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OT131: Open Pride

1. Josh H and the team at bubble.is have converted the list of SSC-community-approved psychiatrists and therapists around the world to Web 2.0. You can now sort by what you’re looking for, and automatically add names to the list instead of going through me. Go to psychiat-list.slatestarcodex.com to check it out, and let me know if you find any bugs. You will have to register to add people to the list; there’s a link in the corner. Any names added in the past few weeks might have gotten lost in the transition, please register and add them back in, sorry.

2. Some old sidebar ads are back up, including for psychiatrist Laura Baur and programming coach James Koppel.

3. Comment of the week is the subreddit thread on Disease Causation And Biomedical Science.

4. Thanks to everyone who answered the survey at the bottom of If Kim Jong-un Opened A KFC, Would You Eat There?. Of 2,130 respondents, 27% believed retired dictators should be put on trial, 31% that they should get immunity to encourage other dictators to retire, and 42% weren’t sure. On the question of whether hypothetical-vegetarian-them would buy fake meat at a KFC, 8% would preferentially buy from KFC to encourage further change, 4% would avoid KFC to punish past misdeeds, 83% would just buy from whoever had the better product, and 4% didn’t know. These numbers didn’t change much based on vegetarianism status or right-left political position. You can get raw data here.

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873 Responses to OT131: Open Pride

  1. Deiseach says:

    Where I work is doing interviews again, and though I know that most or all of you have plenty of experience, just in case there’s anyone who is sending in an application for their first proper job reading:

    Please. I am begging you on bended knee with clasped hands and imploring you, please do not do this.

    When you have been emailed an application form that can be filled out in Word and emailed straight back, please do not:

    (1) Print it out
    (2) Fill it out by hand
    (Okay, so there is nothing wrong with steps one and two, because you can always post the completed form to the office. What comes after is the big no-no)
    (3) Take a photo of the completed form with your phone camera
    (4) Have to take another photo to get the bits of the form you missed out in the first photo
    (5) Upload the photo(s)
    (6) Email those back as the completed application form for some wretched minion (yr obt svt) to print out and try to puzzle out “where did you graduate from? what was your work experience? is that a crossed-out part or just a fold in the paper?”

    • Watchman says:

      If the job required basic IT or communicationskills, they’ve presumably failed then.

      • Matt M says:

        I assume in most contexts, the expected response to this sort of behavior would be “and into the trash this one goes,” but that since IIRC D works for some sort of state bureaucratic agency, “throw away resume without proper vetting by officially approved person” is explicitly against policy and possibly a literal crime.

        • Deiseach says:

          If the job required basic IT or communicationskills, they’ve presumably failed then.

          It’s for the more vocational end of the work, which thanks be to God, because at least it enables some kind of excuse for “okay, they’re not so good with paperwork but they won’t need to be doing very much of that”. But some of the ones for the admin side can be nearly as poor, which makes me wince.

          D works for some sort of state bureaucratic agency

          Used to, but not anymore. Back into the wonderful world of education! But for specific age range and sets of needs, only with the same ton of regulations (I’ve just been landed with looking over a draft schedule of service provision to be agreed with our funding body on whose behalf we provide those services, and it’s fifty pages – I’m not joking – of links to various regulations, acts, amendments and ‘new for 2019 you need to be aware of this’ which we have to demonstrate we are in compliance with, and what we’re doing to be in compliance, plus a whole new state body we may or may not be interacting with which is another ton of whole new regulations etc. we have to be in compliance with OR ELSE. I now understand why our national health service can’t afford to hire doctors or nurses, it’s because of the layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucrats needed simply to keep up with all the regulatin’, and I say that as a minor minion myself!).

          Anyway, to get back to my recruitment woes – that was the second-worst one I saw. The worst one I had to email them back requesting they post me the written form as I couldn’t make any sense of the three slivers of form in the photos they sent.

          I’d love to dump the bad ones in the bin, but I can’t since my boss’s boss wants to see every single application. So I have to trawl through them and pull ’em into some kind of order. Bricks without straw is not in it!

    • Nick says:

      Don’t hire this person.

    • DinoNerd says:

      The scary thing is that I’ve been asked to do precisely what you said not to, by various people’s “systems”.

      The form isn’t in word, or even an editable PDF – and if it’s a PDF, may have been created in such a way that I cannot convert it to e-text. The people wanting it filled out and filed are in a tearing hurry (= mail is too slow for them), and I don’t have a fax machine.

      This hasn’t happened at the job application stage. It happens later at the “please sign and return the offer letter” stage, or in contexts not involving employment.

      • AG says:

        There are “e-mail/pdf to fax” programs online, though they tend to append an ad cover letter for their free service.

      • Deiseach says:

        The form isn’t in word, or even an editable PDF – and if it’s a PDF, may have been created in such a way that I cannot convert it to e-text. The people wanting it filled out and filed are in a tearing hurry (= mail is too slow for them), and I don’t have a fax machine.

        Oh boy yeah. I love those forms (not). “Hey, we’re sending this to you to be filled out, except we have it password-protected and haven’t supplied the password. Also, you need a licence which you do not have for this particular software. Also, the software we’re using is not compatible with the suite you’re using. Also, the closing date was three days ago but we only sent it today and it has to be returned within the next half hour or all hell will break loose.”

        That is definitely all the blame on the person/firm sending you the form and not on you, so I absolve you 🙂

        There was one time you could, had you passed the office door, heard me swearing like a pirate’s parrot and it was because of an otherwise good applicant who sent their completed form and other information in whatever file format Apple uses. Need I explain that all our PCs are desktop models of all kinds of brands running Windows and Microsoft Office because it’s cheap (cheap and crappy, quite often, when the shop sees you coming and sells you the dodgy demonstration model they’ve had knocking around for ages which is why I insist, if ever I am permitted to buy hardware for the organisation, on ‘brand-new straight out of the box or nothing doing’)?

        So I had to use my own personal iTunes account to download iCloud for Windows (because you can’t just download iCloud, no no no, you need an account, screw you Apple and if Steve Jobs weren’t already dead I’d be wishing him to the floor of Hell) so I could unzip the file and convert Pages to Word and print it all off. To be fair, the person was apologetic when I emailed back to (politely!) request that any further files be sent in Word, but I was not a happy camper trying to download and juggle files for the sake of one applicant.

    • Lambert says:

      I’ll admit I did 1-3 before, out of necessity.
      But I used a DSLR, and fiddled with it in post to maximise readability.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve taken photos of documents someone needed electronically, too. It’s an ass-backwards way of solving the problem, but sometimes, it’s all you’ve got.

    • ana53294 says:

      I find that scanning usually gives good results. But I have a printer/scanner at my work, I have no idea where you can get a document scanned.

      • albatross11 says:

        In the US, you can usually go to a print shop like Kinkos (which I think got bought by Fed Ex a few years back) to get a good scanner. Also, I think a lot of hotel business centers have scanners.

      • Matt says:

        Staples, Office Depot, FedEx/Kinkos, some libraries, etc. You can also download a scanner app to your phone that I’ve heard will do fairly well, though in professional contexts I would not do that and in non-professional contexts I’ve just used my phone.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Phone cameras now have high enough rez that scanning apps work very well. And they can get a lot of milage out of knowing they are scanning text on paper, so they can square up the image and contrast pop it appropriately. The one I use is ScanBot, because the UX is good enough, and it will dump it’s scans into dozens of different storage back ends, so I usually dont have to worry about what employer / client / project dujour

    • Theodoric says:

      Can you just round-file applications that are submitted like that? If not, could your organization require the applications to be submitted through a website rather than emailed, and just have the submission application not accept photo files (like only allow Word files and PDF to be uploaded)?

      • Deiseach says:

        Can you just round-file applications that are submitted like that?

        Alas, I would if I could, but I am not permitted. Anything that gets sent in has to be accepted and answered. If they don’t bother following up with an application after expressing interest in the post, that’s a different matter, but if they fill one out and send it back – no matter how poorly – then it has to go in with all the others.

        If not, could your organization require the applications to be submitted through a website rather than emailed, and just have the submission application not accept photo files (like only allow Word files and PDF to be uploaded)?

        One can dream! We do have a website, but it’s rather defunct at the moment since the person maintaining it left and nobody has been tasked with updating it. All the news, announcements, etc. get posted on our Facebook page (which personally I think is not efficient, but then again what do I know? The boss seems to be correct that it’s more likely our clientele will look up Facebook rather than a website).

        Mainly I’m grousing to vent steam. Thankfully, the recruitment season will be over in a couple of weeks and the reasonable applicants shortlisted, then all I have to do is get everything ready for the interviews 🙂

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        (like only allow Word files and PDF to be uploaded)?

        A Word file containing a photo of an item is a well-known trope among those frustrated at the kinds of things people will submit.

  2. johan_larson says:

    An interesting take on Women’s Studies by Suburb Dad, who is a dean at a community college in New England somewhere.

    Women’s studies courses were some of the most useful courses I’ve ever taken. …

    That flies in the face of cultural stereotypes, I know. Courses like those are usually held up — by those who like to make such arguments — as among the most self-indulgent of the purely academic enterprises. They elicit snickers from some. I get that. But there’s a tremendous value in them that rarely gets expressed, even by supporters of courses like those.

    At their best, the women’s studies courses I took — yes, I used the plural — helped with two incredibly important management skills. They helped me learn to navigate complex and emotionally charged issues, and they helped me learn to depersonalize categories.

    Unfortunately the formatting on the blog really sucks. I’ve contacted the author about it, and he says its a platform problem and out of his hands. You might want to copy the text into an editor for easier reading.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think you meant this for the +0.25 thread

    • AG says:

      Having read the article, I’m not persuaded. The benefits he cites are not inherent to the content of the courses, and would likely not apply to everyone. I learned about arguments bypassing each other due to framework differences via competitive debate. Others learn the same lessons from some piece of fiction.

      People learn empathy from a variety of sources. There’s no evidence that X Studies is uniquely suited to teaching it.

  3. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I made a comment recently about how the Vanderbilt fortune didn’t survive to Anderson Cooper. Turns out I was incorrect:

    https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-anderson-cooper-gloria-vanderbilt-inheritance-20190702-story.html

  4. Falacer says:

    Related to Scott’s Unsong post, what should I read if I’m interested in the writing of William Blake? Is it a good idea to just get a tome of his prophetic books if I want to get a good feel for his writing?

  5. Godbluff says:

    I want to become better at making predictions. Does anyone know of any book or resource that could help me with that?

  6. alice says:

    Computer Science Graduate needed for teaching brief summer course in computer science at A-Level / IB Diploma level, 22.5 hours over one or two weeks between 21.07.19 and 11.08.19. Salary 1000 Euros plus board and lodging in a luxury hotel by the Adriatic Sea, plus contribution (up to €250) to flights. Contact Julia on Julia.a.purcell@gmail.com for further details and to apply.

  7. The main solid state on my computer is reporting that 194GBs are left but then the next time I shut it down and turn it on reporting that 210GB are left or some number within that range. Is this just a malfunction with recording how much space is left or something that says the drive is near the end of its life after several years? I’ve backed up my data anyway. The thing is, I checked it with a diagnostic tool and it seems to say that it’s healthy as far as I can gather.

  8. bean says:

    Biweekly Naval Gazing links:

    The big event of the last few weeks has been the 100th anniversary of the Scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow, in many ways the final act of WWI.

    The Spanish-American War series continues, looking at the American blockade of the Spanish fleet in Santiago, Cuba.

    After WWII, faster aircraft made conventional means for tracking air raids and vectoring fighters obsolete. The best answer was computerization, including some of the first real-time computer systems.

    And I’ve finally returned to the tale of Arthur Pollen and Fredrick Dreyer, and the competition for the Royal Navy’s fire control system in the years before WWI.

    Lord Nelson contributed a review of arctic research ship Soya, in Japan, while dndnrsn has reviewed a number of military museums in Bavaria.

    Other things going on include our game of Rule the Waves 2, where war has broken out with Italy, and the regular Open Thread.

  9. Nick says:

    Do you think the rise of film and television has changed the way folks read books and what they look for? Does a book described as cinematic appeal to you?

    At an extreme, does it make sense to write a book that’s meant to feel like a film or television series?

    • AG says:

      Absolutely. They’ve strongly influenced comics, as well. They’ve gained a kind of decompression, so that the prose flows deliver the content in something close to the “real-time” pacing you’d get from watching a film and movie, and the kinds of things you’d notice on the screen. Prose imitating cinematography.
      Fanfiction is also unique in that imitating the feel of the source material is the point, which can result in writing that isn’t optimized for the medium of text, but absolutely satisfies as a mechanism for evoking the feelings you get from your favorite show/film. Given that several authors get their start from fanfiction and then move into original fiction (or file off the serial numbers of their fanfic for publication), it makes sense that there would be more original prose with an audio-visual-evoking style.

      In contrast, books described as cinematic rarely have that kind of breezy prose. Instead, “cinematic” is used as a shorthand for “dense plotting. lots of things! happen!”
      Actually cinematic books are lean and focused.

      I think that it’s worth having books with this kind of prose style. There are more stories in the world worth telling than could ever be produced in an audio-visual form, so if some of them have to be books instead of movies/TV, better to have them in one form than to not exist at all.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        People have mocked comic book characters saying 3 sentences of text in the middle of a punch, but, dammit, the medium allows for that. Let them talk!

        • Well... says:

          Instinctively I find this absurd and unappealing, but my thoughts move fast enough that if I was punching someone I could easily imagine myself thinking 3 sentences’ worth of things in the middle of a punch.

          I guess it’s really all in how it’s executed in the comic. (Same goes for movie.)

        • This is in superhero comics usually, right? I always thought adding an extremely mild telepathy power would work if it even needs justifying at all. Then again, I’m someone who gets bothered by movies where two people are talking to each other while skydiving or while similarly loud things are happening that would drown them out.

        • AG says:

          but, dammit, the medium allows for that. Let them talk!

          Hah, I’m of the opposite opinion. If the story is that dialogue heavy, use a medium more suited to dialogue (i.e. text or audio-visual). Comics should optimize for less text, let the paneling and visual content do the heavy lifting. See also how to avoid “talking heads” animation for dialogue-heavy scenes.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That’s a fair cop.

            Something that bugged me about comics these days: I picked up a “Marvel Adventures” digest from the library for my son. It was Guardians of the Galaxy. What really bugged me was that the art was so disconnected from the story. If you wanted to know what was happening, you had to read the dialogue, which was often spent a lot of time explaining the random things happening in the panel. Maybe they were all animation cells from a Marvel cartoon or something so they were trying to shoehorn the plot in. We made fun of Rob Liefeld for this. (Well, we made fun of Rob Liefeld for lots of things.)

          • AG says:

            Something I continually reference wrt comics is this chapter of a webcomic that tells the same scene in four different comic styles. By my above description emphasizing visuals, you’d think the Landridge edition would be my favorite, but I like the Perez edition best, and hey, it’s the one that most resembles how an audio-visual version would be paced.

            But that’s partially due to what the scene is depicting, what story is being told. A more abstract story, full of monologues, would be better served by more abstract visuals untethered to time.
            But superhero comics are mostly depicting action occurring in real time, so the comic should evoke a sense of real time in the reader.

    • SaiNushi says:

      It has definitely made books more fast-paced.

      I’d like to think my preference is for books that were written before tv and movies became big. I certainly think those books are higher-quality. I refer to narrative books written in the fast-pace style as “brain candy”, because I love to read them but they feel like they dumb my mind the same way tv feels like it dumbs my mind. However, when I’m struggling with depression, the brain candy is a good escape.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’d like to think my preference is for books that were written before tv and movies became big. I certainly think those books are higher-quality.

        Almost all of my favorite works of fiction are from the 1930s or earlier. I could even recommend a few arguably as fun as brain candy!

      • b_jonas says:

        > before tv and movies became big

        By your reckoning, in what decade did that happen? I’d like to understand what age of books you’re praising here.

        • AG says:

          And before books, you had the oral tradition (and theater tradition) dominating things. Indeed, early movies were mostly taking their cues from theater, even when adapting books for the screen.
          In turn, what of books that would be described as “theatrical” rather than “cinematic”?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Do you think the rise of film and television has changed the way folks read books and what they look for? Does a book described as cinematic appeal to you?

      1. For a lot of people, I’d guess, unfortunately.
      2. Not at all.

    • b_jonas says:

      > Do you think the rise of film and television has changed the way folks read books and what they look for?

      I can’t answer this, because I am not old enough and don’t watch film or television often these days, so it hasn’t changed what I’m looking for personally.

      > Does a book described as cinematic appeal to you?

      Experimentally, yes. I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books, and they’re written in a way that resembles a movie script a lot. That said, that is not the only form of book that appeals to me. I do enjoy non-fiction, and other fiction books that don’t describe the visual much and spend some time explaining the motivation of the protagonists or gives long descriptions of worldbuilding.

  10. autocorrelation says:

    Can anyone who’s read Albion’s seed more closely than me explain the precise cultural significance of a Vegas-style casino opening in the heart of Puritan land? It feels significant.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      There may be some slight significance to the fact that this one’s not run by an Indian tribe, but the existing casinos in the region have not lacked for business.

    • KieferO says:

      I live in the Boston area and can provide a little context. The first thing to note is that Unitarians and other mainline protestants who are the direct religious heirs to the Puritans were pretty consistently opposed to this on exactly the grounds that you would expect, though the stated justification was usually in terms of “harm to community” rather than on virtue ethics grounds. The reason that they failed is that the casino was able to string together a coalition of local residents (i.e. those of the town of Everett as opposed to residents of greater Boston), transit advocates (by agreeing to build Ferry, Bus, and Bike infrastructure), environmentalists (by building on a brownfield), and residents of Springfield (who had their own casino).

      I wouldn’t characterize this as “Puritans no longer care about vice” and more “Puritans think that they have bigger fish to fry.”

      • acymetric says:

        Are Unitarians really mainline protestants, and are they really direct religious heirs to Puritans? I don’t think either of those things are true.

        • Theodoric says:

          According to Wikipedia, the New England Unitarian churches are descended from Puritans whose literal reading of the Bible led them to reject the concept of the Trinity (which isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible). Might not be “direct” heirs, but they’re certainly in the Puritan family tree. I don’t think they’re mainline Protestant.

          • KieferO says:

            I agree that it’s tough to call Unitarians Christians which means they can’t be protestants, mainline or otherwise. But politically, they’re almost identical. If you gave me a stack of political statements from mainline protestant churches with one Unitarian mixed in, I don’t think I could identify it. That’s all I meant by lumping Unitarians in with mainline protestants on the casino issue. I apologize for not having been more clear.

            The reason I called the Unitarians the direct heirs to the Puritans is that I was under the impression that the oldest puritanest worship spaces now housed Unitarian churches. Actually looking at the map, this is mostly true: Cambridge’s First Parish is Unitarian, and it’s definitely the oldest puritianist church in Cambridge. In Boston, First Church (founded by that John Winthrop) is a modern Unitarian church. Living here, I’m left with the sense that Unitarians are the Puritans 400 years on, but I don’t really have strong evidence that that’s true outside of the tiny bubble of Cambridge and Boston.

    • BBA says:

      The New England Puritans weren’t strictly against gambling – colonial Massachusetts had state-sponsored lotteries much like today. They were subsequently banned and reintroduced, but those were nationwide trends.

      In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that if a state has a lottery, it has to allow tribal casinos. And now that tribal casinos are just a normal part of the New England landscape (I still have the Foxwoods “wonder of it all” jingle stuck in my head), commercial casinos are a lot less of a stretch.

  11. Nate Gabriel says:

    Zoning laws that say “no more than X unrelated people may live here” probably violate the First Amendment. The Supreme Court said the opposite in 1974, but there’s been case law since then and this has arguably/probably changed.

    The best possible plaintiffs would be a group of poly partners and metamours. (For freedom of association, it matters how intimate and family-like the relationship is.) Plus, this could force a court to say having multiple partners is the type of important relationship protected by the First Amendment. It’d be a step up from the privacy-based status quo of “none of the state’s business,” even if not as strong as getting declared a protected class.

    I know we’ve got a lot of poly people here and a lot of people who’d like to see this kind of law challenged. If anyone’s interested in there being less zoning, more legal acknowledgement of polyamory, or poking the First Amendment to make it slightly bigger, let me know.

    (How many people who want to live together this would take varies by where you are. Four or more if you’re in Boston, is the lowest I know of.)

    • Murphy says:

      out of interest how did the court get around the “to peaceably assembly” bit in 1974?

      • Nate Gabriel says:

        They said that there’s no restriction on the right to assemble, because homeowners can invite over anyone they like. The law was only affecting who’s allowed to live there.

        (This is less dumb than it sounds. Earlier precedent was talking about the right to assemble as being meant for expressive purposes, which mostly doesn’t apply here.)

        The current framework is that the right to associate includes expressive association and intimate association, which is defined as “marriage, child-raising, living with relatives, and, um, stuff.” It’s vague. I think a group of partners would have the strongest possible case that their right to live together is a fundamental right.

        It’s a winnable case even without being partners. Sharing a household with someone is intimate, the type of relationship you only have with a few people, affects personal values, can help define identity, etc. But, you know. Best case. And the strongest case for intimate association is either a polycule or an 18-year-old who wants to live with family instead of on a college campus. And it’s awfully hard to find an incoming freshman willing to sue their school.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I’ve lived in and visited poly geek houses in Seattle that significantly exceed the city’s old early20C moral-panic knee-jerk anti-poor-worker boarding-house laws.

          It’s my understanding that it’s been kind of a détente, in that the city knows it would be terrible optics and could be an expensive loss, while the polygeek houses have other battles to fight and much more fulfilling things to spent treasure and spoons on.

          • tossrock says:

            I like your “treasure and spoons” formulation, but think it would be even better as “spoons and treasure”, to more closely mimic “blood and treasure” – the double ‘o’ is even in the right place!

          • Nate Gabriel says:

            Yeah, some cities care more than others. And they have to specifically say they want to enforce it before there’s standing.

            Do you think some of these houses might be interested, given that a useful precedent could matter? I’m thinking especially of section 8 housing vouchers– anyone who uses drugs (including drugs that are legal under state law) is ineligible, and you can also lose your housing if the guilty party is a guest even if they kept their drug use off the premises.

            People have sued about that last part before and lost (in DC), and this could really do with a competing precedent saying that freedom of intimate association applies to choosing who you live with. But subsidized housing tenants who know people who use drugs don’t make the best plaintiffs, which is how this happened in the first place.

            Even if this doesn’t really matter as applied to them, do you think this might tip the balance? And if the city does fold, at least they get their exception in writing instead of implied.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Plus, this could force a court to say having multiple partners is the type of important relationship protected by the First Amendment.

      That has some very interesting culture war ramifications I’d like to circle back around to later in the week.

      • Nate Gabriel says:

        You can assume judges know about culture war stuff and will prefer to phrase things the least exciting way

        Is the culture war thread over at r/TheMotte? I’m not really up to date but will head over there. Anyway, free wrench for throwing in things: swap the teams by saying that “freedom of intimate association” first came up as the set of relationships that are too personal for antidiscrimination laws to reach.

        (I’m not worried about broadening this because I think I know what laws are most vulnerable if freedom of association makes a comeback and they mostly aren’t culture war ones anyway.)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I mean in the hidden fractional open threads on this blog. This is the visible open thread, in which we try to avoid culture war topics so we don’t scare the normals. But if we’re talking about broadening freedom of association that is the culture warriest of all culture warry things. “No X allowed” neighborhoods, schools, lunch counters, etc. But here specifically if you want to say poly relationships are families that cannot be discriminated against by zoning laws…what about when they apply for marriage licenses? Why are they discriminated against when jointly filing their taxes? Those are the things we should not talk about here, but I would like to discuss when we can start throwing mud at each other tomorrow or Thursday.

          • Nate Gabriel says:

            I don’t think this would affect those things, but yeah. That can wait for the next thread.

            (Huh. I thought the fractional threads had the same rules as these ones, and our host wanted the culture war to happen somewhere far away. Guess not.)

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Our host wanted the culture war on the SSC reddit to move elsewhere; the one here is less provocative and so doesn’t need to be hidden (I believe that the no CW on integer OTs is more about creating a pleasant CW-free space than hiding CW from the normies, given that the system used to be the other way round).

          • Jack Lecter says:

            I mean in the hidden fractional open threads on this blog. This is the visible open thread, in which we try to avoid culture war topics so we don’t scare the normals.

            I didn’t think that was the rule (though it still might be a good idea). I thought some of the threads were labled as CW-free in the main post, and this one isn’t.

            I’m happy to follow the rule whatever it is, but I’d like to be sure I know. Also, the fact that I was confused provides some evidence that other people might be.

        • Nick says:

          Is the culture war thread over at r/TheMotte? I’m not really up to date but will head over there.

          In case you’re not aware of the culture war–permitted threads, look at “Recent Posts” on the sidebar, where some fractional open threads are listed that don’t appear in rss feeds or the homepage. Or click “Open Thread” on the header, which redirects to the latest open thread—at the moment it redirects to here, but in a few days it will be 131.25.

    • ozewe says:

      Just another data point: in the town of Mansfield, CT (location of the University of Connecticut), a maximum of three “unrelated individuals can live in a dwelling unit, regardless of the number of bedrooms or parking spaces provided.”

    • salvorhardin says:

      What recent case law do you have in mind? And is Belle Terre the 1974 decision you mean? Interested because this seems relevant to zoning politics generally, e.g. the question of whether one could challenge SFR only zoning on disparate impact grounds.

      • Nate Gabriel says:

        Belle Terre, yes. The intervening decisions are Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees and Rotary Club International v. Rotary Club of Duarte. These have nothing to do with zoning, but they define intimate association (well, “define,”) with a bunch of words about how it’s personal, limited, exclusive of nonmembers, transmits shared ideals… Anyway, those decisions would definitely include romantic relationships pretty hard toward the personal and protected end of the spectrum.

        I don’t see a disparate impact claim here, because I’m not arguing for protected class status. But absolutely, this could affect zoning more generally. The Ninth Circuit has already ruled that who you live with is protected intimate association, in one of the Roommate.com decisions, but as far as I know this hasn’t been applied to strike down maximum occupancy laws. And probably won’t, because California already doesn’t use this kind of law and nowhere else in the Ninth Circuit really exists.

        Other things it might affect: jurisdictions where it’s illegal to let a family member stay with you based on their criminal record, the fact that you can lose federally subsidized housing if a guest uses drugs off-premises while staying with you. You can see why I’d rather be doing this with plaintiffs like college students or a polycule.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve got a bunch of ingredients I think will go well together, but I’m not sure how I want to cook them.

    Chicken breasts, ricotta cheese, sage, thyme, tomatoes, garlic, bacon, possibly mushrooms.

    Probably should be baked, but at what temperature and for how long?

    I’ve been advised that if I want to include bacon, it should be cooked separately.

    Back story: I was at a potluck, and one of the items was a kugel (Jewish noodle pudding). It was very tasty, and mostly ricotta cheese. It tasted of chicken broth, so I asked the woman who made it– she said there was no chicken broth, but there were sage and thyme– these are classic poultry spices.

    She’d been a little nervous about the kugel since she’d never made the recipe before, she isn’t Jewish, and there were a number of Jews at the potluck. For what it’s worth, I generally don’t like kugel, I think it’s too bland. I’m dubious that I’m an expert on kugel. Anyway, she felt good that I liked it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you mean bacon as in rashers of bacon? Because wrapping chicken pieces (breasts, fillets, drumsticks) in bacon and baking them is perfectly normal, I never heard of having to cook the bacon separately.

      I’m an idiot cook, but I’d imagine making some kind of sauce first with the tomatoes, garlic, sage, thyme and mushrooms. Stuff the chicken with the ricotta, wrap the bacon around it, pour over the sauce and bake in the oven until done. Some kind of adaptation of a basic recipe like this one?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That sounds good.

        Rashers of bacon, though I suppose I could stack them if I wanted to simulate a thick piece.

        The friend who recommended cooking the bacon separately thought it would take longer to back than the chicken and cheese.

        Your idea of a sauce makes more sense if tomatoes and mushrooms would make the baked cheese and chicken too watery.

        I was wondering about “rasher”, so have an etymology.

        “thin slice of bacon or ham,” 1590s, of unknown origin. Perhaps from Middle English rash “to cut,” variant of rase “to rub, scrape out, erase.” However, early lexicographer John Minsheu explained it in 1627 as a piece “rashly or hastily roasted.”

    • jg29a says:

      Hesitate to say this as a now vegan, but I would have made a Cordon Bleu variant with that. Bacon has always been better than ham. Chicken breasts are always better when you pound the hell out of them and roll them up to get flavor spread around. Ricotta gets split between inside and garnish, tomatoes and spices get pureed for a topping added late in the baking.

      Something I haven’t thought of in a long time, bit of a hard one to consider imitating with plant products.

      EDIT: Yes, the bacon absolutely should be fried for a little bit before rolling and baking. 350F, 30′ or so, depending on how thawed the chicken was and how thin you’ve pounded it.

    • AG says:

      Savory crepe, taco, or omelet, if you shred the chicken.

      For baking, any chicken casserole recipe instruction should work.

      Otherwise, you could pan-roast the breasts with the garlic, tomatoes and mushrooms, and top with dollops of the ricotta mixed with the herbs and bacon.

    • SamChevre says:

      I can think of two approaches.

      The first is something like chicken cordon bleu–wrap the chicken in the back, stuff with cheese and sauteed vegetables.

      I would more likely make a sauced chicken dish, though. Skin and bone the chicken breasts and put them in the freezer to firm up. Fry the bacon, reserve the crisp bacon. Add a little water to the bacon grease, along with the sliced up chicken skins, and saute until the skins are crunchy; reserve the crunchy skins. Slice the chicken breasts thinly (1/4 inch thick or so), salt them lightly, saute in the bacon grease just until done. Saute the sliced mushrooms in the fat, then add the chopped tomatoes. Saute just until the tomatoes are hot through, add the ricotta, stir until hot, add chicken broth or water until the consistency is right. Stir in the chicken. I’d eat it* over pasta and top with the crunchy bacon and chicken skin, and some grated parmesan. I could probably make this in about as long as it took to cook the pasta.

      *Actually, I wouldn’t eat it at all–I’m too dairy-intolerant. But I would wish I could.

  13. Andrew Hunter says:

    I likely owe Scott $1000 (well, his choice of charity.) Still waiting on OBSIDIAN’s official ruling, but doesn’t look good for me. Kudos to Scott for betting his beliefs; looks like I was wrong and it is in fact possible for a journalist to (EDITED FOR CW: give us fair treatment.) (I still wouldn’t take chances with 99% of them.)

