose politics you dislike enough reason to assume it’s false?

            I mean, he essentially did a project veritas video. If you think his program is representative, you also think Planned Parenthood definitely sells baby parts for massive profits, and various DNC-related orgs engage in massive vote fraud.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            His pieces on Net Neutrality present the issue as “Evil Telecoms vs. the Public” when in reality it’s a “Telecoms vs. Tech Companies stifling competition with regulation.” He doesn’t even raise actual objections to refute them, just strawmen. His work is manipulative and therefore you can’t rely on him.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Remember the Clown Nose strategy.

            John Oliver takes off the clown nose, says something serious, and if he gets called on it, puts the clown nose back on and says “Hey, I’m just a clown.” Case in point, where the senior media correspondent for CNN says John Oliver is “satire.” https://twitter.com/redsteeze/status/798578940394819584

            This was Rush Limbaugh’s strategy in the 90s, btw. Say a bunch of facts, some true and some false, and when called on the false ones, say “hey, man, I’m just an entertainer.”

            If people are falling back to these defenses, just ignore them. Or use them for entertainment. It can be funny; I mean, standing around laughing about how dumb the outgroup is always funny.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I missed the edit window, but here are quotes of the relevant Jim Treacher essay, now offline, about the Clown Nose strategy, when Jon Stewart used it. http://patterico.com/2009/03/14/i-always-see-the-clown-nose-on-jon-stewart/

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Looking at their google reviews, they appear to be a pro-life crisis center, but good luck figuring that out from the website.

            Gateway Women’s Care provides one-on-one counseling, support and accurate information about all pregnancy options. We do not, however, provide or refer abortion services.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If you want to know who they are, go to the “About Us” section.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, go click on that page. Please do.

            Adding the ambiguous disclaimer in fine print proves rather than refutes…

          • To expand on the comment by The original Mr. X …

            If you go to their web page, there is a list of topics at the top, one of which is “abortion info.” One of the options under that is “abortion procedures.” If you click on that, you get the page with “We do not, however, provide or refer abortion services.” At least one of the other options also takes you to a page with that statement. Another item at the top of the main page is “services,” and “providing abortions” or “referring to an abortion provider” are notably absent in the list.

            They are not making an effort to bring the fact that they don’t provide abortions to the reader’s attention, but it is there for anyone who wants to look.

          • Adding the ambiguous disclaimer in fine print proves rather than refutes…

            You consider ““We do not, however, provide or refer abortion services” to be an “ambiguous disclaimer”?

            What would be an unambiguous disclaimer? “We absolutely, definitely, cross my heart and hope to die don’t provide or refer abortion services”?

            It’s true that the disclaimer is not emphasized, but it is not in the least ambiguous.

          • dick says:

            I mean, he essentially did a project veritas video. If you think his program is representative, you also think Planned Parenthood definitely sells baby parts for massive profits, and various DNC-related orgs engage in massive vote fraud.

            I didn’t say you should believe John Oliver because he’s so trustworthy that he wouldn’t lie. Mr. X implied the opposite of that – that he was confident that what Oliver had said was not true because he is not trustworthy. Both are equally wrong. Please consider the idea that when you discover that someone’s position is obviously stupid, your next thought ought to be, “Perhaps I’ve misunderstood their comment”, not, “watch me pwn this noob with my devastating response!”

            I’m surprised to see so much vitriol towards John Oliver, paired with such a dearth of specifics. I was under the impression that being open to the idea that your outgroup might have valuable things to say was sort of the point of this whole thing. Out of curiosity, a question to those who think he’s not worth listening to: is he also wrong when he says things that don’t offend your ideology? Like, he did an in-depth segment on the corrupt leadership of FIFA, was that bad journalism? And he did a piece arguing strongly against civil asset forfeiture, was that one manipulative and unreliable? I mean, “I don’t listen to him because he’s in my outgroup” is dumb, but “he’s a decent journalist when he says things I agree with, but the rest of the time he’s a lying scumbag” is much, much dumber.

            For the record, I still don’t claim to know whether crisis-pregnancy-centers-masquerading-as-abortion-clinics are commmon or rare. I don’t have any more facts at my disposal than y’all, and it’s not something I’m deeply concerned about or likely to be thinking about next week. But I’m not ready to assume Oliver’s claim is false yet. I mean, I just watched a lengthy discussion about the topic with lots of contributions from pro-lifers, and I didn’t see anyone claim that any specific thing he said was wrong. That is a piece of evidence in itself, I think.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Mr. X implied the opposite of that – that he was confident that what Oliver had said was not true because he is not trustworthy.

            Me, not X.

            I said he wasn’t a good source. Not that everything he said was lies. One of the reasons I’m so disappointed in him is that some of his early reporting was really good, but his gameplaying is so transparent on some issues it’s safer to dismiss him entirely, so you don’t have to ask “Was this one valid, or did I get fooled?”

            Like, he did an in-depth segment on the corrupt leadership of FIFA, was that bad journalism? And he did a piece arguing strongly against civil asset forfeiture, was that one manipulative and unreliable?

            I don’t know. I liked those, I thought they were good, but now I don’t know if I got suckered. I only know that I cannot trust him.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            Adding the ambiguous disclaimer in fine print proves rather than refutes…

            As David Friedman said, it’s not really ambiguous. Nor is it in fine print: the font size is the same as that used for regular text in the website.

            @Dick:

            Out of curiosity, a question to those who think he’s not worth listening to: is he also wrong when he says things that don’t offend your ideology? Like, he did an in-depth segment on the corrupt leadership of FIFA, was that bad journalism? And he did a piece arguing strongly against civil asset forfeiture, was that one manipulative and unreliable? I mean, “I don’t listen to him because he’s in my outgroup” is dumb, but “he’s a decent journalist when he says things I agree with, but the rest of the time he’s a lying scumbag” is much, much dumber.

            Greenwood’s stated problem with Oliver is that he’s too partisan (“he’s laser-focused on making the Right and the GOP look stupid when he’s reporting politics”). If you think that about someone, it’s perfectly reasonable to take them seriously on non-partisan issues and to ignore them on partisan ones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            If an anti-vaccine group was set up in this way you would easily recognize the essential deception. “Come in to talk to us about your vaccine options!”

            You guys are depressingly hilarious.

          • dick says:

            @ greenwood

            I don’t know. I liked those, I thought they were good, but now I don’t know if I got suckered. I only know that I cannot trust him.

            The way to not trust John Oliver is to look at his claims critically, not to not look at them. Did he poke fun at pro-lifers? I guess, somewhat, though I don’t see much of that upon rewatching. (for those participating in this discussion who haven’t actually watched it, I should point out it’s free on youtube here) Obviously he’s coming from the left, and doesn’t hide that.

            But he also made a lot of specific, falsifiable claims. He said there are a lot more crisis pregnancy centers than abortion clinics (2700 vs 1700 in the US, 38 vs 1 in Mississippi). He said “way too often, women… are being actively misled”, followed by several instances of that happening. He said that many CPCs receive federal and state funding. Those things sound pretty easy to falsify, if they were false.

            More generally, I guess I don’t get the vitriol here, because none of what he said really sounds surprising or scurrilous to me. If I believed abortion to be mass murder, I’m pretty sure I would consider everything he accused the CPCs of doing to be perfectly justifiable. I might be a little annoyed that CPCs are getting attention – they’ve been flying under the radar to a certain extent, and awareness of the CPC phenomenon might make their work harder – but he didn’t really accuse them of anything illegal or immoral. It was more just like “Hey big-city liberals, here’s a thing you probably aren’t aware of” than a hit piece.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            They are not making an effort to bring the fact that they don’t provide abortions to the reader’s attention, but it is there for anyone who wants to look.

            What’s more, it’s there in exactly the place where someone who went to the site in search of an abortion provider would be looking.

          • dick says:

            @ Mr. X

            Greenwood’s stated problem with Oliver is that he’s too partisan (“he’s laser-focused on making the Right and the GOP look stupid when he’s reporting politics”). If you think that about someone, it’s perfectly reasonable to take them seriously on non-partisan issues and to ignore them on partisan ones.

            He didn’t ignore him; he asserted that his segment on CPCs was inaccurate due to being unrepresentative. I get why a pro-lifer wouldn’t want to watch a New York liberal poking fun at them (e.g. Oliver gratuitously including some random CPC founder who was later arrested for molesting a partioner, which is certainly somewhat pejorative and felt like a cheap shot). But when a journalist says something happened, it is absolutely not defensible to decide that it probably didn’t happen because you don’t like that journalist.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            If an anti-vaccine group was set up in this way you would easily recognize the essential deception. “Come in to talk to us about your vaccine options!”

            Except there are alternatives to abortion and really not for vaccines. Do you just object that they don’t say “alternatives”?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            he asserted that his segment on CPCs was inaccurate due to being unrepresentative.

            Actually, I just took your summary, and the bit about that one worker who bragged about misleading women, and my prior knowledge of Oliver, to conclude that he followed up with “And if *this* one is willing to admit it, imagine how many more of them are out there?”

            I generally ignore Oliver nowadays. If I have to research each claim to see if it’s true, find the context around it and assess whether his conclusions are reasonable, why would I listen to him at all?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            One thing I am noticing about that site is that its hyerplinking is … interesting. It doesn’t not always take you to the same pages when you click on a particular topic.

            I also suspect that this:

            North Carolina law requires that a woman be informed of her rights as an abortion patient and receive certain abortion related information at least 72 hours prior to an abortion (effective 10/1/2015). Gateway Women’s Care is able to provide you with this information free of charge.

            May be intentionally misleading.

            Do you think, based on that paragraph, that going to an appointment with them will satisfy the 72 hour waiting period in NC?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            you would easily recognize the essential deception

            If the deception is easily recognized, it’s not a deception.

            Any website with “TALK TO ME ABOUT VACCINE SAFETY” I know what I am getting. A faith-based group offering information about abortion? Same thing.

            And for the record, I oppose any CPCs that string women along thinking she is about to get her abortion until it’s too late.

          • dick says:

            I generally ignore Oliver nowadays. If I have to research each claim to see if it’s true, find the context around it and assess whether his conclusions are reasonable, why would I listen to him at all?

            Why listen to me? Isn’t the idea that your outgroup might have something useful to say kind of the whole point of rationality and debate and this website, and the general attempt to be well-informed and aware of your own side’s flaws? Ignoring criticisms from people you don’t like isn’t some sort of calculated decision, it’s the default behavior of 99% of everyone ever. I thought we were trying to not do that?

            Also, high-level discussion is great, but is someone eventually going to point to any specific thing that John Oliver has ever said or done that was wrong? You guys talk about him as if he was involved in some sort of embarassing scandal or journalistic lapse, and I’m the only one who didn’t hear about it. But I also get the impression that if he did a piece about abortion that you considered 100% accurate, you’d still complain about it just due to the phrasing and snark.

            So, for anyone who thinks his piece on CPCs was bad or wrong or whatever, what specifically was wrong about it? Are there not really 2700 CPCs in the country? Do they not really get federal funding? Do they not really locate themselves right next to abortion clinics? What exactly are we referring to when we say that the information he presented wasn’t accurate?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I am pretty unconvinced by the defenses of this website: the list of services David Friedman points to is labelled as “Cost-Free Services”; given that right above that, they have a link titled “Considering an Abortion”, I think the natural conclusion is that abortion is a service, but not a cost-free one. If you click considering an abortion, you are encouraged to “Contact Us” or “Schedule an Appointment”; if you further click on “Abortion Procedures” you are treated to a long and seemingly detailed list of options; only if you scroll down the entire page and read the last line in small print, do you discover they do not offer abortions.

            I can’t imagine it’s usual for a health clinic to offer a full-page description of various medical procedures, none of which they perform, along with a big button for “Considering [Medical Procedure]” on their front page.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HBC:

            If an anti-vaccine group was set up in this way you would easily recognize the essential deception. “Come in to talk to us about your vaccine options!”

            I don’t think that’s a very good analogy. “Vaccine options” quite clearly implies “options for getting vaccinated”; the website in questions speaks of “pregnancy options“, of which abortion is by no means the only one. A better analogy would be a site saying “Health options” or something like that — I wouldn’t expect an organisation offering to discuss such things to also offer vaccines, particularly not if its “Info on vaccinations” page included a disclaimer saying “We do not provide, nor do we refer patients to people who provide, vaccinations.”

            @ Eugene:

            I am pretty unconvinced by the defenses of this website: the list of services David Friedman points to is labelled as “Cost-Free Services”; given that right above that, they have a link titled “Considering an Abortion”, I think the natural conclusion is that abortion is a service, but not a cost-free one.

            On the other hand, it took me about sixty seconds’ clicking round the site to find the disclaimer about not providing abortions. Admittedly I was deliberately checking to see if the claim that they were misleading people was true, but then again, if you were a pregnant woman looking for an abortion, isn’t “Abortion procedures” precisely the page you’d look at?

            If you click considering an abortion, you are encouraged to “Contact Us” or “Schedule an Appointment”; if you further click on “Abortion Procedures” you are treated to a long and seemingly detailed list of options; only if you scroll down the entire page and read the last line in small print, do you discover they do not offer abortions.

            Again, it’s not “in small print”, it’s in the usual font which the website uses for the majority of its text.

            @ Dick:

            Why listen to me? Isn’t the idea that your outgroup might have something useful to say kind of the whole point of rationality and debate and this website, and the general attempt to be well-informed and aware of your own side’s flaws? Ignoring criticisms from people you don’t like isn’t some sort of calculated decision, it’s the default behavior of 99% of everyone ever. I thought we were trying to not do that?

            If you need to, essentially, go and redo all the research yourself to check that X isn’t misrepresenting the situation, what exactly is the point of paying attention to X in the first place?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Original Mr. X:
            Are you saying parents don’t have the option of not vaccinating their child? (Well, in some states they may not anymore, but, hypothetically speaking, they do have that option).

            Those who are making the claim “I could figure out this probably was a pro-life crisis center” are making a mistake. You already know that crisis centers exist, and that this website is one. People who are on-guard against going to these centers aren’t their targets. It’s those who are ignorant who are the ones who will be deceived.

            Imagine searching for “flood mitigation” and you get a site that described all the ways that a house subjected to flooding can be dried out and salvaged, and you made an appointment at which they gave you an offer to buy your distressed property.

            It wouldn’t matter that at the bottom of the page of details there was a statement they didn’t provide these services.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s surreal how similar I’m facing arguments that I already had with Dittoheads in the 1990s, who said that I had to listen to Rush Limbaugh or else accept his premise. It wasn’t fair that I wasn’t digging through hours of their favorite material.

            This analogy might help.

            advocacy journalism : normal journalism :: unregistered science : registered science

            That is, a science trial that doesn’t pre-register its findings can still turn up useful things. But it’s simply not worth my time to look at science trials if they haven’t declared ahead of time what effects they are going to be looking for. It might be worth your time, and I’m fine with that.

            When a journalist sits down with you for four hours, you get the sense that the journalist cares about you. Look at all the time they are investing in you! But this is a classic example of ambush journalism. They pretend to build a rapport, get you to say something embarrassing that would be understandable if said during a four-hour discussion. And then they play 20 seconds of it. The reason they talked for four hours wasn’t because they wanted to spend four hours learning about what you had to say. The reason they kept on asking the same question over and over again wasn’t because they were confused. It was so you give multiple answers, and then they will pick out the one that looks worst for you. And you really did say it, they didn’t manufacture that! Just like Veritas really did find people who say the things they said. (Veritas has won multiple lawsuits on this. They didn’t merge-edit a bunch of different things to manufacture a response; instead, they kept on talking to someone they got to lower their professional guard.)

            John Oliver runs a comedy show. Making fun of their outgroup is funny: it is guaranteed laughs, every time. It’s not, for me (maybe it is for others) that John Oliver is my outgroup. Sometimes the group he picks on is my outgroup, sometimes it isn’t. It’s that I get no useful information from making fun of his outgroup. If we share the outgroup, I can’t tell if I’m agreeing because of course the outgroup is morons. Anyone who thinks they learned something valuable about PP from the Veritas videos is making a similar mistake.

            You can find people who point out the problems with his shows on Jill Stein, or the pharma industry, or gene editing, or nuclear waste. I’ve already been in enough debates where a problem with Oliver is defended as “oh I guess you don’t get satire“. If there is something really important here, I can wait for the normal journalists to cover it.

          • For the record, I still don’t claim to know whether crisis-pregnancy-centers-masquerading-as-abortion-clinics are commmon or rare.

            Judging by the one example we have discussed, they aren’t masquerading as abortion clinics. They are trying to soft pedal the fact that they are trying to persuade women considering abortions not to have them in order to get those women to listen to their arguments.

            Nothing on the site implies that they are an abortion clinic, but the site is designed to get someone to read a good deal of their material before concluding that they are not offering that service.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Isn’t the idea that your outgroup might have something useful to say kind of the whole point of rationality and debate and this website, and the general attempt to be well-informed and aware of your own side’s flaws?

            Yeah, but Oliver is a pyromaniac in a field of strawmen a lot of the time, so I have to discount when he seems to be making a good argument because I could be missing the strawmen because we’re agreed on this issue.

            Also, high-level discussion is great, but is someone eventually going to point to any specific thing that John Oliver has ever said or done that was wrong?

            No, because the issue is not [specific error]. You can recite a 100% true set of facts while still being incredibly misleading.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/09/16/cardiologists-and-chinese-robbers/

            You guys talk about him as if he was involved in some sort of embarassing scandal or journalistic lapse, and I’m the only one who didn’t hear about it

            [Clown Nose on] He’s not doing journalism. He’s just a comedian. It’s all jokes.

            But I also get the impression that if he did a piece about abortion that you considered 100% accurate, you’d still complain about it just due to the phrasing and snark.

            No, people are allowed to have their own opinions and their own presentation.

          • Ketil says:

            And for the record, I oppose any CPCs that string women along thinking she is about to get her abortion until it’s too late.

            In the US? Somebody tricking people into lifelong responsibility for a child they didn’t really want? Please explain how this would not going to end up in a zillion-dollar lawsuit?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can be deceptive enough that you don’t break the law but still fool vulnerable people.

          • dick says:

            @Mr. X

            If you need to, essentially, go and redo all the research yourself to check that X isn’t misrepresenting the situation, what exactly is the point of paying attention to X in the first place?

            The point of paying attention to your outgroup is, that’s where the criticisms of your ingroup come from. If your ingroup has flaws, and you’d like to know what they are, and it can’t be trusted to unearth them, you have to hold your nose and listen to your outgroup.

            But I don’t get this business about “redoing research.” John Oliver said, for example*, that there are 2700 CPCs in the country. The reason I believe that’s true is not because I trust John Oliver so much, and it’s also not because I painstakingly verified it, it’s because I *do* trust the CPC industry to know how many CPCs there are, and I looked at a few articles from the CPC industry complaining about his segment, and none of them questioned that number. (You did that too, right? We are all in the habit of spending 5 minutes googling things before we spend 50 minutes bloviating about them, right?)

            * I had to use an example, because still, after however many days of this discussion, I have absolutely no idea what you think is wrong with the segment we’re discussing. From context, I assume it’s the suggestion that CPCs try to mislead people in to thinking they do abortions? If so, I don’t understand the vitriol, since that seems like a fairly obvious and defensible thing to do. And I guess that’s part of why I’m even arguing this. The fact that someone would react so vehemently to such a tepid and weakly-made claim makes it seem likely that what you really object to is just the fact that the piece is generally pro-choice.

            @ greenwoodjr

            No, because the issue is not [specific error]. You can recite a 100% true set of facts while still being incredibly misleading. (in response to me asking “is someone eventually going to point to any specific thing that John Oliver has ever said or done that was wrong?”

            Right, great, and the misleading thing he implied was what? That FIFA president Sepp Blatter was corrupt, when really he isn’t? That CPCs are numerous, when really they’re not? I’m not trying to play gotcha here – I only said “specific” because all of the complaints so far have been generalities like “he’s not trustworthy”.

            [Clown Nose on] He’s not doing journalism. He’s just a comedian. It’s all jokes.

            This seems like a very unfair criticism. When has John Oliver ever said that, or anything like it? Jon Stewart did, but he’s a different person and that was a different show.

    • Tenacious D says:

      An enduring feature of anglosphere conservatism is a skepticism toward state power (there are other aspects like nationalism that have the opposite tendency—the movement isn’t monolithic). As @Conrad Honcho notes, a lot of the good that conservative groups do is through non-political avenues. One of the jobs of conservative political groups is to run interference to keep the government from sucking up all the oxygen in the room away from those other parts of society: individuals, families, churches, businesses, clubs, etc.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think that it’s hard for people in my generation (I’m in my 40’s) much less people in the core demographics of this audience (20’s to 30’s), to grasp how much there was genuine movement towards actual, real communism (not like social democracies, like “the state owns all the means of production”) by the left in the mid 20th Century, and how important the conservative movements of the day were in curbing that from happening and avoiding centrally planned economies.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Part of the whole “if you are not a conservative when you are old, you have no brain” is that you have seen all the harebrained schemes recommended during your youth — sometimes by you — that would have been disastrous if someone hadn’t been standing guard at Chesterson’s Fence saying “Go away and think.”

      • For another example, the main opponent of the early 20th century eugenics movement was the Catholic church.

    • Murphy says:

      Here’s the issue.

      When conservatives win and society doesn’t adopt a change in values … the values end up being part of the common set.

      So anything I list, progressives will also go “ah but I believe in that too!”

      Because… well, that’s the point.

      So lets try an example. Roll back a few decades and along with gay rights, trans rights etc there were people pushing for more social acceptance of pedophiles (think nambla). They didn’t win, likely because unlike gay people and trans people they didn’t have as good arguments and conflicted with the principle of harm etc etc.

      But conservatives opposed them and won and I think society is better for it.

      Which brings me to another point. Progressives tend to be fragmentary. Lots of little causes.

      Once particular ones have grown, won and become the dominant ideology it’s easy to go “see! progressives got it right!” but there were hundreds of other progressive groups pushing different versions.

      On top of that, people can be progressive in one area of their beliefs and conservative in many others. So many people who might get called progressives will still align with the conservatives when an issue comes up where they don’t think the change is good.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        We also have a tendency to map the right as “conservative” and the left as “changing things that are bad” and then argue over who was who after the fact. Consider the Civil Rights movement. The movement itself came out of the churches, with strong support across pretty much all denominations including the Catholic Church. Progressives want to take credit for the Civil Rights Movement but the people supporting that were not fellow traveler leftists. It wasn’t the left that did it, it wasn’t the right, it wasn’t “progressives” and it wasn’t “conservatives.” It was the churches.

        • Murphy says:

          depends if you’re using “progressives” as a synonym for blue tribe.

          The churches siding with the civil rights movement is sort of what I’m talking about. It was a progressive stance, they were advocating for change to the status quo.

          Anyone advocating change (unless it’s reversion to an even older, previously overthrown status quo) is, on that issue, a progressive.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Churches fighting against government abuse and over-reach and for equal justice in accordance with the plain language of our Founding documents wouldn’t code as Conservative today?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, yeah, I didn’t want to say it but since you brought it up…then you’ve got the whole “A greater portion of republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats” thing which results in the “they switched sides!” malarkey (like three people switched parties?). But yeah the victory of a bunch of church-going republicans is actually a leftist/progressive victory. Who knew…

        • dick says:

          Progressives want to take credit for the Civil Rights Movement but … it was the churches.

          Who was on the other side? Atheists? Hindus?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Segregationists?

          • dick says:

            Segregationists?

            Look, we’re 90% on the same side here. I recognize that Christians were and are a big part of the social justice movement. If someone somewhere is denying that, please, by all means, educate them, that serves my interests as someone who would like Christians to be an even bigger part. Similarly, don’t forget to let people know that a lot of Democrats opposed desegregation, and that the environmental movement owes a great deal to the political right historically.

            But that’s a little different than the claim you made. There were a lot of Christians on both sides of the Civil Rights issue, and claiming credit for it on behalf of the church is an attempt at revisionist history. (You might as well give credit to the right-handed people; I’ve read that they made up more than 90% of the movement!) I recognize and agree with a lesser version of the same point – that Christianity should get credit for starting what we now call social justice.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think that the “revisionism” is attempts to map a conflict between what was largely church groups and segregationists 60-70 years ago to today’s political conflicts to score points. It wasn’t really “leftists” or “rightists” who were on one side or the other. The definitions of those then and the definitions of those things today are different, and today we’re pretty much all on the side of the desegregationists and 12 loonies are on the side of the segregationists.

          • Plumber says:

            The segregationists did call civil rights advocates “Communists”, and a few were (who were far outnumbered by others, very much including Christians) as @Conrad Honcho mentioned, but the segregationists also often called themselves Christians even when the bulk of churches were agianst the institution by then), also at the time the Federal government was interested in denying the Soviets using Jim Crow in the U.S.A. for propaganda points.

            Back then “liberals” were for desegregation, and “conservatives” for ‘States Rights’, but mapping it to any “left” and “right” of later times is tricky, more than a few desegregationists would be anti-abortionists in later decade decades (as would some segregationists).

            If you go a century further back the abolitionists were strongly religious, which hardly fits an anti-clerical “left” of other times and places.

            By dictionary definitions twenty years ago I’d argue that Democrats were actually “conservatives” and Republicans “liberals”.

            It’s all quite muddled.

          • dick says:

            I think that the “revisionism” is attempts to map a conflict between what was largely church groups and segregationists 60-70 years ago to today’s political conflicts to score points.

            I also think that mapping labels like “right” and “left” on to the opposing sides of historic debates is point-scoring. But then, I didn’t start a new discussion by announcing that one label shouldn’t get credit for Civil Rights and another label should. And I also didn’t decide arbitrarily that, in a debate between two ideologically opposed groups overwhelmingly comprised of Christians, one side should be called “churches” and the other shouldn’t.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            If we’re all agreed that it’s not reasonable to map between American political movements of the 1960s and those of today, then surely we must all also agree that it’s not reasonable to map e.g. Soviet movements of the past to mainstream modern movements. Recognition of this should have a positive effect on the quality of future discussion.

          • dick says:

            You’d think!

          • I think people in this discussion are using a variety of definitions of “conservative”–not surprising, given the range of usage.

            The definition I would prefer is people opposed to change. That’s what the term literally means.

            The problem with labeling the other side “progressives” is that progress doesn’t mean change, it means change we approve of. If the issue is whether conservatives are sometimes doing something good, it is cheating to only count them as conservatives when they are opposing good change, which is what “conservatives vs progressives” implies.

            Perhaps we should coin “changeist” as the alternative to “conservative.” It makes sense to label Stalin as a changeist. Also libertarians. Also the Civil Rights movement.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Most who claim the mantle of “conservative” oppose only certain changes, changes they disapprove of.

            The framing of “changeist” implies that those who are proposing changes want change merely for changes sake. This framing is just as harmful to the discourse.

            Nor, of course is resistance to change the only impulse in conservatism. Another impulse that is commonly labeled “conservative” is a desire for an imposed order, usually in service of deontological morality, regardless of whether this is a change from previous morays. Thus Calvinists or Puritans can be seen as radical revolutionaries, but still conservative ones.

          • Clutzy says:

            HeelBearCub strikes at the heart of the problem of the topline question. Is conservatism an ideology that can be carried through time? And the answer clearly is no. Ben Franklin was a libertine man, and a revolutionary, but he was not a progressive. He also was not a conservative, although today he would likely fall into that camp.

            There are 2.5 camps that currently get the “conservative” label (although this is always changing as I said above): Social traditionalists who think things like abortion are bad; fiscal minimalists who think the government spends too much; and defense hawks, half of whom are currently excommunicated from all movements because they cannot find a home in any movement.

            Have there been positive contributions by traditionalists? Yes, they have put down things like the crack epidemic, they have warded off much of the eugenics movements of the early 1900s, and other things.

            Fiscal minimalists? They have been, mostly, the Buckleyian version of a man yelling, “Stop”. While achieving little in their own direction, they probably are the difference between the US and Brazil, economically.

            War hawks? A mixed bag, a bag that is overwhelmingly negative in recent times, even if it worked in 1900. That is why no camp is really all that welcoming to them at the moment.

          • Most who claim the mantle of “conservative” oppose only certain changes, changes they disapprove of.

            I don’t think “people who call themselves conservative” is a useful category for our purposes.

            The framing of “changeist” implies that those who are proposing changes want change merely for changes sake.

            Not at all. It implies that they are people who want change–whatever the reason they want it. It thus lumps together people who want change in the direction of a laissez-faire system with little or no government and people who want change in the direction of centrally planned socialism—both positions inconsistent with “conservatism” in its literal sense.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think “people who call themselves conservative” is a useful category for our purposes.

            Is our purpose redefining the word conservative to mean what you want it to?

            That’s poor form.

            You, of course, are free to talk about “conservatives, as defined as those who are resistant to change”. Indeed I did that above. Or you can try and taboo the word. But trying to claim the exclusive and only meaning of words is something of a sophist’s trick.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I don’t think “people who call themselves conservative” is a useful category for our purposes.