    Scott, where should the money go?

    • Murphy says:

      I can see your point about the arts article.

      https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/with-millennial-philanthropy-money-flowing-arts-groups-miss-out/

      It’s not quite evil but it’s decided what side it’s on and avoids really justifying the EA position while floridly praising the arts from every angle.

      A single line along the lines of

      “But the EA position is that giving 50K to pay for an extra flute player is effectively deciding that it’s better there be one extra member of the orchestra than for an extra 40 poor children to remain alive”

      would have changed the entire tone but it made sure to follow every faint nod to EA positions with gushing praise of the arts and how terrible it is they’re not being supported.

      • Matt says:

        This could be a good culture war topic.

        Back when I was giving more generously I gave the vast majority of my monetary donations to a development charity for the third world and I gave my volunteer time to local organizations that effectively were ‘charity for rich people’. Because volunteering my time was effectively participating in my hobbies, and had extra utility for me.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Your favorite of the EA funds ( https://app.effectivealtruism.org/ )

  14. blipnickels says:

    I am confused about the amount of pension entitlements in the US, especially in terms of the average American’s net worth, and would appreciate anyone who could clarify.

    Background:

    So FRED has a blog and one of their recent posts was on changes in the proportion of assets people own in the US, looking at financial assets, real estate, and durable consumer goods.

    This has a link to the full list of assets by type

    The three biggest asset classes, by size, are
    Pensions entitlements at ~$26.5 trillion
    Real estate at ~$26.1 trillion
    Corporate equities and mutual funds at ~$24.5 trillion

    This is really confusing to me. I know there’s a pension crisis but I did not think the total amount of pension entitlements was larger than all household real estate in the US. According to this, pension entitlement are ~25% of all US net worth, where in my daily life pensions are essentially extinct outside of government and almost no one has one.

    This table plus L119 and L120 provide more detail. I don’t think I missed the Fed slipping Social Security or something into pension entitlements, although there are references to IRAs.

    Can anyone clarify? Because if the remaining pensions really are this big, like equivalent to all household real estate big, then they’re a much bigger problem than I originally thought.

    • broblawsky says:

      Yes, they really are that big. The thirty largest state pension funds in the US make up ~$2.9 trillion; Social Security makes up another $2.7 trillion alone. There’s a few additional federal pension schemes, as well. The private sector is much murkier, but I think an additional ~$15-20 trillion seems reasonable. It’s worth noting that there’s a little bit of double-counting there, in that the Social Security fund is invested in US government bonds – it absorbs some of the federal government’s debt.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Having huge off-the-books promises is a significant failure of good government. All government promises should be explicit.

        That said, how come those states still have decent borrowing rates? How come the market doesn’t say “there is no way Illinois can get out of this, don’t lend them money.”

        1) There isn’t any such crisis.

        2) They anticipate a bailout.

        3) They think the failure is 30+ years off, and these bonds can be sold off to a greater fool before then.

        • Murphy says:

          To be fair: the social security stuff is fairly explicit.

          it’s partly why certain politicans are so keen to kill social security. At the swipe of a pen they’d wipe out more than half the US government debts. And as a bonus they’d be doing it with a massive 1 time tax on the working classes so no angry major political donors. And some of those people would cheer them for it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The fact that Social Security exists at the pleasure of Congress, with no due process or property rights, is pretty un-explicit.

            At the swipe of a pen they’d wipe out more than half the US government debts.

            Any debt you can describe like that is the opposite of explicit.

          • Matt M says:

            it’s partly why certain politicans are so keen to kill social security.

            Can you name one?

            I’ve honestly never heard of anyone proposing this.

          • Nick says:

            My impression is that Bush 2 took aim at social security with the intent of privatizing it, but support steadily declined, Republicans tabled it, and then they lost Congress anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            I recall Bush talking about “reforming” social security, which his critics immediately labeled as “privatizing” it. Even if that were an accurate description (which is hard to say, given that the reaction was so overwhelmingly negative we never even really saw any proposed specifics), that doesn’t seem to map very well to “instantly eliminate it with the stroke of a pen.”

            Hell, I don’t even think Ron Paul ever endorsed “Social security is now ended, nobody gets it any more and no other compensation is provided in any way.”

          • dick says:

            it’s partly why certain politicans are so keen to kill social security.

            Can you name one? I’ve honestly never heard of anyone proposing this.

            Republican President George W. Bush outlined a major initiative to reform Social Security which included partial privatization of the system, personal Social Security accounts, and options to permit Americans to divert a portion of their Social Security tax (FICA) into secured investments. In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Bush discussed the potential bankruptcy of the program. Democrats opposed the proposal.[47] Bush campaigned for the initiative in a 60-day national tour.[48] However, public support for the proposal only declined.[49] The House Republican leadership tabled Social Security reform for the remainder of the session.[50] In the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats gained control of both houses, effectively killing the plan for the remainder of Bush’s term in office.

            From here. To be fair, he wasn’t advocating getting rid of it entirely, just a tentative first step in that direction. I think it’s fair to say privatizing SS is a pretty venerable idea on the right that a lot of conservatives are at least interested in pursuing, but there’s never been a specific plan for it that got enough popularity that “Senator X wants to replace your Social Security with an IRA” would’ve been a totally honest charge.

            Hell, I don’t even think Ron Paul ever endorsed “Social security is now ended, nobody gets it any more and no other compensation is provided in any way.”

            Agreed, I don’t think anyone has ever advocated getting rid of SS and not replacing it with something similar-but-privatized.

          • Matt M says:

            OK then, so you agree with me that it is wholly inaccurate to suggest that “certain politicians are so keen to kill social security

            The approximate number of politicians who have proposed “killing social security”, and replacing it with nothing, is zero.

          • Nick says:

            Agreed, describing a partial privatization as “killing” SS is hyperbolic.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And none of those plans involved this:

            At the swipe of a pen they’d wipe out more than half the US government debts

            Those plans were how to transition people out (sometimes opt-in, sometimes not, depended on the proposal) without taking out what they had earned.[1]

            But the Congress could. How do you deal with an optional debt like this in accounting terms? And it’s not minor: it’s 20-25% of the Federal government’s spending. That’s a really big question mark to have in terms of financial predictions.

            [1] Obviously not earned in a legal or property sense. You have no property right to your SS benefits.

          • Matt M says:

            How do you deal with an optional debt like this in accounting terms?

            IME, an “optional” debt is no debt at all. This is why social security isn’t counted against the national debt, and why it’s technically proper for it to not be, because Congress is under absolutely no legal obligation whatsoever to actually pay out SS benefits.

            And they could even still keep all the fancy payroll taxes, because the Supreme Court has already ruled that the taxes and the benefits are legally distinct and in no way entangled with each other.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            How do you deal with an optional debt like this in accounting terms?

            The US federal government, in conjunction with its state governments, is sovereign. All debts are optional debts.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            All debts are optional in some sense.

            But the US has internal processes about property and contract rights, and those don’t apply to SS benefits. One act of Congress and they could vanish, and it would be much harder, possibly taking/causing a Constitutional crisis, to cancel (say) federal workers’ pensions or bond payments.

          • cassander says:

            This is why social security isn’t counted against the national debt, and why it’s technically proper for it to not be, because Congress is under absolutely no legal obligation whatsoever to actually pay out SS benefits.

            Not exactly. The law says that the US has to pay out SS benefits. Congress could can change that law, but unless and until it does, the government required to do so. SS and other entitlement obligations absolutely should be included in debt calculations, and in fact the treasury performs just such an evaluation every year. That Congress can renege on those promises doesn’t change that it’s debt, any more than an individual’s ability to declare bankruptcy does.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          How come the market doesn’t say “there is no way Illinois can get out of this, don’t lend them money.”

          Illinois has the worst credit rating in the country. Living here I can recall at least few instances where Springfield was in a panic because one of the agencies was about to downgrade them.

          As to how come it isn’t literally persona non grata for investment, it’s still a US state. So having functioning institutions keep us a peg above various junk bond countries (many revisions later, I think that’s CW-free :P) And I suspect there’s some degree of recourse to the Feds though I don’t know how true that is.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Okay, option 4 it is.

            4) I knew about this at one point, but forget about it.

        • Matt M says:

          “Anticipate a bailout” is probably a pretty big part of it.

          While the feds have never explicitly promised to bail out a bankrupt state government, it’s hard for me to imagine them not doing so, if it really came down to it.

          If they’ll bail out banks and auto manufacturers, it’s hard to conceive of them not extending the same professional courtesy to their own fellow “public servants.”

          • dick says:

            Illinois can also just raise taxes.

          • Matt M says:

            Can they? Or are they already at the far end of the laffer curve?

            Haven’t researched in detail, but my impression is people and businesses are already fleeing it for lower tax jurisdictions.

            It’s much easier to “vote with your feet” at the state level than at the federal…

          • dick says:

            Can they? Or are they already at the far end of the laffer curve?

            Er, my point in mentioning it was not to suggest that raising taxes is specifically the right way to solve this problem, it was more to mean that they don’t need a bailout, they have the ability to solve their own problems by raising taxes or cutting spending.

            But since you asked, my general understanding is that the whole reason they’re broke is that they passed a bunch of tax cuts that were hoped to, but did not in actuality, pay for themselves. And that led to a multi-year “You need to agree to more taxes” / “No, you need to agree to less spending” showdown. If you’re a bank lending the State of Illinois money at interest, you don’t really care who blinks first, just that someone does.

          • Matt M says:

            they have the ability to solve their own problems by raising taxes or cutting spending.

            I’m not certain this is true, or at least not in the short term.

            They can tinker around with tax and spending rates all they want, but there’s no guarantee that those things would actually succeed, and certainly no guarantee that they’d succeed quickly if they were facing a “we literally cannot pay our retirees right now situation.”

            In which case they’d either have to default on their obligations, find more voluntary lenders (unlikely in that situation), or be bailed out.

            The federal government has many more options, most notably, just printing new currency. But states are far more limited in what they can do.

          • dick says:

            They can tinker around with tax and spending rates all they want, but there’s no guarantee that those things would actually succeed, and certainly no guarantee that they’d succeed quickly if they were facing a “we literally cannot pay our retirees right now situation.”

            I feel like you’re looking for ways to quibble, and ignoring the context, which was why do lenders continue lending money to Illinois. If you asked lenders why they continue to lend them money, the answer would not be “Because if Illinois can’t pay us back, the Feds will probably bail them out.” That might be true in some sense, but any scenario in which the Feds have to bail out a bankrupt state is by definition a pretty fucked up situation, and institutional lenders are not really fond of those.

            I think a more realistic answer is, “Because they’re a state, they have the ability to levy taxes and cut spending and stiff someone else before us.” Which is provably true, the state has been doing all of those things for more than a decade now. And of course the other answer is, the lenders have been lowering Illinois’ credit rating, which is essentially equivalent to not lending them as much.

            The federal government has many more options, most notably, just printing new currency.

            I think we have hashed this out already, maybe a couple of times, but the Federal Government cannot print money, it can only borrow money. The Federal Reserve can (indirectly) increase the money supply, but that doesn’t result in the legislature having more money to spend, it results in banks having more money to lend.

          • John Schilling says:

            That might be true in some sense, but any scenario in which the Feds have to bail out a bankrupt state is by definition a pretty fucked up situation, and institutional lenders are not really fond of those.

            A situation in which the Feds have to bail out a bankrupt state is one fucked up in ways that will not be limited to the bank account of the state of Illinois and place pretty much all investments at risk. Come that day, the only remotely safe investment will be US Treasuries, because Washington will ruin it for everyone else by printing enough money to pay its own debts. But Treasuries have a pathetic yield. State bonds pay better and will be almost as safe, for every state, because DC will make sure no state falls unless it is clearly obviously catastrophic for the federal government to bail them out. Everything else, even the most powerful “too big to fail” corporations, will likely be collateral damage in that mess.

            So if you’re a big investor or lender, then no matter what you invest in you’re either betting that the fiscal apocalypse won’t happen, or you’re betting that you will be smart enough to shift into gold and canned food and heavily-defended private islands before that happens, or you’re hoping you’ll get to keep ten cents on the dollar when everyone else goes down to absolute ruin. And all three of those point towards Illinois bonds being an OK-ish investment.

          • Matt M says:

            And all three of those point towards Illinois bonds being an OK-ish investment.

          • Matt M says:

            Sorry, still having issues with the quote function…

            My claim here is not that, if you asked someone at Goldman Sachs why they would buy an Illinois muni bond, they would gleefully exclaim “Because they are zero risk because the feds will bail them out!”

            But rather, in line with John’s comments, what they would say is something like “Because these bonds offer an attractive return relative to their risk.” Only they’d probably use much more complicated financial terminology than that.

            And I would suggest the reason they are attractive relative to their risk is, as John describes, the fact that they yield significantly more than treasuries, but are approximately as safe, if you assume a significant likelihood of a federal bailout (and they have certain tax advantages as well that I still don’t fully understand).

        • POGtastic says:

          The banks are (ahem) banking on #2 – that whatever happens to the pension funds, their bonds will still be worth money. Even so, Illinois has a pretty bad credit rating compared to other states.

          At some point, pension beneficiaries will have to take a haircut, the Federal government will step in with some money, and people will accept some combination of a tax hike and cuts in services to pay the State’s end of the compromise.

          The exact details – how much the haircut is going to be, how much Uncle Sam is going to chip in, how much taxes are going to go up, and how much services are going to go down – are why nobody is going to solve the issue until it becomes unbearable. In any event, the state isn’t going to shaft its lenders, specifically because it will make borrowing impossible in the future.

      • SkyBlu says:

        Also while really only civil servants and government workers receive pensions, plenty of people pay into pension funds without ever staying long enough at that job to receive the benefits.; I personally pay an admittedly trivial amount working for my state university, for example.

      • blipnickels says:

        $15-$20 trillion in private pension funds?

        This is what confused me. Not public sector pension funds but private funds. Are there really $20 billion in GE/Intel/American Airlines pension funds out there.

        I guess so: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-corporate-pensions/
        or at least there’s a lot more private pension money than I thought.

        So why do we talk about public sector pensions so much. The private side is 3-4x larger?

        • Matt M says:

          So why do we talk about public sector pensions so much.

          Because the assumption is that public sector pensions will be bailed out, while most private sector ones (maybe not for particularly large and politically well connected firms such as GM and GE) won’t.

          If a public sector fund fails, everyone is going to pay for it. If Intel’s pension fund fails, that’s a problem for Intel employees, but not for me…

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Taxpayers are liable for public pensions in a way that private pensions are not.

          The problems that exist with public pensions can occur in private ones but former is more suseptible than the latter since the former is less constrainted by current earnings. An underfunded pension [and underfunded is important here, because the size of the liability in the form of future payouts is less important then the relative difference between liabilities and assets] in the private sector is under less of a presumptionof a bailout of some kind. [not always]

          Most private entities have competitors in a way that states and municipalities do not [at least relative to any individual] so while public pensions can croud out public services by diverting tax revenues to non-services, a private entity that tried funding pensions by drawing heavily on current or future earnings would be at a severe competitive disadvantage.

          The other matter is assets. A private pension that involves buying state X bonds to cover future benefits is somewhat different than state X issuing its own bonds to cover future benefits… or at least i would imagine.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Private pension funds are regulated and required to be well-funded.

          Don’t think that this means they always meet their funding requirements. They often fall short. And there are government backstops, but they are preprogrammed to give pension-holders significant haircuts. But the private pension managers don’t want to end up in jail for violating the law, so they don’t explicitly violate the law.

          But governments don’t regulate their own pension funds anywhere as much. They can get away with much rosier predictions about future earnings. And if they fail to meet their own regulations, well, it works about as well as cops investigating themselves.

          Also, when the pension funds have an unusually good year, there is political pressure to share the wealth and distribute the surplus, and/or up the formula. When there is a bad year, hey, there are bad years, the good years will make up for it. It’s a heads-they-win, tails-we-tie situation.

          For a bonus problem, look up Detroit’s “13th month” bonus pension checks.

          • From my standpoint, the reason public pensions are a problem is that political actors don’t have secure property rights in their political power. To expand on that …

            We would like people to make decisions that take account of future costs and benefits. If I own some land and want to grow valuable but slow growing hardwood trees on it, I plant the trees and know that, when they mature, they will belong to me. If I expect it to take longer than my remaining lifetime, I know that when they are partly grown I can sell land and trees for a price that reflects their future value. So it is in my interest to take account of the future benefit, and similarly of future costs.

            Suppose I am governor of Illinois, planning the political equivalent of planting hardwoods–a politically costly act now that will provide politically valuable benefits forty years later. I won’t take it—because the benefit will go to a different politician, the one who happens to be in office then.

            Now make it benefits and costs. The Illinois teachers, or cops, or some other effective group, is threatening to go on strike for higher pay. Giving them higher pay prevents the strike, which is a political benefit, but it means I have to raise taxes or cut expenditures elsewhere, which is a political cost–to me. Agreeing to give them a higher pension, most of which will be paid ten or twenty or thirty years in the future, provides me the same benefit but transfers the cost to future governors. So I do it, even if the net effect, including future costs, is negative.

            The same problem exists for a private firm, but in a considerably weaker form, because although the CEO does not have secure property rights in his position, the stockholders do have secure property rights in theirs.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Agreeing to give them a higher pension, most of which will be paid ten or twenty or thirty years in the future, provides me the same benefit but transfers the cost to future governors.

            This might be the best example of what I should have said way earlier. The costs of this should be explicit. The government could, in a few minutes, massive increase their future obligations. How do we reflect that and make the government have the proper feedback mechanism.

            Multi-party pension systems don’t let you just walk in and massively increase the money your employees are getting out without you putting things in. If the government wants to increase its obligations by NPV $50 million, they should sell a bond to raise that $50 million.

    • John Schilling says:

      According to this, pension entitlement are ~25% of all US net worth, where in my daily life pensions are essentially extinct outside of government and almost no one has one.

      So, you don’t hang out with baby boomers or civil servants. And you’ve just now figured out that pensions are a still-existing contract to transfer approximately ten percent of the entire net present value of the United States of America, from the sort of people you do hang out with, to baby boomers and civil servants.

      Yep, this is real. Well, a slightly oversimplified description of reality. It seemed like such a good idea when the bill was thirty or forty years in the future.

      Can anyone clarify? Because if the remaining pensions really are this big, like equivalent to all household real estate big, then they’re a much bigger problem than I originally thought.

      The more important question is, what fraction of these pension obligations are in the private vs. public sector? You say that pensions are “essentially extinct outside of government”, but about 15% of the US labor force works for the government. And, even from a libertarian perspective, the fiscal insolvency of a major government is likely to be catastrophic. Private-sector pension obligations will “merely” result in bankruptcies where the useful portions of the enterprise are preserved under new ownership, and it is unlikely that the newly disempensioned will be left to literally starve.

      • DinoNerd says:

        This could be rephrased in a way that didn’t demonize (some) baby boomers and civil servants.

        Basically, at some point before my career began (I’m a late baby boomer), US businesses figured out it was a good idea to transfer retirement income risk from employers to employees. 401Ks and IRAs replaced pensions. This was gradual – employees didn’t appreciate it – and slowest where unions were strong, and/or employees were otherwise relatively more powerful – so because tech workers were in the latter category, I have some scraps of pension entitlement.

        Before that, they preferred to reduce their current expenses by under-funding their pension plans, at the cost of future problems and potential bankruptcy.

        Social Security is still using the older model – it’s “defined benefit” rather than “defined contribution”, but the money taken in is used for current expenses rather than for funding the future retirement of those paying it, so actuarial disaster will eventually ensue, without either revisions to the law *or* a lot more immigration than is politically possible.

        Meanwhile, people like my father (“Greatest Generation”) had pensions. I have a tiny scrap of defined-benefit retirement savings, and lots of 401K money – but I’m (a) numerate (b) lucky enough to work in an industry where I can select employers who have 401K plans [IRA limits are much lower] and (c) well enough off that I can afford to take advantage of 401Ks etc.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Social security most accurately reflects underlying reality.

          You cant save for retirement as a nation, the present spending of retirees has to come out of present production by workers. There are no warehouses where the 20 percent of the corn you grew as a twenty year old farmer is stored against your retirement.

          Pay as you Go is how all pensions work, and if social security is not viable, neither is your holdings in the vanguard stock index, and if your holdings in the vanguard stock index can fund your retirement, the government can find the money for social security, because both are claims on, and about, the present productivity of the economy.

          • JPNunez says:

            This is my intuition too, and yet several governments try to institute individual plans. I feel the right position is to, yeah, pay as you go, but then countries start becoming old and the system collapses anyway.

          • cassander says:

            You cant save for retirement as a nation, the present spending of retirees has to come out of present production by workers.

            Um, why not? There are several countries/states that have big piles of money stashed away for precisely that purpose.

            There are no warehouses where the 20 percent of the corn you grew as a twenty year old farmer is stored against your retirement.

            There aren’t in the US, that doesn’t mean they can’t exist.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’m not necessarily buying TJ’s explanation, but he’s one level down the abstraction stack from you.

            When I save a bunch of money for retirement, it looks like I’ve saved things for retirement.

            But when I retire in 30 years, 2049 Edward is buying the labor of workers in the year 2049, or goods produced by workers in the year 2049.

            Society-wide, you cannot “save up” the things like this just by putting money into a bank. Money is an abstraction. What’s happening to the wealth that is one layer down?

          • cassander says:

            Society-wide, you cannot “save up” the things like this just by putting money into a bank. Money is an abstraction. What’s happening to the wealth that is one layer down?

            Whether the money is stuffed in your mattress, lent , or used to buy equity, when you save money you’re deferring consumption now in favor of some sort of promise of future consumption. It really isn’t all that dissimilar than stashing away a bunch of grain instead of eating it, just with extra steps.

          • John Schilling says:

            It really isn’t all that dissimilar than stashing away a bunch of grain instead of eating it, just with extra steps.

            Right, and if you stash away a bunch of grain for thirty years, you wind up with a silo full of useless sludge that you’ll have to pay someone to decontaminate.

            Deferring consumption means either producing up front goods and services that you won’t be using until later, or shutting down your productive enterprises, or telling your productive enterprises to make goods and services for someone else. The first is highly problematic if you expect to need perishable goods and services in the future. The second leaves you with rusted-out factories and weed-ridden farms and nobody who knows how to run them anyway. The third leaves the productive sectors of your economy optimized to other peoples’ needs and possibly with long-term business arrangements with those other people.

            At the level of an individual, this makes next to no difference – Detroit isn’t going to go out of business because you decide to hold off on buying a new car for a few years. At the level of a national economy, Thomas and JP are right that you can’t just look at the pile of money and assume everything will work out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @cassander:
            Savings in cash are worth what that cash is worth, no more, no less. If you held your life savings in Papiermarks in 1920, by 1923 you were literally burning them for warmth.

            The underlying fundamentals of the economy determine how well your stored “wealth” will meet your needs. There are hedges, but a significantly large asteroid would still ruin your retirement.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            To put Edward Scizorhands’s point another way, consider what happens in the extreme case that there is no generation of workers in 2049. Obviously there is nobody paying FICA, so Social Security collapses. But there is also nobody trying to build up their own 401(k) so they can retire in 2079, and so there is nobody buying the assets you have so prudently put in your own 401(k).

            You might think that saving cash in your mattress is the way around that problem. But what are you going to buy with your cash if there is not a generation of productive workers following you? If everybody who might be growing corn is instead retired and trying to buy corn, the price of corn is pretty damned high.

            This is an edge case, obviously, but the same kind of analysis applies even if the working generation is, say, half as big as the retired generation. It’s why decreasing fertility is such a scary thing.

          • Plumber says:

            @Doctor Mist

            “….It’s why decreasing fertility is such a scary thing”

            San Francisco’s has less and less children as a percentage of it’s total population each year (now the smallest on record), yet the boom continues unabated.

            As long as other people’s children are eager to come here you don’t need any children of your own, if the goal is just economic growth (and not happiness) it actually seems profitable to discourage parenthood.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            But when I retire in 30 years, 2049 Edward is buying the labor of workers in the year 2049

            As an anti-Marxist, I prefer to say that Edward is buying the joint product of the labor of workers and of Edward’s capital. I can see a potential problem with scaling this idea up to societal level in the face of a large demographic bulge: the idea would be that the additional capital invested by Edward and his big cohort during their saving years has to be put to work on successively less productive capital projects. But encouraging Edward instead to skip saving and rely instead on transfer payments from future taxpayers can’t be helping.

          • DinoNerd says:

            This is not really true. Investments can be made today, that will improve future productivity of the economy. Alternatively, the society can do nothing, or even de-invest – allowing their capital stock to wear out without replacement, reducing future productivity.

            That’s how a society saves – or fails to save.

            It’s less obvious, but this is also how the accounting works too. Let’s make some simplifying assumptions – everyone’s savings get turned into capital investments, and they wind up owning a right to the profit produced by those investments. Workers are still required in most cases – machines don’t generally run themselves, at least until the singularity – and they need to be paid, as do people to handle management and administrivia – all the investment owners get is the *profit* resulting from their investment. But that profit can be envisioned in terms of things, not money – food, shelter, etc. etc. – which can then be consumed by the owners, regardless of what’s happening to the overall price levels.

            Perhaps it’s easier to see this at an individual level, and with something a bit more tangible than common stock. Let’s have everyone save by using their current income, while employed, to eventually acquire a fully paid off house, and repair it to the point where it’ll last through their projected life span. Now they aren’t paying rent in retirement, even if they paid it (or mrtgage interest) during most of their working lives. But that is of course equivalent to an income stream that would fund both their future rent, and any taxes that might be owed on that income stream. And it’s *not* coming from a pay-as-you-go pension; it’s also automatically scaled with (that segment of) the cost of living.

            If the working age population drops drastically, the savers need to collectively make investments that will improve productivity enough to keep GDP (expressed as *things* not dollars) or at least GDP divided by *total* population constant or growing, which could be quite a stretch. That’s why the shrinking working age population is a problem. It’s not because there’s some law saying that saving resources is impossible.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I prefer to say that Edward is buying the joint product of the labor of workers and of Edward’s capital.

            This is important, and it shows one big assumption we make with that abstraction layer. It depends what I did with my “saved wealth” from my working years.

            As a person, I could technically store it all in mattress-dollars, or buried gold, or Bitcoin, as long as most other people weren’t doing that.

            As a society, this fails. If some major expense was going to hit society in 2049, it would be useless to plan for it by saving up mattress-dollars, or gold, or Bitcoin.[1] Unless the disaster is a space monster who eats gold. Instead, we would need to build up the actual wealth (which could be physical infrastructure, heavy machinery, all sorts of IP, social institutions, a smarter workforce) to be ready for it.

            So for people to actually “pre-pay” their retirement, they need to create something (or pay for the creation of something) that improves the productivity of future workers.

            EDIT: This is really similar to DinoNerd’s comment that he posted while I was composing this.

            [1] This is why the Social Security Trust Fund is useless. I’m not saying that it’s a bad debt. But the government cannot save for the future by borrowing from itself, no matter how good a credit risk it is.

          • DinoNerd says:

            [Continuing the comment I can no longer edit]

            Note that in the real world there’s a layer of crap on top. The value of my paid off home is not just based on the rent I’d otherwise need to pay – it’s very much affected by people’s predictions of what the price might become in future, and that is affected by both irrational beliefs and supply-and-demand. If there are lots of people bidding up the price today because they need somewhere to put their savings, then the cost is likely to be more than the value of the future income. And if in the future there are fewer people looking for investments, and many people trying to sell investments to fund current consumption, then that premium reduces, or even becomes negative.

            But you can still live in the house, eat the food from the farm, sell the widgets etc. – i.e. you still get the net profit produced by the investment – just not the capital gain produced by people bidding the price up even farther beyond the income stream.

          • abystander says:

            Deferring consumption means either producing up front goods and services that you won’t be using until later, or shutting down your productive enterprises, or telling your productive enterprises to make goods and services for someone else. …. The third leaves the productive sectors of your economy optimized to other peoples’ needs and possibly with long-term business arrangements with those other people.

            It can also mean not burning a tree now for a bonfire on the beach but instead letting it grow so you can heat your residence later.

            Deferred consumption can also result in research facilities could be built which could eventually devote research to your needs as you have built up claims to research direction of that facility by your deferred consumption such as treatments for various infirmities common to old age.

          • JPNunez says:

            Yeah population change is a problem with pensions based on savings; there’s a lot that can happen between the moment the worker saves money in a fund and the moment the worker becomes a pensioner and retires said money, hopefully with interest.

            For starters, inflation; if your fund depends on a company paying it, the company may go bankrupt. If there’s an economic crisis -and there will be one or two in your life- your fund may tank. Of course, maybe somehow your fund went all into Apple stock decades ago and sat there, but chances are that does not happen to you.

            In the end, in pay as you go, the money spent is today’s money, so there is a clear relationshop on how much of the GDP goes into taking care of the old people. The country controls that directly; in the “saving for the future” pension model, the government is several levels away from controlling how good the pensions of its citizens are, and to get them to an acceptable level it may take putting government money anyway.

            And yet, countries with pay as you go still manage to fuck up.

            Dunno, it’s a hard problem, and demographic changes make it harder. But I am p surprised countries decide to go heavy on the saving for the future model.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            This is true, assuming that present and future consumption are unrelated. In other words, if individuals in society have a savings rate of zero (or if you like, a consumption rate of 100%) the productive capabilities of that society will be the same as if they consumed only 80%.

            This is doubtful. Economic growth on a per-capita basis requires capital investment, scientific research, and a certain amount of infrastructure. Deferring consumption involves turning present *production* into future production. It does not involve shoving existing stocks of consumer goods into a replicator-time-capsule.

            Yes, Pay-go is made viable by the fact that a certain amount of investment, research, and population growth is making the economy large enough to support these liabilities. That’s not the same as saying that all investment is an illusion.

            The investor is, directly or indirectly, attempting to create an enterprise that generates a stream of economic value that did not exist previously. The income stream is specific to that investment. (Not all investment does this necessarily) Pay go, or generally any form of borrowing money for present consumption, announces the intention to siphon an income stream in the future but seldom if ever involves any plan to facilitate it. It relies on other people having done due diligence.

            The only sense in which you’re correct is that there is never any guarantee that forgoing present consumption makes future consumption possible. Bad investments, natural disasters, demographic decline, etc. can make the future economy too weak.

            People talked a bit about population in the context of pay-go. But consider the act of having children. Essentially someone is taking a significant portion of their own income and pumping it into their kids, (Forgoing present consumption) who then grow up and support their elders. (Facilitating future consumption).