            It’s a lot more useful than ignoring the fact that the word is a label, and not a description, in this context.

          • Is our purpose redefining the word conservative to mean what you want it to?

            No. My purpose is responding to the original question, which contained:

            It might be the case that keeping everything as it was is just not compatible with improvement.

            I took that as meaning that the question was about conservatives in the literal sense of the word, not as the label for a political faction. That conclusion was supported by a good deal of the commentary but not all of it, hence my point about inconsistent uses of the term.

            Indeed, you yourself wrote:

            The conservative impulse: “We should generally favor keeping things as they are rather than changing things, because things as they are is what we know. It is precious and has been proven by surviving over time.”

          • deltafosb says:

            I took that as meaning that the question was about conservatives in the literal sense of the word, not as the label for a political faction. That conclusion was supported by a good deal of the commentary but not all of it, hence my point about inconsistent uses of the term.

            That’s right – I often mix things up in conversation and it’s just impossible for me to keep track of every definition. Not that this matter here, suspecting this kind of problem I asked for examples not tied to any particular interpretation,

            it’s probably better if you just use your own terminology and we agree not to argue about this here.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          Without downplaying the role of churches, this is a massive oversimplification. Until the 1960s, Civil Rights was associated with the labour movement and particularly the parts of the labour movement that had ties to socialism. A. Philip Randolph was a socialist who in 1925 took over leadership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; he used his position in the labour movement to push for civil rights in the ’30s and ’40s already: in 1941 he and (communist) Bayard Rustin proposed a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (it didn’t happen until 1963, but these two were still the organizers); he used the threat of striking black workers to commit FDR to the Fair Employment Act in 1941 banning discrimination in war industries; in 1948 he pushed Truman to desegregate the military. Randolph and Rustin were mentors of MLK Jr.

          Another good example is E.D. Nixon who organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott; MLK emerged as the spokesman of the boycott movement as a compromise between Nixon who wanted a radical boycott and the more conservative ministers when he told Nixon that unlike the other ministers he was “no coward”. Nixon was a member of the Sleeping Car Porters union as well.

          More broadly, industrial unions with socialist tendencies had started accepting that, so long as black workers could be used as strikebreakers, their cause was doomed–they needed integrated unions to advance their cause, and thus had to make a serious offer to black workers on the civil rights front. When it was founded, the CIO was the major white-led organization pushing for civil rights: Auto Workers, Mine Workers, and Transport Workers made civil rights part of their platform; the Transport Workers Union pushed to end employment discrimination in New York in the 1940s.
          John Lewis in the 1930s and Walter Reuther in the 1960s are good examples: Reuther was a socialist early in life, built up the UAW, and was a huge supporter of civil rights: he was a major financier of King and the movement, as well as an organizer. UAW members, organized by Reuther, lobbied for the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
          Lewis organized the Labor Non-Partisan League to coordinate fundraising for the labour movement; in 1938 the NLPL scorecard listed votes on lynching on poll taxes as key votes to rate senators. Lewis, Sidney Hilman, and other labour leaders went out of their way to court black audiences, emphasizing that “the enemies of African American rights and of labor rights were the same”; in 1940 Lewis spoke to the National Negro Congress denouncing the poll tax on the grounds that it benefited “men who are in the forefront of the fight to strike down the rights of labor and the common people … men who would not be here in Washington if the citizens whom they are supposed to represent could cast a vote”. The CIO was attacked by the KKK for their support of integraton.
          This link between white labourers and black civil rights campaigners was the opening for northern liberal Democrats to start pushing for civil rights: northern Democrats realized that black and CIO-supporting votes were their key to victory, and they started trying to take over the party. This is why Truman and Roosevelt were vulnerable to Randolph’s pressure in the 1940s, for example.

          Aside from the labour movement, the Communist Party was an early player in civil rights: the Communist Party helped appeal the case of the Scottsboro Boys, and Stanley Levison was a communist organizer and fundraisher who became one of MLK’s biggest allies.

          In short, the civil rights movement was closely bound up with the American labour movement, the socialist movement, and with various other leftist-type movements: many of the activists were inspired by Ghandi in India and OR Tembo in South Africa. King himself was of course a socialist, and an opponent of the Vietnam war.

          And on the opposition side, it very much was conservatives: famously, National Review opposed the Civil Rights Act, as did Goldwater and Reagan, the most important conservative politicians of the era. The only conservative I can think of from the era who supported it was Everett Dirksen.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            famously, National Review opposed the Civil Rights Act, as did Goldwater and Reagan, the most important conservative politicians of the era.

            Why did they oppose it?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Until the 1960s, Civil Rights was associated with the labour movement and particularly the parts of the labour movement that had ties to socialism.

            This seems like taking a handful of examples and ignoring the broader trend. Unions, especially in the 30s, were heavily segregated with many unions banning minorities from membership. Unions are, by their nature, exclusionary, labeling who it is appropriate to hire and who it is not.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Why did they oppose it?

            National Review on the grounds that “the White community is [entitled to “take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically”] because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

            I can’t find anything on Reagan’s justifications at the time; I’ll dig a little more and see.

            Goldwater opposed the provisions of the bill that interfered with the rights of private citizens to do business with whom they chose.

            @baconbits9
            I’m not arguing that the civil rights movement was a big component of the labour movement, but vice-versa. The presence of integrationist union leaders, especially from CIO-affiliated unions and black unions like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, provided much of the impetus to the civil rights movement before King showed up, and even after, alliances with labour and the presence of big-time labour leaders like the Reuther brothers were crucial to the movement.

          • baconbits9 says:

            More broadly, industrial unions with socialist tendencies had started accepting that, so long as black workers could be used as strikebreakers, their cause was doomed–they needed integrated unions to advance their cause, and thus had to make a serious offer to black workers on the civil rights front.

            The problem here is getting causality reversed. The reason that black workers could be used as strike breakers was because black workers had been kept out of those jobs and those unions by white union members and management. Management was the first to break ranks which is what forced labor (as in white and union labor) to make major concessions.

            Now management wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, but then again as you admit neither was labor, they were both acting largely out of economic necessity. Likewise noting that black unions were on the forefront of civil rights legislation is because they were primarily black not because they were labor unions.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Yes, management was happy to use black workers, but they did not push for a broader civil rights agenda; labour did, precisely because they needed to offer something to black workers to keep a united front. You are welcome to point me to a coalition of managers, or even some prominent ones, who made anti-lynching, anti-discrimination, and pro-voting rights bills a priority for their movement like the CIO did in the late 1930s, but otherwise, I don’t see the relevance of your point. I am arguing that the civil rights movement, as a movement, was powered to a large if not necessarily dominant extent by organized labour–that is, organized labour provided political muscle, lobbying, funds, organization, and manpower to the civil rights movement.
            It is certainly true that individual managers were happy to offer concessions, but I do not know of any examples of Chamber of Commerce-type organizations lending lobbying support to the civil rights movement, or fundraising to get MLK out of jail, or anything like that. Important, powerful figures in the labour community–black and white–did do the above. It’s true that the leadership was sometimes ahead of the membership on this, and that they had their own self-interested reasons for this, but the fact remains: a major portion of the funding, organization, and manpower for the civil rights movement came from the labour movement.

            As to black unions, of course the fact that they were black mattered; I’m not saying there’s some unique virtue to unions. I am arguing that many of the civil rights movement’s earliest successes in the 1940s especially were led by the labour movement, not by religious leaders or the more middle-class leaders you think of later, and that the influence of these labour groups lasted into the ’60s, even if they had to make some room for other groups.

            In short: labour was a necessary component to the civil rights movement’s success, probably at least as big as the role of religion, or at least comparable.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not arguing that the civil rights movement was a big component of the labour movement, but vice-versa. The presence of integrationist union leaders, especially from CIO-affiliated unions and black unions like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, provided much of the impetus to the civil rights movement before King showed up,

            OK, our opinions are much closer than I thought, though I think there is to much focus on the individual names. Generally my view is that the economic gains made by minorities (not just blacks but the waves of Irish, German, Italian etc immigrants) ended up creating the economic backbone which allowed the eventual political outcomes, and that the lesser amount of progress/lack of progress since the 60s is due to putting the politic portion first.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I can provide statistics as well, but I wrote my comments in haste, and just wanted to gesture at some prominent examples I had in mind. I can check a book for some figures on CIO-civil rights linkages if anyone is interested.

            As to the last part: I disagree, but that doesn’t seem too relevant here. All I’ll note is that all those other minorities had the ability to vote as soon as they became American; African Americans needed a political process to get that, and it’s hard to see how they could have ever have advanced any of their other goals without at least that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I am arguing that the civil rights movement, as a movement, was powered to a large if not necessarily dominant extent by organized labour–that is, organized labour provided political muscle, lobbying, funds, organization, and manpower to the civil rights movement.

            I would say the counter to this is that the black community pushed for civil rights and that labor was one aspect of that. It was a coalition of religious figures and business owners along with labor, along with white allies that made it work, and emphasizing any one aspect at the expense of the others is a mistake. If that was not what you intended then I apolgize for misreading.

          • baconbits9 says:

            All I’ll note is that all those other minorities had the ability to vote as soon as they became American; African Americans needed a political process to get that, and it’s hard to see how they could have ever have advanced any of their other goals without at least that.

            Slavery ended without blacks having the right to vote, voting rights were granted without having the right to vote. Blacks have never been more than a sizable majority in the US and areas that are majority black generally have worse outcomes for blacks than places that are minority black. The political arm doesn’t work without the economic one

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Just in defense of National Review and Buckley, they changed stances shortly thereafter. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/13/william-f-buckley-civil-rights-215129

            But yeah, Goldwater’s opposition was to basically inverting the law instead of abolishing it. I think Reagan’s was the same.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            It was a coalition of religious figures and business owners along with labor, along with white allies that made it work, and emphasizing any one aspect at the expense of the others is a mistake. If that was not what you intended then I apolgize for misreading.

            I’m responding to Conrad Honcho’s comment which attributes the whole movement to “Churches”, which I think is exactly the kind of mistake you are warning against. I’m just focusing on labour here to show that there are plenty of other components to the movement, equally important.

            Slavery ended without blacks having the right to vote, voting rights were granted without having the right to vote.

            While this is true, the length of time involved for both victories make the comparison with other minority groups suspect: if the Irish had spent a hundred years in slavery followed by a hundred years without the vote, are we so certain they could have achieved economic success?

            Like I say, we’r’e drifting off-topic, but I think there’s at least an argument that a minimal level of political rights is necessary for economic success, at least for low-caste groups like blacks were, and that the political victories were a necessary precondition for blacks to be able to work towards real economic success–without those victories, they would have been kept subservient sharecroppers for centuries more.

            @greenwoodjw
            Goldwater changed his mind later in life, too, and so did Reagan, at least for political purposes. I think Reagan also has a quote about how passing the Civil Rights Act rewards law-breakers and trouble-makers, but I can’t find it and I might be confusing it with another issue.

          • dick says:

            Thanks for typing up this lengthy explainer on organized labor’s involvement in the civil rights movement!

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            No problem.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think the same thing is true of liberal/progressive causes. Mainstream conservatives (nearly everyone, in fact) is in favor of radical progressive causes of the past, like allowing women to own property and vote, and ending slavery and legally-mandated racial discrimination. It’s routine to see women with good professional jobs who regularly vote, own their own property, use birth control, etc., say that they’re not feminists–because the subset of feminism that allows women to do that stuff won so thoroughly that it’s just part of the culture now.

      • Plumber says:

        @Murphy

        “…Progressives tend to be fragmentary. Lots of little causes…”

        That’s a problem for the Democratic Party, on each individual issue the DP platform is popular, but all of it combined together isn’t.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      A difficult question to answer, because it depends on what you mean as “conservative,” particularly WRT to historical record. And what you think is a current “achievement.” For instance, the proper extent of the commerce clause.

      Historically, the 19th and 20th Century is filled with all sorts of radicals the US simply never empowered. I guess this comes down to whether or not you consider Stalin and Mao to be “radical” or “reactionary.” The US also has a Constitution that is pretty damned conservative. You also had a conservative attitude towards slavery, which you might weigh as good or bad, but the US may not have survived a Civil War-level dispute over slavery in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

      Also, based on my Twitter Feed, Millennial historians want to re-intrepret Reconstruction as a project that was just on the verge of succeeding and only needed a little more push to usher in Progressive Utopia in the 1880s, but for a few gutless leaders, but IMO this would have turned the US South into something resembling the Modern Middle East.

      Also, the issue with fragmentary progressivism. An achievement of “in the water” Conservatism is that we can still eat meat and not be thought of as monsters.

    • albatross11 says:

      Traditional conservative groups/organizations:

      a. The military
      b. The police
      c. Large banks
      d. Large corporations
      e. Most churches
      f. Homeowners associations
      g. Boy scouts and related organizations (CAP, etc)
      h. Hunting and shooting sports organizations
      i. Many schools (religious, military, and private)

      I don’t think it’s so hard to work out ways that each of those groups have had a positive effect on the country or the world. I mean, even if you mostly don’t like how the military is used, they turn out to be kinda useful when you’d like to defeat the Nazis or prevent the Soviet Union from taking over Europe. Similarly, the police may often be going stuff you don’t like, but they’re awfully handy to have around when someone is going around terrorizing their neighbors. Even if you dislike the doctrine of the Catholics or Mormons or Orthodox Jews, it’s not so hard to see places where they’re doing good works by a non-religious person’s viewpoint, as well. And so on.

      • DinoNerd says:

        This. I’m still trying to figure out quite what counts as “conservative”, and to whom.

        But an awful lot of extremely valuable work is done by people who aren’t looking for change, and aren’t trying to right society level wrongs.

        I’d call them the unsung heroes who do the myriad of tasks needed to keep society running smoothly. Call it the housework of the system, as compared to the heroic folks trying to “ride to the rescue”, and change things they believe to be seriously broken.

        Most charities belong on this list too. If I volunteer just about anywhere, I’m going to be helping people who need help, making their lives better, and only incidentally thereby reducing social stress and strain.

        Are they conservative”? Well, I’m not sure certain vocal red tribers would accept anyone who wasn’t campaigning for their issue-de-jour as properly conservative. But I’m also unclear how a bunch of (IMO) radical wingnuts got to own the “conservative” name.

        Feeding the hungry, tending the sick, comforting the dying etc. – or for that matter pursuing criminals, defending the country etc. are basic and needed. And while I’ll often rant about the greed and selfishness of large corporations – they do manage to get food from where it’s grown to where I am, and many other things that satisfy needs we all have.

        Without all these people just doing whatever they see as their job/vocation – we’d be completely screwed a million times over.

    • J Mann says:

      Some that appeal to me are:

      – Confronting and ultimately defeating world communism, which really should go up with ending Nazi plans for world domination as one of the great successes.

      – The “neoliberal” economic boom, particularly free trade and deregulation, which has lifted billions out of poverty.

      – Standing against progressive attempts to prevent transgeneic and genetically modified agricultural products.

      • deltafosb says:

        Interesting! I personally associate fear of GMOs with conservative memeplex. This issue might really be on the boundary and fall into different cultural attractors randomly, in one place being utilized by luddite-like groups fearing (not without reason?) change [1], in other by woke proggressivists.

        [1] – Initially I was thinking about putting an example of being dependent on sterile seeds provider, then I found https://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/terminator-seeds-myth/

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Fear of GMOs, like fear of nuclear power, is definitely a left-wing thing.

          (While I’m at it: Resistance to climate science is a right-wing thing. Anti-vaxxers seem to populate both parties.)

          • acymetric says:

            Is fear of GMOs really a left wing thing? I see them as similar to anti-vaxxers (and in many cases I suspect they are the same people).

            As a fairly left person myself, the anti-nuclear (power, not arms) stuff drives me crazy. I also didn’t realize how opposed people were to it until I was much older…growing up in a city that has one I think anti-nuclear was a little suppressed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think GMOs are on the ends of the horseshoe, but tilt more left.

            Fear of GMOs is partly fear of science, which can come in via fear of the “elite” expert especially one who is an outsider. Plus, as deltafosb was pointing at, the prepper community is worried about the collapse of the technological society, and the prepper community is mostly right wing.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @acymetric:
            I would code vaccination fears as mostly left wing, with overlap into certain religious right communities (plus bleed into “everyone” once it reached a certain level).

            A lot of homeopath/crystal/alternative medicine overlap with the anti-vax crowd.

    • Viliam says:

      What are the examples of conservative groups’ positive contributions to society?

      All the countries where communists did not get the opportunity to torture and murder millions of people. And the countries where they had the opportunity in the past, but no longer have it today. Conservative people definitely helped to achieve that.

      Some credit should probably also go for creating various institutions which were later taken over by left-wing groups.

      For the more straightforward kind of contribution, the most obvious one is charity. Ignoring the recent phenomenon of effective altruism, show me a person who regularly donates to charity without being a millionaire, and it’s a safe bet the person is conservative. Show me a person who actually spends their free time helping minorities in a relatively low-status way, such as helping the kids do their homework, and again it’s a safe bet the person is conservative.

      Depending on your position on eugenics, you may appreciate that conservatives opposed it back then when it was a popular progressive topic, i.e. before WW2.

      Freedom of speech is randomly either conservative or progressive topic, depending on who happens to try silencing whom at the moment. So if you value it, conservatives also get half of the credit.

      …etc.

    • Two McMillion says:

      These days, conservatives seem to be the main ones carrying the torch on free speech.

    • deltafosb says:

      Thank you for the discussion and examples. Seems like I really do define internally conservatives as fundamentalists, meaning that

      The usual thinking about Stalinists seems to be something like “Conservatives are punitive hardasses. Stalinists were punitive hardasses. Therefore, Stalinists were conservative.”

      actually holds. It’s far away from the usual `nonchangeist’; I guess the misunderstanding comes from my cultural context, in which they are actually equivalent.
      A tangent question might be when was the last time the punitive hardasses actually did something good – any ideas?

  4. Murphy says:

    So, anyone remember that “drone” at gatwick back around christmas?

    For those who do not, the UK’s second busiest airport was closed for 33 hours between 19 and 21 December last year – causing about 1,000 flights to be cancelled or delayed.

    It’s fallen out of the news mostly but some of the followups are hilarious

    there are no verified pictures of the drone

    https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/settled_2x.png

    whoever was responsible for the attack had “specifically selected” a drone which could not be seen by the DJI Aeroscope drone detection system that the airport was testing at the time, he added.

    Gatwick Airport drone sightings may have been of police equipment, chief constable admits

    Now, some context. I have some friends who are ham-radio geeks and another group who are drone enthusiasts.

    The ham guys have extensive experience tracking down the sources of signals, I’ve been regaled with many stories of hunts for things disrupting the local radio channels over the decades.

    The drone guys are drone guys with extensive experience of the practicalities of putting drones in the air.

    And neither group have a very positive view of the Gatwick airport situation. Back when it was happening a couple of the ham guys took a trip down to listen for signals, the cops got called on them over a couple of guys in a van with radio equipment but they were sent on their way, there was apparently a conspicuous absesnce of drone control signals at times it was claimed the drone was out.

    The drone guys pointed out that given it was claimed to be a fairly substantial “industrial or commercial” drone… those ones run out of battery after about 20 minutes. So someone would have to be out collecting a big-ass drone, swapping out battery packs extremely regularly for the amount it was claimed to be in the air.

    On top of that these drones are not stealthy things. If a big one is nearby it’s about as hard to miss as a banshee combined with a helicopter.

    So in summary… we have claims of a large drone which nobody could get a photo of despite 90%+ of the population carrying cameras at all times … which didn’t show up on radar or drone detection equipment… with no detectable control signals that would have needed someone launching and collecting it every 20 minutes … which somehow nobody witnessed.

    I’m reminded of the invisible dragon in my garage

    The favored theory among some of the drone guys was that the airport had some kind of major systems failure. If they report it as such they would be liable for downtime and compensation to companies… but if the airport is shut down over a rogue drone then it’s not their fault and no compensation is owed. Enter the invisible dragon in my garage.

    There was some secondary stuff about general hostility from pilots unions to drone tech because autonomous drones threaten to take a lot of pilot jobs… hence a lot of lobbying to restrict drone tech and try to whip up fear about drones to generally make it harder to make commercial cargo drones a thing.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It seems clear now there was no unauthorized drone at Gatwick, not that this fact will prevent additional regulations on drones using Gatwick as an excuse. I’m partial to the “mass hysteria” explanation myself; no need for any sinister conspiracy theory (I’ve heard some related to the airport’s expansion). It used to be that when a pilot saw lights the sky it was a “UFO”, now it’s a “drone” and not limited to pilots.

      I was out this Memorial Day flying some toy helicopters in flagrant violation of FAA regulations. There was another guy there flying a quad in similar violation. No airports or aircraft were harmed, though a real helicopter did fly overhead at one point.

    • Jeremiah says:

      Which is worse?

      That someone caused thousands (millions?) of dollars of losses by launching a drone? Demonstrating a cheap and easy tactic for terrorists (or even just assholes) and illustrating a significant area of fragility?

      Or that all of these losses were suffered by overreacting to nothing?

      I’m inclined to believe it’s the second. The first could have been predicted, the second is new and somewhat troubling information.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        All of that damage can be done with a couple phone calls, not even actual deployment

  5. AlexOfUrals says:

    Speaking of aliens. One metric on which they almost never differ from humans in fiction (except for a small number of very specific examples) is the speed they are thinking and living at. Whether it’s startrack-style humans with face paint or lovecraftian Elder Things and mi-go, they all seem to operate at about the same speed as humans. Some might have a really good reaction speed or a really slow paced manner of speech, but that’s about it. Exceptions (at least in my experience) are extremely rare and mostly include things that live many times or orders of magnitudes slower than us.

    It’s obvious why this is done from the plot perspective, but I wonder if it can have any biological justifications at all. For now it seems to me that aliens having the same speed as humans is no more likely than they having the same body plan. Let’s say for definiteness that we measure “speed of life” as the number of images (or frames of whatever the primary sense it uses) per unit time that the creature can still perceive as separate. Than even on Earth there’s plenty of creatures which live at least few times faster than humans do – many small mammals and basically anything that flies. And of course there’s lot of things that live much slower than us. Is there any reason we should expect that if any of them would happened to evolve sentience, they’d converge to approximately our speed? Signal should take longer to run in a bigger network all else being equals, so that might be true for mammals. But the birds have quite different structure of the brain, let alone insects or octopuses. How do you think we can get some estimates here?

    And if we don’t limit ourselves to Earth biology (but still keep some kind of biological plausibility) – what are the limits, are there any considerations we can use to put boundaries on their speed? The only lower boundary I can think of is that anything that lives on land must be able to perceive and flee from something falling on it, or thrown at it, and given that a planet must have the gravity at least comparable with that of Earth to keep atmosphere needed to support life, intelligent life can maybe go a few times slower than humans, but not a hundred times. Obviously it doesn’t apply in a liquid environment, and most likely there’re clever ways around it on the ground I just haven’t thought of. The only strong upper boundary that comes to my mind is that nothing evolved will perceive environment much faster than it is able to move, so the question is how fast a living creature can move. I’d tentatively put a physical boundary at just below the speed of sound in an atmosphere of reasonable density, but that gives us possible speed of life hundreds of times faster than that of humans. Any ideas how to improve on that, or why even these boundaries are too strict? (For the latter something specific please, not just generic “you cannot judge alien life by the human standards”)

    PS: Just to clarify, I’m not writing any kind of fiction whatsoever, I’m just asking weird questions for no good reason.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Probably the biggest exception in the slow direction is The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks, where “slow” species tend to live inside gas giants.

      The cheela in Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward live approximately a million times faster than humans- but then, they live on a neutron star…

    • fion says:

      The nomes in Terry Pratchett’s Bromeliad Trilogy move, think and live about ten times as fast as humans.

      I also feel as though the aliens in Arrival deserve a mention, though the way they experience time is different in a more complicated way than “faster” or “slower”.

    • Chalid says:

      Perception speed probably is proportional to reaction speed. (Why perceive things you can’t react to?) Reaction involves accelerating your body parts, therefore force. F=ma; a = F/m, so you get an upper bound which is going to be derived from your volume (proportional to the m) and the strength of your muscles (ability to create F).

      All else equal, larger things will live slower – muscle strength scales as muscle cross-section (L^2) while mass to be accelerated scales as volume (L^3).

      So I suspect that anything roughly our size and made of roughly the same kinds of stuff will live at roughly the same speed.

      You could take this framework and apply it to things which evolved in various other environments. For example aquatic creatures can’t react as quickly due to drag so they might perceive more slowly.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Right, maximum realistically possible moving speed is another limit. But even for organisms biologically similar to us it doesn’t seem to be a very strong one. One can easily move twice faster than they normally do, there’s no reason an organism couldn’t evolve to maintain such speed constantly, if pressured in that direction (and if the environment is reach enough with calories to fuel it). Let alone slowing down. A monkey and a sloth are about the same size, belong to the same class, live in the same environment, yet the difference in speed is huge. Very slow animals tend to also be very stupid for their size and class though, so perhaps we should expect sapient beings to be on the faster side of their respective biologies.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Anybody ever play Starflight? I loved that game. But yeah, explaining how that game relates to this topic kind of spoils the twist ending.

    • albatross11 says:

      You want to know the length of their decision loop, where that includes actual thought instead of just reflex.

      For individual humans, that’s roughly conversation speed or maybe a bit faster. (A fighter pilot is running a faster loop but is also thinking/making decisions from a much smaller menu of options). For bureaucracies, that might be many years–a new issue comes up, and maybe in 20 years or so the courts will have adapted to it in a sensible way and be propagating precedent down to the lower courts.

      My guess is that you could have forms of intelligence that ran much faster or slower loops. Ours is limited by how our nerves work and lots of stuff I don’t understand involving brain organization, but some other species could work on very different principles–maybe requiring slower processes to reach decisions, perhaps having much faster processes to reach decisions. The only bound we’re sure of is lightspeed propagation delay.

    • bullseye says:

      Star Wars Resistance has comically slow turtle people working maintenance. I suppose if their minds are as fast as ours they’re forced to be deliberate and careful with everything they do, which would be a plus working with vital machines.

  6. MrApophenia says:

    So the parade of “No seriously UFOs are real” stories continues. The NY Times talked to the Navy, and some pilots, about why they are changing their policy on UFO reporting and the answer is that pilots were encountering UFOs on an almost daily basis for years, had at least one near-collision, and it reached the point that they couldn’t really ignore it anymore.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/26/us/politics/ufo-sightings-navy-pilots.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

    Everyone is really careful to say they aren’t saying these are aliens, while also being really clear that whatever they are, they have capabilities well beyond our own technology.

    Oh, and here is Dan Drezner in the Washington Post today, with an opinion piece, “UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact.”

    https://beta.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/05/28/ufos-exist-everyone-needs-adjust-that-fact/?outputType=amp

    • John Schilling says:

      Please to distinguish between “UFOs are real” and “UFOs are really ultra-high-performance flying machines”; these are two different claims, and sensible people making the former claim ought not be cited as evidence for the latter unless they explicitly say so.

      • MrApophenia says:

        The Navy is pretty explicitly saying the latter. Or at least some of the people talking to the Times are.

        What was strange, the pilots said, was that the video showed objects accelerating to hypersonic speed, making sudden stops and instantaneous turns — something beyond the physical limits of a human crew.

        “Speed doesn’t kill you,” Lieutenant Graves said. “Stopping does. Or acceleration.”

        Asked what they thought the objects were, the pilots refused to speculate.

        “We have helicopters that can hover,” Lieutenant Graves said. “We have aircraft that can fly at 30,000 feet and right at the surface.” But “combine all that in one vehicle of some type with no jet engine, no exhaust plume.”

        • albatross11 says:

          Noticing, reporting, and documenting this stuff is the only way we’re ever going to end up knowing what’s going on. Suppressing discussions of the phenomena with ridicule is great for showing how clever you (or the newspapers) are, but not very good for figuring out what’s happening. There might be some really interesting physical phenomenon going on, or some oddball optical illusion or radar glitch or something, but nobody’s going to work that out if it’s not a respectable area to study and all right-thinking people know it’s nonsense to bring the matter up in the first place.

          • John Schilling says:

            Exactly. Unidentified flying objects(*), need to be objectively studied, so that they can be identified and understood. Presupposing that the identification is “ultra-high-performance flying machine” and we’re just trying to figure out who built them, on the one hand risks missing a true understanding that doesn’t fit that model, and on the other hand almost certainly results in unnecessary ridicule.

            * It would really help if the common terminology were “unidentified aerial images”, and since we’re restarting a mostly-long-abandoned discussion it may not be too much to hope that we can update the terminology.

          • albatross11 says:

            An important thing to recognize: The fact that some idea gets ridicule heaped on it is only weakly correlated to how silly or counterfactual it is. OTOH, it’s very strongly correlated to how socially powerful/accepted its adherents are or seem to be.

            I have no idea how to fix the world’s allocation of ridicule, but I can at least be aware that ridicule sometimes means “this is a clown” and other times means “this is a disfavored belief or line of inquiry which may or may not be worthwhile.”

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      > “The incidents tapered off after they left the United States, the pilots said.”

      Are all of the incidents over US territory? That would certainly lend credence to the idea that this advanced American technology (or that that’s what they want us to believe).

      • MrApophenia says:

        Yeah that seemed like maybe the most interesting part to me, too.

        Of course, the idea that the US government has technology this far in advance of what anyone else knows about seems pretty darn hard to believe in its own right. How do you make the number of breakthroughs that would be needed without the broader scientific community having a clue?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, this is at least as plausible a paradigm for the observational data as ALIENS!, but the implications would be extraordinary.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          And somehow the biggest leak of the super-secret USG project is. . . the USG’s own military.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Of course, the idea that the US government has technology this far in advance of what anyone else knows about seems pretty darn hard to believe in its own right.

          Like this?

        • bean says:

          Nobody was surprised to find out that the B-2 existed. Carter leaked the existence of the program to justify cancelling the B-1A. The details are classified, and I’m sure that some of them are extremely valuable and important. But I’m also pretty sure that the B-2 is a fairly conventional aircraft with an extremely expensive and hard-to-maintain stealth coating. (Or maybe there is a reason for all the secret squirrel stuff their security people do. Hmm…)

          But seriously, the government having this kind of tech and it not leaking would be huge. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of secret projects. Even leaving aside the physics implications, there are always credible rumors. That doesn’t seem like what happened here.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      I don’t understand the separation between ‘UFO’s are well beyond our technology’ and ‘UFO’s are aliens’. While obviously you don’t want to be tarred with the suspiciously powerful ‘crackpot’ brush, what more reasonable conclusions are there to make?

      We’ve been observing UFOs on radar for decades, writing about them for centuries. Are we to believe that the US has been continuously testing the same ultra high performance aircraft with the same inexplicable handling characteristics since the 1950s, never using them in war? Sure, SR-71s, F-117s and B-2s are impressive, but they don’t have the on-a-dime hypersonic handling characteristics that we consistently hear about.

      If a nation had access to such powerful aircraft, it would be a military game-changer (especially during the Cold War). There would be a strong case for revealing their presence, using them to show strength and coerce rivals. You could dodge or outrun SAMs with impunity, laugh at interceptors. Even if they couldn’t be weaponised, they would be excellent scouts, more-so than the U-2.

      Non-alien options seem just as bizarre, if not more so. A non-goverment organization with limited manpower somehow manages to do what the best funded aviation engineers can’t? Other sapient life on Earth? Projections of some kind?

      The fact that such anomalously fast, anomalously propelled vehicles exist is weak evidence for interstellar travel. If they aren’t relying on conventional propellants, long-distance space travel becomes a lot more realistic.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This. The fringe, low-status paradigm of “it’s extraterrestials” is the most popular explanation available, but that’s just because it fits the materialist Zeitgeist.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Non-alien options seem just as bizarre, if not more so.

        That’s the idea I always come back to. There doesn’t seem to be a normal, non-crazy way to explain what is being reported. “Secret government program decades beyond extant technology” is probably the closest and that’s still nuts if you follow through all the implications of that being true.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Does it get more plausible if you imagine it as being advanced technology that fucks with sensor systems and the pilots’ visual perception, rather than quasi-impossible propulsion systems?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Only a bit. It would need to be so good to explain how it produces consistent effects on radar, visual perception, and video for multiple observers at once that this type of tech seems just as far fetched.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Just off the top of my head: unknown physical phenomena, unknown non-sapient life form (local to our planet, or it’d qualify as aliens anyway), [post]human time-travelers, deliberate misinformation campaign by whoever, and of course any kind of simulation hypothesis. The former two sound about as plausible as aliens, give or take one order of magnitude of probability, the latter two look much more plausible to me, and time-travelers are somewhere in between.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Or Platonism is true and intelligent mathematical objects are interacting with us. That’s why they’re always described as perfect geometric forms without physical details, except in hoaxes like the trash-lid-and-lightbulbs UFO.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m putting money these being on some kind of poorly understood atmospheric phenomenon.

      • fion says:

        Seems like a good bet to me. There’s a lot about atmospheric physics that is still poorly-understood.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Doesn’t the whole “accelerates to hypersonic speeds instantly” thing kind of rule that out?

        • J Mann says:

          “Appeared to accelerate to hypersonic speed” is a little bit more consistent.

        • vV_Vv says:

          No. Things like lightning are hypersonic, and optical reflections and refractions can generate illusions that appear to move at arbitrary speeds.

    • actinide meta says:

      I dunno, I’m not an expert or even a follower of this stuff, but it seems to me that whenever they release hard evidence it’s pretty obviously a bird [1] or optical artifact [2] or whatever. The US military must see thousands of weird sensor glitches a day, occasionally there will be a couple that seem to confirm something impossible.

      [1] http://parabunk.blogspot.com/2018/04/analysis-of-ttsa-2015-go-fast-ufo-video.html
      [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20019375

      • Cliff says:

        This. I was under the impression that every available video has been debunked as far as being advanced technology.

      • MrApophenia says:

        One of the specific distinguishing features of these recent stories, vs the “traditional” UFO stories, is that isn’t the case.

        That video the NY Times put in with this story is the one they originally published back when these articles first started in 2017. What is interesting about that event specifically is that it involved all of the following:

        * Objects being picked up on radar by both the US Nimitz and the US Princeton
        * Jets being launched to intercept the closest one
        * Both pilots reporting seeing the same thing, a white “Tic-Tac” shaped object about 50-60 feet long, flying faster than their jets and more maneuverably.
        * The jets camera recording video of the object

        Since then both pilots, and a bunch of the sailors on both ships, have talked to reporters and confirmed all the above. So either it’s an elaborate hoax involving a large number of people, or it was an actual physical object that appeared on radar for multiple ships and planes, and was also seen both by human observers and video cameras.

        I’m not saying it’s definitely aliens (maybe it really is some kind of hugely elaborate hoax, or super secret drone project or whatever), but it does seem like there’s kind of a stock set of answers people give to dismiss UFO claims that are being deployed here too even though they don’t really apply.

        EDIT- Spending more time on your link, I will admit that is mostly above my head. I do agree with the author that this Luis Elizondo guy and that “To The Stars Academy” thing seem super scammy to me. I have a harder time dismissing the pilot testimony that accompanies the video, though.

        And for that matter, just the bare fact that the Navy is seeing enough going on here to formally change their policy and talk to the press about the reasons for said change.

    • Deiseach says:

      All right, damn it, enough is enough.

      Whoever is in charge of resetting the simulation, why pick the 70s to run through again? I lived through the Era of Cheesecloth once, I’m not doing it again!

      Seriously, all this “but the US military/navy/airforce is releasing Real Government Documents about UFOs” is giving me flashbacks, and I wasn’t even old enough to do acid at the time. If Erich von Däniken brings out a new book and gets another TV show out of it, I have had it!

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I wasn’t even old enough to do acid at the time

        Are you old enough to have done acid now? 😀

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m too old now to do anything but take my Vitamin E supplements or else my skin resembles Boris Karloff in The Mummy 🙂

  7. Douglas Knight says:

    Remember that attempted coup in Turkey in 2016? A lot of Turks said that it was a false flag operation. But pretty much everyone in the West said that is a disreputable conspiracy theory. Now NPR is calling it an “alleged coup.” What can this mean other than considering the false flag hypothesis?

    You shouldn’t predict that you are going to change your mind. If so, you should change your mind now. But at the time I said:

    My impression is that when there is a crisis in Turkey westerners always dismiss the explanations provided by Turks as “conspiracy theories,” but then they come around to believe them. If that is an accurate accounting of history, then you should trust that track record and come around sooner (or refuse to ever come around).

    Alternate hypotheses: It’s just this one story, not a change in the party line; indeed, this is maybe a domestic human interest story, and doesn’t share staff or opinions with the foreign desk. Or someone repeatedly confused the words “alleged” and “attempted.”

    • cassander says:

      There is a lot of ground between “Erdogan staged everything” and “Erdogan knew nothing about the coup before it started”, most of which is more plausible than either of those extremes.

    • greenwoodjw says:

      I always figured Erdogan knew about the history of military coups against Islamists, quietly set it in motion so he could control the timing and key figures would be on his side, most of the military assumed it was a normal coup, and got suckered.

    • fion says:

      My impression was different to yours. I thought the false flag hypothesis was taken seriously by the West. I never looked into it, so I’ve got no idea what the truth is, but “it was a false flag” was definitely a possibility on my radar, so there must have been some mainstream British media that was at least sympathetic to the hypothesis.

  8. AG says:

    Writing prompt:

    Take the James Bond movie of your choice, and describe the realistic geopolitical fallout, as various institutions react to a rash of property-destroying violence across multiple nations that culminated in a large facility that the hosting nation may or may not have wanted other people to know about blowing up spectacularly.

  9. vV_Vv says:

    So, European Parliamentary elections: the traditional mainstream parties, EPP (centre-right) and PES (social-democratic) lost a bunch of seats, the integrationist ordolibertarian party ALDE gained a fair share of their seats, overall the Eurosceptics nationalists didn’t gain many seats, but they won the majority in some of the largest countries (France, Italy, UK). In Germany the trend of EPP and PES losing seats also occurred, but most these seats went to the Greens rather than the AFD nationalists.

    Overall, it seems that the European Parliament will keep a pro-EU majority, but there will be much more polarization between the highly pro-business, pro-EU ALDE and the Eurosceptics in the large countries, especially “troublemakers” like the UK and Italy. I don’t know how much the German Greens are going to play nice.

    What do you guys think?

    • Tarpitz says:

      Could you unpack what you mean by “ordolibertarian”?

      • Aapje says:

        Ordoliberalism is the German variant of social liberalism that emphasizes the need for the state to ensure that the free market produces results close to its theoretical potential.”

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        They believe in markets, and they believe really fervently in writing the rules of the market and enforcing them.
        You know the variation of believing in the market that says the invisible hand will take care of everything? Yes, NOT THAT.

        Capital letters intentional.

        They dont want the state to run the economy – they are very pro market, but they are also usually quite heavily law and order as it applies to white collar crime and externalizations.

        Vestager. Yes, that Vestager is their candidate for heading up the commission, which sums it up pretty well.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          You know the variation of believing in the market that says the invisible hand will take care of everything?

          There is no invisible hand. There never was.

    • Lambert says:

      Firstly, the UK can be ignored from the wider picture, since it’s a pointless election that turned into a protest vote/proxy referendum.
      All the brexiteers voted for the Brexit Party and all the remainers (including Alastair Campbell, an influential (now former) Labour member) voted Lib Dem.

      I’m really staring to believe that political lines are being redrawn, both in the US and EU. The old centre left and centre right are losing ground, if not actively tearing themselves apart, while the populists and the globalists are growing in importance.

      As an aside, do we know to whom the UK’s seats in European Parliament will be allocated?

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The discussion of Huey Long earlier in this OT led me to think about one of the allies he was trying to secure for the 1936 presidential campaign cut short by his assassination: Father Coughlin. Like Long, “the radio priest” was a Democrat in 1932, coining the phrases “Roosevelt or ruin” and “The New Deal is Christ’s Deal.” He then started criticizing the President as a tool of bankers, and is mostly remembered today, if at all, as a generic anti-Semite and dark precursor to televangelism.
    But for SSCers, even those without interest in Catholicism or 1930s US politics, what’s probably most interesting is that he did more than anyone else to popularize the English phrase “Social Justice”, which was just coming into common use among Anglophone Catholics with the translation of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. At his peak, Father Coughlin had an estimated 30 million listeners, out of a 1940 census population of ~132.1 million. His concept of Social Justice (literally the name of his paper after having his ability to broadcast taken away by the Roosevelt administration) involved extremely progressive taxation along the lines of Huey Long, federal protection of labor unions, anti-racism*, nationalizing of the Federal Reserve and the threat of nationalization as a tool against “rapacious” corporations. His style was highly emotional rather than logical, and the content is best summed up his his 1935 quote “I have dedicated my life to fight against the heinous rottenness of modern capitalism because it robs the laborer of this world’s goods. But blow for blow I shall strike against Communism, because it robs us of the next world’s happiness.”

    How we got from that Social Justice to the contemporary kind must have a fascinating answer.

    *In the strict sense, as he had anti-Semitic tendencies that I can only guess stemmed from prejudice against Judaism as a false religion, although his movement was ecumenical rather than Catholic chauvinist. The issue was real but quite confused.

  11. jgr314 says:

    Anyone have a view on whether human intestinal worms prevent or cause allergies?

    Here’s the article that got me started on this topic. It claims intestinal works worms are the key to preventing various autoimmune problems, including the rise of allergies: Aeon: Worms. Note, don’t get confused with this other Aeon worm: Bravest Warriors Wiki.

    On the other hand, this anti-worm article came up earlier in my googling and has the opposite implication: Norway study.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The immune system appears to be very complex, which is understandable given its task and the many variables possible for interpretation. If you look at what was studied in the two links you will note that the ‘worms prevent allergies’ cites adults who suffered finding relief when exposed to roundworms as adults while the ‘worms cause allergies’ cites children with worms having a higher rate of allergies. These studies don’t necessarily contradict each other, a person who has an immune system that is not working properly could (plausibly) find relief from exposure to worms while a person whose immune system was working fine could see it negatively effected by an exposure to worms, much like a person with mental health issues might find relief from an anti-psychotic while a person without health issues would be worse off with one.

      Of note is that in the Norway study the association of worms with higher allergy rates was found only in the 2nd generation but not the first and it was a small study with multiple variables. There were large differences between a lot of variables, such as smoking rates (67% of the younger generation never smoked vs 41% of the older), and the reported issues were different. Hay fever, rinitis and asthma rates were basically indistinguishable (the differences were in wheeze and eczema) between generations despite very large differences in roundworm detection.

      In short I would say that the Norway study was simply wildly under-powered and the results are pretty much only worth using to build a new and larger study to investigate the findings. I didn’t go through the pro worm study, and the same issue could easily be present there as well.

  12. DragonMilk says:

    My fiancee told me to stop cooking.

    What is a tolerable ratio of experiments to recipe following for someone who has picky tastes? I tell her she doesn’t have to eat it, but she’ll eat it anyway, complain it’s bad, complain she’s full, and then tell me to stop cooking…which I suppose is a natural response of culinary dissatisfaction.

    • acymetric says:

      I mean…how often are you making up new recipes? Maybe try your experimental cooking when she isn’t going to be there to eat it until its something you think will be good?

      I would say no more than one “experiment” per week would be reasonable. Depending on the “hit rate” for those experiments it could be more or less.

      • DragonMilk says:

        50-50…

        I made dough for the first time a few weeks ago (as in, used yeast for the first time ever). The dough turned out great, she even said so.

        What I’ve decided to put in it has been the source of angst…

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          What I’ve decided to put in it has been the source of angst…

          What did you put in it?

          • Aapje says:

            Sweat and tears.

            She didn’t like the saltiness.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Three different fillings, each with their own…issues:

            1) Ground beef, onions, and celery with a dash of soy sauce and olive oil. Did not have eggs at home so used olive oil and butter. Came out a bit bland but I thought was great with hot sauce.

            2) Ever have crab cheese/crab rangoon? Imagine imitation crab meat and cream cheese (with some diced celery, been trying to work veggies in) stuffed not in a wonton wrapper deep fried but in a calzone and baked. I didn’t try it but she’s a cream cheese fan

            3) Ham, tomato sauce, diced onion, and mozzarella. I liked it…though the ratio of sauce was too high relative to ham and mozzarella. Got a bit of vegan pizza vibes here.

        • Deiseach says:

          Okay, so it’s pizza dough style?

          1) Ground beef, onions, and celery with a dash of soy sauce and olive oil.

          Mmmmmhmmmm. Maybe the olive oil isn’t such a good idea, depends how much you used. This actually sounds like it would work better as a pasty – the basic ingredients seem like good, solid ones that work well together. Maybe try Worcestershire sauce instead of soy? This recipe sounds like it should work, just needs a bit of pulling together. I like celery myself, but for some it’s an acquired taste. Perhaps some diced parsnip or potato or sweet potato as well, to bulk it out and help the celery stand its ground against the mince and onions?

          2) imitation crab meat and cream cheese …with some diced celery …in a calzone and baked.

          Yeah, this sounds like it could go wrong. I’ve never had imitation crab (or indeed real crab) but while you might get away with cream cheese and crab, or cream cheese and celery, all three together don’t seem like they’d go well. Baked calzone is good but again sounds as if it needed a little something to act as sauce; the melted cream cheese alone should have done, but if it was not amalgamating well with the celery and crab then it definitely wouldn’t work. This one does need more work if you can get it to work.

          3) Ham, tomato sauce, diced onion, and mozzarella.

          This sounds a definite winner and I think you’re right about too much tomato sauce. Again, the seasoning of the sauce is what will make or break it – too watery/bland or too strong of one herb both will throw off the balance of the dish. But this sounds like a small adjustment and you’ve got a winner!

    • AG says:

      Experiment in much smaller portion sizes.

      • AG says:

        After reading some of your responses…

        1) Definitely experiment in much smaller portion sizes.
        2) Use said smaller portion sizes to generate a wider swath of small variations. That is, a spectrum of less-salty to more-salty, less-sweet to more-sweet, etc. We’re A/B testing here!
        3) Ask your fiancee to, honestly, be much more brutal in her feedback. Get her to tell you exactly what she doesn’t like, so you can improve in a specific way.
        4) As others have suggested, and in conjunction with point 1, have a fiancee-approved dish available as the main meal so that the experiments are but a small sampler that she can easily forget afterwards.
        5) Use someone else as your guinea pig. Engender good will with the neighbors, or your co-workers. Only return to asking for your fiancee’s feedback unless your experiments have been pre-approved by multiple other parties.
        6) Ask your fiancee to direct your experiments. She gets to choose what you try to make.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      “You don’t have to eat it” could mean a few things.

      I will cook something just to eat it myself. I don’t even try to get my wife on board. I can often it eat without her ever knowing I cooked it. She doesn’t have to eat it. Her expectations were not impacted at all.

      Then there is the time when I cook dinner for the family. If she can’t eat what I cook, she has to cook and eat something different. Your offer to cook is not relieving her of a mental burden: it is replacing the old burden with a new one.

      Then there are other issues. Before my wife got on medication, I had to make sure not to tell her if I did anything at all different. If I said that I substituted paprika for chili powder or vice versa, she would throw down her fork, even in mid-bite, and say “I’m not eating this.” Even if she had been fine all along.

      • J.R. says:

        Then there is the time when I cook dinner for the family. If she can’t eat what I cook, she has to cook and eat something different. Your offer to cook is not relieving her of a mental burden: it is replacing the old burden with a new one.

        +1.

        If you stop cooking, what is your wife planning on doing for food instead?

        My suggestion is to come to an arrangement where you each are only responsible for your own food for some period of time — let’s say, 3 months. Take these 3 months to develop recipes that you and your wife would both enjoy. Give your wife small bites of food that you’ve made for yourself and get her feedback. Iterate on this feedback until you arrive at some staple dishes. Once you have some staples, your wife might trust your cooking enough to indulge some experiments. Right now, it seems like your wife has lost confidence in your ability to cook things that she will enjoy.

        • DragonMilk says:

          She proposed getting delivery from every meal until she convinces her parents to come and cook for her…the first of which is not really a long term solution and the second a bit wishful and leads to other issues.

          • LesHapablap says:

            The original post was pretty suspect but subjective. This post here however is a serious red flag.

            Unless there is some further explanation that makes her look a bit better there is no way you should be marrying this woman.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I remember brad arguing that the first one is a respectable lifestyle (to which I wouldn’t assent in your case without knowing more about both of you’s finances), but the second is a really juvenile red flag.

          • Viliam says:

            I agree about the red flag.

    • benjdenny says:

      Not super helpful, but it depends a lot on who is right and who is wrong here. Consider these two extreme scenarios:

      1. Your cooking is terrible; clouds of evil come off of anything you make. Despite this, instead of using established recipes you mix and match ingredients randomly with no sense of how to do so. Your inedible food would be rejected by anyone, and it’s reasonable for her to tell you stop being low-key abusive by making her participate in your objectively unpleasant hobby.

      2. She won’t eat anything, even good things. She’s selected a few boring foods from her childhood to accept – chicken breast, corn dogs, spaghetti, etc. She won’t eat anything besides those things, even if Wolfgang Puck showed up at the door to cook them. She expects you to follow suit. Your “experiments” consist of you using pretty good cooking skills to make pretty conventional food, and she has no interest in trying it.

      2-1. She will eat anything, just not anything you cook; she wants to eat restaurant food and won’t eat your reasonable-tasting home cooking simply because it isn’t from somewhere.

      I’ve seen both of these scenarios in play to greater/lesser degrees in friend’s marriages. A bad cook making bad food who won’t listen to reason is, potentially, a form of abuse. So is overly picky eating; for a lot of people it’s just a way to exert control or get attention by punishing others.

      Note that any of the “bad guys” in any of those scenarios will swear up-and-down they aren’t being unreasonable; I’ve never met a picky eater who won’t blame it on something static and immutable about the universe, and I’ve never met a bad cook who still cooks who has any ability to admit their lack of skill. It’s a hard situation.

      • DragonMilk says:

        More of 2-1, our alternative is to just eat out. When other people say they like my cooking, she says they’re just being polite, which while true I don’t think tells the full story (I don’t ask if they like it, they mention it to me when we talk about other things, e.g., I was discussing like how I have such an old PC that a GTX 710 wasn’t compatible with the motherboard, he replies he’s looking at a GTX 1650. Next morning he messages me to say my “dumpling” was good).

        I don’t want to be completely unsympathetic – I have friends who order the same thing from the same restaurant every time they eat out when I want to try a different thing from different restaurants. She like a dish at a particular restaurant and went back the next meal to order the exact same thing.

        Edit: To add, she only recently full on stop-cooking as there was a period where she sampled things and said, “I’m full” which I realized meant she didn’t like it, and now there are more active nudges.

        • baconbits9 says:

          To toss out a few thoughts

          1. She has been honest(ish?) with you on her opinion of your cooking, honesty should be rewarded and not punished in a relationship (though I wouldn’t really condone her saying that other people don’t like your cooking, outside of some specific circumstances).

          2. Lots of things can be interpreted multiple ways, as a person who cooks for others but also has others cook for me semi-regularly the phrase “that specific thing was good” could mean “that specific thing was really good and worth noting” or could mean “that specific thing was fine/good and the rest I could take or leave, but I want to be nice”. So I don’t think you should focus/obsess about what individual statements mean because you won’t ever really know and it could damage a relationship, go with what you are sure is true (which is your fiancee saying she doesn’t like it).

          3. The advice I think, and hope, will be helpful. Go out to dinner with her and note what she likes for a few weeks, if she is the type to reorder something she like then take her to 1 restaurant until she reorders something and then switch restaurants (or take her to the first one a few more times to confirm and also allow her to eat something she likes multiple times). You might find out that you simply use to much/to little salty/sweet/bitter/sour ingredients for her peculiar tastes. Pay particular attention to how she selects her food, does she add salt + pepper, does she ask if they can put sauce/dressing on the side (if so does she use none, some or all), does she squeeze lemon over her fish dishes, use extra butter etc, etc. If you pay attention you will probably be able to make a few good guesses and then maybe you could try a dish or two that you think will hit her tastes well.

        • DinoNerd says:

          What are your financial arrangements? Would you be expected to pay the additional expense that eating out regularly entails? Does that feel like a good use of money to you?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          What is she ordering from restaurants? What do her parents cook? What is her ethnic background?
          You might just have extremely narrow selections based on that.
          Also, when is your wedding? Because if someone is dropping a bomb like “you should never cook again and I’m not eating until my parents come here to cook!” they are probably extremely stressed. There might also be an unstated resentment of “you are wasting all this time making crap food instead of helping with wedding stuff.”

          • DragonMilk says:

            Chinese first year resident…she’s definitely extremely stressed from work. So less of a filter/more hyperbolic statements atm but definitely her honest opinion in a way.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If she comes home extremely stressed, she may have used up all her spoons at work and just want something normal and expected. And a doctor can afford to outsource food production. (I’d worry about the health aspects because third parties have every incentive to make the food super tasty and don’t care if it kills you in 20 years, but that’s something separate.)

          • AG says:

            Hold on…you have a Chinese fiancee, you made a bunch of dough…and you’re faffing around baking calzones instead of making steamed bun variants!?

            Or make some dessert stuffs instead of continuing down this savory road!

            Also obligatory Put MSG in Everything, You Cowards

    • Deiseach says:

      Sympathies on this, so our community recipe suggestions didn’t work out for you then?

      I think the rest have good advice: only cook small batches of experimental stuff for yourself, and when your fiancée is not around/she’s having the main meal instead. Try things for yourself and when you’re confident something works, then try it out on her.

      Good luck!

      • DragonMilk says:

        I’ll give it a shot – I’ve definitely mixed two frameworks together, one being it’s nice to cook for someone and I hope she eats the food. The other being, OH COOKING IS FUN WHAT IF I DO THIS…so I’ll temper the experiments!

    • Randy M says:

      What is a tolerable ratio of experiments to recipe following for someone who has picky tastes?

      Depends on the rate of improvement and how old you are.
      If you are young or improving quickly, there will be a short period of bad meals followed by a relatively longer period of well made home meals, which should result in lifetime increase in good food eaten per dollar.
      If you are old or improving slowly, the experimental period will be longer than the pay-off period, resulting in a net loss.
      If you aren’t improving or have different end goals/tastes than her(?), then it obviously has no upside.
      If you are middle-aged with an unclear rate of improvement, and make up some numbers.

    • brad says:

      There is a thing where someone likes to cook, insists that you eat their cooking even though you’d rather not, and then turns around and makes like they are doing you a big favor by cooking for you.

      If she wants professionally prepared meals and can afford to pay for them, why are you forcing your cooking on her?

  13. Two McMillion says:

    It’s been said that any organization which is not explicitly right-wing must sooner or later become left-wing. Numerous examples can be cited to support this. But there are at least some spaces which show a marked rightward drift over time- 4chan, 8chan, and even, according to some, the SlateStarCodex comments section (this last one may be too much culture war for the hidden thread). And there are some places which seem to have drifted both left and right at the same time- Twitter and Reddit might be examples.

    I propose that all of these observations can be explained by the following model:

    1. A given discussion space may emphasize either politeness or speaking one’s mind.
    2. If it is known that politeness will win out against speaking one’s mind when there is a conflict between them, the space will drift left.
    3. If it is known that speaking one’s mind will win out against politeness when there is a conflict between them, the space will drift right.
    4. If it is not known which will win out, the space will drift in both directions.

    I think this is born out by an observation of the organizations and spaces that people say drift leftward compared to those that drift rightward. People talk about news media, professional conferences, and academia as drifting leftward; the places that drift rightward seem to be mostly internet spaces. News media, professional conferences, and academia are all places where being polite is viewed as at least as important as being correct. If you’re questioning a presenter at the American Medical Association conference, it would never do for you to tell her she’s stupid and wrong; you’d be expected to dress up that accusation in different, less uncouth language. My suspicion is that this is related to moral foundations theory (left-wingers often coming from a harm/care perspective- the sort of people who think being polite is important) and a desire on the part of the elite to signal that they’re not like those dirty commoners. Places that act like this tend to end up with social norms that emphasize not hurting people’s feelings.

    On the other hand, my perception of how right-wing most internet places are matches my perception of how welcoming they are for free speech. I suppose this might be because I am a right-winger myself, but I think it’s interesting. If people who value politeness know that someone won’t be banned for being rude, a likely course of action is that they’ll declare that space a “cesspool” and never go there. Places like this tend to attract people who don’t get validation for their opinions elsewhere.

    Places that drift in both places at once may come from creators who genuinely hold free speech ideals while also not really being comfortable with the rudeness that results from this- I think Twitter is probably an example. The result is a platform where everyone gears up for war and seeing someone else’s Bad Opinion pushes you closer into the arms of your side.

    I’m sure there’s a lot of problems with this model and I doubt I’ll argue against any objection you have, but it’s kind of what’s been in my mind lately.

    • bean says:

      this last one may be too much culture war for the hidden thread

      These days, the visible OT is the CW-free one.

    • greenwoodjw says:

      It’s much simpler than that. Progressives have never, institutionally, bought into the “marketplace of ideas” or separating the personal from the political. So what ends up happening is that progressive activists show up/get hired/volunteer for and pressure the organization from within, generally (today) using victim identity as a lever, to be more Progressive-leaning. Historically, the Right (Really the Not-Left) has always try to isolate politics to political environments or private discussion, so the push-back is just to keep the space apolitical, which the Progressives embrace only against their opposition. The end effect is Scott’s “Neutral vs. Conservative Spaces” where anything Right-associated is “politics” and anything Left-associated is “consensus”.