            Pay-go in the context of demographics is similar to pay-go in the context of investment. Society at large does absolutely nothing to encourage the necessary fertility (especially amongst the most productive members of society) but then at the same time orders its affairs around the idea that there will be plenty of young, productive individuals that can be taxed to meet the requirements.

            ______________________________

            I personally dislike the idea of pensions and think that retirement accounts are more ‘ethically grounded’. Pensions in general and pay-go in particular facilitates bad assumptions and bad behavior. (both on the part of the fund managers and the retirees) That said, if the fund managers use actuarially sound assumptions and the employees are properly educated (specifically about finances) and make adequate fund contributions, the pension should hold.

      • dick says:

        I believe you that they’re big, but I’m still confused about what “pension entitlements” means. Is it the quantity of money currently held in pension funds in 2019? Is it the quantity of money that America’s current pensioners will expect to get by the time they die, in 2019 dollars? Something else?

        • John Schilling says:

          The second, but stronger. The pensioners “expect” to get this money because their unions(*) negotiated pretty much ironclad contracts guaranteeing them that money even if it means their former employer goes bankrupt trying to pay it. One might hope that employers prepared for this by actually setting aside the money in pension funds, but not all of them did and what we’re talking about is the bill coming due and not the contents of the wallet from which it must be paid.

          * Or sometimes not, but even when there isn’t a union involved, state and federal laws usually turn anything labeled a “pension” into a nigh-unbreakable commitment.

          • Plumber says:

            @John Schilling

            “….unions(*) negotiated pretty much ironclad contracts guaranteeing them that money even if it means their former employer goes bankrupt”

            Sadly no, I personally have known United Airlines employees who lost their promised pensions because of company bankruptcy, I’ve also read of a U.S. steel manufacturer that divided itself into two companies, transferred it’s pension liabilities to one company and its assets to another which was sold to a German conglomerate.

            Municipal workers may lose their pensions because of bankruptcy as well, i.e. The City of Vallejo.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, I should have been more precise there. If the company drives past the “just barely enough money and assets to pay off the pensions” point without anyone noticing, then the money isn’t there and that’s that. And if it’s just a few insiders who notice, yeah, they can drive the company into ruin while grabbing a bit for themselves and absconding overseas.

            But so long as the cash + asset value is bigger than the pension liability, the pensioners are pretty much first in line at the bankruptcy auction. And if e.g. the employees’ union notices that the company is about to cross the won’t-be-able-to-pay-the-pensions line, they can at least in principle go to a court and force an involuntary bankruptcy. Or possibly the union leaders can quietly ask the corporate insiders for a kickback in exchange for pretending not to notice just a little longer.

          • Garrett says:

            FWIW, this is one of the reasons why I think 401k plans are a much preferred option over traditional pensions. A 401k is something I have a property interest in. I can’t be deprived of it via wacky corporate machinations. And it’s even hard to do via government craziness due to the Just Compensation clause.
            I see this as assuming a bit more risk, with far less extreme variance.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I like 401ks more because they making the risks explicit. But I can’t deny that most people are incapable of handling(edit) managing those risks. I wish that privately-run tontines got more usage. The members own it and have a property right, it handles the longevity risk, and individual members can adjust their lifestyles as necessary based on the private projections.

            As with everything else, how they work in practice could be very different from how they work in theory.

      • blipnickels says:

        As I said above, I’m shocked by the amount that appears to be in private pension funds. If I’m not misunderstanding these stats (and I’m hoping someone knows more and can explain it) then the private sector side dwarfs public pensions by three or four times.

    • SamChevre says:

      Click through to table 117 and it’s clearer–also, the reason for the problem is clearer.

      Look at line 23–defined benefit liabilities. This is the total liabilities of traditional pensions – about $14.5 billion. Now look at lines 24 and 25; only about $8 billion is backed by assets, the rest is “claims on sponsor”.

      Now look at lines 26; that’s the total household retirement assets, comprised of lines 27 – 30. Note that line 27 is the liability from line 23. So a little over 25% of household retirement assets are “unfunded”–the sponsor still needs to generate the money to pay them.

      Of that unfunded portion, flip back to table 120. Line 1 gives total assets for government pensions of $8 billion, line 16 gives the amount that’s “liabilities of sponsor” of $4 billion.

      So private pensions are about 2/3 funded; government pensions are less than half funded.

  15. Atlas says:

    Any good dieselpunk recommendations?

    • Bugmaster says:

      I assume you’ve already read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan ? It’s dieselpunk meets biopunk. Yes, it is a YA novel, but unlike most YA novels, it’s actually not bad.

      • Atlas says:

        Indeed I have, and, while it was a highly appealing premise, it left me kind of underwhelmed. (And I’m not necessarily anti-YA; for instance, Eoin Colfer’s The Supernaturalist remains one of my favorites as far as cyberpunk goes.)

        • Nick says:

          I thought Leviathan was decent (I read it back when I really was a young adult, incidentally). Not enough to seek out the sequels, though.

          By contrast I really liked Westerfeld’s The Risen Empire, which is far-future scifi.

          • SkyBlu says:

            If you haven’t read the other two books in the Leviathan trilogy, they’re also worth a read; they go much farther than Leviathan in the world building and exploration of the Leviathan universe, and if the world was appealing to you you’ll definitely enjoy them.

    • [trolling]
      Atlas Shrugged
      [!trolling]

  16. Tenacious D says:

    With the Fourth of July coming up (and Canada Day just wrapping up), I wanted to ask who’s been in another country during their national day and participated in the celebrations? Were there any traditions you’d like to replicate at home?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I’ve been in Geneva, when I was 11, for L’Escalade, which celebrates the repulsion of an attempt to conquer Geneva in 1602.

      According to Genevese legend, Catherine Cheynel (“Mère Royaume”), originally from Lyon and the wife of Pierre Royaume, a mother of 14 children, seized a large cauldron of hot soup and poured it on the attackers. The Royaume family lived just above the La Monnaie town gate. The heavy cauldron of boiling soup landed on the head of a Savoyard attacker, killing him. The commotion that this caused also helped to rouse the townsfolk to defend the city.

      Because of this legend, every bakery and chocolate shop in the city sells cauldrons made of chocolate filled with marzipan vegetables the week before the festival, to be eaten in the day of. And because this is Switzerland, the chocolate is exquisite, as opposed to what would happen in the US.

      So I would import the general sentiment that chocolate shouldn’t ever be crap.

      Maybe that’s cheating.

      Still a cool and unique celebration.

    • Watchman says:

      Bastille Day in France when I was 7 was good. Went to the local fete, had crepes (this was Brittany) and watched the fireworks, which concluded with an epic lightening display (presumably coincidentally as the French don’t seem to be able to control the weather) in the background.

      As the British only do fireworks in cold weather (November 5th and recently New Year) I’d be inclined to introduce a warm-weather firework festival. Ideally with freshly-made crepes. I’m pretty sure the US has this though, probably with crepes somewhere…

      • Tenacious D says:

        Breton crepes can improve any occasion!

      • b_jonas says:

        Come to Budapest. We have a national day with fireworks above the Danube on –08-20 almost every year, and that day usually has warm weather. Crepes aren’t specifically connected to this celebration though.

      • bean says:

        As the British only do fireworks in cold weather (November 5th and recently New Year) I’d be inclined to introduce a warm-weather firework festival.

        Warm weather is usually more pleasant to set up fireworks than cold weather, (depends somewhat on the actual temperature) but if it’s not New Year’s, the big advantage of cold-weather fireworks in the northern hemisphere is that you can be home in time for dinner. I often wished July 4th and New Year’s were switched back when I was doing pyro.)

        Epistemic Status: Spent way too many hours freezing while guarding a field full of fireworks between when the sun went down and the shoot.

        • Watchman says:

          Yes, but being British we prefer to bake a potatoe in a fire and eat it outside whilst watching the fireworks…

          Basically we’re not a particularly sane culture. On the bright side though, all the other descendants of the common British culture of the eighteenth century are clearly much better adjusted, at least where fireworks are concerned.

          Disclaimer: the fire-baked potato is an ideal, not necessarily something we actually do.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      I’ve lived in the Netherlands for a bit over a year and have been there for Kingsday twice. The main unusual tradition I’ve seen/taken part in is that on Kingsday anybody can set up a market stall without a permit, so the whole of the Netherlands turns into a country-sized flea market for the day.

      Of course, everyone also wears orange and goes to street parties (or, if they have a boat and are in Amsterdam, cruises around the canals).

      • Tenacious D says:

        on Kingsday anybody can set up a market stall without a permit,

        The Purge: Netherlands Edition

      • SamChevre says:

        Is the wearing of orange related to the wearing of orange in Ireland (in honor of William of Orange.)

        • tossrock says:

          I meant to reply to this comment but clicked one of the two report buttons instead, and of course it was the one without the confirmation dialog. Sorry!

        • Berna says:

          Yes, orange is the color of the house of Orange, and your William III was our stadtholder Willem III.

        • Aapje says:

          @SamChevre

          Yes and no. The Irish orange is to commemorate William III’s victory in the Battle of the Boyne. The Dutch don’t really care about that battle or William III. Instead, the Dutch care about William I, liberator from abusive Spanish rule. The Dutch royals are his descendants and are also called “Of Orange-Nassau,” so orange is their color.

          Kingsday is not a historic holiday, but a contemporary one, celebrating the birthday of the current monarch. So it’s not about William I and certainly not about William III, but the current king: Willem-Alexander. When he abdicates, the holiday will celebrate his oldest daughter and will be called Queensday.

          Note that orange is also a common nationalist Dutch color. For example, the Dutch soccer team plays in orange and Dutch supporters for many sports are known to dress up in orange.

          The name “Of Orange” comes from the French princedom Orange, in the South of France, that William of Orange inherited in 1544. Even though Orange is now part of France, the (now purely ceremonial) title Prince of Orange still remains with the Dutch monarchs.

    • jg29a says:

      Spent plenty of national Korean holidays watching fireworks, but the most important “holiday” for me is May 18 in Gwangju, the anniversary of the “Gwangju Uprising” / “Gwangju Massacre” in 1980. I’ve lived around the country, but made it back there for the demonstrations and ceremonies in 8/12 years here.

  17. jhertzlinger says:

    If there was a Pride March, should there be marches for other sins?

    A Greed March on Wall Street, a Wrath March in either Portland or Charlottesville, an Envy March through gentrifying neighborhoods, a Gluttony March past 4-star restaurants…

    30 years ago, the Lust March would have been at Times Square. Today it should be held in Hollywood.

    The Sloth March was cancelled because the marchers couldn’t be bothered to show up.

    • albatross11 says:

      I was thinking in terms of Gay Pride month, Gay Lust month, Gay Gluttony month, etc. Though we’ll have five months left over when we’re done with the deadly sins….

      • The Nybbler says:

        Avarice and Gluttony can each take an extra month. We can round it off with a few sins not on the list, such as self-righteousness and breaking wind in an elevator. The last month, December, we can leave to Chr… ahh, who am I kidding, Mammon.

    • Mary says:

      Sloth is not just laziness. Sloth is not doing what you should be doing.

      Have you ever noticed you can accomplish a heck of a lot as long as it’s not what you need to do? That’s sloth.

      So those marchers might have been too busy to show up.

    • Machine Interface says:

      This is a case where English vocabulary fails its users by lack of nuance. French makes sure to always distinguish “fierté” (pride, dignity, appreciation for your own work and effort) from “orgueil” (pride, arrogance, ego). The latter is the sin, the former is a positive feeling.

      • aristides says:

        Is that a big or a feature? The original deadly sins list by Evagrius Ponticus was written in Latin, and he felt strong enough to include pride and boasting as two separate deadly sins on a list of 8. Pope Gregory, condensed this list to make one single Pride sin, but I still have never seen the Christian Church suggest it’s not a sin to be prideful of your own work and effort. Humility is always best, since your successes ultimately originate from God.

        Obviously this is just the Christian point of view. If Atheists want a word for good pride and bad pride, there are advantages to the approach, but from the Christian perspective, all forms of pride directed towards oneself are bad.

      • warrick says:

        If I get the distinction right, it’s the same in Czech: ‘hrdost’ is basically a positive word, while ‘pýcha’ is the one goes before fall.

      • Nick says:

        English has “hubris” from the Greek, so we’re not lacking in terms. And it’s not enough for denotation to distinguish the two, since that doesn’t mean folks themselves will. I mean, is The French Language really stopping a person from calling themselves fierté instead of orgueil?

      • jg29a says:

        This is a case where English vocabulary fails its users by lack of nuance.

        Bah, “fierté” is just about as neutral historically as English “pride”, with dictionaries giving negative examples like:

        Il se croyait supérieur et a dû rabaisser sa fierté.

        Apprends que dans une âme, avec peine rendue, rien ne fait mieux aimer que la fierté vaincue.

        Plus, French has “tirer orgueil de ~” in a positive sense.

        “Pride”, having been similarly plucked out as the term for various disadvantaged minority groups to march under, is shifting in the same direction as “fierté”. I think English and French are far more similar here, and you’re basing too much on the words that happened to be selected long ago as the name of the sin.

  18. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Does anyone have any home-made salad dressing tips? I find most of my dressings too runny to really be enjoyable, unless I put in enough oil that it just tastes like garbage. I have experimented with adding some mayo into them, and it actually turns out…well, decent, but not exactly my favorite thing in the world.

    • I used to do a dressing that was yogurt, vinegar, honey, mustard, and whatever else I thought might make it taste good.

    • Well... says:

      I used to make a dressing that is 1 part tahini, 1 part brine from a jar of jalapenos (you can use brine from a jar of mild banana peppers if that’s too spicy for you), and one part olive oil, plus some loose rosemary, mixed by shaking and then immediately poured on salad. It was delicious.

      Later I realized it’s similar to tahina, an Israeli sauce made from (in my estimation) 2 parts tahini, 2 parts lemon juice, and 1 part water, mixed together really well. Some people add other stuff like cumin, olive oil, or paprika. Tahina is drizzled over everything from felafel to eggs and it’s great on salad too.

      • jg29a says:

        Although I don’t eat many salads (vegan with a small stomach, so I tend toward denser fare), I also use brine for dressing. From olives, peppers, capers, all good. My favorite oil for this is avocado.

    • drunkfish says:

      Maybe some sort of thickener? Corn starch has a decent chance, flour can work (though I think that’s better for cooked things). Or maybe swap your oil out for something with a higher melting point (butter or ghee? Coconut oil? Bacon grease??)

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The theory is that for a dressing to work, you need it to be an emulsion. This can be done by whipping the crap out of the oil and vinegar (or lemon juice etc.) with a whisk or a blender, but an easier solution is to add a surfactant, which binds the hydrophobic oil to the vinegar. Common surfactants are mayo (as you’ve discovered), dijon mustard, or honey.

      If you don’t get it to emulsify either mechanically or via a surfactant, you get oil on the leaves and a pool of vinegar at the bottom, which is disgusting.

      I got this from Kenji Lopez-Alt, the author of the above link and the wonderful book The Food Lab. His recommended ratio is 3 parts oil to 1 part water-equivalent and 1/3 part surfactant.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I’m still using the vinaigrette recipe i learned as a child:

      -A spoon of (dijon) mustard with salt and pepper
      -At least 1/3rd (but no more than half, and even that is a lot) of the volume of vinegar, stirr to dissolve the mustard in it.
      -Rest of the volume (between half and 2/3rd) of olive oil, keep stirring to emulsify.

      You can use a sealed container to shake it instead of stirring, but where’s the fun in that?

    • AKL says:

      In addition to what Doctor Mist said, using the correct technique makes a big difference.
      1: whisk all non-oil ingredients together
      2: slowly drizzle in oil while whisking constantly

      If you aren’t using this technique you will be surprised at how much of a difference it makes vs. just combining everything and then whisking (or shaking or whatever) at the end.

    • broblawsky says:

      As other people have already noted, dijon mustard is the key to most decent home-made salad dressings. Egg yolks (as in mayonnaise) are the other easily accessible emulsifier, but they aren’t easy to sterilize. Honey works, but it’s pretty sweet. Tomato paste might be a good alternative – I’ve used it with some success in vinaigrette recipes in the past.

    • mustacheion says:

      I like to make salad by mixing my greens and raw veggies with some cooked veggies, sauce, tofu, and most importantly, rice. That way you get an even more diverse mixture of nutrients. And the rice holds and distributes flavor from the sauce really well, so you can get much more flavor into your salad with much less dressing.

  19. Tarpitz says:

    Has anyone read Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season and its sequels? I’ve been doing a… professional favour, I guess, related to them, for a friend, and I could probably do it better if I read them. If I would actually enjoy reading them, grand, but I’m not willing to do a professional favour that involves slogging my way through the thousand-plus pages of unreadable dreck I slightly suspect them to be; at that point I would want paying.

  20. David W says:

    Do you like magic used in clever ways mixed with physics? What about considerations on stable ways to build a society, in a world with wildly varying degrees of magical talent? Speculations on the effect of millennia of evolution on a sorcerer’s servants, after the sorcerer gets killed? Dry wit and understatement? Battle-sheep?

    You might just like the Commonweal Series, by Graydon Saunders. Additional reviews here and here, and you’ll find links to buy it here.

    I found this series a while ago, but it only recently occurred to me that it would be catnip for SSC readers.

    • Nick says:

      The first book is certainly catnip for me, but I stalled in the second book. I’ll get back to it eventually, but the trouble is I’m way more interested in what’s going on in the wider world than in a couple of schoolkids learning magical physics 101.

      • David W says:

        The second is the slowest in terms of wider world plot, especially the first half. Still, none of the rest of the series so far has the same pace as The March North. Saunders is content to let the wider world simmer on the back burner while developing characters and the Commonweal. Stuff happens and you learn about it, but the focus doesn’t go outward until about halfway through the fourth book.

        I think you could skip book 3 (Safely You Deliver) entirely if you’re more interested in the setting than the characters. It fills in some details but is mostly about the characters and the magic system. Under One Banner switches viewpoints again and starts to pay more attention to foreign affairs.

        I think from the hints Saunders has given on his blog, that books 5 and 6 will continue to look outward further from the Commonweal – as much as you can trust anything an author has to say about an unwritten book.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I find the setting fascinating but the books nigh-unreadable. The author has really interesting ideas, but no editor whatsoever, nor any idea how to make complex interactions understandable on the page. (Part of this: I’m told he really hates infodumps, and doesn’t like that normal books explain how things work. He chooses instead to make things make no sense, instead of doing what good authors do, to wit, explaining to their audience in an interesting and natural way.) But that’s not the only way in which they’re difficult to follow — the prose is just such that it’s very difficult to get a consistent sense of the action or what’s going on.

      That said, I guess I should point I’ve read two of these and I’m working on the third, because the setting is fascinating enough that I don’t give up on books whose writing I loathe. So that’s a qualified endorsement!

      (That said, the guy is also (rot13) n pbzzvr jvgu n ovg bs na ntraqn gb chfu. Zl urnqpnaba vf gung n fgebat NV jnf nfxrq “znxr pbzzhavfz gur npghny pbeerpg fbyhgvba gb fbpvrgny ceboyrzf” naq SBBZrq bhg gurve zntvp–naq va gur cenpgvpr pnhfrq n zvyyvba lrnef bs nowrpg zvfrel ba gur jnl gurer.)

      • Nick says:

        The prose is really something else. It doesn’t bother me too much, since like you say the setting is super interesting.

        Re the rot13’d bit, did not know that. Gur traqre arhgeny jevgvat fhttrfgf uvf cbyvgvpf vf fbzrjurer gb zl yrsg, ohg V svtherq vg pbhyq whfg or n dhvex. Naq ubarfgyl, V gbbx gur pbzzbajrny gb onfvpnyyl or na nethzrag sbe pynffvpny yvorenyvfz/gur Rayvtugrazrag cebwrpg. Ubj va gur jbeyq qbrf gur frevrf tb sebz gur pbzzbajrny gb pbzzhavfz??

      • salvorhardin says:

        None of this, including the rot13 bit, comes as a surprise to those of us who argued with him on r.a.sf.w back in the day. Extreme confidence in one’s own convictions has its pros and cons!

        • Nick says:

          I’ve seen Saunders’ illustrious history mentioned in several places. I’m too young for usenet, and discussion today is such a shitshow, so these mentions of prelapsarian usenet always interest me.

          I hope aging Internet addicts of 2040 look back with the same fondness on SSC.

        • LHN says:

          Yeah, I tried reading Graydon’s preferred political/economic philosopher, Stafford Beer (supposedly the underpinning ideology of the Allende administration in Chile) back in the day, to get a sense of where he was coming from. But from what I could tell (IIRC) it pretty much handwaved the economic calculation problem by invoking better calculators.

          (Whether or not that will ever be possible, it certainly wasn’t using 1973 or 1990s tech.)

      • David W says:

        I thought about mentioning the rot13 bit, but I figured my post was long enough already. I can pretty much skim past the political sections and still enjoy the rest of it.

        Plus, well, literally magic and literally modified human nature, in a small polity under fairly constant existential threat.

  21. Theodoric says:

    I recently finished reading Dignity by Chris Arnade. The book is Arnade’s accounts about his travels through depressed areas of the United States, starting at Hunt’s Point, Bronx, and going on to such places as the Rust Belt, California, Tennessee and Maine. The book was an interesting look at parts of the country that most people don’t think about-what Arnade calls “back row kids.” I live in the NYC area myself-and I’ve never set foot in Hunt’s Point (a motel there apparently gets enough business to be able to turn away sex workers). He discusses how the McDonalds and storefront churches that many of the “front row kids” sneer at have become the community centers of these places (not that religious myself, but I have never considered it to be “low class” to go to McDonalds). It was a very interesting book. I do have a nitpick with one of Arnade’s identifiers of a low class neighborhood: Big Lots and dollar stores. Both my parents had college degrees, and, when I was growing up, we shopped at Big Lots and dollar stores. I still shop at dollar stores, and would still shop at Big Lots if there was one near me. But that’s a nitpick, the book was overall good.

  22. FishFinger says:

    Some libertarians criticize state welfare systems by claiming that they create welfare traps – supposed situations where individuals on unemployment benefits are disincentivized from finding work because, since their potential salary would be not much higher or even lower than the benefits, it makes economic sense to just stay on the benefits indefinitely.

    Libertarians (perhaps a different group of them) also claim that private charities superior to state assistance as a method of helping the disadvantaged.

    Here’s my question: if welfare traps are real, then how do charities (in particular anti-poverty charities) avoid them? Shouldn’t they be creating the same type of dependency? And if they found a way around this problem, is there any reason state programs can’t use the same workaround?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Private charities can do the kind of tough-love like “you need to stop drinking” or “we will cut you off after six months” that government-mandated benefits cannot.

      I don’t know how well this works in practice, although Utah seems to have a really nice privately-run welfare state.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Governments totally can do and usually attempt to do “tough love” approach with means tested programs. E.g. notorious US welfare program SNAP (“food stamps”) has some work requirements.

      • caryatis says:

        @alesziegler

        People have the right to due process before welfare benefits are cut off under US government programs. This is not as much due process as with e.g. a criminal trial, but it still meaningfully limits govmt programs’ ability to cut off people who are not cooperating. See Goldberg v Kelly and related cases.

    • eurg says:

      Idea would be that different programs would try different things, and those who work better (by whatever measure) would have a better chance to find sponsors. Similar to GiveWell being able to find sponsors who care about the E in the EA stuff. Or the Gates-es founding a new foundation after finding existing programs lacking.

      But primarily: Because the sponsoring is voluntary, it’s the sponsors problem, and not a moral problem for the rest of us. If they sponsor, they seem to be happy enough with it. Because libertarianism has, beside harm principle, individual volition has a very important moral value, this alone – having a choice – is already morally better. Stuff like “deserving poor” vs. the rest is at best a triviality, but if it is in the sponsors interest, the world where deserving are helped more than the undeserving is the better world, and so the method is superior.

      In that system, states cannot replicate this, because collecting the information about what it’s tax-paying constituents think as “deserving” vs. “undeserving” poor is both hurting electability of officials in power and also bacause the centralized information collection issue thingy.

    • John Schilling says:

      If the private charity consists of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation establishing a gigantic bureaucracy to disburse funds to the poor according to whatever formula best fits Bill and Melinda’s values, it would probably have the same failure modes as a government in this regard.

      Real charities tend to be decentralized and local, which gives them more actionable information about who specifically needs help and who is being caught in a trap. And being private means much greater flexibility about acting on that information without being e.g. sued. Decentralized funding and local knowledge also means that the people paying for all this can probably see if the local parish priest or whomever is doing the job right, or if they ought to be sending half their tithing money to the local Rotary club instead.

      State-run programs can’t do the same thing because their monopoly power means the local community can’t say “nope, you suck, our money is going to the Rotary this year”, which means whomever the State tasks with applying local knowledge to discretionary aid will likely end up playing favorites in accordance with his private biases (or larcenous desire for kickbacks). You could try making it a local elective office, but A: almost nobody pays attention to local elections any more and B: democracy just means 51% of the population controls 100% of the funding and unpopular local minorities can be left completely in the cold rather than “merely” served by an underfunded charity from within that minority and its sympathetic allies.

      • Murphy says:

        I don’t really see it.

        Historically charities tend to really really really suck at resource allocation.

        part of the reason for strict government regulation of charities, requiring a certain level of transparency was because of the long long history of routine rampant corruption with donors having almost no idea where their cash was really going.

        I remember my grandmother talking about a charity she used to support, it was nominally supposed to be helping orphans with a motto along the lines of “no child turned away”.

        It turned out, years later after a scandal, that the reality was that the “charity” had been effectively selling children as farm labor abroad in horrible conditions.

        Yet no donors realized for decades.

        And that’s before the basic resource allocation issue that people want to give their money to sexy causes, not to boring things that still need doing, hence the classic dog shelters vs orphanages problem.

        Everyone loves puppies and humans are horrible things with moral flaws and everyone kind of assumes someone else will fund the boring grey stuff that needs doing like keeping orphans alive, so the dog shelters end up far better funded than the orphanages even if, when pressed, most donors would rate the human kids as more important.

        If you only attribute chivalrous intentions to private charity and only attribute evil intent to state actions then you’re probably going to make almost nothing but really really bad choices.

        • John Schilling says:

          It turned out, years later after a scandal, that the reality was that the “charity” had been effectively selling children as farm labor abroad in horrible conditions.

          This sounds like the “my grandmother sent a check to a very large bureaucracy and then ignored the issue, confident she had done good” sort of charity I alluded to in my first paragraph, and not the “my grandmother joined the Rotary Club to make sure none of her neighbors went hungry” sort. It is true that, at the large bureaucratic limit, private charity can fail in the same way that government assistance does. The difference is, it doesn’t have to.

          If you only attribute chivalrous intentions to private charity and only attribute evil intent to state actions then you’re probably going to make almost nothing but really really bad choices.

          I said almost nothing about intent, focusing instead on expected outcomes. But since you seem to see the two as interchangeable, I note that your post attributes 100% evil and 0% good to private charity, so right back at you. All hail the omnibenevolent glory of Murphy’s State and Murphy’s Law.

    • Nornagest says:

      Poverty traps are created not so much by the existence of welfare as by the requirement that welfare be legible, in the Seeing Like A State sense: that implies hard (if perhaps complex) cutoffs based on impersonal requirements, and leaves the system without a human face (so people get much less averse to exploiting it), and recipients with a need to make tough and not always prosocial choices if they want to qualify. Private welfare managed centrally by large NGOs can have the same issues (and in fact this is the same family of problems as gives us e.g. Central African guys using malaria bednets as fishing nets), but historically most charity has been local, managed by bodies like churches or clubs or fraternal societies, and therefore having much more leeway to adapt to individual recipients’ needs without running afoul of policy or incurring legal risks.

      ETA: I see John covered most of this while I was typing. Well, I’ll leave this up anyway.

      • Andrew says:

        and in fact this is the same family of problems as gives us e.g. Central African guys using malaria bednets as fishing nets

        Off topic, do you have a source for this? I’ve seen this theoretical concern come up over and over whenever bed nets come up, but the only actual source (givewell) I’ve ever found indicated that misusing the bed nets in this way was vanishingly rare.

        • J Mann says:

          This study concluded that there’s a lot of malaria net fishing, especially in East Africa.

          As Murphy’s link below indicates, most nets are used for their intended purposes, but enough aren’t to apparently affect the fishing industry. (One concern is that the fine mesh is depleting the very small fish that are required to sustain the ecosystem). Arguably, the solution is to also provide fishing nets.

      • Murphy says:

        https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/2019/01/10/givewell-top-charities-explained-against-malaria-foundation/

        AMF’s malaria nets are generally not used for fishing.

        How do we know this? AMF requires all its partner organizations to do followup surveys every six to nine months for two and a half years after the malaria nets are distributed. Outside of the Congo, after one year of use, about 80% to 90% of nets are properly hung. (In the Congo, nets decayed more quickly than expected.) Of course, over time, nets are more likely to break, so the usage rates two and a half years are lower– but that’s because they’re broken, not because they are used for fishing. The cost-effectiveness analyses for AMF incorporate the fact that not all nets are properly hung, and have done so long before anyone thought of the “what if malaria nets are used for fishing?” issue.

        Of the ten to twenty percent of nets that are not hung up, many are not going to be used for fishing: they’re sold, or thrown out, or left in a corner because people can’t get it together to hang them up, or perhaps used for some other purpose. But it is possible some of them are, in fact, used for fishing. On this subject, Kelsey Piper writes for Vox:

        What about harm to fisheries from people fishing with nets? Researchers have only recently started looking into this. No one has measured detrimental effects yet, though they could emerge later…

        The insecticide in anti-malarial bednets also does not have negative effects on humans, because the dosages involved are so low. It’s unclear whether there are any harmful effects from fishing with nets. (And, it’s worth noting, there is one oft-forgotten positive effect from the use of bednets for fishing: People are fed.)

        The insecticide-treated bednets issue shows the importance of the effective altruist approach to charities. AMF proactively checks whether the bednets are used as expected instead of assuming that they are. Therefore, if malaria nets were commonly used as fishing nets, we’d be able to find that out right away and account for it in our cost-effectiveness models. If we didn’t monitor bednet usage, it would be easy not to notice that. The “but AMF’s malaria nets are used for fishing!” argument– commonly deployed as a gotcha for effective altruists– actually shows why effective altruism is important.