      Actually seeing this at my current job, one of the high-level managers is working hard to establish this company as a Progressive workplace, which sucks, because it’s actually a great place to work.

      • Viliam says:

        anything Right-associated is “politics” and anything Left-associated is “consensus”.

        This perfectly matches my experience of volunteering at an organization while it was taken over by the left wing.

        One day I was told that voting as a method of making group decisions will be replaced by its superior alternative: consensus. Because consensus makes everyone happy and live in harmony, while voting encourages tribalism and conflict.

        But in practice it meant that first the high-status people firmly announced their position, and afterwards you had a choice to either agree with them (i.e. support the “consensus”), or disagree and be the bad guy who brings “politics” to the organization (because “politics” means opposing the proposed “consensus”).

        Of course, by that moment the left-wing clique already had a majority, so they would win at voting, too. But there was a difference between having a public record of someone winning by e.g. 7:2 votes… and removing any record of dissent completely.

        Gradually, people prone to disagreeing with the “consensus” got fed up and left the organization.

    • sty_silver says:

      High degree of uncertainty here, but I think you might be onto something.

      However, I think I object to using the term politeness. If there’s a spectrum of — let’s call it niceness — from 0 super nice to 10 viciously insulting others, then generally the pressure isn’t to be as close to 0 as possible, but rather to be lower than a certain threshold, right? If so, I think the term civility fits better.

      Unrelated point, I think it is the case that right-leaning people are on average more vocal than left-leaning people. SSC is the obvious example here. This would be one possible explanation for why communities which don’t value [politevity] as much tend to drift right. Ofc, another hypothesis is that right-leaning ideas tend to win in a fair competition. This is only plausible if people actually change their mind, though.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        However, I think I object to using the term politeness.

        That was my first instinct. I’d say it’s more a question of how relevant is reputation. If it’s strictly a contest of ideas, a more right PoV than today’s society will win – but you’ll occasionally have to say that drowning puppies is the right choice. If reputation matters more than a certain degree, then you risk being labeled a puppy hater – and in time the definition of puppy hate will drift to the left, due to various mechanisms (overton window shift, evaporative cooling and probably more).

    • broblawsky says:

      I’d argue that any community that isn’t specifically set up as a safe space for right-wing speech – and isn’t set up to reflect that bias in moderation – will inevitably tend to drift left.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        How do you figure? 4chan drifted right and it’s not a safe space for anyone.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          I flew with Goonswarm in Eve Online for awhile, and the Something Awful culture is pretty similar. Basically, it’s so artificially vile that 1) genuinely vile people can survive in it and 2) any thought-police wouldn’t last a day before outing themselves and being shamed out of the community.

          • dick says:

            What kind of vileness are you talking about? Like, racism and dead baby jokes? If so, what does that have to do with ideology?

          • Garrett says:

            Many of the claims currently popular with the political left are easily reframed as “politeness”. Using the correct pronouns/not “dead-naming” someone, “believe all victims”, etc. Not following these rules is then referred to as “rude” or some other phrase. Consider how “political correctness” is reframed as “treating people with respect”.

            So if you have an environment where dead baby jokes are acceptable, you cannot be ostracized or shamed into submission for generally agreeing with another person about political issues.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I would say “camouflaged as” and not “easily reframed” but that, basically.

        • broblawsky says:

          How do you figure? 4chan drifted right and it’s not a safe space for anyone.

          It’s definitely safe for right-wingers in the fifty Stalins sense, as long as you say Hitler instead of Stalin.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Objection: 4chan has a whole vocabulary for insulting neo-Nazi and other positions considered far-right (like not being able to get laid).
            The fact that /pol/, misogyny, etc. exist doesn’t imply homogeneity. In fact, this conflation of “right-wing exists” and “right-wing space” is a recurring thing I’ve noticed from Millennial leftists online.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Are you suggesting left wingers get banned from 4chan? I’m pretty sure you can go on /pol/ and make a 50 Stalins thread about Stalin and it will not be removed, and you can gleefully insult Trump, Hitler, and anybody else.

            I think you have the wrong definition of a “safe space.” A safe space for right wingers would be a place where left wingers are banned. /r/The_Donald is meant to be a 24/7 Trump rally, so no, you can’t go there and crap on Trump (similarly, you will be removed for saying unkind things about Bernie Sanders on /r/sandersforpresident).

            Is a “safe space for battered women” a place where battered women are not prohibited from entering, or is it a place where men/batterers are prohibited from entering?

          • John Schilling says:

            I think you have the wrong definition of a “safe space.” A safe space for right wingers would be a place where left wingers are banned.

            That’s the original definition of a meatspace “safe space”, yes, and as you note still relevant to e.g. battered womens’ shelters.

            Internet safe spaces don’t necessarily work that way, and it’s not clear that they can – in part because you can’t know who to ban until it is too late, and in part because both the left and right wing pay enough lip service to freedom of speech as a normative virtue that they won’t go so far as to outright say “All left (or right) wingers are banned”. At most, there will be differential tolerance in how “all abusive posters will be banned” is enforced.

            Which brings us to how internet “safe spaces” normally work in my experience. If a wrong-winger says things that make a correct-winger feel “unsafe”, they are dogpiled by a supermajority of other correct-wingers in a way that makes the original “victim” feel adequately protected by their allies and maybe gives them some victim status points. Meanwhile, the whole process is sufficiently unpleasant for the unwanted wrong-winger that they probably go away. At any time, the wrong-wing population is too small and too pathetic(*) to be seen as a threat.

            * Neutered by strict application of no-abusive-posters rules that are rarely enforced when wrong-wingers are the victims, and limited to the sort of loser who will voluntarily put up with this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            John, you’re leaving out the role of moderators looking for an excuse to ban people who say wrong-wing things.

            If the “Internet Safe Space” definition is just “who gets dogpiled” then I’d still say 4chan is not a safe space for anyone. Definitely not right-wingers. To confirm my suspicions, I just went to /pol/. You may recall I happen to be a fan of President Trump. I found a thread called “President Trump General” which certainly appears to be made by Trump supporters (the top post is pro-Trump and full of links to Trump speeches, media appearances, etc). Literally half the thread is people hurling abuse and insults at Trump and Trump supporters from all sides of the political spectrum. I have no idea why any Trump supporter would want to subject themselves to that abuse, but that is the ocean of piss that is 4chan. “Oceans of piss” are not safe spaces.

            ETA: Okay, maybe a quarter is anti-Trump in the Trump thread. I think the other quarter is ironic.

    • albatross11 says:

      It sure seems like there are plenty of left wing sites where it’s commonplace to call everyone on the right Nazis or racists or idiots, which doesn’t seem to track too well with your model.

      • Two McMillion says:

        I agree that this is a weakness. I think you can rescue the model somewhat by saying that those things are not considered rude on those sites. Like, among conservatives I feel like I hear, “Yeah, what I said was mean, but it doesn’t matter,” whereas liberals just seems to say, “That’s not rude” when the two are doing, in essence, the same thing.

        • j1000000 says:

          “Civility is BS” is a major meme on the left every few months when some right wing politician/pundit gets harassed during their less-public moments (Ted Cruz at a restaurant, Sarah Huckabee Sanders being turned away from some food place, the protest at Tucker Carlson’s home), and I don’t think it’s at all controversial to say that if you spend any time on Twitter you see a lot of leftists who openly relish saying cruel things about white people and men. So “yeah what I said was mean but it doesn’t matter” definitely happens in the left-wing world, too.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yes, you can define liberal vs conservative in terms of civility, if you also bend your definition of “civility” into a pretzel. I’ll admit I don’t see how this helps us understand anything better, though.

    • dick says:

      a) The thing you started with (“any organization which is not explicitly right-wing must sooner or later become left-wing”) IME generally refers to proper organizations – like, with rules and leaders and such. I don’t think it’s useful* but even if I did, I wouldn’t assume it would also apply to places like 4chan.

      b) I don’t understand the dichotomy between “speaking one’s mind” and “politeness”. Is “speaking one’s mind” in this context just the opposite of politeness? I can think of groups that seem to contradict your model (e.g. the Heritage Foundation seems to value right-leaning ideology and politeness, and the whole online social justice movement seems to combine a love of left-leaning ideology and a dislike of politeness) but maybe I just don’t know what you mean.

      • dick says:

        * I’ll relegate my reason for disliking the “any organization which is not explicitly right-wing must sooner or later become left-wing” model to a separate reply since it’s kind of tangential.

        Suppose that the American Institute of Architects publishes a press release announcing their support for more restrictive building codes. Is that evidence of the AIA becoming more left-wing? I assume most commenters here will reflexively say yes. The AIA is not explicitly right-wing, so it would be tempting to call this evidence that the theory is valid.

        However, that’s true IFF a politically neutral AIA, an AIA that did not drift to the left, would not have supported more restrictive building codes. That’s not a fair assumption to make. It’s possible that building codes are just a very sensible policy, and the AIA’s support for them are not primarily driven by ideology.

        Hence, it seems to me that saying “This organization is drifting to the left, as shown by their support for position X” is just a long-winded and circular way of announcing that you don’t like position X.

        • Garrett says:

          I think it depends on whether issue X is related to the proper role of the organization.

          If the AIA advocates for making changes to eg. design roofing loads to better account for projected climate change, that’s only political in the sense that they believe that there’s value to those projections. But it might also be worthwhile to make such changes as a hedge against being wrong, even if you think the projections are false. And given that they are directly on-topic, I don’t see much political coding.

          But if the AIA comes out in support of trans-rights and calling on all organization to be LGBT friendly, that’s both politically coded and drastically unrelated to the obvious mission of the organization.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think it is a mistake to compare institutions of very different ages, and with very different age makeups without noting it. There is a large difference between universities shifting and twitter shifting, as the universities have an established track record and its difficult to know if twitter is shifting or just hasn’t yet sorted out its spot in the spectrum.

    • Phigment says:

      My feeling is that it’s an actions vs. identity thing. Right-wingers care more about what you do, and are more inclined to leave people they don’t personally like alone, if that person isn’t currently doing anything objectionable. Left wingers care more about who you are, and will cut people they like more slack for bad behavior.

      So, in a specific community with no particularly strong norms one way or the other, right-wingers will generally try to push out people who misbehave, while left-wingers will try to push out people who disagree with them. (Often in terms of politeness; “opposing abortion is anti-woman, being anti-woman is hateful, and we don’t tolerate that around here!”)

      This leaves you with a dynamic where rude right-wingers will face pressure to shape up or leave from left wingers and from polite people. Rude left-wingers will only face pressure from polite right-wingers. Polite right-wingers will be pressured to leave by left-wingers. Polite left-wingers will be pressured to leave by no one.

      So, in any community with a relatively moderate politeness norm will tend to drift left, because that norm will be used to filter out right-wing members until the left-wing side is firmly in control.

      The only places that won’t inexorably drift left are those with either no politeness norm, like 4chan, such that the social pressures to force people out are completely whack-a-doodle, or places with some other powerful filtering criteria enforced to overpower the identity/manners filter.

      For an example of that, see places with firm free speech commitments, or places with niche appeal. Car repair forums may escape drift because they are more focused on chasing off people with bicycles than chasing off people who voted for the wrong person.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Your idea that left- vs. right-wing drift is related to valuing politeness vs. valuing free speech is an interesting one, and I think it’s probably at least partially correct. But I don’t think I’d say it’s because the left attaches greater importance to politeness than the right — aside from anything else, I’ve been told on several occasions by people on the SJ left that politeness is just an imposition of the privileged to stop the disadvantaged from taking any meaningful action to improve their lot. Rather, I think it’s because people on the left are more likely to get angry or upset on hearing opposing political viewpoints, which I guess is due to the greater support on the left for the idea that “the personal is political”, since if you take that attitude you’re more likely to interpret political disagreement as a personal attack. So if you have people on the left taking offence at hearing right-wing political views and the higher-ups in the organisation don’t tell them to get over themselves and stop complaining, the natural result is that right-wing political views will stop being expressed, either through self-censorship (because who wants to deal with the drama?) or because if somebody claims to be offended by your views it’s generally easier to tell you to stop expressing them than to tell the offended person that they’re being unreasonable.

      • Phigment says:

        Might be coming at it from the wrong side. As in, it’s not a matter of who places the greatest importance on having politeness, it’s who places the greatest importance on behaving politely.

        Sort of like the person who cares the most about the house being clean tends to be the one who does the most cleaning.

        If people on the right place higher priority on being polite, you can force them out of conversations by calling them impolite.

        That works until you start running into Donald Trump, who does not place a high priority on being polite, and does not leave the conversation.

    • Walter says:

      I think the factor you are missing is anonymity. Non rightwing, non anonymous organizations will always tend left wing.

    • John Schilling says:

      A given discussion space may emphasize either politeness or speaking one’s mind.

      As others have pointed out, you really need to be more clear on what you mean by “politeness” here. Because I don’t think this statement works for the usual definition. In practice, the only way you can emphasize “speaking one’s mind”, in a constructive sense at least, is to also emphasize politeness in the usual sense. Otherwise, whenever anyone speaks one’s mind on a subject of less than unanimous agreement, every rude person who disagrees with them speaks their own mind in a manner that escalates to a hostile dogpiling. Eventually, only the opinions held or supported by a majority of the rude people are spoken. Which may technically qualify as “speaking one’s mind” in that everybody with a disagreeing mind has long since abandoned the forum, but it isn’t a constructive sort of mind-speaking.

      That the left always wins this majority-of-the-rude-people exclusionary process is a rather contentious claim, and I’m not sure I agree with it. But the alternative to choir-preaching and dog-piling within ideologically polarized bubbles, requires a commitment to everyone speaking their mind, politely. You can’t have one without the other.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there’s a critical distinction somewhere between:

        a. Politeness rules about how you may express your ideas.

        b. Politeness rules about which ideas you may express.

        I don’t think (a) imposes much of an ideological bias, in general. Saying “no name calling, no profanity, no personal attacks, no threats” doesn’t give any broad set of ideas a particular advantage.

        But (b) is pretty-much all about imposing an ideological bias. When some ideas are simply too offensive to allow, you can automatically win a lot of arguments defining the other side’s ideas (or critical supporting arguments or facts) as unacceptably impolite or offensive.

        In most places where I have discussions, this seems to be done mostly by the left. In plenty of other places and times, it has been done or tried by the right, but today, I don’t see a lot of that in the places where I hang out.

    • DeWitt says:

      any organization which is not explicitly right-wing must sooner or later become left-wing

      is a meaningless statement; it’s unfalsifiable to the extreme. All you need do to ‘prove’ it is claim that every organisation that doesn’t go left was obviously explicitly right-wing from the start on out.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        +1

      • The original Mr. X says:

        All you need do to ‘prove’ it is claim that every organisation that doesn’t go left was obviously explicitly right-wing from the start on out.

        But that seems like the sort of claim that should be verifiable, no? Admittedly it would probably be too big an ask to prove that *every* such organisation started out as explicitly right-wing, but if you’re considering *any particular* organisation you should be able to look at its starting mission statement and see how right-wing it is.

    • Viliam says:

      2. If it is known that politeness will win out against speaking one’s mind when there is a conflict between them, the space will drift left.
      3. If it is known that speaking one’s mind will win out against politeness when there is a conflict between them, the space will drift right.

      My experience is that both left wing and right wing require politeness towards their own high-status people and applause lights, and allow all kinds of attacks against the other side.

      If the perception is that left-wing is pro-politeness and right-wing is pro-insults, that in my opinion means that the right-wing ideas have already been pushed out of the Overton window, so the remaining debate is only about the adoption of the left-wing proposals… which the left wing insists on treating with utmost respect, and the right wing disrespects.

      News media, professional conferences, and academia are all places where being polite is viewed as at least as important as being correct.

      Politeness is also the norm in churches. Generally, people who are locally in position of power, usually demand politeness.

  14. Yair says:

    It’s 2059, and the Rich Kids Are Still Winning – an “op-ed from the future” by Ted Chiang

    https://nyti.ms/2JJlLUa

    • The Nybbler says:

      A polemic based on a fictional experiment is not very convincing. Chiang wants to make the point that the United States isn’t a society that rewards ability, but the non-fictional evidence he presents is highly confounded. He presents this “Gene Equality Project” as a “diagnostic test”, but since it’s fictional, no real-world diagnosis can be given.

      tl;dr: Reasoning from fictional evidence is bad. Reasoning from your own fictional evidence is worse.

      • Yair says:

        You are basically arguing against what the New York Times asked him to do:

        “Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a new series, “Op-Eds From the Future,” in which science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future. The challenges they predict are imaginary — for now — but their arguments illuminate the urgent questions of today and prepare us for tomorrow. The opinion piece below is a work of fiction.”

        So he was asked to write a polemic based on an extrapolation, reasoning from fiction was always going to happen, it still raises issues that are interesting to discuss.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It is possible there is a way of fulfilling that NYT prompt without falling into the pattern I’m objecting to — making an op-ed about “the urgent questions of today” supported by fictional evidence. If there is not, I’m perfectly happy for the NYT to share the blame.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      A while ago I decided that Chiang’s fiction was worth reading and his op-ed’s were not. So this puts me in a bit of a dilemma.

      • Plumber says:

        @ADifferentAnonymous,

        When I saw the by-line of the Op-ed I was excited because I’ve been previously impressed by Ted Chiang’s fiction, but I was disappointed, while I agree with the basic conceit of that genetically raising random lower class kids potential IQ’s would not be as helpful towards their future prospects as having grownup upper class and having upper class resources would, from the story it seemed that the kids weren’t random, their parents were ambitious and woulda have the expectation of their kids being smart after the treatment, so I while I wouldn’t think that the kids would do as well as the upper class ones, I would expect some difference between their fates and most lower class kids, but I really object to the conclusion of the (fictional) op-ed writer of: 

        “…Our goal should be to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, no matter the circumstances of birth. That course of action would be just as beneficial to humanity as pursuing genetic cognitive enhancements, and it would do a much better job of fulfilling our ethical obligations”

        as I think a goal of “maximum potential” is a lame one, it just leaves too many out.

        I prefer maximum happiness including the talentless as a goal.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is there good data out there about how big an impact IQ has on upward mobility, relative to parents’ socioeconomic status? I know this was covered to some extent in _The Bell Curve_, but I’d have to go find my copy to see the details. I know both parents’ socioeconomic status and your IQ matter a lot for life success, and also that they’re correlated thanks to heritability of IQ and perhaps also impact of early childhood environment on IQ.

          My intuition is that I’d rather be born in the top 1% of intelligence and the middle of the income distribution than be born in the top 1% of the income distribution and the middle of the intelligence distribution. But the answer to this (in terms of measurable life outcomes, anyway) is knowable and probably known….

        • albatross11 says:

          I haven’t read Chang’s essay, but it’s worth remembering that if we could make the next generation of kids smarter overall, we’d probably get a lot richer as a result, as a society/species. I’d expect considerably faster scientific and technological progress, and less dysfunction and poverty and crime.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I am reading Douglas McWilliam’s “The Inequality Paradox” and he talks about “superbabies” a lot. We want equality in opportunity, but we are never going to get that. Amazing Alice and Bright Bob meet at Harvard, have two kids, who in turn go to Harvard and meet their mates. There is nothing anywhere near the Overton Window to actually make the grandkid here have the same opportunity as Mediocre Mel. Genes is just one reason, but if gene editing your kids becomes real, there’s no reason to think it will be an equalizer rather than an accelerator.

            Your point about “we’d get a lot richer” is another point he makes: the places with the most inequality are the richest places. This is not necessarily written in stone, but: gene editing would likely help the poor a lot, while helping the rich a lot lot lot.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Step 1: invent and patent a workable process for embryonic gene editing.

            Step 2: charge people a price for such modifications equivalent to 90% of the lifetime returns for the most productivity-enhancing modifications.

            Step 3: less dysfunction, obviously.

            “But wait,” you say, “that sounds bad for the human race.” Not to worry, my friend. Axlotl tanks are cool and good and very efficient.

  15. Nick says:

    Suppose you got to pick one thing in history to happen differently, and got to see the consequences up to the present day. What would you pick? Would you like to see the world had Caesar not died on the Ides of March? Or the world had one battle or election gone differently?

    • Nick P. says:

      I’d want to see how it would have turned out if the the first exposure to nuclear energy the public got was power reactors rather than bombs.

      • cakoluchiam says:

        I’d imagine people mightn’t have been so quick to discover the dangers of meltdowns, nor to implement safety measures to prevent them, had there not been horror stories of the aftermaths of bombings.

        I’m not sure whether that ultimate discovery would result in more or less modern acceptance of nuclear power. Despite how much public opposition there is to nuclear energy today, we may have benefited from the narrative of “taming” the beast, with an implied expectation that we can take something terribly destructive and make it work for us.

        If instead we assumed it mundane, the gradual discovery of new dangers up to the first catastrophic meltdown may have been deemed a bellwether of worse to come rather than a terrible mistake that could be avoided with better safety measures, and uranium would go the way of lead or mercury, with nobody even bothering trying to find modern uses (am I wrong on this?).

    • Yair says:

      Too scared of the Butterfly Effect see the following story by Kim Stanley Robinson:
      http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/the-lucky-strike/

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Britain suppressing the 1770s Colonial Rebellion.

      • Nick says:

        In out of the way areas where republican sentiment remains high, a rebel flag designed by one Betsy Ross can still be seen today.

    • SamChevre says:

      The Council of Trent happened in in the late 1530s, with reconciliation as a goal that was still feasible as originally planned, and resulted in a compromise that brought most of the Protestants back into a reformed Catholic Church.

      • Nick says:

        Hear hear! I do wonder what the compromise would look like. Later Protestants wanted vernacular Mass, for instance; would we have gotten a very different Tridentine Mass, or perhaps an early division between vernacular low Masses and Latin high Masses?

        A different outcome to the Chinese Rites controversy was on my mind.

        • Deiseach says:

          Hear hear! I do wonder what the compromise would look like.

          “In today’s news, the Reformed Universal Church under the leadership of Primate Katherine III has formally announced its intention to offer ordination to trans, non-binary, genderfluid and other gender expressions persons who have not been baptised.

          This follows on the recommendations of the Synod of 2016 where the resolution “That baptism should be regarded as an ordinance not a sacrament” was adopted, the fruit of extensive discussions by the ecumencial commission ARUCIC – the Anabaptist-Reformed Universal Church International Commission – to bring into the fold those Protestant denominations who did not rejoin after the 1530 Council of Trent.

          In certain quarters this is seen as a last-gasp attempt to rejuvenate membership by both incorporating the remaining non-Universal Western denominations and attracting the so-called “Zoomer” generation away from ‘spiritual not religious’ independent alternatives*. Primate Katherine has presided over the decline in global membership from 8,000,000 to this year’s just-released figures of 6,500,000 for Reformed Universal churches, but as she continues to maintain, in the words of her first interview after election:

          It used to be larger percentagewise, but Universals tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Certain denominations and faith traditions have theological reasons for producing lots of children. We aren’t interested in replenishing our ranks by having children. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

          *Primate Katherine’s 2013 sermon “A Rebuke to Paul and Misogyny within The Church: The Spiritual Gifts of the Divine Feminine” was seen as an early reaching out to those of alternative spiritualities that there was a place for them to take up within the Reformed Universal Church:

          Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God. She is quite right. She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness**. Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so! It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.

          **For those not familiar with the story, the “gift of spiritual awareness” that the slave girl had was “being possessed by a demon and used by her owners to make money for them by fortune-telling”.

          • Nick says:

            Come on, Deiseach, you know me; I’m not looking to import sola scriptura or abolish the priesthood or something. It seems at least conceivable that one could compromise on non-doctrinal matters if the offer were made early, as Sam suggests, so that there’s never a significant population in the first place marching toward Primate Katherine.

          • Deiseach says:

            Nick, I put in links to prove I wasn’t inventing the quoted bits. I do think that if we’d had One Big Happy Reunion, it would have inevitably ended up like the Old Catholics and other splinter groups – eventually they succumb to the Zeitgeist. A post-Trent reconciled church would have had to give in on certain matters of theology as well as governance in order to woo back the splintered Protestants (and for instance, how do you reconcile Eucharistic theology amongst the variants that sprang up? If you go the Anglican route – no windows into men’s souls – well, see below).

            You want to know what a Catholic But Not Roman church would look like today? Look at Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. You have a split between the progressive Western sphere and the traditionally believing Global South. I have no reason to think the churches that splintered off during the Reformation for reasons of ‘the pure Gospel’ and which nowadays are fully signed up to all the rights on the ‘right side of history’ would have fared any differently if they had been re-admitted into the fold.

            The squaring the circle solution of ‘no windows into men’s souls’ means that as long as everybody agrees to the external practices, they can think or believe whatever the hell they like, and nobody has the authority or right to tell them otherwise. This leads to ‘dress up’ religion, where the bishop is sure to wear the mitre and cope in the appropriate colour of the liturgical season when processing with the crozier, but she isn’t any too sure there really is this God person at all and if there is, the Hindus/Buddhists/animists are as likely to be right about it.

            The Episcopalian Church was very influential, much more so than its actual numbers – all the US presidents who were members, and the National Cathedral in Washington being Episcopalian – but its numbers have been gradually declining over the years despite everything it has done in its desperate attempts to be woke and inclusive; in 2017 its membership was about 1.8 million.

            A Reformed Catholic church that had welcomed back the Protestants and bulldozed the awkward doctrinal differences to accommodate them would, in my view, inevitably have gone the same way. Or American Catholicism, if you like, which in practice is not that different. (Most lay Catholicism in the West indeed, not to be picking on America). And the awkward doctrinal bits are the crux of the matter – if someone has split off because they don’t believe you believe sufficiently in Biblical inerrancy, how can “okay, so we’re willing to split the difference on deaconesses but we still don’t accept literal 24-hour days in Genesis” be any solution? You don’t get into fights over “table versus altar” merely because you’re arguing over the correct terms for items of furniture.

            Actually, look at The Galileo Affair in this light – because the Counter-Reformation was addressing some accusations (such as ‘not taking the Bible literally enough’) then you got some zealous clergy and malicious lay enemies getting him into trouble for “But are you contradicting the Plain Word of Scripture?”. Is that the kind of rapprochement on matters you think would have been beneficial?

          • Nick says:

            A Reformed Catholic church that had welcomed back the Protestants and bulldozed the awkward doctrinal differences to accommodate them would, in my view, inevitably have gone the same way. Or American Catholicism, if you like, which in practice is not that different. (Most lay Catholicism in the West indeed, not to be picking on America). And the awkward doctrinal bits are the crux of the matter – if someone has split off because they don’t believe you believe sufficiently in Biblical inerrancy, how can “okay, so we’re willing to split the difference on deaconesses but we still don’t accept literal 24-hour days in Genesis” be any solution? You don’t get into fights over “table versus altar” merely because you’re arguing over the correct terms for items of furniture.

            As a general rule I agree with this, but the theological differences between Protestants and Catholics came about over time—the Protestants did not, after all, follow Luther in every particular. When Leibniz was attempting a reunification of churches through his diplomatic work, more than a century later, he enumerated six concessions he believed Catholics had to make:

            1) The Catholics should admit the Protestants to return permanently to the Roman Church 2) The Catholics must not force the Protestants to hold catholic masses or to use a language that is not familiar to people in their churches. They should also not to be forced to introduce rites, which would cause alarm or inconveniences. 3) The Protestant priest and other ecclesticals should be allowed to marry, since it is already an established practice 4) The Protestant priests should be allowed to practice their profession to the Catholics also – according to Leibniz this would cause no scandals if the sacraments and rules of the Catholics are honored. 5) All the lands and property of the Protestants transformed in the Peace of Westphal and other transactions should be returned 6) When the Protestants have agreed to the terms here, all excommunication’s and anathema’s should be abolished. A declaration should be issued which states that the Protestants are no longer heretic or schismatic.

            (1) is not a problem. (2) is just what I suggested above as a possible concession. (3) is a trickier, but in the 1530s the practice had been around for no more than 10 years; I could see the practice being permitted among German priests, but that’s about as far as Catholics need to concede back then, because it wasn’t an established practice yet. (4) is not a problem, so long as re-admitted priests weren’t, you know, writing the sort of polemic Luther was known for. (5) is a nonissue because the Peace of Westphalia had yet to occur. (6) is not a problem.

            I don’t think we need to posit anything like the Anglican ‘solution’—indeed, it would be so unthinkable in that day that it’s not even a remotely realistic outcome. German churches would have been given relatively greater autonomy, but that doesn’t have to look like anything like the autonomy which modern Protestant churches have maintained. For one thing, the unity of the faithful is practically the only centralizing influence in Protestantism, as far as I can tell; part of the reason that it has gotten more fissiparous as time goes on is that there is less and less anyone can agree on.

          • Deiseach says:

            1) The Catholics should admit the Protestants to return permanently to the Roman Church

            No problem there, come on home separated brethren 🙂

            2) The Catholics must not force the Protestants to hold catholic masses or to use a language that is not familiar to people in their churches. They should also not to be forced to introduce rites, which would cause alarm or inconveniences.

            This one is sticky; while there’s wiggle room on the vernacular, barring Catholic Masses is going to be the big problem. If the Protestants are going to continue being Protestant and having Protestant services with Protestant liturgy and theology presided over by Protestant ministers, what exactly is the point of calling themselves “Catholics” again?

            3) The Protestant priest and other ecclesticals should be allowed to marry, since it is already an established practice

            Yeah, we can manage this, it’s a matter of discipline not doctrine or dogma.

            4) The Protestant priests should be allowed to practice their profession to the Catholics also – according to Leibniz this would cause no scandals if the sacraments and rules of the Catholics are honored.

            Yeah, this is another one where we’ve got a problem. If the Protestant priest is a priest (that is, has been ordained in an acceptable rite by a bishop in the apostolic succession) then we’re probably okay – see the first generation of Anglicans who had been ordained as Catholics before they switched under Henry VIII. Anglicans ordained under Elizabeth I would be a whole different kettle of fish, and Protestants who hadn’t been ordained because their theology of ministry is completely different are right out. Again, this would be ‘dress up’ religion – with all due respect to our host, we could stick Scott in a chasuble and have him recite the words of consecration from a missal over a host, but it sure as heck wouldn’t be Communion, even if he sincerely said the words as written and did the actions and “honoured the rules”.

            5) All the lands and property of the Protestants transformed in the Peace of Westphal and other transactions should be returned

            Sure, and all the lands and property seized off Catholics by Protestants will be returned in the same swap. That should be no problem, right? Little things like the Dissolution of the Monasteries can be wound right back!

            6) When the Protestants have agreed to the terms here, all excommunications and anathemas should be abolished. A declaration should be issued which states that the Protestants are no longer heretic or schismatic.

            Another big “if” here. If they’ve agreed to terms, including accepting the theological terms, then sure they’re not heretics. If they sign up then go around continuing to maintain that if you were baptised as a baby you’re not really baptised, or that marriage is not a sacrament and the like, then they’re being schismatic or heretical as much as a guy who never formally defected from the Church in the first place but who goes around saying “yeah, that Resurrection thing? a conjuring trick with bones!”

            Any kind of reconciliation would have to happen very early, before attitudes fossilised and differences were entrenched and whole separate systems of ministry, church and the like were set up, never mind confessional statements. Ten years after probably okay, twenty to fifty? Too long.

          • Nick says:

            This one is sticky; while there’s wiggle room on the vernacular, barring Catholic Masses is going to be the big problem. If the Protestants are going to continue being Protestant and having Protestant services with Protestant liturgy and theology presided over by Protestant ministers, what exactly is the point of calling themselves “Catholics” again?

            Okay, yes, I admit “Catholic Masses” is a red flag there; if it means dropping the theology of the Mass and adopting some kind of Protestant “worship service,” then that’s a very serious problem and Catholics shouldn’t and won’t concede it.

            Anglicans ordained under Elizabeth I would be a whole different kettle of fish, and Protestants who hadn’t been ordained because their theology of ministry is completely different are right out. Again, this would be ‘dress up’ religion – with all due respect to our host, we could stick Scott in a chasuble and have him recite the words of consecration from a missal over a host, but it sure as heck wouldn’t be Communion, even if he sincerely said the words as written and did the actions and “honoured the rules”.

            True. I figured from the list that the situation was more like the Henry VIII; if it weren’t, the stuff about sacraments as you say simply wouldn’t make sense. But in reality I’m sure this would differ on a nearly case by case basis. Since we’re talking the mid 1530s, that’s a little less than twenty years after Luther nailed the 95 Theses, and about ten years after the Peasants’ War, so I’d guess most of the ministers would be former priests. Ones that hadn’t undergone ordination couldn’t simply be grandfathered in—indeed, the situation for them is probably even worse than for contemporary Anglicans, who at least have enough grounds to become priests under the Ordinariate.

            Sure, and all the lands and property seized off Catholics by Protestants will be returned in the same swap. That should be no problem, right? Little things like the Dissolution of the Monasteries can be wound right back!

            I actually need a history lesson here—how much land was seized before, say, 1535? I know there was a lot of destruction in the Peasants’ War, including of churches and monasteries, but I don’t know how much was appropriated.

        • Theodoric says:

          Maybe going more to the Orthodox model? Tell the German princes “OK, have your own church, in communion with my church.” The resulting churches might be more responsive to local conditions. I remember reading a blog post from Mark Shea (which I can’t find) about how Anglos and Germans have different views on authority and rules (his example was Americans stopping at a red light even at 3am on a deserted road), so maybe this would be more accommodating to local conditions without a full-on break.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I like it, but why not go one level deeper and prevent the original schism? History would look very different if the Bishop of Rome consents to be one among many other bishops.

        I’m not sure it would be a better historical path; the strong Roman Catholic church probably provided a very beneficial check on the state for most of the West’s history. But it would be interesting to peek at.

        • Deiseach says:

          History would look very different if the Bishop of Rome consents to be one among many other bishops.

          Well, then you get the various Orthodox Churches, which are quite capable of having their own turf and doctrinal wars. Instead of one Pope over all, you get every Patriarch his own Pope (see all the autocephalous churches splitting away from the Ecumencial Patriarchate of Constantinople).

          And that doesn’t much help either, since the ultimate authority tends to end up with the Emperor who steps in to assert control over the Church in his realm. As with Byzantium, or Russia (where some of the Tsars really went to town on it) or indeed Henry VIII and his notions which he based on a declaration that England had been an empire with its own Emperor and thus he had ultimate authority as Emperor over the Church in England (and where some Anglicans rather forlornly invented Branch Theory).

          Look at the Church in Constantinople and how it’s faring under the Turkish secular (or not so secular) rule these past centuries:

          The relationship between Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire was frequently bitter, due in no small part to the privilege given to Islam. In the secular Republic of Turkey, tensions are still constant. Turkey requires by law that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen by birth, which all Patriarchs have been since 1923, though they are all ethnic Greeks from the minuscule and steadily decreasing Greek minority of Turkey which is causing a shortage of priests and consequently potential candidates for the post of Ecumenical Patriarch. The state’s expropriation of church property and the closing of the Orthodox Theological School of Halki are also difficulties faced by the Patriarchate.

      • The genie was already out of the bottle at that point though, right? Even if there was some kind of successful agreement, I don’t think Protestantism could have simply been brought under the fold. There were too many strands.

        • Deiseach says:

          There were too many strands.

          Particularly as various of those strands were at bitter loggerheads, see the famous case of Calvin and Michael Servetus.

        • SamChevre says:

          Not everyone would have come back–certainly, for example, the Anabaptists weren’t reconcilable. But the majority of Lutherans and Protestants probably could have been reconciled with a Catholic Church that instituted the Counter-Reformation reforms to discipline, and gave as much freedom to local custom as the church did in the 1600s. (Married priests allowed but discouraged, local language allowed liturgically where appropriate.)

          • The Protestants couldn’t even reconcile among themselves, so I don’t know how they could have reconciled with Catholicism. Luther was way past the point of no return by then. You have the completely separate Swiss Reformation, which had people like Zwingli but the movement was brought about by town councils rather than executive fiat. Calvin is just getting his start with his own movement and Henry the Eighth had already broken off Rome. There’s just no way that you could have contained it by that point.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Or save us all a lot of trouble and prevent The Fall.

    • convie says:

      Avoid the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Avoid WW1 and as result the communist revolution and WW2.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Eh. The archduke’s assassination was the trigger for WWI, but the setup for it was all there. Something else would have pushed Europe over the edge if his death had not.

        • bean says:

          Agreed. Let’s keep Teddy Roosevelt out of the 1912 election, which probably gives Taft a second term, and keeps Woodrow Wilson from making a complete mess of the end of WWI.

        • convie says:

          I agree some sort of large scale European conflict was probably inevitable but it would have probably played out much differently. The Archdukes assassination started a very specific chain reaction of events.

        • cassander says:

          If ww1 happens 5 years earlier or later, it works out very differently. 5 years earlier and the germans lose after a year when they literally run out of ammunition. The haber process wasn’t discovered until 1909, and wasn’t scaled up industrially for 5 years. That timeline would be faster if a war had broken out then, but probably not fast enough.

          5 years later and you have enough groundwork for serious mechanization. the armies wouldn’t have mechanized by 1920 (they weren’t even mechanized in 1940), but they would have had experiments with it and begun to see the possibilities. More importantly, though, they’d have the production capacity to make mechanization possible. there are about a 900,000 cars and trucks in the US in 1912, over 9 million by 1920. Ford makes more model Ts in just 1915 than cars existed in in france and the UK combined in 1914. Rather than basically shutting down motor vehicle production once the war starts, it would have been accelerated, magnifying the impact of the allied material advantage and probably bringing the war to end much more quickly.

          But bean is still probably right that the above is not guaranteed, so it’s probably safe to just shoot woodrow wilson.

          • Wasn’t a lot of mechanization accelerated because of the war? If the war started five years later, there might have been more production in general, but they still wouldn’t have tanks to overcome trench warfare.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            they still wouldn’t have tanks to overcome trench warfare.

            I suggest reading the discussion about WW1 onthis NavalGazing thread, especially Directrix Gazer’s first comment.

            Since it’s quite long, the final paragraph makes a good tl;dr:

            while the tank and the airplane helped, they were not the technologies mainly responsible for the return to maneuver warfare as is often alleged. It was the truck and the portable radio that were the critical tools. The first allowed movement and supply of troops far from the nearest friendly railhead, while the radio allowed the supple coordination of large armies over great distances.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            Yes with regards to tanks, but not for the cars and trucks that are the real meat of mechanization of ground forces, you just needed too many to make it happen. WW2 era divisions needed a couple thousand trucks each, and those trucks were bigger and more powerful than what would have been available in 1920 or 1914. And trucks were destroyed in very large numbers, so you had to have a lot of production capacity. But production rates would be much higher by 1920, with more capable vehicles.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Road network improvements were as important as trucks. There was a discussion here many open thread ago about how Germany could have better spent the money they historically spent on their naval buildup before WW1, where I had initially argued that they should have built/bought a bunch more trucks for their logistics corps.

            In the process of the discussion, I came across a Master’s Thesis from the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College about German logistics on the Western Front in 1914. My key takeaways from it were:

            1. The German army actually had made a relatively large investment in trucks for logistics in the years leading up to WW1, and these trucks were essential for the Schlieffen Plan to get as far as it did.

            2. The bottleneck wasn’t the trucks themselves. Instead, it was a combination of the sorry (by modern standards) state of the road network, which was pretty much saturated by German trucks, and a lack of experience in actually coordinating the dispatch and maintenance of large numbers of trucks to support a huge military operation in the field.

            Delaying the war “helps” across the board here: the truck purchases are likely going to continue and accelerate (and not just for the German army), roads are going to be built, expanded, and improved for civilian use as civilian motor transport becomes a bigger part of the economy, and militaries are going to have more time to figure out doctrine and organization for using big truck fleets effectively in the field.

            For organization and coordination in particular, a key timeframe is around 1923-24, when vehicle-mountable two-way radios start becoming available, allowing dispatch controllers to coordinate trucks in the field in something close to real time.

        • Protagoras says:

          Maybe have Wilhelm II die young? Prince Henry seems to have been a much more stable and responsible sort, so probably no WWI with a Kaiser Henry.

    • Spookykou says:

      No more Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars, the Qin embracing the Hundred Schools of Thought.

    • Urstoff says:

      Someone actually killing baby Hitler.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I wish Maroon Five had recorded Lucky Strike with a complete final chorus.

      For a serious answer, I’m far too nervous about such things to change anything substantial.

    • Lambert says:

      No year of the three Kaisers.

      Cure Frederick III’s laryngeal cancer and see what a more liberalised Reich ends up looking like.

      What change would we have to make to end up with a Germany that includes Austria from the beginning? And how does this bipolar situation affect Bayern, Hessen etc, compared to the Prussian hegemony of our timeline.

      • cassander says:

        >What change would we have to make to end up with a Germany that includes Austria from the beginning?

        I don’t think that’s achievable. But if you remove bismark, you delay the unification of germany decades, and possibly prevent it all together, and that might be the best outcome for everyone.

        • bean says:

          I don’t think you’d prevent German unification. Nationalism was probably too strong, as evidenced by things like Italian unification in the same timeframe. But you could change the pattern a lot by taking out Bismarck. Specifically, it would probably be less militaristic and might occur around a nucleus other than Prussia.

      • Protagoras says:

        Make Bismarck Austrian instead of Prussian, and maybe you get Grossdeutschland under Austria instead of Kleindeutschland under Prussia.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Not necessarily my top choice out of all history, but one I was wondering lately: Chiang Kai-shek wins the Chinese Civil War, leaving China a staunchly anticommunist power.

      With the USSR so thoroughly encircled, does the Cold War even happen in a recognizable form? If not, does the End of History come early, or does some other major tension happen instead?

      My off-the-cuff guess is that capitalism vs. socialism happens as an intra-West conflict without an external threat to galvanize anticommunist feeling.

      • I read a book arguing that the usual picture of China between the end of the Manchu dynasty and Mao’s victory is badly distorted, largely due to the propaganda of the winners, that it was a reasonably functional society prior to the Japanese invasion.

        If so, perhaps Chiang’s victory results in the sort of economic growth that followed Mao’s death in our time line with the result that, by now, China is the world’s largest economy, with standards of living comparable to those in the present developed world.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You reminded me of the diff I would want: Zhang He is allowed to continue his explorations, and sails along the Bering Straight to discover the Americas first. You probably only need to kill off a few people to make this happen.

          • cassander says:

            I’m not sure that Zeng He finding america changes much, especially if he’s going that route. There’s not much worth having up there. The most you could hope for is bringing western diseases to the americas several decades earlier than you would otherwise, but I think it’s unlikely to have any more long range impact than the viking settlements in north america.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I read a book arguing that the usual picture of China between the end of the Manchu dynasty and Mao’s victory is badly distorted, largely due to the propaganda of the winners, that it was a reasonably functional society prior to the Japanese invasion.

          Interesting, I concluded approximately the same based on a wikipedia binge regarding that era.

          Chiang’s victory results in the sort of economic growth that followed Mao’s death in our time line with the result that, by now, China is the world’s largest economy

          Okay, obviously that’s the big tension of the late twentieth century then: the rise of China as world superpower.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Could we nip the whole thing in the bud by just preventing Marx from being born, or do people think something like Communism would have arisen and afflicted the world anyway?

        • mendax says:

          At the very least you’d have to get Engels too.

        • Plumber says:

          @Jaskologist,

          I imagine that you’d have to stop François-Noël Babeuf in 1796 to keep those ideas from germination, though the whole French Revolution would likely need to be prevented, which might require the American Revolution to be prevented so as not to inspire the French Revolutionists, but in my (rather limited) understanding of Marxist thought Marxism would have developed anyway because “material condition create ideology”, or something like that.

          I suppose without Marx you’d still get similar movenents; maybe with a more anarchist slant like the Wobblies, but who knows?

          My own guess to stop the charnel house of the extended Russian Civil War, and the Second World War would be to stop Lenin’s train ride from Germany into Kerensky’s Russia.

          I suppose what would interest me is if the Bolsheviks failed in Russia, but thr November 1918 attempted revolution in Germany succeeded, how may history have changed?

          Teddy Roosevelt winning a third term would be interesting, as would Wallace instead of Truman becoming U.S. President.

          An India ruled by the French instead of the British could be interesting, as would Harold Godwinson losing to Harald Hardrada instead of William the Bastard in 1066.

        • Protagoras says:

          There were socialist factions in the English civil war, and you could probably find them earlier if you really looked. Marx was almost certainly right that socialism becoming more trendy in the 19th century was the result of conditions making the idea more attractive rather than any particular thinkers introducing it; the ideas just aren’t that obscure.

          • Plumber says:

            @Protagoras

            “There were socialist factions in the English civil war…”

             “The law locks up the man or woman

            Who steals the goose from off the common
            But leaves the greater villain loose
            Who steals the common from off the goose.

            The law demands that we alone
            When we take things we do not own
            But leaves the lords and ladies fine
            Who take things that are yours and mine.

            The poor and wretched don’t escape
            If they conspire the law to break;
            This must be so but they endure
            Those who conspire to make the law.

            The law locks up the man or woman
            Who steals the goose from off the common
            And geese will still a common lack
            Till they go and steal it back”

            -17th century English folk ballad

    • Alexander the Great not dying young.

      • Nick says:

        That provisioning-of-Alexander’s-army book you’ve mentioned a few times here could be a multivolume epic!

    • With the caveat that I would never change the past because of unforeseen consequences, I’d be interested in seeing how events played out differently if:

      The Persians managed to capture and hold the Greek city-states
      Muhammad has never been born
      Jesus has never been born
      Hannibal met up with his brother and defeated the Romans
      Alexander the Great fought the Indians
      Alexander didn’t die in Babylon and lived to old age
      One of his successors managed to permanently hold the entire empire
      The Roman Empire wasn’t split
      William the Conquerer never invaded England
      Genghis Khan never gained prominence
      The Song Dynasty in China surviving the Mongol invasion

      • cakoluchiam says:

        On the Jesus note, rather than not being born, what if instead he never was executed? Was the fanaticism a direct result of the crucifixion, or, had he simply been imprisoned for life, were the disciples fanatical enough that they would have found a comparable myth to substitute for the resurrection?

        • Deiseach says:

          On the Jesus note, rather than not being born, what if instead he never was executed?

          The book you want there is The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis, made into a film in 1988.

      • Protagoras says:

        I like the no Genghis Khan option. The Tang and Song were far ahead of the rest of the world, and the timing makes me suspect that the periods under foreign conquerors might be the reason China fell behind subsequently. It would be interesting to see how much better they would have done had the Song continued longer, and/or been replaced by another home-grown dynasty.

      • AG says:

        More interesting than Khan or the Song, is if the Han didn’t have Qin Shi Huang to pirate-and-perfect his policies or unified empire from.

        • I’m not so sure. The Chinese states had been fighting each other for conquest for hundreds of years, so unification was probably inevitable. And the Qin had been on the upswing for a while too so that was probably going to happen as well. The Qin also didn’t last past its first emperor, so I’m not sure exactly how influential it was. Maybe in another scenario, someone else unified China and it was less legalistic or something, but I can’t imagine that Chinese history would be dramatically different.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Chinese states had been fighting each other for conquest for hundreds of years, so unification was probably inevitable.

            Doesn’t the hundreds of years of attempted conquest constitute evidence that unification was quite evitable and in fact a low-probability once-in-a-millenium event?

          • AG says:

            Yes, Qin didn’t last long, but the key thing is that Han still ran with the things Qin started, and enabled the longevity of those things by integrating them into the bureaucracy system. And basically all of the dynasties after that just kept replicating the Han system more-or-less after they got in power.

            What happens when the Han don’t have all of the ground-laying that Qin did first? Are some of those policies really that inevitable, and does the bureaucracy exist as it does if Han has to do their own ground laying first, or do the variations make a strong difference in the longevity of the system? How easy is it for the construction of a particular political system to get derailed by an ego?

            (What if Washington didn’t step down after 2 terms? What if he had stepped down after 1? What if he accepted the mantle of king? And that doesn’t have millenia of history happening afterwards.)

          • @John

            It was hundreds of years of consolidation, not of stalemate. If it was just a one-off, then the Han would have quickly dissipated and unification would have been rare afterwards, like in India. And if it wasn’t the Qin, then it probably would have been the Chu or even one of the others. And central China had been under the nominal rule of one leader for the better part of a millennium, so it’s not like it was a new concept to them. The Qin were just more centralized.

            @AG

            I don’t know a lot about the Chinese bureaucracy so you could be right. But my impression is that Qin ideology was Legalism, which was a practical necessity because Daosim and Confucianism were no use to heads of state. So somebody would have used something like that in the first place.

            And then there’s the question how important those specific Qin/Han institutions were to the entire trajectory of Chinese history. Maybe without the Han system, something gets lost in the midst and you get no imperial examination system but I don’t think that was reliant on those Han systems. Like I said, I don’t know enough to say anything with certainty so you could certainly be right.

          • John Schilling says:

            It was hundreds of years of consolidation, not of stalemate.

            The Seven Warring States seem to have existed as, well, seven separate warring states from 475 BC to 230 BC, after which they were reduced to One Victorious State in 231 BC. Maps of China during most of that period show fluid borders and shifting alliances rather than stalemate, but roughly the same level of fragmentation towards the end as at the beginning. So I’m really only seeing a couple decades of consolidation, during the reign of a single Qin king/emperor.

          • @John

            I’m assuming you meant to say that unification happened in 221. In 231, the conquests of the six other states hadn’t happened yet.

            At the beginning of the Spring and Autumn period in 771, there were a hundred kingdoms.

            When the Warring States period began in the mid fifth century, there were twenty.

            At the start of Qin Shi Huangs reign in 246, there were seven. Also, right before his reign, the Zhou kingdom was taken which was symbolically important because it helped him convince people he had the Mandate of Heaven.

            The Qin had the advantage all the way back with the legalist reforms conducted under Duke Xiao in the mid fourth century and it was pretty clear all the way back then that they were the power to beat. Even before Qin Shi Huang took power, the other states were severely weakened.

    • It was probably for the best for the Roman Empire that Julius Caesar died. Augustus is generally considered the best emperor and set the stage for its continuation for 500 years in the West and 1500 years in the East. That’s damn impressive from a historical perspective.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Austrian victory in the Austro-Prussian War. It may be too big to count as “one thing,” because Prussia was really just in a much stronger position and I doubt that any single thing could have changed the result.

      If Austria had won, German unification would have taken the form of Großdeutchland rather than the Kleindeutschland we got in our timeline, and the German capitol would almost certainly have been Vienna instead of Berlin. The Hapsburgs would still rule in Hungary but I’m not sure if it would have taken the form of a Germano-Hungarian dual monarchy.

      The Franco-Prussian War would likely have still happened as a Franco-German War, and while I suspect Germany would still have won eventually it would be as a result of their sheer size rather than Austrian military efficiency. Maybe a more drawn-out conflict would shock Germany into reforming the Imperial-Royal Landwehr and Honvéd along Prussian lines (Prussia would still be an independent German state at that time) but that’s unclear. More importantly, a slower victory may also have given Germany a worse post-war bargaining position preventing them from imposing humiliating reparations on France or demanding Alsace-Lorraine, either of which would greatly improved Franco-German relations leading up to the first world war.

      Culturally, Vienna was a much more liberal city and Austria a much less militaristic state than Berlin and Prussia were. The effect of shifting the center of the empire south may have greatly changed how German culture developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s not clear whether this would have been a change for the better but a more cosmopolitan Kaffeehaus culture would certainly have been very different.

      While I’m not sure that any of those would have helped Germany avoid or win the first world war, it would have been very interesting.

      • cassander says:

        If Austria had won, German unification would have taken the form of Großdeutchland rather than the Kleindeutschland we got in our timeline,

        I don’t think this is very likely. Even a defeated prussia would still be a strong state, and would not have been in favor of unification under Austria. There were powerful forces in Austria that were against unification, and it never would have been pursued with the vigor that it was in prussia under bismarck. I have a hard time seeing much more than a return to the german confederation, at least immediately. How those nationalist energies work out in the long run is more questionable.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I have to question some assumptions here. Austro-Prussian War 1866 was decided in one closely fought battle, it could very easily go the other way. Emperor Franz Joseph didn´t wanted to unify Germany, he wanted basically status quo. Austro-Hungarian constitution of 1867 would not have happened without Austrian defeat, in fact I think it is likely that emperor would use his victory to scrap previous, less liberal constitution of 1861, and return to absolutist rule.

        I do not think that would be the end of German nationalist movement, however it would be more anti-Habsburg movement from that moment on. Perhaps it would end with something like German Revolution, similar to French and Russian revolutions.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Henry VIII conquers England and thus is able to complete his plan to bring it into the Orthodox Church.

    • John Schilling says:

      Out of curiosity, I’d like to see what happens if William II of Sicily marries a fertile Byzantine princess at an early age, as originally planned, rather than a barren English one later in life. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily was a uniquely successful multiethnic state of the European High Middle Ages, and well positioned to achieve both geopolitical power and economic prosperity on that basis – Palermo was arguably(*) the richest city in Europe in the 12th century. Historically, that ended when William died childless and was succeeded by an aunt who had already married into the Holy Roman Empire. Given a male Norman successor, and particularly one with marital ties to the Byzantine Empire, and that experiment could have lasted a while longer.

      As an added bonus, a Sicilian-Byzantine alliance might have prevented the fall of the Crusader States, the other somewhat successful multiethnic state of that era. Though for best results along those lines, we might want to roll it back a bit earlier and have Bohemond de Hauteville decide that Antioch should be a protectorate under the Sicilian kingdom rather than demanding full sovereignty that his heirs couldn’t defend.

      But those would seriously endanger the single most important event in the history of the universe, i.e. my own birth, so I’m going to wimp out and have the Apollo Program go with Earth Orbit Rendezvous over Lunar Orbit Rendezvous. There’s still a chance that the ripple effects from that one might interfere with my conception, but if not I get to grow up in a world with assembly-line production of the Saturn I and a logistics base in Low Earth Orbit. Whether or not that means the Russians get to the Moon first is of little consequence compared to having the infrastructure to go beyond just a few flags and footprints.

      * Depending mostly on whether we count Constantinople as fully European.

      • cassander says:

        There were a few sicilian normans who almost managed to put themselves on the byzantine throne at some point or another, any one of them making it would have made for a very interesting shift.

        • John Schilling says:

          I managed to put a (Catholic) Sicilian Norman on the Byzantine throne in a Crusader Kings II campaign, but it took roughly Cersei Lannister levels of scheming and political violence to arrange, and a bloody civil war to arrange a second Norman emperor after the (not Catholic) Byzantine nobility and bureaucracy expressed their displeasure with the first. Plus a generation or two of instability due to the dubious legitimacy of the new regime.

          This is probably about what we’d see if such a thing had been tried in reality. A strong alliance is probably a more workable proposition if you’re looking to make the world a better place in the long run.

    • Chalid says:

      The thing I’d be most curious about is the extent to which history is inevitable. So I’d have a butterfly flap its wing one extra time on Jan 1, 1900. I think history would be noticeably different by 1920, certainly by 1950.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Easy. Temujin’s brother Begter turns the tables and kills him during the hunting expedition.

    • BBA says:

      Columbus’s crew mutinies and the ships turn back to Spain a day before they’d have seen land.

    • Auric Ulvin says:

      Crushing Athenian victory in the Peloponnesian war, including the successful conquest of Sicily. While I think they’d eventually throw it all away on one folly or another, there might be a timeline where they unite Greece instead of Macedon and take down Persia. We might get more Greek philosophy and science, potentially even leading to an early industrial revolution if the stars aligned.

    • ana53294 says:

      Tsar Alexander II is not assassinated in 1882. Russia becomes a constitutional parliamentary monarchy. Hopefully he lives long enough after that so his successor cannot change the system because it has become stable enough.

      Russia begins the 20th century as a democracy, and Bolsheviks are crushed in the elections.

    • S_J says:

      Over the past year or so, I’ve been reading Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

      There are several places where one person living (or dying) would radically change who wears the Crown…but I’m not sure how influential such a change would be to English history. And I don’t think I can say which one I would like more.

      Among those who died childless, or whose untimely death interrupted sucession:
      Edward the Black Prince: probably not a big change in history, if he and his son Richard II faced the same internal problems in English politics.
      Richard II : possibly a moderate change in history, if this derails the Wars of the Roses a century later.
      Edward of Westminster (son of Henry VI) : since he died in the Wars of the Roses while his father was still alive, this might have a change in the line of succession…but likely not a big change in history. The Wars of the Roses would continue, and he may not have succeeded to the throne after his father’s death. If he did take the throne, the big wild-card is whether Edward IV would still contest the throne with Edward of Westminster. Big impact on history if this change in succession doesn’t lead to the Henry VIII and his break with the Catholic church. No guarantee that some other political/social problem would lead to a similar break, though.
      Edward, one of the Princes in the Tower: if he had survived, and his uncle Richard had not found a way to depose him and take the throne, the path of the Wars of the Roses might change. Probably same outcomes as Edward of Westminster above.

      Special case, if a person died slightly younger:
      Arthur (son of Henry VII): he died a teen, some few weeks after a formal wedding ceremony with Catherine of Aragon. If he died before the ceremony happened, it might have reduced the pool of potential legal problems when his younger brother Henry VIII married Catherine.

      Back to the original thought: if Arthur survived to adulthood, it is quite possible that the troubles of Henry VIII would not turn into the creation of the Anglican church. Unsure if this would remove the dynastic union of the thrones of of England and Scotland when Henry VIII’s grandson James rose to the throne of England. Also unsure if something else would lead to a break with the Catholic church…this was the era of the Reformation, after all. (It would also provide popular history with a funny side-note, since Arthur was named after the legendary King Arthur….would he be referred to as Arthur I, or Arthur II?)