    • Am I getting this wrong, or is the main distinction between Objectivism and libertarianism that Ayn Rand disapproved of charity per se? You could call that more consistent maybe, but a regular libertarian could easily say that the mere fact that private charities can run out of money in contrast to a state’s effectively endless coffers is something that pressures those using them to do so on a temporary basis and find work even if it pays out less.

      • Ayn Rand was personally charitable, at least to the extent of subsidizing the schooling of a younger female relative—it comes up in the letters. I think what she objected to was not someone choosing to be charitable but someone feeling obliged to be, or being told by others that he was obliged to be.

        I think the main difference between Objectivism and libertarianism is that Objectivism is a package deal, a sort of non theist religion, which includes views on lots of things that are not implied by libertarianism. Politically, Objectivists are libertarians even if, like Rand, they deny it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I believe, IIRC, Rand was very clear she was not extending charity and was extending a loan. I thought she went out of her way to make this very clear, but I could be wrong.

          • JPNunez says:

            Was it ever paid back?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think I may have been misremembering this letter Rand sent to her niece, Connie, who asked about a funds for the purchase of a dress.

            I don’t know whether Connie accepted the loan or paid it back.

            OTOH, I can’t at first glance find any mention of her funding college for anyone, so I would like to see a link for that.

          • LHN says:

            Not college, but the letter says she tried to support two of her nieces by marriage through high school and art school respectively. (Neither finished the course.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @LHN:
            Ah, yes. Good point, I hadn’t read that carefully.

            I don’t think her tone here is very consistent with the idea that she is personally inclined to charity. It’s certainly not inconsistent with the idea that she didn’t favor it.

        • I think the main difference between Objectivism and libertarianism is that Objectivism is a package deal, a sort of non theist religion, which includes views on lots of things that are not implied by libertarianism.

          I assumed one of those views was the “charity is bad” position. Guess it’s more complicated than that.

          • Garrett says:

            > Guess it’s more complicated than that.

            Sadly, most criticisms of Rand involve people who haven’t read her work in detail.

            In terms of charity (from memory), Rand objected to the concept of duty as such. Roughly, charity should be looked at in the same way that any other spending or consumption is. If it’s something you enjoy, great. But you should be looking at it not as “doing good” but “doing something you enjoy”. Likewise, there is no value in showing how much you are suffering to help someone else. Electing to make a poor trade-off doesn’t make you virtuous, it just makes you stupid. Contrast to “I gave up the best years of my life for you” or “I live an impoverished life to give to children in Africa, I’m a great person”.

          • Part of it is that altruism is bad, but Rand doesn’t mean the same thing by altruism as most of us would.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I believe Rand’s main problem with libertarians was that they arrived at their conclusion without following her own derivation of them, which she fondly imagined to be rigorous.

        • Yes. And one of her disciples managed to convert the true statement, “whether you are a libertarian does not depend on how you reached libertarian conclusions” to the false statement “being a libertarian means believing that how you reached your conclusions doesn’t matter.”

          I think part of what drives the hostility of orthodox Objectivists to libertarianism is the desire to be a big fish in a small pool. If Objectivists are merely a kind of libertarian, it is hard to claim that Leonard Peikoff is an important philosopher since alternatives include Nozick. But he might be one of the most important Objectivist philosophers.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Do objectivists disagree with Rothbard on any actual issues of policy or is it all axiomatic and definitional disagreements?

          • Rand and her orthodox followers are strongly against anarcho-capitalism, although it has been argued, most notably by Roy Childs, that it’s the logical implication of her views.

            Judging at least by my past argument with Objectivists, their position is that the government has a monopoly of retaliatory force. Given that monopoly, it can fund itself by charging for services such as the enforcement of contracts and so doesn’t have to have taxation, which, as I understand their position, is not legitimate.

            If there are any reasonably orthodox Objectivists here they are welcome to correct my understanding.

      • Matt M says:

        I always thought the main distinction was that Ayn Rand was okay with aggressive war so long as the enemies were sufficiently socialist?

        • Garrett says:

          No, on a few accounts. First, Ayn Rand was very much against socialism, but also viewed environmentalism and religion as a “destroyer of men’s minds”. So “sufficiently socialist” is either over or under sufficient.

          IIRC, she held that war itself was okay if defensive as it was a core function of the government. And that offensive war could be acceptable if:
          1) It was to liberate people who wanted/deserved it from an oppressive regime.
          2) The costs to do so were borne voluntarily.

          So in the first case, a nation of people who held that the current system was good but that the people in charge had merely made a few mistakes weren’t deserving of liberation. As I type this, I suppose that is one of the key themes of Atlas Shrugged. So a people who legitimize the current oppressor (eg. by insisting that Sharia law is the only way to run their country) shouldn’t be helped. Likewise, a country which is strongly socialist but which has free and fair elections shouldn’t be overthrown because the people themselves are the ones causing themselves the harm, and also because they are one election away from their own freedom.

          The second part holds that the war shouldn’t be funded by taxes of any sort. Taxes, being compulsory, are a restraint on freedom. And since foreign liberation isn’t an essential purpose of government, it should not be funded in such a way. Thus it would be fine to pass around a large collection basket and give the proceeds to eg. Blackwater to free the foreign people, but not to have the domestic government do so.

    • nyc says:

      > Here’s my question: if welfare traps are real, then how do charities (in particular anti-poverty charities) avoid them? Shouldn’t they be creating the same type of dependency?

      Anti-poverty is really two separate problems. One is ensuring some sort of minimal baseline so that people aren’t starving or freezing to death. The solution in that case is to provide the benefits unconditionally. Everyone who wants it can have some gruel, a bunk in a former school gymnasium with communal showers, and a triage-based free clinic where non-emergency care may involve waiting in line for a while. You aren’t deprived of any of that if you make more money, but people who make more money may be inclined to make their own arrangements.

      The other problem is wealth inequality, but that is more a market issue than a charity issue. So you get the argument that there wouldn’t be so much concentration of wealth if not for regulatory capture and political corruption. Then without that corruption driving up prices and driving down wages, ordinary people would be better off, but not in a way that creates any disincentive to work.

      > And if they found a way around this problem, is there any reason state programs can’t use the same workaround?

      The state equivalent would be a UBI and the same removal of regulations that impede competition.

    • Two McMillion says:

      In my experience, it’s because private charity tends to be smaller scale. If the local church is helping 30 families, the Deacons can know the individual situations of each household and tailor their aid appropriately. This can’t really be done if your goal is to give aid to millions.

  23. Well... says:

    What are some proven[*] tricks for reminding myself to consistently stand up straighter to the point where I end up doing it automatically, all the time, without thinking about it?

    *By proven I mean “definitely worked for you, someone you know, or a bunch of people you know about”.

    • SolenoidEntity says:

      What worked for me: make a bit of a ritual out of straightening your posture if you notice yourself slouching. It’s a bit like meditating – don’t curse yourself for slouching, just notice that you are and gently, ritualistically fix your posture. You’ll start slouching again, it’s ok. It takes literally years but eventually the straightening motion becomes a sort of unconscious habit and you’ll notice yourself slouching less and less.

      • Well... says:

        I already do that if I notice, but how do I notice more often? Right now I only notice it if I’m walking where I know lots of other people can see me (and not doing anything else but walking), or if I’m looking in the bathroom mirror doing something that doesn’t involve leaning over the sink. Like brushing my teeth or whatnot.

        • Matt says:

          Pick something you do very often, and decide that from now on, whenever you do that thing, you will also check your posture?

          Maybe every time you pick up your cellphone? I’m just saying that if you have a habit, associate the habit you have with the habit you want.

          • Well... says:

            Hmm…OK, I’ll give that a shot.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You could set up some alarms on your phone to remind you at certain times of day.

            There is probably an app for randomizing that, too.

          • Well... says:

            Flip phone user here, but my phone has the ability to add lots of custom alarms. I’ll consider that.

          • SkyBlu says:

            Reading this comment thread, I realized I was slouching and immediately straightened up. Maybe just a simple post-it reminder on your monitor or wherever you spend most of your time would be a good idea.

    • Anthony says:

      Learn ballroom dancing.

      • Well... says:

        As far as learning how to move/carry yourself, it seems like learning any type of dancing would do the trick. But, I hate dancing (except for a few times a year in my living room with my kids) and am unmotivated to learn, so that’s pretty much off the table.

        Besides, I’ve known people who knew how to ballroom dance but had terrible posture.

        • Watchman says:

          Try pilates or yoga then, where awareness of the core and posture is important as well?

          Frankly any form of exercise should help (other than rowing perhaps…) as part of the problem is retraining your muscles to hold you more rigidly, and most exercise is done with the body upright (with apologies if you are an NFL lineman or a rugby forward…).

    • AG says:

      Try to develop a graceful balletic walk: movements with full extensions. Your stride should be trying to take advantage of the full length of the leg and rolling across the full length of the foot to push off of the tips of your toes, in a single continuous movement.
      You can’t really do that in a slouch, which tends towards more clomp-clomp-clomp bent-knee-impact walk.

      Most marching bands have a posture chant that’s a variant on “Feet! (Together!) Stomach! (In!) Chest! (Out!) Shoulders! (Back!) Elbows! (Frozen!) Chin! (Up!) Eyes! (With pride!) Eyes! (With pride!) Eyes! (With pride!)”
      Mine did “[…] Head! (Up!), Chin (In!), Hands! (Up!), Eyes etc.” (hands up for the instrument position)

    • Mark Atwood says:

      You are a number of different wearable trackers that will annoy you went you slouch. I don’t know if any of them work.

      I mostly solved my problem with slouching by switching to standing at my desks 100% of the time, and standing on a stepper for all of that desk time.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        You are a number of different wearable trackers that will annoy you went you slouch. I don’t know if any of them work.

        I strongly suspect this is a typo but I quite prefer to interpret it as commentary on human biology 🙂

        By stepper do you mean like an elliptical-ish version of a walking desk?

      • Well... says:

        I will not use wearable trackers.

        I already have a standing desk, but I often find myself slouching at it. I should get a stepper though…

    • Randy M says:

      Are you getting enough sleep?

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I took a continuing ed class on acting a few years back, which began by teaching us a starting position whose name I unfortunately can’t recall (perhaps “Noble Stance” though I can find no warrant for that via google) — chin slightly up, shoulders slightly back, arms loose at the sides. It opens your chest for speaking and encourages a deep, calming breath and a feeling of being in control — or at least it did in that context. Since then, going into that position has given me a very slight endorphin hit that makes it easier to remember to watch for the opportunity.

    • Narcindin says:

      A ski accident resulting in chronic (light) back pain did the trick for me. Not recommended.

    • broblawsky says:

      If you’ve got a decent amount of cash to burn, buy a posture-improving shirt of some kind, like an AlignMed shirt. Even just a back brace could work.

    • Matthias says:

      Deadlifts and standing desk worked for me.

      • Well... says:

        I use a standing desk already, and I work out my lower back (although not with deadlifts — too scared I’ll use bad form and mess something up, so instead I do a combination of side planks and back extensions with an inflatable ball and my ankles anchored under a cable machine). I also work out my back a lot in general. So I don’t think it’s a back strength issue.

        • Luke G says:

          I was also going to suggest deadlifts. Goblet squats or front squats are also great for posture. Really anything athletic that emphasizes posture will help (someone else suggested ballroom dancing which I’m sure also would work), but deadlifts probably have the best reward per effort.

          It’s great you exercise your lower back, but there are a lot more back muscles than just the lower back. Slouching is more of an upper-back thing than a lower-back thing. You need to build up rhomboids, lats, and the upper spinal erectors (which I don’t know the proper name of :). Deadlifts are an awesome exercise and will get pretty much all your back muscles. If you don’t think you can deadlift safely and can’t get a trainer to teach you, then next best things is rows (any variation) to hit more of your upper back.

          • Well... says:

            I do a ton of rows. Upright, seated cable, and on the bench (one knee/one hand on the bench, one foot on the floor, back parallel to the ground, etc.).

    • LesHapablap says:

      I struggled for my whole life with bad posture until I went to a physiotherapist for a shoulder injury. It is much, much easier to fix your posture after a physio has loosened up all the muscles in your upper back that have been stuck in an awful position for decades. Nearly impossible to fix your posture without it.

    • a real dog says:

      Exercising the back muscles worked wonders for me – I used to slouch while standing/walking for my entire life, picked up rock climbing, stopped slouching after a few months. No conscious effort was involved.

      Now I’m trying to improve my posture when sitting at a desk (to correct my loss of lumbar curve) – that one’s a bitch to remember. Apparently stretching out hamstrings may help with making the proper posture more natural and comfortable, we’ll see how that goes.

      Since you’ve written that you already exercise, maybe see a physiotherapist? There may be some non-obvious biomechanical reason for your posture problem.

      • Well... says:

        I could see that. I started slouching a lot in 7th grade and didn’t really do anything for my musculoskeletal health until my mid-20s, so it may be built into my musculature at this point. I wonder if my insurance would cover a consultation…

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m going to put in a good word for Kathleen Porter’s work– she studied people who move well, mostly those in third world countries who carry heavy weight on their heads.

      https://naturalposturesolutions.com/

      There’s also Alexander Technique, which is a way of not interfering with one’s ability to move well.

      I mistrust people’s efforts to improve their posture through direct choice– it’s too easy to add stiffness rather than make good movement easier.

      • Majuscule says:

        A friend with chronic nerve issues triggered by compression swears by the Alexander Technique. I should try it, as I’m having a similar issue.

        One thing I did myself was go to a posture therapist for a few sessions. The exercises didn’t seem to do much, but she did give me one great piece of advice. She asked me to have someone take photos of me sitting at my desk, and then pointed out all the things that were f—ing up my neck and back. I had figured my desk was pretty ergonomic, but I’m 5’1″, and now I know even the lowest peg on ergonomic adjustable stuff may not be a good height for me. Are your feet resting solidly on the floor or something else such that the angle of your knees is 90 degrees and there’s no stress on your lower back? Do your elbows rest at 90 on the armrests of your chair, and is your desk low enough that you can type this way? Is your computer at an angle where you tend to keep your head straight or are you stressing your neck? People at either end of the height spectrum might be coping with things like this all day and not realize it. Now I realize that my chronic low back pain might have been from my feet not touching the floor in any standard chair! I don’t have that anymore since I started insisting on a chair that fits.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        One thing I’ve found very valuable from Kathleen Porter is to swing one’s pelvis back and forth like a bell. Notice where breathing becomes easiest.

        This makes a lot of sense to me because it involves a functional standard rather than a visual standard.

    • Emma_B says:

      What really helped me slouch less was doing a few minutes of back strenghtening exercises every other day. Since then, I find standing or sitting with a good posture much easier and more natural.

  24. AlesZiegler says:

    What are your illegible policy preferences? By which I mean policy positions which you support and which you are not able to defend via rational arguments, and especially those positions which contradict or are at least in tension with your broader values? By policy positions I do not mean those values (like equality, freedom and so on), but something more concrete.

    For me, I favor conservation of nature and of old architecture to a far greater extent than I am able to justify on cost-benefit basis, despite fancying myself to be strict moral consequentionalist.

    • cassander says:

      100 mile hour speed limit on the interstates. I realize America can never hope to be as libertine as za Germans when it comes to speed limits, but 100mph seems like a reasonable dream.

      No, I don’t know how many people would die and I don’t care. I’m tired of having to piddle around at 55mph in the land of the free and home of the brave.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Said the guy who lives in the middle of DC and walks to work half the time!

        I zip up and down 95 at a little over the limit, with nary a care. (Except late at night, when the Fast and Furious crew seem to play. Brrrrr.)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Economic liberalism and less regulation, due to a variation of Chesterton’s fence – I believe without being able to prove that any regulation has a huge invisible cost. Actually, I believe the whole concept of invisible (i.e. not staring you in the face) costs is completely ignored by governments.

      Speaking of conservation of nature, I have a strong hunch that going with the current instead of against it would be a much better strategy. We have economic lighting because it’s cheaper, and recently better. We have cleaner air because we no longer need coal. Also because we have better and more economic cars. On the other hand – we haven’t been able to stop people from smoking, even though the cost/benefit is obvious and it’s … well… plain impolite to smoke with non-smokers present.

      So I’m extrapolating from that and thinking that anything that is taking an already existing tendency and accelerating it, or maybe slightly moving it has a much better chance of making a big impact than tackling something with a lot of inertia head on.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Great question. After some thought, I can’t find any- lots of “weird” things I believe, but I’m perfectly willing and able to make (what seem to me as) rational arguments to defend.

      I think it’s more likely this is a blind spot for me, and that I *do* have illegible policy preferences that I’m not easily able to surface, than that I actually lack them. I’ll have to think on this more!

    • brad says:

      Does policy preferences held in the face of learned epistemological helplessness count? I’m unable to argue with David Friedman on global climate change, and I’m unwilling to do the work to try to get there, but meanwhile I, at least mildly, support center left policy positions in that area.

      • I don’t think that qualifies.

        All of us, necessarily, base large parts of our world view on what other people we trust tell us. People you trust tell you that climate change is a terrible threat. You aren’t willing to do the work to decide whether they or I are correct, so you go with the usual rule of thumb of accepting the beliefs of trusted sources of information unless you have a strong reason not to.

        I think it would qualify only if I persuaded you that net costs were small or negative and you still retained your preference for policies to slow climate change.

    • In my case, being reluctant to cut down large trees, even ones that are serving no useful purpose.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I also value conservation of nature, as well as aesthetic enjoyment and plain old fun — observing natural beauty, watching movies, reading fiction books, playing video games, etc. That said, I don’t necessarily want to have such preferences. If there was a magic pill that converted my desire to do these things into the desire to work harder, I’d probably take it — because I cannot, in fact, rationally justify doing things that cost time but produce no tangible output.

      • Nick says:

        produce no tangible output.

        Wait, what’s so great about producing tangible output?

        • Bugmaster says:

          It depends on what you mean by “great”. If you mean, “makes me feel good”, then yeah, obviously entertainment is fun… But then, is there a good argument against wireheading yourself at the first opportunity ?

          • Nick says:

            My point is only that I think you have things backwards. Like, suppose material wealth has either intrinsic or instrumental value. If it has intrinsic value, creating it’s going to run into the same problems as you have with enjoying a beautiful sunset. If it only has instrumental value—in other words, it’s ordered to some other end(s)—then it not only inherits the problem of the first case, because the further end has to be justified, but could also fail to achieve the end(s) too. Enjoying a beautiful sunset, meanwhile, almost anyone would agree has intrinsic value; it could be unjustifiable by your lights, but at least doesn’t run into the unique problem instrumental goods do.

    • aristides says:

      My main one is my support for Israel. I think it is my loyal moral foundation, plus my military background, plus my religion, all coming together to make me unwaveringly support Israel, no matter what evidence is brought against them. Factually, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, but I still want to give the US’s full support to help Israel deal with all threats.

      This isn’t so much against my conservative values, but it’s the policy I have the hardest time justifying with logical argument.

    • Watchman says:

      Conservation of nature seems legible to me: it gives pleasure and makes for a healthier environment. It is also a common demand in every society where a wealthy middle class has developed, so seems to be a common desire.

      In terms of legibility though, at a certain level all my beliefs are illegible. Whilst I can create pretty justifications for them, these justifications depend on people taking on my priors. Thus, I oppose the death penalty as I believe the risk of the state murdering an innocent is too high: but that is only legible if you can’t accept the good of the many argument, and if you hold the state responsible, and probably a lot of other such issues. I can even hold beliefs that I think are logical, such as a libertarian case for almost no gun ownership, that are probably illegible to everyone, even advocates for gun control.

      Possibly the only belief I have ever tried to make fully legible is my absolute support for abortion on demand (yes, I do spend a lot of time arguing with social conservatives; how did you guess?), in the context of a surprisingly civilised argument between a pro-lifer, a Catholic, a couple of radical feminists and a collection of ‘liberals’, where I was trying to show that you can think about the issue outside the existing framing of the debate. That was hard to do, although may be the only time I’ve convinced a militant feminist of anything (or at least anything about which I wanted to convince them).

    • proyas says:

      I’d like every country in the world to drive their vehicles on the right side of the road. Yes, I know the costs of switching would be massive, and it won’t matter in a few decades since all cars will be autonomous, but the tidiness of having a global standard appeals to my way of thinking.

    • jg29a says:

      I think I can defend it logically, though not rhetorically:

      I’m a libertarian, supportive of the decriminalization of hard drugs, prostitution, and many currently illegal dangerous activities.

      I loathe gambling.

      In the form that it usually takes, I mean. A game of true skill, like poker, that requires betting to be sensible, I understand. Occasional betting to test the rationality of one’s claims, excellent. But house-advantage casino table games are a blight on humanity. Slot machines, using science to turn humans into addled lab rats, are horrific. By far the worst (the part that resonates with this libertarian) are government lotteries, a poor tax bound up in layers of lies, that ought to damn its perpetrators to the lowest level of hell.

    • Plumber says:

      @AlesZiegler 

      “What are your illegible policy preferences? By which I mean policy positions which you support and which you are not able to defend via rational arguments, and especially those positions which contradict or are at least in tension with your broader values?…”

      I like old and familiar things, yet I’ve spent a substantial portion of my life as a construction worker, including on semiconductor chip plants, despite resenting “Silicon Valley” for the displacement and distribution it brings, and I’ve had a hand in building tower block apartment warrens, despite regarding such buildings as anti-family, anti-human, anti-sanity, and as just plain Hellscapes.

    • BBA says:

      I like local businesses and institutions and think there ought to be some kind of policy to stop the trend of consolidation and homogenization, even though it’s economically irrational and politically indefensible. Newspapers, for instance – when I travel and pick up a paper that’s been around for 150 years, expecting to find some kind of insight into what people here care about that they don’t back home, and instead find four pages of local coverage and the rest is just a reprint of USA Today. (Maybe I visit too many places with Gannett papers?) Or how every city used to have a big homegrown department store downtown that it could be proud of, and now it’s either closed or a Macy’s. Live kids’ shows on independent UHF stations… none of this makes economic sense, but I have some inexplicable fondness for it.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Kind of hard to tell for me, because I don’t even keep a catalogue of my positions. The ones most salient will be the CW ones, because those ones come up most often. Most are not really in tension with overall values, but of which I am more confident in than the evidence probably merits.

      -Pretty opposed to low-skill immigration
      -against higher income tax rates
      -against greater non-labor business regulation (not including labor regulation because I think that is substantially clearer)
      -American leadership in the world in general

      I used to have an affinity for older architecture as well, and then realized it was really more motivated by a selfish desire to walk through neighborhoods with “character” as opposed to actual cost-benefit. However, I’ll add one more:

      -Tear down any Brutalist architecture. Burn the books and distribute the ashes into the sea. Erase all digital mention of it. Obliterate, obliterate, obliterate.

    • ana53294 says:

      I am anti-nuclear. No rational argument will convince me otherwise.

      I am also against legalizing drugs and prostitution. There are a lot of arguments I agree with for legalization, but I am still against it, even if I cannot entirely justify it.

      I want incandescent lightbulbs back! I don’t like LEDs, halogens or any other lightbulbs. They never last as long as they’re supposed to, and the light just feels wrong.

      Basque independence. I believe it is an economically losing proposition, we will become a small insignificant country in the world arena, and we will get out of the EU and the euro. I still want it, because f*** Spain.

  25. tokugawa says:

    A personal story of planning for the future, grappling with the question of our climate challenge, and how we are orienting ourselves.

    Would appreciate some critique about:
    1) the forecasts. I acknowledge there is likely to be a bunch of questions around “showing my work”, because I haven’t really done that at all in the post. There are lots of threads for me yet to really write about in that regard.
    2) The “Little Civilization – Big Civilization” mental model or frame. Does it help you see things from a different perspective? Is it unclear what the implications of the model are?

    https://twicefire.com/littleciv/littleciv/

    Happy pride!

    • Well... says:

      Sorry, off-topic. This just caught my attention:

      Happy pride!

      I found out my city had a gay pride parade a couple weekends ago, and for all I know June was/July is gay awareness month or something (thus why I keep seeing temporary-rainbow company logos everywhere?). But randomly saying “happy pride” to each other, the way you might say “happy holidays”… is that actually a thing people do?

      Asking because if it is, I’m fascinated by how something like that could catch on without my knowing about it. I live in a very gay-friendly city, but I don’t use Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. so my first thought when I see stuff like this is usually that it spread via social media. But it’s still perplexing to me to see stuff that started on those websites bleed into the rest of the world.

      • Nick says:

        But randomly saying “happy pride” to each other, the way you might say “happy holidays”… is that actually a thing people do?

        I’ve never heard it before, but I think pride month is new. When I was young there was only national coming out day.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Pride Month was only Pride Week last year. We’re now starting Indigenous People’s Summer, which used to only be in the fall.

          • Well... says:

            This is a positive development. Eventually it will be “lots of different kinds of people exist so you’d better figure out how to get along with them” time all the time, which is what it should have been in the first place.

            But: this is the non-CW OT so I digress. Again, I was more interested in the phenomenon of how these kinds of memes spread.

          • Randy M says:

            But it’s the Pride non-CW thread, so you can speak positively about Pride, just not negatively.

          • Well... says:

            That’s fine — Pride (is it just “Pride”? I thought it was “Gay Pride”?) is tangential to the thing I’m interested in, which is how memes like that spread.

          • Nick says:

            is it just “Pride”? I thought it was “Gay Pride”?

            You know, I hardly ever hear gay pride specified anymore. This raises the question whether November will be Gluttony month. Or February Lust month. Or March Avarice month.

          • Well... says:

            Hah, I hadn’t thought of that. To me “Pride” by itself has a strange ring because I think of a group of lions.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: That statement made me VERY ANGRY! I might not calm down FOR ALL OF JULY!

      • Peffern says:

        I’ve said it like twice this month, specifically in a context where people were talking about LGBT issues. So, rarely, but yes?

      • tokugawa says:

        From my perspective: just saw the thread banner, and it is the day after a lot of cities had big pride parades/celebrations, so just threw it in there.

        • Well... says:

          Have you ever just thrown it in there anywhere else? Where did you first learn it was a thing you could throw in (if you remember)? Genuinely curious.

          • tokugawa says:

            Mmm, struggling to recall.

            I live in the Bay, and have spent pride week/weekend here and once in Seattle in the past five years (since moving to the USA). I’m cis het white he/him male and in communities that are fairly queer-friendly. Hard for me to pin point when the first time I heard or said it was but certainly don’t recall anything like it when back home in Australia. Certainly by 2015 pride, everyone was jazzed about the supreme court ruling, and I actually went out and joined in on the public activities.

      • zzzzort says:

        I’ve always been fascinated that different cities have different dates for the pride parade. LA’s was June 8 but many cities had a parade this past weekend. It ‘should’ be close to the June 28th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but I guess there are advantages to spacing it out (so that some of the same personalities can participate in multiple cities)? It does seem to make ‘Happy Pride’ a less effective internet greeting though.

        • Well... says:

          My city’s was earlier — maybe the weekend of June 8? 15th? One of those — and I remember seeing the word “Stonewall” among other things on a couple rainbow-striped banners downtown, so there ya go. Spacing them out so the same personalities can participate in multiple cities makes sense, but also surprised me when you mentioned it: it seems to prioritze celebrity over history.

          This is the first place I’ve seen anyone say “Happy Pride”, on or off-line.

          • zzzzort says:

            I think a parade is a good cutoff for when people can exchange pleasantries. Seattle has a (great) parade for the summer solstice, and I’ve heard more than a few ‘happy solstice’s there.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’ve never herad it the real world, neither from my straight friends/acquaintances nor from gay ones. That said, I rarely hear “happy holidays”, too, outside of retail stores.

        Personally, I have about as much respect for Pride Month as I do for any other corporate-branded holiday and/or event, e.g. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, or whatever — though that’s just me.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        But randomly saying “happy pride” to each other, the way you might say “happy holidays”… is that actually a thing people do?

        In the West Village this weekend, it sure is.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This is the ‘Culture War Free’ open thread, so I can’t respond in detail. If you post this link to the last fractional open thread or hold onto it for the next one I’d be happy to give my detailed thoughts.

      One recommendation though: hold onto this post, print it out and keep it somewhere where it’s easy to reflect back on it. It’s going to really help you and your wife to have tangible proof of what you actually thought was going to happen as the 22nd century moves closer. When the world doesn’t end you’ll be a much wiser person if you haven’t forgotten how convinced you were that it would as a young man.

      • tokugawa says:

        This open thread is different from other open threads? Sorry, I haven’t been tracking that if so, how can I adjust?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Whole number threads are “visible” on the main page of the site and are supposed to be kept reasonably free of controversial issues.

          Fractional threads only show up in the sidebar or by clicking the Open Thread button and you’re allowed to post about controversial issues as long as you’re not obnoxious about it.

          Scott has a pretty hands-off moderation style so it’s mostly on the honor system. Theoretically we’re still in an official “Reign of Terror” (Scott’s words) but even so I wouldn’t worry about an honest mistake: if you get banned it’s typically for a pattern of behavior.

          • tokugawa says:

            I guess I am surprised that forecasting, climate stuff, and civilizational outlook would fall into the Culture War realm. I get that folks get wound up about climate stuff but thought my post was pushing for an analytical discussion that ought to avoid unproductive discussion…

            So, I repost on a fractional hidden open thread and you’d feel more comfortable answering there?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I mean you watch the new right? Climate change is a huge cultural / political football right now.

            And yeah, I would be more comfortable. This topic isn’t as inflammatory as some but some people here feel very strongly about it one way or the other and will pile into threads discussing climate change.

  26. Tatterdemalion says:

    I can’t claim to be able to set out the argument in its strongest form, but the reason I support it, in its simplest terms, is that it appears to raise the lowest centiles of standards of living.

    To provide a less circular justification: economics 101 says that trade takes place whenever you and I each have a commodity, and the rate of exchange I value them at is more favourable to yours that the rate you value them at. If I have apples and you have bananas, and an apple is worth 10 bananas to you but only 6 to me, then exchanging one apple for any number between 6 and 10 bananas makes us both better off.

    As well as telling us when trade can take place, economics 101 also tells us what terms it can take place on – that range between 6 and 10 bananas per apple is called the “zone of possible agreement”, or ZOPA. If trade takes place in the ZOPA, we both benefit at least a little, but if it’s near the top end then most of the value created goes to you, while if it is near the bottom end then I get most of it.

    What economics 101 *can’t* tell us about, at least not alone, is where in the ZOPA trade will take place – for that we need to know about things like psychology and politics and negotiating skills too.

    If we impose a.minimum wage we’re limiting the terms trade can take place on. That’s bad news for you if the top end of your ZOPA with your employer is below the new minimum wage, because you’ll lose your job, but it’s good news for you if the new minimum wage lies between what you were previously being paid and the top end of your ZOPA.

    So whether or not raising a minimum wage is a good idea depends on what fraction of low-paying employers would secretly be willing to pay more if they had to, and what fraction would just stop employing. And that’s a tricky question I’m not qualified to address, but far more people whose judgement I respect think it works out in favour of minimum wages being higher than they are in many places than don’t.

    There are also a couple of theoretical reasons I find that likely. The last few decades have seen massive increases in GDP and productivity, but only small ones in wages. That suggests that there’s probably room at the top of lots of ZOPAs where the extra profits have not been going to the workers. And the decline in American union power and much greater negotiating strength of employers than low-skilled employees in most circumstances makes it likely that wages will typically be nearer the.bottom than the top of their ZOPAs.

    • JohnNV says:

      This is a very good comment, clearly stated. It seems to me that employees would lie along a spectrum, with some whose ZOPA is now entirely below the mandated minimum wage, and others for whom their ZOPA extends above it. So for the ones below, they would see their wages drop to zero, and others would see a wage increase. In order for a minimum wage to be a good idea, the number in the second group would have to vastly outnumber the number in the first group, since the negative utility of going from some wage that is below the new minimum to zero is much higher than the positive utility of going from some wage below the minimum up to the new minimum.

      I guess my other concern is how people become productive enough to earn more than the minimum wage. That’s usually through work experience. But if your ZOPA doesn’t intersect the new minimum, you’re shut out of the labor market altogether and denied the opportunity to acquire work experience.

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s hard to see why people passing minimum wage laws are going to be especially good at figuring out what the distribution of ZOPAs for all the workers out there looks like. But that’s at least plausibly something that could happen at a local level. At a statewide or nationwide level, the ZOPAs are extremely broad, and they’re different in different regions. A minimum wage that matters in NYC or the Bay Area is probably pricing a really large chunk of bottom-tier workers out of a job in Jefferson City, Missouri.

        What mechanism ensures that the people setting the minimum wage will know enough about the ZOPA to set it well, or that they’ll update it when it needs updating? How does that mechanism compare to the incentive to promise a rise in the minimum wage for the next election regardless of what that’s likely to do to the local labor market?

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          You don’t need to compute the whole distribution, which is good because obviously you can’t.

          What you can do it tinker and hope – raise your minimum wage a bit, see if that seems to be significantly increasing unemployment, if not repeat until it does, and then stop and let inflation bring it back down. If lots of other people in similar circumstances are doing the same, that helps a lot, because you can gather more data and try to tease out effects on unemployment from the minimum wage from other effects.

          It’s an incredibly messy and imprecise approach – c.f. how much economists disagree about it – and quite often it will do more harm than good, but on average I think it will do more good than harm.

          • albatross11 says:

            That doesn’t sound like the way legislatures do any other kind of law, though. We still have crazy high mandatory minimum sentences for a bunch of crimes plus crazy high incarceration rates because of politicians’ and voters’ reaction to crime waves in the 70s and 90s. Why are legislatures going to be more reactive with minimum wages than they are with crack sentencing guidelines?

          • Watchman says:

            How is keep raising the minimum wage until you get significant unemployment a sensible policy to help the poorest? Its economic experimentation with their livelihoods, and is exactly the sort of application of theoretical knowledge to real life that causes huge problems. Whilst theoretically you seem to be correct applying Economics 101, Economics 101 is about models. You’re ignoring second-order effects here for a start, the most obvious one of which is what is increasing unemployment of willing-to-work individuals doing to the economy (my guesses: 1. Slowing it, or 2. Developing a black economy in employment). Life is full of complex systems which don’t work as we believe they should.

          • What you can do it tinker and hope – raise your minimum wage a bit, see if that seems to be significantly increasing unemployment, if not repeat until it does, and then stop and let inflation bring it back down.

            That sounds as though you think the relevant statistic is the unemployment rate. That’s wrong. Minimum wage workers are something like one or two percent of the labor force, so even a change that priced half of them out of the market would have an effect on the overall unemployment rate hard to distinguish from random noise.

          • Whilst theoretically you seem to be correct applying Economics 101

            He isn’t. He is confusing the logic of bilateral monopoly, which is a rare situation on the labor market, with the logic of perfect competition, which is what econ 101 is largely about.

      • Ketil says:

        Another factor that is probably not taken into account, is inertia. Even if you may be able to earn more in a different job, you might not quit and switch, because, uh, reasons. Well: you might get a longer commute, lose your working buddies, and so on. And you might not even be aware that there are better paid jobs at the new factory across town.

        If a minimum wage means you are laid off, on the other hand, chances are you will start looking, and, if you find a job at all, it will by definition (ref minimum wage) be better paid. So maybe the main “benefit” of the minimum wage is economic upheaval of throwing people out of low-productive jobs?

        • So maybe the main “benefit” of the minimum wage is economic upheaval of throwing people out of low-productive jobs?

          A “benefit” that costs them their working buddies and forces them to spend more unpaid time commuting?

          Your implicit assumption is that you know more about what is in the interest of the people it affects than those people do.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      What economics 101 *can’t* tell us about, at least not alone, is where in the ZOPA trade will take place – for that we need to know about things like psychology and politics and negotiating skills too.

      Market power is an economic concept, and that factors in heavily as well in every model I know of.

    • honoredb says:

      Adding on, there’s a relatively simple causal model for why increasing the minimum wage can increase employment under some conditions (offsetting the obvious ways it can decrease employment).

      tl;dr: Wages are sticky, and some people would prefer unemployment or underemployment to low-wage jobs.

      Concretely: Suppose each employee-hour brings in $20 of revenue for my business, and I’m currently paying for 200 employee-hours a week at $10/hr. I decide that one more employee-hour (having an extra cashier during rush hour on Monday, say) will also bring in $20 of revenue, but I can’t find anyone interested in working that extra hour. Should I raise my offer to $10.10 to try to attract someone? No! Sure, I’d make $20 more a week in exchange for paying $10.10 more a week, but inevitably I’d end up paying $10.10 for all of those pre-existing employee hours, costing me $20/week more in raises to my existing employees. I’d rather be short-staffed than raise wages in response to what might be a temporary difficulty in hiring.
      But if the minimum wage gets set to $15/hour, that’s still within the ZOPA, assuming(!) my business is still overall viable with only $5/employee-hour revenue net of wages. Now I have no reason not to add that extra employee-hour, even though it’s making me less profit.

      • albatross11 says:

        honoredb:

        Why doesn’t this work the same way for other markets, then?

        • honoredb says:

          Most prices aren’t sticky. There’s logistical and cultural friction around wages that doesn’t exist around orange prices. If I cut my offer by 10c per box of oranges, you can go find another buyer, and if none exists, you absorb the hit. If I cut your wages by 10 cents an hour, there’s all sorts of logistical issues and costs around finding another employer at short notice, and there’s less cultural expectation that you should be able to just absorb the loss. So temporarily raising my offer on the marginal box of oranges during a shortage doesn’t hurt my future negotiating power nearly as much as temporarily raising wages.

          • edmundgennings says:

            Some amount of this is that humans have natural emotional dispositions that tend to result in sticky wages. We could solve a lot of problems by doing some moderate social engineering to make wages less sticky but the optics of that would be terrible. Also Wages have a bilateral monopoly problem so some degree of stickiness is probably a good way of addressing that.

          • 10240 says:

            @edmundgennings I’m not sure it’s natural emotional dispositions. Rather, policies like minimum wage, collective bargaining mandates, wrongful dismissal, right to strike, unemployment benefits etc. that don’t exist in other markets make wages sticky. Some of these are weaker in the US than in many other countries, but AFAIK they still exist.

            In an actually free market, they wouldn’t be sticky; people would dislike a wage reduction just like any other seller dislikes a reduction in the market price of its product, but they would be forced to suck it up just like any other seller. IIRC Milton Friedman observed how easily wages in Hong Kong adjusted downwards or upwards according to the state of the economy.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think it’s all emotional or cultural or whatever. There are perfectly rational reasons workers might prefer a consistent and predictable and “locked-in” wage to one that continually varies based upon market conditions. And they might prefer it so much that they’d accept it, even if that means their total compensation ends up being slightly lower.

            The Austrian school discusses this as one reason we can expect that entrepreneurs, as a class, will out-earn laborers, as a class. Laborers are unwilling to accept the risk and the delay of payments that entrepreneurs must accept. The consistency they demand (I get paid whether the business makes money or not, and I get paid right now even if the business isn’t making any money at all yet) comes at a cost.

          • Plumber says:

            @10240

            “….IIRC Milton Friedman observed how easily wages in Hong Kong adjusted downwards or upwards according to the state of the economy”

            In the U.S.A. and the U.K. employees have a long history of work stoppages and even violence in response to pay cuts by their employers.

            The usual way here to get labor to work for less is job loss first, and only have lower pay new jobs, direct cuts in pay by current employers is usually less acceptable.

      • What you are describing isn’t sticky wages, it’s a monopsony employer.

        • honoredb says:

          Sorry if I’m abusing terminology. I’d think the way to put it would be “high friction in switching employers” -> “monopsony-lite phenomena are widespread” -> “overall wages are sticky”.

    • edmundgennings says:

      In markets where there are one seller and one buyer then negotiating is very important. In markets where there are one seller or one buyer and lots of the other then the monopolist or monopsonist will price carefully and get a lot of the value of the trade. In markets where there are lots of sellers and buyers then the people at the margins determine the price. Price will equal marginal cost which will equal marginal benefit.
      There are some situations where there are quasi monopsonies and so we would expect employees to get paid less than their marginal productivity. Most of these situations are involve professional athletes where leagues act as buyers’ cartels viz salary caps. Low wage labor is a market with an enormous number of buyers and sellers. It is importantly subject to subdivisions, but there will be more than ten buyers and sellers of low wage labor in almost every travel area in the contemporary United States. For market power to begin to be relevant one would need for there to be severe limits on mobility or something weird to be going on. In a company town or very rural environment with highly rooted people might be weird enough for such a scenario to develop.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Have you seen this?

        • edmundgennings says:

          No, there seem to be a number of slights of hand that I am not qualified to judge and it only establishes employers as marginal monopsonists but it does shift my priors. Still very low wage labor is possibly the least occupation specific type of labor. In a meaningful sense a lawyer can only be a lawyer and so if there is only one law firm in town hiring it does have a far bit of monopsonistic power. But at the wage rate of people earning the minimum wage I imagine that switching occupation if one has demonstrated general basic competence and functionality is relatively easy. I have wondered about this question before and have found no good data on it.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Best case for a minimum wage is a situation like this:

      Worker is supplying $18/hr value to his employee. Because of so many other workers, wage ends up negotiated to $11/hr. Wages can go up to $15/hr and the worker is still productive to employ.

      (I tend to be against the MW, so please don’t ask “what if it isn’t this situation?”)

    • What economics 101 *can’t* tell us about, at least not alone, is where in the ZOPA trade will take place – for that we need to know about things like psychology and politics and negotiating skills too.

      You are describing bilateral monopoly–one buyer, one seller. That exists, but it’s pretty rare. Ordinary markets are considerably closer to perfect competition, although often not all the way to it. And for perfect competition, economics 101 tells us that the bargaining range shrinks to a point.

    • pjs says:

      Adding a minimum wage would shift the ZOPA, which invalidates a lot of this, but provides another (IMHO strong) argument for a MW in the right circumstances.

      Imagine a truly competitive industry (fast food?). Perhaps consumers would buy a similar amount at a higher price (low elasticitiy) but, because of free and effective competition, company profits and costs — including wages — are driven into the ground. No one can charge more, since then their wage costs need to rise in order to stay solvent (assumption: “perfect” competition), so their prices would have to rise commesurately, and then suffer such a dramatic decline in business so that they would be unviable. In this hypothetical, consumers are gaining a huge economic surplus at the expense of companies and their employees.

      Now, add an industry-wide minimum wage. Now, I can increase prices (and will) since everyone else can and will (and must). (My ZOPA has moved, though I think that’s not a useful way of thinking about things.). Consumer surplus is reduced, but wages are correspondingly higher (though, as far as I can speculate, the business itself doesn’t particularly benefit or suffer either way.)

      Any thinking in terms of a fixed ZOPA or a fixed “here is how much revenue I get per employee” is missing the potential importance of an economy- or industry- wide MW. It’s not just about one employer bargaining with its employees all else being equal.

      • 10240 says:

        Imagine a truly competitive industry (fast food?). Perhaps consumers would buy a similar amount at a higher price (low elasticitiy)

        An unlikely proposition in most markets. Fast food, for example, definitely funges against cooking at home.

      • 10240 says:

        Also, to have an inelastic demand for unskilled labor, you need not only an inelastic demand for some product (or, really, all products whose production uses unskilled labor), but also that companies can’t replace unskilled employees with a smaller number of skilled employees, or perhaps a few even more skilled engineers who automate some of the work.

        • pjs says:

          Ok, I’m sorry, you’ve lost me. Do you not understand my argument, not believe it, or think it’s true but so contrived/theoretical that it has real no relevance to anything in the real world? Of something else?

          It really seems to me to be possible to imagine such a economy that a consumer generally enjoys a huge economic surplus on “very competitive market” goods, and that in such markets the available wages are driven low (by such very competition) to low levels. And if there is an economy-wide minimum-wage, some of this surplus ends up in the hands of the (mostly still-employed!) workers in such industries. Is this a nonsense thought, or just unrealistic? Your second comment hints at the former, but I honestly don’t follow 🙁

          A much weaker version of my argument is the claim: after raising the minimum wage across the entire economy, and not just for your firm, prices and thus your revenue/employee (and thus ZOPA) might change a lot. If the minimum wage just hit you alone, well maybe this isn’t expected, but that’s not anyone’s proposal.

          • 10240 says:

            I agree with your argument that, on the condition that demand for unskilled labor is inelastic, increasing the minimum wage could increase the wages of the poor while causing little increase in unemployment. I just find it unlikely that the condition actually holds in the real world.

  27. benjdenny says:

    Random-ish over-specific job search question:

    Because my resume is mostly administrative, I often/always get contacted for some jobs slightly outside my sphere. One of those job categories is help-desk type stuff; answering questions in company chat, answering questions by email and fielding occasional phone calls.

    I’ve noticed that while all the requirements for these jobs are near exactly the same (clearly demonstrated communication abilities, help desk experience if possible and not much else) some of these jobs will mysteriously pay at a range much, much higher than others (think 70-80k with 100% paid insurance as opposed to 30-40k, nebulous benefits). I sometime apply to these higher-paying positions, but mostly just to try to figure out why two jobs with apparently identical duties have a 30-50k pay range difference.

    Does anybody with experience working with these companies know what the secret ingredient they are stealthily looking for is?

    • Well... says:

      Are the high-paying jobs with companies in the same industry as the low-paying jobs? If they’re different industries, the secret ingredient might be particular knowledge of tools used in that industry.

      • benjdenny says:

        If my memory can be trusted, pretty much all of these jobs focused on the “using commercial tech tools” and online retail markets, usually both. Most of what comes down to me in this category is third-party companies that fill this role for other entities.

        I havent noticed the pattern you suggest but i might have just missed it, honestly.

        • Well... says:

          “using commercial tech tools” and online retail markets, usually both

          You’d have to get more specific for me to even make a guess at what you’re talking about there.

          Most of what comes down to me in this category is third-party companies that fill this role for other entities.

          In other words, recruiting/head-hunting firms? My advice based on personal experience is, those are great if you’re having trouble finding job openings and landing interviews, especially if you’re looking into a new geographic area where you don’t have much of a network, but be very selective about which firm you go with (i.e. which one you allow to submit your resume) and DO YOUR RESEARCH ON THEM FIRST because they vary a lot. Some treat their “resources” (that’s what they call you) really well, some treat them poorly, some provide very competitive benefits packages, some provide no benefits at all.

          • benjdenny says:

            I’m sorry I wasn’t sufficiently clear, definitions below:

            Commercial Tech Tools: Computerized point of sale type things, data entry programs, email management programs, inventory management programs and tools, etc. Things that normalish people would have to use and might get confused about using, and thus the company provides a help desk for them to call so they can get through their tech problem on the tool they are trying to use.

            Third party: If you are a company trying to provide a help desk for your workers, you might not have the resources or the desire to actually create this help desk and train the people to run it; you might then go to a third party company who provides help desk services to various companies. Alternately, if you run a web store or sell a software and want 24/7 chat/phone/email support, you might pay one of the same companies to provide this.

    • brad says:

      If the company wants to get a bright, diligent person that’s going to actually solve problems they are going to need to pay the higher salary (and still get lucky). How would you suggest that someone looking to hire for that circumstance–i.e. do this same job but do it really well–in a job posting other than by listing a higher salary range? I think the salary part is the best way of making the point.

      • benjdenny says:

        I don’t disagree with the premise itself – that higher pay buys better people – but I’m guessing a 50k work-from-anywhere job would attract top-notch talent already, at least if special skills weren’t involved. I know plenty of bright, tech-savvy people who would kill a man for 45k a year; it’s hard to imagine 70k buying a better unskilled laborer than 50k, really, in the same way it’s hard to imagine 100k getting a better ditch digger than 150k.

        I don’t say this to devalue the job itself, and I’m certainly not even worth 40k (sayeth the market). It’s just hard for me to wrap my head around being willing to pay 70k if you weren’t buying a rare, formal skillset.

        • PedroS says:

          ” I know plenty of bright, tech-savvy people who would kill a man for 45k a year;”

          You keep strange company, I guess 🙂 Or else the military pays less than I thought

        • caryatis says:

          I think your confusion is the result of focusing too much on formal skills and too little on soft skills/professionalism. An admin person making 30k and an admin person making 100k are doing basically the same stuff, but I would expect the person making 100k to be at a much higher level of professionalism, to include tact, diplomacy, better dress, perhaps more upper-class background/accent/appearance. They might be able to know without being told who the most important people they will meet are, and how to treat them. Maybe also more experience in the role.

          I suspect people you know who are bright, tech-savvy but somehow can’t make 45k a year may be lacking in professionalism.

          • benjdenny says:

            On the subject of your comment and PedroS’ above it, I wonder how different our job markets are. I’m in Phoenix, and whether or not I’m professional doesn’t even come into the equation most of the time; for anything above about 40k I can’t even get a call back, much less get to a point where how expensive my shirt is factors in. I know at least a dozen people in the same boat.

            This might be a product of credentialism, I dunno, or I might just know a particularly unfortunate group of horrifying cretins, although I doubt it. I just know that outside of degree holders, programmers, small business owners and people in hard quota-driven sales jobs, I don’t know a single person who makes over 50k at this point in my life.

          • caryatis says:

            Should i interpret “outside of degree holders” to mean you and the people you know don’t have college degrees? That might indeed affect your ability to get these jobs.

          • Plumber says:

            @benjdenny,
            If you have a high school diploma, and you can spend some days in San Francisco or San Jose, California (on the right days) to apply for and take the tests to be a union apprentice plumber, after five years of night classes, plus 9,000 of work (worst years of my life!), and a “turn out” test, you should get a union journeyman wage, and if you work full-time you’ll earn about 100k in a year.

            If you’d rather serve your apprenticeship elsewhere and then transfer in as a journeyman learning pipe welding is the skill that your most likely to be able to work here as a “travel hand”, and after working as a “B” hand for enough hours you can get “A” status, which means you hear the job dispatches before the “B” hands.

            Another way to make a 100k a year is to get a 4 year college diploma and a six month to twelve month teaching credential, and be a teacher here, the pay will be low at first (but a bit hgher than the pay of a first year apprentice plumber), but after ten years seniority you should get 100k a year.

            If your goal is to save money you may want to skip California if you plan to live in a house without multiple roommates, and be a public school teacher in a cheap area of Texas instead, the pay is less than expensive areas of California, but about the same as expensive areas of Texas, so if your not living in Austin, et cetera, you can save quite a nest egg (for some reason, unlike California, most Texas school districts pay about the same).

          • brad says:

            The unemployment rate in the phenoix metro area is close to the worst of any major metro area, but it’s still not that bad–3.7% to NYC’s 3.3% and SF’s 2.4%. Nationwide the spread for high diploma to college degree is about 2%, but even 5.7% is a pretty low unemployment rate in historical terms.

            That said, $38.4k is the median wage for a worker with a high school diploma and no college but still–half are above the median.

  28. Jeremiah says:

    As part of our biweekly dive into the archives, an audio version of Considerations on Cost Disease has been released on the SSC podcast feed.

    It makes a useful companion to the recent review of Why Are The Prices So D*mn High

  29. ItsGiusto says:

    Are air fryers worth it? Can you do anything with them that you can’t do with a convection oven? Or are they just the latest fad in a long line of 1-purpose kitchen appliances that end up in a garage sale two years down the line for 95% off because they take up too much space on your counter?

    • albertborrow says:

      I use my air fryer more than I use my toaster, so I’d consider it worth it. To the best of my knowledge, air fryers *are* convection ovens, with a shiny coat of paint. I’m really satisfied with the product, and I’ve had it for two-ish years now. It’s basically the combination of all of the best features of an oven and a microwave. I put onion rings in for ten to fifteen minutes and out pops perfectly cooked, crispy onion rings. Without the hassle of bending over and grabbing a cooking tray from the cabinet, or letting the oven preheat. Frozen pizza? French fries? Any type of meat? Toasting bread? I basically just twist the timer and forget about it until I hear the chime. Basically the only thing I haven’t done with it is baking, but I hear if you make it small enough, that works as well.

      • ItsGiusto says:

        Is this to say that if I have a convection oven, an air fryer is not worth it? Or does the size of the oven, and placement, power, and duration of the fans matter? I’ve haven’t really used the “convection” function on my oven too much, but my normal, full-size oven has a convection setting. But I thought that was mostly just to normalize the localized hot-spots throughout the oven. I don’t think the fans run all the time in my convection oven, just sometimes. Maybe the fact that my convection oven is very large, and the fans are at the back means that the air will be less concentrated, and less quickly moving around the food, meaning that it’ll be less analogous to actually frying food? I’m not sure if this is true.

        • albertborrow says:

          My air fryer will produce results analogous to a regular oven in the same amount of tine, sans preheat. Sometimes even faster. Google says that the results are quicker than a convection oven, typically, though I’ve never owned one.

    • Majuscule says:

      My dad bought an air fryer. He likes it, but to me it’s a lot of counter space to give up for just one function, and the capacity is *tiny*. He already has a microwave, a regular gas oven and a toaster oven and now he has this thing that can basically cook a few chicken wings and that’s all that fits. For comparison I used to have a convection microwave that could do everything ALL of those appliances did and was big enough to bake a tray of cookies or a sizable lasagna. I’d recommend one of those- same function as the air fryer and way more versatile.

  30. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Worth the Candle by Alexander Wales recently hit 1,000,000 words and has been running for about 2 years. Based on chapter 162, which contains a very meta scene of Juniper talking with You-Know-Who, it seems like the work is halfway done, so we can probably expect another million words and couple of years before it finishes.

    Alexander Wales also commissioned some Amaryllis art as a donation goal, but the reception was… mixed. I admit I didn’t like it too much (Amaryllis is not a fucking Sister of Battle), which is a shame because she is probably my favorite character in the webnovel, aside from Juniper himself (Joon/Mary OTP).

    • Nick says:

      Oh hey, I was just thinking about this story this weekend.

      V’z pnhtug hc nf bs fbzrjurer va gur yvoenel nep. Vg xrrcf zl vagrerfg, ohg V unir fbzr ceboyrzf jvgu gur cybg. Be znlor jvgu gur cnpvat, ernyyl. V gubhtug gur svefg nep jnf gur orfg nep bs gur jubyr fgbel, sebz Wbba’f ehqr njnxravat nobhg gur pehrygl bs gur frggvat, gb Nznelyyvf’f vagebqhpgvba (lbh ner pbeerpg ogj, fur’f gur orfg punenpgre), gb gur qvfcngpuvat bs gur eviny grnz, gb gur rneyl jbeyqohvyqvat naq abg-fb-fhogyr uvagf ng gur qverpgvba gur cybg jnf tbvat—cnegvphyneyl Nznelyyvf’f Rkvfgragvny Rzretrapvrf cbfvgvba va gur tbireazrag, juvpu vf jung gbyq zr V unq gb xrrc ernqvat.

      Naq gura jr qebccrq nyy gung sbe n ernyyl ybat gvzr, va snibe bs gur nyzbfg pbzcyrgryl aneengviryl cbvagyrff pbasyvpg jvgu Nznelyyvf’f eryngvirf, naq n ybg bs whfg trggvat pnhtug onpx hc bapr ur qenvarq uvf obarf. Gur Pbybe Evbg be jungrire gurl jrer arire pnzr hc ntnva. Gur dhrfgvba V gubhtug jnf orvat frg hc—jung unccrarq gb gur frperg erfrnepu yno va Fvyzne?—jnf arire fb zhpu nf nfxrq. Gung frrzf yvxr n jnfgr. Naq abj jr’er onpx gb gung ybat-unatvat cybg ubbx, rkprcg Wbba jnagf gb tb evtug sbe Sry Frrq. Pbhyqa’g ur gnpxyr fbzrguvat yrff pbzcyrgryl vzcbffvoyr svefg?

      Naq znlor vg jnf whfg zr, ohg Wbba frrzrq gb or orpbzvat zber bs na nffubyr gur shegure gur fgbel jrag. Vg jnf vzzrqvngryl boivbhf gung abg vairfgvat va fbpvny fxvyyf jnf tbvat gb uheg uvz, naq fubhyq unir orra boivbhf gb rirelbar. Gung vg gbbx uvz fb ybat gb ernyvmr gung vf cerggl qvfnccbvagvat, naq znqr zr pner yrff naq yrff nobhg gur eryngvbafuvc qenzn.

    • honoredb says:

      This is maybe the only piece of serial fiction I’m still reading right now. If this is an implicit recommendation I’m seconding it (it’s very niche, but a lot of commenters here are likely to be in that niche).

      I was mildly surprised that we were only halfway through, given the exponential takeoff vibe we’ve been getting recently.

      Still sort of rooting for a postmodern battle between Amaryllis and Juniper over who’s actually the main character.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I don’t think it is even possible to create Amaryllis art, because she is explicitly described as fulfilling the protagonist’s deepest fantasies, in appearance as well as mannerisms. Therefore, any art that does not fulfill the viewer’s deepest fantasies on at least some level will fall woefully short — but achieving this is impossible, since every viewer will have different preferences.

      • RyanT6 says:

        I get the feeling most people are trying to step around issues with the art. I personally haven’t written anything in locations where I suspect it might be seen by the artist, because it just doesn’t seem polite.

        I feel like Alexander told the artist “No bikini armor, she is in heavy full plate” but the instead of drawing an athletic woman wearing a bulky costume, the artist just sketched the anatomy for a bulky woman.

        Most of the body ratios in the image are just wrong unless it is supposed to depict a fantasy dwarf.

    • RyanT6 says:

      >Based on chapter 162, which contains a very meta scene of Juniper talking with You-Know-Who, it seems like the work is halfway done, so we can probably expect another million words and couple of years before it finishes.

      I don’t think that statement is credible since Juniper can exceed or underperform in-story expectations. Alexander himself recently wrote that he expects to finish the story in 2019 ( https://www.patreon.com/posts/worth-candle-faq-26938299 ) which given plausible estimates would make more than 250,000 words unlikely.

      Of course Alexander has consistently underestimated the length of this work so maybe it keeps going. I recall that two years ago he was expecting 700,000 words for the entire story.

  31. Jake Rowland says:

    What is the strongest form of the argument in favor of raising the minimum wage?

    • tlwest says:

      I don’t know if it’s *the* strongest argument, but my reason for support of minimum wage is that my experience has led me to believe that most employers cannot help value employees by how much they pay them over any other measure (endowment effect?)

      Likewise, someone who is earning almost nothing ends up being seen as a less valuable human being, including less valuable than someone not working at all! (who I guess is seen as having potential value).

      I can remember quite vividly when I was affected by a decently sized minimum wage increase when I was a student. Management wasn’t too happy, but oddly enough, the bosses were treating us with a little more respect a few months afterward.

      It made me understand that when brain and economics collide, brain wins 4 times out of 5.

      This effect seems to extend to the general populace. Most of us (including myself) have difficulty unlinking someone’s worth as a human being from how much they earn.

      Anyway, since I consider it important that all human beings in our society are accorded a certain minimum level of respect, and that many human beings are simply incapable of according respect to someone earning too little, I support a minimum wage.

      • Mary says:

        You should hire them all away by offering the higher wages.

        Otherwise employers will just lay them off, and we do, in fact, have less respect for the unemployed.

        • tlwest says:

          and we do, in fact, have less respect for the unemployed.

          Again, only personal experience here, but that was certainly not what I was told by a friend in HR (later confirmed by a head hunter). I was facing the unemployment as the company I worked for collapsed and was contemplating worst case scenarios. Discussions about what was the household could run on were discussed in the presence of my friend, who surprised me by being adamant.

          “Businesses never have a good idea of how valuable you are, so they usually want to use another company’s idea of how valuable you are. If you take a low paying job, you’re telling your next employer that in fact *you* believe that’s how valuable you are. And that will be the end of your career.”

          Now the apocalypse scenario didn’t come to pass, but it gave me incite that in the absence of a first-order metric, respect is accorded by what we perceive as the potential earnings.

          Hence why I see the bottle-picker who earns a dollar or two an hour gets less societal respect than the person who doesn’t have a job, and has too much “self-respect” to scrounge around for any job that earns *something*.

          I dislike the tendency, even as I notice my brain falling into exactly that same rut.

          • Matt M says:

            Hence why I see the bottle-picker who earns a dollar or two an hour gets less societal respect than the person who doesn’t have a job, and has too much “self-respect” to scrounge around for any job that earns *something*.

            I think this works to a limited extent. HR people will also tell you that almost nothing is as deadly as a “gap” in your resume – a period of say, over a year, where you weren’t working and don’t have a really good explanation as to why you weren’t working. Possibly because it implies that you weren’t really worth what you thought you were worth after all.

          • tlwest says:

            HR people will also tell you that almost nothing is as deadly as a “gap” in your resume – a period of say, over a year, where you weren’t working

            Agreed that long-term unemployment is going to hurt your status (although its the hammer blow to one self-esteem that makes me quite worried about high minimum wage disemployment effects), but honestly, I am not certain whether you’d be better off telling a potential employer that you’ve unemployed for three years, or that you’ve been earning a dollar an hour picking through trash for the last few years.

            I’d like to think unemployment is worse, but I can’t shake the feeling that it might not be so.

            [Putting my comments about status in context, I’m not comparing $7/hr minimum wage with $15/hr. I’m considering no minimum wage at all vs. a $7/hr minimum wage. It’s at lowest end of the spectrum where I see people’s valuation for another human being just plummet, even below those being supported by the state.]

          • Mark Atwood says:

            “gap” in your resume

            Which is why I tell tech people if they think their resume may develop a gap, they should promptly join an unfunded startup, or start an unfunded startup, or sign up for some sort of training academy (even if the reality of it is is going to meetups and reading manuals while sitting in a cafe), or somehow “consult”.

            It’s not been necessary advice for the past couple of years, of course. But, winter is always coming.

          • Mary says:

            Respect and desire to hire are not the same thing. Otherwise you are not respecting anyone you don’t hire.

          • Matt M says:

            @tlwest,

            Which is why, on the resume, “earned $1 an hour picking through garbage” becomes “launched an entrepreneurial venture to optimize local recycling techniques”

          • tlwest says:

            “launched an entrepreneurial venture to optimize local recycling techniques”

            Thank you for starting my day off with a good laugh.

            Respect and desire to hire are not the same thing. Otherwise you are not respecting anyone you don’t hire.

            Well, respect is not binary, so I don’t think that would hold even if they were the same thing.

            However, given roughly similar qualifications, I’d say hirers (at least at the levels I’ve had exposure to) really gravitated towards status as a qualification – mostly because they don’t have any metrics worth a damn to differentiate between qualified candidates, and their “hunch” was correlated with status (albeit unconsciously).

      • nyc says:

        > Management wasn’t too happy, but oddly enough, the bosses were treating us with a little more respect a few months afterward.

        Do you have any evidence that this was caused by psychological effects and not ordinary economics? Once someone has been receiving a higher wage for a period of time, it allows them to have built up more savings which in turn gives them a better ability to quit their job without having already found another one.

        But that isn’t unique to a minimum wage, it would be true of anything that increases the ability to do that, including an alternative like a UBI which doesn’t provide a disincentive for employing less skilled workers.

        • Matt M says:

          Also, to whatever extent a rise in the minimum wage does lead to layoffs, and to whatever extent the layoffs are determined by level of productivity/skill, then the remaining minimum wage workers are, on average, more productive and more highly skilled than the previous class of minimum wage workers were, and thus, worthy of more respect.

      • LesHapablap says:

        The amount of respect society offers people based on their wages is not absolute but relative. So if you go from 3% of people on min wage to 6% on min wage after the increase, you’ll now have doubled the number of people looked down on for being minimum wage employees.

        • Matt M says:

          But, as I say above, the only concern isn’t “minimum wage employee” vs ” non-minimum wage employee”, but also the status inherent from “minimum wage employee” vs “welfare recipient/lazy bum”

          Basically, during the MW increase there can be three distinct groups of people who see their status affected. Those who get laid off because of the increase (huge status decrease), those who were making MW before and continue to make MW at the new rate (slight status increase, so long as people appreciate that layoffs were made and were made based on skill/ability), and those who were making above MW before but are now making MW (status decrease).

    • sty_silver says:

      I’d say, it is a simple policy that will disproportionately benefit the poor. (Not everyone who’s poor will get the benefit, but (almost) everyone who will get the benefit will be relatively poor.)

      • nadbor says:

        That is just begging the question. What is the *argument* that it will help the poor instead of hurting them as conventional microeconomics would predict?

        • sty_silver says:

          The way I use the word advantage, the fact that they would get more money is obviously an advantage / argument / benefit. There could then be other disadvantages for the poor, but they wouldn’t make the advantage non-existent.

          I’m not arguing that it will be a net benefit for the poor.

          • Mary says:

            All an employer has to do is automate their jobs away, and they would get LESS money.

          • nadbor says:

            But minimum wage is not the same as giving poor people more money! This is my pet peeve that people talk about minimum wage as if the law stated ‘you have to raise Bob’s wage to $15/h’. But what it actually says is that your current contract with Bob (who makes $10/h) is not illegal. Several things may now happen, one of them being that you (the employer) take the hit to your profits and raise Bob’s wage. Other possibilities include eliminating Bob’s job altogether, automating it away and using more capital and less labour intensive methods of production in general, hiring fewer but more skilled workers – all of which means firing Bob. Or you could raise Bob’s wage and use your new negotiating power to shift more costs to Bob by for example making him buy and pay for cleaning his work uniform, spillage costs etc.

            That minimum wage results in the poor getting more money is something that needs to be argued not asserted.

            Personally I find the oligopsony argument the most convincing. Minimum wage seems like a very crude tool to fight market inefficiency but at least I understand why it could work.

            I’m also open to the possibility that it just works even though we don’t yet understand why.

          • Viliam says:

            The argument by automation only works if the automation is more expensive than current minimum wage, but less expensive than the increased minimum wage. If it is above the interval, the employer will not automate the job. If it is below the interval, the employer will sooner or later automate it anyway.

            (For the long-term perspective, if the progress of artificial intelligence does not stop, sooner or later each of us will be replaced by a machine that costs less than the minimum wage necessary for our survival.)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t know exactly how far the automation wave has travelled, but the people who are most sensitive to being hit by a marginal increase are those at the margins.

            Also, the calls for repeated and follow-up increases in the minimum wage encourage more investment into automation. Maybe my $16/hour job isn’t worth automating away, but at $20 it is, and if employers or robot makers think the $20 mark is going to come in a few years, then they’ll start work on the robots now.

          • nadbor says:

            Note that automation is not an all or nothing proposition. A widget factory will probably not replace a worker with a robot that performs the exact same function. Rather it will buy a more expensive machine that it now takes only 9 instead of 10 workers to operate. Or it will build widgets with more expensive materials that will require less work doing quality control. Or switch to a process that uses more raw materials but is less labor intensive. There are countless ways to substitute capital for labor.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Empirical experience. Certainly there is some theoretical level at which a too-high minimum wage which will do net harm, but minimum wage increases that actually happen have worked out well if you look at the data.

        • Viliam says:

          What is the *argument* that it will help the poor instead of hurting them as conventional microeconomics would predict?

          Could we be more specific about what exactly the conventional microeconomics predicts? Just to make sure we are not playing motte and bailey here.

          As far as I know, microeconomics predicts that if you increase the minimum wage, some people will lose their jobs as a result. However, it does not say how many people will lose their jobs. The exact number would depend on the specific shapes of the supply and demand curves, which can be almost arbitrary. Both the supply and demand can be very flexible, very inflexible, or anything in between, depending on all kinds of things.

          So the fact that “someone will lose their job” does not necessarily imply it will make things worse on average. Depends on numbers. Perhaps the increase of minimum wage by 10% will cause 10% of workers to lose their jobs. In that case, it is easy to argue that it is not worth doing. But for other shapes of the supply and demand curves, it is also possible that a 50% increase in minimum wage would only cause 0.5% of workers to lose their jobs. That could actually be an improvement on average.

          It is actually quite possible that the result would be a net improvement for all workers. (Notice that “net improvement” and “increase in gross income” are not the same thing.) For example, imagine a situation where previously both the husband and wife had jobs, making 1000 copper coins each. After the change of the minimum wage, the husband now makes 1500 copper coins, and the wife stays at home. It would not be completely surprising to find out that the previous costs of the wife keeping her job (such as maintaining the second car, paying for babysitting, etc.) were as high as 500 copper coins, in which case the new situation is actually a net profit for the family as a whole.

          tl;dr — I believe that by saying “as conventional microeconomics would predict” you are making your case appear much stronger than it actually is.

          • nadbor says:

            Fair enough. Some workers get raises some workers get fired. On net value is destroyed but the worker class as a whole may plausibly get a bigger piece of the slightly smaller pie. If this is what you care about ‘conventional microeconomics’ allows that things get better or worse. My bad.

            On the other hand the group of people who lose on the change are the least productive workers – precisely the ones who are the most disadvantaged already. So saying that ‘the poor benefit’ – even if on average they would (which is uncertain) is at least debatable.

            I read in Thomas Sowell somewhere that early US minimum wage legislation was in big part driven by the desire to price blacks out of the market (I don’t have an audit trail for this claim, but it makes perfect sense). How’s that for benefiting the poor?

            The double income trap thing you describe does count as an argument in favor in my book (if not super convincing to me).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think Viliam gets to the meat of the issue.

            Depending on how the shape of the curve, increasing the minimum wage could be

            a) a big win for the working poor, with few to no losers

            b) a big loss for the working poor, with few to no winners

            c) anywhere in between.

          • tlwest says:

            On net value is destroyed

            Why would this be so? As I understand it the world of spherical cow economic models (workers with one non-fungible skill), if there is more demand for my skill than there is supply, I earn my marginal product. If there is one more person providing that skill than demand, then everyone with that skill earns what it costs to keep us alive and not a penny more.

            If adding or subtracting a worker doesn’t add or destroy value, why would any other arbitrary wage altering factor do the same.

            Now if minimum wage was above unskilled worker’s marginal product, then obviously there are problems, but historically, wages for the unskilled seem to be influenced far more by excess supply than marginal product.

          • 10240 says:

            @tlwest When a worker gets a raise because of the minimum wage, what he gains is what someone else (consumers, higher-skilled employees, shareholders) loses: it’s zero sum on monetary terms. When a worker gets fired because of the minimum wage, both the worker and the employer lose: a mutually beneficial trade is prevented, it’s negative sum.

            Supply and demand are not fixed amounts, they are functions of the price (in this case, wage). Even if supply of labor is relatively inelastic (everyone will work one full-time job at whatever wage the market will pay), demand isn’t.

            If there are n unskilled workers, they will each make the product of the marginal (nth) worker, which is equal to the wage at which the demand is n full-time workers (assuming each worker works one full-time job). This value may relatively small (though way above subsistence), as n is bigger than the number of unskilled workers the economy can put to highly productive use.

            However, when you talk about excess supply, you seem to assume that this value is zero: that there is demand a fixed (smaller than n) number unskilled workers, and employers have no use whatsoever for more than that. This is not the case (and if it was, unemployment would be way higher than today, and way more people would make the current minimum wage).

          • As I understand it the world of spherical cow economic models (workers with one non-fungible skill), if there is more demand for my skill than there is supply, I earn my marginal product. If there is one more person providing that skill than demand, then everyone with that skill earns what it costs to keep us alive and not a penny more.

            Your source on economic models seems to have missed the fact that both supply and demand are functions of price.

      • but (almost) everyone who will get the benefit will be relatively poor.

        I don’t think that’s the case. My understanding of earlier increases is that they were supported by the northern textile industry, both employers and employees, to reduce the competitive advantages of the southern textile industry.

        More generally, the most unambiguous beneficiaries are skilled workers for whom unskilled workers provide a lower quality but less expensive substitute. The most unambiguous losers are those unskilled workers who get priced off the market.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      It corrects labor market monopsony power for the poorest and appears to have small effects on employment.

      The case for raising the federal minimum wage is very hard to make.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        It corrects labor market monopsony power for the poorest

        This is my personal bugbear for supporting UBI. Hypothesis being that labor conditions would be very different when people can actually afford to quit over petty feudalistic bullshit. Currently the friction costs are just too high, so you have to suck up what the minor lordlings with delusions of grandeur management dishes out. And smile and ask for more.

        Unions are an alternative but kinda crap in comparison because they degenerate into an alternate track to petty fiefdoms.

        • 10240 says:

          This is definitely an argument against the minimum wage, however. If there is more supply than demand for unskilled work, then workers can afford to resign or get fired, as they can’t be sure that they can find another job. And employers can abuse workers without having to pay any price for it. On the other hand, if there is no minimum wage or it’s low enough, then employers have to choose between paying a lower wage and not abusing workers, or abusing workers and paying a higher wage to those who will put up with it.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            [I]f there is no minimum wage or it’s low enough, then employers have to choose between paying a lower wage and not abusing workers, or abusing workers and paying a higher wage to those who will put up with it.

            I don’t think that’s actually true.

            There’s a fundamental disparity of negotiating position between employer and employee that’s worth keeping in mind.

            The employer will, presumably, offer someone a job if, and only if, hiring that person will earn the employer more than it costs to hire that person.

            The employee, on the other hand, starts in the red – they have costs of living that must be met, whatever happens. The employee must take whatever job is available to them or go into debt. They are seldom in a position to keep refusing jobs until some minimum level of wage and/or working conditions is met.

            This disparity privileges employers considerably. It is quite conceivable – and has been known to happen, which is why we got labour laws in the first place – that an employer will pay a pittance and abuse employees to boot. He may even consider himself their benefactor whilst doing so – he’s providing them with a living, after all.

          • 10240 says:

            @Faza (TCM) People need to have a job, but they can choose between the jobs that are available. Even if you don’t have another job offer available right now, you can start looking for another job, and switch once you find one. Also, if there aren’t loads of job offers above the typical wage level, that indicates that the typical wages are pretty close to the market-clearing wage (what you would get on a perfect market). Otherwise either existing or new companies would try to poach other companies’ employees by offering a wage that’s higher than their current wage, but still allow a company to make an above-market-clearing profit.

            We can observe that in places with a low minimum wage (compared to the productivity of the place), the vast majority of people make more than the minimum wage — whether because they have options, or because employers want to motivate them, or some other reason. According to a quick search, in Texas, where the minimum wage is $7.25, just 2.7% of the people make less than $7.50, and just 11% make less than $10.

            Now let’s say that employees are indifferent about making $x/hour without abuse, or $(x+1)/hour and being abused. Let’s say some employer pays $9/hour and abuses its workers. Whatever is its reason to pay $9 rather than $7.25, it could achieve the same by paying $8 and not abusing the workers.

            It is quite conceivable – and has been known to happen, which is why we got labour laws in the first place – that an employer will pay a pittance and abuse employees to boot.

            That happened when productivity was low, so the market-clearing wage was pittance by today’s standards — and companies couldn’t have paid much more than pittance even if they hadn’t made any profit. We make a lot more than pittance not because of labor laws, but because we are more productive.

            We have labor laws because people wanted better working conditions without accepting a decrease in salaries, and they figured that they could get it if they get the government to force companies to provide better conditions. I can imagine that nominal wages didn’t decrease because of stickiness, but I’m pretty sure that on the long run the laws did decrease wages by about as much as workers would’ve had to accept in exchange for the company voluntarily improving working conditions: the market-clearing wage for less work in better conditions is less than for more work in worse conditions. Note that most of the bad conditions labor law prohibits are not pointless abuse, but actually lower costs or increase revenue for the company compared to providing better conditions.

      • 10240 says:

        I find it unlikely that there are monopsonies or even oligopsonies in the labor market, especially for unskilled labor. Salaries for unskilled labor are low because the market value of unskilled labor is low (it would be low even in a perfect market). However, in any city, there are countless companies, small and big, employing unskilled workers. It’s implausible that they can form any sort of stable cartel. {Mono,oligo}-{polies,psonies} form when there are one or a few companies on one side of a market, and this fact only allows them to significantly increase/decrease prices if the barriers of entry are high. The only situation where I can imagine a significant monopsony situation for low-skilled labor is small towns centered around one big employer.

        An evidence that the labor market is competitive is the fact that the vast majority of people make more than the minimum wage, often significantly more, especially in places where the minimum wage is low. If the labor market was uncompetitive, they would have no reason to pay significantly more than the minimum wage to anyone. (Except perhaps to incentivize good work, but even then they could just threaten to fire those who don’t work hard enough rather than pay more to those who work hard.)

    • albatross11 says:

      ISTM that a minimum wage is an attempt to drive a better bargain for all low-wage workers than they can get for themselves. The bad news is, some people won’t be employable at the new higher wage, and if the wage is too high, that will be a *lot* of people. So I think the strongest argument for a minimum wage is going to be that it will be set at a reasonable level, and will get a better bargain for enough people at the bottom that their benefit outweighs the losses of the newly unemployable.

    • zzzzort says:

      The empirics are definitely the strongest argument, as they are for most things.

      One complementary argument is that companies choose salaries that are optimal for them, and as with most maxima, you’d expect only a small change in utility for a small change in wage (for example, higher wages could attract better people, or induce the existing people to work there longer and gain more skills). In contrast, workers don’t have any such trade off and are overall better off.

      I’m also curious about the argument that raising the minimum wage will increase productivity, as it increases incentives to automate work or train people better. I personally find it weird that this is only mentioned by left economists (because they like the minimum wage) and is not discussed by the more conservative/libertarian economists who otherwise argue that anything that slightly increases the rate of growth is a moral imperative.

      • 10240 says:

        you’d expect only a small change in utility for a small change in wage (for example, higher wages could attract better people, or induce the existing people to work there longer and gain more skills).

        In a competitive labor market, the main reason to pay a particular wage (namely the market-clearing wage) is to have people work for you at all, rather than for your competitors. I’ve argued above why I think the labor market is competitive.

        • zzzzort says:

          Two things. First, I don’t accept that companies actually set wages fine tuned to the market clearing rate. For instance, there is good evidence for nominal wage rigidity, where companies are very unlikely to cut wages in recessions even as unemployment goes up. In addition there is evidence that companies raise wages for reasons besides getting bodies into positions. Walmart and Amazon both made fairly dramatic wage hikes recently, the unemployment rate is falling but not discontinuous, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts.

          And the second is that you’re treating (here and elsewhere) the prevailing economic conditions as an exogenous, completely uncontrolled parameter. If a company can’t come up with a business model to employ people at the higher wage, then I agree that person will be out of a job. If no company can come up with such a business model for a broad swathe of people, then the Fed will cut rates and either growth or inflation will sort it out. (note the empirical disemployment effects of minimum wage hikes are quite modest even in jurisdictions without an independent monetary policy, so the ask from the Fed would not be very big.)

      • 10240 says:

        I’m also curious about the argument that raising the minimum wage will increase productivity […] is not discussed by the more conservative/libertarian economists who otherwise argue that anything that slightly increases the rate of growth is a moral imperative.

        Automating something doesn’t cause economic growth if automating it costs more than paying a human to do it at a market-clearing wage.

        Employers decide how much they train their employees depending on what amount of training maximizes the value they get out of the employee minus the cost of the training. That doesn’t depend on how much salary they pay. (Assuming they are employing the same people, as opposed to, say, employing more trainable people as a result of the minimum wage. Also, one way the minimum wage might increase the incentive to train people is that it creates a surplus of labor, and thus makes it harder for the worker to go to another employer for a higher wage after getting trained. I doubt it’s worth it.)

        I’ve seen an anecdotal argument against the minimum wage along similar lines: in jurisdictions with a higher minimum wage, employers force their workers to work harder. The wage for a given quality of work doesn’t increase; instead, in places with a high minimum wage, only jobs that pay a higher wage for harder work are available, while in places with low or no minimum wage, jobs that pay a lower wage for less hard work are also available.

        As a libertarian, I don’t support forcing people to work hard for higher pay even if they prefer to work less hard for less pay. I’m for people having the opportunity to produce more and get a higher income; and for not reducing people’s incentive to work hard below the market value of said hard work. It may appear that people like me consider the GDP super important because most measures that decrease GDP (or GDP growth) do so by preventing people from being productive, or reducing their incentive to do so. However, raising the GDP by giving people more incentive to work hard than they would have on a free market makes people worse off.

        A more sarcastic answer to why libertarians/conservatives don’t discuss these arguments would be that the arguments are wrong, so only those people discuss them who are motivated because they like the minimum wage

        • zzzzort says:

          Investing in automation and training are both decisions that have the potential to leak to other companies, so I wouldn’t expect the optimal social rate to be the same as the profit maximizing rate for individual companies. Some role for government intervention in encouraging R&D is (mostly) uncontroversial, and a broad incentive to raise worker productivity to at least $15/hour seems like a worthwhile goal with the advantages of being technology agnostic (no picking winners and losers) and resistant to political capture (no hand outs to favored companies).

          I agree that it might not help growth in the short term (though the jury is still out imho), but long term growth is largely determined by improvements in technology leading to increases in productivity. For a historical comparison, the role of high wages in driving innovation is popular (though not universally accepted) as a theory for the onset of the industrial revolution in England.

          And finally, if we go around assuming ideas that are mostly espoused by one side of a debate are wrong, we would end up accepting that some wildly contradictory things 🙂

          • 10240 says:

            Investing in automation and training are both decisions that have the potential to leak to other companies, so I wouldn’t expect the optimal social rate to be the same as the profit maximizing rate for individual companies.

            Do you mean that competitors would copy it? If your company can produce more with less cost by doing something (such as automation and training), it’s in your interest to do it even if your competitors will copy it. You enjoys increased profit at least until it’s copied, while if a competitor does it first, your profit will decrease until you copy it.

            I don’t see how automation even comes up if we are concerned about the poor. How does replacing a $8/hour worker with an (amortized) $12/hour machine benefit the worker?

            Some role for government intervention in encouraging R&D is (mostly) uncontroversial

            I only see government involvement as probably beneficial* in fundamental research, which can’t be directly turned into dollars. When it comes to applied research, or the development of business models, which can be directly turned into profit, private companies have ample incentive to do it, and I doubt government intervention (beyond the patent system) has much of a benefit. I don’t know what economists would say.

            * At least in terms of increasing the amount of research output, less clear in terms of economic growth. I don’t know how much fundamental research is actually eventually turned into something practical, and (especially if it’s a small part) whether that part wouldn’t be done by private companies in the absence of government involvement.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I´ll just note that there is a difference between arguments for existence of MW vs for its increase, and with regards to raising of MW lot depends on which country we are talking about and to what level.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I’ve posted a reply to this in completely the wrong part of the thread (I hate typing on a mobile phone), so here’s a placeholder instead.

    • I don’t know about strongest, but the most elegant argument is due to Card and Kruger. The argument (my words, not theirs) is that if the employers of unskilled labor are monopsonists they will pay below marginal revenue product for the same reason that a monopolist charges above marginal cost. Forcing wages up towards MRP then increases both employment—the monopsonist was deliberately holding down his demand for unskilled labor in order to hold down the wages he had to pay—and economic efficiency.

      The problem with the argument is that unskilled labor is unspecialized, which makes the assumption of monopsony employment in most contexts implausible.

      • dick says:

        The problem with the argument is that unskilled labor is unspecialized, which makes the assumption of monopsony employment in most contexts implausible.

        Suppose that there are only two employers in town: Dick’s Ditch Digging and Friedman’s French Fries. Both jobs are unskilled, but you can afford to pay your employees $15/hr and I can only afford to pay mine $10/hr. If there’s a $12/hr minimum wage, obviously I’ll go out of business. But without one, an assuming there were more job seekers than jobs, wouldn’t our salaries converge? Without collusion, I mean, just due to you occasionally lowering your wages and noting that you still have applicants.

        (ETA if it wasn’t clear that my point in asking is that, if so, it seems like this would be functionally equivalent to the case with only one employer, even if these jobs are totally unspecialized)

        (ETA 2: I realize unrealistic hypotheticals are unrealistic, and “as long as there are more applicants than jobs” could be interpreted to mean that there are an infinite number of applicants and our salaries would tend towards zero. So perhaps I should pre-emptively clarify that I don’t mean that. What I mean is, if there enough job seekers that both of us can comfortably under-pay, would we converge at the same wage or different ones?

        Yet another way to put the same question, in case there are other mis-interpretable parts: if there was a single employer in some town (let’s call it Dick & Friedman’s Ditch Digging and French Frying Emporium) who, as the town’s sole employer, enjoyed monopsony wage-setting power, and it had settled at paying all of its employees $5/hr, would it not follow that, if the business split (presumably due to some sort of abstruse political disagreement between the owners), the two resulting businesses would also end up paying the same $5/hr wage, even if they weren’t colluding and their margins were different?)

        • would it not follow that, if the business split (presumably due to some sort of abstruse political disagreement between the owners), the two resulting businesses would also end up paying the same $5/hr wage, even if they weren’t colluding and their margins were different?

          No.

          When it was a single firm, the firm knew that in order to hire one more worker it would have to raise wages for all workers. Suppose the wage is $5/hour and the extra production from one more worker was $10/hour. Hiring that worker increases profits by $5/hour, if you only look at him. But in order to hire one more worker the firm will have to raise wages to $5.06 for all workers. There are a hundred workers, so that costs the firm $6, making hiring one more worker a net loss.

          Now the firm splits. Each half is hiring 50 workers. If my half hires one more it still gets the $5 gain but the loss to it is only $3, so it pays the firm to do so. So, assuming no coordination, it does.

          • Deiseach says:

            When it was a single firm, the firm knew that in order to hire one more worker it would have to raise wages for all workers.

            Can you please tell me what magical industry this is where, upon hiring a new worker, all the existing workers get pay raises? I would be very interested in applying for a job there, as every time they needed to take on someone new, I’d get an automatic raise!

            I have never, ever worked anywhere where “we need to hire new seasonal labour/we’re getting more orders and need to hire more workers, oh well guess that means our regular staff all have to be paid £1 extra per hour AND for each new person” happened, so you can see why this intrigues me!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            @Dieseach: Sure, not in the short term.

            But in the long term, which dick and David are discussing, that information leaks out.

          • dick says:

            Now the firm splits. Each half is hiring 50 workers. If my half hires one more it still gets the $5 gain but the loss to it is only $3, so it pays the firm to do so. So, assuming no coordination, it does.

            Right, and then you would hire one of my employees, right? Suppose we each employ some number of people at $5/hr, and I’m at equilibrium but you’re not. If you want more employees, you raise your wages to $5.01 and some of my employees quit to work for you. Now I need to find a new equilibrium in a tighter market than I’m used to, and either raise my wages to match or make due with fewer employees. Until I raise my wages to $5.01, you never have to raise yours to $5.02.

            I’m not arguing with you, I know this is your area, but what am I missing here? As long as we share a labor pool (which seems to be implied by our jobs being unspecialized) it seems like the fact that our businesses are not equally efficient ought to mean we end up employing different numbers of people, but at the same wage.

          • dick says:

            @David Friedman, if you missed this question, I’m still curious as to the answer.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Dick,

            Your follow-up question seems to be a different question than your original question.

            Your original question seems to suggest that a single employer in town will be paying the same wage as if there were 2 employers engaged in competition. This isn’t the case.

            1 employer, raising a wage from $5 for 99 workers, to $6 for 100 workers, is actually spending $56. That last worker needs to add $56 to the top-line to be worth his salt. He’s extremely expensive.

            If there are 2 employers, and the market is effectively price-taking (IE, you can’t actually affect wages), and the wage is $6, the worker needs only to add $6 to the top-line. He’s literally $50 cheaper, from the POV of the company, because the company’s hiring decision does not affect the price of labor.

            But if you ARE affecting the market, you might substantially reduce your hiring, so you can keep all of your wages low. This means a bunch of people unemployed for no good reason.

            As for different efficiencies among firms, theoretically you would still be paying the same wage for the same labor, but in the real world this gets much more complicated much more quickly.

          • dick says:

            I think I see what I was missing now. I asked whether the two businesses would “end up paying the same $5/hr wage”. David answered no, which I took to mean that they would pay different wages (than each other). Upon further review, I guess he meant that they would pay the same wage as each other, but not the same wage as before.

            By the time I made the second comment, I realized that would be the case. I didn’t intentionally move the goalposts, I focused on the wages being equal was because I thought that was what mattered. The underlying thing I’m actually asking about is whether C&K’s reasoning (that setting a minimum wage can increase employment, if the employer has a monopsony) would apply to this scenario, and I was thinking it would if the two companies paid equal wages. But, re-thinking it in order to respond to you, I see now that, in determining whether the employers would be subject to C&K’s reasoning, what’s important is whether they would pay the same wage as before, not as each other.

          • Upon further review, I guess he meant that they would pay the same wage as each other, but not the same wage as before.

            Correct.

          • dick says:

            And it follows that, if someone were to invent a new type of unskilled labor which is worse than all others (by which I mean, a type of work with less marginal revenue per worker than any other), that would drive the wages of all unskilled labor up slightly, right? I had always intuitively felt the opposite, i.e. that legislating the worst jobs out of existence drove the wages for the next-worst jobs up, so this is a useful update for me. (Though I still favor some level of minimum wage for other reasons)

    • Jake Rowland says:

      I’m still more used to lurking on this board than posting, but I do want to say I appreciate all the responses and that many of them are very good arguments that I’d never heard before.

  32. AlexanderTheGrand says:

    Hopefully the dust has settled on this issue enough that it’s not CW-territory:

    How does the motivation for the (most recent) US-Iraq war break down? Between oil, geopolitical control, fear of WMDs, 9/11 hysteria, etc?

    Maybe separating it out by people would help (if Cheney’s motivations were different than Bush’s or congress’s).

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      My vote is, “not nearly dead enough for this thread.”

      • Matt M says:

        We could invoke the three-day rule for great tragedies involving loss of life and say that we should discourage litigating this until three days after the US occupation of Iraq has ended.

        Of course, that risks the debate being delayed long enough that our grandchildren might be having it, instead of us.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The usual rule of thumb applies: if you feel the need to preface your post with “I think this is non-CW”, it’s CW.

    • cassander says:

      >Between oil,

      Effectively zero. I mean, Iraq is a more important country than it would be without oil, and so looms larger on the radar than, say, syria did in 2003, but the war had nothing to do with control of the oil, petrodollars, or any of that nonsense.

      >geopolitical control,

      You’d have to elaborate on what you mean by this.

      >fear of WMDs

      This is hard to disentangle from 9/11, which made the WMD threat loom a lot larger in everyone’s mind.

      >9/11 hysteria,

      Hard to judge in a strict percentage basis. You can make make a case for 0%, or 100%. Without it, no invasion of Iraq happens, because it gave the administration political capital and encouraged them to act far more aggressively than they would have without it. But in a different administration with different instincts, you would have gotten a very different response.

      etc?

      Putting aside the question of hysteria, the biggest single reason for the war was that after 9/11, Bush told his advisors that he wanted to solve the terrorism problem for good, and the only people who had a real plan to do that were the neo-cons. They said that terrorism was basically a product of non-functional societies with an excess of angry young men, and the way to stop it was to remake those societies into something that actually worked by spreading democracy, mom, and apple pie. The less neo-conny members of the cabinet, like Cheney, went along with this because the policy prescription (knocking off american enemies) was something they were on board with for more traditional reasons.

      • John Schilling says:

        Putting aside the question of hysteria, the biggest single reason for the war was that after 9/11, Bush told his advisors that he wanted to solve the terrorism problem for good, and the only people who had a real plan to do that were the neo-cons. They said that terrorism was basically a product of non-functional societies with an excess of angry young men, and the way to stop it was to remake those societies into something that actually worked by spreading democracy, mom, and apple pie.

        This, mostly. It wasn’t a terribly good plan, but it was a plan.

        But even if you are cynical enough to believe we can have peace and prosperity without democracy, putting an end to international terrorism means making sure that autocracies like Saudi Arabia have as their #1 priority “don’t piss off the United States by encouraging your angry young men to go abroad and kill foreigners”. Through early 2003, the #1 priority of Saudi Arabia etc was keeping Iraq safely contained, and #2 was keeping the attention of their angry young men focused outward rather than inward. Or maybe #2 and #1, respectively. Invading Iraq superficially looked like it would take one of those issues off the table while serving as an object lesson on the costs of pissing off the United States.

        Invading Iraq with no good plan for the subsequent occupation, had the actual effect of making everyone’s new #1 priority in the region being the containment of a newly-empowered Iran while undercutting the “don’t piss off the United States” message by making it clear that we had exceeded our tolerance for messy Middle Eastern military interventions, so no points for the neocons on that front.

        • bullseye says:

          Also undercutting the “don’t piss off the United States” message: we invaded the wrong country. None of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. Most of them were Saudis, as was Osama.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you are suggesting that the United States should have invaded Saudi Arabia instead, note that it is geopolitically infeasible to invade just Saudi Arabia. And the smart plans for invading a collection of countries including Saudi Arabia, probably start with Iraq and move on to Saudi Arabia second. Note also that, contra Blutarsky, the Germans never bombed Pearl Harbor (and the Italians didn’t even invade Poland).

            Since it demonstrably is possible to invade just Iraq, a plan that starts with invading Iraq, conquering and effectively occupying Iraq, and then saying “Any volunteers for #2?”, has some merit. It does however require that the conquest of Iraq not turn into a quagmire that occupies some 2-300% of the US’s political and military bandwidth in the region.

          • cassander says:

            In addition to what John Schilling said, you don’t want to punish countries that are getting better*, because that sends the completely wrong message. It’s a big part of why doing what we did in Libya was such a disaster, because Qaddafi, for all his faults, had actually caved to US pressure and was reforming. Invading him sent the message that “If you do what we want not only will we not defend you, we’ll throw you under the bus as soon as someone in your country gins up a half decent mob”, meaning that any dictator with any sense will just dig his heels in and refuse to reform.

            Saudi Arabia, for all its faults, has been getting better, if very slowly. And anyone who could run the place would almost certainly be worse.

            *better, in this case, means doing more of whatever it is people think you want than they were recently.

          • bullseye says:

            I don’t know that invading Saudi Arabia in retaliation for 9/11 would have been a good idea. But invading Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 made zero sense. We might as well have attacked Paraguay. It sent the message that the U.S. might invade you no matter what you do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Saudi Arabia was and is a major ally in the region, so invading SA would also have kind-of undermined the incentives of other countries to be our allies.

          • cassander says:

            The point of attacking Iraq wasn’t retaliation. It was draining the swamp, and getting people on board with the project by going after a particularly smelly swamp first, not necessarily the one that was the largest or most mosquito infested. Afghanistan was about retaliation.

          • John Schilling says:

            But invading Iraq in retaliation for 9/11 made zero sense. We might as well have attacked Paraguay.

            The United States hadn’t spent the previous decade randomly bombing Paraguay to no good end.

            And maybe we shouldn’t have spent the previous randomly bombing Iraq to no good end, but we did. Having done so, changing our mind and bombing Saudi Arabia instead would have made us look weak and indecisive. And it would have meant that whatever we did in Iraq, we’d be doing with a powerful and hostile force on our flank with every incentive to make our Saudi invasion as difficult as possible.

            Iraq didn’t have anything to do with 9/11, yes, but Italy didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor. Iraq was already our enemy for reasons that had nothing to do with 9/11, and wasn’t going to stop being our enemy just because we changed our mind. So whatever we did in the Middle East, we would have to do with Iraq standing as our enemy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            So whatever we did in the Middle East, we would have to do with Iraq standing as our enemy.

            I’m struggling to figure out how this helps us solve any issue with Saudi Arabia. In addition, further weakening Iraq strengthened Iran, who also don’t like us.

            It’s one thing to say that regional and geopolitics forced us not to confront Saudi Arabia. It’s another to say that this forced us to attack Iraq.

            It’s like the old joke about the NCAA that they were so mad at Alabama’s cheating that they gave Southwester Illinois Technical Community College the death penalty.

            So we can you expand on the idea that invading Iraq somehow was intended to meet some sort of strategic goal associated with 9/11?

          • Randy M says:

            It was kind of like looking under the lamp for your keys in dark.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            So can you expand on the idea that invading Iraq somehow was intended to meet some sort of strategic goal associated with 9/11?

            cassander stated it earlier up:

            after 9/11, Bush told his advisors that he wanted to solve the terrorism problem for good, and the only people who had a real plan to do that were the neo-cons. They said that terrorism was basically a product of non-functional societies with an excess of angry young men, and the way to stop it was to remake those societies into something that actually worked by spreading democracy, mom, and apple pie.

            The concern back then was that we could retaliate for 9/11 with a focused attack on Al-Qaeda, declare the problem solved, and return home, only to have two more skyscrapers fall to the next terrorist group to figure out AQ’s formula. Or a city nerve-gassed, a nuclear bomb set off, etc.

            This wasn’t implausible. 9/11 was just the latest in a series of gradually escalating terrorist attacks against US assets, including civilians. Each time, there’d be proportional response, and the next move was yet another attack. So Bush apparently decided to get proactive and try to solve the general problem.

            The general problem meant bringing down several bad regimes, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. NK had nukes, and was propped up by China, which was both far too powerful and actually a good trading partner, so diplomacy was likely the solution there. Saudi Arabia was an ally, and improving, so the solution there was to just wait for it to solve itself. Iran was the root, but it was hard to get to without a closer base. Syria was propped up by Iran. Libya was vulnerable, but far from Iran.

            So, Iraq fit the sweet spot between being vulnerable and leading to the primary solution.

            If Iraq’s occuption had gone well, I fully expect Bush’s rhetoric to turn toward Syria / Iran / Libya next. Qaddafi folded early, yielding an unexpected win and leaving just Syria and Iran. So next would have been to deliver an ultimatum to renounce terrorism, or be invaded from a bordering country. If they capitulate like Libya, great. If not, the US rolls Iran up, Syria shrivels up (as well as Hezbollah, turning Lebanon into a staunch ally), leaving NK as the last rogue state.

            Or so the story might have gone.

          • Enkidum says:

            “Iran was the root”

            Uh… citations most definitely needed.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Those that say that Saudi Arabia is reforming, does this extend to the funding of terrorist groups?

            Because what I *sense* is that, terrorist supporting nation on the one hand, and geoppolitical rival on the other, are used as if they are interchangeable. Iran being threat number one and Saudi Arabia being a US ally and showered with weapons in the context of terror attacks against US citizens makes little sense. It also makes little sense in the context of supporting secularism.

            It does make sense in the context of certain countries being enemies of the United States for reasons unrelated to how likely or how often groups from that country want to harm American citizens.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Uh… citations most definitely needed [for Iran being the root of terrorist activity].

            This was common knowledge since at least the 1990s. I recall cartoons tracing funding for Hezbollah, for instance, to Syria, and in turn to the Ayatollah.

            Because what I *sense* is that, terrorist supporting nation on the one hand, and geoppolitical rival on the other, are used as if they are interchangeable. Iran being threat number one and Saudi Arabia being a US ally and showered with weapons in the context of terror attacks against US citizens makes little sense. It also makes little sense in the context of supporting secularism.

            I agree that “terrorist-sponsoring nation” and “geopolitical rival” are not equal, although the former is pretty much a subset of the latter.

            As for the difference between SA and Iran, it’s more akin to the difference between you kicking out a party guest who makes a scene on your lawn and the other guy who makes a scene on your lawn gets to lie down on your couch in the basement because he’s been helping you around the house for the last five years.

          • albatross11 says:

            Iran supports Hezbolah, which carries out terrorist attacks against Israel and sometimes against rival groups in Lebanon, but which had nothing to do with 9/11 and doesn’t have much to do with the US. (At least since we pulled the Marines out of Lebanon under Reagan.). I think Hezbolah also has done a lot of fighting in Syria on the side of Assad.

            Compare with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia–both allies of ours with track records of supporting terrorists, including some that have attacked the US.

    • BBA says:

      At the risk of opening a can of worms: There’s a belief I’ve encountered that the Bush administration was planning to invade Iraq from the moment Bush entered office, and 9/11 was just a pretext. No idea how accurate this is.

      • albatross11 says:

        It’s been a really long time, but I remember Bush talking about finishing the job in Iraq during the 2000 presidential campaign. My sense is that there was a faction of people (neocons as well as the older cons) who wanted to invade Iraq for a long time. The 9/11 attacks created a political situation in which everyone was in a panic and it was possible to get support to invade Iraq. The utter mismanagement of that invasion and occupation probably killed voter enthusiasm for that sort of adventure for the next decade or so.

  33. DragonMilk says:

    I finally have a use for the slow cooker – chili maker. Made it for the first time and realize this is sort of a re-hashed question, but nonetheless…

    Which spice is used to make something more spicy? Cayenne pepper? More jalepenos? Different type of pepper?

    What other non-standard things do you like throwing in chili? Chicken? shrimp? veggies?

    • SaiNushi says:

      Depends on how much more spicy you want to make it, and what kind of spicy. Most non-bell peppers work. Red pepper flakes are what I use, but I’m really sensitive to spice. Chili peppers are standard in chili. Jalapenos are the most spicy I’ve heard about being included commonly. Ghost peppers are even more spicy.

      The more other things you throw in the chili, the more you’re making it something other than chili. There’s goulash, which is a spicy tomato sauce with random meat and veggies, usually whatever’s cheapest in the store, and often includes some sort of pasta. There’s gumbo, which is like soupy goulash without the pasta, sometimes with rice.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        There are a lot of peppers in between jalapenos and ghost peppers! Please do not go straight from jalapenos to ghost peppers!

        https://pepperjoe.com/pages/hot-pepper-heat-scale

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve done a little experimentation with combining hot and medium peppers (not in chili, but the principle should apply) and I think the flavor is more interesting.

        • SaiNushi says:

          Thank you for fleshing out my input. As mentioned, I’m very sensitive to spicy, so I don’t keep up on what peppers are available.

      • eurg says:

        If goulash is gulyás (from Hungary) or Gulasch (Austria) the primary ingredients are **lots of onions** and **lots of hot paprika**. Everything else is specific to the type of Gulasch. Don’t let Wikipedia trick you.

        But no, not tomato. Tomato is used in Gulasch, but it’s not essential (you can totally skip it).

        And good gulasch can be cheap, but it’s not made from cheap stuff by default. Gulasch meat contains lot’s of fat (“cheap”), but that’s for taste. You can make great vegan gulasch, w/o crappy meat, as well.

        Oh my. Gulasch “cheap”. Tomatos. Oh my.

        • SaiNushi says:

          Goulash is an African American dish from the inland areas.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Oh? I found out about it playing Thea, a pagan Slavic deity game. Wikipedia indicates Hungarian origin. What made you associate it with African American cuisine?

          • I was assuming that SaiNushi’s comment was a joke, just one I couldn’t figure out.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I thought it might be a joke on Gullah cuisine, but the Gullah are not from inland.

          • liate says:

            There’s also American goulash, which is mostly unrelated to the Hungarian kind outside of the name, which is what I assume SaiNushi is talking about.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Aha! Yes, that’s surely what was referenced.

            I never heard it called that. My mom called it (wince) “hishy-hash”, perhaps because she thought we wouldn’t eat it if it sounded exotic.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Ancho, guajillo, morita, or chipotle chiles. All dried, except the chipotle, which is canned.

      Carrots are startlingly good for how not-good you’d think they’d be. Weird texture though. Same for nopales tbh. Recommend black beans but honestly chili is just a bad version of mixiotes IMO.

      • Lambert says:

        If carrots work well, maybe a full sofritto would.

        Italian cooking:
        1) chop and lightly fry some carrot, onion and celery
        2) decide what you are going to cook

        • Majuscule says:

          According to my Italian mom (am excellent cook) the Italian flavor profile is “salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, cheese”. Soffrito (carrot onion celery) is something she almost never used, but that’s probably just a regional/traditional/personal thing.

      • Well... says:

        Canned chipotles are almost always in adobo sauce, which will give a rich, smokey, almost chocolatey flavor. Good for chili, but not every chili every time.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I was definitely thinking carrots and celery.

        I am not familiar with the differences between beans – I used red kidney which seemed fine. What would using a black or others do?

        • Well... says:

          Depends if you’re using canned or dried beans. If they’re canned, they will have slightly different flavors (and kidneys would be my favorite in that case: they have a nice sweetness to them, and a fuller flavor than black beans or pintos). (Canned lima beans or butter beans are surprisingly good in chili too.)

          If they’re dried I haven’t found much difference. It’s mostly about looks.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As a general point, fresh lima beans are wonderful, assuming you like vegetables in the first place.

            The canned lima beans of my childhood were nasty, but I don’t know whether canned lima beans have improved.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Black beans are by far the tastiest and best-textured beans. They’re softer and slightly milder than kidney beans, but IMO they take salt and spices much better. Black beans will taste like “”the spices you add, but bean-y,” while others taste more to me like “beans, and also the spices you add.”

    • Well... says:

      People will recommend different peppers, and hopefully someone will recommend hot sauces containing those peppers. I just want to remind you that it matters when you add them. In my experience, the closer to serving you add jalapenos or habaneros, the more piquant your chili (and if you add them and leave the chili in the fridge overnight, the next day it will have lost a lot of its piquancy) — but this isn’t true for certain other peppers that gradually increase the piquancy of the chili the longer they sit in there.

      I basically always add diced yams or sweet potatoes to my chili now. (One large sweet potato is enough for an 8qt pot.) I add them near the beginning, and if done right they should completely dissolve by the time the chili’s done. This shouldn’t be a problem in a slow cooker.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Is the yam/sweet potato in lieu of sugar?

        I sauteed the pepper and put it in at the beginning; only beans went in at the end. What else should go at the end?

        • Well... says:

          Is the yam/sweet potato in lieu of sugar?

          Yes.

          Sauteeing the pepper at the beginning, depending on the type of pepper but definitely for habaneros and jalapenos, will greatly reduce its piquancy. If you want your chili more piquant, put the peppers in at the end.

          Personally I think beans should go in at the beginning too so they can soak up the flavor but if they work for you at the end that’s probably fine.

      • eurg says:

        add hot chilis early to maximize hot-ness (it takes more strongly after a day of rest), add hot chilis later to maximize aroma.

        also, fresh herbs: add late, to preserve aroma; dried herbs: add early, so that taste resolves in stew.

    • zzzzort says:

      For vegetarian chili soy chorizo works really well, to the extent that most people don’t really register that it’s vegetarian. Also, juice from one lime in the last couple minutes is really tasty.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I use dried peppers in my chili. I effectively toast them and then simmer them with aromatic herbs in chicken stock, then blend it all together to effectively make chili paste. That gets added into more stock, cut up chuck roast, and red kidney beans to simmer in the dutch oven for a few hours.

      (oh, and brandy)

    • beleester says:

      Pure spice: Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
      Spice with flavor: Chili powder or paprika
      Spice with tomatoes and misc seasonings: Salsa

      As for additions, chicken works very well – throw in chicken breasts and then shred it with forks the next morning. Potatoes are good for filling out a vegetarian chili. I also have a recipe for black bean chili with oranges.

    • Gray Ice says:

      @DragonMilk Be careful, Chilli can be culture war just like barbecue and pickup trucks!

      My personal preferences for chilli are the following:
      – Chop 1 large onion and 2 bell peppers
      – If you like mild heat, add 2 jalapeno peppers
      – If you like medium heat, add 3-4 Serrano peppers
      – If you like high heat, add 2 or 3 habanero peppers
      Heat all of the above with butter or Oil
      – Add 1 lb beef for every 2 peppers/1 onion
      – As beef starts to brown, add garlic and chilli pepper (until it smells like the kind of chilli you like to eat).
      Once meet is browned:
      – Pour meat, onion, peppers into crock pot
      – Add 1 quart tomatoes for every lb of beef.
      – Add 2 16 oz cans of chilli beans for each lb of beef
      Stir frequently
      – Smell and add spices to taste, this includes:
      – Salt
      -Pepper
      -Chilli Powder
      -Garlic
      – If you are a fan of high heat, commercial sauces such as Dave’s insanity sauce.
      Cook for 2 to 8 hours at low heat
      – Add Crackers, cheese, and sour cream to taste.
      Make enough so that you can have seconds after the Chilli has refrigerated over night.

    • Coriander, if you consider that non-standard.

    • rubberduck says:

      IME cayenne pepper works well but I’m no chef.

      As for non-standard ingredients: I always add half a bottle of (light) beer to my chili with the canned ingredients. Not sure how well it would go with vegetarian chili but with normal chili it’s delicious.

    • caryatis says:

      There are lots of spices you can try beyond pepper! Ground cumin, oregano, cinnamon, garlic powder. Cocoa (a small amount).

      I prefer chili with lots of vegetables: carrots, spinach, corn, squash. You can keep these (plus canned beans and tomatoes) around in canned or frozen form and basically always have the ingredients for a chili.

  34. Matt M says:

    Recently, I went with my girlfriend to a concert she wanted to see. I won’t name the artist, but let’s just say it qualifies as “pop country” leaning pretty heavily towards the pop side. Before going, I downloaded one of their albums to get a little familiar with the music, and was pretty unimpressed. A lot of catchy synthesizer stuff, little in terms of impressive instrumentation, overproduced, etc. The actual show was much better, in the sense that the actual musicians on stage were featured much more heavily, tuned a little louder compared to the vocals, given a few solos that didn’t exist in the studio version, etc.

    And this is generally my impression in terms of live performances vs studio recordings. Across nearly all genres, it can be expected that at the live show, the actual musicians playing the instruments will get much more time and be featured much more heavily than they were on the album.

    1. Has anyone else noticed this? Is this a widely observed thing that I am only recently discovering? Or am I crazy and wrong?

    2. If so, why do we suppose that is? As someone who prefers the musicianship I obviously prefer the live show when I can hear a cool guitar solo, but assuming my girlfriend prefers the excessively produced synth loops, that’s fine too. But why should the two mediums be consistently different in this regard? (Specifically, I think her complaint is less “those guitar solos are dumb and boring” and more “I wish he would have done more songs”, which he could have if he kept each individual song to its radio-length rather than indulging extra time for solos she didn’t particularly care about).

    • Matt says:

      I think you’re right – I don’t attend a lot of concerts, though.

      Firstly, I think the pop audience doesn’t care about the musicians, only the lead singer.

      So I think part of the reason artists offer instrumental solos during their performances is that a lot of pop performances nowadays offer dancing/costume changes etc. by the singer, which can be exhausting. A couple minutes for a drum solo can offer a chance to catch their breath. Not needed for the studio recording, of course.

      • Matt M says:

        Firstly, I think the pop audience doesn’t care about the musicians

        Right… which is why I was somewhat surprised to see this happen at this concert. Given how pop this particular person is, almost the whole audience there was the “pop audience.” So, as much as I may have enjoyed the solos relative to the alternative, most of the audience probably did not.

        which can be exhausting. A couple minutes for a drum solo can offer a chance to catch their breath.

        This of course is an interesting hypothesis. Better than nothing but not sure how much I buy it. In this particular show, the lead singer was dancing around and expending a lot of energy, no real costume changes or anything like that though.

        Also my impression is that this phenomenon far pre-dates modern over-produced live shows. Not that I was actually attending any concerts back in the 60s or 70s, but if you listen to live versus studio albums, the songs are definitely longer, the solos more extended, etc. Maybe David Friedman or Plumber can confirm this for us!

        • Matt says:

          A rest between dancing is pretty weak sauce, I know. There are also ‘rap breaks‘ in a lot of pop acts nowadays which pop audiences seem to prefer anyways. Also, I think it’s an open secret that certain high energy pop acts feature tons of lip synching by the lead singer anyway, precisely because nobody can really dance and sign at the same time.

          Maybe the solos are about satisfying the musicians themselves and pop artists do it as partial compensation to make sure their guitarists, keyboarders, and drummers are pretty good.

        • Matt M says:

          To answer my own question – I suppose one theory that also covers the 60s/70s is that studio albums inevitably need to include “radio-friendly” potential singles, and that radio stations will, for various reasons, refuse to play anything over ~5 minutes long.

          Therefore, even if the Allman Brothers artistic vision requires Whippin Post to go on for 25 minutes, they have to make a 5 minute version of it to put on their studio album if they ever expect anyone to actually hear it.

        • Plumber says:

          @Matt M,
          Oh jeez.
          Well I was two years old in 1970, so I have just a kid’s eye view of the live concerts of the ’70’s that my parents brought me to, but to me it all sounded like endless solo’s, but my Dad was a Nina Simone (Jazz), Hank Williams (Country), and Grateful Dead (???) fan, and my Mom liked The Doors (Acid Rock), so I think except for Country-Western those genres tend towards live improvisation.

          My main concert going years were the 1980’s and a little bit in the ’90’s, and mostly of many godawful and mostly unknown “Punk” bands.

          Of the more well known bands I’ve seen some had a little improvisation (AC/DC, the Gun Club), some a lot (Television, Sonic Youth), and some played their songs live almost exactly like the record versions (Dead Kennedy’s, Ramones).

          From concept films it seems Led Zeppelin regularly more than doubled the lengths of their songs.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Epistemic status hot take: in the age of synthesizers, the skill of playing an instrument is too easy to fake so it’s not impressive. If you hear a guitar solo on the radio, you don’t know if that’s a dude shredding or GuitarTron 2k15 calling its “shred” function, so producing the sounds of an instrumental virtuoso is no longer proof of work. When you see the dude live, you can tell he’s shredding (unless there’s a guitar version of lipsync I guess), so it’s more impressive as a demonstration of skill and consequently gets more focus.

      • Urstoff says:

        Only drums have gotten to the point where artificial/live are indistinguishable, and that’s just because drum programs use sound recordings of actual drums. For other instruments, it’s still relatively easy to tell when it’s the actual instrument and when it’s a synthesizer.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        This is wrong on both parts: it’s almost always easier to have a real person play something rather than mimic it artificially, and pretending to play an instrument is easy (it’s ubiquitous for on-stage bands in reality TV music competitions).

    • j1000000 says:

      Pure speculation but perhaps the incentives are opposite in the two situations?

      iHeartRadio (and their predecessors) may want (or, really, refuse to play anything but) short songs so they can cater to listener ADD and constantly deliver a new dopamine fix every few minutes with another hit, otherwise people may get bored and change the channel.

      While maybe at a live performance, a pop artist with tons of very casual fans needs to stretch the hits to a longer running time because the huge number of casual fans there are not interested in deep cuts and would rather hear a longer guitar solo over the familiar chords of the hit they love.

    • ItsGiusto says:

      I think the main thing is that it’s boring for musicians to play the same thing every night! They want to improvise, or at least do something different every now and again. And it’s boring for musicians to never get a chance to shine. And it’s boring for the audience, even if they don’t consciously realize it, if the music is exactly the same on stage as it is on the record. I mean I think most people would at least ask the question, if not agree: why pay lots of money to go see it live if it’s just going to be exactly the same as listening to the album?

      I wouldn’t underestimate the value of boredom in causing musicians to try different things. Why do you think people moved on from gregorian chant in parallel fifths to doing counterpoint? Boredom of musicians is a driving force.

      • Matt M says:

        I have a lot of time for the “this is a roundabout way of compensating the musicians themselves” theory.

        Possibly because I’m a huge fan of Frank Zappa, who almost certainly was doing exactly this, in that he’d only hire A+ quality musicians, would rule over them like a ruthless dictator, but would always go out of his way to credit them and give them opportunities to shine during the shows.

        • WashedOut says:

          Zappa was famous for only showing the setlist to his band a few minutes before the show (if at all), and insisting that the transitions between songs be improvised in new ways each gig. This became a valuable selling point for getting people to come to his shows, as each show was effectively a unique once-off performance.

          More than just a powertripping gimmick, this approach made a tonne of sense considering how his albums were actually recorded – often as one conceptually continuous piece with multiple movements that blend into each other – e.g. Joe’s Garage. Even on his recorded material he frequently includes references/cues to his band in the lyrics, which made the transition to live sets even more seamless, and gave the records a nice live feel.

    • Paper Rat says:

      It varies from one performer to the other (and from one show to the other), some play live shows almost exactly as on record, some like to invite live musicians to play the gigs, even when the music on the album is fully digital.

      One reason for playing live shows differently from the records is that, if you play live music, it’s really-really boring to play exactly the same thing hundred of times (rehearsals and all), and having actual fun when performing is a pretty big part of why people like to play music in the first place.

      Second reason is, that your dedicated fans have most likely heard your record a non-trivial amount of times, some of them have even been to your shows several times already, so keeping it fresh for them is also a consideration.

    • DragonMilk says:

      For sure when it comes to classical music!

    • sty_silver says:

      I’ve only been to metal concerts, but I’ve not shared that observation. Rather I’d say it super varies; some live performances increased my respect for the band, and some decreased it.

      The kind of metal bands I care about tend to make fairly complex music, which could be the relevant dimension. Surely it’s easier to surpass the album if the album is simple.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      My take is that this is very true, especially in genres like pop or indie rock. One of the (many) reasons I love metal is that it usually tends not to do this, most of the fun live stuff is on record too.

      Why? I really don’t know for sure, but I would guess it has something to do with how tacky a lot of that fun stuff is perceived as being. A big guitar solo in a song on radio is going to be perceived as a fairly regressive addition by modern critics. But really it probably is just time issues, when it comes to radio/streaming singles every second counts to maximise your number of plays. Even metal music tended to cut guitar solos back when it was aiming for radio dominance, look at Judas Priest’s “breaking the law”.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Concerts are, to a first approximation, the entire earnings of most musicians. Yes, All the way up to Taylor Swift. Record sales are important because they mean you can fill bigger venues. The actual income stream is largely… appropriated before it ever reaches the musician, while the earnings from filling a stadium, well…

      This means keeping the band happy, engaged and sane is very important. If you burn them out, you are Fucked.

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW, I personally prefer trance/electronica, which arguably cannot exist outside of a studio recording. That said, I’m aware that most people don’t consider it real music anyway, so YMMV.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I’m not sure why you’re hiding the artist, which is of some interest to me. Pop country can mean a lot of things.

    • Watchman says:

      The artist in question has chosen to work in music yes? So we can probably assume they enjoy music. And this might explain the silos and variations: the guy whose show this is enjoys music including people messing around.

      It seems likely that any artist or band that has creative control will offer a show that reflects what they feel music should be about. If there is an increase it what might be classed as improvisation this probably reflects the fact that artists nowadays are rarely controlled by management.

      • Matt M says:

        I mean, sure, none of what you say is wrong.

        But people who work for radio stations and record labels have also “chosen to work in music” and thus could be assumed to actually enjoy music.

        And people who buy studio albums have certainly expressed a revealed preference for “actually enjoying music” as well.

        Your theory explains why live shows have a lot of “messing around” but doesn’t explain why studio albums don’t.

        • Watchman says:

          Because a show is a discrete and continuous (pop and rock shows don’t normally have interludes) event and an album is (generally) a set of discrete recordings packaged together, perhaps with some narrative or thematic link. So one can allow for more improvisation and fun than the other.

          And whilst your hope that record company executives and radio station programmers enjoy music as well, their roles are not to produce music but to make money/attract listeners, and the evidence is that what works here mostly is not innovating on the basic song to the point that one version of songs with multiple recordings becomes the standard. In a role where you are not the artist your opportunity to promote improvisation is much more lomited: note producers and even sound engineers can innovate though but even this can quickly become the sound of the standard version of a song.

          • Matt M says:

            Because a show is a discrete and continuous (pop and rock shows don’t normally have interludes) event and an album is (generally) a set of discrete recordings packaged together, perhaps with some narrative or thematic link.

            But there is no rule of God or law of physics that says this must be the case. This is the case because people in the music industry have made it be the case. Any particular artist could release albums that are completely continuous (Thick As A Brick actually hit #1 in the US, so you can’t even claim this isn’t commercially viable). And any particular artist could perform live shows where every song is performed exactly as it is on the album, with hard silent breaks between songs, etc.

            And I don’t even think we can blame record label execs who optimize for money rather than “the love of music.” Do you mean to tell me there’s no equivalent of this for live shows? Live Nation doesn’t have execs who are out there dictating “do your show this way, because our studies have shown it will generate the maximum amount of revenue?”

          • Paper Rat says:

            But there is no rule of God or law of physics that says this must be the case. This is the case because people in the music industry have made it be the case. Any particular artist could release albums that are completely continuous (Thick As A Brick actually hit #1 in the US, so you can’t even claim this isn’t commercially viable). And any particular artist could perform live shows where every song is performed exactly as it is on the album, with hard silent breaks between songs, etc.

            Artists already do all those things. There are live shows with no improvisations at all, and there are albums consisting of one long-ass track, composed, or improvised, or both.

            The variety in music, modern and otherwise, is truly staggering, the trend you seeing is not really a trend. Mainstream stuff tends to consist of bite-sized, easily digestible pieces, but that’s not something unique with regards to music (same goes for books, paintings, what have you), nor is it a problem in an age of Internet.

            As for the radio, there are a lot of different stations, some of them have special programs that cater specifically to niche tastes.

  35. RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

    A man finds an old lamp. He rubs it and out floats a genie. The man gets excited and starts formulating wishes to pose to the genie. “Not so fast!”, the genie warns. “I am the Inverse Genie. A traditional genie grants requests to alter the external world to conform to the wisher’s preferences. The Inverse Genie has no power to affect events in the outside world. But while I can’t change external reality to accommodate your preferences, what I CAN do for you is the opposite — I can alter your preferences to match facts that already exist in the world. So for instance, say you have terminal cancer. Sadly, the Inverse Genie has no power to cure you of the disease. But what I can do for you is instantly to cause you to prefer to have cancer than not to have it. Which may not be as good as a cure but hey — if you have to have incurable cancer isn’t it better to want to have it than to be very sad about having it? In the course of granting any wish, the Inverse Genie changes your psychology to the minimum extent possible consistent with your having the new preference. If you wish to prefer to have incurable cancer, there are likely to be a cascade of unpredictable changes in other areas of your psychology that are necessary for you to adopt that preference. (That one would be a big psychological change, and hey, I’m a genie, not a magician.) But rest assured, whatever incidental changes do occur to your mind and thought processes will be the absolute minimum necessary to permit fulfillment of the wish. Also, while the physiology of the wisher’s brain will be modified in order to effect the wished-for change in preferences, there is no chance that the wish will result in any detrimental health or other physical side effects from the procedure. The only thing that will change is your wished-for preference, and any other preferences absolutely necessary to make that change possible.”

    It seems like using the Inverse Genie would be a very high-risk proposition, since abruptly modifying your psychology in unpredictable ways is no small side effect, and common sense would seem to suggest that that risk would be greater the more significant the wish. Is there any circumstance where it would be rational for the man to present wishes to the Inverse Genie? Probably. If the man happens to be addicted to heroin, it would probably be worthwhile to roll the dice and wish to prefer never to ingest any more heroin. If the man suffers from severe clinical depression, then again, maybe it’s worth the gamble to formulate a life-changing preference alteration of some sort. But I’m thinking that for a regular person without profound problems, you walk away from the Inverse Genie without exercising your wishes. At the same time, I would hate to throw away an enormously powerful tool for potential increases in happiness. Is there any way that it could make sense for a person of average happiness, not facing an immediate crisis, to avail himself of these services?

    • SaiNushi says:

      “I would like to always prefer to make the wisest choice”.

    • Telminha says:

      The Inverse Genie sounds like a Stoic genie; one who can make people magically fall in love their own fate — Amor fati.

      I’d use the genie if I believed I had no more chances of being happy again.

      The perfect scenario IMO would be to find a Stoic genie for harsh times and an Epicurean genie for good times.

    • sty_silver says:

      While it is true that using it is high variance, the unforseen changes could also be positive.

      So if I have unlimited wishes, I’d just try out lots of stuff.

      If I don’t, I’d be really tempted to wish that I enjoyed working more than anything else.

      • Mary says:

        Yes. Number of wishes would be important.

        Also, trial runs would help, if feasible. At the very least, that would prevent you wishing yourself into a state where you can’t wish for something else.

    • Registered says:

      I would think of it as a self improvement genie.
      I see no downside to inverting slight preferences to net big gains in personal happiness.

      1. Prefer not to recognize spouse’s passive aggressive way of implying house is not clean enough.
      2. Prefer a hairy back over hair on my head.
      3. Prefer being slightly slightly overweight.
      4. Prefer grit over actual achievement.
      5. on and on and on.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      There’s a number of gay people who would prefer to be straight that would find this quite useful. There’s probably a (significantly smaller) number of straight people who would prefer to be gay that could make use of this as well.

      • Matt M says:

        Oh no! I didn’t realize the twist at the end of this story was the genie being locked away in a California state penitentiary…

      • Meister says:

        My reading was that the genie can’t change your sexuality — it can only make you want to be the way you already are.

        • Adam says:

          Seems like a genie who can change your preferences should very well be able to change your sexual preferences.

          • Nick says:

            Yes. It all depends on what facts the genie is altering one’s preferences with respect to.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It all depends on just whether it’s an “orientation” or “preference” or something else. I don’t purport to know, and won’t speculate on a CW-free thread.

    • Randy M says:

      This is 1/3 of the Serenity prayer in a bottle, provided you already have the wisdom down.

      I’d like to like the taste of mushrooms more than I do. Not much more, but it would be nice if they improved rather than ruined a dish for me.

    • Mary says:

      Preferences — you know, if it could just alter my internal states, I would wish to have a full knowledge of what my problems were so I could target wishes.

    • emiliobumachar says:

      I would consider wishing away my love of junk food, and particularly my addiction to sugar. It may well kill me as it is, so I’d just be trading one risk for another, and I like my subjective assessment of the odds.
      That’s definitely a “regular person” problem, but it’s debatable whether it qualifies as a “profound problem”, and to what extent it is analogous to addiction to harder drugs.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I have the gene that makes cilantro taste like some sort of solvent. If I wish to get rid of this, does the genie change me to taste cilantro like other people or to like things that taste like cleaning agents?

    • Adam says:

      The metawish: “I wish for the preferences that will result in the most desirable outcome as specified by my current preferences.”

      You can then apply that wish recursively, trending towards holistic optimization.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      The inverse genie sounds like a fantastic solution to phobias. I have an irrational fear of several things, but as an example, let’s use wasps. Inverse genie, please make me like wasps instead of fearing and loathing them.

      It could help people who are more generally risk-averse as well. There are certain things I refuse to do (ie, skydiving) and certain things I highly dislike doing (ie, riding rollercoasters) because my brain is constantly screaming “What do you think you’re doing, falling from great heights? DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!” Logically, I know I probably won’t die, short of a news-worthy disaster. But none of that matters, because my lizard brain won’t stop panicking. Inverse genie might be able to fix this problem by altering my emotional state to something calmer.

    • I’d want the genie to get rid of my laziness.

    • BBA says:

      Most of the time I barely know what my preferences are, beneath all the layers of self-doubt and overcompensation. I’ve got a whole hangup that if some course of action makes me materially worse off or just feel miserable, it is innately morally superior to doing something that doesn’t. No matter how much I tell myself this is at best silly and at worst self-destructive, it’s a feeling that won’t go away.

      Then there are the nagging doubts that follow me whenever I decide something. “Are you sure about that? How sure are you? Are you sure that you’re sure?” Every opinion, every instinct I have is subject to all this. Just once, I’d like to actually believe in something and shut up the critic in my mind.

      Of course, having seen the damage true believers can wreak, I don’t think I’d actually ask the genie for this… or is that the inner critic speaking again?

  36. Matt says:

    How do celebrities conduct mandatory interactions with government gatekeepers? Do Barbra Streisand, Elon Musk, and Beyonce go to the DMV and wait in line for their driver’s license renewals, passports, etc? I want to believe our society doesn’t treat them like they’re special, but I don’t actually believe it.

    So are there legal arrangements where an attorney can bring in a photo and sign for the documents? It seems like a dangerous idea – giving Tom Hanks’ new passport to some con man pretending to be Hanks’ lawyer is probably not a great idea. Does the DMV or post office open up off-hours instead? How do you get civil servants to do that, (extra money?) and how does the DMV decide which celebs/politicians/rich guys qualify?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Not a celebrity and not in US, but I am a guy that got sick of postponing the registration of his motorcycles. You go to a notary, pay a moderate amount, and give specific power of attorney to somebody else. At least here they tend to be rather fussy about details – for example you need to specify the full identifying information for each vehicle.

      I have no idea of US prices, but in Romania the notary cost me around $30, the lady helping me with the registration around $100 and the government around $150 – for registering two vehicles. So about $130 for at least a full day of running around and queues. Probably two.

      You do have to go see the notary, but I imagine for a fee the notary will come see you.

    • sidereal says:

      > I want to believe our society doesn’t treat them like they’re special, but I don’t actually believe it.

      Why? They are special.

      A lot of this sort of thing can be done – or dramatically streamlined – by someone else with power of attorney, or even just a personal assistant (i.e. setting up appointments, handling paperwork, doing things by correspondence online). But AFAIK A-list celebs are seen at DMVs from time to time.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Babs has her own personal DMV, the location of which she had removed from all Internet mapping programs. Unfortunately the obvious hole in the maps led to Streisand-watchers immediately discovering it.

      Beyonce goes to the regular DMV with her entire entourage, and it’s just a big party that day.

      Elon Musk drives without a license.

      More seriously, passports are easy; you don’t have to go in person to renew. But apparently at least some celebrities just do licenses the normal way, except when they don’t.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Given how many tours I’ve seen cancelled due to visa issues in the US, I can tell you that the American government gives no special preference to mid-level metal celebrities in their visa process even though I wish they did. But for real celebrities? No idea

      • Well... says:

        Tangentially: I have a friend who I met at a Helmet show and have only ever met up with at Helmet shows. He’s my Helmet show friend. We’re both huge Helmet fans but he follows them a lot more closely, will take the whole day off when they’re playing in our state so he can hang out with them before or after shows, the band members all know him by name, etc. He is also a successful business financial consultant so he has that domain knowledge, and he told me they do all their paycheck and bookkeeping stuff out of some European country because of the tax advantages.

    • Watchman says:

      I think the real question here is why the US still thinks getting people to queue in DMV offices rather than say use an online portal is a good idea? If the rich can bypass this through playing others to so it, this is an even more stupid idea.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think the real question here is why the US still thinks getting people to queue in DMV offices rather than say use an online portal is a good idea?

        Because the United States thinks it is a good idea to have a national ID card but isn’t willing to admit that so we use the drivers’ license(*) for that purpose. Reasons why the “This really is Bob Jones and nobody else” card is handed out to Bob Jones in person rather than created on demand and mailed to the drop box specified in some bitstream that came in over the DMV’s T3 line, are left as an exercise for the student.

        * And the “State ID card” that is exactly like a drivers’ license except for the fine print saying “not actually valid for driving motor vehicles” and which is administered by the same group of bureaucrats.

        • Nick says:

          * And the “State ID card” that is exactly like a drivers’ license except for the fine print saying “not actually valid for driving motor vehicles” and which is administered by the same group of bureaucrats.

          I didn’t even know these existed until I needed one and didn’t have a license. Even after I learned this folks told me to get a temp instead.

        • Watchman says:

          The UK does the same thing with drivers license and non-existent ID card but we manage it online and by post without any particular issues. I’m not sure what fraud an in-person attendance cuts out that makes it worth the hassle and expense of doing though.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Most DMVs queue by handing out numbers and people can sit and wait for their number.

        Some still have people physically queue by standing in line, which I attribute to sadism.

  37. theredsheep says:

    Does anyone else find it ironic that rational/ist fiction got its big start from a fanfic for a really not-ratfic set of books? Admittedly, I’m still a bit fuzzy on the exact definition, but Harry Potter gives zero craps about clearly defined rules or rational heroes; there are enormous plot holes and ambiguities in the lore, and the course of events often hinges on really silly oversights (Such as, “Oh yeah, Snape’s in the Order too” or “So that’s why our map showed our big brother, and then our little brother, sleeping with a dude for several years”). Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Harry Potter, but it just hit me how weird it is that EY decided to go that route.

    • Randy M says:

      It’s ironic, but reasonable given the assumptions that most people don’t really find that perfectly rational behavior makes a narrative more compelling and that EY would choose a very popular story to riff off of.

      There’s definitely an audience for fiction, like, say, the Martian, though, so I don’t know how precisely accurate that assumption is.

      • JPNunez says:

        The next book from the The Martian author, Artemis, doesn’t sound as appealing (although it seems to have done ok).

        I assume the difference is that Artemis is set farther in the future than The Martian, and thus the problem solving will be a little less grounded. The Martian has a bunch of problems that someone with a decent education can grasp, and a lot of duct taping things together.

        Which is a lot of what makes HPMoR tick. Harry rides a rocket instead of a broom, uses batteries, iron balls, guns, acid, etc, etc. The most bullshit moment is, of course, flying nanofilament across a big area to kill a bunch of wizards, but by then it has been foreshadowed so much that it makes sense.

        Compare the other popular-among-rats-tho-not-really-part-of-rationality fiction, Worm.

        The antihero controls insects. It’s something people have contact with, and that most have some understanding of. All the bullshit powers have to fight against a girl who can control spiders with super resistant silk, so it’s easy for the reader to imagine what’s going on. Worm wouldn’t work so well with a lot of the other character’s powers (contrast, for example, Grue…it’s never clear what his darkness does, and every time it comes up it is not that great a moment).

        • Nick says:

          The next book from the The Martian author, Artemis, doesn’t sound as appealing (although it seems to have done ok).

          I have Artemis but haven’t been able to get through it. I’m not a big fan of the protagonist, I’m not a big fan of the other characters, and I’m not a big fan of the plot. The world is somewhat interesting, but not enough to carry the story for me.

        • theredsheep says:

          Yeah, I’ve read Artemis. The science wonkery seems sound enough from my ignorant POV; the problem is that the main character is basically Mark Watney pretending to be a woman, and all the cringing and sighing detracts from one’s enjoyment of the plot. Andy Weir should just … not write women. At least, not as viewpoint characters.

          Also, Grue never really gelled as a character in any respect, IMO.

          • JPNunez says:

            Grue is not great. The romance is easily the weakest part of early Worm -the one time it works well is the bus trip when they encounter Shadow Stalker-.

            IMHO the protagonist’s powers is part of the problem in Worm 2; Victoria powers are less interesting and well defined, and just super force and super flying works better in comics.

          • theredsheep says:

            The bus scene works because it’s about Taylor finding a way to show up her nemesis. Brian himself is mostly a prop there.

            Not even going to get started on Ward. My lunch break is only so long.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I liked Artemis okay, but never felt the urge to reread it, though I have reread The Martian multiple times.

          (Of course, I started early enough that my kindle version cost 99 cents and has the original ending.)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t find it surprising, because if you’ve read any of EY’s pre-fanfic short stories you’d know that he’s A) an incredibly weird dude and B) the platonic ideal of an uncultured geek when it comes to his media consumption. His references and homages are almost exclusively to science fiction, fantasy and anime.

      There’s nothing wrong with those genres. They’re very fun beyond that there have been a lot of incredible and underappreciated works of art there. But if your literary horizons are limited to that handful of genres like EY’s are you cut yourself off from the vast majority of the great art that humanity has produced over our long history. Great science fiction and fantasy authors often turn to the classics to inform their works, while lesser authors crib from them and can only create derivative works. The fanfic is the ultimate example of derivative fiction so it’s not surprising that he was attracted to the ease of writing within a pre-existing fantasy universe.

      • Randy M says:

        Except didn’t EY say he’s only read the first HP book?

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          He read the first three books, watched the next five movies, read over a hundred fanfics, and got help from the Harry Potter Wikia. See “Hero Licensing”, the TVTropes HPMOR page discussion, and these two reddit comments.

          Where does this “only read the first book” meme come from?

          • Randy M says:

            Where does this “only read the first book” meme come from?

            Imperfect memory of a response to someone asking why he did X when Y happened in the book with a response being he didn’t read the book where Y happened.

            But for the sake of relevance, how much of that was done prior to deciding on using HP as his vehicle? Is HP his taste, or did he intentionally choose a popular book?

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            But for the sake of relevance, how much of that was done prior to deciding on using HP as his vehicle? Is HP his taste, or did he intentionally choose a popular book?

            He first claimed he pragmatically chose Harry Potter based on its popularity, but then realized that was a rationalization and his real reason was his love of Harry Potter fanfic.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I couldn’t say, I couldn’t force myself to read past the first chapter or two of the fanfic. I even tried to read an MSTing of it but just the exerpts were too painful for me to keep going.

          Either way though it kind of demonstrates my point. Harry Potter is well known enough that even someone who’s never read it will be familiar with the broad strokes, has tons of crib notes available on Wikipedia, and if you need to dip back into the original material for any reason it’s written at a 5-6th grade reading level. It’s basically pre-digested, the literary equivalent of a McNugget.

      • I will never understand the overlap between those who really like anime and sci-fi. They are two very different things.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s easier to show things that don’t exist in animation than in live action.
          Or was a couple decades ago, anyway.

        • bullseye says:

          There’s a lot of overlap between people liking sci-fi and fantasy, and most anime (or at least what the people I know watch) is either fantasy or sci-fi so soft that it’s basically fantasy. I’ve heard that there’s also realistic anime, but I’ve never seen it.

          • AG says:

            Oof. I feel like there’s way more non-genre anime than I’d like, these days.

            Or maybe it’s that genre anime has way higher chances of being total garbage than non-genre, so I end up watching more non-genre anime.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve heard that there’s also realistic anime, but I’ve never seen it.

            Wings of Honneamise FTW.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve heard that there’s also realistic anime, but I’ve never seen it.

            How about Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises?

          • Lillian says:

            There’s a number of animes which are a weird mix between Star Wars tier fantasy pretending to be science, and realistic science fiction. For example there’s Gunbuster, which is a martial arts anime and also a super robot anime, which together makes it about as over the top ridiculous as you might imagine. Except it’s also a story about fighting a space war when you don’t have faster than light drives and have to deal with absurdly long travel times and relativistic time dilation.

            Then there’s Universal Century Gundam, which has low key psychic powers, giant robots, and the basically magical Minvosky particles. However it also has very realistic space colonization and technology, with most space colonies being O’neill cylinders, and space ships have to follow orbital mechanics and have limited delta-v. At one point you see a fleet electing to do a Hohmann transfer orbit in order to conserve fuel, which yes is exactly what you would do.

            There are also animes which are straight up just hard-sci fi, though. The most stand-out example is probably Planetes, which is about cleaning space junk in Earth orbit in the year 2075. It’s mainly a character driven anime, and a very good one at that, but the premise and tech is all rock solid. It also starts dealing with deeper themes as it goes on.

            Wings of Honneamise, mentioned by John Schilling, isn’t so much science fiction as alternate world historical fiction. The story is about the program to send the first man into space, so everything is 1950s tech, but it’s obsessively realistic 1950s tech, with just some minor differences to make it feel distinct. It’s a great movie, gorgeous animation, excellent plot and characters. Highly recommended to anyone who is even the slightest bit interested in space exploration.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lillian:

            There’s a number of animes which are a weird mix between Star Wars tier fantasy pretending to be science, and realistic science fiction. For example there’s Gunbuster, which is a martial arts anime and also a super robot anime, which together makes it about as over the top ridiculous as you might imagine. Except it’s also a story about fighting a space war when you don’t have faster than light drives and have to deal with absurdly long travel times and relativistic time dilation.

            Then there’s Universal Century Gundam, which has low key psychic powers, giant robots, and the basically magical Minvosky particles. However it also has very realistic space colonization and technology, with most space colonies being O’neill cylinders, and space ships have to follow orbital mechanics and have limited delta-v. At one point you see a fleet electing to do a Hohmann transfer orbit in order to conserve fuel, which yes is exactly what you would do.

            UC Gundam is my absolute favorite work of SF within the John Campbell genre conventions: real science except for “one impossible thing” plus smuggling in psi because Campbell believed in it. Instead of the bog-standard FTL which gave the writer unbelievable space colonization, he spent that nickel on Minovsky particles and then used Gerard O’Neill’s believable space colonies. The characters are also a cut above the flat ones normal for Golden Age SF, and when new technology is used to kill vast numbers of people, the people doing it are motivated by a new ideology. Very realistic.

            Gunbuster is more (Aim For) over the top, but yeah, it’s interesting that it puts physical limits on science rather than treating it as magic.

          • Lillian says:

            Universal Century Gundam dispenses not just with FTL travel, but also with gravity manipulation technology, which means that the only way to have gravity in freefall is through acceleration. It’s really neat watching people in space ships actually using straps to hold themselves down and floating from place to place to get around.

            The Minovsky particles are also really clever in that while i said they were essentially magic they do have some pretty defined properties. Specifically they allow for compact fusion reactors, which makes the mobile suits and beam weapons possible. They also interfere with electromagnetic radiation, making radar and microwave detection systems impossible to use, forcing heavy shielding of electronic components, and even fogging infrared and visible light if the fields are dense enough. The net result being that it forces close combat engagements, thus giving a reason why all fights in the series are fought fairly short distances.

            One other cool setting detail is the Jupiter Energy Fleet, which is an independent faction who make runs to Jupiter in order to collect fusion fuels. Nobody wants to mess with them because everyone is dependent on their product, so their independence and neutrality is protected by treaty. By the same token however the Jupiter Energy Fleet is weary about messing with any of the Earth Sphere powers because they don’t have the military might to stop the major players from simply seizing their ships by force. It’s not very relevant to the plot, but the tension between the Energy Fleet’s economic strength and military vulnerability is still an interesting setting detail.

            Le Maistre-Chat, have you been keeping up with the prequel series? Personally i think the Char bits are good, but i’m not very enthused about everything else. The Zabis all feel off, especially Dozle whose character design and characterization is just straight up butchered. Just compare the original to whatever the hell this cartoon is supposed to be. Also incredibly disappointed by their depiction of the One Week Battle. It was supposed to be an apocalyptic space war in which everyone and their dog had nuclear bazookas, the atomic party favours were being thrown around like candy, and billions of people died. Instead what we get is… more Gundam. We have tons of Gundam already thank you very much. What was promised was an orbital thermonuclear war, so where is my orbital thermonuclear war!?

      • Max Chaplin says:

        Great science fiction and fantasy authors often turn to the classics to inform their works, while lesser authors crib from them and can only create derivative works.

        “The previous generation is to the next one as angels are to men; the next generation is to the previous one as donkeys are to men.”

        I have a hunch that Eliezer’s love of fanfics stems not just from his legendary geekdom but from his personal philosophy concerning the wisdom of the crowds. There was an interview of Justin Roiland with AV Club about Rick and Morty where he talked about how hard it is to outsmart a crowd of 20 million viewers and analogized them to a render farm. Perhaps that’s Eliezer’s idea of the fanfic community as well – if ten thousand people riff off some popular work and there’s at least one cluster where good ideas float up, they’re bound to have an advantage over the original writer. Especially if the writers in said cluster are closer to you in taste and cultural baggage.

    • sty_silver says:

      No, I think it makes sense. The more broken the original story is, the more fun it is to explore what happens if you put in a rationalist.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Generally speaking, in order to inspire fanfic, the original has to not have what the fanfic is about. Nobody, to my awareness, writes smut fanfic about bodice rippers that already include lots of that sort of thing. Unless it is very bad. I have not checked, but I imagine someone wrote a version of 50 shades that features a healthy bdsm relationship in a lengthy fit of rage. Thus, rat fic originating in a very anti-rational setting is perfectly in keeping with the general pattern.

  38. j1000000 says:

    That comment of the week left me completely baffled for about ten seconds, to the point of concern about my own health. I thought either responses were deleted from the thread or I was having some sort of medical episode.

  39. gbdub says:

    Related to the discussion on Baumol effects… What are the best arguments and evidence for (or against) the proposition, “teaching has become significantly more effective in the last century”. What about “last half century”?

    Note that I mean teaching specifically – we’ve clearly increased access and utilization of education. More people are literate. IQ is up. And there are of course many things we can teach now that we could not in 1919 because they hadn’t been discovered or invented yet. But that’s not due to better teaching necessarily.

    For a given unit of knowledge, are we any better at delivering it to a student such that they understand and retain it?

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      Education is not and has never been about giving students knowledge; that’s the biggest myth in education.

      • albatross11 says:

        So what’s the purpose of education, then?

        • Urstoff says:

          K-12: Acculturation (indoctrination if you’re against it), social control
          Higher Ed: Signalling, jobs program for intellectuals

          • gbdub says:

            Do you really truly believe that we would have the same rate of basic language and math literacy without some form of at least semi-formal schooling? This seems hard to square with historical reality.

            Perhaps you are using “acculturation” so broadly as to include a lot of what other people would call “education”. But otherwise, it’s one thing to say “public education is optimized for things other than efficient transfer of knowledge and skills”. It’s quite another to claim that no one cares if any knowledge and skills are transferred.

          • ana53294 says:

            This seems hard to square with historical reality.

            Historically, you didn’t have parents of all classes know how to read and reading books to their kids.

            I went to school knowing how to read, and I learnt to read in Russian, in a completely different alphabet, without any kind of formal education, just my mother reading to me.

            I did have to memorize multiplication tables; but going to school is not necessary for that.

            In the same way, in a house where food is prepared at home, and children have the opportunity to observe their parents cut, prep, cook food, they will pick up cooking skills. And people who grow up in a house where nobody cooks, need to formally learn how to boil pasta.

        • SaiNushi says:

          The stated purpose of education is to increase a student’s ability to reason, and to provide skills the student will need in “the real world”.

          In the US, the current purpose of grade school is to increase the student’s ability to pass a standardized test in whatever subject matter the class is teaching. College/university seems to be mostly signaling, and possibly some vocational skills. Trade school’s purpose is to teach the skills needed for a particular profession.

          • gbdub says:

            What is your alternative to standardized testing for evaluating whether “increase ability to reason” and “provide skills” have actually been accomplished?

            I find a lot of such blanket objections to standardized testing puzzling. I did extremely well on standardized tests with essentially zero test prep outside of being generally smart and well read and doing well in the relevant classes.

            I can certainly see how a less accomplished student trying to achieve my score could do so by taking various not very “educational” shortcuts and “learning to the test”, but the issue there seems to be the incentives to game the test rather than the test itself. Which is a hard problem not limited to schooling (Goodheart’s law).

            I’ll grant that there are things we try to standardized test for that we shouldn’t (basically any language skills other than vocabulary and very basic reading comprehension). But a lot of standardized testing feels like a perfectly valid way to evaluate skills. I’m very glad my AP calculus teacher “taught to the test” because this consisted of teaching us how to do integrals and derivatives. Which is kind of essential to calculus, if I may be so bold.

            There are trade offs to standardization of course, but the upshot is ability to compare results, and I don’t see an obvious alternative to accomplish that.

          • What is your alternative to standardized testing for evaluating whether “increase ability to reason” and “provide skills” have actually been accomplished?

            One alternative is direct observation by the parents, who are the people with the most information about the child and the greatest incentive to care.

            In a competitive private education market, whether funded by vouchers or by parents, schools have an incentive to do a good job as judged by parents, since the parents decide whether the school has customers to pay the bills.

            Consider restaurants. Do we need some form of standardized testing to make sure they provide tasty food at a reasonable price?

            That’s a particularly easy case, since you get immediate feedback on your dining decision, but there are lots of things we buy for which you don’t and still rely on the customer’s judgement rather than some system of formal standardized testing.

          • gbdub says:

            Fair, but that requires highly invested students and parents and if you have that you’re most of the way to a good school anyway. As you note, evaluating a school is much harder than evaluating whether your last restaurant meal was enjoyable, and the switching costs are much larger. It also makes it hard to evaluate schools you are not already familiar with, or to evaluate schools across the state or country.

            You can outsource it to somebody else, but that’s the USNews rankings which are constantly being gamed and are probably not any better correlated to student learning than just looking at all their incoming students’ SAT scores.

          • Fair, but that requires highly invested students and parents and if you have that you’re most of the way to a good school anyway.

            Most parents care about their kids, and they get continual information on how their kids are doing. Shifting from one school to another may be a nuisance, but it is both much easier and much more effective than trying to change the school, especially now that public schools are typically very large.

            Using invented numbers to make the point, control via freedom of choice requires parents in the top 80% of “invested in their kids.” Control via lobbying the school board requires parents in the top 1%.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          According to some theories, the purpose of education is sorting– deciding who gets a chance at good jobs. This is done partly by credentialing and partly by convincing a great many people that they are incapable of learning or at least incapable of learning some subjects.

      • Matt says:

        Less of this, please. It’s impossible to imagine that you didn’t know this extremely controversial statement would not grind people’s gears.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          +1

          This is the sort of reductive nonsense applied to an interesting idea (which I don’t like or agree with much, but can tolerate in its thoughtful form) I come here to avoid.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          -1
          There’s nothing wrong making hyperbolic statements like the above, and this is a particularly unobjectionable example thereof given that “education is mostly about signalling” is a pretty popular belief around here. It’s vastly preferable to e.g. drive-by political snark.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Education is not and has never been about giving students knowledge

            This is very different from even, “education is mostly about signalling,” which is a non sequitur response that would only get an “OK, and?” from the OP. If interpreted as a useful answer to the question, the statement means, “no knowledge is transferred during education, therefore your question is useless.” Not even Caplan is this much of a hard-liner. So the comment is either hyperbolic and irrelevant or pertinent and ridiculously reductive.

            The (eyeroll-inducing) analog would, I think, be “everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” This is an extremely obnoxious thing to interject when someone is trying to talk about the subject at hand.

          • zzzzort says:

            The OP asked about productivity gains in education, asking for an answer in units of effort or dollars per unit of knowledge. Freddie is claiming that those are the wrong units. More dramatically, if I asked whether computers are getting cheaper per unit of quality, and asked for an answer in dollars per usb drive it would be a less than useful answer.

          • gbdub says:

            I did not specify the units I wanted the answer in.

            I specifically said I was interested in teaching, not the overall education system.

            I am perfectly familiar with the “education is signaling” hobbyhorse.

          • zzzzort says:

            Sorry, the “For a given unit of knowledge…” threw me. I obviously can’t speak for Freddie, but I tend to think modeling teaching as knowledge transfer misses out on a lot of important (I hate the word holistic, but basically holistic) aspects. We can give students a link to wikipedia in like 5 seconds, and I never use 95% of the specific facts that I’ve learned over decades of education. One interpretation of those facts is that its all signaling. A different interpretation is that teaching shapes students in some different way (and that measuring the number of facts you’ve taught is not a good metric for this process).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Yes, as I said before it was (clearly) hyperbole. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s making a substantive and IMO interesting point (that Freddie thinks knowledge transfer is a vastly overconsidered aspect of education). In my view this is a significant improvement on “less of this” comments, which do not have any interesting content. It’s certainly a lot better than than irrelevant CW zingers (except the rare funny ones) and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for criticism if you ignore those.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            it’s making a substantive and IMO interesting point

            If it’s substantive it’s irrelevant. If it’s relevant it’s vacuous. In neither case is it meaningfully addressing the question. My tolerance for derailment increases with thread depth; at the top level, it’s annoying soapboxing.

            In my view this is a significant improvement on “less of this” comments, which do not have any interesting content.

            “Less of this” is this blog’s only mechanism for community moderation of discussion. It’s not interesting, but it is useful.

            It’s certainly a lot better than than irrelevant CW zingers (except the rare funny ones) and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for criticism if you ignore those.

            Hypocrisy-avoidance is overrated. That said, I try not to support that in other threads either.

            TL;DR THREADJACKING WILL NOT BE TOLERATED

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I disagree. More of this please.

          This is one of the topics where Freddie and I are in nearly perfect agreement, despite coming from nearly completely antagonistic corners.

          And I recall this topic being a SSC post topic and the discussion converged on agreeing with Freddie’s statement.

          Even the full apologists for public education state that purpose of public schools is not for the individual benefit of any given student, and the individual benefit of any given student is easy discarded in favor of literally ever other “purpose” of school.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Even the full apologists for public education state that purpose of public schools is not for the individual benefit of any given student, and the individual benefit of any given student is easy discarded in favor of literally ever other “purpose” of school.

            I’m going to make a bold statement here that the vast majority of people who receive an education are meaningfully better off in consequence than people who receive no education. Teaching people to read and write at a high school level and do basic math is individually good for those people. If you believe that nobody cares about those things, talk to a teacher for 5 minutes.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Learning to read and learning to do basic ma