      Along a similar vein: perhaps if one of these Kings/Queens had a legitimate child survive to adulthood.
      Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon: three sons a daughter, many still-born and one not surviving past two months. If any of these survived to adulthood, Henry might not have been tempted to divorce/re-marry.
      Charles II and Catherine of Braganza: several miscarriages/stillbirths. If any of these children survived to adulthood, the legal problems of a Catholic monarch named James II-and-VII would likely be avoided. However, Charles was Catholic-friendly, and some of his children might be raised Catholic…not really avoiding those troubles. Also, this might have reduced or avoided the great migration of Puritans to New England.
      William and Mary: never had children. Any child of theirs would have reduced the odds of Parliament declaring that a Catholic could never sit on the throne.
      Anne: many still-born children. Any that might have survived to adulthood would have had similar results to William and Mary.

      Outside of the royal family: what would have happened if Oliver Cromwell had died as a child? If Cromwell did not exist to lead the New Model Army to victory, would Charles I have been executed? Would the Cavalier migration to Virginia have happened in the same way?

      Another such item: what if George Washington had died of dysentery while on the march in 1755?

      Either of these last two items might make the history of the United States unrecognizable.

      • achenx says:

        The English regnal numbers begin with the Norman conquest. Regardless of the historicity of King Arthur, Arthur Tudor would have been “Arthur I”.

        In history, this has only affected the name Edward — Edward I “Longshanks” was the third king Edward if you go back to the Anglo-Saxons. As the current Prince William did not take my advice to name his son Æthelred, this appears as if it will continue to be the case.

        • Evan Þ says:

          To nitpick a bit, the current official policy, stated in Parliament by Winston Churchill, is to use the higher number of the English (since the Conquest) and Scottish monarchs. There was one Elizabeth of England and none of Scotland, so the current one is Elizabeth II. There were two James of England and seven of Scotland, so another James would be James VIII – though that situation’s never actually happened since the Act of Union 1707.

      • Go back farther. William Marshall dies before John does, and the Dauphin ends up as king of England with the support of the rebel barons.

        • S_J says:

          I had forgotten that one! The Dauphin, later to ascend to the French throne as Louis VIII, attempts to gain the Throne of both England.

          How much of the history of those two nations would change if William Marshall dies before John dies, and passes the throne to Henry III? At a first glance, it might abort most of the Anglo-French wars afterwards.

          But running two Kingdoms on opposite sides of the English Channel might be very hard. (Two centuries before, Canute had ruled over an empire that included much of England, Denmark, and Norway. That empire did not survive long. Also, see the long troubles that the Angevin kings of England had in owning/protecting their French properties, during the ensuing Anglo-French wars.)

          Another tangent: doing a little research to remind myself, I also re-discovered Arthur, Duke of Brittany (child of a deceased brother of Richard/John, and potential rival claimant to the throne after the death of Richard I).

          Somewhat like the later events with the Princes in the Tower: Arthur disappeared from the historical record after imprisonment as a teen…while John, his uncle, ruled as King.

          I classify this with the death of Edward, the Black Prince: I’m not sure whether this would be a minor interruption in the history of England. The social and political tensions that led to the troubles between John and the Barons would still be in place. But it’s hard to know what else would be different, with a different man (and descendants) on the throne.

    • b_jonas says:

      Does it have to be high history, things that get into the history books centuries from now? Or can I just undo the death of someone close to me? Assuming the former, I’ll choose that no nuclear bombs get exploded in cities in Japan in the world war. Instead Japan capitulates after the U.S. demonstrates their ability to deliver nukes to Japan: elsewhere in this thread John Schilling just brought up why that’s possible “https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/05/26/open-thread-128-5/#comment-756210” .

      • bean says:

        Except, for Imperial Japan, it wasn’t. This was a group that, even after Hiroshima, was still insisting on self-disarmament, no occupation, and Japanese control of the war crimes trials. The Allies rightly saw this as a prelude to another war in 20 years. (Anyone who says they were ready to throw in the towel and it was the mean Americans who insisted on dropping the bombs to scare the Soviets is simply wrong.) The Japanese even tried to insist that Hiroshima was a trick until the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, and even with that, it was only the unprecedented personal intervention of the Emperor that got them to actually accept the terms of surrender. Nuking an unoccupied island or something wouldn’t have been enough.

        • b_jonas says:

          So you’re saying that not dropping the nuclear bombs would have prolonged the war in Japan so much that it would have more victims and suffering than the bombs themselves? (Yes, I did suggest that Japan was close to throwing in the towel, but not the rest.)

          • greenwoodjw says:

            So you’re saying that not dropping the nuclear bombs would have prolonged the war in Japan so much that it would have more victims and suffering than the bombs themselves?

            That is, in fact, the general consensus.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Japanese were killing about a Hiroshima’s worth of people every three weeks in China in 1945, so even discounting starvation and conventional bombing in Japan itself it doesn’t take much of a prolongation to kill more innocent people than the two atomic bombs did.

          • bean says:

            So you’re saying that not dropping the nuclear bombs would have prolonged the war in Japan so much that it would have more victims and suffering than the bombs themselves?

            Very much so. As John points out, they were killing a lot of people in China, and I have little sympathy with a moral calculus which weights the people who perpetrated the atrocities the Japanese did as highly as the victims of those atrocities. (The level of cruelty they displayed in the occupied areas is almost unbelievable.)

            Yes, I did suggest that Japan was close to throwing in the towel, but not the rest.

            Sorry. Wasn’t accusing you specifically, it’s just a common claim among those who apparently consider death by atom bomb to be much worse than being slowly tortured to death for the amusement of Japanese soldiers.

        • baconbits9 says:

          This was a group that,

          How large, and influential was it, and was this group growing in strength as the war went on or decreasing?

          • cassander says:

            large and influential enough to launch a decent coup to prevent the surrender AFTER the nagasaki bomb.

          • bean says:

            How large, and influential was it

            Most of the military, for starters. I think that counts as “large and influential”.

  16. bean says:

    Are speaking tubes common on playgrounds outside of the US? I promise there is a reason for this question, and it’s not just random curiosity.

    • Aqua says:

      Yes in Canada

    • Aapje says:

      I can’t remember ever having seen them in The Netherlands, but Google suggests that they are sold by one supplier and installed on some playgrounds.

      Also, what a shitty choice to put on a playground. Probably even worse than a seesaw chicken as we call it (‘spring rider’ in English, apparently).

      • ManyCookies says:

        What!? 6 year old me thought the speaking tube was the coolest, and was pretty bummed when we moved away from the playground that had one.

        • Aapje says:

          They seem like 5 minutes of fun to me and not good at allowing creative play in the long term.

          • acymetric says:

            It allows for plenty of creative play, you just have to use your imagination 😉

          • cakoluchiam says:

            It’s probably a lot less fun in the age of cell phones and iPads than it was back when kids would DIE for a pair of walkie-talkies.

        • acymetric says:

          I’ll second this.

        • smocc says:

          The one at your playground worked? It seems like every playground around here has one, but none of them work. At least part of the time this seems to be due to kids sticking mulch and stuff down the holes, but I also suspect that whoever installed them doesn’t care and they have never worked.

          • cakoluchiam says:

            I was lucky enough to be in school the year our playground got renovated and can attest that there is a huge difference between year one and year two. The people who install the playgrounds care. The people who maintain them often don’t.

    • Lambert says:

      Not especially common in the UK, but I’ve seen them around.

      A post on intra-ship communications is in the works, I presume?

    • zoozoc says:

      Here in Oregon, there are quite a few playgrounds with speaking tubes. However, I have yet to find one playground where it actually works. Even as a kid, they never worked.

    • b_jonas says:

      I don’t think I’ve seen any here.

      As for toys that are present in our playgrounds but mostly not working, it’s the traffic lights in the traffic park. The city park has this place “https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VarosligetiKRESZPark2.jpg” with a network of asphalt-covered roads, too think for real cars but imitating them for children to play. Children can roam around in them on bikes, tricycles, or walk on the sidewalk next to them. There are traffic signs next to them, making this supposedly an educational toy that teaches the young ones how driving a car works.

      There are traffic lights in this arrangement too, but they’re fixed only once per decade and then destroyed by vandals in a year or two. They have been fixed last year, and were still working last I’ve seen them. But all throughout my childhood, I was used to the lights being broken. The renovations of the traffic lights (and the park in general) are sponsored by some insurance company, but as this sponsorship is announced on aluminum signs, the signs disappear even more quickly than the traffic lights get destroyed.

  17. Machine Interface says:

    When reading about the history of illuminated manuscripts in the west, there’s an oft repeated claim that the art died out in the 15th century, with the invention of the printing press, before being rediscovered only 4 centuries later in the 19th century.

    But in fact, it appears that at least some places were able to maintain professional illumination workshops and continue to commission high quality decorated manuscripts well after the traditional cut-off date, witness this amazing, fully handwritten hour book delivered to Louis XIV of France in 1693, a full scan of which can be seen here: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b52510074b/f7.image

  18. Atlas says:

    Two somewhat immodest proposals:

    1) The United States and its allies should stop trying to prevent Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, if they so desire. The primary motive for acquiring such weapons is deterrence against attack; it is unclear, given the historical record, how the offensive capabilities of either state would be enhanced by possession of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, such hypothetical capabilities would be wholly nullified by threatened states like South Korea developing their own nuclear arsenals. A nuclear balance of power would lead to to greater regional stability. (For relevant arguments at greater length, see the articles I linked in my comment below replying to Jeremiah’s post.)

    2) The United States should unilaterally lift its current economic sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea, and furthermore eschew the use of economic sanctions as a tool of coercive statecraft, in light of their dismal record of efficacy. Virtually every time that the US has imposed sanctions on one of its official enemies, the stated goals of the sanctions—typically a change in a regime’s behavior or the overthrow of the regime—have not been accomplished. Considering that sanctions often inflict non-trivial privation on the general population of a target country, in light of their extremely poor empirical record of success it is not wise or just to employ them as a tool of diplomacy. (There was a good discussion of sanctions in a thread several months ago.)

    (Somewhat tentative and tongue in cheek, but mostly serious.)

    • WarOnReasons says:

      Suppose a few years from now Iran has nuclear missiles and some of them are located on the submarines cruising close to D.C. and L.A. One day it sends its troops to the neighboring Bahrain to liberate its people from its king an reunite the island with the historic Persian homeland.

      What should the US do in such a scenario?

      The United States should unilaterally lift its current economic sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Iran, Russia and North Korea

      Do you think that the sanctions on the South Africa has also been wrong?

      • Atlas says:

        Suppose a few years from now Iran has nuclear missiles and some of them are located on the submarines cruising close to D.C. and L.A. One day it sends its troops to the neighboring Bahrain to liberate its people from its king an reunite the island with the historic Persian homeland.

        What should the US do in such a scenario?

        Criticize the illegal use of force, but shrug its shoulders because it’s not a big deal and not our problem? That’s basically how I feel about the Russian seizure of Crimea, anyway.

        As to the relevance of the scenario, I doubt that Iran would want to invade Bahrain even if it was guaranteed that it could do so with impunity and I doubt that, even with a nuclear deterrent, Iran would view the potential risks of initiating a regional conflict in the Persian Gulf as acceptable. Also, as I mentioned in the OP, if other states felt threatened by Iran/NK, they should be free to develop their own nuclear deterrents.

        A more relevant hypothetical scenario might be an illegal US-led war of aggression against Iran, which, while I think unlikely to occur, certainly has some historical precedent. An Iranian nuclear arsenal would deter such an attack, which I think would ultimately be a good thing for all parties.

        Do you think that the sanctions on the South Africa has also been wrong?

        Yes.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          shrug its shoulders because it’s not a big deal and not our problem

          Suppose that emboldened by the U.S. lack of response Iran proceeds to annexing UAE and KSA? Would that be no big deal either?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Proxy war is ok. US fought with nuclear-capable Russia over Vietnam and Korea.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            But the Soviet Union and the USA engaged in serious brinksmanship, and almost engaged in nuclear war many times.

          • salvorhardin says:

            An Iranian annexation of KSA would arguably be a big win for human rights, especially women’s rights.

        • albatross11 says:

          One reason this might not work well is that Iran with nukes encourages countries that feel threatened by Iran to also get nukes. We live in a world where 30+ countries could have nukes if they decided they needed them. That world is one in which it’s *much* more likely for an accidental or intentional nuclear exchange to happen, or for some jackass to hand over/sell a nuke or two to a terrorist group. Iran with nukes probably leads, within a few years, to Saudi Arabia with nukes.

          I’m not at all a fan of most of our interventionist foreign policy, but if there’s a way to avoid having everyone with the resources to have a serious air force from having a half dozen fission bombs ready to drop on their enemies, we probably want to pursue that.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Wikipedia says Iran has 3 submarines that patrol the Persian Gulf. How would Iran come to have submarines close to DC and LA? Unless I’ve missed something, the US Navy can prevent that sort of thing. If Iran had a developed nuclear program it would likely look like India or Pakistan’s (adjusting numbers for economic and population size differences) and would be intended as a deterrent against local opponents and local action by the US. Iranian nukes might be bad for the US and bad for the world overall, but it’s not because they’re going to hit the US capital.

        • bean says:

          On one hand, you’re right on the object level of this. Iran’s submarine force is not well-suited to threaten the US mainland, and any attempt to do so would probably have an unmanned vehicle following it around and pinging constantly, and several manned vehicles nearby that are ready to take it out.

          On the other hand, what’s to stop Iran from buying ballistic missiles from North Korea, which can threaten the US just as effectively?

          • dndnrsn says:

            If North Korea develops the ability to pose a threat in real-world conditions to the US, what stops anyone from buying stuff from them? If North Korea getting the ability to drop something serious on the continental US means every enemy potentially does, that’s more about North Korea than anyone else.

          • Nornagest says:

            If North Korea develops the ability to pose a threat in real-world conditions to the US…

            They already have. North Korea demonstrated the ability to threaten Washington in late 2017, and estimates were, last I checked, that they likely had about thirty warheads operational. That was months ago so the true number’s probably higher.

            The test splashed down in the Sea of Japan, but that doesn’t matter; we can tell from its flight path that it would have had the juice to get to the East Coast. Anyone who’s played Kerbal Space Program knows how. On the other hand, some observers think the RV didn’t survive reentry, but that’s not something I’d bet the farm on.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            I’m hanging a lot on “real-world conditions” – I’m no expert, but I’m assuming that there’s more to it?

          • John Schilling says:

            The North Koreans almost certainly cut their ICBM test program short in early 2018, to take advantage of the diplomatic opportunity afforded by the joint Olympic games. So the reliability and accuracy of their long-range missiles is probably not as high as they would like it to be.

            But they’ve done their test firings under more or less realistic operational conditions, e.g. from mobile launchers in the field, and they’ve achieved at least as good a track record in their tests as has our own missile defense system.

            There are people who will persist in claiming that North Korea is not a threat to the United States until they actually launch a missile with a live nuclear warhead to a range of 8000+ kilometers. This is bogus; the United States has never launched a missile with a live nuclear warhead capable of reaching Russia from the United States. Missiles and warheads are best tested separately; North Korea has done this.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          The USSR had nuclear submarines patrolling the US coasts since ~1960 and the US Navy apparently could not prevent it. Would it be really much harder for Iran to acquire/build submarines capable of carrying nuclear missiles than to build the missiles themselves?

          not because they’re going to hit the US capital

          They do not have to hit the US capital. They only need to be capable of doing that. With such a deterrent they could reasonably hope to invade neighboring countries like KSA (sort of like Russia invaded Ukraine and Georgia) without the US retaliating in any non-symbolic way.

          • bean says:

            The USSR had nuclear submarines patrolling the US coasts since ~1960 and the US Navy apparently could not prevent it. Would it be really much harder for Iran to acquire/build submarines capable of carrying nuclear missiles than to build the missiles themselves?

            Yes. You’d need a nuclear submarine to do this job right. Any non-nuke boat is going to have to snorkel, which is loud. (Yes, even AIP doesn’t have the range for this.) The US is working on unmanned vehicles to trail submarines, so any datum is likely to be preserved, which means that if it’s close to the US coast, it dies if it tries to launch a missile. (Note also that most Soviet SSBNs were trailed by US SSNs while on patrol in the Atlantic.) And nuclear submarines are incredibly expensive. Polaris (the US program) killed off a bunch of other programs. Iran almost certainly wouldn’t spend the money on it.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            nuclear submarines are incredibly expensive

            Arihant-class submarine costs about US$580 million. That’s a lot less than the total cost of the Iranian nuclear program.

          • bean says:

            Military cost accounting is tricky, and that number strikes me as the lowest figure that can be said with a straight face, or possibly lower than that. Note the first paragraph of the relevant wiki article. There was a $13 billion program for development work to support the SSBNs, even if they only have a marginal cost of $580 million each. Both of these numbers strike me as very low. Iran could save some of the development by buying from India, but they’d need a bunch of investment themselves. I don’t have a good number on this to hand, but I’d be surprised if India could sell one for less than a billion, and you’d probably need a couple billion to support the fleet. (And you want a fleet. One SSBN is pointless, because the US will go to high alert when you send it to sea.)

            Edit: And even this probably gets you an SSBN so noisy that Cinclant is going to send you a bill for broken sonar systems after the first patrol. Add a lot more billions to make it quiet enough to actually hide.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The USSR was a considerably more formidable power than Iran is, and had better ports if you want to get near the US. The ability to buy a submarine is not the same thing as the ability to put it somewhere safely and preferably undetected. How large is their arsenal going to be, anyway?

          • albatross11 says:

            Has anyone ever tried missile submarines in an inland sea or large lake, where the other side can’t get any attack subs or anything? Imagine if the great lakes never froze–could we put a noisy diesel missile-launching sub in Lake Michigan?

          • bean says:

            @albatross11

            That would violate a bunch of treaties with Canada. Lake Michigan would take dozens to maybe 300 warheads to saturate effectively, so it’s not the worst idea ever, although it’s probably not actually worth it compared to actual SSBNs.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @bean
            @dndnrsn

            One SSBN is pointless

            ability to buy a submarine is not the same thing as the ability to put it somewhere safely and preferably undetected

            Iran does not need a foolproof option to bomb the US cities or even an option with more than 50% chance of success. All it needs is something that seems a plausible threat to the US public. Without such an option any Iranian invasion of its neighbors in the Gulf is likely to provoke a forceful response from the US military (as in 1991). With such an option this would turn into “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

            I’d be surprised if India could sell one for less than a billion, and you’d probably need a couple billion to support the fleet.

            A successful invasion of the UAE could give Iran an extra revenue of ~ $300 billion per year.

          • S_J says:

            Has anyone ever tried missile submarines in an inland sea or large lake, where the other side can’t get any attack subs or anything? Imagine if the great lakes never froze–could we put a noisy diesel missile-launching sub in Lake Michigan?

            A handful of problems:

            Problem 1: Ballistic-missile fired from subs don’t have the range of ICBMs. Inland lakes large enough to host a ballistic-missile submarine are rare, and they are rarer within striking range of enemies on another continent.

            Problem 2: if you don’t have to worry about enemy subs, why do you put the ballistic missiles on a sub of your own? This strategy isn’t much different from building a floating ballistic-missile platform…or a land-based ICBM platform.

            Problem 3: In the specific instance of Lake Michigan, there is are treaties between U.S. and Canada limiting size and number of military vessels on the Great Lakes. These treaties are based on a treaty between U.S. and U.K. in 1817, so they don’t mention submarines…but the limits on ship size likely prohibit ballistic-missile-sized submarines.

          • bean says:

            Iran does not need a foolproof option to bomb the US cities or even an option with more than 50% chance of success. All it needs is something that seems a plausible threat to the US public.

            An SSBN is not the threat they’re looking for, because it will stop being a plausible threat when it gets blown out of the water. Iran is spectacularly poorly-placed to send submarines to menace the US, and the USN has spent a lot of work on preventing people who are more technically competent form doing this kind of thing.

            A successful invasion of the UAE could give Iran an extra revenue of ~ $300 billion per year.

            Assuming they’re allowed to spend it. The UAE is tied a lot more heavily into the global community than Ukraine is/was, which makes winning the propaganda war to not get crippling sanctions a lot harder.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @WarOnReasons

            Is the maximum threat Iran could pose with submarines enough to cause Americans to knuckle under? The US would obliterate Iran in the counterstrike and would itself remain intact. Iran loses. If Iran seriously stepped on the US’ toes I don’t think that’s a very effective deterrent – I don’t think what Iran is, in some nightmare submarine scenario, capable of deploying, is enough to serve as a deterrent covering for offensive conventional action.

          • @S_J

            Because @bean somehow refrained from nitpicking:

            These treaties are based on a treaty between U.S. and U.K. in 1817, so they don’t mention submarines…but the limits on ship size likely prohibit ballistic-missile-sized submarines.

            Submarines are boats, not ships.
            😛

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @dndnrsn

            In 1983 two suicide bombers killed 300 American and French soldiers in Lebanon. The Iranians were the prime suspect behind the operation. Rather than obliterating anyone in the counterstrike the US and France simply withdrew from Lebanon. People in the West may have forgotten this incident (and many others of a similar kind) but the Iranians, who built a special monument in its honor, do remember.

          • S_J says:

            @Brendan_Richardson

            These treaties are based on a treaty between U.S. and U.K. in 1817, so they don’t mention submarines…but the limits on ship size likely prohibit ballistic-missile-sized submarines.

            Submarines are boats, not ships.

            I’m guilty of mistaking a boat for a ship…

            To clarify from my reading, the treaty in question has a rule limiting Naval presence to one vessel of 100 tons, with one cannon.

            Odd trivia: In the 1940s, the U.S. Navy ran an aircraft-carrier-pilot-training program on Lake Michigan, using a converted paddle-wheel steamer. I can’t tell if this was impacted by the treaty or not.

            Per Wiki: sometime after 2001, more than one Coast Guard cutters was armed with .50-cal machine guns on turrets. This did lead to negotiations over whether or not the treaty applied to Coast Guard vessels, equipped for law-enforcement purposes.

          • bean says:

            In the 1940s, the U.S. Navy ran an aircraft-carrier-pilot-training program on Lake Michigan, using a converted paddle-wheel steamer. I can’t tell if this was impacted by the treaty or not.

            There were two carriers, Sable and Wolverine. And yes, they did have to get approval from Canada before they were built, much as any warships built on the Great Lakes have been approved since then. (Notable examples include a bunch of submarines during WWII and the LCS-1 variant.) It’s not that we couldn’t negotiate with Canada to have SSBs running around the Great Lakes. It’s just that we’d have to convince them to let us, and that’s a lot easier when it’s either (a) “We’re allies in the war against Hitler” or (b) “We’re just building this here, and we promise not to use it operationally on the Great Lakes.” Neither of which applies here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @WarOnReasons

            OK, and the US response to 9/11 was completely the opposite from pulling out.

    • Clutzy says:

      I’d suggest the largest risk of states having nukes is their clandestine deployment of them with plausible deniability.

      Some people think that there are ways of determining a suitcase nuke detonated at the top of the Empire State building was a NK/Iran/Russian/Chinese/etc nuke, but I am more skeptical of their certainty. This is probably a bigger opportunity for CN/Russia thank the smaller states, because they have more to gain, plus more international credibility to deny it was them.

      Currently, most states rely on the US/European passivity to get things done. This does not mean I am a hawk, I think most hawks are only a few neurons from being useful idiots and like to chase the various butterflies China and Russia intentionally release (mostly in the mid east). And maybe sleeping giants exist, or maybe these countries are just geriatric cows. Its hard to tell the difference right now. But that is a clarifying moment I don’t want people to want to test.

      • Atlas says:

        I’d suggest the largest risk of states having nukes is their clandestine deployment of them with plausible deniability.

        Possibly, but I think that, when it comes to nuclear weapons, merely plausible deniability will not be enough to satisfy statesmen.

        Consider 9/11, an attack that caused less than 10,000 deaths, and its consequences. The US invaded Afghanistan within weeks—and surely planning and preparation began within days—of the attack, without waiting to definitely establish the facts of the case. (I’m not implying that the US interpretation of the facts was wrong, just that it was hasty and not definitive at the time of the invasion.) The US later invaded Iraq, despite Saddam Hussein having far better than merely plausible deniability of involvement in the attacks. And I don’t think that the US was anomalous in this regard; I think that most countries react hastily and clumsily to perceived threats.

        Thus, I think that anyone considering handing a nuclear device to terrorists to detonate in the US (or anywhere else) would have to consider that, even with plausible deniability, the attack might still invite massive retaliation from the injured party. Thus, I think that the risks would far outweigh the potential benefits for anyone considering doing this.

        • Clutzy says:

          That is likely in the current environment. As we saw with Afghanistan, the intelligence was easy to ascertain, with Iraq, it was easy to manufacture, and the risks low.

          But what would the US have done if Al Qaeda’s stronghold was in Sichuan and we had intelligence of the Iraq war certainty? Which of our Presidents would have had the resolve and the long term media support to engage? It seems the media is untrustworthy on both parts of the equation. They are quick to anger, and quick to become squishy. You’d need a President Ted Cruz who magically was as media-popular as Barack Obama for anything to work.

          And what of the states with less intestinal fortitude? Most of Europe appears in a malaise of self doubt. Perhaps that is reason for those powers to sit by and let them die, but perhaps also it emboldens them. Turkey might see opportunity to launder ISIS (or similar orgs) into Berlin and Paris for significant strikes that they would seemingly ignore.

        • Murphy says:

          You seem to be implicitly assuming that clumsy thrashing responses get directed at the correct targets.

          If you’re a state that wants to see, say, Iran and the US go to war because it would serve your interests then waiting until something sparks US-Iran tension and arranging for a terrorist group that has had known dealings with Iran to get a weapon through some clandestine channels is an option.One which turns the US itself into a weapon.

          The more small states that have nuclear weapons the harder it is to attribute things to the right party.

          On top of that, the more states have nuclear weapons the more likely some tinpot dictator falls and their stockpile ends up in the hands of complete nutters.

        • J Mann says:

          Presumably, a rogue state might share a nuke with terrorists (or just use one) as part of a “hasty and clumsy” response to some stimulus.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Thus, I think that anyone considering handing a nuclear device to terrorists to detonate in the US (or anywhere else) would have to consider that, even with plausible deniability, the attack might still invite massive retaliation from the injured party. Thus, I think that the risks would far outweigh the potential benefits for anyone considering doing this.

          Because if there’s one constant in history, it’s rational actors making well-considered decisions with the future in mind.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I´d like to point to perhaps too obvious fact that lots of things could go horribly wrong if we allow unchecked proliferation of dangerous weaponry.

    • Yair says:

      1 makes no sense to me at all. I doubt that there is a universe in which allowing a fundamentalist theocracy to have nuclear weapons is a good idea. Particularly considering that Iran threatened to use nuclear weapons against Israel repeatedly and could well use them against the Saudis too. Or give them to allied terrorist groups to use.

    • bean says:

      Furthermore, such hypothetical capabilities would be wholly nullified by threatened states like South Korea developing their own nuclear arsenals. A nuclear balance of power would lead to to greater regional stability.

      This, I question. The problem is that getting nukes is fairly easy. Using them well for deterrence is hard. The US has spent a fantastic amount of money making sure that some disaffected colonel can’t launch his bombers towards the Soviet Union because he’s afraid they’re going to sap and impurify his precious bodily fluids, or even steal a bomb and set it off somewhere else. North Korea doesn’t have those capabilities, so they’re going to have to place a lot more trust in the people in charge of the bomb, with a consequent increase in the risk of improper usage. So far, our allies have essentially outsourced the nuclear deterrence function to us, which includes a lot more than just “having nuclear weapons”. We should try to keep it that way, and even consider offering technical help to our enemies to make sure their weapons are safe. The Norks probably wouldn’t accept a gift of PALs, but it can’t hurt to ask.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t agree with your premise in point 1. The Soviet and American immediate post-war planners had no desire to repeat WWII. The existence of nuclear weapons was not required to maintain peace, at least for some time, at least for the American side. You aren’t talking massive retaliation for quite some time, through which the US successfully managed the Korean War and the Berlin Blockade, not to mention a bunch of other minor brush-fires.
      Maybe the Americans needed nuclear weapons to suitably deter the Soviets in the early Cold War, but I’m not even convinced that is true.
      Plus, you are extrapolating from a small number of samples, with serious downside risk. South Korea might decide that China is really big and they need to launch now. Or god forbid some South Korean war planner comes up with a new and innovative strategy that involves launching one nuclear missile at Beijing, just to show they are serious, because that couldn’t provoke a global nuclear war, could it?

      Regards 2, no way. Even if the sanctions don’t deter Iraq or North Korea, they demonstrate a clear cost of action to other nations that might be less wiling to become the world’s newest rogue state.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Also, the sanctions on Iran are seriously curtailing its ability to expand its influence and power. Sure, the Iranian government is still in charge, but in spite of the post-ISIS power vacuums in the Middle East, Iran has had only limited ability to fund their proxies. They are even having a tough time paying Hezbollah members.

        Something similar is true in Russia, by the way. The falling cost of oil combined with US sanctions has seriously curtailed the Russian budget. Now, Russia gets belligerent when it is in danger, but it still is having its options curtailed without the US going to war.

        You are correct that much of the economic harm falls on civilian populations. Do we have any idea how much harm they suffer from sanctions compared to, say, occupations?

    • J Mann says:

      Presumably, the more states that have nukes, the greater the chance of disaster.

      1) At a simplistic level, let’s say that every state with nuclear capability has a 0.05% chance of using nuclear weapons in a given year. Now let’s double the number of states with nuclear capability and re-check the numbers.

      2) More specifically, allowing more states, especially rogue states, to develop nuclear capability is particularly worrisome.

      2.1) Those states are more likely than most to experience non-peaceful transitions of power. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a dangerous time because it broke up into several countries, many of which had possession of nukes. If a state experienced a full Somalia style collapse or Libya style civil war, adding nukes to the war prizes makes things dangerous.

      2.2) Other governments may not have the same priorities as the US and Soviet Union. Al Qaida and the Taliban literally wanted to start a global religious war because they believed it would create positive conditions for their preferred social change. Iran is funding a proxy war against Israel. Would AQ or Iran nuke Tel Aviv or Washington DC if they got the chance. Maybe, maybe not, but having nukes certainly increases the chances.

      2.3) Having nukes increases the chances of police states surviving. North Korea already survives in part as a result of their ability to threaten South Korea, which limits the ability of other states to assist the opposition and increases NK’s ability to obtaine Danegelt. Give a police dictatorship a nuke and you may have consigned its people to decades more of oppression.

      2.4) At some point, even if the great powers keep their hands off Iran, North Korea, etc., it’s possible those governments may be in an existential war with neighboring countries or their own people. Put the government in a position where they have nothing to lose, and give them nukes, and you’ve increased the chances nukes get used.

      2.5) As you point out, if Iran and NK openly nuclearize, the neighboring states have a strong incentive to do so, e.g. Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. Once they do so, the pressure on remaining states to nuclearize increases. That increases the above risks, but as more states do so, it also increases the total number of weapon developers and materials for rogue actors to acquire.

      • Civilis says:

        2.4) At some point, even if the great powers keep their hands off Iran, North Korea, etc., it’s possible those governments may be in an existential war with neighboring countries or their own people. Put the government in a position where they have nothing to lose, and give them nukes, and you’ve increased the chances nukes get used.

        2.4.1) Even if the government doesn’t decide to use nuclear weapons to crush a rebellion, the chaos of civil war likely opens up a lot of potential disaster scenarios. For example, Libya had a fairly complicated WMD program that it chose to eliminate shortly before the country collapsed. Given that most of the country’s military hardware ended up in the hands of warlords and militias, what would have happened if it still had a stockpile?

        While the people with control of the weapons are almost certainly chosen for loyalty to the regime, what happens if the regime strongman dies with no clear successor? At the very least, the guy in charge of the weapons is going to have a major say in who replaces him. And loyalty isn’t the same as competence.

    • Robin says:

      A nice article about sanctions:
      https://harpers.org/archive/2013/09/a-very-perfect-instrument/
      Sanctions develop their inherent dynamics, and it is very difficult to get out of that.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      the stated goals of the sanctions—typically a change in a regime’s behavior or the overthrow of the regime

      Do people actually state those as the goals? Wouldn’t it be more plausible that the goal is punishment? Maybe sanctions never directly succeed; but they make threats of sanctions be credible. And when threats succeed, you don’t hear about it on the news.

      Scott once linked to a piece about the Kellogg-Briand pact outlawing war. I recently learned that the piece was an ad for the authors’ book about the transition from the old regime of international coercion based on war to the new regime of international coercion based on sanctions, which they argue works.

    • John Schilling says:

      1) The United States and its allies should stop trying to prevent Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, if they so desire.

      This probably works out OK as far as Iran and North Korea alone are concerned.

      But if we do it any time within a generation of Libya and Syria, we make it clear to every Evil Dictator on the planet that the only winning move is to play a game of Global Thermonuclear Chicken. Use a flexibly-tailored mix of tear, knockout, and nerve gas to deal with dissent at home, and nukes to keep the US and Europe from interfering. That then makes it clear to every nation next door to a potentially-expansionist Evil Dictator that they need their own nukes for deterrence, because they’re going to anticipate your parallel “criticize the illegal use of force, but shrug its shoulders because it’s not a big deal and not our problem” approach to extended deterrence.

      At that point, well, cue Tom Lehrer, and the probability of a not-fully-intentional(*) nuclear war increases geometrically. After a few such wars, and the observation that wars between nations with small nuclear arsenals and possibly modern missile defenses and not-MAD strategies are less than apocalyptic, nuclear warfighting becomes normalized. Until World Peace is declared and made to stick, we get to live with spasms of a few dozen cities being annihilated every generation or so.

      And I fear that may be where we’re headed anyway, but I’d rather not give up on the possibility of a better world quite yet.

      2) The United States should unilaterally lift its current economic sanctions on…

      …pretty much everybody, yeah. The desired ends may be good, but the means are both destructive and ineffective.

      * In the sense that World War One was not fully intentional

  19. Jeremiah says:

    Tyler Cowen recently said that nukes were the world’s #1 problem. I was reading the Iliad recently and had something of a related insight. It took over a thousand years for people to start riding horses into war as opposed to having them pull chariots. Leading me to believe that we may not have figured out the most effective way someone aggressive could to take advantage of nukes. I decided to come up with a list of all the ways in which nukes are still bad and getting worse. Here’s a summary (more detailed discussion here):

    1- There may be a scarier way to use nukes out there.
    2- Related, we don’t actually have that much experience with nukes.
    3- Recency bias causes people to underestimate the chance of war.
    4- Optimism for the future can have the odds in its favor, but the pessimistic outlook only has to be right once. (Call this the Pinker Problem.)
    5- Nukes are being made scarier (hypersonic missiles) while also easier and cheaper to build.
    6- Nukes are impossible to defend against, other than through threat of retaliation which is open to mistakes and getting harder.
    7- More countries are likely to acquire nukes in the next few decades.
    8- People have stopped worrying about nukes and are doing less to reign them in.

    Are any of these points incorrect? Are there any arguments pointing in the opposite direction which should be put on a list of “Chances of Nuclear War Getting Smaller”?

    Do you agree with Cowen or disagree?

    • Aapje says:

      Nukes were developed into tactical sizes a long time ago. However, ultimately the risk of escalation is enormous. If you use a 10 ton weapon, the opponent might retaliate with 20 or 200 ton. Then you may feel entitled to fire back a 600 ton, etc.

    • cassander says:

      (A) People riding on horses was at least as much about breeding horses large enough to ride on as it was insight.

      (B) ICBMs already go much faster than hypersonic weapons.

      (C) it’s hard to imagine that nukes are getting scarier and less of a deterrent at the same time. Not impossible, but you can’t just assert the case.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Re: (C)

        On the one hand, military technology is improving across the board, and it is natural to expect that remains true of nuclear weapons. There also has been a proliferation of nuclear nations (granted, Pakistan doesn’t have an arsenal or range adequate to annihilate major US cities, the way that Russia does). On the other hand, 1960’s and 70’s fiction and culture was gripped by fear of a nuclear holocaust [citation needed, but do you disagree?]. This does not appear to be true today.

      • Jeremiah says:

        A) Here’s what Wikipedia says about that:

        Horses in the Bronze Age were relatively small by modern standards, which led some theorists to believe the ancient horses were too small to be ridden and so must have been driven.[citation needed] Herodotus’ description of the Sigynnae, a steppe people who bred horses too small to ride but extremely efficient at drawing chariots, illustrates this stage. However, as horses remained generally smaller than modern equines well into the Middle Ages,[64] this theory is highly questionable.

        64-Gravett, Christopher (2002). English Medieval Knight 1300-1400. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-145-9.

        B) ICBMs as per the name are ballistic, they travel fast, but their trajectory is set. Hypersonic weapons maneuver like cruise missiles, but at a much greater speed.

        C) Something can be dangerous without necessarily also making people aware of that danger. The two can, and often are entirely separate.

        • cassander says:

          It’s not just size, it’s also carrying capacity. But it’s certainly possible that this theory has been contradicted by modern evidence.

      • Clutzy says:

        Isn’t this pretty well refuted by the use of Zebras in military operation, including riding Zebras by the Germans in WWI?

      • albatross11 says:

        If the weapons arrive faster and with less warning, they’re much more likely to lead to an accidental war between countries with small arsenals. I detect evidence that may be you about to wipe out my deterrent in 15 minutes, or might be error. If I don’t launch within 15 minutes and you’re disarming me, then my deterrent will go away and you’ll do whatever you want to me (having opened the war with nukes, it’s not like you’re going to be squeamish about invasion or nuclear blackmail once I’m disarmed). So I have a strong reason to launch very soon, even though there’s a chance I’ve made an error and you haven’t launched. With a short time window, there’s little time to verify what’s going on, or to talk to the other side and resolve whatever tension might exist between you, or whatever. Some 70-year-old stressed out political leader who slept through his briefings on this stuff is woken out of a dead sleep at 3AM and asked to decide what to do with five minutes left on the clock. It’s easy to see how that could go very badly for everyone.

        [ETA] I think this is one reason why missile submarines are a huge win–the same strike that takes out my land missiles can’t take out my subs, so a disarming first strike probably won’t work, which presumably factors into my thinking when there’s a potential attack coming in.

        • bean says:

          This transition happened about 60 years ago, when missiles replaced bombers as the primary delivery platform. You’re not wrong about the results, but it’s very old news at this point.

    • sfoil says:

      1- There may be a scarier way to use nukes out there.

      The nuclear status quo is arguably reliant to at least some degree on making nukes seem as scary as possible regardless of most likely or even most dangerous use cases. For instance, “Nuclear Winter” as a mechanism by which the Earth is rendered totally uninhabitable or close to it. As cassander alluded too, nukes are effective deterrents because they’re scary, so making them scarier should make them better deterrents ceteris paribus.

      5- Nukes are being made scarier (hypersonic missiles) while also easier and cheaper to build.
      6- Nukes are impossible to defend against, other than through threat of retaliation which is open to mistakes and getting harder.

      Even assuming this is true (which I don’t think it is), for most countries it’s impossible not merely to defend against but to retaliate in any meaningful way against bombing by the US Air Force. This hasn’t resulted in the end of the world.

      8- People have stopped worrying about nukes and are doing less to reign them in.

      I disagree with this. It has become less of a high profile issue to the public but the nonproliferation regime in place has done a good job of limiting the spread of a highly useful and at this point mature technology. Since the end of the Cold War, only two countries (North Korea and Pakistan) have built nukes, both I’d argue with very good reason.

      • Jeremiah says:

        As far as 6, I’m mostly referring to the many mistakes made during the cold war, where people thought that missiles had been launched, but they hadn’t been. As an example of how such mistakes could become easier, hypersonic missiles travel near the surface and thus provide less time to react, meaning decisions need to be made more quickly. Also if more countries end up with nukes it becomes more difficult to classify what an attack should be expected to look like.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Seconding that nuclear non-proliferation is working amazingly well for such a useful technology.
      In the longer term, I’d question “6: nukes are impossible to defend against.” Why would a system to shoot nukes out of the air be impossible?

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s not impossible, and in fact we can do it: more reliably for shorter-ranged missiles, where there are fairly mature ABM systems in the wild (THAAD and SM-3 for the States, Arrow for Israel), but there’s one operational system with some capability against ICBMs (GMD), and more are in the works.

        However, they’re complex, error-prone, diplomatically fraught, extremely expensive, and not very useful against peer adversaries. The basic problem is that to do midcourse interception of an ICBM, you need a missile just about as capable as an ICBM, and so just about as expensive and just about as liable to make your neighbors nervous.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          However, they’re complicated, error-prone, diplomatically complicated, extremely expensive, and not very useful against peer adversaries.

          Well, I’d expect bleeding edge tech to be complicated, error-prone, and extremely expensive. But if we can avoid a nuclear war for the next 30+ years…
          “Diplomatically complicated” and “not useful against peer adversaries” are another matter.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s a school of thought which says that ABM systems might encourage a nuclear war by way of lowering the activation energy for one. If there’s no defense against ICBMs, then if you launch yours, the (capitalist running dogs|red commies) launch theirs, and just like that you’ve handed what’s left of the world over to Lord Humongous and Immortan Joe. That’s a pretty good reason not to. But if you think your ABM systems can handle what the bad guys can throw at you, it’s a lot more tempting to throw what you’ve got at them.

            That kind of thinking probably made more sense in a world divided between the Western and Soviet blocs than it does in a world that has people like Kim Jong Un in it, though.

          • bean says:

            Well, I’d expect bleeding edge tech to be complicated, error-prone, and extremely expensive. But if we can avoid a nuclear war for the next 30+ years…

            This. I doubt the people who say “ABM will always be super-difficult”. It won’t. It’s engineering, and eventually we’ll get it working.

            @Nornagest

            That assumes perfect ABM systems, which is an idiotic assumption in the near future. What it does mean is that next time some satellite “sees” “a few missiles” by accident, it’s a lot easier for the guy at the controls to say “hold on, it’s probably nothing, and we can let the ABM system deal with it if it isn’t.” Or it keeps us from having to rebuild San Diego if Kim Jong Un gets antsy.

    • bean says:

      Nukes are being made scarier (hypersonic missiles) while also easier and cheaper to build.

      I’m not sure any aspect of this is true. First, hypersonics is the sexy new term, but it’s a new term for an old type of weapon, and one that has carried a nuclear warhead from the beginning. Second, I’m not sure the nuclear threshold is going to lower all that much in the next decade or two. Yes, there’s a lot of knowledge, and most of the countries I’m most worried about either have them or could if they decide to, but it’s not like they’re going to become easy for terrorists soon.

      As for Cowen, he’s an economist, not a nuclear strategist. While the risk of a nuclear war is nonzero, he’s eliding between “use of nuclear weapons” and “all-out nuclear war”. These are obviously not the same thing.

      And then I get to the bottom, where he writes “Meanwhile, a generation of hypersonic delivery systems, being developed by China, Russia and the U.S., will shorten the response time available to political and military leaders to minutes.”

      Uhh…..

      WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU SMOKING? HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF SOMETHING CALLED AN ICBM?

      Basically, since the mid-60s, decision-makers have had minutes. Nothing has changed there.

      • sfoil says:

        While the risk of a nuclear war is nonzero, he’s eliding between “use of nuclear weapons” and “all-out nuclear war”. These are obviously not the same thing.

        You’re right, but I’m going to push back on this a bit. A “use of nuclear weapons” that doesn’t end the world or, God forbid, allows an underdog to conduct a decisive and domestically beneficial offensive against a hated neighbor would absolutely raise the probability of, if not an all-out US-Russia nuclear exchange, more wars-involving-nuclear-weapons by demonstrating that nuclear explosives are a fun and reliable way to impose your will on people you don’t like or at least frustrate the attempts of others to do so to you.

        It’s worth pointing out that the “hypersonic delivery vehicles” being referred to will, at the absolute worst if they work as advertised, represent a return to the pre-ABM status quo at considerable monetary and probably reliability cost to the attacker.

        • bean says:

          I’m not sure this really undermines my point, because it’s going to depend heavily on how that first war plays out. Yes, if someone does use a nuke and gets away with it, the proliferation floodgates will be open. But if they don’t get away with it (the US retaliates on behalf of the victim, for instance), then the consequences might not be that bad.

          • sfoil says:

            Nonproliferation works well currently, maybe better than could be reasonably expected, so any change is likely to be worse.

      • Jeremiah says:

        I hesitate to question Bean on anything military, but when they talk about shorter response times for hypersonic missiles I think they’re talking horizon of detection for a ballistic missile vs. a low flying cruise style hypersonic missile as illustrated by this mock-up from the RAND corporation.

        • bean says:

          OK, fair enough. But going from ten minutes to two minutes isn’t nearly as big of a change as going from five hours to ten minutes was in the 60s. (Assuming that this is indeed the math, because hypersonic cruise missiles aren’t nearly as fast as ICBM RVs.)

          I’d also point out that we’re not limited to ground-based sensors. They were detecting Russian bomber raids with IR satellites in the 80s, and hypersonic flight profiles are going to have substantial signatures one way or another.

        • John Schilling says:

          How did the RAND corporation miss the existence of satellites?

    • Atlas says:

      I tentatively disagree with Cowen for a variety of reasons; for one thing, I don’t think he adequately considers the (at least possible) pacific deterrence effect that nuclear weapons can/do/have had. (Perhaps the recent India-Pakistan crisis is an example of this?) Indeed, I think that some amount of nuclear proliferation would probably be a good thing, as e.g. Kenneth Waltz persuasively argued in the case of Iran. Alternatively, John Mueller has convincingly argued that nuclear weapons don’t matter and that past concerns have in fact been overblown. Either way, I think that there are other concerns, like Steve Sailer’s World’s Most Important Graph, that are currently undervalued relative to importance compared to the concerns surrounding nuclear weapons.

    • metacelsus says:

      8- People have stopped worrying about nukes and are doing less to reign them in.

      Since you mentioned horses earlier in the post, I feel I need to point out that it’s “rein in”, not “reign in.”

    • AppetSci says:

      There may be a scarier way to use nukes out there.

      I don’t think any current nukes are the salted type that are designed specifically to maximise fall-out and create a longer half-life to effectively make an area a no-go zone for a substantial period of time – potentially centuries).
      Dirty bombs that use conventional explosives to spread radioactive material offer a similar yet reduced capabilities (“Terrorism being the surgical strike capability of the oppressed”).

      True, we don’t really have that much experience with either of these – the first requires a state actor, and testing should show up on monitoring systems(?) but the second just requires more enriched nuclear material to exist in the world which increases the likelihood that it falls into the wrong hands.

      People have stopped worrying about nukes and are doing less to reign them in.
      This is not such a bad thing, if by people, you mean the general public. I think that ignorance is bliss in this situation as I would not like media coverage and public sentiment to return to the past’s level of fear of imminent nuclear war.

    • Murphy says:

      There are scarier thing out there than nuclear weapons.

      The more I learn about genetics and biology the more clear it becomes that biowarfare is one demon so horrifying that it’s been kept in the box. Throw in the potential to wipe out more of the world population than a worldwide nuclear war.

      Right now it’s contained because the people with the capability to make bioweapons are a smallish group and politically they’re not appealing.

      Right now I can order custom chunks of arbitrary DNA sequences But sooner or later someone is gonna work out a cheap way to construct DNA in a box that can sit on your desk.

      It’ll be a boon for researchers for various reasons… but once you can just load a file into a computer and have it print a long DNA sequence it just becomes a countdown until someone recreates smallpox and releases it.

      https://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1007025

      And from there another countdown until people start releasing hacked versions.

      • bean says:

        This. Bioweapons are terrifying in a way nukes could never be, and need to be taken extremely seriously.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Didn’t the US formerly have a biological weapon arsenal, but they dismantled it because they worried (rightly, as far as I know) that it would be too easy to replicate?

        • albatross11 says:

          Interestingly, the few times we know of bioweapons attacks, they haven’t been all that devastating. The anthrax bomber could have gotten a higher body count by driving drunk on the Beltway some fine Saturday night[1]. I think the Japanese cult that eventually gassed the Tokyo subway tried several biological attacks first–they managed to send a few people to the hospital, but nobody figured out these were attacks rather than just weird illnesses. (If the anthrax bomber hadn’t sent warnings with his spores, I wonder if anyone would have figured out that the attack had taken place–maybe it would still be a puzzle worrying a few guys in the CDC how a bunch of unrelated people mysteriously died of inhalation anthrax in late 2001.)

          OTOH, we also know it’s possible to have diseases that spread very quickly and kill off a hell of a lot of people. We’d probably do a lot better against some modern version of the 1918 flu, but it would still kill off a lot of people. You can look at the SARS outbreak a few years back as a model of how modern countries can react to an outbreak of a nasty contagious disease.

          My not-very-informed intuition is that a really devastating biological attack would probably require the maker of the bioweapon to do a fair bit of testing on human subjects to make sure it worked as expected. That puts it out of the reach of a small group, but well within the reach of a lot of countries that have plenty of disposable prisoners hanging around in prison cells and torture chambers.

          I know virologists make variant viruses all the time, including making variant viruses that will (for example) evade some defense so they can infect a target cell. And there have been experiments where people successfully made versions of a nasty bird flu strain that could infect mammals–this caused a fairly big outcry. If there were a lot of virologists trying to make humanity-threatening plagues, sooner or later someone would succeed even if they didn’t have a lot of political prisoners to fine-tune their bioweapons on.

          [1] Anthrax is less scary than most biological agents, because it’s not so easy for it to spread. The initially exposed people get sick, but then regular medical precautions will prevent further spread, and since it’s a bacterial infection, we have antibiotics that work against it.

      • beleester says:

        Bioweapons are somewhat scary, but I think we’ve got better tools for fighting them off. We’ve seen attempts at bioterrorism using anthrax, and it didn’t kill very many people. We get practice cooking up new vaccines every flu season, and we have universal defenses – quarantines work the same way no matter how clever your bioengineering is. There’s no such defense for nukes. Bioweapons could probably kill a lot of people, but they don’t reach “end civilization in fire” levels of scariness.

        Also, bioweapons have a trade-off between spread rate and lethality – if you kill people, they stop spreading the virus. That’s why Ebola isn’t a big threat despite being the scariest disease out there. You would need a plague with some sort of timer so that it can spread quietly and then suddenly become lethal, and AFAIK nobody’s invented a way to do that, let alone a way to do it with a hypothetical desktop kit.

        (If there was an easy way to “hack” a virus so that it could spread faster without changing how deadly it is, Mother Nature would have found it already)

        • Lambert says:

          >You would need a plague with some sort of timer so that it can spread quietly and then suddenly become lethal

          STIs?

          • albatross11 says:

            If HIV spread as easily and casually as the flu, but still took a few years to trash your immune system and kill you, the population of Earth would have crashed down below a billion people, and a large fraction of the survivors would have one of the gene variants that provide protection against HIV.

            Are there other examples of infections that spread quickly, seem to resolve, but then have nasty long-term effects? The other one I can think of is syphlus, but there are probably a bunch of others I don’t know about. A bioweapon that followed this pattern might not even be detected until it had already infected a lot of people and doomed them to some nasty long-term symptoms.

          • Lambert says:

            Now engineer a dozen of these slow-killing (or even just sterilising) but fast-ish-moving diseases of all different types.
            How many individuals will be naturally resistant to all of them?

            At the same time, do the same to cows, pigs, sheep, wheat, maize, bees etc.

        • Clutzy says:

          Why? Lethality poses almost no advantage to the disease. Lethality is often an evolutionary quirk caused by a species jump (as with smallpox and ebola). Cowpox rarely causes death in its reservoir species (rodents).

          Your average bacteria or virus is happiest hiding from its host indefinitely and stimulating a few coughs and sneezes a day spreading around the world.

          • albatross11 says:

            It depends on the disease. If the disease needs its host walking around interacting with people, then it would benefit from making the host less sick, but only if that doesn’t interfere with spreading effectively. (If the disease spreads by making you crap out a zillion new copies of itself, and dehydration from diarrhea is what gets you, then it benefits from making you sicker so it spreads faster.)

            If the disease just needs you lying around listlessly getting bitten by mosquitoes, it won’t be selected for leaving you able to move around at all.

            And there can be internal competition of different strains within you, where trashing your body to out-reproduce rival strains is how a given strain wins. And a zillion other things that might affect evolution toward less virulence.

            As an example, smallpox was circulating among humans for many thousands of years, but never evolved to be nice to its hosts.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @albatross11, smallpox actually was starting to evolve to be nicer a bit before it got eradicated. The mutated strain was called Varolia minor, with a fatality rate ~1% instead of ~30%.

          • Randy M says:

            And we went and killed it anyway. What kind of message does that send to the other pathogens?

          • Murphy says:

            Actually the consensus on this has changed a little from some newer data.

            the ebola outbreak demonstrated some mutation towards more lethal variants of the disease, for example a version that had much higher viral load and was thus better at spreading to new hosts since a major vector for the disease was blood droplets.

  20. Tenacious D says:

    There is a bridge in Nipigon, Ontario that is the only option for East-West traffic in Canada. When it is closed, the shortest detour involves travelling through the USA around the south side of Lake Superior. Where else in the world are there choke points that can lead to similarly arduous detours (assume travelling by car; ferries are allowed if they are regular routes, but chartering a boat or taking a flight is not)? I would guess Brazil since there are few places where the road network crosses the Amazon. Elsewhere?

    • Nick says:

      I expect there are precarious mountainous routes in the Andes, for instance, that qualify.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Interoceanic Highway is the only direct road route between Peru and Brazil. You can get there without it, but you have to go either through Bolivia or all the way north around the Amazon.

    • Evan Þ says:

      The Alaska Highway, just about anywhere in the Yukon. It’s the only road connection to Alaska; detours involve heading down to Prince Rupert, BC, to take the “Alaska Marine Highway” ferry.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Apparently there are zero places where the road network crosses the Amazon – there aren’t many roads near it for any bridges to connect to, nor are there that many people, and they generally manage with boats. So ironically, the Amazon could not be such a chokepoint 🙂

    • Nornagest says:

      The Pan-American Highway stretches from Alaska to Argentina — except for a hundred miles or so of jungle in southeastern Panama and northwestern Colombia, called the Darién Gap. The last attempt to close the gap petered out in the Nineties. You can get through it with off-road vehicles and a lot of guts, though.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Apparently there are six border crossings between China and Nepal, but it’s not apparent that more than one of them is currently tied into national road networks on both sides.

      In Western Australia, the bridge over the Fitzroy River near Willare doesn’t appear to have any alternatives.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      There appears to be exactly one ferry from anywhere north of Stockholm to Finland (Umea-Vaasa). If this isn’t running, you have to either drive about 250 km north to go round the top of the Gulf of Bothnia, or 500 km south to Stockholm.

    • S_J says:

      Your post got me thinking about chokepoints along the USA-Canada border.

      West of Duluth, Minnesota, there aren’t many chokepoints.

      Along the Great Lakes, the only choke-point I can find is the Sault Ste Marie bridge. Any closure of that bridge would require traffic to detour around Lake Huron (or Lake Superior) to get to its destination on the other side of the border.

      Most other crossings have a ferry option, or another bridge/tunnel, within 50 miles. (One bridge and a ferry along St. Clair River, a bridge and a tunnel across the Detroit River, several bridges along the Niagara river, several bridges over the St. Lawrence River).

    • Garrett says:

      I grew up around there. Until very recently it was only one lane in each direction. This led to a good number of traffic deaths every winter between transport trucks and passenger vehicles.
      Video from road.

    • Dack says:

      Elsewhere?

      Mackinac Bridge comes to mind…which I think is easy to understand on a peninsula. My question is why they don’t build any roads north of there in Canada.

  21. unagflum says:

    Suppose you had a piece of super-strong material, up to 10 cm in diameter or smaller, and up to 3 meters long. This material isn’t quite indestructible, but much stronger and stiffer than anything we have (say 20x stronger and stiffer than steel, but as dense as wood).

    You only have the 1 piece, and have access to pre-industrial technology. Using modern knowledge, are there any unusual or surprising applications for it?

    One thought is you could use it to store a lot of mechanical energy, for use as a weapon. Thin enough and you have extremely strong cordage, maybe a nice bow. I couldn’t think of anything revolutionary though.

    Other ideas? What about with access to modern technology?

    • rubberduck says:

      Are you sure you want a stiff material for a bowstring? Wouldn’t that put more strain on the bow? Also, I imagine for storing mechanical energy you would prefer something more elastic. (I am not an engineer or physicist, this could all be wrong.)

      Alternately: the material might make a good spring, but I doubt you can make a spring with pre-industrial technology.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Don’t bows store most of their energy in the flex of the bow rather than tension on the string anyway?
        Perhaps a ballista?

        • rubberduck says:

          Yeah, true. But a glance at wikipedia made it sound like you do want a bit of stretch, to improve the longevity the bow.

        • beleester says:

          You could make the body of the bow out of it, but the limiting factor there is more “how much weight can a human pull back?” than “how springy is the wood?” A stiffer material allows you to pack the same energy into a smaller bow, however, and it also makes the bow more durable.

          A heavy crossbow or ballista, something where you can use cranks and levers to get a mechanical advantage, might work. Perhaps several, since you have a lot of material to work with, more than the volume of a single bow.

          • Protagoras says:

            The crossbow sounds promising. Medieval steel crossbows had incredible draw weight, but very short draw length, apparently in order to minimize the risk of the steel shattering, with extremely painful and quite possibly lethal effects on the crossbowman. If you’ve got material for the limbs that just won’t shatter, you could presumably increase the draw length, and as a result get considerably more benefit out of the massive draw weight.

      • unagflum says:

        What I wrote was unclear. I meant making a bow out of the material, not the bowstring. A bow made from this material would be very thin and light and durable, though probably not much better in performance. The lightness could mean that more of the energy goes into the arrow though, so that could help.

        A separate thought was a very thin and strong string, that could be useful for cutting as well.

    • Vitor says:

      An extremely sharp blade seems like an obvious candidate, but also hardly revolutionary.

      How about a rolled up, extremely thin sheet of… something useful? A filter, membrane, or other type of structure that allows you to build a mechanism for an efficient industrial/chemical process. I’m out of my depth here, but there’s bound to be *something* gamebreaking along those lines. Not sure if that would be enough to take over the preindustrial society we’re embedded in (which is our goal, right?)

      Finally, what about storing information? How many bits would we manage to reliably encode in this object?

    • johan_larson says:

      How early is “pre-industrial”? Are we talking late renaissance, or something earlier?

      • unagflum says:

        I originally though renaissance. But if you can do something with steam engines, go ahead.

    • beleester says:

      Can you shape this material with pre-industrial technology? Or do you just get to pick one shape within the bounds and then you have to build around it? If you can’t shape it, you’ve basically just got a big metal log.

      You might be able to make a tower shield out of it – it doesn’t really require any fine craft work to cut a log into planks (though you’ll probably wear out a lot of sawblades while cutting), and a shield that’s strong as metal while light as wood (or if you scale it down, as strong as wood but as light as metal) sounds pretty handy.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      In the pre-industrial past, I’m almost completely sure this is useless, especially if 20x stiffer than steel as specified. It’s actually much more useful if it’s about as stiff as wood. With modern engineering practices, there might be a kinda-neat structural support application, but the way they made sturdy buildings then was to make them as much like solid bricks as possible. Which worked really well, but didn’t involve many structural members.

      With modern technology, this question becomes a lot harder to answer, actually. Modern wear-resistant steels can give you something like a 10+x multiplier on the strength of “typical” steels, so are we talking about something equivalent to those, or something 20x better than those? In any case, the best application I can think of offhand is a semiflexiable wear surface (where diamond/ceramics are unsuitable) where weight is important – something like a rover’s metal mesh wheels would probably be a great application. Run-ups could be bearing surfaces or single-point anchors for some sort of critical infrastructure. IDK how many of those there are, though, lol.

    • dick says:

      I can’t think of a direct mechanical use that would be revolutionary, but you could use its uniqueness as part of a God Gambit. Say, announce that God has selected you to rule the world and given you an indestructible suit of armor to prove your divinity.

  22. thisheavenlyconjugation says:

    TIL Venice has a surprisingly popular nationalist movement, with slightly higher than 50% support for independence (in comparison to e.g. the better-known Catalan movement for which support appears to be slightly lower than 50%).

  23. johan_larson says:

    European heaven is where all the soldiers are British, all the wine is French, all the cars are German, all the lovers are Italian, the weather is Greek, and everything is organized by the Swiss.

    European hell is where all the soldiers are French, all the wine is German, all the cars are Greek, all the lovers are Swiss, the weather is British, and everything is organized by the Italians.

    You are invited to retell this joke for the Group of Seven: the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada.

    If you want to play on hard mode, add in the BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In heaven, the soldiers are Canadian, the wine is American, the cars are German, the weather Italian, the lovers French, the police British, and everything is organized by the Japanese.

      In hell, the soldiers are French, the wine is German, the cars are Italian, the weather Canadian, the lovers Japanese, the police American, and everything is organized by the British.

      (going by national stereotypes, of course. Sure, you’re going to tell me there are parts of Canada with good weather. And I’m going to tell you I once spent two sunny days in London, and neither of us is going to be convinced)

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Why would the soldiers be Canadian? That’s hardly better than having them be French. And British police sounds pretty dystopian too come to think of it.

        • Theodoric says:

          Canada has Arthur Currie and, from what I gather, a “beware the nice ones” reputation from WWI & WWII.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I mean I’m not going to dispute that Canadian troops fought well in the world wars, it’s just that it’s really not what they’re known for. In fact they haven’t meaningfully participated in a war since then: they tend to just send a token force whenever we go to war, then whine about having to do it.

            Like it or not, Canada absolutely doesn’t have a fearsome reputation.

        • psmith says:

          I recall hearing that the Canadians had something of a reputation among coalition forces innastan, and they seem to hold up credibly in the Wikipedia list of longest-range confirmed sniper kills.

        • The Nybbler says:

          For the British police: these jokes as a class are old enough to harken back to the stereotype of the polite unarmed Bobby, not the ASBO-seeking Twitter Police that exist today. The soldiers aren’t actually fighting anyone, so the criteria is how troublesome they are to the domestic population.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Tenacious D below has the right of it: Britain has some terrible laws, but the police – for all their failings – are still streets ahead of anywhere else I’ve been.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, Canadian weather is pretty nasty. Even the best Canadian climate, in Victoria, BC, has occasional snowfall. Toronto manages to get beat both ways; there is real winter which sometimes includes ice storms, and the hottest most humid days of summer are only great if you’re a plant.

        • Nick says:

          Toronto manages to get beat both ways; there is real winter which sometimes includes ice storms, and the hottest most humid days of summer are only great if you’re a plant.

          Hey, just like Ohio!

      • Deiseach says:

        Hey, I like German wine! German – whites, French – reds, American – clean your windows with it 😉

    • johan_larson says:

      I don’t have a complete answer, but I’m pretty sure that in G7 heaven the Canadians are diplomats and in G7 hell they are entrepreneurs. In G7 heaven the Americans are either soldiers or entrepreneurs; I’m not sure what they do in hell. The American justice system sure can treat people rough, though. And I wouldn’t hire Americans to build or run a subway system.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        In G7 heaven the Americans are the entertainers; in G7 hell they’re the police.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      In G7 Heaven, your sports are American, your urban planning is Japanese, your neighbors are Canadian, your workers are German, your artists are French, and your authors are British. In G7 hell, your sports are British, your neighbors are French, your workers are Italian, your urban planning is Canadian, your artists are German, your chefs are American, and your authors are Japanese.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        your chefs are American, and your authors are Japanese

        Buddy I am downright PEEVED here

      • Tarpitz says:

        Test match cricket may be an acquired taste (though I assure you it’s worth it) but if you can’t enjoy watching the current England limited overs side you probably just don’t like sport full stop. Jos Buttler in particular is something else.

    • Tenacious D says:

      G7 Heaven:
      American speech laws, British police, French protests, German project management, Italian dating, Japanese trains/transit, Canadian immigration.

      G7 hell:
      American police, British speech laws, French protests, German immigration, Italian project management, Japanese dating, Canadian trains/transit (whenever Bombardier gets them delivered).

      • rubberduck says:

        French protests in both heaven and hell? I’d think Canadian protests would be nicer.

        • Tenacious D says:

          On the plus side, French protests demonstrate a high level of civic engagement and solidarity while the negatives are the disruption and inefficiency they cause.

          And since this type of joke plays on stereotypes, it’s implying the French will protest anywhere.

          Canadian protests are boring 99% of the time and the exceptions (G20, hockey riots) aren’t nice.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            What do we want? INCREMENTAL REFORM!
            When do we want it? AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE!

    • gryffinp says:

      Heaven is where all the food is Italian, all the industry is German, all the music is Canadian, all the comedy is British, all the films are French, all the technology is Japanese, and all the soldiers are American.

      Hell is where all the food is British, all the industry is Italian, all the music is Japanese, all the comedy is German, all the films are Canadian, all the technology is French, and all of the soldiers are American.

      • Simulated Knave says:

        Bon Cop Bad Cop is high art and I’ll fight you if you say different.

        • gryffinp says:

          I am not prepared to defend any of the digs I made in that joke, they are almost all unjustified.

          That said, from looking at a Wikipedia summary of this film, it seems like the Bon Cop is actually the anglophone cop? I hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

  24. Aapje says:

    The preliminary results for the EU parliament elections are in. Christian-Democrats and Social-Democrats lost about a fifth of their seats. They used to run the show together, but now have only 43% of the seats combined. The Classical Liberals won a lot (to 14%), while the Greens won a tiny bit (to 9%). Both can thus supply a majority, with the caveat that party discipline is weak (as these aren’t actually parties, but uneasy party coalitions, forced by EU rules, without the most powerful ways to coerce discipline that work on the national level). Note that the party coalitions can change after the elections.

    The various populists grew from 20% to 25%, less than expected. A major reason for this may because of the greater turnout. This is the first election in which turnout has increased compared to the previous election. All elections since the first one in 1979, had decreasing turnout. I suspect that fear over a populist win caused greater turnout of pro-Europeans/anti-populists (as well).

    If the UK ever leaves the EU, their seats will be redistributed immediately. With the Brexit party doing very well in the UK, this would cause some evaporative cooling, decreasing the populist share in EU parliament a bit.

    This result can result in a more classically liberal direction if the ruling coalition merely adds them to the coalition. However, this may drive more people to the populists. Furthermore, the Social-Democrats seem somewhat intent on going back to their roots, caring about the less well-off, rather than their more classically liberal stance of the past decades. So they might to look to the Greens, also to make law on climate change, although this too may increase support for populists.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      You should keep in mind that the EU – considered as a level of government – does very little redistribution of income. It tries to keep the EU agriculturally self sufficient due to the dead hand of a founding generation who went hungry during and immediately after WW2, and it invests quite considerable sums in tying national road, rail, and electric networks together, but compared to the overall economy, it has a tiny budget. Everything which might be considered social spending happens at the national level, and informed voters know this, so this is mostly an indication of what kind of regulatory flavor europe wants.

      • DeWitt says:

        It tries to keep the EU agriculturally a hell of a lot more because the French very vigorously defend said subsidies more than anything else. If it were about agriculture in general, we’d have extended said subsidies to the much more agricultural eastern European states as well.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          If you mean by Eastern Europe postcommunist EU members, we get plenty of agricultural subsidies.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Everything which might be considered social spending happens at the national level, and informed voters know this

        Sure, but I’m skeptical that a high proportion of voters are informed to this level.

      • Aapje says:

        @Thomas Jorgensen

        You should keep in mind that the EU – considered as a level of government – does very little redistribution of income. […] Everything which might be considered social spending happens at the national level, and informed voters know this, so this is mostly an indication of what kind of regulatory flavor Europe wants.

        The EU has been coordinating social security since at least 2004, binding the nation states to certain regulations, that they can no longer just change on their own.

        Also, certain policies cause income changes. For example, Eastern European workers can work in my country for far lower wages, because they have to pay far lower social security & pension payments, undercutting local workers. The response of many employers in my country was to only hire ‘self-employed entrepreneurs,’ people without a fixed contract and without pensions and such. The number of Dutch people working in this manner doubled in the last 10 years. Many of these people are going to be much poorer after reaching the pension age than the generations before them. Their future income got ‘redistributed’ to company profits and Eastern European workers.

        What you are doing is something I’ve seen pro-EU advocates do a lot: make a claim that the EU does far less directly than is sometimes claimed. While this is technically correct, it’s actually far more deceptive than elucidating, because the huge influence of the EU on national regulations is not noted, even though it matters little whether the EU controls the money or laws directly or whether they control the governments & lawmakers, which in turn control the money or laws.

        By telling a half-truth, you are misinforming people.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Not my intent, because obviously what regulations are passed is insanely important.

          I largely wanted to point out that this is an interesting split you do not usually get in politics.

          The union writes, well, most of the laws, and does the heavy lifting on anti-trust and similar areas, but it controls very little money.

          Which results in fun effects like the fines it levies on misbehaving corporates ending up being an actual percentage of the budget.

          So if you want the “federal government” to come after tax avoidance and financial fraud with fire and sword, but dont want more welfare spending, or you want light touch regulation, but more money transfers, you can get that by basically split ticketing.

        • zqed says:

          For example, Eastern European workers can work in my country for far lower wages, because they have to pay far lower social security & pension payments, undercutting local workers.

          Are you sure about this? I am an Eastern European who has previously briefly worked in the Netherlands (in 2012), and my pension contributions were at the rate that the locals pay. Do you think I could get a rebate?

          • Aapje says:

            From the English summary of ‘Cross-Border Supply of Labour,’ an investigation commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment:

            Interviews with employers in four focus segments (construction, horticulture, the food industry and road transport) show that cost-cutting is by far the most important motive in opting for migrant labour and flexible contracts[…]
            Posted workers from foreign companies are often cheaper than staff of Dutch companies. Under the European Posted Workers Directive in many cases only a few key provisions in the Dutch collective agreement apply, not the whole agreement. Employers can therefore gain a cost advantage by using posting arrangements with foreign companies, as they do not usually have to pay pension and social security contributions then. The different in wage costs can be considerable in sectors that have expensive pension schemes. Not only has EU enlargement made it easier to cut costs, many employers say that the economic crisis and international competition have made cost-cutting absolutely essential.[…]
            The cross-border nature of these arrangements, however, unfortunately makes enforcement more difficult, and abuse therefore easier. In practice there are various ‘deceptive practices’ involving cross-border services where it is unclear whether they still correspond to the spirit – or in some cases even the letter – of the law.[…]
            Checking for deceptive practices is made more difficult by the fact that there are often long cross-border chains of subcontractors, especially in the construction industry, making it unclear what is going on at the bottom end of the supply chain. This makes enforcement particularly complicated, labour-intensive and therefore expensive.[…]
            In the focus segments (construction, horticulture, the food industry and road transport) substantial shifts in the use of labour are associated with unequal competition between actors

            If you worked in certain other industries, like IT, it is quite plausible that you would not undercut your fellow Dutch workers with lower pensions & such, because you would actually be solving shortages and thus merely be depressing wages a bit by increasing supply, but wouldn’t increase supply so much that they could afford to underpay you compared to Dutch workers.

          • Murphy says:

            Ok, So to be clear, it’s that they’re hiring foreign companies to do the work who are employing their workers under the laws of those other countries.

            So basically outsourcing but where workers may be temporarily shipped in for physical work?

            Which may actually be illegal if the workers are making less than the local laws require… but the dutch government doesn’t care enough to investigate much?

            They may not be paying into pension funds if the foreign country doesn’t require it.

            So basically exactly what IT workers the world over often have to compete against only for physical labor this time?

            And you blame this somehow for the local incarnation of the global rise of short term crappy and zero-hour contracts?

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            A problem is that EU citizens can work in other countries for some time for home country wages. This is intended to reduce the bureaucratic burden of people who work in other countries only fairly briefly, like a maintenance worker who travels abroad to fix a machine sold to a company a different country or a worker who is sent abroad to fix a temporary shortage in manpower.

            Yet the result is that it isn’t sufficient for a fine to discover that someone is working for lower wages. The government has to know approximately how long they worked here, which companies are not required to report. So effectively this means that the government either has to do workplace checks very often, which is extremely expensive, or depend on Eastern European workers reporting it and/or demanding back-pay and/or higher pensions. These workers are loath to do so, because it means they lose their job and perhaps gain a reputation of troublemakers, so they may lose future jobs as well.

            Furthermore, with a chain of subcontractors, the effectiveness of fines can be neutralized. Economic crimes almost always result in fines, not prosecutions of individuals. By employing the workers through a shell company with no assets, fines never have to be paid since they can just declare bankruptcy and then restart with a new company. So it becomes a game of whack a mole, where nearly all the expenses are for the government, without the fine revenue to make up for it (anti-illegal migrant worker law gets around this by fining the company for which the work is performed).

            The report I quoted found that migration is used to suppress wages, as the employers admit themselves, and that the huge rise of flex-work was at least in part due to migration. The growth in flex was the largest in The Netherlands, between 2007 and 2017. This seems to have been a catch-up effect, because the total number of flex-workers is not the highest. Yet this catch-up effect is probably enabled and/or sped up by EU rules. This is exactly a common complaint: that EU rules make it impossible for countries to make their own choices and force a race to the bottom, mostly for the lower and lower middle class.

          • Murphy says:

            Sure, 40-50 years ago irish people were traveling out to other countries across europe to work on building sites, saving up money and starting businesses at home.

            Then the polish workers did almost exactly the same cycle working in ireland.

            Local tradesmen get pissed off because they can’t charge thousands of quid for an afternoon plastering.

            Local people who want to get work done on the other hand are delighted because they can hire a foreign worker who actually turns up, gets it done faster and likely does a better job. (caveat, based on talking to irish foremen about polish workers)

            Now it’s moved on to a different source countries as the economy improves in the former. Partly why the EU somewhat drip-feeds the addition of new states as the economies of the poorer states catch up.

            20 years later the kids of those same tradesmen who moved abroad and then back home once they’d saved up complain they aren’t getting paid enough because of the guys from [insert latest migrant source here]. Apparently this stage is getting started properly in Poland now.

            Crappy contracts seem to be about as global as the early 90’s crime spike with the same phenomenon where everyone blames it on any insitution or policy that happens to exist within the same 10 year timeframe and in 20 years time will credit it’s global decline to any random local policies they favored.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Yes, it’s redistribution from the local lower (middle) class to the local upper (middle) class, as well as to foreigners.

            What I’m complaining about is that the political parties that say that they oppose a harsh libertarian system, actually helped create it and then react with anger and resentment when lower (middle) class voters try desperately to stop it, by voting for more extreme parties, who don’t have a track record of screwing them over.

          • Murphy says:

            it’s not just the upper classes who benefit from being able to get work done fast and for a reasonable price.

            Poor people need plumbing fixed too, working class people need to hire moving vans too etc

            Especially when the parents of those same people were traveling abroad a generation ago just like the current wave of young guys looking to make something for themselves.

            trying to pull up the ladder for the next generation isn’t exactly endearing.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Working class people far more often fix their own stuff, rather than hire working class labor to do so. They also tend to have working class family and friends with working class skills, who regularly help them for free or cheaply.

            Also, in a society with (mostly) specialized workers, people earn their income from one kind of labor, but consume many different kinds of labor. So they become relatively worse off if their own kind of labor becomes relatively less valuable. Even if these people would not consume less of the kind of labor that they produce than others, the very fact that this labor makes for 100% of their income, but less than 100% of their spending makes them worse off.

            working class people need to hire moving vans

            Upper (middle) class people are more likely to hire movers, while working class people are more likely to rent just a van (and also more likely to loan a van from a friend).

            If the cost of hiring working class people goes down, including those of movers, the upper (middle) class people profit more, because they were spending more on movers in the first place. If the decline in cost comes from lower wages, the movers are not going to like it.

            Especially when the parents of those same people were traveling abroad a generation ago just like the current wave of young guys looking to make something for themselves.

            trying to pull up the ladder for the next generation isn’t exactly endearing.

            I’m confused. Are you arguing that the Dutch working class who are voting for populists have parents who migrated to The Netherlands? This is not at all correct.

            Or are you arguing that their parents migrated for work abroad themselves? Arguable that is somewhat correct since one of my grandfathers was forced to do labor in Germany during the war, although he was not looking to make something for himself, but to avoid a bullet.

            Also, note that part of the complaint is unfair competition, where Dutch working class people can’t earn enough to raise a family in The Netherlands if they work for those wages, where the Eastern Europeans can because they leave their family in Eastern Europe where cost of living is way lower.

          • Also, note that part of the complaint is unfair competition, where Dutch working class people can’t earn enough to raise a family in The Netherlands if they work for those wages, where the Eastern Europeans can because they leave their family in Eastern Europe where cost of living is way lower.

            Is it also unfair that Dutch workers already speak Dutch and immigrants have to learn it or be unable to communicate with many of those they deal with?

            There are lots of differences in circumstances among people. What makes some of them unfair?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Having your whole family several countries away from the one you’re working in – it’s still a trip of hours – seems like a tradeoff. The Dutch workers are supporting families locally, not somewhere cheaper, but they get to see their families. It’s a tradeoff, not an unfair advantage.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Ultimately, it’s what people consider unfair.

            Those who favor these policies aren’t openly advocating lower wages for the Dutch lower class, suggesting that they don’t consider it fair either.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Those families are not just pawns though. They are human beings.

            You may feel fine about the top of society prospering at the expense of the bottom of society; or for people to be driven from their homes, but don’t be surprised when those people see you as evil.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t “feel fine” about it, and the east-west imbalance in Europe leads to a lot of shitty things. I’m simply saying that it’s not an unfair advantage.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          For example, Eastern European workers can work in my country for far lower wages, because they have to pay far lower social security & pension payments, undercutting local workers.

          As someone whose job sometimes requires him to wade into that particular weed-patch I have to say:

          By telling a half-truth, you are misinforming people.

          The governing legislation is Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems.

          The ground rules, per the Regulation, are as follows:
          1. Persons to whom this Regulation applies shall be subject to the legislation of a single Member State only. (Article 11 item 1)

          2. A person pursuing an activity as an employed or self-employed person in a Member State shall be subject to the legislation of that Member State. (Article 11 item 3(a).

          There are exceptions to the second of those rules, but they don’t quite work the way you make them out to.

          The first exception is set out in Article 12, whereby a person employed or self-employed in one Member State may pursue those activities in another Member State, whilst still being subject to the legislation of the first Member State. This is possible if two conditions are met:
          (a) the person (or their employer) “normally” pursues the activity in the first Member State,
          (b) the duration of pursuing the activity in the second Member State does not exceed 24 months.

          The point of this exception is that if you need to go to a different Member State for professional/business purposes, for a short period of time, you don’t have to set up everything from scratch in the second state (register for social insurance, file declarations, get representation, etc.)

          Incidentally, in the case of employees there is a further restriction: the employee cannot be sent to replace another employee – so employers can’t simply rotate employees abroad every 24 months.

          The second exception is for people who conduct activities in two or more Member States concurrently (Article 13).

          Here, the rules are somewhat different between employees and the self-employed.

          Employees are subject to the legislation of either:
          1. Their State of residence – if they do a substantial amount of work in that Member State, or are employed by an employer outside their State of residence,

          2. The State where their employer is situated – if they do not do a substantial amount of work in their State of residence.

          For self-employed people, the options are:
          1. The State of residence, if they do a substantial amount of work in that State,

          2. the legislation of the State in which the centre of interest of his activities is situated, if he does not reside in one of the Member States in which he pursues a substantial part of his activity

          Finally, if a person is both employed and self-employed, the employee status takes preference.

          Can this system be gamed? Sure. Everything can be gamed. People certainly try to. Actually getting it airtight is harder than it looks.

          • Aapje says:

            If you look at the report from the comment above, you can see that they found that gaming these regulations is particularly easy.

            Note that laws often get made (or more frequently: evolve) to make enforcement easier. A problem with EU law is that it is so hard to change, that it takes very long for abuse to be addressed.

            For example, they are now trying to fix this, after 15 years…

            The unions believe that the proposed fixes won’t solve the problem sufficiently. I guess we might see another set of fixes in 2034 or so.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Enforcement is a domestic issue, though.

            That means if gaming the Regulation is easy in your state, it’s your up to your state’s legislature to fix it.

            The Regulation (by way of Article 84) provides that contributions due, but not paid, and benefits paid, but not due may be claimed in another Member State, subject to the same procedures, guarantees and privileges as enjoyed by the social insurance institution in that State.

            Similarly, Article 84 specifies that judicial decisions pertaining to these issues shall be enforceable in a second Member State.

            There’s little more you can do on the European level, other than enforce a single social insurance scheme for all members with a single, pan-European competent authority. I rate that as extremely unlikely at present.

            If there’s a problem with enforcement that takes 15 years to address, it’s much more likely that the domestic legislators are paying attention to a completely different interest group (the businesses who are doing the gaming).

            That’s not a problem with the EU.

          • Aapje says:

            Enforcement is a domestic issue, though.

            That means if gaming the Regulation is easy in your state, it’s your up to your state’s legislature to fix it.

            That’s not how it works, though. Regulation is not enforceable just because you want it to be, but because enforcement is feasible.

            Also, the fraud involves multiple states, so it needs cooperation by the other state to police. Of course, that other state agreed with the deal as part of a quid-pro-quo, where they preferred to not have these limitations, so assisting with investigations is not their priority.

            There’s little more you can do on the European level, other than enforce a single social insurance scheme for all members with a single, pan-European competent authority. I rate that as extremely unlikely at present.

            Not true, the report that investigated this noted that the fraud often involves complex chains of subcontractors. They could demand that these subcontractors register themselves in the nation where their people work. Or they could ban these complex chains.

            ‘Do not want’ is not ‘no can do.’

            If there’s a problem with enforcement that takes 15 years to address, it’s much more likely that the domestic legislators are paying attention to a completely different interest group (the businesses who are doing the gaming).

            True, the Dutch Social-Democrats have antagonized the native/white/whatever working class for decades. At first by simply ignoring their problems and more recently by arguing that they preventing things from getting worse faster, by governing.

            This is exactly why they so often vote for populists, which surveys show is not because they trust the populists to solve their problems, but they trust the establishment to worsen them.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            That’s not how it works, though. Regulation is not enforceable just because you want it to be, but because enforcement is feasible.

            You should see a social insurance compliance control ’round these parts sometime.

            Not true, the report that investigated this noted that the fraud often involves complex chains of subcontractors.

            It doesn’t actually add anything, but I wanted to point out – in the context of earlier statements we made – that this is far from “easy”, as gaming goes.

            They could demand that these subcontractors register themselves in the nation where their people work. Or they could ban these complex chains.

            The problem with that is that any general solution (which is what you get with legislation) will, necessarily, also capture people who aren’t gaming the system. One man’s optimization may well be another man’s business necessity (in the sense: you cannot do it any other way).

            By introducing a ban of “complex chains” you simply kick the problem to “what constitutes a complex chain”.

            As for subcontractors registering themselves in the Member State where they conduct their activities, that is already part of the Regulation insofar as the exceptions don’t apply.

            Remember the two key issues here: the single legislation principle is there to ensure no double-dipping (either on the part of the insurance institutions or the beneficiary) and the determination procedures are as detailed as they are (further clarified in Article 12 of the Implementing Regulation) to cover all possible situations that may arise – and routinely do.

            I can only speak of how it is done here. When the social insurance institution suspects that contributions haven’t been paid (and they always do), they issue a decision to that effect that obliges the payer to make up the shortfall (plus interest). You can challenge it in court, of course, but if you lose – and I’ve seen enough rulings to say that it’s more than likely – you’re stuck with still having to pay, plus what it cost you to go to court. The advice we give to our clients typically boils down to: “if you really want to, but it’ll probably end in tears”.

            All of this is happening on the domestic level, with the Regulation only providing the general framework.

            This is exactly why they so often vote for populists, which surveys show is not because they trust the populists to solve their problems, but they trust the establishment to worsen them.

            I don’t disagree, in general. The problem with populists is that they tend to offer “quick and easy” fixes that have little connection with reality.

          • Aapje says:

            ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            All I can say is that for all its faults, my government seems above average in its abilities and yet says that it cannot police this. If EU law can only work for perfect humans (just like communism), they should try it with perfect humans, not us.

            If they consider it acceptable for large parts (at the bottom) of society to see their lives get worse due to the EU, then they should say so openly, instead of merely talking about how the EU makes us all richer.

            Of course, even the slave holders had to lie to themselves, convincing themselves that the slaves were better off than as free men. Exploitation probably requires either dehumanization or a great lie (or both), for people to justify it to themselves.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Note that in France, the populist party scored pretty much as predicted (around 23%, ahead of the ruling party, though by less than a point), in spite of the voting turnout being much higher than predicted (above 50% when most projections were at around 40%). Based on previous studies on election results, it’s not clear at all that a higher turnout automatically means less populist vote (in fact in some case it might mean slightly more).

      It does seem there was an effect of the bigger turnout on other parties than the leading two though: most predictions were giving around 12% to the traditional mainstream right party, and 8% to the greens — the opposite of the actual result, which was the real surprise of this election in France.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        In Czechia, higher turnout reliably means more “populist” outcome, since marginal voter is pretty, um, populist.

      • Aapje says:

        @Machine Interface

        True, but on the other hand: the populist vote has been increasing until now even with declining turnouts. So the increase for this election is to be expected, especially with part of that being British Brexit voters.

        What was not expected was a substantial shift to parties who are very much in favor of a harsh competitive environment, favoring the most competitive over those who are not.

    • eigenmoon says:

      Why is everybody happily using the word “populist” as if everybody agrees on what it means?

      Does everybody agree on whether far left parties are populists?

      • Aapje says:

        Anti-establishment is probably a better term. ‘Populist’ basically a derogatory term that has become widespread because the establishment enjoys being mean to their outgroup.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I for one used it in quotes. But I think it is obvious from context that we are talking about what I would call anti-globalist conservatives – Bannon, Le Pen, Orbán etc. Far left very much NOT included.

        • ana53294 says:

          Maduro is also a populist. Bernie has also been called a populist.

          I think the thing that unites all the populist movements is the blaming of an outgroup – whether it’s Uncle Sam, or the “elites”, Jews, immigrants, for most of the problems.

          • cassander says: