SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Open Thread 131.5

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,081 Responses to Open Thread 131.5

  1. Two McMillion says:

    Hi all,

    Tried to post this previously, but can’t seem to find the post. (Maybe put it in the wrong thread by accident?)

    Anyway, reading gwern’s attempt to have GPT-2 write poetry got me excited, and I want to try it myself. I have a large corpus of texts I want to train GPT-2 to imitate. I have gwern’s post explaining what he did. I’ve never done any programming before; what do I need to do next?

  2. markl says:

    It seems conservatives here feel insecure that they might be fired for their political beliefs. I think the problem might be a little out of proportion to the actual risk (in the same way liberals might feel about police shootings). But I mostly sympathize.

    At least until I started reading the comments of the gay rites article. Where some of you folks are coming off as wildly hypocritical.

    Now I grew up with religious conservatives in the 90-00s, where you obviously had a god given right to fire gay people (obviously conservatives aren’t some homogeneous group). A lot of that time they had control of policy that was happy for people to be fired if they were gay.

    So how many years ago did you think the number of people fired for being gay equals the number of people fired for being conservative. My uninformed guess is maybe 2018, or perhaps we still haven’t hit break even.

    • Randy M says:

      Where some of you folks are coming off as wildly hypocritical.

      Who?

      • markl says:

        If you search sjw you will find the most cringy threads, from my perspective

        …that might apply to the entire internet now that I think about it

        • Nornagest says:

          Seven matches, and most of them are complaining about anti-SJW sentiment. There’s Alex M’s post, which is a bit of a rant, but I’m not seeing any hypocrisy there, just vitriol.

          I think you’re gonna have to do a little more legwork here.

          • markl says:

            If you scroll up in those threads
            I got pretty bothered by a lot of those comments in the thread, but wish I had phased my comment more politely.

        • Randy M says:

          I’m asking because it’s important to have examples to know if it is actual hypocrisy, outgroup homogeneity biases (ie, different people pushing different standards both being taken to be representative of the same group), or positions that are actually different when the context is accounted for.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      What if I am neither gay nor conservative but think both mindsets were wrong?

      What if I think two wrongs don’t make a right?

      I can recognize salami tactics even if I’m not on the list.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Is there anyone getting fired for being gay? You’d think if somebody got fired for being gay in 2018, or 2013 or 2003 for that matter it’d be all over the news, with protests and boycotts and screaming. Left journos should be hungry to report that kind of thing. But The Federalist went looking for likely cases and found basically nothing, but a lot of misrepresentations by journos. i.e., cases where a teacher was teaching gay stuff in classes that had nothing to do with sexuality, the administration says “knock it off” and the media reports this as some kind of persecution. Pretty sure if I started teaching the Catholic catechism in math class and the administration told me to stick to algebra, nobody would say I was “punished for being Catholic.”

      • Nick says:

        There was a case recently in the news where the Indianapolis archdiocese instructed a local high school not to renew a teacher’s contract because he had entered a same-sex marriage. The reasoning is that a teacher, like several other kinds of employees of a religious institution, acts as a public minister, hence it’s permissible to require them to publicly abide by the morals of the church they are ministering for; naturally, the media cast this as ‘Catholic school fires teacher for being gay.’ As I understand it they are within their rights per Hosanna Tabor v EEOC, but it still generates controversy—especially because many folks think firing a teacher for entering a same sex marriage is effectively the same as firing the teacher for being gay.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But how about anything that’s not a religious institution firing someone for failing to adhere to the religion? Secular stuff. Like the manager of a department store saying “no gays allowed” and firing a cashier for being gay?

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I haven’t heard of anything like that.

          • dick says:

            If you live somewhere progressive, your employer is probably smart enough to not be honest about why they fired you, as they fear repercussions. If you don’t, you may not feel comfortable announcing that you were fired for being gay, because you still need to go find another job in a town where homophobia is common enough that your last boss felt comfortable firing you for being gay. It’s nice that a lot more people are in the former position than the latter nowadays, but neither situation leads to the kind of viral stories you’re imagining.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            a town where homophobia is common enough that your last boss felt comfortable firing you for being gay.

            That pizza place that refused to serve gay weddings, resulting in national attention and a flood of threats and bad Yelp reviews was in Walkerton, Indiana, population 2144. I’m not sold on the idea that there’s places too out of the way or too insular to escape the baleful gaze of the All Seeing Eye of Gay Sauron should they run afoul of his will.

            If you know somebody who gets fired for being gay in some small homophobic town, just tell them to tweet about it and set up a GoFundMe and they’ll be showered with cash and praise and whisked away to the coasts, Grand Marshall of next year’s SF Pride parade.

          • Matt M says:

            If you live somewhere progressive, your employer is probably smart enough to not be honest about why they fired you, as they fear repercussions.

            This works both ways though, doesn’t it?

            I’m not worried that if I put a Trump sticker on my car, my boss is going to see it and call me into his office and say “You are fired because you support Trump and we don’t tolerate that sort of evil around here.”

            I’m worried that if I put a Trump sticker on my car, any one of hundreds of people with more power/influence than me will see it, and start digging for some random totally legal and non-controversial excuse to fire me, or maybe even just to ensure I don’t promote any further.

            Even in edge cases like James Damore, I’m pretty sure Google’s official position is not “We fired this guy for wrongthink” but rather “We fired him for repeated violations of our equal opportunity and harassment policy” or something like that.

          • dick says:

            If you know somebody who gets fired for being gay in some small homophobic town, just tell them to tweet about it

            I don’t disagree that what you’re describing is now the norm. The phenomenon of a business with a “no gays need apply” sign in the window might now be nonexistent, at least in the US. But it doesn’t follow that no one gets fired for being gay.

            A more typical scenario would be: pizza shop employee’s boss discovers he’s gay, the owner kinda tries to ignore it but finds it uncomfortable to work with a gay guy, and eventually lets him go. The fired employee calls Buzzfeed and claims to have been fired for being gay, and when they talk to the owner he says, “What, Gary’s gay? I let him go because winter’s the slow season.” Do you doubt that happens? You of all people ought not to need convincing that a lot of people still hold strongly negative opinions about gay people. Presuming Gary isn’t a Twitter celebrity in his spare time, why would you ever hear about him getting fired?

          • dick says:

            I’m worried that if I put a Trump sticker on my car, any one of hundreds of people with more power/influence than me will see it, and start digging for some random totally legal and non-controversial excuse to fire me, or maybe even just to ensure I don’t promote any further.

            I think this is an exaggeration, but not wholly wrong. For example, I will totally concede that, when someone is a dick about politics, bringing it up in inappropriate work situations and making people around them uncomfortable, they’re a lot more likely to get fired if they’re on the right than on the left right now. And I will also concede that if you’re living somewhere generally progressive and you put a Trump sticker on your car, the people who see it will be surprised and will re-evaluate how they feel about you and maybe not invite you to their BBQ. (But I also think that would be true of any sufficiently unpopular view. “I don’t get why Michael Vick was so bad, they’re just dogs” would go over a lot worse.)

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            I think it is even reasonably plausible that someone fired for being gay wouldn’t even know that was the reason (or wouldn’t be certain). Gary might believe the “slow season” story himself (or, rather than slow season, as penalty for some minor, usually not fireable but not totally unreasonable offense). Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were cases of men being fired for being gay who aren’t even really gay (the boss may have concluded they were gay based on [bad heuristic] and acted upon that).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you doubt that happens?

            Yes, I doubt that happens. The vast majority of people do not care about gays.

            You of all people ought not to need convincing that a lot of people still hold strongly negative opinions about gay people.

            Attitudes like this are why I think this doesn’t happen, but SocJus-oriented people assume it must be going on all the time. They cannot fathom that someone who’s not just enraptured with the majesty and glory of all things homosexual therefore holds “strongly negative opinions about gay people.” Clapping for Stalin for a reasonable 5 minutes instead of 30 does not mean one holds strongly negative feelings about Stalin.

            If this happens, show me the proof. Something. But when all you’ve got is mind reading and you’ve already demonstrated you’re not good at reading minds…

          • dick says:

            They cannot fathom that someone who’s not just enraptured with the majesty and glory of all things homosexual therefore holds “strongly negative opinions about gay people.”

            Edited to be more substantive: I was implying that your posting history and attitude demonstrates that you have read enough to be aware that a lot of people dislike gays enough to fire them, not that you personally would do it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, we’ve been over this a million times. I get accused of being “anti-gay.” I say no, and list all the ways in which I am pro-gay, or gay-indifferent, with the one caveat I don’t want my kids exposed to their propaganda. Failure to propagandize gay stuff to my kids therefore makes me a raging homophobe. We go back and forth for 47 posts until everyone gets exasperated.

            Your evidence for “people would fire gays for being gays” is the existence of people like me. Which reminds me, I’m due for a haircut and need to call the gay man who’s been my hairstylist for the last 15 years. You have a failure to model. If you’re modeling me wrong, and I know you’re modeling me wrong because I can read my own mind better than you can, I have little confidence in your ability to model your small town pizza shop guy.

          • dick says:

            Your evidence for “people would fire gays for being gays” is the existence of people like me.

            That’s not what I meant, see the edit above. It turns out you’re not such a great mind-reader either.

            But for the record, I don’t need to read minds to know that people get fired for being gay. That was adequately proven by the decades or centuries for which it was done openly. Your position is that it no longer happens. That’s the position that requires mind-reading.

          • Nornagest says:

            Perhaps, instead of mind reading, we could look at the relative difficulty gay vs. straight people have in finding and retaining work. I don’t know what the statistics there would end up looking like, but I’m pretty sure someone must have collected them?

            It would at least give us something concrete to talk about.

          • dick says:

            Perhaps, instead of mind reading, we could look at the relative difficulty gay vs. straight people have in finding and retaining work.

            I don’t think it’s realistic to have a good statistic on this, since it is definitionally something that people lie about. I would expect most people that fire someone for being gay to lie about it, and as acymetric pointed out, in some cases the person getting fired for being gay won’t know it.

            I’m not even committed to the idea that getting fired for being gay is common. It definitely was once, and it’s still legal, but I would assume it’s much rarer than it used to be, and it might be quite rare in absolute terms. The thing I am arguing against is the idea that the rarity of “gay guy gets fired, outrage ensues” news stories is evidence that it no longer happens. That would be the expected outcome today, even if it was still comparatively common.

          • Randy M says:

            The thing I am arguing against is the idea that the rarity of “gay guy gets fired, outrage ensues” news stories is evidence that it no longer happens.

            Didn’t the rationalists used to have a saying about absence of evidence?

            edit: eh, that’s kind of rude of me.
            If stories like that are harder to come up with, that is evidence that those events are less frequent.

            I don’t think anyone here will argue about any social interaction happening or not happening “at all” or ever or always, right?

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            I don’t think it’s realistic to have a good statistic on this, since it is definitionally something that people lie about.

            I think he was suggesting to essentially look at employment numbers for straight vs. gay to see if gay people are disproportionately unemployed (rather than looking at actual stats on firing people for being gay), which might be evidence for gay people being fired for their orientation. It wouldn’t really be conclusive because there would be all kinds of confounding stuff going on with that data, but I suppose it would be something.

          • Nornagest says:

            I would expect most people that fire someone for being gay to lie about it, and as acymetric pointed out, in some cases the person getting fired for being gay won’t know it.

            The person that gets fired for being gay is still fired. If this is a serious concern, then it should show up in employment statistics when they’re broken down by sexual orientation. It would be tricky to do a good job of picking out the signal because there’s all sorts of confounders (out gay people are more urban and lean younger, to name two), but I don’t think it’s insurmountably tricky.

          • dick says:

            The person that gets fired for being gay is still fired. If this is a serious concern, then it should show up in employment statistics when they’re broken down by sexual orientation. It would be tricky to do a good job of picking out the signal because there’s all sorts of confounders (out gay people are more urban and lean younger, to name two), but I don’t think it’s insurmountably tricky.

            I don’t disagree in theory, and only disagree in practice because of assumptions about how rare this is and how poor the data would be. Even if we knew exactly how many people got fired for being gay last year, I’m guessing that number would be smaller than the error bar on “how many gay people are there?”.

            If stories like that are harder to come up with, that is evidence that those events are less frequent.

            Yes, which is why I said that I agree it is much less common for employers to admit that they’re firing someone for being gay. Whether they are lying about it and getting away with it is not something you can deduce from the news.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad, Randy

            But The Federalist went looking for likely cases and found basically nothing

            That article is bad and Chad should feel bad – the eponymous “numbers” are decidedly lacking in context needed to actually support the thesis. Glancing though the wider EEOC tables, the LGBT discrimination data is in fact right there in line with a variety of other characteristics. Making the case that it shows nobody need worry about employer discrimination for being gay means making the same case about age, race, gender, nationality, religion, or pregnancy. Or about sexual harassment, for that matter. The Federalist might be ready (eager!) to bite that bullet, but it’s a somewhat larger claim than was first presented.

            There’s probably a snarkier shot to be made about an article promoting statistical illiteracy followed by a series of unrepresentative profiles, but I don’t think I could nail the wording without coming across as catty.

            I don’t think anyone here will argue about any social interaction happening or not happening “at all” or ever or always, right?

            And that’s the problem with the hyperbole – is the claim falsified by one example? Ten? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand? How many orders of magnitude are we sweeping under the rug? How much injustice are we ready to round to zero?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Dan, I don’t understand what you think is wrong with the article. You claim “statistical illiteracy” but it looks to me like the following statements are true:

            1) There are few claims (only about 2000).

            2) The overwhelming majority are found to have no basis.

            You then claim the profiles are “unrepresentative.” Can you please show me the representative profiles? Where are the people fired for gay, or who claim to be fired for gay even if they can’t prove it?

            And that’s the problem with the hyperbole – is the claim falsified by one example? Ten? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand? How many orders of magnitude are we sweeping under the rug? How much injustice are we ready to round to zero?

            I don’t know, but I would like to see at least one that doesn’t involve a religious institution. You guys are the ones claiming this is a problem. Show me a single example in this nation of 300 million people in the last decade.

            I really don’t think this is a thing that happens. At every place I’ve ever worked, mostly in Red areas, I’m pretty sure if employee Bill said “employee Jim is gay, he should get fired!” Bill would be shown the door, not Jim.

          • markl says:

            You may have missed my other post,
            How do you explain don’t ask don’t tell?
            Also what do you think, as a percentage of all firings are attributable to being gay or being conservative.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do you explain don’t ask don’t tell?

            “Military is weird.” Also DADT is over. And the very nature of DADT is “we don’t want to fire you for gay, so we won’t ask and you don’t tell us.” If they wanted to get rid of gay soldiers it would be called “Must Ask, Must Tell.”

            Where is the evidence people want to unemploy homosexuals, and are doing it?

          • acymetric says:

            But the implication of DADT is that if you do tell you’re going to be gone. And yeah DADT is over but it hasn’t been that long since it was in place.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I just think it’s kind of dodge to be talking about anti-gay bias or hatred in employment in society and then switch over to specific military policies meant to address unit readiness and cohesion, made with the context of “we need to make sure we fight and win wars and so we have to be extra conservative about stuff.” The military is its own thing, with its own culture and rules and far more stringent behavior requirements than civil society. Like if we’re talking about ableism and the ADA and you bring up the military rejecting you for flat feet. Yeah, it’s the military. And war. It’s a different animal than society at large.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad:

            1) There are few claims (only about 2000).

            2) The overwhelming majority are found to have no basis.

            The figures cited to substantiate this lack context, presumably because context is detrimental to the claim. Looking at the EEOC data (easiest to cross-compare) puts LGBT issues in the same tier as other generally-acknowledged live issues:

            1) 2016 LGBT-based sex discrimination charges were resolved in FY2017. Compare against 3997 religion-based, and 34229 race-based. It is far from obvious that a given LGBT individual has less to worry about than someone from a protected class.

            2) The 83% quoted for LGBT charges appears to be a combination of the “No Reasonable Cause” and “Administrative Closure categories*. For religion and race again, the same sums were 87% and 88% respectively. Dismissing the first alone is an obvious isolated demand for rigor.

            *I’ll echo others about no evidence found not equalling no evidence exists. Plus, it’s an overcount to include the entire administrative category – only a subset would qualify as the former, even. Both issues are mitigated by comparing across categories.

            You then claim the profiles are “unrepresentative.”

            I’m seriously ticked that the author went so far as to link the Lambda Legal docket, then addressed precisely zero of those cases. That is a sign you are being Chinese Robber’ed.

            Can you please show me the representative profiles? Where are the people fired for gay, or who claim to be fired for gay even if they can’t prove it?

            I don’t know, but I would like to see at least one that doesn’t involve a religious institution.

            Speaking of Lambda, maybe you’ve heard of Zarda v. Altitude Express? SCOTUS granted cert a few months ago.

            Show me a single example in this nation of 300 million people in the last decade.
            I really don’t think this is a thing that happens.

            As alluded to below by markl, the last full year of DADT falls within your window – that’s a few hundred right there. Quite a few more from the EEOC too, of course. Throw in a few more sources and I’m not certain I could find 10k since 2003, but I bet I’d at least get close.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It is far from obvious that a given LGBT individual has less to worry about than someone from a protected class.

            Perhaps you should consider that members of other protected classes also don’t have much to fear either? Perhaps very few people are getting fired for immutable characteristics. Perhaps the United States is not full of hate monsters itching to fire gays, women and PoC for their gayness, femaleness and PoCness.

            I’m seriously ticked that the author went so far as to link the Lambda Legal docket, then addressed precisely zero of those cases.

            Probably because we don’t have the other side of the story in those cases, but okay, I’ll look at them. There are currently five. One is about a transgender person and another is about HIV status, not sexual orientation. The other three are related to sexual orientation, but right now we don’t know the defendants’ sides of the story because the courts are arguing over whether or not sexual orientation counts as a protected class. And the earliest incident was Zarda in 2010.

            So in the past nine years in the nation of 330 million people, about 6.6 million – 13.2 million of whom are gay, we’ve got maybe three cases of “fired for gay.” And I really don’t think this is a case of “there’s so many more who don’t come forward.” Lawyers and gay rights advocates and lefty journos are hungry for this stuff.

            Abraham bargained God down to sparing Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of 10 righteous men. I don’t see the need to condemn American society for the perhaps bigotry of three employers over a ~10 year period. I’m pretty sure we can round this one down to “not a problem.”

            So to answer markl’s question,

            So how many years ago did you think the number of people fired for being gay equals the number of people fired for being conservative. My uninformed guess is maybe 2018, or perhaps we still haven’t hit break even.

            I guess if you count DADT then 2011 maybe, but if not…I don’t know. Sometime in the 80s or early 90s maybe? “Fired for gay” just doesn’t really happen. This is rounding error stuff. Like chance of getting killed by bathtubs or deer or something level. This is not in any way a subject that should be occupying anyone’s time or attention.

          • dick says:

            People who fire people for being gay are incentivized to lie about it, people who get killed by bathtubs are not. If you don’t think it happens, great, I’m glad we’ve made so much progress in your opinion, but stop gloating about the lack of evidence like it’s proof. This tedious charade of obtuseness is not fooling anyone.

          • Clutzy says:

            People who fire people for being gay are incentivized to lie about it,

            Yes, but people who are fired are doubly+ incentivized to lie about why they were fired. This is why every protected class employment law has the opposite effect and instead causes employers to veer more towards only hiring unprotected persons.

          • Aapje says:

            @Clutzy

            It’s basic ego protection: “I wasn’t fired for being an asshole/incompetent/etc, but for being awesome in a way that my boss hates.”

          • markl says:

            And these argumens don’t apply to conservatives getting fired because?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            stop gloating about the lack of evidence like it’s proof. This tedious charade of obtuseness is not fooling anyone.

            It’s not a charade, and I’m not being obtuse. If people were getting fired for being gay we’d be hearing about it because the media and the gay lobby would be flogging it hard.

            markl,

            People that we know of who get fired or threatened for their conservative (or non-left opinions) are made explicitly aware that this is why they’re being targeted. No one accused James Damore of being a bad programmer. No one thinks Brett Weinstein was run off campus for being a bad teacher. Nobody calling for Jordan Peterson to be fired thought he was doing a bad job teaching psychology. Nobody accused Brendan Eich of being bad at software development*.

            It seems odd to argue that conservatives aren’t getting fired for their opinions when they’re explicitly told the reason people don’t want them employed anymore is because of their political opinions, but gays are being fired for being gay but it’s all done in secret. Of course, my suspicion that you’re engaged in motivated reasoning is all a charade of obtuseness, I secretly know you’re right and I’m lying because I’m evil.

            * Okay I will accuse Brendan Eich of being bad at software. JavaScript is f–cking terrible.

          • Randy M says:

            The trouble is, merely holding non-progressive politics is defined as bigotry which is held as sufficient to be ground for firing. “You think men and women are different? That’s sexism, and it’s creating a hostile work environment.” They would probably declaim in all those cases that anyone was fired or reprimanded for any political reason; they were just trying to prevent anyone working there that ‘lacked basic human decency’ and so on.

            The other asymmetry is that bringing up conservative beliefs is ‘injecting politics into the workplace where it doesn’t belong’; on the other hand, in cases such as valuing diversity, opposing climate change, and so on, progressive politics is often corporate policy.

            (I’m bringing this up to partially refute Conrad’s point that people are explicitly being fired for opinions, even if that is the implicit goal, though I’m not coming down as being in favor of legal protections necessarily)

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Javascript is indeed f#$%ing terrible, but in fairness, it’s a compromise language. It was supposed to be functional, but we got dynamically typed prototype-based object orientation instead. Seriously, f#$% Javascript.

            ETA: @Randy M
            Description of the problem endorsed. One thing I’d add: it would be nice if folks stopped claiming “men and women are different” constitutes a hostile work environment, but that doesn’t say anything about whether companies should be screamingly in favor of diversity and all, or whether the government should be encouraging this or doing the same in its own workplaces. This is another example of how liberalism doesn’t seem to live up to its pretensions to neutrality.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m bringing this up to partially refute Conrad’s point that people are explicitly being fired for opinions, even if that is the implicit goal, though I’m not coming down as being in favor of legal protections necessarily

            Well, first off, grats on winning the “SSC Hyperpedantic Post of the Week” award. What will you do with the prize money?

            “We’re not firing you for your opinion, we’re firing you for having your opinion here.”

            I think if someone said, “look, we’re not firing you for being gay, we’re firing you for gaying the whole place up in gay ways that scare the straights” we would consider that “fired for being gay.”

          • Randy M says:

            Well, first off, grats on winning the “SSC Hyperpedantic Post of the Week” award. What will you do with the prize money?

            Sweet, let me know when the finals are, I think if get the annual prize that’s going on the CV, but if I can raise a nit-pick here, if you want to refute the argument for firing Damore or Eich or similar offenses, you need to be able to properly articulate it, not just to (correctly) see the underlying motivation.

            “We’re not firing you for your opinion, we’re firing you for having your opinion here.”

            They’re not going to say that; they’re going to say “You created a hostile work environment for gays when you declined to festoon yourself in rainbow for the summer” or whatever.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, but look at Zarda v. Altitude Express. They didn’t fire him “for being gay.” They fired him for making a customer uncomfortable. Zarda said “uncomfortable because of gayness” but the employer will probably argue “uncomfortable because of unwanted touching.”

            The method for firing is almost never “for thing” but “for making people uncomfortable by being/saying thing.”

          • Nick says:

            Well, first off, grats on winning the “SSC Hyperpedantic Post of the Week” award. What will you do with the prize money?

            Seriously? I didn’t win for that correction about Chico, California? Man, this thing is rigged.

            ETA:

            The method for firing is almost never “for thing” but “for making people uncomfortable by being/saying thing.”

            I think at this point you and Randy are in violent agreement.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nick

            As the victim of that correction, I don’t think that counts as pedantic so much as it was just a flat correction of a terrible misread.

          • markl says:

            So far you have dismissed stronger evidence of gay employment descrimination than you have provided for conservative descimenation.

            We’ve provided concrete evidence for an estimate of 10k of people getting fired for being gay this decade. Down thread someone produced weaker evidence that 800 people thad been fired for conservative bias.

            But that the arguments are exactly the same is the thing at is driving me nuts.

            For example:
            “we’ve got maybe three cases of …”
            Then like 2 posts later, gives “maybe 3 examples” examples of people being fired for being conservative.

            If you want to say conservative AND gay people shouldn’t be fired I have no problem with this, more than 1 thing can be bad. But you have given no good evedence that it is a worse problem.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Where’s the evidence of 10,000? Dan L mentioned a 10k number, but he thought he couldn’t get there, and since 2003, I assume also including DADT, which both ended in 2011 and I think is questionable because military.

            If there’s 10,000, where’s all the lawsuits? Where’s the media coverage? It’s not like the media would bury it or something. A pizza parlor in a tiny town of ~2000 people says “no gay weddings” and that’s national news. Where are all the sob stories of people fired for being gay? Why aren’t they being interviewed on 20/20 or on The View to tell everyone how horribly hurt they were when they were fired from the job they loved just because they were gay?

            I don’t think people should be fired for being gay (except extremely specific circumstances like religious institutions). I don’t think people should be fired for political opinions (except certain circumstances like working for a political campaign when you actually support their opponent, or certain extremely niche occupations like “PR spokesperson” and you start heiling Hitler or something). But I do not see any evidence that anyone is getting fired for being gay at a rate more common than people getting crushed to death by vending machines or something equally fantastically improbable.

          • markl says:

            I think there might have been a typeo where 2003 was meant to be 2013. If you go back to 2003 you get over 5k from DADT alone (did you read the wiki page?)

            There are obvious over AND under reporting issues, so I’m happy to fudge things any way you want , as long as you do the same with the conservative fireing statistics (which people have yet to present).

            As to why you don’t see this in the news, there are like 20,000,000 fireing events in a year. In a gay Utopia you would figure there are still 100s of people being fired for being gay.
            Things that happen that frequently arn’t news. It’ss the same reason you don’t see a news story everytime a drunk driver kills someone.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’re pulling the 10K number out of the air. EEOC numbers about LGBT sex-based discrimination are not equivalent to LGBT-based firing; these numbers could as easily be caused by an LGBT person complaining that one of their coworkers said “fag”.

          • dick says:

            It’s not a charade, and I’m not being obtuse. If people were getting fired for being gay we’d be hearing about it because the media and the gay lobby would be flogging it hard.

            The obtuse part is ignoring the fact that no one actually notifies the media and the gay lobby when they fire a gay guy.

            It seems odd to argue that conservatives aren’t getting fired for their opinions when they’re explicitly told the reason people don’t want them employed anymore is because of their political opinions, but gays are being fired for being gay but it’s all done in secret.

            Oh, I would assume people get fired for being conservative that we don’t hear about too. For the most part, you can fire anyone you like in America. In a strong hiring climate, “unpleasant to be around” is a firing offense. And the evidence suggests there are plenty of people who find gays unpleasant to be around, just like right-wingers, left-wingers, hippies, gun nuts, etc.

          • dick says:

            Also, I like programming in Javascript! It’s fun, un-cumbersome, casual and perfectly appropriate for smallish projects. And putting JSON inline in code is way more readable than having to serialize and deserialize stuff. So nyaaah!

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad et al.

            “Military is weird.”

            Like if we’re talking about ableism and the ADA and you bring up the military rejecting you for flat feet. Yeah, it’s the military. And war. It’s a different animal than society at large.

            Flat feet gets you rejected if it’s symptomatic. Being gay, not so much. The military absolutely counts, even before we notice the conspicuous failure of unit cohesion to dissolve in 2010. It was only ever a shitty excuse and we ought to recognize it as such.

            Perhaps you should consider that members of other protected classes also don’t have much to fear either? Perhaps very few people are getting fired for immutable characteristics. Perhaps the United States is not full of hate monsters itching to fire gays, women and PoC for their gayness, femaleness and PoCness.

            More hyperbole aside, this is what I was referring to as biting the bullet – I can see why the argument appeals to paleocons and certain strains of libertarians, but you have to acknowledge it’s a much wider claim. If you are willing to endorse the statement “I really don’t think [sexual harassment in the workplace] is a thing that happens. I’m pretty sure we can round this one down to ‘not a problem'” I will give you points for consistency. Anything less, and the greater part of the statistical argument disappears in a puff of special pleading.

            Where are the people fired for gay, or who claim to be fired for gay even if they can’t prove it?

            Probably because we don’t have the other side of the story in those cases

            First off, this is the cleanest attempt to shift the goalposts I’ve seen in a while. I consider the challenge met, and protestations to the contrary in bad faith – shouldn’t have set the bar so low!

            Second, it’s really important to emphasize that I’ve only cited cases that were referenced in your source. This is not a case of “the claims did not penetrate my filter”, this is a case of “the claims were right in front of me and I’ didn’t notice”.

            There are good reasons why the most virtuous cases would not be the the most prominent. But we aren’t even at that level yet.

            Well, first off, grats on winning the “SSC Hyperpedantic Post of the Week” award.

            I demand a recount.

            So far you have dismissed stronger evidence of gay employment descrimination than you have provided for conservative descimenation.[sic]

            Quoted for agreement, and relatedly:

            And the earliest incident was Zarda in 2010.

            Sometime in the 80s or early 90s maybe?

            I’m glad we’ve made so much progress in your opinion

            I’m seriously confused about which decade in which Discrimination Was Solved. One can’t protest an example from nine years ago and also claim this hasn’t been a live issue for more than a generation.

            Where’s the evidence of 10,000? Dan L mentioned a 10k number, but he thought he couldn’t get there, and since 2003, I assume also including DADT, which both ended in 2011 and I think is questionable because military.

            I think there might have been a typeo where 2003 was meant to be 2013. If you go back to 2003 you get over 5k from DADT alone (did you read the wiki page?)

            10k since 2003 came from a combination of Conrad’s incredulity that the news wouldn’t have covered the issue since that date, and my comment regarding orders of magnitude. I’m willing to show my best attempt to someone who admits that their quantitative declarations should be expected to be off by four orders of magnitude. And at that point, I think my goal has been accomplished regardless of the final tally.

            (And yeah, DADT is an easy 4.7k.)

            Also, I like programming in Javascript! It’s fun, un-cumbersome, casual and perfectly appropriate for smallish projects. And putting JSON inline in code is way more readable than having to serialize and deserialize stuff. So nyaaah!

            I retract everything. Leviticus was too merciful for the likes of this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I was gone all weekend and couldn’t respond, and now I don’t know if anyone will see this and we should either move it to a more recent open thread or just let it die, but:

            @Dan L

            If you are willing to endorse the statement “I really don’t think [sexual harassment in the workplace] is a thing that happens. I’m pretty sure we can round this one down to ‘not a problem’” I will give you points for consistency.

            No, I think sexual harassment is still a problem. I would say “people getting fired for race/sex/orientation” is not a problem.

            First off, this is the cleanest attempt to shift the goalposts I’ve seen in a while. I consider the challenge met, and protestations to the contrary in bad faith – shouldn’t have set the bar so low!

            I fully concede that I was dumb to have said or implied “fired for gay” is something that never happens. I gingerly nudge the goalposts towards “it’s something so rare as to not be an issue worthy of consideration.” Maybe somewhere in this vast country a man named “Conrad” just got fired for being named Conrad, and his boss didn’t like that. But if I were to come here and say I’m terrified of losing my job because of anti-Conrad bigotry, you would rightly dismiss me.

            I’m seriously confused about which decade in which Discrimination Was Solved. One can’t protest an example from nine years ago and also claim this hasn’t been a live issue for more than a generation.

            Whenever it was that the left won the culture war. So, 90s, early 2000s maybe? “Fired for immutable characteristics” is shocking to the conscience of essentially everyone and Is Not Done. It is so Not Done that it is expressly against the written rules of essentially every company large enough to have written rules. It is so Not Done that even expressing the sort of opinions that might make one think a person was of the type who might do the Not Done thing is grounds for dismissal.

            My company is of modest size. Certainly not Fortune 500. But we do peer interviewing for new hires, and I’ve taken the training course on the giant list of things we may not consider in hiring. We’re not even allowed to ask if someone is one of these things during the interview process. This includes being married, being unmarried, being a foreigner, being native born, being gay or being straight.

            On the other hand, the largest companies in the world, like Google, have written policies that expressly forbid saying conservative-sounding things like “men and women are different, and on average have different preferences.” And they act on this, by firing real people we can name, like James Damore.

            @dick

            The obtuse part is ignoring the fact that no one actually notifies the media and the gay lobby when they fire a gay guy.

            Except the gay guy knows that he was gainfully employed with good reviews, then he casually mentioned going out with his boyfriend to his boss, and the next week he was fired for reasons that do not jive with reality. The guy is gay, not stupid, can probably put 2 and 2 together and complain about it. It’s not like SJ-types are well-known for extending charity. Last week we had progressives going off on Nancy Pelosi for being racist because she doesn’t agree with the politics and tactics of POC Congresswomen.

            Whether it’s true or not, there’s are strong incentives towards making a stink about allegedly getting fired for being gay. Set up a GoFundMe, tweet the sob story to some gay advocate group or journalist, let the hate train flow against the bigots who fired you, collect some cash, and probably land a new job at some competitor who wants to signal how virtuous they are. That this almost never happens is more indicative that extremely few people are being fired for their sexual orientation, not that the bigots are just super clever at hiding it. Exactly how clever do we assume the sorts of people who would fire someone for being gay are?

            I’m all for increasing awareness of this issue so we can maybe figure out if there’s any truth to the claim that “fired for gay” is a regular or probable occurrence. If someone suspects they were fired for their sexual orientation, by all means, make it known so we can get to the bottom of this.

            Failing that, I think Nornagest wins the thread with the only actionable suggestion: maybe there’s some way to tease out the truth about hiring and firing of homosexuals by looking at employment rates, dismissal rates, mean time between jobs, that kind of thing for heterosexuals versus homosexuals, adjusted for age, industry, market etc. If we can find data that shows a 25 y/o homosexual man in the [X] industry is Y% more likely to be unemployed than a 25 y/o heterosexual man with similar education and experience, that would indicate the presence of anti-gay bias in the workplace. This sounds like something we need an actual social scientist to do, so if anybody knows any, suggest this to them.

          • dick says:

            Whether it’s true or not, there’s are strong incentives towards making a stink about allegedly getting fired for being gay. Set up a GoFundMe, tweet the sob story to some gay advocate group or journalist, let the hate train flow against the bigots who fired you, collect some cash, and probably land a new job at some competitor who wants to signal how virtuous they are.

            This is not how the world works. If it were, the result would be lots of claims, not a lack of claims. But the lesson here is not that you should check your ideas for internal consistency better, it is (and if I could, I would replace the OT threads’ banner with this in a 72-point blinking marquee) YOUR MENTAL MODEL OF YOUR OUTGROUP IS NOT RELIABLE, THAT’S WHY YOU’RE HERE TALKING TO THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Conrad:

            I was gone all weekend and couldn’t respond, and now I don’t know if anyone will see this and we should either move it to a more recent open thread or just let it die, but:

            I check on old threads from time to time, but it definitely annoys me that SSC is structurally and culturally opposed to dialogues that max at a few days. I’ve hit Reddit’s 6-month limit a few times.

            No, I think sexual harassment is still a problem. I would say “people getting fired for race/sex/orientation” is not a problem.

            This distinction is not supported by the data cited. The arguments against LGBT discrimination can be mirrored towards sexual harassment.

            Whenever it was that the left won the culture war. So, 90s, early 2000s maybe?

            That’s a fascinating point of disagreement – I’d put the left’s victory around 2010 at the earliest. My impression of the early 2000s is that’s when the left started winning culture war battles, and so bothered to fight more – but the right was still winning far more than it was losing. I’d be interested in finding a way to quantify this.

            “Fired for immutable characteristics” is shocking to the conscience of essentially everyone and Is Not Done. It is so Not Done that it is expressly against the written rules of essentially every company large enough to have written rules. It is so Not Done that even expressing the sort of opinions that might make one think a person was of the type who might do the Not Done thing is grounds for dismissal.

            Do you think sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic? Forgive me, but I thought you expressed reservations about this in past threads.

            Firing based on immutable characteristics being a Bad Thing is not the law of the land. It’s an easy moral stance to hold these days (because it’s right, I’d argue) and good corporate policy, but depending on what the characteristic is it can still be completely legal. That’s what the SCOTUS case is about, and frankly I don’t envy their chances with this court.

            On the other hand, the largest companies in the world, like Google, have written policies that expressly forbid saying conservative-sounding things like “men and women are different, and on average have different preferences.” And they act on this, by firing real people we can name, like James Damore.

            Damore wasn’t fired for being conservative, he was fired for [being conservative in a way that made coworkers uncomfortable]. In many ways though, I’m comfortable lumping Damore and Zarda’s firings in the same category of thinly-pretextual. Both happened, but are ultimately anecdotes, not data.

            @ dick:

            But the lesson here is not that you should check your ideas for internal consistency better,

            To be fair, that’s totally part of my argument.

      • markl says:

        2003 luaghably impluasable due to don’t ask alone.
        Wikipedia lists discharges by year httpss://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_ask,_don’t_tell

    • Drew says:

      Damore seems like a useful example. His beliefs weren’t unusual. The memo was polite enough. And a consensus reaction was “Holy shit you moron, why would you put that into writing? Of course you got fired.”

      So, you’re right that it’s unreasonable for conservatives to worry about getting fired for merely being conservative. People aren’t (typically) looking for Trump bumper stickers in the parking lot.

      OTOH the ban on expressing conservative ideas is so well-established, and so universally enforced, that you have to be kind of an idiot to run afoul of it.

      • Drew says:

        To give another example (and explain why I think OP is using a bad metric): I just completed my HR compliance training.

        The company is extremely clear about the fact that the company respects gender transitions. This is a matter of corporate ethics and also a matter of California law. So I have it in writing that misgendering someone will be considered harassment and will get me fired. Raising questions about the topic, even in a general way, would create a hostile work environment and also get me fired.

        Accepting California’s position on gender identify is a documented condition of my employment. “Worrying” about getting fired for deviating from this would be like a priest “worrying” that they’ll get fired for open apostasy.

        I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that it sure is convenient that my beliefs line up so perfectly line up with what’s required as a condition of my employment.

        • Deiseach says:

          So I have it in writing that misgendering someone will be considered harassment and will get me fired.

          I think the real danger resides in the reaction of the person. I’ve just spent all today calling a co-worker in another centre by the wrong name every time I’ve had to phone them (by the end, they were calling me the same wrong name!) This was just one of those days/a brain blip.

          Suppose I called them the wrong gender, though? I’d hope a reasonable person would go “Okay, mistakes happen, just be careful next time” but I can imagine someone being very sensitive about that and presuming that I intentionally did it on purpose for nefarious reasons. If they then go to the boss and demand that Something Must Be Done under the ethics of the business and the law of the state, then I think you can get into a lot of trouble that’s not really your fault.

          I’m saying that it’s not so much gender warriors looking for reasons to sniff out witches (though that happens) as the clash of “genuine mistake versus someone in a delicate frame of mind over being misgendered because it happened too often”, with the ‘in the wrong’ person getting thrown under the bus because the company does not want to have to deal with social media campaigns calling for their heads on pikes for being transphobes and creating unsafe atmosphere at work.

          • Garrett says:

            I was in 12th grade when one of my classmates snapped at me (in the nicest possible way): “Why do you keep calling me Frank?!”
            “Because that’s your name …. ?”
            “No … it’s [completely different name]”

            I’d been calling this one person by the wrong name for ~4 years. Sometimes people are just dumb.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’d hope a reasonable person would go “Okay, mistakes happen, just be careful next time” but I can imagine someone being very sensitive about that and presuming that I intentionally did it on purpose for nefarious reasons. If they then go to the boss and demand that Something Must Be Done under the ethics of the business and the law of the state, then I think you can get into a lot of trouble that’s not really your fault.

            The big problem that I see with these laws is that it gives the worst kind of people an extra weapon, malicious, vindictive, scheming people that can’t be combated/disarmed.

      • OTOH the ban on expressing conservative ideas is so well-established, and so universally enforced, that you have to be kind of an idiot to run afoul of it.

        In some environments.

        I have never made a secret of my views, and although it’s possible that there were job offers I would have gotten if I had, I have no direct evidence of any such problems.

        • LadyJane says:

          There’s a joke in modern libertarian circles about how people never get censored/deplatformed/blacklisted for having right-wing economic views.

          Conservative: People keep trying to censor me for my right-wing views!
          Libertarian: You mean for wanting to reduce government spending? Strange, no one ever tried to censor me for that.
          Conservative: No, not that…
          Libertarian: For supporting lower taxes then?
          Conservative: No, not that either…
          Libertarian: Oh, then you must mean for being opposed to regulation!
          Conservative: Well, no…
          Libertarian: Then what views are you talking about?
          Conservative: You know! The ones it’s not polite to discuss in public!

          • Aapje says:

            @LadyJane

            The ‘views’ you state are not really views at all, but merely half of a view & even then the “free money” part.

            “Reduce government spending” is meaningless if you don’t say what spending should be cut. Bob and Mary can agree that they want to have less government spending, but if Bob wants to cut the military, but keep welfare as is, while Mary wants to cut welfare, but keep the military as is; then they don’t agree at all. Not even 50%.

            When you don’t actually discuss the cost, which is the service that is no longer provided, you are essentially just promising people free money.

            The same is true for regulation. Nearly everyone hates regulation in the abstract, but when you discuss actual rules, things change.

            People get censored/deplatformed/blacklisted for specifics, not for making the opposite of scissor statements.

          • LadyJane says:

            I’ve genuinely never seen anyone get censored, blacklisted, or deplatformed for their economic views, no matter how specific they were. “Let’s reduce welfare” is a statement that gets a lot of pushback in left-liberal circles, but I’ve never seen anyone call for newspapers to fire someone for expressing that view. Same goes for some non-economic issues like gun rights.

            The only right-wing opinions that I’ve actually seen leftists try to erase from public discourse are those involving race, gender, sexuality, and so forth. Culture War issues, in other words. So the statement that “people are silenced for expressing conservative views” is overly broad; it would be more precise to say “people are silenced for expressing certain cultural views that typically overlap with a subset of conservative positions.”

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think the problem might be a little out of proportion to the actual risk

      According to the most recent SSC survey, about 11% of SSC readers personally know someone who has lost a job as a result of expressing the wrong opinion on a controversial topic.

      • Plumber says:

        @The Nybbler,
        Fired?

        No.

        Exiled?

        Yes.

        Two co-workers have been pretty out spoken Trump supporters, and we’ve tried to whisper to them “Dude, you can say that in the lunch room when ir’s just us, but not when we’re working in this guy’s office who has a picture on the wall of himself with Brown, Harris, and Newsom!”.

        One now works only in the boiler room, the other got sent to the 9-1-1 call center where he doesn’t encounter the attorneys and the general public.

        • markl says:

          So would you support adding orientation, and political belief as protected classes?

          • Garrett says:

            If you are going to have protected classes, you have to protect everything. Or nothing.

            Protecting just some things is political bias.

          • Plumber says:

            @markl,
            Well frankly I’m a bit puzzled that in San Francisco we aren’t already treating Christian religious conservatives as a special minority worthy of “All are welcome” tolerance like we do the Muslims, but I guess the battles are too fresh, as for who is and isn’t worthy of “protected status”, I don’t even know, I think things have gotten our of hand, I still think African-Americans got such a raw deal historically and they haven’t had the opportunity to build capital for enough generations yet (the same could be said of Appalachian whites) that some “affirmative action” is still merited (the internships for youths from the Hunters Point neighborhood seems a good example to me of a program that should be continued, though I’m a bit biased because my best co-worker got in that way), but beyond that?

            Sometimes it seems like so many step stools are requested that everyone’s view is blocked again anyway

          • markl says:

            Religion is already a protected class legally. So if there’s actual religious descrimination, take good notes and talk to a lawyer.

            In most places orientation and political belief are not protected in the same way. But I think a policy like that would be extremely popular among Democrats.

          • Nornagest says:

            Orientation and political affiliation are protected classes in California, where Plumber lives and works.

        • markl says:

          In that case your coworkers should probably talk to lawyers. At the least you could probably have you boss get a talking to from HR. I’d be interested in how it turns out.

          • acymetric says:

            I honestly don’t know the answer, but my interpretation would be that protection means protection from termination. Would they really have a case based reassignment to a different set of buildings within the same job?

          • Plumber says:

            @markl,

            Well, one guy got more overtime out of the reassignment, so he made extra money (eventually he transferred himself to work at City College which pays less, but was less lonely), and the other guy is now getting shirt differential pay for working the graceyard shift, so more money but very lonely.

            As for going to HR that would be shooting themselves in the foot ’cause we’re not supposee to discuss politics (or religion or anything interesting really) at work, as that counts as “Harassment”.

          • markl says:

            I’m not going to begrudge anyone for not going through the full formal process. But usually there is a way to complain anyonomously for exactly that reason, there might even be onbudman to work around legal reporting requirements.

            It’s still probably a good idea to keep good records of this stuff.

            I am no legal expert but running it by a lawyer would be a good idea.

          • markl says:

            to follow up, if something like this happened to me I would post about it on the work stack exchange site being very clear about the juristiction.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If you have a legal protection against termination, you probably also have a legal protection against other sorts of workplace retaliation like being assigned to shitty shifts or having your hours reduced.

      • markl says:

        Good quick draw evidence.

        Assuming that represents 800 specific people, that would put it on par with don’t ask don’t tell numbers. Of course there are issues extending booth lowerbounds to wider population estimates.

        Do you have any thoughts on how to fix this?

    • albatross11 says:

      FWIW, I am opposed to people being fired for either being gay or having weird political views, outside of a pretty narrow range of specialized jobs where those things are actually relevant. (Religious schools hiring teachers, political campaigns hiring workers, etc.). I think that society works better when there are strong norms against this even when it isn’t illegal.

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    AI Trained on Old Scientific Papers Makes Discoveries Humans Missed

    The AI was trained on material science papers.

    I wonder how it would do in fields like medical research and social psychology, where the papers are less reliable.

  4. brad says:

    Imagine a policy whereby the government decided that being poor sucks so everyone making 20-40% of median income can fill out some paperwork and enter a lottery. Winners receive around $25,000/year adjusted for inflation for the rest of their lives. Everyone else gets nothing.

    Does anyone think that’s good public policy? Because that’s the *best* case scenario for set-aside style affordable housing initiatives. I can’t understand how anyone thinks that’s a good idea.

    • ana53294 says:

      Lottery savings accounts seem to increase savings in some people.

      I prefer to keep all the interest myself, but for some people, redistributing it in the form of a lottery helps.

      I know you’re trying to talk about housing, but I just thought the lottery is very interesting.

    • Plumber says:

      @brad

      “….that’s the *best* case scenario for set-aside style affordable housing initiatives. I can’t understand how anyone thinks that’s a good idea”

      *raises hand*

      Like public housing projects and rent control I do think it’s good policy, not just because they get/keep someone housed, but they give “public options” that lower the demand for “market rate” housing (if you have a cheaper option you’re less likely to further bid up the market), and I really think those programs should be scaled way the Hell up.

      The “Section 8” subsidized rent program is the one I have a problem with, as it further bids up rents, though I suppose the well known effect of poor children growing up in some areas being more likely to escape poverty as adults than in other areas, may be an argument for that program.

      What I’d like to see is eminent domain used to build small scale public housing in areas with better opportunities (too large scale and the opportunity is lost), so a couple of units in Pacific Heights, not many in Hunters Point, and a couple of units in Palo Alto, not East Palo Alto.

      • brad says:

        Actual public housing has it’s own issues, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. These programs waive e.g. $100k/unit*years worth of taxes in a year in order to induce a private landlord to set aside units that are rented for a $25k/year discount.

        • ssc123 says:

          The tax benefit is a reduction in federal tax liability, it’s not money coming out of city or state coffers. The investors are giant corporations looking to minimize their federal tax bill however they can. If you want to assess efficiency/effectiveness of the program, you need to compare it to other corporate tax expenditures, not to local or state budget items.

          The rent benefit stays with the building, not the tenant. So when a tenant earns enough to no longer qualify, the unit becomes available for another family. Rent restrictions last for decades (and are often effectively permanent), so each unit can help multiple families.

          Those who don’t win the lottery still benefit indirectly, because they have less competition for market-rate units.

          • brad says:

            At least as to the largest NYC program (421a) that’s all incorrect. It’s a property tax benefit so the money is coming straight out of state and local coffers. And the tenants cannot earn too much to no longer qualify. Once they are in, they are in for as long as they stay in the unit. Furthermore, if they do leave the unit has to be rented at the subsidized rate but can be rented to anyone of the landlord’s choice.

            Stepping away from just NYC the last sentence is wrong in general. The subsidized unit takes a tenant off the market but it also takes a unit off the market. The net effect is to increase, not decrease the equilibrium market rate (because some of the subsidized tenants would exit the market without the subsidy).

        • Deiseach says:

          These programs waive e.g. $100k/unit*years worth of taxes in a year

          Yes, but they’re not doing this in a vacuum – they have to consider the cost of having to house/take care of the homeless/build new housing themselves, versus “we get less tax but the landlord is now willing to rent to lower-income tenants and that gets another family off the street and we don’t have to pay for them in a shelter”.

          Speaking for Ireland, social housing provision is tricky because there’s never enough money, when you do get the money it does take time to buy land, tender for the work, and build the houses. Meanwhile, you’ve got (a) canny operators going on local and/or national radio crying about how they and their six kids are living in a cardboard box, why isn’t the council doing its job (b) the media running stories about the scandal of homelessness using said weeping mothers of six as the photogenic hook (c) short-term bodges like paying to accommodate people in hotels which eats money.

          Getting landlords to take social tenants is also difficult because there are (1) reasonable fears on the landlord’s part about what kind of tenant this person will be and (2) when the market is squeezed, as it is now, they much prefer being able to charge whatever the going rate is to the workers who can afford to pay the hiked-up rents.

          A tax benefit scheme is just another incentive to deal with the problem.

          • brad says:

            These aren’t homeless people. Those are almost entirely in the 0-20% range and are explicitly not eligible for these affordable housing units. I said in my example 20-40% but some of these programs even go above median income.

      • 10240 says:

        they give “public options” that lower the demand for “market rate” housing (if you have a cheaper option you’re less likely to further bid up the market)

        If the same units were on the open market, the supply on the open market would be bigger, not only the demand.

    • Deiseach says:

      I can’t understand how anyone thinks that’s a good idea.

      Because half a loaf is better than no bread?

      What are the odds in your hypothetical lottery? What are the odds of people getting affordable housing out of the pool of people looking for housing? Certainly you can say “playing the lottery is stupid” but many places seem to tack on or dangle the idea of “but it’s for good causes and Z% goes to…” in order to entice people into playing.

      Heck, where I work annually applies for lottery funding under this scheme, because we might get lucky and get some money – we have done previously. Yes, we might not be lucky, but if we don’t apply, we’ll certainly get nothing.

      (By the bye, if there are any anonymous trillionaires reading this who would like to throw a few spare million at us or set up a foundation to give us a few tens of thousands extra funding per year, we’ll happily take it!)

      • 10240 says:

        Because half a loaf is better than no bread?

        I presume the counter-argument is that it’s better to, say, give $5000 to everyone who qualifies, rather than $25000 to 20% of them, as the marginal utility of money is generally decreasing.

    • Drew says:

      I can’t understand how anyone thinks that’s a good idea.

      Lots of people make a common mistake: they don’t think about people they can’t see.

      Someone wants to build a duplex in SF. There are (since this is a toy example) three potential renters: Amy the Financier, Beth the Techworker, and Carol the Teacher.

      The SF city planner loves SF and thinks it’s harmful for people to have to commute in. And — the planner notices — if we don’t intervene, then Amy & Beth will buy the units, leaving Carol struggling to find somewhere to live in the city.

      On the other hand, if we DO intervene, we can give one unit for Carol the Teacher. Amy the Financier can win the bid for the second unit. And Beth the Techworker is rich enough that she’ll have an easy time finding an apartment somewhere else.

      If we ONLY consider the people we can see, this looks like a solid win. You’ve gone from 2/3 people living near work to 3/3 people living near work.

      To get past this, you need to consider the people who don’t show up to the rent in the duplex. In this case, the “thing unseen” is ‘who is Beth going to outbid?’

      If we apply a name to that person, then we see the problem you’re pointing out. There were actually 3 transactions needed to get everyone housed:

      Transaction 1: Amy, Beth and Carol bid for 2 spots in a duplex.
      Transaction 2: The loser of transaction #1 bids against Dana the Dancer for a single apartment.
      Transaction 3: The loser of transaction #2 buys an apartment outside of SF.

      The result is that – with the subsidy – Amy, Beth and Carol live in SF, while Dana commutes. And without the subsidy, Amy Beth and Carol live in SF, while Dana commutes.

      But thinking about people we can’t see is unnatural, so most people don’t do it.

      • acymetric says:

        Transaction 1: Amy, Beth and Carol bid for 2 spots in a duplex.
        Transaction 2: The loser of transaction #1 bids against Dana the Dancer for a single apartment.
        Transaction 3: The loser of transaction #2 buys an apartment outside of SF.

        The result is that – with the subsidy – Amy, Beth and Carol live in SF, while Dana commutes. And without the subsidy, Amy Beth and Carol life in SF, while Dana commutes.

        I think you missed it by just a hair. Without the subsidy the more likely outcome is:

        Amy and beith live in SF, while Carol and Dana commute, because neither Carol nor Dana can afford to live in SF without the subsidy (the both got outbid in the 2nd transaction by Susan the Software Engineer).

        The reason it might be better to subsidize Carol/Dana and leave Susan to commute is that Carol/Dana are (presumably) considered benefits to the community, but if their only option is to commute they may not be able to afford to be a part of it and end up somewhere else entirely. In theory, although it isn’t ideal for her, Susan is better able to bear the costs of commuting than Carol or Dana.

        I’m not saying that’s outright correct, but I think it is a clearer picture of what is happening and the reasoning behind housing subsidies than what you gave, which assumes that all of the people involved can make competitive bids without the subsidy.

        • Drew says:

          Your example adds an extra name. The new wealth-ranking goes: Amy > Beth > Susan > Carol > Dana.

          From there, we’re both looking at the number of available beds and assuming that (absent a subsidy), they go to the richest people first. 1 bed will go to Amy. If there are 2 then (Amy, Beth) get them. 3 is (Amy, Beth, Susan) and 4 is (Amy, Beth, Susan, Carol). And so on.

          My argument about unseen effects is that it looks like a subsidized apartment takes a bed away from the rich. And I agree that the sentiment is that the Rich person is better able to bear the commute.

          The problem is that there’s a gap between “Beth is better able to bear the cost of a commute” and “Beth will bear the cost of a commute if we give bed #2 to someone else.”

          Rich people will still outbid everyone below them. So subsidizing bed #2 doesn’t displace the 2nd richest person unless there are only 2 beds. Instead, it just shifts everyone down a step, and displaces the poorest person who could otherwise afford an un-subsidized apartment.

          It’s possible that SF is so broken that the only people living there are either rich or explicitly subsidized. In which case, the ‘poorest person’ able to afford an unsubsidized apartment would be rich. And then subsidies have the intended effect.

          But I don’t think most proponents of the idea are thinking, “We want to expel the poorest (un-subsidized) person who lives in SF to make room for someone like Dana”, they’re thinking “We want there to be dance instructors. And Beth, being the second richest person in the city, is able to bear the cost of her commute. So let’s give bed #2 to Dana.”

          • acymetric says:

            My example adds an extra name because it is necessary for a proper illustration following your framework. I’m arguing with your assumption that Carol would live in SF at all absent a subsidy (that she would win the bid in your transaction two). The reality is likely that neither Carol nor Dana would win that bid and neither would get in-city housing.

            It displaces the poorest person who could otherwise afford an un-subsidized apartment.

            Well yeah, but that person is still richer than the person getting the subsidized housing.

        • 10240 says:

          If the city needs teachers, and at the current salaries teachers can’t afford to live in the city, and as a result many move elsewhere, then the supply of teachers is reduced, and their employers are forced to raise their salaries. Which, if their employer is the city, still means that the city is going to pay more money to teachers, but the roundabout way of using rent subsidies is unnecessary.

          • acymetric says:

            In a perfect system where the response between changes to supply and demand are perfect. Evidence that generally systems don’t work that way: any time there is a shortage of anything.

          • DinoNerd says:

            When I was a child I lived in a small city that had by then mostly been absorbed by its greater-metropolitain area.

            The richest people in the area mostly lived in that city, along with a disproportionate number of the quite well off. But some bright folks in city government had long ago decided that the city needed teachers, policemen, etc., and they were going to zone part of the city for apartment buildings, and – I think – originally also built some affordable housing and provided it to city employees.

            I lived in the zoned-for-tradesfolk area, though my parents were not city employees, and enjoyed the best public schools in the greater metropolitain area, along with lots of other amenities, paid for by the higher-than-normal housing values/rich folk who lived (literally) farther up the hill. (Us tradesfolk got the lower altitudes…)

            What I wonder is why more municipalities don’t do similar things, or no longer do such things. Some of it would be that rich folks are now settling for apartments etc., rather than disdaining them for single family homes and the rare ultra luxury apartments. (That really wasn’t a problem where we lived.) A rational wealthy person wants services available, and is somewhat choosy about the caliber of those providing them. A rational city councillor wants lot of wealthy people paying taxes, so they should want to provide good services for them. And better conditions for service providers will tend to attract better workers. Not quite a win-win for everyone – more of the local rich could fit into this city than of the local poor. But if you worked in the city, you could in general afford to live there, just not in the ritzy part.

          • 10240 says:

            @acymetric Free market rarely has shortages, and it’s about as good as it gets at sorting them out quickly. Direct solutions to a problem (such as raising the salaries of professionals we need who have become scarce) are much more likely to yield near-optimal outcomes than roundabout, indirect solutions like subsidizing rent in the hope that it makes specifically professionals whom we need stay in the city at a lower salary.

            The latter is likely to be a less efficient use of the money, e.g. some of the people it keeps in the city are such that the economic benefit of them staying in the city is less than the cost of them doing so. (It may sound insensitive that we should have them leave. However, unless you build enough housing for everyone who wants to live in a given city, it’s inevitable that some people who would like to live there can’t do so. At that point, it makes sense that they should be those whose living in the city has the least benefit, to them or others.)

  5. Hoopyfreud says:

    With much hand-wringing about the recent use of the phrase, “concentration camp,” I’ve been rereading the Commission on Wartime Relocation of Civilians’ report. From the citizens’ side:

    When we finally reached our destination, four of us men were ordered by the military personnel carrying guns to follow them. We were directed to unload the pile of evacuees’ belongings from the boxcars to the semi-trailer truck to be transported to the concentration camp. During the interim, after filling one trailer truck and waiting for the next to arrive, we were hot and sweaty and sitting, trying to conserve our energy, when one of the military guards standing with his gun, suggested that one of us should get a drink of water at the nearby water faucet and try and make a run for it so he could get some target practice.

    And from the government’s side:

    Governor Herbert Maw of Utah put forth a plan whereby the states would run the relocation program with federal financing. Each state would be given a quota of evacuees for which it “would hire the state guards, and would set up camps of Japanese and would work them under general policies and plans specified by the Federal government.” The evacuees could not be allowed to roam at large, said Maw, citing strategic works in Utah. Accusing the WRA of being too concerned about the constitutional rights of Japanese American citizens, he suggested that the Constitution could be changed.

    The Governor of Idaho agreed with Maw and advocated rounding up and supervising all those who had already entered his state. Idaho, he said, had as many strategic works as California. The Governor of Wyoming wanted evacuees put in “concentration camps.” With few exceptions, the other officials present echoed these sentiments. Only Governor Carr of Colorado took a moderate position. The voices of those hoping to use the evacuees for agricultural labor were drowned out.

    I think there’s a good argument that Japanese relocation camps count as concentration camps; I’ve certainly referred to them (and heard them referred to) as such. Is there a decent argument against that claim? Do the nazis loom so large that “concentration camp” should only be used as a synonym for “forced labor camp” or “death camp?”

    • Nornagest says:

      Bottom line is that the meaning of the word changed. Now, the Japanese relocation camps were certainly concentration camps in 1941 parlance; the term had been popularized during the Boer War some years before, to describe camps intended to temporarily intern large numbers of enemy civilians. That practice, though certainly bad by our standards, was relatively uncontroversial at the time, did not imply genocidal motives, and continued in various conflicts through most of the 20th century.

      At about the same time, though, the Nazis started using the phrase to describe camps that they didn’t expect the inmates to walk away from. This was essentially a euphemism, but colored the phrase to such an extent that anyone using it postwar would have to come to grips with some very strong Nazi associations. Compare “final solution”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Bottom line is that the meaning of the word changed. Now, the Japanese relocation camps were certainly concentration camps in 1941 parlance; the term had been popularized during the Boer War some years before, to describe camps intended to temporarily intern large numbers of enemy civilians.

        Every time I watch Casablanca, I notice that in 1941 parlance, even Nazi concentration camps were treated as places where they evilly interned enemy civilians for a year or a few years.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Every time I watch Casablanca

          I like Bogart as well as anyone else, but I’ve only watched Casablanca once. I still don’t understand what it is people like SO much about it.

          • Deiseach says:

            I still don’t understand what it is people like SO much about it.

            Because it’s romantic. Because it’s gallant. Because the cynical “leave me out of politics, I only want to get through this with my head down and make some money” businessman turns out to have principles, despite himself. (Because Claude Rains is hilarious in his part).

            Because if this doesn’t get your blood pumping, you’re a stone 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Deiseach gets it. It’s the perfect B&W Hollywood movie: romantic, gallant, leveraging the nature of the medium as propaganda for serious principles (if this sort of liberalism wasn’t outdated fiction, I wouldn’t need to be right-wing), and also deadpan hilarious.

          • John Schilling says:

            Because if this doesn’t get your blood pumping, you’re a stone

            One perfect moment, that.

            Thing is, cynicism works for Rick. He’s done very well for himself since the woman he loved walked out on him and he walked out on the whole “romantic hero” business. Now he has everything he thinks he wants, including by fate the chance to take back the girl, and all it requires is that he keep on being the cynical self-serving realist.

            With a simple nod at the right moment, he escapes the trap.

            And, yes, Claude Raines perfectly delivers a line that’s still an A-list pop culture meme three-quarters of a century later.

          • Protagoras says:

            Claude Rains has much more than the one line; he’s fantastic in the movie as a whole.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Claude Raines perfectly delivers a line that’s still an A-list pop culture meme three-quarters of a century later.

            I can think of at least three that you might be referring to!

          • John Schilling says:

            At least, but I was referring specifically to the one perfect scene Deiseach linked.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I was referring specifically to the one perfect scene Deiseach linked

            Oh, of course. Duh. Lost the thread.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This is interesting because modern Asian “reeducation camps” seem like obviously-concentration-camps to me. Whether or not they’re genocidal institutions is a bit up in the air, but I’d land on the side of, “not really, no.”

        Webster’s gives the definition for concentration camp:

        a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard —used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners

        Compare with “final solution:”

        the Nazi program for extermination of all Jews in Europe

        This matches my intuitions – “final solution” is about as Nazi as “1488,” while “concentration camp” is about as Nazi as “fascism.” Arguing from dictionary definitions is uninteresting, but I think it’s a good way to illustrate the difference in my mind. “Concentration camp” has cultural loading that colors but doesn’t dominate its meaning, whereas “final solution” exists basically exclusively as a reference. In that light, is it more appropriate to interpret “concentration camp” as “internment camp, but emphatically morally reprehensible,” or as “internment camp that’s a tool of genocide?”

        I think the former interpretation makes more sense to me; I feel like “internment camp” and “concentration camp” are functional synonyms with different connotations (and this is why I don’t feel bad about saying, “Japanese Americans were interned in concentration camps, and that was Very Bad”).

        • Nornagest says:

          I think I’d rather split the difference and land on something like “internment camp, you know, like the Nazis used”. It doesn’t strictly imply genocide, even now, but anyone using the phrase post-1945 knows or should know that it calls to mind images of Dachau and Belsen, not the Japanese or Boer internment camps.

          And if that’s what a contemporary speaker wants to imply, then fine, but it’s solidly in Godwin’s Law territory by my lights.

        • Deiseach says:

          In the context in which it’s currently being used, there are plenty of other similar situations just as bad; refugee and resettlement camps in general tend to turn into disaster areas when you’ve got never-ending numbers of new people coming in while the existing occupants are still stuck there waiting, there is a lack of resources and manpower, and no agreement over what to do with the people – send them back or let them in?

          So while the border camps may indeed be atrocious conditions, they’re their own specific example of atrocious conditions. Calling them “concentration camps” is deliberate political propaganda, that’s not their purpose, not how they were set up, and the result is, unhappily, all too common wherever such camps are located. (Also, I think it’s dishonest to claim on the one hand that the administration is deliberately denying needed supplies to the detainees, and on the other hand bully companies out of supplying those centres – so you complain that they don’t have beds or sanitary supplies but you call for boycotts of companies providing furniture, which then means no beds for the detainees at all? how does that make sense other than ‘deliberately make the situation even worse in the hopes of (a) making our political rivals look really bad and (b) the faint hope that this will cause the entire enterprise to collapse and explode so they’ll have no choice but to let all the detainees come right into the country no questions asked’. That latter is not going to happen).

          If the people doing the disingenuous “what, I never said they were Nazi fascist camps, I’m only using the dictionary definition here” logic-chopping are happy for people on the other side to go “what, I never said you were a Communist totalitarian who wanted to murder the kulaks, I’m only using the dictionary definition here” then fine, but you know as well as I do that they aren’t and wouldn’t. They’re detention camps, you could even call them internment camps, but nobody using the phrase “concentration camp” post-Second World War gets away with “I only mean like in the Boer War, guize!”

          It’s the exact same double-think as “racism/racist”, where the use of the word is meant to evoke in the minds of ordinary people “KKK lynching black men” for maximum emotional impact and vilifying the opposition, but when called on it, it’s all “no no no, we mean structural racism”.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If the people doing the disingenuous “what, I never said they were Nazi fascist camps, I’m only using the dictionary definition here” logic-chopping are happy for people on the other side to go “what, I never said you were a Communist totalitarian who wanted to murder the kulaks, I’m only using the dictionary definition here” then fine, but you know as well as I do that they aren’t and wouldn’t. They’re detention camps, you could even call them internment camps, but nobody using the phrase “concentration camp” post-Second World War gets away with “I only mean like in the Boer War, guize!”

            Again, yes, “it’s the dictionary definition” is a bad argument. I’m trying to make an argument for how “concentration camp” is actually currently used. I hear it applied to a lot of things that aren’t Nazi death camps, enough so that a strict insistence on “internment camp” and “relocation camp” are the things that come off as doublespeak-ish to me. I’m trying to determine how widely that impression is shared.

          • Randy M says:

            refugee and resettlement camps in general tend to turn into disaster areas when you’ve got never-ending numbers of new people coming in while the existing occupants are still stuck there waiting

            You’ve got a good point. Unless there’s a seasonal variation, the need for of these camps leads almost inevitably to their being lousy. Anytime inflow is greater than outflow, you’re going to get a swamp.

            If these refugees were fleeing a coup or civil war, there might be an end in site, but I don’t think that’s even posited to be the case, is it? The camps will swell until their conditions are worse than that of the home country.

          • beleester says:

            Calling them “concentration camps” is deliberate political propaganda, that’s not their purpose, not how they were set up, and the result is, unhappily, all too common wherever such camps are located.

            From my perspective, they’re squarely in “sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.” I don’t particularly care whether the situation resulted from a deliberate attempt to hurt asylum seekers or from callous indifference, either one makes the Trump administration terrible people.

            I don’t think this board would accept someone defending communism with an argument like “Causing mass starvation wasn’t the purpose of communism, that wasn’t how it was set up, that’s just an unhappy, all too common result wherever communist revolutions happen,” but apparently concentration camps are okay so long as you didn’t intend for children to suffer and die in them.

    • Eric Rall says:

      AIUI, the term “Concentration Camp” originally comes from the Second Boer War, specifically the guerrilla warfare phase.

      To oversimplify enormously, Britain acquired a Dutch colony in what’s now South Africa in the early 1800s. Some of the existing Dutch-descended settlers (known as “Boers” or “Afrikaners”) moved inland and set up their own independent colonies outside of British colonial rule (the Transvaal and Orange Free State, collectively known as the “Boer Republics”). They came into conflict with their British neighbors in the late 1800s, which ended with the British conquering the Boer Republics and incorporating them with the existing British colonies into the Union of South Africa.

      During the Second Boer War, when the actual conquering happened, the British found themselves trying to occupy a remote area with an almost entirely rural population, most of whom were armed and organized into a militia system. A lot of the militiamen continued fighting guerrilla war against the British, mostly aimed at the British supply system.

      It took the British a while to work out effective counter-guerilla doctrine. One of the tactics they tried boiled down to “arrest literally everyone in the area”: the British would round up the entire civilian population of a rural area and “concentrate” them into prison camps where they could be effectively controlled. This was combined with a scorched earth campaign where the now-vacant fields, herds, and farmhouses would be destroyed to prevent guerrilla bands from using them. In total, about 150,000 Boers were held in the camps.

      The camps were appallingly poorly managed, with something like 20% of the inmates dying of malnutrition and disease. They were not, however, intended as death camps: the death came from ~1900-era sloppiness and ignorance about sanitation, combined with criminal hubris on the part of the British senior commanders about their ability to ship in adequate food, clothing, and medical supplies for the people they were arresting. I’ve heard claims (not sure about sources) that the British soldiers guarding the camps had similar death rates, likewise from malnutrition and disease.

      In the original sense of the term, America’s WW2 internment camps were similar in intent to the British concentration camps of the Boer War, although they were implemented with far less cause (as a response to a feared espionage/sabotage campaign, instead of an actual large-scale guerrilla war) and were implemented far more competently (the inmates were adequately fed, and there was a largely successful effort to prevent and control disease outbreaks in the camps) with a consequently far lower death rate (1.5% total over four years, compared with 20% total over two years).

      In modern usage, however, “concentration camp” is much more closely linked to the Nazi camps, which were set up from the beginning with reckless indifference towards the survival of the inmates, with an increasing effort over the course of the war to systematically murder them. It should go without saying that the American internment camps were fundamentally different from these.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        In modern usage, however, “concentration camp” is much more closely linked to the Nazi camps, which were set up from the beginning with reckless indifference towards the survival of the inmates, with an increasing effort over the course of the war to systematically murder them.

        To what extent is that the case, is my question. If concentration camp is an acceptable modern descriptor for Japanese internment camps – and I think it is – then the fact that American internment camps were substantially different from Nazi death camps isn’t relevant to questions about the use-definition of “concentration camp” in that context.

        • Clutzy says:

          True, but it is much, much, more correct to describe the camps as either: 1) Prison Camps; or 2) Refugee camps.

          If you believe the majority of asylum claims are fraudulent, these are simply prisons containing suspected criminals. They also contain some unlawfully incarcerated people who are imprisoned because of their own failure to provide sufficient corroborating evidence of their asylum status, and because we don’t have infinite money and manpower to dedicate to their processing.

          If you believe the majority of asylum claims are valid, these are temporary refugee camps until the refugees can be properly re-settled.

          The problem with “concentration camp” as language, isn’t just the Nazi reference, the Boer and Japanese internment references are also not applicable. The people who are being detained are coming across the border with the intent interact with government officials, fully informed of the high likelihood of detention, and they often employ strategies to try and fit into loopholes to avoid inspection of their asylum claims, such as bringing minors.

          • Murphy says:

            If you believe

            Where do they fall if you believe the government is intentionally trying to make them horrible places with the intent of discouraging anyone, legit refugees or not, from seeking asylum and that the government is fundamentally uninterested in the true legitimacy of their claims?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            My concern is really with the denial that that term should apply to the Japanese internment camps, which is one of the bits of American history that straight-up enrages me and that I think is really, really important to not forget. “Concentration camp implies genocide” is, I think, not a good argument because it implies apologetics for some stuff that’s pretty widely considered to be heinous in its own right. I don’t totally buy the argument you’ve laid out, but I think they’re a lot better, both in quality and implication, than “calling them concentration camps is calling the government Nazis.”

          • acymetric says:

            True, but it is much, much, more correct to describe the camps as either: 1) Prison Camps; or 2) Refugee camps.

            In what possible sense could the Japanese internment camps be considered refugee camps? They weren’t refugees!

            Edit: If you were talking about how to label the current border camps, then retracted. Not clear to me which argument you are referring to but maybe it should be.

        • Deiseach says:

          the fact that American internment camps were substantially different from Nazi death camps isn’t relevant to questions about the use-definition of “concentration camp” in that context

          I think it makes a very big difference. If I say that Hoopyfreud is a vivisector, do you think it would make no difference if Hoopyfreud is testing drugs on animals, squirting shampoo into rabbits’ eyes or using live human beings as experimental subjects? I think it does, I imagine Hoopyfreud would think so too – not least because murdering humans might get them the death penalty depending on what state they lived in.

          I’m sure there are those who would make no difference between (1) animal testing for medical research (2) cosmetics safety (3) using humans, but I do think in that case Hoopyfreud might want to insist on the fine shade of meaning to be used?

          If you’re happy to say “American detention camps are the same as American internment camps during the war which were the same as German death camps”, then fine – but show me where the poison gas chambers and crematoria are located first, okay?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The use-definition of vivisection implies only one of those things, though. People are going to look at you weirdly if you call shampooing a rabbit vivisection, but (IME) not if you call Manzanar a concentration camp. You’re taking as granted an answer to the question I’m actually asking that I don’t agree with.

    • This is party about people not understanding how language works. It doesn’t matter that people originally referred to “concentration camps” in reference to the Boer War. Words change their meaning based on their use. If everyone is using the word “concentration camp”, in reference to genocide post world war 2, then that word has something to do with genocide now. You can’t hide behind historical use to justify your stupid claims.

      But of course, they know what kinds of images the term brings up. Do you think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had any idea what the Boer War was before she used it as a defense? Highly doubtful. She used the word “concentration camp” to bring up connotations of Nazi’s and everyone knows it, even if they don’t want to admit it.

      General heuristic you should go by: If you think you can win a political argument by defining something in a way completely different from its common usage, you’re both wrong and not going to convince anyone. Just don’t do it.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        It doesn’t matter that people originally referred to “concentration camps” in reference to the Boer War. Words change their meaning based on their use. If everyone is using the word “concentration camp”, in reference to genocide post world war 2, then that word has something to do with genocide now. You can’t hide behind historical use to justify your stupid claims.

        Yeah, sure, absolutely. My question is regarding the extent to which this is actually the case. If the Wikipedia article on Japanese internment starts with,

        The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000[5] people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens.[6][7] These actions were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.[8]

        Then is everyone using “concentration camp” in reference to genocide? I’d say no, that “concentration camp” doesn’t presently imply genocide. This is an argument from descriptivism, not prescriptivism. I’m trying to understand what “concentration camp” actually implies.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Sample 10 people and see what they think of when you say “concentration camps.”

          When I search on Google Image for Concentration Camp, I am 99% sure the entire first page is nothing but images from the death camps. Google also suggests alternative searches like “The Holocaust” and “Auschwitz” and “Dachau.”

          The word you are looking for is “internment camp,.” If you search THAT, you get a whole bunch of references to the US internment of the Japanese in WWII.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The 38th image result (for me) for “concentration camp” is an American camp. All the ones before it are Nazi camps.

            I have never denied that Nazi camps are central examples of concentration camps. I’m only arguing that calling Japanese internment camps concentration camps is appropriate contemporary usage.

          • Randy M says:

            When you use a non-central usage you get the connotations of the central example.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy

            That doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate if that’s what you’re intending to connote. The argument against describing them as such, as I understand it, is that the use-definition is incongruous with the institution, not that the use-definition carries a connotation incongruous with the institution. I agree that it carries an additional connotation; I’m arguing that, despite that, the usage is appropriate. Using words with loaded connotations is acceptable. Using words with use-definitions that make your statement untrue is not.

          • Randy M says:

            That doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate if that’s what you’re intending to connote.

            Not illogical, anyway. Whether it’s appropriate depends on if those connotations are factual or at least explicitly acknowledged.

        • It’s possible that some historians use “concentration camp” in a distinct way to imply Not Genocide. But for everyone else it means genocide. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the detention centers were concentration camps, she is directly comparing them to Nazi concentration camps. Everyone thought that when she made the comment so I don’t know why anyone is claiming otherwise. The word use doesn’t change the reality of the situation. It’s just a cheap smear tactic.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            I think most commentators here are underestimating AOC – She most certainly knew about the boer war antecedent, and also that most people would misunderstand her.

            The thing is, in order to refute the misunderstanding, it became necessary to describe the actual conditions of these camps, which very much do justify “Concentration camp” in the Boer or japanese internment sense.
            So net result: You cant call her a liar, at most you can accuse her of outdated use of language, and the conditions of said camps got put front and center of the news cycle for weeks on end, and she got to cement her image as a firebrand battling Evil some more. That is a very, very decisive win. Perhaps not with /theDonald but she was never going to win that audience anyway.

            She is really good at this. This is very much of a piece with the way she somehow got fox news to mostly accurately describe her proposals on air. In order to attack her, sure, but… most of those proposals are very popular! Red, and unthinkable to fox news pundits, but telling your audience that the scary communist lady wants to introduce medicare for all, and introduce 70% taxes on people making millions a year.. is.. not as a scary as those talking heads think it is. That was free advertising..

          • Randy M says:

            The thing is, in order to refute the misunderstanding, it became necessary to describe the actual conditions of these camps, which very much do justify “Concentration camp” in the Boer or japanese internment sense.

            This is exactly the argument made about Trumps’ exaggerations. “He knew there were xx million illegals voting, but when he said that, he forced people to bring up the real estimate of x million.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think those proposals are as popular as you think they are. Nor is AOC that popular, even in her home state and district. I’m not aware of independent polls, but here’s a group of anti-AOCers who knocked on 10,000 doors in her district and found about a 21% approval and 50% disapproval rating for her. Take that with a grain of salt, but it kind of jives with what @brad, who lives in her district said about Joe Crowley: they didn’t vote for AOC over Joe because they liked what AOC was selling so much as because Joe wasn’t representing the interests of their district. He was off doing Dem party machine stuff. AOC isn’t doing much for the people of her district (aside from costing them billions of dollars in tax revenue by driving Amazon away) but is instead doing photo ops pretending to cry at fences for illegals on the southern border. Given the annoyance she has caused for Nancy Pelosi, I’d bet even money the party fields somebody less “outspoken” to primary her out next year.

            She most certainly knew about the boer war antecedent

            You really think so? She was a bartender, and not a politics or history buff. The Justice Democrats did a casting call for somebody to run in her district, her brother submitted her name, and she got the role*. This is basically a phoney person. The idea that she’s totes up to snuff on her Boer War history is…unlikely.

            * This is another great Snopes article where they label the claim as “FALSE” for the people who only read the headline…and then spend the entire article basically supporting the point they just labeled “false.”

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Eh.. I knew about the Boer war camps, and the Armenian Genocide in highschool. It was covered as background material for the holocaust. You also get a long list of pre-nazi concentration camps if you peruse the wiki on the subject for 60 seconds.
            Not an implausible bar to clear.

            Also, what term should she have used? The camps on the border are clearly in the same category as the pre-nazi use of the term, was she supposed to make up a new word? Heck, “Camp intended to kill” already has a separate term – its called an extermination camp.

          • @Thomas

            How about “detention center”, that word that the is used by the ICE and isn’t used solely to be provocative? There was no underlying need to say “concentration camps”. AOC just wants to compare Republicans to Nazis and saying otherwise is dishonest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, “detention center” is fine. It’s basically a temporary jail. No one is trying to concentrate or indefinitely imprison these people. I don’t want them in these centers at all, and I don’t want the centers to exist. I want a wall, and guards, and when someone illegally crosses the wall, I don’t want them detained I want them put back on the other side of the wall and told to go home.

          • John Schilling says:

            The camps on the border are clearly in the same category as the pre-nazi use of the term, was she supposed to make up a new word?

            “Internment camp” is not a new word, and is a perfectly good word for almost any legitimate purpose here.

            Heck, “Camp intended to kill” already has a separate term – its called an extermination camp.

            “Camp intended to kill” very nearly has two separate terms now, “extermination camp” and “concentration camp”. Often, the latter term just implies “…by starvation and indifference and casual cruelty rather than actual poison gas”.

            I think it would be helpful if we had one term for “camp intended to kill an entire class of people” and another term that clearly means “camp intended to temporarily imprison but not kill an entire class of people”, with the one being having a clear connotation of Very Evil and the other Somewhat Less Evil. Since we don’t, I think it would probably be best if we were to err on the side of using technically correct terms like “internment camp” that make people seem less evil than they actually are, rather than technically correct terms that will often be interpreted as accusing people of greater evils than they have committed.

            Unless the goal is to fire up the base by saying “Our enemies are Maximally Evil, and they are trying to hide their Maximal Evilness, clearly we all need to come together in 100% devotion to Maximal Opposition”, in which case concentration camps it is.

          • Don P. says:

            AOC “graduated cum laude from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics.” [WP] I think that’s the sort of person who would have heard about the Boer War.

          • Nornagest says:

            She probably did at some point, and even if she didn’t, she’s certainly heard of the Japanese internment camps. Nonetheless, I don’t think this is some kind of 4D chess move; the Boer War just doesn’t loom that large in anyone’s mind except for a few specialist historians, which she’s not. She might have edited the phrasing (or, more likely, had someone else go over it) to make sure she wasn’t saying anything wrong enough to get embarrassed about, but acting like this is some kind of deliberate bait-and-switch play is giving her too much credit.

            More than that, it’s exactly the type of too much credit that political fanboys like to give their idols when they say something dumb. We’ve seen three years of this with Trump, you ought to be able to recognize it when it happens across the aisle.

        • Deiseach says:

          Hoopyfreud, whoever wrote that Wikipedia article is absolutely using the emotional valence of “concentration camp” to express disapproval and condemnation of the American internment camps. They’re not using a historical term in a neutral manner of definition, they very much mean to imply “just as the Nazis rounded up Jews and other undesirables into camps to exterminate them, just as shamefully the US did this to Japanese-Americans and Japanese in America on racist grounds”.

          You can argue the toss, but when someone goes on about “nazis, fascists, alt-right” and the like, they are not meaning anything neutral such as “Joe Bloggs is a Fascist, by which I mean politically he adheres to the Salazarian doctrine”, they mean full-on SS skulls and murder Schindler’s List badness. Same with “concentration camp” and how it’s used today. I know about the Boer War, but I’d be damn interested to know how many young(ish) Americans know the same and know where the term originally comes from? I’m going to go out on a limb that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter followers are not all keen historians of the early 20th century and when they talk about “concentration camps” they damn well do mean “deliberately trying to genocide Guatemalans on racist grounds by forcing them into dirty, crowded, dangerous conditions, putting children in cages, and denying them soap, beds, and even water to drink”.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            whoever wrote that Wikipedia article is absolutely using the emotional valence of “concentration camp” to express disapproval and condemnation of the American internment camps. They’re not using a historical term in a neutral manner of definition, they very much mean to imply “just as the Nazis rounded up Jews and other undesirables into camps to exterminate them, just as shamefully the US did this to Japanese-Americans and Japanese in America on racist grounds”.

            I don’t disagree! It’s absolutely not a neutral term. My position is that it’s a loaded but accurate term. If people are using it that way to connote shame and horror, I have no problem with that. I agree. But I’m saying that it’s loaded, which is not the same thing as exaggerated or overstated.

          • acymetric says:

            I think people are failing to (or are unwilling to) distinguish between language that shows bias and incorrect/dishonest language.

          • Deiseach says:

            Hoopyfreud, suppose the government says “Okay, yes, they’re concentration camps”. What next?

            (a) Everyone goes “See, we said they were the same as Japanese internment camps and the Boer war camps and the government just admitted it”
            (b) Everyone goes “See, we said the government are Nazis and they just admitted it!”

            I know which option I’m betting on. Now, Honest Citizen John thinks that the internment camps are a disastrous mess and should be better organised, and if that means putting a massive building programme in place to build dormitories and facilities and staff them with appropriate caregivers in order to handle the numbers of people going through, then that is what should be done. Is Honest Citizen John approving of concentration camps? Is he a fascist racist nazi?

            Honest Citizen Sally also thinks the camps are a disastrous mess. She thinks there shouldn’t be any camps at all, that the people turning up should be taken at their word that they’re refugees and asylum seekers and they should be let straight into the country. Is she in agreement with Honest Citizen John? On one point they are, that the camps are a mess and something drastic needs to be done to improve conditions. If that was as far as it went, I think people could agree to disagree about immigration policy.

            Now, suppose that in order to have these camps closed down, Honest Citizen Sandy is willing to do whatever it takes, including using propaganda and loaded terms that have a huge emotional impact, never mind what the literal dictionary definition is technically, about calling them “concentration camps” because Sandy knows that for most people this conjures up images from Schindler’s List in the back of their minds. Is Honest Citizen Sandy being so honest?

            I submit that using such tactics is, well, tactics. Even if you think it’s in a good cause, as many of the people doubtless do, it’s still using a loaded term to get your opponents in trouble. Perhaps there are honest citizens out there who do think these are literal concentration camps as in literally trying to exterminate, whether by neglect or more malign deliberate policy, the people immured in them.

            This is our major bone of contention. Do you, Hoopyfreud, at base believe the government is trying to kill or does not care about killing the occupants of such camps? Do you agree that Roosevelt’s government that created the Japanese internment camps, which you consider are concentration camps by definition, was a fascist government? Because that is what it is coming down to in the popular discourse right now. Not merely that these are bad, that the principles behind them are bad, and even that there is racism and fear-mongering going on, but that there is at best a horrible indifference to the loss of life and at worst deliberate intentional ‘let them die so others will be scared off trying to come here’ at work.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “…and at worst deliberate intentional ‘let them die so others will be scared off trying to come here’ at work”

            This morning I heard on a further left radio station (and by further left, I mean those from whom it’s clear that “leftists” and “liberals are still not synonyms, just as they weren’t in the ’70’s) that was contending that “Forcing them into the the desert to die because of the border fences as a warning to others” has been U.S. Federal government policy since the Clinton administration.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Honest Citizen Sandy

            Freudian slip?

            But anyway, I don’t expect the government to call anything it operates a “concentration camp” any more than it’s willing the call Guantanamo a “torture facility.” I expect the government to euphamize around it. Loaded terms are for polemics, not institutions. The recognition isn’t important to me; the political will is.

            Do you, Hoopyfreud, at base believe the government is trying to kill or does not care about killing the occupants of such camps?

            No. I think that the government is uneasy about the deaths that result from the conditions at these camps. I think that there are probably people at these camps who that’s true for, but that’s pretty much expected. But I’m the one making the case that that’s not implied by “concentration camp.”

            Do you agree that Roosevelt’s government that created the Japanese internment camps, which you consider are concentration camps by definition, was a fascist government?

            Yeah, at least as far as the Japanese internment went. I think it was a shameful, horrible thing we did and I’m glad we paid reparations for it. They were well deserved. I’d call it like a 7 on the fascism scale. But IMO the real bone of contention is whether the callous indifference toward human life is actually what’s implied.

          • It seems to be that there is a significant difference between a refugee camp and a concentration camp. A concentration camp is someplace people are put in, almost always against their will. A refugee camp is someplace people go to.

          • Randy M says:

            The refugees aren’t going to America to get into the camps, though. If they know about them, they are going in spite of them.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Randy

            I doubt most refugees prefer the camp to just being in Istanbul/Munich.

            The choice they are making is between their old home and the camp with the hope of resettlement.

          • Ant says:

            A refugee camp is someplace people go to.

            In the same way that other people choose to drown in the mediterranean sea, sure.

      • Murphy says:

        General heuristic, if a government starts herding an unpopular minority into a camplike set of facilities that we can apparently agree are similar in form and function enough to fit the same term as it was used in the 1930’s and 40’s to describe the internment camps used to hold japanese americans, the camps used to hold people during the boer war and similar….

        Then it may not matter much if you want to play word games.

        Whatever terms you apply to it a lot of people have a general heuristic, that that set of behaviour strongly fits a bad set of patterns for a government to fall into.

        Historically the results didn’t typically turn out to mesh well with phrases like “and afterwards people mostly agreed that this was morally the right thing for them to have done”.

        • S_J says:

          General heuristic, if a government starts herding an unpopular minority into a camplike set of facilities that we can apparently agree are similar in form and function enough to fit the same term as it was used in the 1930’s and 40’s to describe the internment camps used to hold japanese americans, the camps used to hold people during the boer war and similar….

          Then it may not matter much if you want to play word games.

          Whatever terms you apply to it a lot of people have a general heuristic, that that set of behaviour strongly fits a bad set of patterns for a government to fall into.

          In case no one has told you, the detention centers currently used for some migrants caught illegally entering the United States have been in place since the Obama administration.

          It’s easiest for me to find references to children separated from parents for processing in the 2014 timeframe…but there is evidence that the practice of keeping illegal immigrants in detention facilities is based on policies that date back to the Presidency of Bill Clinton in the mid-90s.

          • Murphy says:

            yes, I’ve written at some length about it.

            https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/42226/were-illegally-immigrating-children-held-in-cages-during-the-obama-administratio/42228#42228

            So, now that the tribal politics is out of the way.

            General heuristic, if a government starts herding an unpopular minority into a camplike set of facilities that we can apparently agree are similar in form and function enough to fit the same term as it was used in the 1930’s and 40’s to describe the internment camps used to hold japanese americans, the camps used to hold people during the boer war and similar….

            Then it may not matter much if you want to play word games.

            Whatever terms you apply to it a lot of people have a general heuristic, that that set of behaviour strongly fits a bad set of patterns for a government to fall into.

          • Quick question: what is your motivation for using “concentration camp” in the first place instead of “detention centers”?

          • Murphy says:

            Which user is that addressed to?

          • S_J says:

            @Murphy,

            we now have the problem of deciding whether unpopular minority is a good way to describe people who show up at the American border and ask for asylum.

            They are a minority, and there is a measure of un-popularity…but the guiding rules are grounded in the process for handling potential-asylum-seekers, especially when they come in large waves and appear to be interpreting desire for economic opportunity as roughly equivalent to need for asylum.

            Relevant to the larger discussion of the phrase “concentration camps”, this is a distinction that I think is important.

            The United States Government didn’t send armed men out to round up unpopular minorities (from either inside or outside the United States) and herd them into camps. The United States Government constructed these camps to handle large numbers of people asking for asylum.

          • Murphy says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t believe I did use the term “concentration camp” anywhere.

            my posts are specifically about the idea that it doesn’t matter much what you call them. They have properties that historically correlate with the sorts of events where everyone tries to pretend they never supported their use afterwards.

            @S_J

            The United States Government didn’t send armed men out to round up unpopular minorities (from either inside or outside the United States)

            That doesn’t seem to be entirely true. They are specifically rounding up people far from the border.

            including occasionally interning US citizens of mexican descent, apparently sometimes without trial.

            without attorneys or, in many cases, administrative hearings.

            https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/pa4mq7/the-us-keeps-mistakenly-deporting-its-own-citizens

            And yes, this absolutely does predate trump so can we please not treat it as a partisan issue. He’s only notable in being slightly more enthusiastic and slightly less careful about it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          A conservative politician has claimed that the people in the detention centers are free to leave any time they want. They aren’t free to go into the US, but they are free to go into Mexico.

          I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve yet to see him challenged on the correctness of that fact, despite bringing it up to people who would be prepared to say it’s wrong.

          People used to be quarantined at Ellis Island. Were those concentration camps?

          migrants caught illegally entering the United States

          I’ll object back the other way here: They aren’t necessarily illegally entering the US. In many cases they are coming to the border and applying for asylum. An asylum case that is very likely to fail, but it’s not illegal to make an asylum case.

          • Refugees camps are extremely common throughout history with much worse conditions than what exists now. But nobody brings those up because they can’t use it to take political shots.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            An asylum case that is very likely to fail, but it’s not illegal to make an asylum case.

            Are we sure about that? It’s usually a crime to lie to the government, so if one falsely claims they’re fleeing violence or persecution (the legitimate reasons we grant asylum), isn’t that a crime?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Presumably the burden of proof for a false claim falls on the government if it wants to prosecute it. If the government can prove that they did not believe they had sufficient standing to make a claim, or that they knowingly lied about the actual conditions at home, probably. But that’s very, very hard, especially if there were no substantial material lies involved.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            May not want to prosecute it, but that doesn’t make it not illegal. If I’m jaywalking and the cop can’t be bothered to stop me and write me a ticket that doesn’t mean I didn’t commit a crime.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Are we sure about that? It’s usually a crime to lie to the government, so if one falsely claims they’re fleeing violence or persecution (the legitimate reasons we grant asylum), isn’t that a crime?

            In the same sense that Donald Trump obstructed justice.

            If you want to make a case for actual perjury, IMO you have to show material falsifications of fact, not truly claiming you got shaken down by the local mob and that you think this is a reason for asylum when the US government does not.

          • Randy M says:

            I think it’s quite likely that a lot of these migrants have no idea what the actual definition of asylum is.

            If they know, and do not meet it, they are committing fraud, though perhaps not in the legal sense.

            This lessens the sympathy somewhat, but we don’t want disproportionate suffering for fraud.

            To the extent that the camps/centers are creating any unnecessary suffering, that should be promptly ameliorated–by means other than actually rewarding the false or inaccurate claims of asylum with an opportunity to migrate contrary to the current laws.

          • Matt M says:

            Um, guys. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that a migrant saying “I was beat up by a bully, therefore I am entitled to asylum” is guilty of a crime if it turns out that being beaten up by a bully is not a valid reason for being entitled to asylum.

            The allegation here is that a whole lot of migrants are saying “I was beat up by a bully, therefore I am entitled to asylum” but they were not actually beaten up by a bully at all. That is to say, they are lying about the very foundational details of their story, they aren’t just innocently ignorant of the complexities of US asylum claim processing…

        • In addition to what Edward said, there is the bigger issue that the word concentration camp was clearly used to tar Republicans. It’s a bad faith non-argument designed to be outrageous and at some level you know this.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            It’s a bad faith non-argument designed to be outrageous and at some level you know this.

            I’d say it’s a good faith real argument designed to be outrageous. If you think these camps are actually comparable to concentration camps, the fact that you say this in language calculated to make people upset is a feature, not a bug. People SHOULD be wary about institutions that resemble concentration camps. “Calling it a concentration camp means you think the government is Nazis” is the bad-faith argument if contemporary usage of “concentration camp” envelopes non-genocidal concentration camps. Like I said above, I think it carries the connotation, but isn’t implicit in the definition. This is why I am trying to figure out what the consensus definition of “concentration camp” includes. If the envelope is large, this is rhetoric. If it’s small, this is a lie.

          • Detention centers are obviously extremely different from Nazi concentration camps. There’s no underlying need to say concentration camps. It’s only purpose is so that progressives can frame any immigration argument as conservatives defending concentration camps, winning the argument before it even starts. If you make this argument, you are making a bad argument on purpose, the very meaning of acting in bad faith.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Detention centers are obviously extremely different from Nazi concentration camps.

            OK, good, we’re finally hitting the actual point of contention. What would you say would have to change about the CBP camps in order for them to be reasonably called concentration camps, between:

            1) Rounding up illegal immigrants in the US and sending them there
            2) Rounding up legal immigrants in the US and sending them there
            3) Prohibiting anyone there from leaving
            4) Instituting forced labor
            5) Dramatically reducing the level of accommodations
            6) Slaughtering the detainees
            7) Other

            And no, I’m not suggesting you or anyone else wants to do these things. Obviously nobody – or, at least, anyone who isn’t an Extremely Brave Race Warrior who fantasizes about shooting up a Señor Frog’s – does. I am asking about the meaning of the phrase.

          • Deiseach says:

            if contemporary usage of “concentration camp” envelopes non-genocidal concentration campsif contemporary usage of “concentration camp” envelopes non-genocidal concentration camps

            That’s our point of disagreement: I don’t think contemporary usage of “concentration camps” includes “Boer War and other examples before and contemporeneously with the Nazis, but not the same as Nazi work/death camps”.

            Where are all these polling and survey companies when you need them? I’d love to see a poll done on “what do you think of when you hear “concentration camp”/what do you mean when you say “concentration camp”?” because I think for every one person going “Oh yeah, Boer War” you’ll get nine going “Auschwitz, man, what else?”

          • When the government starts shooting them, you have my blessing to talk about concentration camps.

          • What would you say would have to change about the CBP camps in order for them to be reasonably called concentration camps, between:

            3) Prohibiting anyone there from leaving

            I think your 3 is the essential point.

            Suppose we had very large homeless shelters, places where homeless people could go, be provided beds and food and water under pretty unattractive circumstances. While they were in the shelters their movements would be restricted in various ways, but they would always be free to go.

            I don’t think those would be concentration camps. The point of a concentration camp is to hold lots of people who don’t want to be there.

          • albatross11 says:

            Isn’t the whole issue here just that we don’t want to release the people claiming refugee status into the country, because we fear that the ones with obviously bogus claims will just try to disappear into the population since they know a hearing will go against them?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’ve written several posts on these OTs defending the Japanese relocation-cum-internment camps as definitely not concentration camps. Have you read any of them? If not, I’m tired now but I’ll find them tomorrow and link them. But the gist is that as poorly as FDR understood human nature, the point was not to round up all the Japanese or keep them in one place to watch them but just to move them away from the coasts, and those interned were free to leave. That they would rather wait out the war in the camps so they could go home to the west coast later than relocate to Ohio or whatever is obvious in retrospect. But 25% of the interned Japanese-Americans left. 25% of the concentration camp imprisoned Jews in WWII most certainly did not.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Eh, because I can’t let things sit, here was a recent thread.

        No, they were not meant to keep the Japanese Americans concentrated. They were to facilitate moving them away from the exclusionary zones (large portions of California, Oregon and Washington along the coasts), which is why they were originally called “relocation camps.” The Japanese Americans were then free to leave*, just they can’t go back into the EZs. Go to Ohio or whatever. About a quarter of them did. With hindsight, we recognize the failure to understand human nature: you tell people “well, you can’t go home, but you can go someplace that’s not home and without your community or stay here for the duration of the war” and the vast majority of people are going to wait it out so they can go home. The camps then became “internment camps” because the people were staying there rather than relocating. But they were never “concentration camps,” because the people were free to leave, which defeats the assumed goal of a concentration camp (to concentrate people). Modern revisionists like to try to call them concentration camps so they can reach into the past and condemn people for exaggerated immorality so they can claim moral superiority over dead people who can’t defend themselves or explain the context of their actions.

        * With the exception of Japanese citizens who were in America when the war broke out, and a very small number of US Citizens of recent Japanese descent who renounced their citizenship and swore allegiance to the Japanese emperor. These were the few camps with guards/barbed wire for the duration of the war from which people could not leave.

        And then:

        The Jews had “no place to go” because other countries refused to take them. And after the relocation attempts ended, the Jews were not “free to leave if they could find a place to go.” They were pressed into forced labor or murdered. That’s the difference between a concentration camp prison and an internment camp from which you are free to leave.

        “Nearly a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States, outside the exclusion zone.” So, you can’t tell me “they had no place else to go” when 25% of them did find such places. Some left and were allowed back in the exclusion zones under a program where sponsors vouched for their loyalty. Some left to study at universities, and a few thousand left the camps and were accepted into the US military where they fought for their country against the Empire of Japan. And those who remained, remained not because Chicago or Ohio would have forbidden them entry (like countries that refused entry to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany), but because waiting it out was a less-bad alternative to starting over in Chicago or Ohio. Calling the Japanese American relocation-cum-internment camps “concentration camps” is a deceptive attempt to create a moral equivalence between the United States and Nazi Germany. It is not true, it is not kind, and it is definitely not necessary.

        Was it a good situation? No. But what would you do? You’re FDR. You’re fighting two total wars against evil, autocratic regimes that would enslave or exterminate anyone who isn’t them. You’ve got people inside the country who are cousins, first second and third of the enemy. You have solid intelligence that some of them are still loyal to their extended family and their emperor, and that the emperor has plans to sway them to his side. A little over 100,000 of these people live close enough to the coastal military bases (through and from which the soldiers, ships and war materiel vital to victory will flow) to sabotage or spy on them. Victory is a long, long way away and by no means certain, and the fate of the world, be it liberal democracy or totalitarian hell hangs in the balance. What do you do?

        Total war calls on every citizen to make sacrifices. Rationing. War bonds. Round the clock production. 6 million Americans volunteered for the military and another 10 million were inducted by conscription. About 400,000 of them died. Hundreds of thousands more were wounded, disabled or crippled. And about 100,000 Japanese Americans were drafted to sit this one out. So were 7,000 German Americans and 3,000 Italian Americans. I thank them for their service to their country. But I’m not sorry.

        tl;dr FDR did nothing wrong.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Except FDR didn’t in fact have “solid intelligence” concluding that Japanese-Americans were a threat; he had racist surmise. The impartial reports of the time concluded that Japanese-Americans were just as loyal as any other American population. There was no actual rational reason to conscript (=enslave) people based purely on ethnic background; there was no actual rational reason to fear widespread sabotage or espionage by US citizens of Japanese descent; there was just groundless racist hysteria, as exemplified by Hoopyfreud’s quotations upthread.

          • Lillian says:

            The solid in intelligence in question is the Niihau incident. One of the Japanese pilots who participated on the attack on Pearl Harbour was shot down, but was able to make an emergency landing on the island of Niihau and walked away from it. Yoshio and Irene Harada, two second generation Japanese-Ameircans, eventually sided with the downed pilot and conspired to help him, despite not previously showing any anti-American sentiment. They stole weapons, freed the pilot from his guards, torched a house, and took some islanders hostage. Eventually a fight resulted in the deaths of the pilot and Yoshio Harada, while one of the islanders was injured. Effectively despite being American citizens who had been born and raised in America, two people of Japanese descent defected to the Empire of Japan at the behest of only a single enemy combatant.

            That two Japanese-Americans who had lived in America their whole lives were still more loyal to Japan is not racist hysteria, it’s something at actually factually happened. Now it’s certainly unfair to hold a hundred thousand people responsible for the actions of two, and i personally do not think it was justified to ban Japanese-Americans from the entire West Coast. It was thoroughly wrong to do it, and i’m glad Congress eventually issued an official apology and paid reparations to the affected. Nonetheless the fact remains that the whole thing was not based on baseless scaremongering. Despite the fact that the US government fully expected a war with Japan in the near future, there were no plans to relocate Japanese-Americans until after the Niihau incident came to light.

          • salvorhardin says:

            I would count the collective punishment of 100,000 people for the actions of two as close enough to groundless racist hysteria as makes no difference. Not unlike post-9/11 fears about American Muslims, but with far more severe consequences.

          • bean says:

            I would count the collective punishment of 100,000 people for the actions of two as close enough to groundless racist hysteria as makes no difference. Not unlike post-9/11 fears about American Muslims, but with far more severe consequences.

            It was two out of three Japanese-Americans on the island, which is a sample too small for significance, but also deeply worrying.

            What should they have done? German and Italian citizens were also barred from important military areas. A serious part of the problem was that the West Coast was so thick with military bases it was much easier to just kick them out of the major cities entirely. The racism really seems to have come from the congressional delegations of the coastal states, who promptly tried to get them kicked out entirely.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        That post was actually one of the things that got me rereading the report. From page 155:

        The Governor of Idaho agreed with Maw and advocated rounding up and supervising all those who had already entered his state. Idaho, he said, had as many strategic works as California. The Governor of Wyoming wanted evacuees put in “concentration camps.” With few exceptions, the other officials present echoed these sentiments. Only Governor Carr of Colorado took a moderate position. The voices of those hoping to use the evacuees for agricultural labor were drowned out.

        Bendetsen and Eisenhower were unable or unwilling to face down this united political opposition. Bendetsen briefly attempted to defend the War Department’s actions. Eisenhower closed the meeting: the consensus was that the plan for reception centers was acceptable, as long as the evacuees remained under guard within the centers. As he left Salt Lake City, Eisenhower had no doubt that “the plan to move the evacuees into private employment had to be abandoned-at least temporarily.” Bendetsen, too, had received the same message. As he described it several weeks later: “You can’t move people across the street! The premise is that who you consider to be so dangerous, that you can’t permit him to stay at point A point B will not accept.”

        Before it had begun, Eisenhower and the WRA thus abandoned resettlement and adopted confinement. West Coast politicians had achieved their program of exclusion; politicians of the interior states had achieved their program of detention. Without giving up its belief that evacuees should be brought back to normal productive life, WRA had, in effect, become their jailer, contending that confinement was for the benefit of the evacuees and that the controls on their departure were designed to prevent mistreatment by other Americans.

        And from 183:

        On July 20, the WRA issued a carefully circumscribed relocation policy statement which permitted relocation by Nisei who had never studied in Japan and who had a definite offer of employment outside the camps. The clearance process, which involved the WRA, FBI and other federal intelligence agencies, was lengthy, and often job offers were cancelled because clearance took so long. As a result, few evacuees were able to relocate.

        The difficulty of leaving, poor conditions, and strict government oversight of detainees described in the report convince me pretty well of the legitimacy of the “concentration camp” designation. If they were intended to be relocation camps, they were a failure, and one that was negligently under-addressed.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If they were intended to be relocation camps, they were a failure, and one that was negligently under-addressed.

          I completely agree with that. But they were not intended to become concentration camps, and they did not become concentration camps. Different camps had different conditions at different times during the war. And 25% of the detained did leave the camps. That the process of leaving was in some cases cumbersome is evidence of negligence and not malice. I do not see the point of trying to redefine these as concentration camps except to puff ourselves up by claiming moral superiority over people operating in the most extreme of wartime circumstances who are not here to defend themselves.

          Was racism involved? I’m sure it was in some cases, but there are bigger sins than racism, like losing the war.

          • Murphy says:

            OK, your claims about them being free to leave seem to be misleading.

            If I was in one of those camps and wanted to move to some flyover state but couldn’t get a job offer. Would I remain locked up , very much not free to leave, or would I actually be free to leave as long as I stayed away from military bases?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This is the first I’ve ever heard of them requiring a job offer to leave. I was taking what Hoopy said at face value but was not aware of it myself. I could believe it given that there being dozens of camps that operated under different conditions for 3-4 years, saying “what happened at the camps” is not well defined. Conditions at a camp in one state in 1942 could be very different than conditions in another state in 1944. I went to the wiki article and ctrl-F for “job” and “employ” and none of the sections I found said anything about a requirement to find employment before one could leave.

            To my knowledge, you could leave, but most people told “go to a flyover state or wait until the war ends to go home” would choose to wait. It’s not good, but it wasn’t a prison. With the caveat that conditions were different at different camps at different times during the war. Some camps did have guards and barbed wire at the beginning when they were first establishing the camps and trying to relocate people, but once it became apparent this was less about relocation and more about internment, rules changed. For instance:

            There are documented instances of guards shooting internees who reportedly attempted to walk outside the fences. One such shooting, that of James Wakasa at Topaz, led to a re-evaluation of the security measures in the camps. Some camp administrations eventually allowed relatively free movement outside the marked boundaries of the camps. Nearly a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States, outside the exclusion zone. Eventually, some were authorized to return to their hometowns in the exclusion zone under supervision of a sponsoring American family or agency whose loyalty had been assured.

            Was this ideal? No, but war is hell. If these were “concentration camps” and not “internment camps” then what is an internment camp?

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            You seem to be claiming that all of the people in the camps were free to leave, but only a quarter of them did so. I see support for the quarter leaving, but don’t see any support that the other 75% were free to leave if they so chose. Do you have an explicit source to back up the claim that all of the interred Japanese were free to leave, and what the requirements for doing so were?

            At the very least, it seems they were not free to leave immediately, and were forced to live in pretty awful conditions (at least at some of the camps) for months before leaving would have been an option.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you have an explicit source to back up the claim that all of the interred Japanese were free to leave, and what the requirements for doing so were?

            I do not. I’ve googled around for terms like “how could japanese americans leave internment camps” and I can find lots of articles about the camps, many of which mention people who did leave for school or relocation or to serve in the military, but nothing about the process for doing so. However, Roosevelt’s order was not “put the Japanese Americans in camps” but “exclude them from the coasts.” To my knowledge, the only ones not free to leave were those few thousand (I think around 6,000) who renounced their citizenship or were deemed disloyal.

            At the very least, it seems they were not free to leave immediately, and were forced to live in pretty awful conditions (at least at some of the camps) for months before leaving would have been an option.

            Yes, I agree the conditions in camps were not good, and neither were the hardships placed on people who left their homes, jobs and businesses behind. It was a terrible hardship. But they were not concentration camps.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            If these were “concentration camps” and not “internment camps” then what is an internment camp?

            I think “internment camp” is more precise than concentration camp, but not necessarily more accurate. But I am glad to get your input, because I do care about the descriptive character of the phrase. If they’re insufficiently concentration-camp-y to you and would be even if you agreed with me about how strictly the detainment was enforced, that does matter. I think we have some disagreement on matters of fact as well as matters of definition, which makes it hard to come to consensus.

            Also, ironically, I think the concept you may be getting at is shikata ga nai.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Not ironically. I understand that phrase and it went through my mind many times while writing these comments. If portals from the multiverse opened up and the Legion of Conrad Honchos, made up of all my alternate universe doppelgangers invaded America and the US government said to me, “Conrad, you haven’t done anything to join up with these folks, but we can’t take the risk you will, you need to sit this one out” I would agree they had a point, as much as it sucks, and comply with the orders*. Can’t be helped.

            I think if we’re going to call something a concentration camp it needs to be for the purposes of rounding up people who were already peaceably(?) occupying an area, and holding them there in such a way they are not free to leave. Also heavily implies malice, probably with forced labor involved. An internment camp from which people may leave is not a concentration camp. And a detention center, housing migrant people who have broken the law until their case can be heard is definitely not a concentration camp, and calling it one is just a smear job against the people struggling to deal with a humanitarian and legal crisis.

            * Until I could break free and join my comrades Conrades, natch. I want to join the winning side, and obviously an army of those handsome bastards would easily conquer the US.

    • dndnrsn says:

      A historical point that’s probably worth making, because I see people here making a common mistake. You can look at the Nazi camp system and differentiate concentration camps (which changed significantly from 1933 to 1945 – at the beginning, they were mostly aimed at political enemies and were a tool of repression, by the end, they were aimed at many, many targets and were a source of labour, often labour that was expected to die in the process, or intended to die) from death camps (which existed entirely to kill people). A couple of concentration camps were converted to death camps or had a death camp attached. Odds of survival in a concentration camp varied – Jews had it the worst, and odds varied depending on the time (there was a period where they worked to reduce the death rate to squeeze more labour out, in the middle of the war; meanwhile, at the end of the war, conditions in the concentration camps were terrible due to the cold weather, lack of resources, and overcrowding as prisoners were marched or put on trains to camps the Germans still held. Odds of survival for someone sent to a death camp (the vast majority of them Jews) were next to zero – and this is one reason they often get confused, because the tiny number of death camp survivors means there’s very little survivor testimony.

      • Machine Interface says:

        This is an important distinction. The Nazis operated a total of 8 death camps (6 in Poland, 1 in Belarus and 1 in Serbia). But according to the most recent historical work, they operated something on the order of 50,000 concentration camps of various size across Germany and all the occupied territory.

        This also explains the confusion about whether “people knew about the holocaust”.

        People knew about the masd arrest, deportation and internment of jewish people and other declared enemies of the Nazis, not only because the Nazis didn’t hide it, they were openly boasting about in their public communication.

        But it’s much less clear that much people knew about the final solution and the systematic extermination of jewish people and roma (at least until the first escapees started to reach Britain and describe what they saw), because that part was only done in a handful place and really strongly concealed — most of the extermination camps were disguised as ordinary buildings; zyklon B was used because as an industrially produced insecticide frequently used by the army to sanitized barracks, it wouldn’t cause suspicion that the Nazis were buying a lot of it; carbon monoxide was used instead in areas near the soviet-controlled zone where mass import of zyklon B would have seem odd, and so on.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Yeah. Plus, civilians who lived near camps where enough people died for the camps to have crematoria, it would have been hard to miss. It was also not hard to figure out that something bad was happening to Jews sent east, plus, soldiers would have known of, witnessed, and in some cases participated in mass shootings of Jews in the invaded parts of the USSR. Some people seem to have said that Jews were being killed, but their estimates of the numbers were lower than reality – eg, one of the White Rose pamphlets gives the number of 300,000 Jews killed by late 1942, when by that point more than that had been killed by shooting alone.

          What source do you have for the reasons for using carbon monoxide in some camps? By the time they started operating gas chambers, the invasion of the USSR was well underway. My understanding is that carbon monoxide was used due to the experience of the T4 euthanasia program staff with carbon monoxide, and the improvised use of vans with the exhaust hooked up to the compartment.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I’ve looked back and have been unable to find the reference to that particular claim which I thought I had read somewhere, so I am provisionally retracting it.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I think that in an interest of rational policy debate one should use less CW terms whenever they are available.

      • acymetric says:

        If you take it out to the extreme you end up using nothing but vanilla, un-emotive language to describe everything. It seems like some arguments need to carry some emotional weight. The question here is, as I understand it, whether “concentration camp” carries too much emotional weight.

        I think “internment camp” is maybe more appropriate, but concentration camp doesn’t jump out at me as obviously wrong. Most of the other more polite euphemisms proposed upthread seem vastly understated.

      • Matt M says:

        There seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest that politicians, and possibly journalists as well, prefer our policy debates to be less rational…

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The central question is whether the Japanese internment was a gross human rights violation. I think that attempts to dispassionately define the boundaries of human rights are perverse and stupid. If there’s a place to lean on emotions, this is probably it – not to the exclusion of reason, but how much it matters to the interlocutor is meaningful.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          I thought that the central question is whether it is appropriate to call Japanese internment camps concentration camps. I would say no. But if the central question is whether it was unjustified human rights violation, I would say yes. It also appears to be in contradiction to plain text of US Constitution.

          I think that attempts to dispassionately definite the boundaries of human rights are perverse and stupid

          I disagree with this sentiment. Boundaries of human rights have to be defined in some way, and I would prefer to do it rationally.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Boundaries of human rights have to be defined in some way, and I would prefer to do it rationally.

            I don’t think there’s a good way to get anything other than tortuously bad philosophy out of pure rationality. “Is there suffering in Fundamental Physics?” comes to mind. I have yet to be convinced that rationality and reason are anything like sufficient for it.

        • Deiseach says:

          If there’s a place to lean on emotions, this is probably it – not to the exclusion of reason, but how much it matters to the interlocutor is meaningful.

          And what if your interlocutor is using the emotional term as a quick and easy way to whip up “run the bad guys out of town on a rail!” sentiments, where “Bad Guys” does not necessarily mean “rapists and murderers” but “on the opposite side of the aisle to my Guys”?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Then you go, “u dont heff 2 b mad,” per tradition (which would usually dictate following up with, “is onlee gaem”).

            If this seems like a deeply insensitive thing to say, you may want to reconsider your assumptions.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, sir, I never did expect to get any Ilya Bryzgalov references here in the SSC comments.

            Then again, the variety of interests among the regulars here is certainly humongous big!

    • INH5 says:

      People seem to have few objections to describing the Chinese Uyghur Internment Camps as “concentration camps.” While one could argue that the intense reeducation going on there is a form of “cultural genocide,” that’s a highly npncentral definition of “genocide.” I think this is a strong argument against the idea that “concentration camp” is commonly understood only to mean “physical extermination camps.”

      • John Schilling says:

        Uighur internment/reeducation camps are at least places where a noncentral version of genocide is taking place. That makes them much closer to being a central example of a “concentration camp” than any of the places under discussion where no form of genocide is taking place. So this strikes me as a weak argument.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Or it could just be most people are okay with tarring the Chinese government with the Nazi brush

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Portland, Oregon is a terrible place to live. The elected officials (all Democrats) live in the wealthiest neighborhoods, which are well-policed, while telling the police to do nothing about homeless camping, used needles, and now human feces (which until the beginning of this year I thought was only the San Francisco Treat). The best non-automobile path in the city, the 205 bike trail, has long since been taken over by them, chasing off cyclists and dog walkers. Masked Leftists are suspected of functionally being unpaid interns for the City Council, allowed to crack skulls (e.g. Andy Ngo’s) because the elected officials agree with their goals.
    I need to move into a cheaper housing market somewhere walkable, with a sane local government. I’m a dog person, so a local government that fines you for letting your dog off-leash in 100% of parks, or dog-friendly parks only being accessible by auto, would be terrible. Crime rate is not the biggest factor, as I’ve never been raped, robbed or assaulted in Portland (I’m more worried about disease-carrying litter), but I’m not willing to buy a cheap house in Detroit either.
    Any data or advice from rationalists (the ones who don’t believe in the Bay Area, I mean)?

    • Nick says:

      Midwestern cities that aren’t dying are a good place to start. Like Columbus is a great city and super affordable. Plenty of amenities and a good job market too. Not the safest city, though, and I don’t know how its local government is or how friendly it is to dogs.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, Nick, I just need to research “not dying.” Dying-ness would correlate with crime and heroin use, though it’s possible for law enforcement of dying cities to scare their homeless addicts off to SF/Portland/Seattle if the relevant officials will it.
        Just “walkable Midwestern city with jobs” checks most of the necessary boxes. I’m seeing that Dayton in Ohio used to be highly ranked as a low-housing-cost, green city where the jobs hadn’t disappeared. Then it became a PBS Frontline subject. @_@

        • Well... says:

          I lived in Dayton for many years. It still has many wonderful areas that are green, safe, and walkable — and incredibly cheap. I would live there now if I could find a job there, but I couldn’t. (If you can write code, there are lots of jobs there.)

        • metacelsus says:

          Minneapolis is quite a nice city (although I may be biased since it’s where I grew up). They even have sane housing policies (look up the 2040 plan)

      • acymetric says:

        I sometimes wonder if people don’t completely overvalue “safety” when evaluating cities. How much annual cost before it is more than it’s worth to reduce the chance of being mugged from 3% to 2.1% or whatever? (numbers completely made up, possibly not realistic and certainly not based on real city stats that I looked up…maybe I’ll do that later)

        • The Nybbler says:

          Also, people tend to evaluate “safety” relatively. I’m active on a forum called city-data, and a common thing there is for people there to ask on local forums about places to live. One person posted on the New Jersey forum about how she was a grandmother and wanted to move to New Jersey to be closer to her kids and grandkids, and for her budget she thought East Orange might be a good place. Now, East Orange is rather infamous locally and has a reputation as a nasty high-crime town, and people started telling her she most definitely should not move there because of that. She responded that she’d looked it up and East Orange had lower crime than where she’d been living, which was Atlanta, so she’d be just fine in that respect. Unfortunately she never followed up with whether she moved or not. But I’m sure the people who would never consider “the EO” because of the crime rate wouldn’t categorically rule out Atlanta or even Miami which are much more dangerous.

          • Theodoric says:

            Probably because they think (I don’t know rightly or wrongly) that all of East Orange is bad, whereas Atlanta and Miami have nice areas (both cities being larger than East Orange). It’s the difference between ruling out “Brooklyn” based on crime and ruling out “East New York.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think crime rate of the neighborhood is more important than the crime rate of the city. There’s a modest amount of crime in my city, but it’s all on the SE side and I live in the NW.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think crime rate of the neighborhood is more important than the crime rate of the city. There’s a modest amount of crime in my city, but it’s all on the SE side and I live in the NW.

            This. In Portland, everyone knows that common criminals concentrate around 82nd Avenue and the I-205 corridor. The inner city is white hipsters, so you’ll fear for your safety from what the homeless do and Antifa will bust the heads of “out” conservatives, but not from common crime. And SE/NE outside the inner city out to 52nd or so is pure Portlandia without the downtown problems except for homeless people claiming the sidewalk singly or in pairs (not whole camps).

      • Well... says:

        Columbus is very dog-friendly, and many parts of it are very safe too. Type of place where you can leave your car doors unlocked while you go grocery shopping. The safe parts of the city are more expensive, but still dirt cheap compared to the Bay Area.

        I cannot vouch for the sanity of its local government, but it sure seems much more sane than Portland’s.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I know of no place with a sane local government. Local government attracts nutballs.

      Philadelphia can be walkable depending on where you are, is probably cheaper than Portland (though living in the nice parts of the city is not cheap by any means), has lots of parks including dog off-leash ones. Also plenty of bike trails, including one that runs halfway to Reading. The Philadelphia police like to break heads so I wouldn’t expect Antifa to be allowed to run free (though they are present). Not sure the current conditions on homeless drug users; when I lived in the area there were some “needle parks” but others were better policed, and the good areas were expanding. The local government is utterly corrupt, however. SEPTA (the public transportation system) is known for its unreliability and also the recklessness of its bus drivers.

      • ana53294 says:

        I know of no place with a sane local government. Local government attracts nutballs.

        Why is that?

        Do people only vote Democrat/Republican for local government in the US?

        In Spain, it is pretty typical, at least in small towns, to have a local guy who people agree is a decent guy. So they go independent party (Nowheretown for Good Governance Party).

        People usually vote differently from the way they vote in national elections, too. So if you have a beef with the mayor because he is the asshole who keeps cutting the branches of your apple tree because they are on the border with his land, you vote for another party (or any other random reason; people in small town have long standing feuds for the silliest of reasons).

        They also will vote for locals instead of outsiders, even if it means voting out of party.

        And I think we have pretty sane local governments, especially when it’s independents, such as Madrid until now (Madrid is currently an ungovernable mess, but that’s because there is no coalition). There is still corruption, obviously.

        • Erusian says:

          This is a more cynical take on local governance than I think is justified. Local government in the US suffers from extremely low turn out and being relatively homogenous. This means you can sometimes get motivated nutjobs. But I’d say local government is, on the whole, saner than national in the US.

          However, one difference between the US and Spain: ‘local’ government in the US sometimes extends to very powerful entities. Firstly, there’s less central control as in unitary states. But secondly, New York City has about as much budget and government as Poland. Los Angeles is comparable to Ecuador. And so on. These large governments often control huge portions of the national wealth and population. Real small government, the type where you can meet your mayor at a local diner, is unknown in the large cities. And those governments mostly run along partisan lines as a representation of almost national politics.

          Outside of those major cities, you get more genuinely small government. People who are locally respected and not running vast bureaucracies.

          • ana53294 says:

            New York City has about as much budget and government as Poland

            From what I’ve been able to google, NY’s GDP is similar to South Korea or Spain. I guess that an economy this size gets ruled as if it were a city hall instead of a parliament means capture is easier. If there were 200 aldermen in NY, it would be much more likely that you would get to know your alderman.

            But London seems to have slightly less insane politics; same for Tokyo.

          • Erusian says:

            The difference with London or Tokyo is that it’s our equivalent of DC. That means it gets a lot more national attention. There are really only a few countries that have multiple cities the size of London or Tokyo that are just regional phenomenon. That have multiple cities which would be the capital in other countries and are dealing with the equivalent of multiple Londons or Tokyos.

            We’re focusing on the democratic vs oligarchic debate that represents the US vs China. But another very important divide is the city-state vs nation debate. The US and China (for example) are both nations who absorb alternate centers of power pretty easily. In contrast, the UK or Spain can’t have local alternative centers of power without suffering secession crises.

            To put it in overly simplistic terms, the rise of Austin hasn’t threatened the US in any credible way. Likewise with China and Guangzhou. But the rise of Edinburgh as an international city has stoked anti-UK sentiment.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Once local government is captured, it is hard to unseat. Your little hamlet’s advertiser newspaper is not going to pay for an investigative journalist to do FOIA reports and say how corrupt Boss Hogg is.

    • Erusian says:

      What are you looking for where you live? Also, what industry do you work in?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Real estate.

        I’m looking for a real estate market where a safe house with a yard costs <$250,000. "Safe" means I'm no more likely to be murdered, brutally hospitalized, or a victim of property crime than in Portland, the urban environment my expectations/risk-avoidance is calibrated to. Homeless people should be sheltered, and those who reject shelter because they hate rules should be chased off by the police to woker pastures rather than allowed to camp with used heroin needles and feces locally.
        It needs to be walkable, like Portland would be if public paths and sidewalks belonged to law-abiding citizens. No sprawling tracts of subdevelopments: I have a family member who got picked up by the police because she tried to walk rather than drive around Aurora, Colorado. I'll also be walking a dog, so I want to buy a house within walking distance of park where I can legally unleash them. Job and the grocery store can require a car, but I want that much walkability.
        The cultural amenities of a city preferred but low-priority.

        • Erusian says:

          Alright, a safe house with a yard needs to cost less than $250k. And it needs to be reasonably walkable, ideally with cultural amenities.

          Almost every city in the US meets this standard. There are maybe twenty or thirty places in the US that don’t. I need more qualifications or I’m just going to list every metro area that isn’t in the top 30…

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Almost every city in the US meets this standard. There are maybe twenty or thirty places in the US that don’t. I need more qualifications or I’m just going to list every metro area that isn’t in the top 30…

            I mean, I’m trying to optimize on three axes here:
            The cheaper houses are, the better, because then I can put the difference between selling this house and buying one in a better city in my portfolio. The extreme I’ve seen on Redfin is cities in Ohio where move-in-ready houses, not foreclosures or “CASH ONLY” dilapidated, start around $45,000.

            However… unemployment and crime should be reasonable, with no homeless camps or places known for their discarded heroin needles.

            House also needs to be in a neighborhood, not a subdevelopment isolated from stores and parks by a highway, like Matt M mentioned in Texas and I’ve seen in the Denver Metro area (which is too expensive anyway). Speaking of Denver Metro: I’d prefer not to walk in snow very many days of the year, though three months with snow on the ground would be easier to adapt to than constantly changing weather like Denver’s (can’t safely drive out for groceries without tires chains… now take the chains off because the snow melted… now put them back on…) I also want the dog I’m walking to be able to go off-leash in a park I reach on foot from my front door.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Eastern suburbs of Cleveland, specifically Shaker Heights, University Heights, Beachwood, and Cleveland Heights are all safe, walk-able and by Portland standards varying degrees of cheap. There are definite parts of the city/East Cleveland that you want to avoid, but there are job centers and commutes that avoid them. Several universities and a couple of hospitals are major employers in the area.

            You can get a 4 bed/2 bath in a nice enough area for under $200,000, although you do need to be more careful as the area fits in a weird category. It was once very rich and quite a few houses are in need of upkeep in an expensive way (my sister’s house had lovely ornate windows that leaked and cost a lot to replace with modern stuff).

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, University Heights and Beachwood are really nice areas. Lovely to walk around in, which I did a bit of as a student. And it’s a short drive, or a long bike ride, from Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which beats any dog park in the country.

          • Erusian says:

            I mean this with love but you have a very bad case of urban dweller typical mind going on. You want a price less than $250k, low unemployment, a yard, low crime, a warm climate, nearby stores, some culture, and a nearby park. The only thing that’s really narrowing it is “warm climate”, which limits you to about 25-33% of the US. Everything else is a trait of the statistical majority of homes for sale in the US. This is why you’re getting people recommending a ton of different places.

            The city that scores the highest on warm/safe/cheap/still in a city/town by my data is Lakeland or Port St. Lucie, FL. No snow, ranked 6th and 18th for least crime among cities, about $220k home price, both near major metros (Tampa/Miami) and large enough to have their own cultures. Redfin says there are currently 33 homes on market that are less than $200k, have a two car garage, a yard, at least three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Seven of them have pools too. One of them appears to be in a gated community with its own internal park.

            But again, this is kind of arbitrary. You could equally pick a ton of other places.

          • Nick says:

            I should add when it comes to snow that Cleveland is a bad choice; it’s better out in the suburbs, but it still gets a lot more snow than the rest of Ohio due to lake effect.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Alright, a safe house with a yard needs to cost less than $250k. And it needs to be reasonably walkable, ideally with cultural amenities.

            Almost every city in the US meets this standard.

            I don’t think so, unless you are very lax about the cultural amenities things. If you want an art museum because you want to walk around in an air conditioned space once or twice a year doing something different and cultured then most cities are fine, if you care about art and want to see important works and want to visit multiple times then only a dozen or so cities qualify. Its a similar thing with orchestras etc, and some of those cities are going to get knocked out for being to expensive right away (ie NY and DC).

            If weather is a serious requirement then skip Cleveland, its winters are to long even when they aren’t really cold. Of places I have been Philadelphia sounds about right, it has real winters but not mid-west winters, it has all the culture and history you would expect for the one time capital, plenty of jobs right now, you are close to mountain hiking (but not Rockies hiking) and the beach, there is farmland/the Amish for the country experience and doing something low key, lots of parks, a good craft beer scene and still areas where you can buy a house with a yard for 1/4 million or less.

        • James Miller says:

          Consider western Massachusetts. Lots of safe small towns where everyone is always walking dogs. For $250,000 you could get a fenced in yard for your dog. You can drive to Boston if you occasionally want the big city experience. Lot’s of culture everywhere.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I liked Western Mass the year I lived there.

          • SamChevre says:

            And just to give an example:
            House in Agawam

            1100 sq ft on a 1/4 acre, less than a mile from an off-leash dog park in a 1000-acre State Park, in a town where elementary school students routinely ride bikes or walk to school alone. $180K. The parish I’m part of is 3 miles away, and so is downtown Springfield.

            It’s a typical summer day; high will be in the low 90’s, low in the mid-60’s, under 40% humidity–walking in mid-afternoon you’d get sweaty, but running in the early morning is perfectly comfortable.

    • Matt M says:

      If you want growth, a more favorable political environment, and a low cost of living, I highly recommend Texas. I grew up in Oregon and live here now, so I kinda know where you’re coming from.

      It’s not super walkable in general, but I did live in midtown Houston when I first moved here and it was like, mildly walkable, I guess? They’re also building a ton of new apartments downtown, but downtown isn’t really where the action is (people mostly work there, and didn’t start actually living there until recently). I have to imagine there are similar such areas in Dallas and Austin as well. Have no idea what the dog laws are.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’m interested in buying a house, which I have experience with. I like nature and have a very strong preference for walking out my front door and walking up to, say, 3.5 miles one direction without it being illegal (see Aurora, CO anecdote above).
        I will start researching possible places in Texas, thanks!

        • Matt M says:

          Well, in Texas you won’t get “affordable stand-alone homes” AND walkable. The walkable areas are all downtown and optimized for condos and apartments. The cheap housing in the suburbs is your standard cul-de-sac arrangement with huge highways that you use to commute to work in the city.

          Also there’s not much nature in your immediate environment. If you’re willing to drive a bit you can find some, but you won’t see all that much in your day to day routine like you do in the PNW.

          • AG says:

            Some suburbs in the DFW area are relatively bikeable, though.
            Like, there aren’t designated bike lanes, but there’s not enough traffic for it to be that dangerous, and all that space also means that the shoulders and sidewalks are larger, anyways.
            I did way more biking and enjoyed it way more in Texas than in Cali.

            But yes, groceries are always 20 minutes away at minimum. But given that commutes are usually 40+ minutes away, that just means that you do your errands to and from work.

            As for nature, there aren’t necessarily big nature-oriented parks everywhere, but given all of the space there, there’s likely an undeveloped area that’s relatively wild, sometimes with tree groves and tall grass. Kids can still do that kind of exploration, in Texas. But I’d also recommend getting a house close to one of the larger lakes. The lake parks are pretty good, have extensive trail systems.

    • SamChevre says:

      What are you looking for? Some idea of types of work, types of amenities, etc. I’ve lived in several cities that are better than Portland–but I’ll give useful info if I can.

      • SamChevre says:

        Three cities and an area I’d look at:

        Louisville KY; I’d love to move there because it’s near family and has a great Ordinariate Catholic church. It’s fairly cheap, and I understand it’s quite walkable.

        Cincinnati: inexpensive, more major city amenities than you’d expect in a city of its size, very walkable in some areas.

        Nashville: getting expensive, but a great city–incredible music scene, lots of cultural variety, Vanderbilt, the Nashville Dominicans. If you decide to visit, let me know and I can get my sister to show you around. Not sure how walkable it is, though.

        Western Massachusetts, where I live now. Ridiculously cheap, and it feels like living in a storybook (Dr Seuss, Norman Rockwell, Eric Carle, Thornton Burgess were all from this area.) Very very liberal, and the Catholic church is struggling–but there are a few strong parishes, and some remnants of the old ethnic Catholic culture. Boston and New York City are plausible day-trips by public transport.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          I second Louisville; the downtown is very walkable, the river is nice, and it’s inexpensive. Nashville is getting really big really quickly, though because of that you might do well with a house in the right neighborhood. Many small-to-medium-size cities in that belt of the US are growing quickly and seem in particular to be attracting young people, and wealthy older people looking to retire; see Asheville, NC.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Are you only looking for major cities? Philadelphia sounds like it would work, my wife lived there and liked the walk-ability a decade ago, and she biked 15 miles to work along the river trail twice a week for a while. I’ve never had an issue in the several off leash dog parks near where we live which is 15-20 mins outside of the city, and there are some large parks that you can walk to from parts of the city, and so larger parks you can drive to from the city.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        No, small cities are fine. I’m just not interested in buying a house somewhere with no jobs: like some of the Oregon coast is beautiful and it’s possible to buy a house on it for <$250,000 but while a wife can quit the workforce in lucky circumstances, you can't have a family of beach bums in a town of fewer than 5,000.

    • salvorhardin says:

      If you can stand the winters, consider the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Many walkable neighborhoods, most of which are very safe, and pretty competent city governments. Not cheap anymore but probably still cheaper than Portland.

      I love the Bay Area fwiw but only because I am privileged enough to avoid the consequences of the local government’s follies.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If LMC can handle that winter, I’d suggest reconsidering Detroit. There is an urban core that is very healthy. Lots of hipsters, but I think they live closer to reality. They know that letting homeless people camp on sidewalks isn’t adding artsy color; rather, it’s one-stop away from Detroit turning back into what it was a generation ago, so no, you can’t do that.

        No idea what the school systems are like in Detroit proper. The suburbs are still good; probably worse than a generation ago, but they started from a healthy point.

        • Jake says:

          If you are biting the bullet on winter and moving to Michigan, come move to Grand Rapids instead. It’s one of the quicker growing cities in the midwest, has a pretty walkable downtown area these days (and free busses in the main loop). They are consistently rated high as one of the best places to live.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Portland is pretty low crime and pretty walkable, which is also why it’s pretty expensive. You might be disappointed at some of your options.
      However, I compared Wiki’s list of violent crime rates, walkscore.coms list of walkable cities above 50, and median house prices from Kiplinger to give you a few options. I ruled out any major crime spots, so that knocked off cities like Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and St. Louis, and any major expensive spots, which knocked off cities like Denver (including the usual suspects)

      Your dirt cheap options:
      Rochester NY
      Buffalo NY
      Pittsburgh PA

      The NY options basically double your risk of violent crime, which I would describe as “high crime.” Pittsburgh is an increase, but almost everything on this list is.
      Pros: Pittsburgh is a great sports town, Buffalo is beautiful area
      Cons: So. Much. Snow. These areas are all in the snow belt, and Buffalo is particularly bad.

      Your mid-range options:
      Milwaukee
      New Orleans
      Chicago
      Philly
      Richmond

      Richmond looks like it might actually DECREASE your crime rate, but it’s the most expensive item on this list. The other options all basically double your violent crime rate over Portland.
      Pros: you have some major cities in here with some major cultural amenities. Philly especially is close to all sorts of beautiful nature things. Milwaukee is an under-rated city. I have no experience with Richmond, but it’s one of the few small cities that had such a high walkability score, so if you want to blend “small town” with walkability, it may be one of your better options
      Cons: Philly sports fans are the meanest people on the planet and make the Taliban look like the Teletubbies. They booed Santa Claus. Also, Chicago is basically bankrupt and I think borrows money at rates similar to Greece. Also, New Orleans has a non-trivial risk of flooding all your stuff.

      Your expensive options:
      Twin Cities
      Miami
      Newark
      Hialeah

      Pros: Minnesota people are some of the nicest people on the planet, they are basically Canadian. Miami Beach is beautiful and Miami itself is full of wonderful food.
      Cons: these options are theoretically much more expensive. Minnesota winters are cold. Brutally cold. Newark is in New Jersey. I have no familiarity with Hialeah beyond its reference point in a Tom Wolfe novel. Miami sucks for much of the year, and they could not cook a proper burger if the existence of the entire universe depended on it. Also their beer sucks.

      Out of the available options, I would put “the best” for you as the following:
      Pittsburgh
      Philly
      Buffalo
      maybe Rochester
      maybe Richmond

      From what I know of Chicago, I would rule it out: our median house price is heavily weighted down by an excess of housing stock in areas like Garfield Park, where you will learn Neo-style bullet dodging as a new hobby. Living in the nicer areas probably exceeds your price range, though there are some neighborhoods you might like (they will most likely be heavily Hispanic, if that affects your decision at all).
      I suspect, based on my knowledge of Midwestern cities, that Milwaukee will be the same story, but slightly less bad. The Twin Cities should not be as heavily affected, but they are more expensive in general, and I would not recommend it unless you are REALLY confident you can handle the cold. It is NOT a joke.

      • SamChevre says:

        I’l talk about Richmond from first-hand knowledge–I lived there most of 2001-2014. I’d move back in a heartbeat if I could find work in my field.

        It’s high-crime, but the crime is VERY concentrated and easy to avoid; it also is a bit mis-measured because Richmond is small relative to its metro area (so the metro area crime rate, per-capita, is not that high, but the city proper is.) So far as I know, people no longer watch City Council meeting for the sheer entertainment value.

        Great bike town – lots of bikes on the streets, good bike shops. Great outdoors, too–the James River rapids run right through downtown. Two colleges – a top 50 SLAC and a major state university/medical school with a serious arts program (VCU). Visual arts are huge–there’s more visual art culture than you would expect for the town’s size. You’ll want a car, but won’t need it day-to-day if you live and work in the right areas.

        Fairly strong Catholic presence for the South; St Benedict is a fairly reform of the reform parish (NO Mass with chanted Latin responses), St Joseph is FSSP, there’s more “normal” Catholci churches too but the two I mentioned are the ones I’ve attended.

      • salvorhardin says:

        All things considered, it isn’t clear to me that MN winters are worse than Pittsburgh or Buffalo ones. The single-family houses in the Twin Cities can get a bit expensive but one can also sometimes buy half of a two-family and still have a private street-level entrance and yard, or buy a place that needs some work and fix it up.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It depends on what you are trying to optimize. I looked at Accuweather’s January 2019 actuals for Pittsburgh, and there are several days above 60 degrees. There are a few colder days, but there’s only one day in the entire month it dropped below zero.

          The warmest it got in the Twin Cities in January was 38 degrees. Between the night of Jan 28th and morning of Feb 1st, it did not get above zero, and there were multiple days in a row that bottomed out below -22, which is the coldest it has EVER been in Pittsburgh.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Definitely rule out Newark. Newark’s walkable, but except the somewhat-gentrified downtown and adjacent Portuguese “Ironbound”, is high crime, and there’s essentially nothing in the way of bike paths (There’s a Jersey City/Newark trail; it’s very sad).

      • Garrett says:

        > Pittsburgh PA
        I’m torn on recommendations.
        On one hand, we need more sane people here.
        OTOH, the last thing we need is more housing pressure here.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Haha. Sorry, but Pittsburgh is looking amazing. Houses in the suburbs for $50k? 68 unis/colleges in the metro area, if Mrs./Mr. Cat needs to retrain for a different career? Take your dog to a baseball game for $30 including the human’s seat?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I like the dirt cheap options. I was actually looking up Dayton, Ohio, after all. Pittsburgh sounds about as livable as Portland (a non-leftist activist actually camped on the Mayor’s lawn to protest legalized homeless camping, which sounds like a very Portland problem) but with move-in-ready houses in the suburbs starting around $50k rather than $250k, more colleges, and Redder/less hipster cultural amenities, which is all awesome.

      • Mustard Tiger says:

        Rochester NY has really high property taxes and lots of terrible areas. The nice areas are nice, but when comparing housing costs, do look into those property tax levels in the Northeast…

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      I know you said “no San Francisco bay area” but I’m going to shill for three towns anyway, the first is the tiny town of Albany, California which is very walkable, but still mostly low-level tree lined streets (the exception is some giant condo towers that face the bay but are hidden from the view of the rest of the town by a hill). One library in town, another fine one just across the border in Berkeley, (really the advantage is “near Berkeley, but not in”) with lots of restaurants, nearby bookstores, all the nice “Blue-Tribe” stuff, but with police that come when you call, and a small easy to deal with city government (a city councilman even came to my door and asked me “what issues are important to you”!).

      Downsides are that if you’re near the border with Berkeley sometimes beggars from the encampments there cross over, but encounters are far rarer than in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco yet the commute to those cities and their jobs is really short.

      Nearby Saint Ambrose (Catholic church) is nice, and there’s a really big Catholic high school in town (and a stone’s throw from my house).

      Next is “the town that time forgot”/”the island city” Alameda!
      Very old fashioned, the supermarkets even have “veterans parking only” spots, lots of family businesses, a large Coast Guard base, a Ferry into San Francisco for day trips, and the fewest beggars of any town I’ve been in California with no tents!
      For some reason the town has a lot of people with Asian faces and American accents, but few of their parents/grandparents who still have foreign accents (maybe the grandparents still live nearby in Oakland or San Francisco?).

      Last, just north of Albany is El Ceritto, and I really don’t know much about the city government, but it seems working-class, but clean, and had a really nice family oriented 4th of July celebration in a large park, the swim center that the city operates is very nice (with sprinklers set up for kids to run through) with occasional free days! I’ve been to quite a few church rummage sales in it’s many churches, which like Alameda have many American accented parishoners with Asian faces, but unlike Alameda there’s some grandparents sprinked around, El Cerrito is a bit more Hispanic and has more apartment buildings than Alameda or Albany, but it doesn’t feel “under class” just “working class” as most everyone is assimilated into U.S. culture.

      In terms of “Blue-Tribe” to “Red-Tribe” I’d say Albany is more “blue” and Alameda and El Cerrito more “red” but all have fewer of the downsides of their “Tribes” and more of the upsides.

      San Francisco and it’s higher paid jobs are a “BART” (subway and elevated train) ride away if you need the income, but except maybe for some kids events and museums there’s no need to venture into “The City” for shopping, unless you want to go to the only bookstore that I’ve seen with @DavidFriedman’s book on the shelf.

      • nkurz says:

        > I’m looking for a real estate market where a safe house with a yard costs <$250,000.

        What price would reasonable to expect to pay for a safe house with a yard in these lower cost Bay Area towns that you mention? My impression is that would be lot higher than her budget.

        • Nornagest says:

          Here’s the Zillow map for El Cerrito, CA.

          Here’s Albany.

          And here’s Alameda.

          tl;dr around 750 thousand dollars, 500 if you’re lucky and willing to go downmarket. So yeah, this is hideously out of the price range. Besides, Portland has suburbs and quiet neighborhoods too; if LMC isn’t happy with e.g. Tualatin, LMC won’t be happy with e.g. Albany.

        • Plumber says:

          @nkurz

          “…reasonable…”

          As @Nornagest well demonstrated there are no “reasonable” priced homes to be found within at least a 100 miles of San Francisco, “cheaper” yes, but cheap?

          I don’t even know if they can be found in this Time Zone!

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure there are. Here’s Zillow for Modesto, CA. Now, you wouldn’t want to actually live in Modesto — it was rated the worst city in America two years running — and neither would LMC, but could LMC afford it? Absolutely.

            It’s impossible to find an affordable home within reasonable commuting distance of SF, but that’s not much of an obstacle if you don’t want to live, work, or hang out in SF. Which, if you’re moving out of Portland because of the homeless people, you don’t.

      • Deiseach says:

        (a city councilman even came to my door and asked me “what issues are important to you”!).

        And when he staggered away from the doorstep three hours later, did he regret asking you? 😉

        Last, just north of Albany is El Ceritto

        I looked that up and Wikipedia says “El Cerrito was founded by refugees from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. ”

        Holy crap, now I know where the last sane people in San Francisco went! 1906 – Nature flattens the city. Sensible people: Feck this, we’re leaving and trying this city building lark elsewhere where the ground won’t try to eat you. Rest of the populace: Nah, we’ll stay and rebuild in the exact same spot, what’s the worst that could happen?

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach

          “…did he regret asking you? 😉..”

          Regret?

          Oh no, he even thanked me for my time!

          Though strangely he hasn’t been back….

          “…where the last sane people in San Francisco went!…”

          Makes sense, but San Franciscans increase by conversion, not by child birth.

          Much like the Shakers did…

    • add_lhr says:

      My sister lives in Little Rock and I was very pleasantly surprised when I went to visit. The downtown is quite walkable but still has lots of charming tree-lined neighborhoods with beautiful stately homes (and some smaller homes with yards). She seems to find it safe enough and it seems to be growing; I saw lots of new bars / shops / microbreweries / restaurants, plus some co-working spaces, etc when walking around. She lives about half a mile from the river, which is bounded by parks on both sides for a few miles has an excellent series of biking and running trails. No idea about the local government, but it seemed well-run at first glance.

    • knownastron says:

      Have you looked into Salt Lake City?

      The housing might not be as cheap as you want, but it’s also not ridiculous by any means.

      You’ll love the outdoor culture here. There are great hikes 10-15 mins from downtown and world class skiing is 30-45 mins away. This is an incredibly pet friendly place as well, I almost feel like an outcast because I don’t own a pet.

      The local government is sane in the sense that it’s not going to swing wildly left because of the Mormon influence.

      The cons of Salt Lake City is perhaps, depending how you see it, the Mormon influence. I personally see it as almost all pros. One of the only real complaints people have is liquor laws are a bit strict here. But the city is safe and the people are friendly. Great culture of work-life balance. The winters are mild compared to all the places getting recommended in the mid-West. There’s a lot of growth happening here as well.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Have you looked into Salt Lake City?

        Not yet. I’m imagining e-shopping for cases of red wine and Mormon officials stopping them at the post office. 😀

  7. proyas says:

    Some believe that we’re headed for “the death of truth”; for a time when anyone can fully curate his information sources and social circles to form any desired reality bubble. Technology will super-empower innate human biases and lazy thinking, leading to a bleak future where no one can agree on simple facts.

    I don’t dismiss this possibility, and have a gut feeling that the level of untruth will stay low enough for societies to continue functioning. What gives me hope is the belief that AGIs will not have human biases, will be extremely rational, and will have a sharp grasp of reality, so at least some minds on this planet will see things for what they are and keep accurate records of events.

    I think AGIs would realize that cognitive biases and biases more generally speaking were maladaptive, and that the greatest utility derives from perceiving one’s surroundings as accurately as possible, and making decisions only after careful consideration. AGIs might pretend to have biases in order to fit in with humans, but what’s going on inside their heads will be different from that.

    • John Schilling says:

      People who don’t grok reality can’t win wars, even with massive numerical and technological superiority, so there will be at least one group adjacent to every surviving society that isn’t wholly bubble-ized. Other examples are left as an exercise for the student.

      It is possible that a majority of the electorate will become so disconnected from reality that it will vote for all these people to do something that they understand to be wholly self-destructive, in which case the problem solves itself one way or another. If it’s the other way, note that people who don’t grok reality can’t rebuild a post-apocalyptic civilization, nor long survive as hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers, or slaves.

      • proyas says:

        If it’s the other way, note that people who don’t grok reality can’t rebuild a post-apocalyptic civilization, nor long survive as hunter-gatherers, subsistence farmers, or slaves.

        Some of them would, out of necessity, start groking reality in a post-apocalyptic situation. This would be easier to do since most of the technological distractions that propped up their reality bubbles would no longer work.

      • albatross11 says:

        They also can’t build buildings that stand up, rockets that go up into the sky instead of blowing up on the pad, vaccines that prevent disease, or computers that work. All those things require doing your level best to understand reality pretty well, and none of those things will be convinced to work on cartoon physics just because every human on Earth believes in cartoon physics.

        The problem is that within the social sphere, working from a correct understanding of reality often gets you a worse outcome than working from a correct understanding of what your social circle believes or professes. A rock-solid understanding of the truth isn’t as much comfort as you’d think when the Inquisitor starts heating up the irons.

        • Lambert says:

          You can build a pretty solid filter bubble without rejecting F=ma.

          But the kind of understanding you need to win a war is somewhat person-oriented.
          All along the way, you have to pursuade your side to keep fighting, and the other side to concede whatever you were fighting over. From individual soldiers surrendering to the final peace treaty.
          Think of all the people, blinded by ideology, expecting the populace to welcome them as liberators.

        • proyas says:

          The problem is that within the social sphere, working from a correct understanding of reality often gets you a worse outcome than working from a correct understanding of what your social circle believes or professes.

          This is only true if you make your correct understanding of reality known to other humans, and if you have failed to incorporate their values, personalities, and likely reactions to you into your model of the social sphere. I think it would be most adaptive if you had a correct understanding of reality, both in the scientific and social/cultural sense, but tailored your outward behavior and speech in ways that optimized your fitness and strategically advanced your goals.

          In other words, you’d act like a highly intelligent sociopath or skilled politician! You would learn as much as possible about as many people around you as possible, create models of them for incorporation into your larger world model, and lie to them as necessary to get them to do things that served your interests, all the while never drinking your own Kool-Aid.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        People who don’t grok reality can’t win wars, even with massive numerical and technological superiority, so there will be at least one group adjacent to every surviving society that isn’t wholly bubble-ized.

        A hopeful thought. But if everybody is bubble-ized and hates every other bubble, and they go to war despite incompetence, then either one bubble-ized side wins, or else they stay at war forever.

        There are times lately when I think we are beginning to see the true explanation for the Fermi Paradox. Step One: a beast evolved for tribal life nevertheless manages to cobble together the institutions that enable a global civilization. Step Two: it develops Twitter.

        • John Schilling says:

          But if everybody is bubble-ized and hates every other bubble

          This isn’t true and it’s not going to be. The claim that it even might be true is mostly an American thing, or American-and-Western-European, and even there a good fraction of the population does not partake of reality-denying bubbles.

          If you imagine that they do or soon will, that’s one of the ways your bubble is preventing you from observing reality.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect humans always and everywhere partake in reality-denying bubbles. But some bubbles are crazier than others. If your reality-denying bubble is mostly about ideology that doesn’t affect practical decisions much, then it’s not that dysfunctional. This is actually a good reason to try to keep the role of ideology small in your society.

            You can think of a reality-denying ideology as being in a kind of equilibrium between people refusing it because it seems factually wrong and people accepting it because of social pressure. ISTM that social media has made social pressure more effective, in much the same way that the widespread use of radio did a century or so ago. That probably means that people will either shift toward more acceptance of reality-denying ideology, or develop social antibodies to this kind of pressure so they don’t follow social pressure off a cliff.

    • Matt M says:

      If recent controversies relating to “biased” AI are any indication, in the event that AI starts returning us information that goes against prevailing social opinion, the AI will be either reprogrammed or ignored.

      • albatross11 says:

        An interesting problem here is that sometimes, there are bases for making decisions that are against the law. If a bank wants to use an AI to make that decision, it needs to not be using that illegal basis. If you offer different loan rates to blacks and whites based on their race, then you’re violating the law even if that leads to the best outcomes in terms of default rates and such.

        Now, you might want to reconsider the wisdom of that law. But if you keep that law, then it sure seems like it also ought to apply to AI-made decisions, not just to human-made ones.

        • Matt M says:

          If you offer different loan rates to blacks and whites based on their race

          Well the problem is slightly more nuanced than that.

          The real issue is that if you offer different loan rates to blacks and whites for any reason, and the general public gets wind of it, you will be denounced as racist. Whatever supposedly objective “totally not race” criteria that just-so-happens to correlate with race will be considered unacceptable to use.

          • dick says:

            The real issue is that if you offer different loan rates to blacks and whites for any reason, and the general public gets wind of it, you will be denounced as racist.

            I don’t believe you. You will be denounced as racist if you give different loan rates to black people for one reason, and that reason is “because they’re black.” If the reason is “because they had worse credit” then you will not be.

          • pqjk2 says:

            I don’t believe you. You will be denounced as racist if you give different loan rates to black people for one reason, and that reason is “because they’re black.”

            I don’t think that’s quite true: Disparate Impact

            “Therefore, the disparate impact theory under Title VII prohibits employers “from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class. A facially neutral employment practice is one that does not appear to be discriminatory on its face; rather it is one that is discriminatory in its application or effect.”

        • The Nybbler says:

          The fun little thing with loans is that to get the result that the AI-fairness people want (equal loan acceptance rates between races), you have to force it — that is, you have to include race in the criteria (either directly or by proxy) and you have to fudge the training set. This makes it rather hard to fool yourself about what you are doing, though people try.

    • BBA says:

      Truth isn’t dead, but she doesn’t come out of her well very often.

      We all believe untrue things, which seem as basic and unquestionable to us as “2 + 2 = 4.” We’re experts at finding patterns that aren’t there and engaging in motivated reasoning to “prove” that facts and logic support whatever we were arguing for to begin with. Nobody is immune, and so far I see no sign that an AI will be immune either, since it’s designed by biased imperfect humans and necessarily reflects its creators’ biases and imperfections.

      The replication crises hasn’t really sunk in yet. Many recent scientific “discoveries” may turn out to be no more real than N-rays, but good luck getting any refutations published. The rot is deep. A few threads ago I declared that truth is a social construct, which was roundly mocked. Fine, structural engineering has a pretty good track record, but most things aren’t structural engineering. The world can stay irrational longer than you can stay alive.

    • proyas says:

      I should have added to my original post that, on other internet fora I’ve written about my belief that AGIs will have major advantages over humans thanks to the former’s lack of cognitive biases, and people have disagreed with me, claiming that the AGIs will also be biased. They’ve said that, since AGIs will never have perfect access to complete information and will never have infinite time to consider all variables and outcomes when formulating decisions and judgments, they will be incapable of true, rational thinking.

      I agree that AGIs will still have bounded rationality, but that their boundaries will be pushed out much more than those of human minds, meaning AGIs will be much better than we are at analyzing information, grasping “reality,” and deducing which course of action best conforms to the demands of reality. Without perfect information and infinite time to analyze it, yes, even Super AGIs will need to use “cognitive shortcuts” (which I think are also termed “heuristics”), and if those shortcuts were systematically applied, then they might count as cognitive biases. But very importantly, AGIs would be:

      1) Capable of impartially and rationally processing much more data than a human mind could before hitting a limitation that forced them to employ a shortcut;

      2) Fully aware of their own cognitive shortcuts/biases;

      3) Able to alter or turn off their cognitive shortcuts/biases.

      So my response to the people who believe AGIs will also have cognitive biases is that yes, they probably would, but they would not be nearly as severe a handicap on their thinking as the biases are on human thinking, and since being able to accurately perceive reality and to quickly identify optimal courses of action is adaptive, then AGIs will have many key advantages over humans.

      What do you think of my reasoning?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Everyone keeps saying AGI. From the context it sounds like a synonym of AI (artificial intelligence). But to me as a tax accountant, I can’t get past thinking it is adjusted gross income (and Google agrees with me). If it really is the same as AI, what is the G for, and why can’t we keep using just AI?

      • Nornagest says:

        The G is for “general”. We’ve been making AI since the Seventies, but it’s been narrow AI, specialized for very specific problem domains and not very bright outside of them; it’s only very recently that we’ve started making strides towards intelligence that can apply itself more broadly.

        Conventionally, an AGI is one that can apply itself to any domain, and we’re nowhere near that. Strictly speaking this doesn’t mean “human-equivalent or better” — a bright monkey might qualify, and a six-year-old certainly does — but since generality is what humans do best relative to machines, it’s often used to mean that.

  8. AnteriorMotive says:

    In theory, the advantage gained from smartness (and/or conscientiousness) should steadily accumulate over the course of a person’s life. Smart people don’t just learn high school Trigonometry faster, they spend the next thirty years learning every skill faster, until the advantage ought to become absolutely insurmountable. Yet I’ve never seen this phenomenon discussed, am I missing some reason why it doesn’t exist, or is just masked by the fact that we stream people into distinct career tracks from such a young age?

    • Well... says:

      Part of it has to be that we don’t actually understand smartness all that well.

    • Nick says:

      I’ve read an anecdote discussing exactly this, maybe in Isaacson’s The Innovators. Someone at Bell Labs remarked that his coworker or boss or someone seemed on a completely different level, and his interlocutor replied that it’s because they’ve been applying themselves just a bit harder for all their lives, and that effort compounds. I’ll see if I can dig it up when I get home.

      ETA: Never mind, found it. It’s from Richard Hamming:

      Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode’s office and said, “How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?” He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, “You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.” I simply slunk out of the office!

      What Bode was saying was this: “Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.” Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode’s remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don’t like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There’s no question about this.

      ETA: Oh, and my source was Paul Graham, I bet. He has a transcript of Hamming’s talk too.

    • Nornagest says:

      In a few cases I’d answer that with “it does happen, and that’s where rich people come from”, but in most cases I’d say the advantage runs into diminishing returns sooner or later. Because most skills can’t be improved indefinitely: at some point it just isn’t rewarding to try and get better at operating a #4 widget spindle.

      • acymetric says:

        Don’t you also just get a general decrease in ability to learn things as you age?

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, but so do your peers.

          • acymetric says:

            Right, but this has a bigger impact on smart people who were actually learning stuff than on people who weren’t learning something to begin with, meaning the advantage (or at least the ability to expand the advantage) over less smart people has decreased (in addition to the diminishing returns on improving a given skill). Basically you’ve got two layers of diminishing returns there…ability to learn and benefit from learning.

            Are we agreeing? I can’t tell.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      In theory, the advantage gained from smartness (and/or conscientiousness) should steadily accumulate over the course of a person’s life.

      Oh yes, I think this is very true. Smart and conscientious folks have a slight advantage over their peers as teens. But you get many smart nerdy teenagers that are treated as outcasts. By the time those same people are in their forties, these outcasts are usually making good professional salaries and are mostly treated as valued members of society (at least if they are conscientious also, and so worked hard in college and to advance in their profession).

      I think of myself as an example. I am 62, and I believe I am both smart and conscientious. I struggled in my social life an career in my younger days, but now I have a choice of what jobs to take, all at high rates of pay, and plenty of wealth to have a comfortable retirement. I am not as ambitious as some, and those are the ones that become multi-millionaire entrepreneurs.

      I think Norquest is correct about rich people in that regard. Part of the increasing divide between rich and poor is those with the greatest advantages continue to advance over those that are lacking. But I think he is wrong about diminishing returns. Those of a lower level of intelligence or ambition reach their peaks after maybe ten years into their career. IF you are smarter or willing to keep learning and switch careers as needed, you can advance far beyond those stuck at the lower levels. So diminishing returns is more likely to hit those at the lower levels, and so adds to the level of difference.

    • Garrett says:

      I suspect that there’s an element of this. See Our Gracious Host, for an example. And there are certain fields where this pays off, such as certain aspects of medicine or practicing law.

      But an awful lot of things in life are not repeated similar events where you can master the tasks and improve continually. For example, you get drawn away from your life of intellectual skill when your gutters start leaking. Unless “mastering how to find tradespeople” is something you’ve spent time on, you need to handle that task. But that sort of thing isn’t going to carry over elsewhere in your life unless you decide to suddenly become a property manager.

  9. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to the twenty-third installment in my effortpost series. Last time, we looked at some historical background and the Gospel of Mark. This time, we’re going to look at how two of the other gospels – Matthew and Luke – are similar to Mark, plus scholarly theories about that, and then consider how Matthew differs. Most scholars today think that Matthew used Mark as a source, and by considering how Matthew used sources, we can get some clues into Matthew’s motives and theological interests.

    Caveats: I’m not an expert in this, though I did study it back in school. I’m aiming for a 100/200 level coverage, so there’s a fair bit I’m leaving out: feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to answer them. I won’t be providing a huge amount of summary – but Bibles are easily available and everyone can read along. My focus will primarily be secular scholarship. A final note: in order to save space, “Matthew” is a reference to the document, the Gospel of Matthew, and shorthand for the (likely unknown) author, not to the traditionally-ascribed author.

    Something that readers noticed a long time ago is that Mark, Matthew, and Luke are all pretty similar. They tell the same stories quite frequently, often with similar or the same wording. For this reason, they’re known as the “synoptic gospels” – “synoptic” meaning “seen together.” It is generally agreed that there is some relationship between them. There’s material that all three share, material only shared by two, and material that only appears in a single gospel.

    Traditional hypotheses about this relationship have tended to place Matthew first, and take the other two as using Matthew as a source. The modern scholarly version of this – and there are still serious scholars who place Matthew first, although not many – is best known as the “Griesbach hypothesis.” The Griesbach hypothesis holds that Matthew was the first gospel. Luke used Matthew. Mark then used both Luke and Matthew, as a condensing of the two.

    However, while the Griesbach hypothesis and similar explanations have the advantage that they require no positing of lost documents (as the dominant theory, explained shortly, does) and they go better with old church traditions, they have a lot of problems. Most significantly, they would require Mark to cut a lot, and to make other odd changes.

    Most theories now, then, are based on “Markan priority” – on Mark being written first, and being used as a source by the other two. The dominant theory – I would guess it’s held by the overwhelming majority of experts – is known, variously, as the “two-” or “four-document hypothesis”, with a little variation. Put shortly: Matthew and Luke both used Mark as a source, which explains the parts where both reproduce something in Mark, or where one does (the other left it out). They both shared a hypothetical source document called “Q” (from quelle, “source” in German), which explains the material that they share that isn’t found in Mark (mostly sayings of Jesus, but some narrative). There’s some material in Mark that neither of the other gospels used. There’s also material in Matthew and Luke that they don’t share with other sources – this material is labelled as being part of “M” or “L” as the case may be – Matthew and Luke’s “special sources”, which could be written or oral, one source or many, etc. Q is generally thought to be a written document, rather than an orally transmitted tradition, based on the occasionally exact agreement in Matthew and Luke when using Q material.

    One thing that supports this hypothesis is the patterns of agreement with regard to stories the three share. Sometimes all three agree, sometimes Matthew or Luke disagrees from the other two – but it’s very rare to see Matthew and Luke agree but disagree with Mark. This makes sense if they used Mark as a source – it would be very unusual to have them both change a story and coincidentally do so in the same way.

    The sequence of events in the gospels is taken to support the hypothesis. When Matthew and Luke have the same order of events, it’s generally stuff shared with Mark. The material they share that Mark doesn’t have (in this hypothesis, Q material) varies much more in the order it’s presented, as though Matthew and Luke both used Mark as a framework and plugged other stuff in. If Luke used Matthew, or the other way around, it would be odd to rearrange that material. However, if the whole Q thesis is correct, Q must in large part have consisted of individual sayings of Jesus; Matthew and Luke both took these and tried to figure out how to frame them.

    The character of the (supposed) changes supports the hypothesis. Mark’s Greek is worse than Matthew and Luke’s, and in stuff they share, the latter two often correct Mark’s grammar. There’s some other errors that get fixed. Mark gets edited down: in Matthew, the individual stories are shorter, although Matthew is considerably longer in total. Both Matthew and Luke are generally “softer” – for example, the disciples come off better, Jesus is a far less ambiguous figure, some weird edges have been sanded off, and the story’s much less of a (surface-level) downer.

    Markan priority also makes the most sense of the question of what the gospels don’t share. If Mark is first, it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t include Q material. Presumably Mark didn’t have access to Q. If Mark was dependent on another gospel, the author would have had to cut out a lot of good material (while, remember, actually lengthening individual stories). The existence of Q, meanwhile, makes the most sense of the degree of agreement in individual stories, but the different ordering, of the material Matthew and Luke share but Mark doesn’t have.

    Overall, the current dominant hypothesis offers the best explanation of the documents as we have them today. Relationship is almost certain (no other explanation of the similarities makes as much sense), and alternative schemes make less sense than this one. Its major disadvantage is that it posits at least one actual written document of which no copy exists. This hasn’t stopped some scholars from fairly confidently “reconstructing” Q, including supposed discernment of different layers of composition – this part earlier than that part, and so on.

    One supposed result of this is that one can do “redaction criticism” – look at Mark, look at the same thing in Matthew, note any changes, and consider why they might be – why the author of Matthew might make that change. Even less certainly, one can compare Matthew and Luke, although we have no real knowledge of any lost precursor. That’s what we’re going to do now for Matthew.

    (This one went a bit long too; continued in a reply. As usual, if anyone notices any mistakes, let me know so I can fix them, hopefully within 55 minutes or thereabouts so I don’t miss the edit window.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Matthew reproduces, it is thought, 80% of Mark, and is about 50% longer. It begins by identifying Jesus as the son of Abraham and David, and proceeds with a genealogy ending with Joseph, husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother – although it goes on to describe a conception by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is nevertheless linked to the Davidic line. Jesus’ conception is special, and his birth is special.

      After he is born, foreign wise men who have observed and interpreted a star arrive and ask King Herod where the child born king of the Jews is to be found. Herod finds out from the wise men when the star was observed, and asks them to bring the child to him, so he may pay him homage. The wise men find Jesus and worship him, and having been warned in a dream to avoid Herod, they go home by a different route. An angel warns Joseph to flee to Egypt for a time, before Herod (since the wise men did not follow his request) orders that all boys two years or under (based on the observation of the star) be killed. Following Herod’s death, the family returns, but to Nazareth.

      The narrative of Matthew is fairly similar to Mark, although it gathers together scenes that are more spread out in Mark. Jesus teaches and heals until he is betrayed and arrested in Jerusalem. After his death and resurrection, the gospel includes a post-resurrection appearance section that scholars think is original to Matthew.

      If it’s possible to compare the gospels to each other and thus note their emphases, what can you tell from Matthew by comparing it to Mark and Luke? What do you get from looking at the material unique to Matthew? Presumably it was included for a reason. Generally, scholars think that Matthew is the most Jewish-oriented of the Gospels, representing a strain in early Christianity that saw it, to put it very simply (this is outside my wheelhouse, with a lot of it taking place before the canonical Gospels were written), as an extension of Judaism. However, it’s also more hostile to the Jewish authorities than Mark and Luke. We’ll see how scholars ascribe these tendencies to the community in which and for which Matthew was produced.

      Matthew is concerned to show Jesus as the fulfillment of various Biblical promises and prophecies, and his mission as the completion of Judaism. Matthew is generally positive about Jewish law and custom – for instance, removing the declaration, during the handwashing controversy story, that all foods are clean (in Mark 7 and Matthew 15) The genealogy of Jesus – or, more precisely, that of Joseph – establishes three chains of fourteen: fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Exile, and fourteen from the Exile to Jesus. Matthew uses “stock sentences” to indicate the fulfillment of Jewish scripture, including citations – these don’t appear in Mark or Luke. At the beginning of chapter 10, Jesus instructs the twelve not to go among the gentiles or Samaritans, but to limit their actions “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew presents Jesus, at least, as acting within the context of Judaism.

      Although more friendly towards Jewish law and tradition than Mark, Matthew is more hostile to the Jewish authorities. This begins with the infancy narrative, where it is pagan gentiles who go to worship the Messiah, not priests or scholars, nor the king, who seeks to kill him. The Jewish authorities are generally lambasted as hypocrites. There is an increased hostility to the Pharisees in Matthew, and scholars generally think this indicates increased Pharisaic influence in Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in the failed revolt.

      Matthew’s narrative, relative to Mark, is softened – the disciples come off better, and in general those who might later be thought worthy of respect do. There’s increased exaltation of Jesus, such as the baptism scene (while in Mark, Jesus is simply baptized, in Luke, he has to convince John to baptize him – the implication being that the baptizer is in some way superior to the baptized). While, as we’ll note, Matthew presents Jesus (relatively speaking) more as a teacher and less as a wonder-worker, the miraculous element of such scenes is increased – for example, iin Mark 6 Jesus feeds five thousand men; in Matthew 14:21 “about five thousand men, besides women and children” are fed. Jesus is more openly acknowledged – the voice from heaven at his baptism says “This is my Son” rather than “You are my Son”, for example – a third-person announcement versus one to Jesus alone.

      Considering how Matthew uses Markan and Q material, Jesus is presented more as a teacher in Matthew than in Mark or Luke. Scenes from Mark tend to increase the role of teaching and decrease the role of miracle. Considering Q, Matthew groups the sayings material (which Luke has more spread out; scholars think that since Matthew consolidates material that is spread out in Mark and rearranges sequences, likely the same happened with Q) in five sermons. Some scholars have posited that the five sermons are meant to create another Moses comparison – to the five books of the Torah, which were traditionally ascribed to Moses – but other scholars note that the actual content doesn’t run parallel to the Torah.

      Concerning the issue of the origin of the book, scholars think they have a match based on an analysis of the document and external historical context. Traditionally, the book is ascribed to Matthew, a tax collector and member of the twelve core followers according to the Gospel of Matthew; other attestations of a member of the twelve called Matthew appear in Mark, Luke, and Acts. Matthew is traditionally associated with Levi the tax collector in Mark and Luke, due to a similar calling story and the same occupation. It’s supposed to have been the first gospel and to have been originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Alternatively, it is based on a collection of sayings he put together.

      Modern scholarship discounts the traditional explanation. For starters, it really looks as though Mark was a source for Matthew, which argues against it being a firsthand account. There’s no textual evidence that it was composed originally in Hebrew or Aramaic, either. However, an interesting point: when citing the Hebrew Bible in Greek, Matthew uses both translations scholars are familiar with, and translations that are either the author’s own or were obtained from a source no longer extant. There’s been some scholarly speculation about Jewish Christian communities that might have produced a proto-Matthew in Hebrew or Aramaic, but no hard evidence.

      What, then, do the secular scholars say? The author’s Greek seems to be that of someone educated in the language. They are very likely Jewish – the good Greek coupled with the possibility of literacy in Hebrew, Aramaic, or both suggests an educated Jew in the diaspora. Other elements suggest an urban milieu, and the comparison of the Beatitudes in Matthew to Luke’s version suggests a well-off author, possibly a well-off community (where Luke has “Blessed are you who are poor” and “Blessed are you who are hungry now”, Matthew has “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – suggesting a community that would not find Luke’s wording relevant).

      Scholars tend to view the character of the gospel as proceeding from the immediate experience of the community and thus of the author. Matthew was composed in a Jewish Christian community that still insisted on certain standards of performance of Jewish norms. However, an increasing number of gentiles were joining the local Christian community, with controversy over the degree to which they should adopt Jewish food practices and the like, and over whether one must first be a Jew to be a Christian, in effect. Meanwhile, and to a certain extent therefore, there’s increasing friction with and pulling away from the mainstream Jewish community, with hostility towards its authorities. Internally, based on its theology and supposed historical references, it’s dated to 80 to 90, maybe 70-100. The later date is based on attestation and the dates of comparable documents.

      Based on this, scholars often think Antioch is the best answer. Antioch was a major city, and the Jewish centre of Syria at the time. Jewish Christians, possibly including some well-off people, seem to have come there after conflicts in Jerusalem in the 30s. We know that Paul lost a dispute over food rules there in or around 50, and that by the 70s gentiles were the majority of the Christian population, adding to tensions with the mainstream Jewish community, already inflamed by the recent failed revolt. Again, the later date is based on links to documents we know existed by then with links to Antioch. This isn’t the only guess, however – rivalry and conflict with Pharisees could indicate something closer, geographically, to the events described.

      In summary: the likely relationship among Matthew, Mark, and Luke offers much to consider. The most likely model is that Matthew and Luke both used Mark, as well as another source called Q, and their own individual source(s). Based on this, we can try to guess at Matthew’s emphases, and the author’s interests and priorities, by comparing it to Mark and Luke. Matthew presents a Jesus who is in no way in conflict with the Jewish Law, but in increased conflict with the Jewish authorities. He’s a more exalted figure, and more of a teacher. It’s probably the product of an author in a community of Jewish Christians in Antioch that was experiencing the entry of more gentiles and more conflict with mainstream Jews.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Agreed that there are very strong arguments for Markan priority—enough so that I am willing to present this as a fact when discussing the gospels with people unfamilar with them.

        There are some problems with the 2nd century attributions of the Gospel of Matthew to Matthew (notably that the Gospel as we have it cannot have been originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic). However, the argument that a firsthand source such as Matthew (the apostle) would not have written a text using large quantities of another text (Mark) seems to me suspect.

        In particular, it seems to involve very modern assumptions about the importace of originality that I don’t think were shared by pre-modern authors. Seriously, our culture has multiple insitutions that taboo copying other authors (plagariasm, copyright), and at least in highbrow circles glorifies writers for being “original”, and slams them for being “derivative”, in ways that probably make it really hard to image living in a culture where being derivative was regarded as actually superior to being original!

        Recall that the Jewish Christian author who wrote Matthew was raised in a Deuteronomic legal system where it was necessary for two witnesses to agree on the exact same accusation in order to establish a crime (see also Matthew 18:16). In rabbinic law, they even had to agree on a verbally identical formulation (which is presumably why the Sanhedrin had to drop the charge against Jesus about him threating to rebuild the temple (Mark 14:58)). Is it really that implausible that he might view confirmation of the previous gospel as an important goal in writing his own text?

        Furthermore, the author of Matthew clearly has a more legal mind than the other gospel writers (not surprising, if he was really a tax collector). To give just one example, only Matthew preserves the “exception clause” in Jesus’ teaching forbidding divorce and remarriage. Not everybody has the right sort of mind to give a well-ordered biographical account. Is it really that surprising that Matthew might start with a framework that already existed, and then added the teaching material he wanted to add? (Especially if the Gospel of Mark carried some of the authority of Peter behind it.)

        (Although, another speculative scenario I have sometimes considered, is that maybe the apostle Matthew was actually the author of Q, and at some point somebody translated Q from Aramaic into Greek. It’s combination with Mark resulted in a product that was still attributed to Matthew due to his involvement at an earlier stage. This theory has the advantage that it actually allows quite a bit of the 2nd century external testimony about Matthean priority to have a basis in fact, while also agreeing with the Two Source theory.)

        The later date is based on attestation and the dates of comparable documents.

        What comparable documents? There’s the Didache, but the date of that seems at least equally uncertain.

        I speak here of surviving documents, of course. Another point worth mentioning with regard to the synoptic problem is that Luke starts by saying that many have tried to give an account of Jesus’ life. Even if Luke had access to Mark, Q, AND Matthew, it seems like maybe even more sources would have to exist for Luke to be able to say “many”…

        We know that Paul lost a dispute over food rules there in or around 50

        How do we know that Paul lost?

        Some scholars have posited that the five sermons are meant to create another Moses comparison – to the five books of the Torah, which were traditionally ascribed to Moses – but other scholars note that the actual content doesn’t run parallel to the Torah.

        Actually this theory works a lot better if you identify the geneology of Jesus (which in Greek begins “the book of the genesis of Jesus Christ”) with the book of Genesis. Jesus gets baptized and goes into the desert like Israel to be tempted. Then, Jesus goes up on a Mountain to give a new law, in the process reinterpreting the Ten Commandments (that’s Exodus). In the next major sermon, he sends out the Twelve Apostles (i.e. the new priesthood) with instructions about how they are to support themselves and preach (that’s Leviticus). Next we have the sermon of parables which involves large quantities of people being assessed and judged (Numbers). In Deut 18 we have the a discourse about the Church assembly which gives instructions about sin and judging disputes, and which indeed quotes Deuteronomy at an essential moment. Finally, to round out the Hexateuch, we have a bunch of parables about the end-times and waiting for the deliverer (the new Yeshua) to lead you into the promised land. Fits quite nicely, actually.

        Of course, the biblical critic who proposed that theory went on to propose that Luke was organized in the same way, which goes to show that the one thing biblical critics can’t ever learn is when to stop!

        • dndnrsn says:

          Three things about linking the document we have now to the figure of Matthew. First, while you’re certainly right that the cultural expectations regarding originality and all that were different, and a firsthand witness might use other sources, Matthew is primarily based on Mark, and the stuff that’s uniquely Matthean doesn’t fit with being written by an eyewitness to Jesus’ teaching and preaching – eg, the opening narrative. Second, the traditional ascription has other problems with it. Third, identifying Matthew as the author in the traditional fashion is using the idea it’s based on eyewitness testimony as legitimizing it – but if someone (Matthew the tax collector, or someone else) mostly used other sources… It would be interesting, though, if the Matthew linkage was a garbled account of the origin of Q.

          What comparable documents? There’s the Didache, but the date of that seems at least equally uncertain.

          Links can be drawn between stuff in Matthew and Ignatius of Antioch’s writings, and scholars generally accept the traditional dating of his martyrdom, at least roughly.

          I speak here of surviving documents, of course. Another point worth mentioning with regard to the synoptic problem is that Luke starts by saying that many have tried to give an account of Jesus’ life. Even if Luke had access to Mark, Q, AND Matthew, it seems like maybe even more sources would have to exist for Luke to be able to say “many”…

          Yeah, this very well could be the case. I imagine that scholars who argue for very early dating of this or that noncanonical gospel would find a way to fit that in.

          How do we know that Paul lost?

          Reading between the lines in Galatians, it certainly doesn’t seem like he won the dispute.

          Regarding the organization of Matthew – do you recall the scholar’s name?

          • Aron Wall says:

            The scholar was Austin Farrer, and he wrote the Hexateuch theory down in the same paper where he proposes (what is now called the Farrer hypothesis) that the non-Markan similarities between Luke and Matthew are explained by Luke using Matthew directly.

            Obviously Matthew the apostle would not have been a direct eyewitness to the Infancy Account. Assuming (as I, being a Christian, believe) this is not purely legendary, the source for it would have to be a member of Jesus’ family. The story is told from Joseph’s point of view, but since Joseph was likely dead by this time, the most likely source is one of Jesus’ half-brothers, e.g. James.

            (Luke’s Infancy, on the other hand, is told from Mary’s perspective and, given multiple references to Mary’s private thoughts, I believe she is the most likely source. And apparently I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion, since a few hours ago I saw a Renaissance painting in an art museum in Valencia depicting Mary dictating to Luke as he writes his gospel!)

            But anyway, pretty much anything unique to Matthew besides the Infancy narrative is something that could have been supplied by a direct eyewitness to the events.

            I don’t get your argument from Ignatius. It seems that Ignatius quotes from the Gospel of Matthew (although he does it without citations). If this is true, than Matthew cannot be later than Ignatius. But it doesn’t prevent Matthew from being significantly earlier.

            There’s also a lot of common sayings between Matthew and the epistle of James, but James (assuming he’s the most obvious James to have written the letter, namely the leader of the Jerusalem church mentioned in Acts and Josephus) was martyred in the 60s, so because of the similarities between the two documents one might equally well argue that Matthew was written no later than around the 60s. How is that any worse than the Ignatius argument? 😉

            Of course, the idea that the character of a gospel reflects the decade in which it was written (and the exact degree of animosity between Jews and Gentiles, as if this were not a very complicated function of space as well as time which we no longer have good access to) sort of implicitly presupposes that the material in question can’t more simply be explained by saying that Jesus really did or said the things in question. If he did, then the year of importance is c. 30.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I knew the Farrer hypothesis but if I’d read about the Hexateuch idea before, I forgot about it at some point between then and now.

            Obviously Matthew the apostle would not have been a direct eyewitness to the Infancy Account. Assuming (as I, being a Christian, believe) this is not purely legendary, the source for it would have to be a member of Jesus’ family. The story is told from Joseph’s point of view, but since Joseph was likely dead by this time, the most likely source is one of Jesus’ half-brothers, e.g. James.

            (Luke’s Infancy, on the other hand, is told from Mary’s perspective and, given multiple references to Mary’s private thoughts, I believe she is the most likely source. And apparently I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion, since a few hours ago I saw a Renaissance painting in an art museum in Valencia depicting Mary dictating to Luke as he writes his gospel!)

            From a scholarly perspective, what I find interesting about the Matthean and Lukan narratives, is that the “mundane” historical events in them apparently would have been believable to an audience of the time. By which I mean, stuff that today we would consider “supernatural” was not considered separate from the “natural world” back then, in a similar way to how they didn’t divide religious and secular in the way that moderns (especially Protestant-influenced moderns) do. However, the story about Herod ordering a whole bunch of kids killed, or the story about the census, evidently passed the smell test enough that the authors included them.

            I don’t get your argument from Ignatius. It seems that Ignatius quotes from the Gospel of Matthew (although he does it without citations). If this is true, than Matthew cannot be later than Ignatius. But it doesn’t prevent Matthew from being significantly earlier.

            There’s also a lot of common sayings between Matthew and the epistle of James, but James (assuming he’s the most obvious James to have written the letter, namely the leader of the Jerusalem church mentioned in Acts and Josephus) was martyred in the 60s, so because of the similarities between the two documents one might equally well argue that Matthew was written no later than around the 60s. How is that any worse than the Ignatius argument? 😉

            It’s not really my argument, but: Ignatius sets the later bound. If the Epistle of James was written by that James, and there’s a connection, that would point to the earlier bound, but not the later. (I’ll talk more about James in that particular post, but scholars don’t appear to be allergic to the possibility of a link to the historical figure or perhaps a disciple of same; it’s generally dated to the same period as Matthew and comes broadly out of the same Jewish Christian milieu.

            Of course, the idea that the character of a gospel reflects the decade in which it was written (and the exact degree of animosity between Jews and Gentiles, as if this were not a very complicated function of space as well as time which we no longer have good access to) sort of implicitly presupposes that the material in question can’t more simply be explained by saying that Jesus really did or said the things in question. If he did, then the year of importance is c. 30.

            Sure; I think a lot of the stuff goes back to Jesus or to his earliest followers. However, the spin that gets put on it – which clearly happens; we can see Matthew and Luke changing Markan material and we can see they do different things with the same Q stories – is likely to be influenced by the author’s context. It’s almost certain, historically speaking, that Jesus (who I believe existed as a historical figure relatively similar to the story we’ve got in the gospels) was baptized by John the Baptist – but we can see how each gospel author treats that fact differently.

      • S_J says:

        Thanks for continuing this series. I find it very interesting.

        I don’t know if I can really add to your description of Matthew as the ‘most Jewish’ of the Gospels. This detail, when I learned it, helped me better understand the distinction between Matthew and Mark (or Luke).

        I’m intrigued by this comment:

        [A]n interesting point: when citing the Hebrew Bible in Greek, Matthew uses both translations scholars are familiar with, and translations that are either the author’s own or were obtained from a source no longer extant.

        It would fit with an educated Jewish author to sometimes do his own translation into Greek of his Hebrew sources. Whether because he has better access to certain writings in Hebrew, or because he was familiar enough with both that he may have tried to do a best-of-either-version quote himself.

      • hls2003 says:

        I don’t have a particularly big problem with Markan priority, but I think the consensus reasoning rejecting Matthew’s priority as you’ve described it doesn’t sound particularly airtight. When I was a child, I had a book called “The Swiss Family Robinson” which was a large illustrated hardcover book with about 100 pages. I really enjoyed that book, which included good stuff like the shipwreck, the treehouse, an episode diving for giant clams, and eventually a rescue. Many years later, I read the actual original novel. (I also saw the Disney movie at some point; that was its own thing, my children’s version didn’t include the pirates or the coconut grenades). The two were quite dissimilar, although certain parts (e.g. the shipwreck) were very much alike. The point being, if one conceives of Mark as a partial abridgement with a somewhat different focus, it seems like it could replicate a lot of the structural differences supposedly explained by Mark and Q.

        The shared stories and sequence of events fit; there’s very little overarching structure in the novel that isn’t replicated in the abridgement. But there’s a story or two in the kid’s book that was put in to appeal to the different audience that isn’t in the novel. More details on the ostrich race, etc. Omitting the cave dwelling entirely. The basic sequence, though, is always wreck-house-thrive-rescue, and the stories are pretty overlapping. I could easily see an erroneous reconstruction saying that obviously the novel embellished the simple narrative of the abridgement. (Even if you bring in, say, the Disney movie as a third comparison source, you could say the same – the novel and the movie both have a near-identical shipwreck scene to the abridgement, for example).

        The nature of the grammar and language would suggest that the abridgement is far “simpler” and thus earlier, according to the logic of the argument. The abridgement is much more sympathetic – there’s a lot less random shooting things, everything is a little happier and with fewer rough edges than in the novel, etc. And if you view Mark as an abridgement, almost by definition it’s not going to include all of the original.

        I had never heard Aron Wall’s suggestion below that perhaps proto-Matthew was Q. It’s an interesting theory.

        • dndnrsn says:

          That Mark is an abridged Matthew runs into the problems that the author would have had to introduce grammatical errors and clumsy (not just simple) grammar and take stories out while retelling individual stories longer. If Mark is an abridgement, it’s not a particularly good job.

          Matthew using Mark isn’t airtight, but it’s more plausible than the opposite.

          • hls2003 says:

            uthor would have had to introduce grammatical errors and clumsy (not just simple) grammar

            Depending on the quality of the author, I don’t see why this would be a strong argument. The original Swiss Family Robinson was in German; I’ve never read that, but I’ve read an early English translation. My abridged version was grammatically correct, but that’s because it was written by a professional author and publishing house; if it had been written by a much less educated person wanting to tell the basic story to me, it would presumably have had such problems.

            and take stories out while retelling individual stories longer.

            Taking stories out is literally part of the abridgement process. Retelling individual stories longer is also literally something my kid’s version of the story did. They spent much longer on the pets, for example, than the Wyss novel, presumably because kids like animals. They omitted the cave home while amplifying the nature of Falconhurst the treehouse because kids like treehouses.

            I’m not saying it’s definitive, and I don’t much care – pretty much even the most Sola Scriptura person acknowledges that there are author and source mixing in the Gospels – but the basic argument from structure doesn’t sound as convincing to me. Maybe I just don’t have the individual textual details to assess it, which would be a fair cop.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If you were to abridge Matthew, would it end up looking like Mark? What about the stuff Mark added/changed that makes the story “rougher” – eg, the disciples being dense or the weird ending.

            Do you have access to a Gospel synopsis? (This one is probably the cheapest.) The places where Mark and Matthew differ, the changes usually make more sense if Matthew came second.

  10. proyas says:

    Are there any parts of the world that will get LESS flood-prone thanks to global warming?

    • S_J says:

      Up until this year, i would have said the Great Lakes area.

      Based not on science, but on the kind of stuff that gets into popular press. Articles along the lines of The Great Lakes water level has been trending down for many years, a reminder of the costs of Climate Change would show up regularly. [1]

      Then this year, the region had a very wet winter, and an equally we spring. The water levels are above those of the past two decades, and I see a spate of news articles about how high the water levels are. Some beaches are mostly-underwater, and some waterfront properties are in danger of flooding.

      I’m seeing articles at Weather-dot-com about how lake levels had been generally expected to fall as global temperatures rise, but that the Great Lakes water level is also “known to fluctuate over time”. There’s not much attempt to blame the high water levels on Climate Change (or Global Warming), but there are worries about whether the region is in for a long spell of high water, or for a return to the low water levels of the past two decades.

      [1] I had mistakenly assumed that these articles had been constant until last year. Doing a little research, it looks like the water levels were at historic lows in 2013, and have been below the average of last-century from about 1998 to about 2015.
      So my memory is likely wrong, but I think I was still seeing “Great Lakes recovering slightly from low water levels due to Climate Change, but there are still worries in the future” articles over the last four or five years.

  11. ana53294 says:

    Paper mills and printing presses have issues hiring laborers.

    In combination with market demands, Grimm explained that the paper industry (as well as the printing industry), is plagued by growing labor shortages. Indeed, mills have been shut down altogether for lack of workers. And she said it’s not just paper mills navigating a labor shortage. Trucking and paper delivery vendors face similar challenges. Trucking companies can’t find drivers. Young people she explained “just don’t want to do [trucking jobs] any more,” pointing to the profession’s grueling lifestyle and the demands of long distance driving.

    […] “It’s the same for printing plants, which are being shut down. The worker shortage is a problem and it’s not changing.” He noted that printing problems spiked between September and December of 2018. He described a printing landscape plagued by a lack of investment in new facilities and specifically a decline in hardcover printing capacity. He noted hardcover capacity was being complicated by the need to shift limited workers from the print side to the bindery side, “which slows everything down.” Printers, he said, would happily add shifts to their plants if there were workers to staff them.

    […] Grimm emphasized that paper production is part of a “global market” and urged publishers to “strike deals with overseas suppliers looking to get into the U.S. market. U.S. mills that have left the book paper business in the U.S. are not coming back.”

    Do paper mills and printing presses pay badly? I get why paper mill work is unpleasant (they stink), but what’s so bad about printing presses?

    And yes, I know the answer when there are difficulties to hire workers is to raise wages, but many jobs can’t afford much higher wages than they already offer, because prices are not high enough. I don’t think factory owners close factories when they could just raise wages and still get decent returns.

    • acymetric says:

      And yes, I know the answer when there are difficulties to hire workers is to raise wages, but many jobs can’t afford much higher wages than they already offer, because prices are not high enough.

      Doesn’t this suggest that those companies just weren’t efficient enough to compete in the modern market? As far as I know there isn’t any kind of major paper shortage going on, so presumably this isn’t some widespread collapse of the paper industry.

      Trucking is a different issue (we do have a shortage of truckers), but a slightly more complicated one as “crappy paper mill job” is very different than “adjust your entire lifestyle to be a trucker” (and the argument still ought to probably be higher compensation, but the people who need to ship stuff are extremely resistant to increases in shipping costs which probably makes that difficult).

      • ana53294 says:

        As far as I know there isn’t any kind of major paper shortage going on, so presumably this isn’t some widespread collapse of the paper industry.

        The article was discussing a shortage of paper in the context of book printing, so I assume there is a shortage of paper for books.

        Doesn’t this suggest that those companies just weren’t efficient enough to compete in the modern market?

        Well, sure, but so is the steel industry, Detroit without subsidies, clothing made in the USA, and every other industry that closed. These factories where willing to hire more workers at the same rates workers were paid before, and most workers were unwilling to work there. Pretty sure it was higher than minimum wage; even minimally-skilled work that is easy to unionize tend to pay more than minimum wage.

        I see many complaints that there are no more factory jobs. These are factory jobs. People just don’t want to work in the same factories as their fathers did.

    • Jiro says:

      If you really can’t afford to pay enough to have workers at all, you can’t afford to do the job. “The mills are profitable, but would be unprofitable if we paid enough that we could get workers” really means “the mills aren’t profitable, but we don’t want to admit it”.

      If the price of paper kept going up and the mill owners could no longer afford to buy it, they wouldn’t say “we’re having trouble getting paper” and complain that the “paper shortage” is making them shut down. Having to pay more for workers is no different from having to pay more for paper.

      • ana53294 says:

        Yes, they are unprofitable, which is why they’re closing. But there may also be a real labor shortage of non-drug consuming, reasonably smart and responsible workers.

        If almost all orange tree plantations are repurposed to grow lemon trees, and oranges now demand a much higher price, it is quite reasonable to say that there is a shortage of oranges. In the same way, if all available workers who previously would have agreed to work in your factory now don’t want to work in your factory and prefer a lower paid job in an air-conditioned office, I don’t see why you can’t talk about a labor shortage.

        The issue is that young workers in a developed country are not satisfied with blue collar jobs anymore.

        • Jiro says:

          Lemons don’t turn into oranges. Paying more for workers will turn the office workers into paper mill workers.

        • acymetric says:

          lower paid job

          This is doing a lot of work…I can’t read the article at the moment but does it indicate what level of pay they were offering? There are definitely factory jobs where you can bring in 60, 70, 80k plus as a factory laborer but I would assume paper mills are not one of them. Would people generally rather make 38k working a dull, basic office job vs. 42k working in a paper mill (which is probably also dull, but dirtier and maybe harder on the body)? I mean, yeah.

          My prior on any business saying “we can’t find enough people!” is that there is almost always some form of misdirection going on. You hear it from nearly every business sector (tech companies famously say this a lot) which gives it a bit of boy who cried wolf vibe.

    • johan_larson says:

      I expect a lot of this comes down to a mismatch between the jobs available and people’s expectations and self-image. I bet a lot of the people working as adjunct university faculty could make more money doing factory work of some kind. But that wouldn’t be even vaguely the sort of white-collar bourgeois work they were raised to expect. And if sheer desperation or really hard-nosed analysis of their finances compelled them to take up factory work, they would almost certainly leave as soon as a white-collar job became available. Jobs provide more than money in your pocket. They are also part of a person’s identity, and that’s something people really don’t want to change.

    • John Schilling says:

      but what’s so bad about printing presses?

      They’re run by people who don’t have college degrees, or worse, people who have college degrees but couldn’t get a job that requires a college degree. I am repeatedly told that no decent woman will ever have sex with such a man, or if by some chance she winds up married to one divorce is a 100% certainty, no matter how much cash money is involved. That’s going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of people.

      And no, it isn’t actually true, but if enough people believe it is true, that makes for a serious recruitment challenge.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Nobody has told you that, at least not that I’ve seen.

        Blue collar guys get laid and most of them get married too. The difficult part for them is in staying married. Obviously divorce isn’t a certainty but you’re taking a substantially increased risk.

        Money without social cachet isn’t much of a defense, as between alimony and child support most of that money would go to the ex-wife anyway along with the primary residence and car. Every marriage has ups and downs but with no fault divorce those downs can easily end up destroying your family and wiping you out financially. When accounted for properly, that’s a pretty substantial cost.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Say I’m not convinced, but willing to be convinced.

          What would you say to me?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            It depends on what you want me to convince you of.

            If you want to be convinced that working a blue collar job increases your risk of divorce, there’s statistics available. You can also listen to guys who have been in that position, although obviously that’s anecdotal.

            If you want me to convince you that it’s not worth it to for you to work a blue collar job, I can’t because it depends on your personal risk tolerance, your values, and your other options. If a blue collar job would pay more than your next best option, you need to decide whether that difference in pay makes up for the increased risk of your wife divorcing you down the line.

            Part of why I’m coming on as strong as I am here is that people are pretending that there’s no trade-off with working a trade and that millennial men are being fussy or snobby by not flocking to jobs as carpenters or machinists. You’ll notice that this kind of generational bravado is coming from guys like Dr Shilling and not from the actual tradesmen here who have generally acknowledged that this risk exists.

          • acymetric says:

            Doesn’t this only really apply if the relationship between higher divorce rates and blue-collar work is causal? It seems at least equally plausible that it’s simply a product of the kind of people more likely to divorce being overrepresented in blue collar work (that the things that lead to divorce also lead to having only blue collar work as an option). Someone that is perfectly capable of either who chooses the blue collar route may not have a higher divorce risk at all.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Doesn’t this only really apply if the relationship between higher divorce rates and blue-collar work is causal? It seems at least equally plausible that it’s simply a product of the kind of people more likely to divorce being overrepresented in blue collar work (that the things that lead to divorce also lead to having only blue collar work as an option). Someone that is perfectly capable of either who chooses the blue collar route may not have a higher divorce risk at all.

            You’re ignoring the part where white-collar women will look at you as lesser, therefore making you more likely to marry a blue-collar woman (who is more likely to divorce you).

            Also, divorce is in part social contagion. If you are blue collar, you will likely have blue collar friends, who will be more likely to divorce, who will increase your own divorce risk.

          • Plumber says:

            @acymetric,
            Yes but by choosing a blue-collar route your signalling to potential mates that your one of “the risky ones” even if you had other options.

          • ana53294 says:

            I think blue-collar millenials are different from previous generations. This is just from observing my high school classmates, the majority of whom are skilled machinists (lots of factories in my area), vs their parents’ generation:

            Older blue collar Spanish workers: don’t read books, don’t travel further than Benidorm* or their sleepy town of origin for vacation, don’t speak any language that isn’t originally from Spain, are quite sexist, are unlikely to pick their kids to school or help their wives to the OB/GYN during their pregnancy. Also tend to have the shopping done by their wives (they married quite young). Have a tendency to drink. Not necessarily church going, but all baptised in the Catholic church.

            Younger millenial blue collar workers: are more likely to speak English; travel through Europe and the world (many are required by their factory to travel to China/Latin America, to train workers there), will participate in raising their kids, drink less during the workweek, but binge more (and consume more marihuana), may have lived alone for some time, so they are able to handle house tasks, and participate more equally in activities. Also marry much later.

            *Benidorm is a beach and beer place, with hookers, although married men presumably only do the beach and beer part. There is also lots of food, which in Spain tends to be quite a bit better than British or generally Northern European food (but the British food sucks the most).

            So I think that modern blue collar workers are well, more modern.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Like others, I want to know what part of blue collar work makes it destructive socially.

            We can measure students who were accepted to HYPSM colleges but went state instead. Can we measure people who could have done white collar but did blue collar instead? How about correcting for income level or intelligence? I’m nervous to say “correct for education level” because it’s kind of the point of the whole discussion, but I’m curious what that would show as well.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Is there anyone not claiming to have labor shortages?
      Sidenote: a lot of people are talking about how the big problem is young kids just not wanting to take these jobs anymore. This is a big topic in our division, and our biggest issue isn’t production labor at all: it’s salaried staff, specifically the college-and-above level. There’s a reasonable goal to extend an offer for a new opening after 30 days, but in reality it takes more like 6 months. Specifically, engineers are in short supply, but so are everyone else.

      After that, it’s mechanics, then third shift labor, then temporary employees (read: people who will work for minimum wage or barely above it).

      Unemployment is under 4%, of course it’s going to be a challenge to hire people.

      • DeWitt says:

        Is there anyone not claiming to have labor shortages?

        Industries complaining about labor shortages is a little like people complaining about wages; sometimes the complaints are legitimate, sometimes they are not, but it’s extremely rare to find those who think they have enough of either.

    • SamChevre says:

      This seems internally inconsistent: if printing plants are shutting down, there should be experienced printers looking for work. My suspicion is that there’s some unwillingness by new people to enter an industry with regular plant closings and layoffs–but I’m not sure why the printers who need people aren’t hiring the experienced ones.

      • baconbits9 says:

        When industries die the workers know and the people with the most options, ie the youngest, move to other industries ASAP and the oldest workers often just retire or semi-retire if their particular plant closes. The people who stay right up until the closing are either tied to the area in some way, or to stubborn to move, or generally on the lower end of employees.

    • Garrett says:

      My Dad worked his whole life in a paper mill, from it being a summer job all the way up to being the senior person on the production floor, prior to the mill outright closing. If you have specific questions, I can forward them on.

      General answers that I can think of: paper mills don’t merely smell bad (that’s actually an artifact of one particular process and not present at all mills). It’s also that they are very loud, very hot and very humid (100%/100F). Main production roughly involves scooping up pulp (similar to wet toilet paper), squeezing the water out of it with tons of pressure and then ironing it flat. At ~60 mph. That’s a lot of heat to dry out that much paper that fast, and air handlers can only do so much. (Apparently, a fun thing to do is to hold a ballpoint pen on the paper being produced and watch the ink level drain in front of your eyes).

      It’s also dangerous. On the front end you have grinders which eat trees faster than you can eat pretzels. On the back end you have cranes and forklifts shuffling 10+ ton rolls of paper around. And in between you have a bunch of warm sludge generated by all sorts of processes using (literally) industrial-strength chemicals.

      So between a very unpleasant working environment and uncertain employment future, why would people be lining up to work there without a significant pay premium?

      • Lambert says:

        At the beginning of my engineering studies, we had a guest lecture about Health and Safety.
        It was basically just an hour of someone from the paper recycling industry talking about all the people who had died horrifically in his factory. Like, literal gibbs.

  12. johan_larson says:

    The latest issue the The Atlantic has an interesting article about parental reluctance to vaccinate their children. One of the reasons, it turns out, is a lack of confidence in official sources of guidance:

    Although polls suggest that conservatives are slightly less accepting of vaccines than liberals are, a 2014 study found that distrust of government was correlated with distrust of vaccines among both Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, the best predictor of someone’s view of vaccines is not their political ideology, but their trust in government and their openness to conspiracy theories.

    It’s not surprising, therefore, that a plunge in the percentage of Americans who trust Washington to do the right thing most or all of the time—which hovered around 40 percent at the turn of the century and since the 2008 financial crisis has regularly dipped below 20 percent—has coincided with a decline in vaccination rates. In 2001, 0.3 percent of American toddlers had received no vaccinations. By 2017, that figure had jumped more than fourfold.

    I suppose the question is what the government could do to regain public confidence. Anyone up for a short victorious war?

    • Randy M says:

      I suppose the question is what the government could do to regain public confidence. Anyone up for a short victorious war?

      Stop trying to manipulate people?

      • Matt M says:

        No kidding.

        The only reason I’m even a little bit sympathetic to the anti-vax movement is because I put a rather strong prior on “The government is lying to us about everything.”

        • gbdub says:

          What does the government have to gain by forcing everyone to get injected with autism serum?

          “The government said it so it must be true” is hopelessly naive, but “the government said it so it must be the opposite of the truth” is no better.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe it’s just incompetence, and not necessarily malice?

            What did the government have to gain by telling us to eat 8 servings of bread a day every day for decades? I don’t know? Maybe it appeased the “big wheat” lobby and helped various politicians win votes/bribes? Or maybe they just didn’t know any better.

          • Randy M says:

            Perhaps they want to shift the normal distribution in that direction in order to have more analytical thinkers?
            /tin foil hat off

          • The Nybbler says:

            What does the government have to gain by forcing everyone to get injected with autism serum?

            The government considers the benefits of vaccines to be of greater utility than the harm they cause. Basically if the side effect of a vaccine isn’t actually known to be life-threatening to the particular patient, their position is you vaccinate anyway. Link.

            Minor reactions to vaccines are common (you’re deliberately provoking an immune reaction, after all), and this sort of attitude probably comes off as callousness to parents who have to deal with an infant or toddler experiencing vaccine symptoms. So it was a very rich environment for something like the Wakefield fraud to take hold. Easy to believe that these callous people who care more about public health than the health of your child are willing to accept a few more autistic children to stop contagious disease, and the reasons for covering this up would be obvious.

            Whether the government attitude towards vaccination is justified is another question. Almost certainly with polio, and certainly smallpox when it was in play — smallpox mortality was something like 30%, and polio, while considerably less lethal, causes a lot of paralysis. I believe the deadliest of those remaining in the US is measles, with a death rate of a few tenths of a percent.

    • acymetric says:

      I feel like distrust of government is the wrong thing…it is distrust of authority (which itself will correlate with distrust of government). Is the problem with vaccines really that they think the government is lying, or is it that they think the medical establishment is lying? Probably a mix of both, but the real question is how to get people to trust the medical establishment (maybe the scientific community generally) which seems like it actually might be even harder.

      • Part of the problem is that the ordinary person doesn’t have any easy way of discovering what the scientific community believes. He can discover what the sources of information he uses claim it believe, but he has no good way of knowing whether to believe those claims–and they are quite often false.

        • gbdub says:

          This is true, but there is also the problem of a significant group of people much more willing to believe something if it is styled as a “shocking truth they don’t want you to know!”

          Perhaps the issue is that we no longer have enough people inoculated with trust in authority to provide herd immunity against conspiracy nuttery.

    • Nornagest says:

      “Support for conspiracy theory best predicted by openness to conspiracy theories” isn’t exactly a grand revelation.

  13. onyomi says:

    I would rather have President Justin Amash than President Trump, but, like all Americans, I know a vote for him will be a vote for President Harris. Beyond this problem with third parties (acting as spoilers, albeit arguably with the noble intent of pulling the major parties in their direction to capture their would-be voters, as David Friedman has described), I think Dan McCarthy here gets it right: most Americans today are more anti-Republican or anti-Democrat than they are Democrat or Republican, ime.

    As I’m not familiar enough with the politics of nations other than the US, I’m wondering if this is typical and/or a pattern one can point to elsewhere: e.g. a tipping point in politics where both coalitions care more about “not-the-other-guy” than “yay-my-guy.” Are there other historical examples where the politics of a nation shifted from one to the other? Or maybe people have always hated the other guy more than they liked their own guy?

    The obvious factor to point to would be polarization, though one can imagine other reasons why this would happen. I also don’t take it as a given that it’s a worse state of affairs, but it sure seems so at first blush (one would rather vote “for” someone than “against” someone).

    • Note that a vote for Justin Amash is not a vote for Harris if you are in California, or any other state which is much more Democratic or much more Republican than the average. If the vote is very close in California the Republicans are winning the election however California goes.

      • onyomi says:

        Good point. I guess anyone not in a “swing state” (includes me) can afford to vote on principle rather than second-best/lesser-of-two-evils. This is one reason I have always voted libertarian party in the past.

        However, assuming my vote is basically symbolic, whom do I vote for if signalling “not the party suggesting slavery reparations” is more important to me right now than signalling “yay the party emphasizing individual liberty”? I’m guessing a vote for Trump is the better signal of “not the Democrats” than a vote for Amash. And this feels recent to me that my priorities shifted so. Could be a symptom of me getting old and grumpy* though my sense is this sort of sentiment is currently a lot more prevalent on both sides, probably due to polarization.

        *It’s probably true that peoples’ opinions on everything become less flexible the older they get; in politics I anecdotally seem to observe this taking the form of “I can’t defend everything my party has done, but I’m ever more certain the other guys suck.” But since I also seem to have lived during a period of supposedly objectively measurable increasing polarization, it is hard to disentangle that possibly perennial tendency.

        • Don P. says:

          You can’t always be sure what’s a safe state vs a swing state until they count the votes.

          • LHN says:

            I’m guessing a vote for Trump is the better signal of “not the Democrats” than a vote for Amash.

            A vote for a third party is a stronger “not the Democrats/Republicans” signal, given that it signals that convincing you that one party isn’t acceptable insufficient to gain your vote for the other. (Where a binary swing voter only has to be convinced that the other side is bad for their vote to be won.)

            Johnson’s showing in 2016 suggests that there probably aren’t enough such voters to provide a really strong or influential signal. But that problem applies to any individual vote for any party.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            A vote for a third party is a stronger “not the Democrats/Republicans” signal, given that it signals that convincing you that one party isn’t acceptable insufficient to gain your vote for the other.

            But voting for a third party only puts the major party you dislike down 1 vote, versus being down 2 votes if you vote for the other major party. So in terms of how much a major-party candidate should be concerned about your vote, you get more mileage from voting for the other party.

      • Matt M says:

        While this is technically true, given the importance of the “popular vote” in terms of the mainstream cultural narrative, it might not be quite that simple.

        I have to imagine that Donald Trump would have very much preferred that a million more Republicans in New York/California/Illinois bothered to show up for him, and that a million more Democrats didn’t show up.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          While this is technically true, given the importance of the “popular vote” in terms of the mainstream cultural narrative, it might not be quite that simple.

          I have to imagine that Donald Trump would have very much preferred that a million more Republicans in New York/California/Illinois bothered to show up for him, and that a million more Democrats didn’t show up.

          If this is true, then as a 3rd-party-voting Illinoisan: Mission Fucking Accomplished. The last thing I wanted was for either of the 2016 clowns to take office, so the next best thing is besmirching their mandate.

          If the big parties want to turn out the vote in their opponents’ stronghold states, maybe they could try being a bit less dogshit.

    • Erusian says:

      If you want to vote strategically, the goal would be to get the Libertarians to 5% of the vote without upsetting the election. For example, 137.5 million people voted in 2016. If the Libertarians got 3.5 million people in Texas and California or 140,000 people in each state, they probably wouldn’t change the outcome. However, since they got 5% of the vote they’d be legally defined as a major political party which would qualify them for all sorts of benefits. I think everyone basically agrees that the Libertarians aren’t going to win anytime soon. But that would technically mean the US had three major political parties that the government would be legally obliged to treat as co-equal.

    • Two McMillion says:

      The problems you outlined mostly come from the fact that the US uses first-past-the-post voting. If we switched to electing the House with multi-member districts and Single Transferable Vote, these problems would go away. I mean, they’d be replaced by exciting new problems, but the ones you’ve pointed out here would mostly disappear.

      • onyomi says:

        What about the “I hate the other guys more than I like my guy” problem?

        • Two McMillion says:

          A couple solutions have been proposed.

          One, from Britain, would allow “None of the above” to be voted on as an option. If “none of the above” wins, the district gets a ghost representative who always votes “no”.

          Another, from Iceland, would add “A random citizen” as an option. If this option won, some person qualified in age etc would be chosen in a process similar to jury selection to take the seat.

          • Plumber says:

            @Two McMillion,
            Oooh, I like those ideas!

          • Matt M says:

            Non-voters should be counted that way.

            Here’s what the electoral college looks like under that scenario.

          • Lambert says:

            One I’ve seen from University Society STV elections is re-open nominations.
            If RON wins, you re-run the election, but nobody who stood last time is allowed to stand again.

          • onyomi says:

            I’ve always liked the idea of just having a cat for mayor, but a ghost president might be even better!

            In seriousness, having an “auto-no” representative as a result of what amounts to a vote of no confidence from the citizens of a particular district sounds like a genuinely good idea.

          • gbdub says:

            If there are enough “auto-no” votes, would that just result in the ruling party writing a bunch of weird “Opposite Day” legislation?

          • Two McMillion says:

            @gbdud: No, because you can’t write a bill that says, “This effect happens if this bill is voted down in congress.

          • Two McMillion says:

            In seriousness, having an “auto-no” representative as a result of what amounts to a vote of no confidence from the citizens of a particular district sounds like a genuinely good idea.

            I like the idea of it, but I think it works best in a parliamentary system where snap elections can be called. For the US, the “random citizen” option is probably better.

    • honoredb says:

      I’m similar, though on the other side of the spectrum–voted Green Party in my non-swing-state up until 2016, when I voted for Clinton because I cared about signaling Not Trump more than the difference between Clinton and Stein. It doesn’t feel like an irrevocable shift; I could easily see a near future election being a Romney-like vs. an Obama-like, at which point I’d cheerfully go back to casting protest votes. And I’d certainly prefer that state of affairs, not because of the joy of voting for a fringe candidate who I’d probably be horrified if they somehow won, but because there’d be no threat of a President I fear and despise.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I object strongly to “a vote for candidate X is really a vote for candidate Y.”

      If you are voting because you think your vote will swing the election, you should just stay home. Instead, you are voting to increase the count of people who stand behind a given candidate. Even losers can push the other party.

      H Ross Perot, RIP, helped push both the Democrats and Republicans towards being fiscal hawks, and the budget was balanced within a decade of that by slow and steady discipline.

  14. rubberduck says:

    Anyone here from the US and self-employed in something that isn’t programming/web design/CS?

    I am about to start a job hunt and while I’m optimistic, my back-up plan is to give private music lessons. I did it part-time throughout college and really enjoyed it but have no idea how much more challenging it would be to do it full-time. I’ve heard that the most difficult part of being self-employed is managing/affording one’s own health insurance. Are there any other major challenges that I am overlooking?

    • Erusian says:

      Health insurance costs something like a few hundred to about a thousand dollars a month, unless you have some special circumstance. Your taxes will be higher (self-employment) but you can aggressively deduct things. For example, if you teach guitar online you can deduct all your guitars and most of your computer equipment.

      But the main thing with self-employment is that it’s irregular. Some months you’ll make a ton of money. Other months you won’t make much at all. I sometimes recruit freelancers to full time employees and the steadiness of the paycheck is usually a big selling point. I’d also expect to have at least a few thousand in startup costs even if you’re just selling your own services. Also, since music is loud, make sure you have a good studio and your neighbors won’t complain.

      Oh, also you need to be a good marketer. The hardest part will almost always be getting enough clients. Once you have them, it can be pretty easy to keep them happy. Especially if you’re skilled. But getting them in the first place is where most people fall flat.

      I actually don’t think the paperwork is too bad for a one person shop. You need to file the incorporation documents, get payment methods, get a bank account, and sign up for any services you want as part of your employment (health insurance, retirement accounts, etc). The companies offering insurance/etc will often help you with those since you’re effectively a customer.

    • Well... says:

      My mom gives music lessons full time, and is able to make her living that way. She doesn’t have a lot of money, but I believe she keeps her bills paid.

      Although she is enterprising and outgoing, and delivers presentations at conferences whenever she can and gives lessons long-range over Skype, she is old and not as savvy as I’d expect most younger people are. If I was in her shoes, I would also have a Youtube channel and/or podcast where I talk about (and occasionally do) music, both performance and teaching. This way I would try to build up a reputation as an expert in my field, which would help drive more people to seek me as a music teacher, and I could charge more per lesson that way.

    • Evan Þ says:

      For being an independent music teacher specifically, I’ve heard one of the hardest parts is finding pupils. At least in the areas I’m familiar with, there’s already a surfeit of music teachers, and a new teacher will need to build up a reputation and trust among parents who’re looking for teachers for their children. I knew a few music teachers who did it by plugging into the network of existing quasi-Suzuki-method classical-stringed-instrument teachers, proving themselves to the other teachers there (though most of them were already known to some from when they were themselves learning as teenagers), and getting referrals; I’d recommend doing that if you can.

      Also, what Erusian said about health insurance and deductions.

    • hash872 says:

      Am self-employed in the US, but in a sales role (and I spent years doing this job as an employee first, so I built up my network and skills). Agreed that health insurance is the biggest pain point, I pay about $450 a month for a mid-quality Obamacare plan. If your income isn’t particularly high, I hear that there are other options.

      I don’t understand where all the fear about being self-employed and taxes comes from (not directed at you, just a general observation). If you set up an S Corp (NOT an LLC), you only pay the higher self-employment tax on your salary- the rest of your income is in ‘distributions’ which is not subject to SS/unemployment taxes. Combined with the fact that you can literally deduct almost anything, plus Trump’s 20% off the top auto-deductions for incorporated (poor public policy, but I’m very happy to take advantage of it), overall you should pay a lower rate than if you were an employee. Contact a decent accountant.

      Obviously, starting with off substantial savings and then being thrifty when you have money coming in, is key

  15. salvorhardin says:

    So there are related debates going on about the US Census citizenship question and about whether electoral districts should be apportioned by total population vs citizen population vs eligible voting population. In the first debate, supporters of a citizenship question have pointed out that many other countries, notably including Canada, have had a citizenship question on their census for a long time without apparent bad effect– though their confirmation bias may incline them not to look too deeply for potential bad effects.

    Does anybody know of a similar international comparison of apportionment practices? The Wikipedia article on apportionment mentions various ways in which apportionment is lopsided in different countries relative to population, usually having to do with traditional political divisions between sub-national entities of varying population, much like US states. But it doesn’t make clear whether, when those countries do apportion districts by population, they do so by total population or only by citizens or eligible voters. Is there an information source that is more specific about this?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Are there any other countries that have a sizable non-voting population? The only analogue I can really think of was the early US, and the result was the three-fifths compromise.

      • J Mann says:

        Are you including minors in the sizable non-voting population?

        Presumably, areas with higher concentrations of young families will have a greater non-voting population than areas with higher concentrations of retirees, but I’m not sure how big the spread can reasonably get.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That’s a good point, but it depends on whether the goal is to represent “population,” “voters,” or “citizens.”

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Um, yes. For example wikipedia tells me that in Switzerland in 2013, foreign permanent residents were 23,5 % of population. That would however be imho one of largest numbers among countries which are liberal democracies.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Luxembourg’s population is currently 44.5% foreigners, who cannot vote in national elections (though they can vote in local elections).

          I think the difference is that Switzerland has no jus soli so it is possible for families to live there for several generations without becoming citizens. While jus soli is more limited in most European countries than in the US, most have some form of it. In the specific case of Luxembourg, a child of foreign parents who is born and raised there will generally become a citizen on turning 18.

        • J Mann says:

          That’s a good point. In the US, areas with substantial numbers of H1B guest workers might have a significantly larger non-voting-eligible population relative to the voting eligible population than other areas.

          Another possibility is a district with a large prison in it.

      • salvorhardin says:

        If there aren’t now, certainly I would think there would be examples in living memory, e.g. of European countries that took in large numbers of Gastarbeiter in the postwar decades.

      • BBA says:

        Women couldn’t vote in most of the US until the 20th century, and have always been counted in the census for apportionment purposes.

        And even when we had de jure open borders, a legal immigrant couldn’t apply for citizenship until they’d lived in the US for a few years, and I’m pretty sure they were counted in the census too. The modern equivalent would be green card holders, who always seem to slip through the cracks when we bifurcate the population into citizens and illegals. No, there aren’t as many of them, but they exist, and they matter, dammit.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      In Czechia, every citizen has what is called “place of permanent residence”. Originally it is residence of your parents, and you have to provide new adress in order to change it. If you are homeless, place of permanent residence is an adress of a town hall of last municapality where you had residence. In elections, every voter is eligible to vote in a district where his residence is. Od course some people do not actually live in a place of permanent residence, but if they want to vote in local or district elections, they have to travel there. For elections with national list of candidates, like presidential or to European parliament, it is posssible to get so called voting pass, which allows you to vote in every voting place in the country.

      Noncitizens do not factor into this system, except that EU nationals, which have separetely administered register of residencies, are allowed to vote in municipal elections and elections to European parliament.

      • salvorhardin says:

        It looks like at least one house of the Czech legislature uses party-list proportional representation, which would make the issue of district boundary drawing moot. I bet that’s the case in many other non-Anglospheric places as well.

        Edit: this isn’t true for the Czech Senate though, so my question stands as applied there. When Senate district boundaries are drawn, are they equalized by total population (e.g. including other EU nationals who aren’t Czech citizens) or only by Czech citizen population?

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Districts exist not only in Senate elections, but also in House elections, because House elections (unlike elections for European parliament) are only sort of semi-proportional, they use D´Hondt´s method, which, as I just found out, is also sometimes called Jefferson method (EDIT: more precisely it is Regional D’Hondt method)

          District boundaries are drawn by a legislation, i.e. by method in principle similar to how boundaries of “Senate districts”, i.e. States in the US, are drawn. For House elections, districts correspond to 14 administrative regions of Czechia, which creates slight bias in favor of larger regions, where one vote counts for more than in smaller regions. For Czech Senate elections, districts are delineated in legal statute, in a way that they should be of approximately equal population of voters.

          Census and by extension noncitizens are in this context irrelevant, since, as implied in my previous comment, there is (non-public) registry of citizens with addresses attached to every name. It would be in principle possible to use it for creating districts with exactly equal number of voters, if Czech Parliament, that writes election laws, would so desire.

          • Lambert says:

            Do you not use D’Hondt for MEPs?
            Because the UK does.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Lambert

            We do. I was confused slash wrong on what D’Hondt method means. In EU parliament elections, whole country is one district, but in House elections, there are districts, because we use Regional D’Hondt method.

    • Deiseach says:

      From our last bout of elections (European, local, referendum on divorce and plebiscite for mayor all in one go) this tells you who can vote:

      Every resident in Ireland, whether an Irish citizen or not is entitled to vote in the local elections if they are registered [i.e. enrolled on the register of electors].

      Under the law resident non-EU citizens can only vote in local elections. Citizens of other EU countries resident in Ireland except Britons, can vote in local and European elections.

      British citizens are entitled to vote in local, European and Dáil elections but are not entitled to a vote in referendums.

      I don’t necessarily think it’s some horrible conspiracy to deprive illegal immigrants of their elected representatives by having a citizenship question on the census; after all, if you’re not entitled to vote for the candidates running in local and national elections you may well be interested in who gets elected to represent the area where you live, but you don’t have the right to representation. There may be a good reason for the opposition to the question but it does sound to my ears like “but this would mean the people not entitled to vote and who are not supposed to be voting but who still do vote would now be stopped from voting for us!”

      • Buttle says:

        There may be a good reason for the opposition to the question but it
        does sound to my ears like “but this would mean the people not
        entitled to vote and who are not supposed to be voting but who still
        do vote would now be stopped from voting for us!”

        Actually the issue is that people who are not legally entitled to vote, or even stay, are supposed to be counted for the purpose of determining representation. Hence the comment upthread about the 3/5 compromise, which counted each slave as 3/5 of a free person for purposes of representation.

        Those not legally permitted to stay will almost surely be less likely to answer a census that asks for citizenship information.

      • beleester says:

        It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy to tip the redistricting process in favor of Republicans, but the Supreme Court’s ruling basically said “We think your reason for including the question is an obvious pretext,” so it probably is.

  16. ana53294 says:

    Regarding private schools:

    I remember this story in the Daily Mail about a family of five who kept remortgaging to send their kids to private school. Four years later, there was another story. The eldest daughter, after 13 years of private school, was finally sent to a state school. And at age 17, their daughter quit her A level studies, decided she didn’t want to go to university, and wants to spend a summer as a “shot girl” in Magaluf.

    Now, I think it’s a fitting end to a story of stretching beyond your means. There is nothing wrong in being a waitress, or a cashier. I don’t see why parents should expect their kids to get a prestigious job. Reasonable expectations for kids, in my opinion, would be getting a job, preferrably an honourable one, being self-sufficient financially, and having kids, preferably after getting married.

    Parents who spend all that money on private schools, IMO, should consider how much they would be willing to spend if their kid is not college material, and try not to burden their kids with that expectations. If they really love science/math, or writing, nurturing their skills is good; trying to force them into a mold they don’t fit in may end up much worse than being a shot girl in Magaluf.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      For any other confused Americans, Megaluf is a Spanish resort town and a shot girl is a bartender who isn’t expected to know how to mix drinks.

      Anyway, while I personally agree that most people aren’t suited for college, society and the job market disagree. As a practical matter, the expectation that your kids will go to college is an absolute minimum akin to the expectation that they won’t go to prison. Every potential employer and spouse worth having is going to want a really good explanation for why your kids can’t check that box.

      • Deiseach says:

        For any other confused Americans, Megaluf is a Spanish resort town

        It has a certain reputation of having picked up where Ibiza left off; at night and in certain parts of the town, it becomes a haven of boozy British (and Irish) young holidaymakers who are only interested in alcohol, drugs, sex, and fighting (not necessarily in that order).

        This lovely story is why you wouldn’t be thrilled that your 17 year old daughter wanted to head off to work in some bar there.

      • Lambert says:

        > Spanish resort town

        Read: Full of Brits getting utterly plastered.

      • John Schilling says:

        Every potential employer and spouse worth having…

        If you think it’s not worth your son having a job as a tool and die maker for $80K/year when they could be a lofty adjunct professor earning a whole tenth of that, sure. But there’s a value judgement encoded there that not everyone is going to share.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I think that we went through this on the .25 thread.

          I saw first-hand how blue collar guys who earn more than the median income live and how people treat them. No thanks, not for me and not for my kids either.

          In a different time or place, where that kind of work is respected instead of being a one-way ticket to imputed income hell, sure. But not here and not now.

          • ana53294 says:

            But that’s for men, not women.

            An attractive young woman without a college degree who has no kids, no drug habit and a pleasing enough personality can find a well earning husband. Maybe even a college educated one.

          • salvorhardin says:

            FWIW I continue to believe that the treatment you refer to, while it certainly does exist and is terrible, varies very widely in frequency and severity. The variation is very likely correlated with the usual cultural/political/geographic divides but imperfectly so.

            Admittedly I’m biased by personal positive anecdata here: my father-in-law was a builder/remodeler who never went to college, and he was a highly respected pillar of his community with a fiercely loyal and loving wife who herself not only went to college but got a master’s degree to help move up in her own career. I’ve certainly seen some bias against blue-collar work and imputations of low intelligence to non-college-attenders among my own super-intellectual family, but never in my wife’s family.

            The fact that my father-in-law owned his own business may have made a difference here: the social respect given to entrepreneurship may go a long way to counteract the disrespect to blue-collar jobs and lack of college education. Also, some blue-collar jobs may be thought of as more “artisanal” than others. I dunno. But it’s not as simple as blue-collar = socially disfavored.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, and the thing is, while the divorce numbers support your position that it’s worse for tradespeople than college professors, it isn’t a 100% — or even 50% — disaster. There’s whole communities in NYC and the surrounding areas of blue collar families, many of which have more than median income. I will note that many of these are immigrants and children of immigrants.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I think that we went through this on the .25 thread.

            Yeah we talked about it, but there certainly wasn’t a consensus. My son is 28 and has no education beyond high school. But he is a hard worker and isn’t frivolous in spending money, so he’s doing fine. It is true that I’d like him to get some sort of post high school education for more job security, but he’s proved to me that he does okay without.

            It is also true that he doesn’t have a girlfriend (which I think he does want), so perhaps his lack of education makes that harder. But then I had exactly the same issue at his age, even though I had a four year degree.

      • SamChevre says:

        As a practical matter, the expectation that your kids will go to college is an absolute minimum

        This expectation is VERY class-dependent. My little brother has an 8th-grade education and a GED; I’m a white-collar professional. His net worth is many times mine, and his income is significantly higher–he’s a commercial electrical contractor.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I don’t see why parents should expect their kids to get a prestigious job. Reasonable expectations for kids, in my opinion, would be getting a job, preferrably an honourable one, being self-sufficient financially, and having kids, preferably after getting married.

      And it’s a lot easier to get an honourable job with a respected degree, one that will allow them to do well financially and to find a mate in a social class with lower unwanted pregnancies, single parenthood or divorces rates.

      And even if the kid is not college material, it’s putting her in a place where she could, as they say, hook on one that is.

      • John Schilling says:

        And it’s a lot easier to get an honourable job with a respected degree, one that will allow them to do well financially

        If that’s your definitiion of a “respected” degree, then isn’t this just a tautology? And it’s equally true to say that “it’s a lot easier to get an honourable job if you’ve graduated from a respected trade school” or “apprenticed with a respected craftsman” or “joined a respected union”.

        • Matt M says:

          I think the overall point here is that white collar vs blue collar creates a status increase that exists independently of the overall status that correlates directly with income/wealth.

          In other words, holding income constant, white collar work will always be considered higher status than blue collar work. Depending on how large of an effect this is, the “white collar premium” might be such that say, a 50K white collar worker still commands higher status than a 100K blue collar worker.

          And if things like mate selection correlate with status rather than with wealth directly, one might prefer their children to be in the 50K white collar camp.

          • To what extent are you defining blue collar in part as both working with your hands and being low status, or at least not high status?

            Consider a surgeon. He is working with his hands. He is high status. And nobody would call him blue collar.

            Or a basketball player.

          • Matt M says:

            We don’t know exactly how to define blue-collar, but we know it when we see it.

            It’s some vague combination of working with hands, working a job where you will be tired and sweat, working for wages that may be relatively good but aren’t amazingly high, working in jobs that don’t require degrees from prestigious institutions, and working in a career field where basically the only opportunity for advancement is entrepreneurial in nature (i.e. the best plumbers have no path to becoming “VP of Plumbing Operations”, if they want to dramatically increase their earnings their path is “start your own plumbing business”)

          • Nick says:

            I wonder whether the path of education is the big driver here. If doctors still largely apprenticed, joined trade unions, and started their own practices rather than going through school and medical school and then residency and jobs at hospitals, how much more would the status of doctors resemble that of plumbers?

          • Dack says:

            We don’t know exactly how to define blue-collar, but we know it when we see it.

            If you shower before you go to work, you are white collar. If you shower after work, you are blue collar.

      • ana53294 says:

        Different people have different ideas of what honourable means. Honourable =/= respectable.

        For example, strippers are not respectable at all, but it’s honorable IMO (they are not stealing from anybody, not cheating anybody).

        Investment fund managers that charge eye-watering 2-3 %, and get sub-par investment returns, are IMO dishonorable sleazebags, but they are respectable.

        find a mate in a social class with lower unwanted pregnancies, single parenthood or divorces rates.

        The best thing for that is to join a church. Maybe become a Mormon?

    • baconbits9 says:

      I don’t read either of these two stories in the way you did, these aren’t stories of over extension, they are stories of parents using substituting (borrowed) money and education for building an actual relationship with their children. I can’t believe my daughter is dropping out of school to party for a few months is a fairly strong indicator that you didn’t know your daughter very well and that you didn’t instill significant values in her either.

      That you would write what ought to be embarrassing stories about your family for national publication doesn’t speak well of you as a parent either.

  17. knownastron says:

    Hello again,

    I’m a Computer Science student that was soliciting advice for a Capstone project. When I first posted this someone posted a great question that I didn’t get to: “What are you interested in?”

    I really like Finance and would love to do a project based around that that would take 20hrs/week for 3 months. Does anyone have any ideas of a finance, fintech, money etc. based project that they would like to exist?

    I’m open to any other ideas as well, the requirements are very open ended. The only requirements are 20hrs/week for 3 months and it has to have a significant coding component.

    Thanks

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Can you make some sort of language and image parsing bot that collects the positions posted to /r/wallstreetbets, weights them by popularity, and plays the inverse?

    • Drew says:

      Go to local professional meetups, and ask there. And, when you ask, I’d re-frame the problem to “What can I do that would make an interesting talk?”

      The problem that you want to solve — as you approach the job market — is differentiating yourself from the thousand other new grads. Unfortunately, the content of the capstone project won’t make that much of a direct difference.

      The reason is that, if I’m reading new-grad resumes, I probably have 200 of the things. You all have projects. And thinking through them (“how complex was this?” / “what technologies?” / “how’s the output?”) would take me at least 2 minutes / per person. I don’t want to spend a full working day on this, and the recruiters don’t have the relevant background.

      You’ll be expected to talk about the capstone when you make it to the later rounds, but at that point, I’m interested in your ability to think about architecture.

      Instead, the way to get mileage out of this is to turn it into something IN ADDITION to a capstone project. An industry talk stands out. So does a note from a colleague, saying that you did a project that my colleague thinks was interesting.

      And the best way to do that is to involve professionals early. Then you have someone who’s invested in your work and can help set you up at a conference or something.

    • One of my ideas for a program to teach economics was an arbitrage game, where you have (say) multiple currencies, an exchange rate between each, changing over time, and the exchange rates are not always consistent, so you may be able to make money by trading A for B, B for C, then C for A.

      It isn’t exactly finance, but a trading game set up to make the principle of comparative advantage obvious would be nice. You have one no-tradeable input, which you can think of as labor. It can be converted into tradeable goods at different rates in different countries. There is some simple utility function representing the relative value of different goods in each country—possibly the same for all.

      The objective is to maximize utility, possibly scored relative to autarchic utility, the best your country can get without trade. Players discover that the fact that you are better at producing everything–more output per unit of input–doesn’t imply that you don’t profit by trade.

      • knownastron says:

        This sounds really cool, I do love economics as well. I’m not 100% sure if I want to build a video game for my project but I’ll keep in mind this as one of my options. I appreciate the idea.

    • Erusian says:

      Hello again. My background is in Fintech (I began my career working on software at a bank). Do you have any specific areas of finance you’d be interested in?

      I have some finance projects/ideas that are on the backburner. If you want (and it’s allowed), I’d be willing to pay you a small sum to develop one for us. We’re not going to give you a great deal of industry credibility (we’re mid-sized at best). But it would be real work in the sense you would be building something people have asked for and we would actually try and get real users on it.

      Otherwise, Drew’s advice is excellent. You could also go to one of your university’s financial organs and see if they need anything.

      • knownastron says:

        Hey there,

        What you have in mind sounds great, I would be super motivated to build something that would be used in the “real world”. Working directly with a company is definitely allowed for my capstone project.

        My main interests in finance would be in the markets, but I know there can be quite a barrier to entry building anything useful there. A personal finance project would also really interest me.

        Would you mind emailing me at “my SSC username” @gmail.com? We can connect and move forward from there.

  18. Matt M says:

    Is there a specific term for news/opinion articles that attempt to make a point through a series of profiles, but the profiles are atypical of the situation they are describing even on their own terms..

    This New York Times article about America’s “struggling middle class” is all over my social media today, with many people pointing out that all of those profiled in it make at least 2x the median income in their areas. How does this get through editing without someone bothering to point that out? Are they being intentionally misleading here on purpose, or are they really just in that much of a bubble that “middle class family makes $400k but has to shop for bargain expired meat” is a narrative that seems reasonable to them?

    And I’m really not just trying to dunk on the NYT for partisan gain here. The Wall Street Journal also did this a few months ago (and I did my part in letting them have it in the comments section) when discussing the “student loan crisis.” Buried in the middle of the article is the statistic that matters: The average millennial owes about $10K in student debt. Of the several they decided to profile? All owe over six figures. Their anecdotal profiles of how “millennials are struggling with student loans” are atypical by at least an order of magnitude. And not just like, one of the three profiles is wildly atypical, all of them are. And they are not balanced out by profiles being atypical in the other direction. No profiles on the students who worked hard to earn obscure scholarships so they wouldn’t have to take out loans, or those who got into an Ivy but chose a state school instead for financial reasons, or those who scrimped and saved after graduation and now paid off their loans in full and owe zero.

    • Randy M says:

      The average millennial owes about $10K in student debt.

      Mean or median? I could envisage a bi-modal distribution.
      (Really blew the evil robot test here…)

      • Matt M says:

        Mean, I assume. The exact quote is “The average student-loan balance for millennials in 2017 was $10,600, more than twice the average owed by Gen X in 2004, according to Mr. Kurz and his Fed colleagues.”

        And sure, we can manipulate the statistics in such a way as to make this offense seem less egregious. We could clarify whether the denominator includes all millennials, or just those who have a student loan balance at all, etc.

        But the onus should be on them to do that in the article. They should be proactively explaining why they are showing us a statistic that says one thing, and then exclusively profiling people who are well outside the norm based on the statistic they chose to provide.

      • bean says:

        I was about to make the same comment, although I’m not sure it’s totally bimodal. The average of new-graduate-me and now-me has something like $10k in debt. I went to a state school (although out of my state, for complicated reasons) and had pretty good scholarships.

        I think the big thing informing our perceptions on this is that the state-school grads generally aren’t the ones who end up writing for major national publications, for whatever reason. Also, “I’m doing fine” makes for lousy writing. I wonder how much of this is the reason for the skew in the NYT piece. That, and the sort of people who write letters to the NYT are probably not going to be making $30k/yr.

      • John Schilling says:

        As of 2017, approximately 37% of Americans age 18-29 have outstanding student loan debt, dropping to 22% in the 30-44 age group. Of those who do have outstanding student loans, the average debt is $38,000 and the median debt is $17,000. The median goes up to $25,000 for people who have completed a bachelor’s degree or $45,000 for postgraduate degrees. So, yeah, the sob stories about people with six-figure debts are cherry-picked outliers.

        • acymetric says:

          I would be interested in average student debt at the time of graduation. I’m not sure how much sense it makes to average the college debt debt of a 22 year old graduate with a 38 year old who has been paying of their loans for over a decade.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There are times when “mean” and “median” just don’t do the job. You need at least one graph.

        • John Schilling says:

          Average student debt at the time of graduation, in 2017, and excluding the 35% who graduate debt-free, $28,650. With several graphs, but this really is one of those cases where just knowing the median would have done the job perfectly well.

      • Well... says:

        (Really blew the evil robot test here…)

        Hahaha yeah, why did you say “I can envisage”?! You could have written “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was…”

        • Randy M says:

          I was thinking “bi-modal distribution” would have to go, in lieu of something like “two separate groupings”.
          I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘envisage’ given how entirely redundant it is with the more common ‘envision’.

    • Murphy says:

      >The average millennial owes about $10K in student debt.

      That’s a little bit like “the average person has less than 2 legs”

      Total outstanding student loan debt: $1.52 trillion

      Number of student loan borrowers: 44.7 million

      So right off the bat that gives an average outstanding of $34004 ($1.52 trillion/44.7 million) per person. Money currently owed. Not what they owed on graduation day. You’d expect the figure above to significantly lowball graduation-day debt because most people are part-way through paying off their student debt.

      but that also includes older people and college costs have spiked recently so recent graduates are going to have, on average much more debt.

      I suspect to get the 10K number they may have divided the number by the whole population.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I suspect to get the 10K number they may have divided the number by the whole population.

        Since it was presented as “The average millennial”, I’m pretty sure they were dividing by the total population of whatever age cohort they’re defining as “millennial” (the article appears to be using birth years 1981 through 1996, so ages 23-38 as of the end of this year).

        So they’re including people who never went to college, as well as those who never borrowed student loans (various combinations of working their way through, scholarships, grants, tuition waivers, and family paying their bills), which your denominator does not appear to include. Both figures would include those who graduated with debt but have paid it down significantly or paid it off completely.

        I agree that the most useful number would be average debt on graduation. Or perhaps average debt on separation from college, since dropping out with debt but no degree is a substantial part of the current student loan issue. It should probably include people who graduated without debt, if we’re trying to get an idea of the typical just-out-of-college financial situation. But I’m not sure anyone’s collecting and publishing those numbers.

      • dick says:

        Surely the part about it doubling in 15 years is the important part, and not the absolute number?

        • Matt M says:

          I mean sure, that may be the most interesting aspect of the story, and the one most worth investigating.

          But it still doesn’t justify why their series of profiles was dedicated exclusively towards people whose debts are several times the mean, and the median, by whichever interpretation of the statistics you might care to use.

          • dick says:

            I don’t see what’s wrong with that. If the article were about traumatic brain damage in football players, I would expect it to include statistics about the average NFL player’s injuries, but to illustrate the human impact of the problem with profiles of the people with the worst injuries. Seems like the same thing here.

          • imoimo says:

            @dick Not sure I can defend this, but I feel like there’s an important difference in culpability. It’s hard to feel too bad for someone who spends $200k at a top-50 school getting a degree in English lit, given that there were surely cheaper options or better career choices. But the worst case football player is largely a stroke of bad luck.

            That is to say, profiling the student seems to be characterizing a systemic problem by the least responsible actors (which don’t really represent the issue itself), while profiling the football player is characterizing largely the issue itself.

          • Matt M says:

            imo,

            Not only that, but the “profiles” of these students often focus entirely on the current negative situation, and do not even mention the circumstances that may have led to it.

            They tell us that Joy Brown is 32 years old, earns 75k a year, and has 102k in student loan debt.

            Not mentioned: Where she went to school, why she chose that school, what other schools she was considering, what she majored in, why she chose that major, what other majors might have been better options, etc.

            These profiles could be an example for current young people. They could provide useful, actionable advice, which is almost certainly “Don’t go to out of state or private schools, don’t major in something that has no market demand, etc.” But the potential to give that advice is eliminated when these questions aren’t addressed, and when Joy is treated like an innocent victim who was randomly struck by a lightning bolt of “crippling student loan debt”

          • dick says:

            These profiles could be an example for current young people.

            Yes, they could, which would be a great boon to the millions of teenagers reading NYT and WSJ profiles of middle-aged peoples’ finances as a way to help inform their choice of college major. But these articles aren’t written for them. (If you’re not sure who they are written for, ask TLP…) And you’re all over this OT accusing profiles like these of being misleading, duplicitous, a trick, etc, which is not warranted. You can disagree with the message of an article without calling its author malicious or innumerate.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, they could, which would be a great boon to the millions of teenagers reading NYT and WSJ profiles of middle-aged peoples’ finances as a way to help inform their choice of college major.

            Might be useful to the parents of children who are getting ready to make these decisions.

            My own parents freely admit they should have asked a lot more questions and done a lot more research regarding my sister’s decision to attend a private school and major in psychology…

        • Purplehermann says:

          If the amount of students doubled in 15 years that would explain this and not be too worrisome from “college is too expensive” angle

    • dndnrsn says:

      My general feel is that a family of four pulling in 400k USD a year shouldn’t be having financial trouble assuming a bare minimum of competent stewardship (barely a notch above “don’t blow it all at the dogtrack”). Are real estate/rent and university really that expensive in the US?

      • Matt M says:

        Are real estate/rent and university really that expensive in the US?

        No. To make 400K and be even remotely struggling essentially requires “blowing it all at the dogtrack” levels of incompetency.

        • johan_larson says:

          I expect it is quite possible to make $400K per year and feel that you are struggling. Let’s say you work at Facebook in the Bay Area, are supporting a family, and want to live in a proper house with a reasonable commute. I could see that being a stretch, particularly if you are sending your kids to private school and want to be able to send them to non-state universities.

          I would say such a person is trying to live somewhat beyond their means and given their actual means, I am not too sympathetic, but sure, they feel stretched without buying anything they think of as a luxury.

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe, but the two people profiled in the article live in PA and MN.

            Also, one of those two profiles includes a single mother with two kids who also receives support from her husband, and it is unclear what they are considering “household income” in that case (does it include the father’s income, just the child support/alimony, or neither?)

          • johan_larson says:

            Indeed, but their incomes aren’t given as $400K, but rather as the range $200K-400K.

          • Urstoff says:

            Them not thinking of private schools and private universities as luxuries seems to be part of the problem in that scenario.

            But I guess that’s illustrative that “keeping up with the Joneses” can make anyone feel financially inadequate no matter the income bracket.

          • johan_larson says:

            My colleagues in the Bay Area are pretty up front about school and home costs, and there are definitely places in the area where they are willing to live, but the schools are bad enough that they aren’t willing to send their kids there.

            What they really want in a school is that it send a significant portion of each graduating class to the top 20 or so universities. That takes a good private school or one of the best public schools. And it costs real money either way.

          • acymetric says:

            @johan_larson

            Granted, but even if they’re exactly at $200,000 they ought to be living comfortably in that area based on the housing prices (unless they bought the $1.5 Mil 9 bedroom house).

            These are places where housing is available in the $100,000 range, with median prices in the $200,000s, and topping out around $500,000 for large but reasonable sized houses (excluding things like a 6 bedroom with 6,000 square feet as “unreasonably large”).

          • Randy M says:

            What they really want in a school is that it send a significant portion of each graduating class to the top 20 or so universities…. And it costs real money either way.

            I don’t see why it shouldn’t.
            Trying to become the best is going to be costly. Doesn’t mean that’s going to generate sympathy among those who lack the options to try that.

          • Matt says:

            A few years ago the company I work for, which has offices all over the country, sent a company-wide email that announced a new program that encouraged employees to purchase books (not books for the company, but books for ourselves) through Barnes & Noble, because of a program where a portion of each payment would go to support school library projects in the county where my company is headquartered. The county in question is a suburb of DC and, at the time, had a GDP equal to the nation of Vietnam. The office where I work, on the other hand, is in the second-wealthiest county in the not-so-wealthy state of Alabama. The optics of the request seemed off to me, and I told my supervisor what I thought.

            It seems to me your description of Facebook employee has similar optics. “I have a huge salary and want to live like a rich man, but I’m struggling”

          • Urstoff says:

            What they really want in a school is that it send a significant portion of each graduating class to the top 20 or so universities. That takes a good private school or one of the best public schools. And it costs real money either way.

            That is likely a product of demographics, not school quality.

          • johan_larson says:

            I agree these people don’t need our pity. I’m just trying to describe why people can make excellent money and still feel stretched without being crazy or madcap wastrels: they live in areas with really high housing costs, and want their children to have really excellent educations.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t see why it shouldn’t.
            Trying to become the best is going to be costly. Doesn’t mean that’s going to generate sympathy among those who lack the options to try that.

            Slightly tangential to this topic, but I wonder if it’s even a good investment. I’m skeptical. Would need to try and estimate likelihood of going to various levels of college based on K-12 schools attended, expected earnings based on attending those colleges, and then adjust for the costs to the parents/child of both the K-12 and college-level education.

            I’m skeptical because I suspect children of families like this are much more likely than the general public to go to top 20ish schools regardless of what high school they attend, and thus the money spent on better high schools/middle schools/etc is largely wasted.

          • Matt M says:

            johan,

            OK – but that still doesn’t apply to the people actually profiled in this article.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m just trying to describe why people can make excellent money and still feel stretched without being crazy or madcap wastrels: they live in areas with really high housing costs, and want their children to have really excellent educations.

            I think maybe what I and others are suggesting is that these people are slightly crazy wastrels, they’re just doing it in a slightly more socially acceptable fashion.

            Note that this applies to people who are doing it and can’t afford it. If this is where your priorities lie, you believe this is the best use of your money, and you can afford it by all means go all out on it.

          • albatross11 says:

            How much seems mandatory to spend depends a lot on your surroundings and social class. In some social settings, not having a new car every couple years or a really big house would lower your status, and that makes it easy to feel like those expenditures are necessary.

          • johan_larson says:

            I suspect children of families like this are much more likely than the general public to go to top 20ish schools regardless of what high school they attend, and thus the money spent on better high schools/middle schools/etc is largely wasted.

            I can speak to this, from personal experience. I was one of the top students in a middle-class-ish Canadian high school. It did a good job; I and my fellow students in the university-bound track were well prepared for college and could get into good Canadian schools.

            But it became clear to me as I spoke with the students at an enrichment camp I attended one summer that I was in fact missing out on something. There were schools — some public, some private — where the bar was being set much higher. These schools ran math and science teams, and actually prepared for the tests, teaching them material well beyond the usual high school curriculum. They aimed their top students at top scholarships. The students seriously considered going to the top US universities and knew what it took to get there. None of these things were even on the radar in the school I went to.

            I expect that if my parents had sent me to such a school, I would have come out of high school somewhat more capable and accomplished. I’ll never know of course, but it’s very possible I would have aimed a bit higher and accomplished a bit more.

            That’s what sending your kid to a high-achieving high school gets you, even if they’re already smart and hard-working. I can see why someone would pay for that. I’d be tempted myself. Is it worth it? No idea.

          • Matt M says:

            Honestly, I’m not sure that spending six figures a year on a fancy private school under the assumption that it will make the difference between sending your child to Harvard or to Kent State (and that this will make the difference between your child being happy or miserable) is any more responsible/competent than going to the dog track. I mean, you might win any bets you place at the track, too!

          • albatross11 says:

            My understanding is that when economists have looked at selective high schools (magnet schools) and Ivy League schools, they’ve found very little ultimate difference in outcomes between the people who just barely got in and the people who just barely missed getting in, or between the people who got into the Ivy and went and the people who got into the Ivy but went to State to save money.

            The way I’ve seen this explained is that selective schools probably correlate with success mainly because they select the top students–those students were going to be successful whether they went to Midtown High/State U or Grind Magnet Academy/Ivy U.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11,
            I’ve also read lots of “top students would do well wherever” stuff as well, but I’ve also read that for bottom students where they get in makes a big difference on average.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’ve also read lots of “top students would do well wherever” stuff as well, but I’ve also read that for bottom students where they get in makes a big difference on average.

            I believe you get this result if you count graduates, but ignore dropouts.

          • Matt M says:

            Plumber,

            That makes logical sense though. If the value of a college degree is signaling, and if employers trust the University to signal correctly, then those who “slip through the cracks” (i.e. get accepted to and graduate from Harvard when they weren’t necessarily best qualified) will receive the same benefit.

            If Harvard applies approximately the same benefit to everyone who graduates from it, this will equate to “very little benefit” to the top students who would have done great anywhere, but “a whole lot of benefit” to the marginal students who may not have.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s around 6X what my family of 5 lives on in Southern California (a location not exactly renowned for low cost of living).

      • I remember a recent article where it shows the budget for one of these people and it made me a lot less sympathetic for them. For example, it’s not good enough for little Timmy to go to public school with the rubes. They have to go to an elite private school that takes up a large part of the budget.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Years ago a Canadian magazine had profiles of well-off families complaining that family incomes in the multiple hundreds of thousands (a Canadian dollar being 76 American cents right now, and usually hovering in that range) weren’t enough. What they meant is, once you’ve spent a hundred thousand dollars, you don’t have it anymore.

      • Erusian says:

        My general feel is that a family of four pulling in 400k USD a year shouldn’t be having financial trouble assuming a bare minimum of competent stewardship (barely a notch above “don’t blow it all at the dogtrack”). Are real estate/rent and university really that expensive in the US?

        No, they’re not. I’ve lived in expensive areas a lot, including stints spent in some of the most expensive zip codes in the US. $400k leads to $230k-$270k in post tax income. You can find an apartment or house in a trendy area very easily on that income and afford a pretty luxury car with plenty left over for other luxuries.

        My guess is either they’re living above their income, such as buying a Maserati or a big mansion, or they’re spending heavily sending their kids to private school and for memberships to clubs and the like. Once you get a lot of income there’s a temptation to ‘act rich’ and start moving into nicer areas, nicer homes, nicer cars, and nicer schools regardless of how much you can actually afford them. The idea is, “Well, I make $400k. Doesn’t my child deserve to go to Phillips Exeter? And don’t I deserve that Tesla? And don’t I really deserve that McMansion in Trendyville?” And… now you’ve got $20,000 in fixed expenses.

      • Drew says:

        California is a hell-hole.

        Lets say you have a couple who nail the job search. One lands a position in Stanford’s research park, and the other gets a job in tech. Total income is $400k / year. And, since they’re coming from the midwest, they figure that being dual-income adults making $$$ means they can live in a detached house with a yard.

        And, let’s say they restrict their housing search to Menlo Park anywhere South of the 101. But they’re flexible. So they’re willing to go a town up to Atherton, or a town down to Palo Alto.

        The Redfin listing look like this. The cheapest options are around $2.1M, if you’re willing to live on a major road. If you want to live in a “normal” house on a generic looking suburban block, then typical prices are closer to $3M.

        The discussion gets weird because “detached home” obviously isn’t a survival requirement for anyone. People go to grad school. Some grad students even have kids. The grad-school lifestyle is livable.

        But, at the same time, there’s something deeply weird about a couple making $400k and having to live a grad-student lifestyle because they’re not remotely close to being able to afford a house.

        Especially if we replace “what lifestyle could I afford – in theory?” with “what lifestyle could I afford if I’m doing responsible, prudent things, like saving for retirement?”

        • acymetric says:

          Honest question because I don’t really know the answer since I don’t live there:

          How bad are the neighborhoods in, say, East Palo Alto, or even on the other side of the Bay?

          Those provide perfectly reasonable commutes by the standards of most medium-large cities and the housing prices are much lower.

          I’ll also just remind people that the examples in the article are not Bay Area residents living in that terrible housing market, they are in Pennsylvania and Minnesota where housing is…more reasonable (so these explanations work for our theoretical Bay Area family but not for the families actually presented in the article).

          • Drew says:

            East Palo Alto used to be notably bad, but is improving.
            The drive-by shootings have mostly stopped, and the property crime is down to just twice the US average. As a recent article puts it, “How East Palo Alto shed its ‘murder capital’ status and found peace

            In terms of quality-of-life, the schools are notably below average. Overall, the town is just kind of crowded; for a long time, the stabbings meant it was one of the few places where normal people could afford to live. So it’s common to have lots of people sharing single family homes.

            You can cross the Dunbarton Bridge. If you do, expect your morning commute from Freemont -> Stanford to take between 40-90 minutes due to traffic. The commute back will also take 40-90 minutes.

            (Note: The tech companies provide shuttles. Stanford does not)

            Freemont has OK schools IIRC. And in terms of fun, the area can be summarized as “lets go to the nicer strip-mall thai place” or maybe “Drinks at Applebees!”

          • Matt M says:

            And not even in the big cities of Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

            These people are living in low-cost areas. Period.

            If this article exclusively profiled people living in Manhattan or SF, it’d still be unrepresentative of the population as a whole, but at least it would make a little bit of sense from a narrative perspective. But “I make 200K and live in rural Minnesota and have to get by clipping coupons for ground beef” is patently absurd.

        • I did a Zillow search for San Jose, which is about a half hour drive from Stanford. Quite a lot of houses selling for under a million dollars, renting for $3,000-$4,000/month.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The reason for this being, according to some of my relatives living there, is that unlike many other towns in the area, the San Jose public school system isn’t a place your typical Stanford grads would want to send their kids. So they’d have to add private schools to the necessary expenses.

            (I do not know if the San Jose school system is actually all that bad)

          • DinoNerd says:

            As a local resident, I question your claim of it being only a half hour drive – at least at any time resembling rush hour.

          • Fair point—I’m not driving to Stanford in rush hour.

            But a researcher there may well have flexible hours, and the tech worker may be closer to work in San Jose than in Menlo Park. Menlo Park is very expensive, and they don’t have to live there. Looking in Mountain View, I’m seeing lots of rental prices in the $3000-$5000 range.

            At least some of the tech employers provide Wi-Fi enabled buses so employees can start work during their commute.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Are real estate/rent and university really that expensive in the US?

        Real estate in the Bay Area, yes. The family with the doctor making >$200K in Wyomissing, PA (outside Reading)… not so much.

    • Erusian says:

      This reminds me of an article in… I want to say The Atlantic? where they talked about how great online dating was for men and how easy it was for them to get dates and how unbalanced the dating scene was in favor of men and casual sex. The only men they chose to profile were wealthy New York investment bankers or similar types, all of whom were educated and in shape. I have no doubt dating is really very easy if you’re in good shape, reasonably good looking, well educated, live in a city with a favorable gender balance, and make well into six figures in your mid-twenties. But that’s about as much stacking the deck as you can get.

      One thing that’s repeatedly apparent to me is that reporters are very, very humanities based. They’re more similar in their inclinations and skills to fiction authors than scientists. They generally do not understand basic statistics and they see the world through stories. That is, by the way, the universal term for what they produce: stories. There is absolutely value in that but it’s a limited way to view the world. In particular, it risks drawing broad conclusions from narrow circumstances. (Pure statistics is also a limited way to view the world but we’ve already been hearing that for years.)

      Anyway, I always called it unrepresentative sampling.

      • Matt M says:

        They generally do not understand basic statistics and they see the world through stories. That is, by the way, the universal term for what they produce: stories. There is absolutely value in that but it’s a limited way to view the world. In particular, it risks drawing broad conclusions from narrow circumstances.

        Yes. But even beyond this – I think a couple of questions still emerge:

        1. Why include the statistics at all when they don’t actually support your story?. If 90% of your article is a narrative profile of people who owe six-figure debt, what is there to possibly be gained by volunteering the information that the average debt is only 10k (and further, not explaining or going into the details as to what makes your profiles different from the average, or why they are important despite being non-average, etc.)

        2. Why not tell stories to “balance out” the narrative around the average? I’m sure it’s possible to find someone who is “struggling middle class” but only makes 30K a year. Or someone who started with a 50K debt but cut it down to a current balance of just 3K by working hard, saving, etc.

        They don’t just “want to tell stories.” They want to tell stories that actively mislead the public as to the actual state of affairs. You can find plenty of ways to tell stories that don’t result in you claiming 200-400K living in a low-cost area is “struggling middle class.”

        • Why include the statistics at all when they don’t actually support your story?

          Hanlon’s Razor.

          I suspect they genuinely do not understand this. These writers are totally innumerate, but they do realize that backing up your assertions with statistics is the proper thing to do. The fact that the statistics prove that their anecdotes are unrepresentative goes right over their heads.

          • Matt M says:

            These writers are totally innumerate, but they do realize that backing up your assertions with statistics is the proper thing to do.

            Agree with this part, but I don’t think it’s Hanlon’s Razor. The fact that they are going through the motions of citing statistics without bothering to actually consider what the statistics mean is malice, not stupidity.

            On the podcast Contra Krugman, Bob Murphy regularly points this out regarding Krugman pieces. That he often will make some sort of controversial (at least in the eyes of a libertarian) claim, and will provide a hyperlink. 99% of people won’t click the link, but will assume the link leads to some sort of objective source that validates the claim being made. Bob’s point is that if you actually click the link, more often than not, the thing being linked to doesn’t even come close to “objectively verifies the claim being made.”

          • Nick says:

            Hanlon’s Razor isn’t an explanation, it’s a principle for evaluating explanations. If you nonetheless think it’s malice, you should show us why that’s a better explanation than stupidity. Or you could reject Hanlon’s Razor, but I’d still be curious why.

          • Matt M says:

            Would you agree that actively engaging in deception counts as malice?

            What is “I should throw some statistics in here so that my stories will seem to be based on facts, and I’m not going to spend even five minutes considering whether the statistics actually validate my stories or not” if not active deception?

          • Nick says:

            Actively engaging in deception is malicious, yeah. But we don’t know that’s what they’re doing. You’re positing one explanation and Brendan is positing another. Per Hanlon’s Razor, we should favor stupidity (innumeracy) over malice (deception). What is it about your explanation that makes it superior to Brendan’s; or that failing, why does Hanlon’s Razor not apply?

          • I really don’t think any deception is necessary. If of course the average college student is up to their eyeballs in debt, then of course the statistics will back that up. Actually checking that would be redundant, not that they have the mathematical chops to do it properly anyway.

      • CatCube says:

        Yeah, this isn’t struggling “middle class”. The 95th percentile of household income in the US starts at $209,000. If you’re making between $200k and $400k, you are very solidly part of the rich. I don’t begrudge people that–even the rich have problems that can be emotionally crushing, just different ones than poor people–but it does a disservice to everybody to call somebody in the top 5% or so “middle class”, because it warps everybody’s expectations of what a good life should look like.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          I’m late to the party as usual, but I want to push against this a bit. The problem is that X’s income this year is a static and often misleading window into X’s wealth. X and her family might be doing well now, but maybe X just got that big promotion, and still has student loans. She’s not rich. Arguably, she should be in another decade, maybe, but not yet. She might even wind up a VP or partner or whatever, and be unarguably, crazy rich in 15-20 years.

          We often look at income and not wealth when assigning “class,” and we shouldn’t.

          None of which addresses the inanity of the OP’s linked article.

          • acymetric says:

            That makes it…less understandable though.

            That means (or suggests) they were living so far beyond their means before the big promotion that even after the big promotion and pay raise they can’t make ends meet. Even if you were counting on that promotion when managing your finances in the preceding years, that suggests some pretty irresponsible spending (regardless of whether you feel that irresponsible spending was “for a good cause”).

            I’ll buy it for the self employed, who can have highly variable year-year income, and slightly less so for mostly commission-based jobs (although, in both cases you knew what you signed up for) but you are aware of those variances upfront. Have a big year, expand your spending to match as though it would be like that forever, and then income returns to a more normal amount and you struggle? That’s on you*.

            *the generic you, not “you” you

          • Matt M says:

            Right – and that gets back to my complaint. We need terminology that separates “poor due to low earnings” and “little to no net worth despite high earnings due to irresponsible spending habits.”

            There is no logical reason why these groups of people should be lumped together as if they were part of the same general category…

          • albatross11 says:

            That’s a good point. A guy who’s poor because can’t make enough to live on has a *very different* problem than a guy who can’t control his spending despite making a solid middle-class income. Advice or policies to help the first guy probably won’t do a thing for the second guy, and vice versa.

          • We often look at income and not wealth when assigning “class,” and we shouldn’t.

            What you mostly want to look at is not wealth but permanent income.

            That’s a technical term, but it’s basically the present value of your lifetime income stream. If you earn lots of money in year 1 and not much in year 2, the reason you are not poor in year 2 is that you can spend wealth accumulated in year 1. But if we reverse the order, and year 2’s high income is predictable, the reason you are not poor in year 1 is that you can borrow against your future income.

          • dick says:

            But if we reverse the order, and year 2’s high income is predictable, the reason you are not poor in year 1 is that you can borrow against your future income.

            If future-surgeons can borrow against their future income, and there’s competition to get in to the field, it seems like, in an ideal market, the costs of becoming a surgeon ought to rise to compensate, decreasing the permanent income of the field compared to other jobs. And it seems like that’s exactly what some of the couples in those profiles that Matt M was complaining about were saying: “We make a good income and that’s great, but becoming a doctor/programmer/etc was so expensive (student loans, plus the costs incurred by long hours like childcare and housework help) that I still have to shop at discount grocery stores.”

          • acymetric says:

            Let’s make some extremely high end assumptions about these costs:

            Monthly student loan payment: $5,000
            Monthly childcare cost: $3,000
            Mortgage: $1,500
            Gross annual income: $200,000
            Net (after taxes): $150,000

            Some of these would be astronomically high, but just for fun (we’ll also ignore any tax write-off implications). Even in this essentially worst-case scenario you have $3,000 per month left for savings, general expenses, and luxury/entertainment, which is just a bit less than the gross median income.

          • dick says:

            I don’t know what that was supposed to prove. Your student loan costs look way too high, mortgage way too low, and “general expenses” is doing a lot of lifting. Anyway, I’m not suggesting that the people being profiled are ascetic monks who have cut their spending to the bone and still struggle. Without doubt, much of their expenses are at least somewhat optional (kids’ college fund, second car, nice neighborhood) and some are outright frivolous.

            But the topic under discussion, I think, is people who have high incomes but claim to be struggling, and whether that is normal/unusual/expected/ridiculous/etc. And surely an econ prof saying “Yes, there’s an effect that causes that” coupled with the people in question saying “Yes, that’s the effect that caused this” is a signal that maybe these people aren’t just wastrels.

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            Student loan costs were intentionally high. I explicitly said that. I’m trying to show that even if the costs being blamed for the financial trouble were absurdly high as in my example it still doesn’t account for anything close to financial difficulty. Reduce it to a reasonable level and the numbers make claims that the financial struggle is anyone’s fault but their own looks flatly ridiculous.

            You’re going to need to back up the idea that the mortgage is way too low because its a fair bit above the national average. We’re not talking about the Bay Area or whatever terrible housing market. Assuming we’re still talking about the people in the article they live in extremely affordable markets. Where a $1,500 mortgage puts you well above average.

            The point about “general expenses” (admittedly loosely defined) is that they have about as much left over for that broad general expense category as a family with more typical income has to cover all expenses including housing, childcare, etc.

            I think, though, that our biggest hangup is that we have different standards for what qualifies as a wastrel (honestly I don’t even like that word here, although it’s been used throughout the thread).

            Are there legitimate reasons for someone making $200k, $400k, heck even $2Mil to be having financial difficulty? Yes. But the reasons being presented are not those legitimate reasons, and given that I’m not convinced the people profiled here actually have legitimate reasons to be struggling the way they are.

          • Randy M says:

            But the topic under discussion, I think, is people who have high incomes but claim to be struggling,

            Everybody’s struggling. The question is, what are they struggling for, and why is this struggle newsworthy?
            I’m not surprised that some people are struggling to have a living room you could put my whole apartment into (or a bay area closet) and get their kids into Ivy league preschools. Those are nice things to have! But why should I, J. Q. Newspaper reader, care about this struggle?

          • dick says:

            But why should I, J. Q. Newspaper reader, care about this struggle?

            Newspapers aren’t for generating empathy, they’re for telling you about things you weren’t aware of. Perhaps you were already aware that there are doctors buying discount groceries, but the general level of incredulity in this thread would suggest that not everyone was.

            ETA: I think that the thesis of these profiles, basically, is “things are worse than they used to be. The jobs that used to let you not worry about money don’t do that anymore.” They might be wrong, but why is it that you feel comfortable assuming they are? Not just you, half this thread. “Ivy league preschools”, I presume, means frivolous expenses, i.e. these peoples’ struggles are self-imposed, their problem is not that things are tougher than they used to be, they’d be fine if they’d just reduce their spending like you or I would. Correct? Then why do you feel justified in assuming that? Here, on a forum devoted to rational and evidence-based inquiry, why do so many people feel confident announcing that the journalists producing these stories are lying, that these people are better off than they’re being made to sound? Shouldn’t the default assumption be that, if enough journalists from enough different newspapers of different ideological bents are finding enough people to write enough of these profiles that they have become a “type” common enough for someone to complain about, that they’re not all lying?

            (Also, I assume a big part of the reason journalists write these stories is that they get clicks, and a big part of the reason they get clicks is the “fuck these people, they’re just spending too much on Ivy League preschools” ideological outrage response this thread illustrates. But that alone is not enough to assume they’re all misleading.)

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            I don’t think anyone is questioning that this happens (or even that it is happening to these specific people). I think people are questioning the explanations presented for why doctors have to buy discount groceries.

          • Randy M says:

            Newspapers aren’t for generating empathy, they’re for telling you about things you weren’t aware of.

            The number of things I’m not aware if is verging on infinite. Someone chooses.

            (Also, I assume a big part of the reason journalists write these stories is that they get clicks, and a big part of the reason they get clicks is the “fuck these people, they’re just spending too much on Ivy League preschools” ideological outrage response this thread illustrates. But that alone is not enough to assume they’re all misleading.)

            Don’t use me as an example, I never do the required reading.

            Shouldn’t the default assumption be that, if enough journalists from enough different newspapers of different ideological bents are finding enough people to write enough of these profiles that they have become a “type” common enough for someone to complain about, that they’re not all lying?

            Consider that Matt pointed out that the statistic cited (in the article on student debt) indicated a reality diametrically opposed to the one implied by the stories chosen to illustrate it, then preach about the rational assumptions.

            “Ivy league preschools”, I presume, means frivolous expenses

            Nice to have but not so important I’ll care if anyone in particular fails to attain it. If that’s your definition of frivolous, then sure.

        • Garrett says:

          When I was in downtown Manhattan for work, I went down to the hotel bar and chatted with the bartender for a bit. He was complaining that both he and his boyfriend made over 6-figures each and they were unable to afford an apartment in Manhattan.

          • acymetric says:

            Of course, Manhattan (or, god help me, the Bay Area) is totally irrelevant when talking about Americans generally or the people profiled in this article specifically.

          • The Nybbler says:

            He was complaining that both he and his boyfriend made over 6-figures each and they were unable to afford an apartment in Manhattan.

            Unable to find an apartment south of 96th, perhaps.

            No, not even that’s right. The average rent almost anywhere in Manhattan is under $5000, which is your standard “40x rent” guideline for $200,000 income.

          • Dan L says:

            @ acymetric:

            …the first profile is literally about Cupertino real estate.

            I’m guessing you didn’t get very far in the article.

          • acymetric says:

            Well, Dan, if you keep reading you’ll notice that the rest of the profiles are decidedly not that.

            And if you do a little more reading (before accusing me of not doing so), read up to the parent post for this subthread the discussion was about the two families profiled in the $200,000-$400,000 (who definitely don’t have Bay Area style housing problems) which is the context in which I made my post.

            But keep on guessing, you’ll get it right eventually. Broken clock and all that.

          • Dan L says:

            Ah, I wasn’t aware we were using that definition of “specifically” where it “specifically” excludes the portion that directly contradicts your point.

            Probably should have picked up on that from your numbers upthread though. It’d be super embarrassing at this point if you’d just doubled down on having read the 200k-400k profiles but missed the 91k expense. There’s a lot to say about that, but none of it seems to appear this thread.

          • acymetric says:

            Not quite. $91k is beyond excessive. The “problem” these people have is…easily solvable and a symptom of bad spending choices, not some external problem. That’s the whole contention I and others in throughout this discussion are making.

            Again, if you’re going to chime in on a discussion with snide potshots, consider actually reading the discussion first.

          • Dan L says:

            The “problem” these people have is…easily solvable and a symptom of bad spending choices, not some external problem. That’s the whole contention I and others in throughout this discussion are making.

            And my contention is that the discussion more often than not is happening in either avoidance of or direct contradiction with the contents of the article.

            There are three separate claims that can be advanced:
            1) A given analysis is applicable to the profiled
            2) The same analysis is applicable to a representative member of the middle class
            3) The profiled are not representative of the middle class
            It would take quite a bit of hand-wringing to reconcile all three, but it’s far easier if one is ignored or the difficulties are glossed over. I fired a few shots at Matt M for botching an argument for the third. At you, for the first. There are other issues here and there throughout the thread, but those struck me as the most salient.

            Maybe people are just eliding the part where they disagree with OP’s framing. Maybe there was a thesis being worked towards, but it didn’t arrive in time. Or maybe the problems can be cleanly explained by a reluctance to RTFMA. Run a quick search for which OT topics I engage with, and maybe you’ll see why my priors are where they are.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Dan L

            There are several different profiles, and different analyses may apply to each.

            Your 2 and 3 are not as irreconcilable as you have made them out to be. The profiles are mostly not representative of the middle class (though the first one, IMO, may be representative of the middle class in the Bay Area); however, the analysis of their problems may be representative of the people who claim to be middle class and struggling. Certainly I would expect Garrett’s bartender and partner making twin six figures and “unable to find an apartment” to be making bad spending choices as well.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M

      “Is there a specific term for news/opinion articles that attempt to make a point through a series of profiles, but the profiles are atypical of the situation they are describing even on their own terms…..”

      Maybe “bizarre goalposts?”

      I skimmed parts of the first three profiles a few days ago, and when I saw that all were “struggling” on more income while living in what are I presume cheaper areas (’cause not San Francisco, Manhattan, London, or Tokyo) than me, my wife, and our two sons get by on I lost interest, but both the NYT and the WSJ have moved the goalposts on what “middle class” means for years.

      As far as I can tell, most American folks (Brits have a different definition because of a legacy aristocracy) have a mental “class system” that goes like:

      Poor = earns and has a lot less money than most folks

      Working-class = (not actually used much) Is an employee, or if self-employed does heavy lifting to earn money

      Middle-class = Has close to the same amount of money as most folks, and earns something close to the median income

      Rich = Has/earns noticibly more money than most people

      While NYT/WSJ class lingo seems to be:

      Poor = Receiving welfare/relief/dole

      Working-class = Doesn’t have a college diploma, and/or has a job paying close to the median income

      Middle-class = Has a college diploma and/or earns at least 2.5x median income

      Upper Middle Class = Has a post graduate degree and earns so much more than the median that most Americans who aren’t NYT/WSJ writers would call them “Rich”

      Rich = Owns a private jet, probably wears a hoodie

      I think this nomenclature is to appeal to advertisers “See, this is our readership”

      • acymetric says:

        It isn’t just the NYT/WSJ…those definitions are all over our popular culture. Hell, they’re fairly common in these comments every time it comes up.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m trying to come up with definitions about what each level allows. Something like
        Poor: Your children help supplement the family income right now.
        Working Class: Your children will likely take your trade after high school.
        Middle Class: Your children will go to college and from there choose a career to support themselves.
        Upper Class: Your children will go to private prep school, private college, and then choose a career they find satisfying.
        Rich: Your children never consider needing an income.

        (I don’t think it really fits, just throwing out the thoughts.)

        • johan_larson says:

          Maybe put it in terms of typical real worries. (Just guessing about some of them.)

          Poor: Putting food on the table. Making rent. Keeping the car running.
          Worker: Holding a full-time job. Affording a home of your own. Finding a job with good benefits.
          Gentry: Getting promoted to manager. Getting the kids into a good college. Saving enough for retirement.
          Rich: Being a someone among the local elite. Leaving behind a legacy that matters. Getting good help.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that works though. Because these types of articles tend to suggest that somehow, beyond all reason, there are people out there living in low-cost areas making $200K who actually are struggling to put food on the table, make rent, and keep the car running. Or at least, they would claim they struggle to do that.

            So at some point, we do need to have some sort of literal numerical threshold. If you’re making six figures and you don’t live in New York, the Bay Area, LA, or Chicago, you don’t get to call yourself poor. If you’re in that situation and you’re still struggling to pay your basic bills every month, the word for you is not “poor”, it’s “irresponsible.” Or perhaps “financially incompetent.” I could maybe think of some even less charitable descriptors, but I’ll stop here.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            In my head, the word “poor” refers to two very distinct phenomena. The first is typified by the first or second generation immigrant with no money, difficulties with learning the language, getting minimum-wage work (and, in my experience, working really hard at it), possibly (by means of gumption and outside help) positioning themselves to improve in life. The other is a couple making $60,000/year, neither of whom are college-educated, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, stressing about how they are going to pay for their (way too large) mortgage but also eating out at fast food (or sometimes nicer) places on a regular basis. I don’t know that either of these models are very representative of “the poor” at large, but they are more or less people I’ve met, so they at least exist.

          • Nick says:

            I’m sure immigrants are a substantial portion of the poor, but I’d be surprised if they were even the majority. There are lots of poor in the inner city. Or Appalachia, or the south.

          • Matt M says:

            I guess my point here is that I think there’s some trickery going on in terms of using terms like “poor” to describe someone who makes more than enough money to live comfortably, in general, but who makes choices such that they dramatically overextend themselves and live beyond their means.

            Someone making 200K is not poor, even if they rack up a ton of bills such that at the end of the year, their net balance on the year is zero or negative. That’s not “poor”, that’s “living beyond your means.”

            Similarly, the “struggling immigrant” who makes 30K a year but lives cheaply and manages to save 5K of it is still poor, even if his “net profit” for the year is higher than the 200K private school fancy car family.

            Warning: This is where I completely veer off into unmitigated CW.

            I think the reason I bristle at this so much is because I think it’s part of a long con that includes:

            1. Defining as many people as possible as “poor”, or even “middle class.”

            2. Strongly implying that people are “poor” for reasons beyond their control and/or because of the oppression of the rich

            3. Mobilizing these people to vote for leftist economic policies

            If you’re trying to get Bernie Sanders (or anyone approximately similar) elected on a message of “we need to raise taxes on the rich to help the struggling middle class,” then it’s probably quite helpful to you that as many people as possible see themselves as “struggling middle class” and not “rich” (as the beneficiaries of your redistribution schemes, rather than the targets of it).

            I can’t prove a literal conspiracy here, nor I am suggesting that the authors of this piece sat down and said to themselves “How can I help get socialists elected? I know! I’ll write this…” But that said, it does seem that there is a rather large cultural push to get as many people as possible lumped into the category of “struggling have-nots” and I think that ultimately, there’s a reason for that, and it’s not a coincidence…

          • acymetric says:

            I can’t prove a literal conspiracy here

            I think you can dismiss conspiracy concerns for a couple reasons:

            1) Liberals also complain about the unreasonable expansion of the term “middle-class” to include people who by any reasonable definition are absolutely not middle-class.

            2) Both parties do it, for different motivations. These are both going to be straw-manish takes on the two parties, but just bare with me for illustrative purposes. Liberal politicians want to expand the definition of middle class so when they talk about things that will benefit the middle class those lower-end upper class folks think they are included. Conservative politicians want to expand the definition of middle class so that when they talk about policies that primarily benefit that group of middle-class low-end upper class earners they can say it benefits the “middle class” and it sounds better.

            Nobody is really being honest here, but it is coming from both sides and there are plenty of people from both sides (you and me, for example) who hate it.

            You also see the actual people in this upper level income group doing it themselves, presumably as some kind of identity thing where some guy making $500,000k wants to call himself middle class for whatever reason.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M >
            "I guess my point here is that I think there’s some trickery going on in terms of using terms like “poor” to describe someone who...:

            This is where it becomes useful to read the words of the actual Left rather than “the house newspaper of the professional class”

            From: Modern Monetary Theory Isn’t Helping

            “…Now that policies made famous by Bernie Sanders, like Medicare for All and free college, and newer ones like the Green New Deal, are infiltrating the political mainstream, advocates are always faced with the question: “how would you pay for them?” Although there are good answers to “this question” that could even be shrunk down to a TV-friendly length and vocabulary, they’re not always forthcoming. Even self-described socialists seem to have a hard time saying the word “taxes.” How lovely would it be if you could just dismiss the question as an irrelevant distraction?…”

            “….MMT has little or nothing on offer to fight any of this. The job guarantee is a contribution, though a flawed one, and it’s not at the core of the theory, which proceeds from the keystroke fantasy. That fantasy looks like a weak response to decades of anti-tax mania coming from the Right, which has left many liberals looking for an easy way out. It would be sad to see the socialist left, which looks stronger than it has in decades, fall for this snake oil. It’s a phantasm, a late-imperial fever dream, not a serious economic policy….”

            and from: The Hater Class

            “Wall Street will not love Buh-nie Sanduhs,” the candidate memorably declared during a 2016 primary debate. Indeed, the 1 percent is Sanders’s true enemy. But there’s another group that doesn’t love the socialist senator, either: the upper middle class….”

            “…In 2016, voters with incomes more than $100,000 voted for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders by a 17 percent margin. Many liberals in this class are hostile to socialism for the same reason as the superrich: they don’t want us to take away their stuff….”

            “…neither socialism nor social democracy can be funded solely by taxing the superrich. Eventually, if AOC or Bernie-style policy prevails, our society would stop producing such a grotesque number of billionaires. Revenues would have to come from someplace else. As in Nordic social democracies, the middle class would have to pay more taxes….”

            Any large enough actual Left agenda won’t come tax free to the “middle class”, certainly not to the “upper middle class”, though I suppose there’s always play fight “left vs. right” circus diversions like “gender neutral bathrooms” and “university speech codes”, which pretty successfully tame the “Left” and “Right” into approved signalling exercises instead of any structural changes.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Oh, you can definitely go to a private school (or out-of-state school) and you pick a “satisfying” major, but you are going to pay out the keester for it unless you have a trust fund with your name on it.

          I come from a UMC family, but we all lived at home and went to a commuter school, and 2/3 of us tried to major in something that would be marketable. My in-laws either went to out of state schools or majored in something “satisfying” and are paying dearly for it, because Mommy and Daddy are NOT so rich that they have trust funds set up for each of their kids.

          Also neither my parents nor my in-laws have much of a retirement saved up. They will likely have to move in with the kids at some point, or die. My Dad would prefer death.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The goalposts keep moving because people can’t decide whether class is just about money, or whether it indicates something else. A lot of people who are top 5% or higher for income think of themselves as “upper-middle class” because our image of “upper class” is either someone with enough inherited family wealth that they needn’t work, or someone who works in an incredibly lucrative field.

        I would also guess that stuff which a hundred years ago was the province of the quite wealthy is now a lot more common. The median income-earner is probably more likely to own stocks or whatever than a hundred years ago, I’d wager, and certainly the above-average income earner. If a member of the working class is similar in definition to a member of the proletariat – someone whose means of survival is selling their wage to someone else – at what value of investment portfolio does someone stop being working class?

        To what extent is it cultural markers? A wastrel child of someone really rich who’s been told “you’re embarrassing us all; we’ll give you 50k a year to piss off to the other end of the country and not sully our name further” will fit in better at some posh soiree than someone from a poor background who makes three times that doing some kind of computer thing.

        • Matt M says:

          If journalists are intentionally using vague and hard to define language, that’s another strike against them.

          They could easily clarify exactly what they mean in these pieces. The fact that they choose not to is damning.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t know that it’s intentional. It would be nice if they said stuff like “for the purposes of my article, I’m defining upper-middle class as xth percentile” but that still runs into the problem that it’s really vague and about more than money.

          • Matt M says:

            “for the purposes of my article, I’m defining upper-middle class as xth percentile”

            And my proposition is that they didn’t do that for a reason, that doing it would give up the trick they are playing on their readership. Because if you actually state “for the purposes of my article, I’m defining middle class as anything below the 90th percentile of incomes” people would immediately dismiss and laugh at you, without even having to spend a few minutes googling exactly why your propaganda is wrong.

            My #1 rule of consuming news media is that if an article implies a very obvious follow-up question (in this case: “How do you define middle class?”) that is neither asked nor answered, one can safely assume the reason it isn’t asked is because the answer would directly contradict the primary narrative thrust of the article.

          • Enkidum says:

            “for the purposes of my article, I’m defining middle class as anything below the 90th percentile of incomes”

            Actually, given the shape of the income distribution, I think that’s not that bad a way of doing it. Maybe the cutoff is 85%, or something, but it should definitely be way closer to 100 than it is to 50. Piketty does something like this, and is most explicit about it.

          • acymetric says:

            @Enkidum
            I think most people find it easiest/most reasonable to separate it out by standard deviations from the mean/median or by some multiple of the median even if they don’t realize they’re doing that but are mentally doing it by saying (made up numbers for example):

            Median: 50k
            4x Median: 200k
            200k: 93rd percentile

            And just shorthanding it to “middle class is people below the 93rd percentile” or some such.

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting middle class should actually just be the 50th percentile.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting middle class should actually just be the 50th percentile.

            Then allow me. I am suggesting middle class should actually just be, let’s say, the 30th – 70th percentile, and/or, that if you want to include an 80th percentile person in your middle class profile, you should feel some sort of compulsion to offset them by also including a 20th percentile person.

          • acymetric says:

            @Matt M

            I mean, I don’t think those are totally unreasonable deliniations, but percentile is just a bad way to break up economic classes due to the way it is distributed. The difference between the 70th and 80th percentile is a lot less than the difference between the 80th and 90th, and if you looked at the actual dollar amounts it would be hard to argue that 70th and 80th aren’t pretty much in the same economic class (it would also be hard to argue that the 20th, or even 30th, percentiles are in the same class as the 60th).

          • Enkidum says:

            @Matt M

            Yeah, the distribution REALLY matters here. When medians and means differ greatly, as they do in this case, the former is often much more informative. And percentiles are mean-based.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            And percentiles are mean-based.

            Huh?

            per·cen·tile
            /pərˈsenˌtīl/
            noun STATISTICS: each of the 100 equal groups into which a population can be divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable.

            The fiftieth percentile contains the median individual. It does not contain the average individual.

          • Enkidum says:

            I… am very tired, that was really dumb.

          • Enkidum says:

            Especially given that I said elsewhere on this OT that I thought knowing the difference between median and mean was one of the qualities every human being should have.

            Wow. Just… wow.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s okay, I’m sure you make up for it in your dancing 😉

          • To me, middle class isn’t defined by percentiles. I can’t give a precise definition, but it seems perfectly reasonable to say that in the 18th century (say) only five or ten percent of the population of England were middle class, but in late 20th century America, a majority were.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Enkidum-

            I feel for you, pal. I’ve been there.

          • Enkidum says:

            Extra-embarrassing fact – I’ve taught upper level stats.

            Sigh.

            Anyways, I think David Friedman and acymetric are making the point I was maybe (kind of?) trying to get at, somehow. I will refrain from saying any more on the subject.

          • acymetric says:

            @Enkidum

            Yeah, I think we’re trying to make the same point. Unsurprisingly, David Friedman is probably doing the best job of making it despite saying much less. 😉

            I don’t think “Middle Class” was ever actually meant to be “some symmetric range centered on the 50th percentile” or even anything close to that. We already have a way to describe that…the percentiles.

            Middle Class is socioeconomic, not economic, and not based on the median or the mean although it isn’t totally disconnected from them.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t understand what your category of “rich” is supposed to define when it puts me and Oprah Winfrey in the same category.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I didn’t define “rich” – merely said the wastrel child was the offspring of someone rich.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Defining “rich” as “having enough money that you needn’t work and can still maintain a certain lifestyle” is still about money, it’s just not about income.

      • S_J says:

        Some time ago–probably during the time when another plumber became a national news item after talking to then-candidate-Obama about the definition of “rich”–I realized something.

        There is a range of wages in the print-journalism/TV-journalism business. And slightly above that range of wages are he wages that news people call “rich”.

        That particular plumber was rich in that sense, because he had better wages than most of the people in the news business. Even if he was “working class”, or “upper-middle-class income from running a working-class business”

    • Dan L says:

      They don’t just “want to tell stories.” They want to tell stories that actively mislead the public as to the actual state of affairs. You can find plenty of ways to tell stories that don’t result in you claiming 200-400K living in a low-cost area is “struggling middle class.”

      My reflexive response to this line of argument is to pick apart what its speaker means by “they”. Are you talking about Tammy Kim and Jyoti Thottam, contributing opinion writers? Are you talking about the NYT editorial board and related functions, that decides coverage and writes headlines? Are you talking about The Media, a mixed blend of journalism, punditry, and entertainment? Or are you going all the way to The Cathedral, and its unabashed reification of emergent cultural forces?

      The obvious answer is that there might be plenty of profiles out there that meet your requests, but for whatever reason they’re not making their way to you – this article came to you via social media? What about your cultivated ecosystem would be applying selection pressure to favor this coverage, which you have obligingly shared and therefore commercially rewarded?

      Then I read the article and got a somewhat different impression.

      This New York Times article about America’s “struggling middle class” is all over my social media today, with many people pointing out that all of those profiled in it make at least 2x the median income in their areas.

      Pew’s definition of “middle class” runs from x2/3 to x2 of the national household median (59k) – this seems roughly in line with your bounds. Since you’re making a statement about relative income for the location, let’s actually look at that too:

      Jessica Wang, 120k-200k (given as >150k)
      Cupertino CA – median 153k

      Daniel Lynch, 120k-200k
      Stow MA – median 137k

      Kristin DePue, 200k-400k
      Wyomissing PA – median 79k

      Caitlin Dunham, 200k-400k
      Austin MN – median 54k

      Victor Gomez, 75k-100k
      Auburn GA – median 54k

      Fletcher Gustafson, 120k-200k
      Kansas City MO – median 50k

      Iran Sanchez, 120k-200k
      Laveen AZ – median 52k

      Hard to get specifics with the income brackets chosen, but we have two cases where the profiled are plausibly making median, another making less than double, three making x3~4, and the last making >x4. Definitely some wealthy folks there, but it puts the lie to the notion that “all of those profiled in it make at least 2x the median”.

      (Also, for an article about “America’s ‘struggling middle class'”, did you notice that the word “struggling” never appeared but the quote “our income puts us in the top 2 percent here” did? Tl;dr, the interviews are actually pretty interesting and don’t tell a uniform story of financial hardship, so much as illustrate different kinds of financial stressors.)

      My new impression that there was an additional layer of editorializing added between whatever twitfeed the article first appeared in and the time it was linked on SSC, editorializing that didn’t much trouble itself about truth. Matt, do you know where that disinformation might have entered the stream?

      • The Nybbler says:

        My reflexive response to your reflexive response is to ask if you’re just asking a lot of questions to throw shade at the claim without producing an argument against it.

        A less combative answer, however, would be “Yes, the New York Time Editorial Board”.

        • Dan L says:

          My reflexive response to your reflexive response is to ask if you’re just asking a lot of questions to throw shade at the claim without producing an argument against it.

          Nope. Asking questions is the first step to being an informed consumer, and it’s even more important if you want your critiques to match reality. Contrast that with the relationship with the news here, which is somewhere between reversed critical theory and full-on toxoplasma.

          A less combative answer, however, would be “Yes, the New York Time Editorial Board”.

          I prefer cutting layers of editorializing by following the link, but yep, that looks about right. NYT editors typically could use a good kicking (it’s not a coincidence I listed them, it wasn’t a trick question) though do keep in mind an ex-anything is certain to be bringing some baggage to the table.

          But glancing at Matt’s response below, it doesn’t look like you’re on quite the same page regarding the narrowness of your critiques.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I prefer cutting layers of editorializing by following the link, but yep

            I was going to do that, but the original site was just such a horrible morass of pop-ups and ads that I felt the level of indirection was worth it. It included the relevant quote verbatim.

            But glancing at Matt’s response below, it doesn’t look like you’re on quite the same page regarding the narrowness of your critiques.

            I’m going to the proximate cause of that particular article, Matt is going for a wider claim. The larger claim I personally can’t rationally substantiate. That is, I don’t know if there’s a top-down narrative mediated by a mailing list like Jornolist about “the student loan crisis” or how “middle-class America is struggling”, or if this is un-coordinated groupthink among similarly-situated journalists, or if they’re playing follow-the-leader.

          • Dan L says:

            I was going to do that, but the original site was just such a horrible morass of pop-ups and ads that I felt the level of indirection was worth it.

            Fair enough!

            The larger claim I personally can’t rationally substantiate.

            This is where I am. A larger claim could be built out of many narrow claims, but this approach is dramatically more complex in aggregate than the narrow ones individually and perhaps beyond the scope of an individual’s effort. Or it could be built on a statistical evaluation of the entire media (or even wider fields!), somehow making commensurate vastly different forms and approaches.

            I’m thoroughly unimpressed by most attempts, on either approach. I’ve seen some work decent enough to form a tentative opinion on selected niches, but nothing I really trust to generalize.

            Jornolist

            Oh man, J-List was a fascinating case study to watch unfold. It’s not quite an example of cartel-like instability, but it definitely highlights the structural difficulty in organizing a cabal of people financially motivated to expose cabals. I’m not sure it really stands as a useful example of coordination though, compared to the openly-incestuous baseline of internet journalism.

            (Interesting personal anecdote for perspective – I ran with the ants for a hot second before the whole controversy devolved into pure CW. Media failures (in the style of “market failure” inefficiency) are a recurring hobby.)

      • Matt M says:

        My chief complaint is this specific article. Which I believe is representative of a larger trend within the New York Times. Which I believe is representative of a larger trend within print journalism (which is why I bothered to also include a similarly guilty piece from the WSJ to help prove this point). Which I believe is treated as an authoritative source by the media in general. Which is itself the vanguard of the Cathedral.

        As far as your statistical nitpicking goes, I find it very boring, and falls into the category of “deliberately missing the point.” Any profile of the “middle class” that only talks about people who are barely in it at the very top end of the range, some people who are clearly and obvious well above it, and literally nobody who is making at or below the median is useless, probably deliberately so. The fact that one or two of these people are actually “only” making 1.5x the median and not 2x the median, and that technically speaking, this does fit some definitions of “middle class”, does not excuse this sort of nonsense.

        • Dan L says:

          Which I believe is representative of a larger trend within the New York Times. Which I believe is representative of a larger trend within print journalism (which is why I bothered to also include a similarly guilty piece from the WSJ to help prove this point).

          You aren’t reading print journalism. You aren’t even reading the NYT. You’re reading specific articles curated and editorialized for you by social media. What is representative of that set will (wildly) diverge from what is representative of the broader media ecosystem depending on how various algorithms build your filter bubble. “Outrageous enough to spread” is the sweet spot, in that sort of game.

          As far as your statistical nitpicking goes, I find it very boring, and falls into the category of “deliberately missing the point.

          If you are bored by the need for accuracy within a factor of two, maybe statistical analysis isn’t for you. I usually refrain from calling people out here for something less than an order of magnitude, but yours was a metric of your own choosing, spun for CW points, and contradicted by the first example in the linked article. “Nitpicking”, right.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Taking ‘area’ to mean ‘specific city’ isn’t fair, you functionally would make it so that anyone can make themselves at the median by moving into a high enough earning area.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I like all the euphemisms for supporting unemployed people, ‘He lives with his wife, a stay at home mom, and their teenage daughter’.

    • brad says:

      I agree with you 100% about the inanity of calling people that have a household income of $200,000 middle class, but this isn’t a journalist problem. It’s an extremely widespread American disease (maybe other countries too, I don’t know.) People react better to being called a racist than being told they are rich. SSC is no exception, I’ve had the arguments here.

      • Matt M says:

        Maybe we should hold professional journalists reporting on other people to a slightly higher standard than we hold random individuals describing themselves?

        In a lot of ways, I feel like SSC has ruined nearly all mainstream journalism for me, in the sense that when Scott approaches an issue, he approaches it fairly and objectively and is incredibly careful in evaluating all of the evidence and arguments from all sides.

        I don’t expect every NYT opinion piece to be just like Scott. But I do expect them to at least make an attempt to do something like clarifying what they mean by “middle class,” which, if Scott was writing this piece, likely would have been done in the first paragraph in incredibly specific terms.

        • Plumber says:

          @Matt M,
          I’m reminded of a piece I read from Vox, that made a big deal about how “un-democratic” an anti-abortion law passed in Alabama was because “the majority of Americans are against such laws”, and my immediate thought was “But what do the majority of Alabamans want?”.

          I mean I’m pretty sure that some policies that California has decided for themselves wouldn’t be favored by the majority of the U.S.A. and I’m real sure that the majority of humanity had a vote on American policy they wouldn’t favor some of it, I really thought that Vox‘s use of “undemocratic” while from a certain point of view sorta is true, but it really was a stretch, and no where did I see what Alabamans thought.

          IIRC The New York Times and The Washington Post did similar pieces.

          I’m well aware of the arguments against “States Rights” and “local self-rule” (recently re-articulated by one of my Senators who’s also a Presidential candidate) and that’s “Jim Crow”, but in that case a significant portion of the population was disenfranchised and kept from voting, and I just haven’t seen much evidence that as many Alabamans aren’t allowed to vote now as then, so I suspect that anti-abortion law really is what they want, so I wouldn’t call it “un-democratic”!

          I’ve read enough Wall Street Journal opinion pieces to know that it isn’t just “The Left’s” media that does this stuff, but jeez Vox, if you make the dodge that obvious it just doesn’t persuade.

          • While on the subject of Vox journalism. There was an article yesterday on the current litigation attempting to eliminate Obamacare. It included the claim that:

            Legal experts on both sides of the aisle have argued that O’Connor’s reasoning was faulty and likely to be overturned by the Fifth Circuit.

            (O’Connor is the judge whose decision against Obamacare is being appealed)

            The article quotes several legal scholars who think O’Connor is obviously wrong, none who support his decision. It does, however, mention that:

            There is a history of lawsuits that most legal experts thought were unpersuasive nonetheless putting ACA in mortal danger: first the lawsuit against the individual mandate and then the challenge to insurance subsidies.

            That hints at the fact that the lawsuit against the mandate was viewed by most law professors, and represented in the media, as an obviously hopeless argument that had no chance of prevailing. The exceptions were mainly a group of law professors associated with the Volokh Conspiracy blog, in particular Randy Barnett. The suit eventually lost, but it lost in a 5 to 4 decision and the majority justified the mandate on grounds (that it was a tax, not a penalty) that were not the grounds on which the experts had claimed it was constitutional.

            That looks like pretty strong evidence that either the media or legal academia or both present a view of such controversies that is heavily biased relative to the actual position of the courts. One might think that Vox would have tried to get the view of some of the legal experts whose “obviously wrong” argument persuaded one short of a majority of the Supreme Court.

            It wouldn’t have been hard, since Randy Barnett had a series of posts on the Volokh Conspiracy shortly before the Vox article was published. His conclusion was that, of the three points on which O’Connor’s decision depended, O’Connor was pretty clearly right on two. He was unwilling to offer a conclusion on the third, since it was outside his area of expertise, but he found O’Connor’s decision persuasive.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Popehat has pointed out that the journalists have a habit of quoting a bunch of law professors who turn out to be completely wrong. This is either a) because the journalists don’t know what they are doing, and just finding people who are eager to talk, or b) because the journalists know exactly what they are doing: trying to create a new reality on the ground. By silently replacing “here is what the law is” with “here is what the law should be” you try to create shock when the completely-expected thing happens.

          • Nick says:

            At least with the Dershowitz thing Popehat’s beef seemed to be less with the journalists and more with Dershowitz for deliberately conflating how he wants the law to be interpreted vs how the law is being interpreted. And I’d say following that that some of the blame falls on these professors for deliberately muddying the water like that.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Plumber:

            I’m actually inclined to give Vox a bit of a pass on that one. State-level polling is comparatively expensive and thus rarer outside of key states, and I haven’t seen much of it on the law in question. They did link responses among Republicans and pro-lifers as majority opposed to major provisions of the law, which is something. (But not great.)

            Dig into older Alabama-specific data though, and you can support two conclusions: a) the law ought to be somewhere between plurality support and overwhelming opposition and b) people’s stances on abortion are wildly dependent on phrasing and context.

          • Dan L says:

            @ David, Edward, Nick:

            The original Popehat comment was here, with the relevant section excerpted as part of this. You will find much criticism of the media in the former, but Nick’s characterization seems much more apt than Edward’s.

          • hls2003 says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            I am not claiming that legal analysis is so complicated that no one can understand it, but for some reason legal analysis in media is typically so awful that it barely qualifies as better than random number generation. This could be because of the postulated bias (certainly some is) but I don’t think it is limited to Vox. I suspect it is because the legal field is particularly wide, rather than particularly deep – “lawyer” has as many or more sub-specialties as “doctor” but the media tends to treat random lawyers as knowledgeable on random subjects.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yeah, I think I had the motivations wrong in my second explanation.

            The journalists may just be passing along what the professors say, not knowing the professor is pushing the wrong way on the is-ought boundary.

      • Protagoras says:

        Well, the traditional English meaning of middle class was essentially “rich, but not a member of the aristocracy.” America seems to want as many as possible to qualify, and so here it seems to mean anybody who isn’t either homeless or a billionaire. And, indeed, the $200,000 a year people are not billionaires, but the current American meaning doesn’t seem to make for a very useful category.

  19. Deiseach says:

    This video is about an elderly woman living an old-fashioned lifestyle, and it is very familiar in parts to me from my childhood – enough neighbours and family members lived in cottages like this when I was a child – the idea of the spring well down the field as the source of drinking water – sure, we lived it! In my family’s case, it was a pump in a farmer’s field 🙂

    My late mother well knew how to cook on the crook over the fire like this lady.

    • Well... says:

      If the opportunity cost of switching to a lifestyle like that (but, say, keeping one’s job and car) was zero, how many people do you think would do it?

      • Deiseach says:

        I honestly don’t know. I think you need to have some experience of what it’s actually like – it’s all very well to have a romantic idea of an idyllic candle-lit cottage, but howling winds and lashing rain on a dark, cold November night will soon put a stop to that.

        Most people who grew up like that wouldn’t go back to it after having a taste of modernity (I tell you, the greatest invention of all time is RUNNING WATER. I’ve done my little bit of time with ‘carrying buckets from the well’ and no thanks about going back to it. HOT running water? Absolute luxury!). Some might. And some people who didn’t grow up like that might well take to it, but it’s never going to be more than a handful at a time.

        The very interesting question is: if we’re dead on serious about climate change and the world will end in 12 years (give or take), how many would give up modern life to live that way? Even of the fervent climate change pushers? Could they really live without electricity and running water and all the rest of it, to save the planet? (Never mind that being dependent on coal, firewood and turf for cooking and heating is its own problem).

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,
          I remember some years ago (when I paid more attention to environmental-ish reports than I do now) a profile of two families, one lived in a big suburban home in a hot climate, run air conditioning, and had two SUV’s, the other, well basically hippies, hang dried laundry, bicycles instead of automobiles, vegan, et cetera – it’s been too long for me to remember the all the details but the gist was that one family really struggled trying to be “environmentally conscious”, but one detail meant that their lifestyle actually produced more greenhouse gas emissions – three times a year they flew out on a jet (no not their private one, just regular commercial aircraft passengers) to visit the grandparents, while the other gas guzxling, air conditioner using family didn’t fly most years.

          • Well... says:

            It suggests a question: of the things you could tolerably give up to reduce your carbon emissions or whatever (or even just to live a more grounded, mentally healthy, etc. lifestyle), what would you actually give up?

          • Plumber says:

            @Well…,

            “…It suggests a question: of the things you could tolerably give up to reduce your carbon emissions or whatever (or even just to live a more grounded, mentally healthy, etc. lifestyle), what would you actually give up?…”

            “Tolerally give up”?

            How about eagerly!

            There’s a small grocery store within walking distance to our house that my wife doesn’t buy from because she wants “bargains” and “selection” so I have to drive us to many other grocery stores every damn week.

            Paying more for our groceries and having a bit less of a selection to be “environmentally conscious” by doing less driving seems a fine idea, especially if it means I don’t have to drive as much, but I’m too cowardly/prudent to advocate this to the light of my world/bane of my existence.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Depending on “tolerable” I think eating less meat is the biggest step. I say this as a meat-eater.

          • acymetric says:

            The two primary sources of my carbon footprint are probably eating meat and running the AC so it would have to be one of those. I’m not interested in giving up either, if I were forced to choose it would be meat.

          • Nick says:

            I think I’d reduce my AC use. It’s already low, but I could probably eliminate it if I had to. And I’d do it sooner than eliminating meat.

    • S_J says:

      I spent my childhood in a world with running water and indoor toilets…but I had relatives (of my grandfather’s generation) who were born in a world of well-outside-in-the-field and no-running-water.

      My father spent a few years in that world when he was born. He claimed to remember when the well-pump in the field was plumbed into the house…but I never got specifics of when that happened. I do remember when Grandfather built a new structure at the back of the old farm property…and didn’t install a well or internal plumbing for several years.

      They had experience cooking over wood; though that was typically an enclosed oven with a separate fire-box. Grandfather and grandmother cooked family meals on that old stove for many years.

      It’s a different world, one that I heard stories about and visited occasionally.

      I liked hearing stories about the good old days, but I soon realized that keeping a house warm with only a wood stove is very labor-intensive. Bathing is an occasional thing if the water has to be brought from the well in buckets, and then heated on a stove. Having only one car in the family can make it hard for the wage-earner to go work at the mill-or-mine while the pregnant wife doesn’t quite know when she’ll go into labor…and the nearest hospital is at least a half-hour drive away.

      Entertainment options were fewer, so people would stock up on magazines and books, play card games in the evening, listen to shows on the radio, and have lots of conversations. And people would remember favors (or slights) from years before, tell stories about community events, and repeat every family story that had ever been told before…

      That slower-paced life seems idyllic in telling, but people who lived it remember the hard parts.

      • Randy M says:

        The conversations are the part we’re missing the most; I don’t think netflix and xbox do quite as much to build family and community ties.
        But you’re right about glossing over the hard parts. Driving through picturesque rural areas always makes me wish I could plop a house down there; walking through the wilderness reminds that weeds itch and bugs bite a lot more than you notice, and after awhile the view is less novel as well.

      • I get to live a version of that life for two weeks every year—more primitive than what is being described in some ways, less in others—at Pennsic, an SCA camping event with about ten thousand fellow recreationists. We cook over a camp fire, carry water from a nearby tap. There are showers, usually nowadays (but not always) with warm water, a short walk from our encampment, portapotties nearby and flush toilets in the same structure as the showers. A lot of walking to get anywhere.

        The contrast the first few nights after we leave, staying in motels or with friends or relatives on our way home, is striking. It helps me appreciate just how rich our society is.

  20. Tenacious D says:

    A reporter for WIRED took his 5-year-old son to an enormous construction industry trade fair and the article is delightful: https://www.wired.com/story/one-boys-dream-vacation-to-see-giant-construction-equipment/

    • bean says:

      I was once obsessed with construction machinery, and my parents did something similar, although it was the St. Louis construction expo, and not something like Bauma. I don’t remember it, but they said I had a great time. The booth babes (this was the mid-90s) apparently were fawning all over me, and they signed me up for all of the promotional literature, which resulted in several amusing phone calls from equipment salesmen. “Hello, this is so-and-so from Caterpillar. Can we speak to bean?” “You can, but he’s four, so he’s not likely to buy anything.”

      • Nick says:

        When I was really little, like three or four, I used to call LEGO from the phone number in the magazines to try to order more sets. Alas, they always asked me to put a parent on the phone.

      • Matt M says:

        As a teenager, one of my friends signed up with a bunch of hardware/building/electrical suppliers under a fictitious “Bob’s Hardware” located at his home address. He then received a pretty big volume not just of catalogs, but occasionally sample products and stuff as well. It was fairly entertaining for us.

    • Watchman says:

      Thanks. That’s one of those articles that just makes me feel happy. I think he gets the feeling of the joy of a day out with your child doing something they like dead on.

      Machines look pretty cool as well…

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Man, what a great idea. He’s grown out of it now, but when my son was 2-4 he was obsessed with trucks and construction equipment. His first word besides “mommy,” “daddy,” and “no” was “truck.” We’d be riding in the car and he’d point at every truck that passed and say “truck. Truck. Truck.” And he was addicted to Mighty Machines on Netflix. Fun times.

      • baconbits9 says:

        We visited my parents and my son’s first ‘word’ was Granddad. His 2nd – 1,000th word was ‘truck’ on the 6 hour drive home. I don’t think he said Granddad again for another year. Mommy and Daddy, or even no didn’t come for months later.

        At 6 he still loves trains, the railroad museum, and his favorite show right now is mega mechanics (which I had assumed was an incorrect pronunciation of mega machines for a while, but he actually loves the mechanics).

    • John Schilling says:

      For anyone who didn’t grow out of this before they hit adulthood, Las Vegas has you covered. Covered in dirt and mud by the end of the day, but that’s probably OK.

    • Lillian says:

      When i was a kid my dad this something like this for me, except instead of a construction industry trade fair, it was an actual honest to god construction site. They were just starting to break ground so there was all the usual large earth moving equipment, and the construction workers let me sit on the cabs of their big machines while i giggled with delight and pretended to move them. Unfortunately i was too young for me to remember it now, but it definitely happened liked that because there’s pictures.

      The one i do remember was walking through a town one evening during a gentle snowfall, i think it was Aspen Colorado, and the firefighters opened their garage door as we were approaching. So my sister and me got all excited and went over to say hi to the firemen, and they let us wear firemen helmets and play around in their firetruck. One of the most fondly remembered evenings of my life.

    • Lambert says:

      I’m not surprised. Bauma was great.
      My employer was handing out free tickets, so I went.
      It was absolutely massive. Wikipedia says the Centre has 0.18 km^2 indoor space and 0.45 outdoor.
      The 18 halls were arranged by topic within the construction industry.
      There was an area for mining, one for controls, one for engines, one for scaffolding etc.
      Britain, the US, China, Canada and some other countries also had rows of smaller booths.

      Beyond the sheer size, what surprised me was the scope. While it was dominated by big mechanical and civil stuff, there was a lot of electronics in the form of controls, as well as a load of GIS and surveying.
      E.g. the French company who makes little flying wing UAVs full of cameras and lasers, so you can survey a large area quickly.

    • brmic says:

      My son also went this year, he’s 4. Of course, since I’m not a writer for Wired, we didn’t get any kid reporter specials and I didn’t make money from writing a what-I-did-on-my-holidays piece. So excuse me for being a bit grumpy at this twit rubbing his priviledges in my face.

  21. Orpheus says:

    I have some questions/thoughts on effective altruism and art funding.

    This was mainly brought on by a comment two open threads ago by Murphy linking this article. Murphys characterisation of the EA position on arts was “…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” and from the little I know about EA, this seems about right.

    But given this, how can the EA community justify giving money (A LOT of money) to organisations such as MIRI, which seem to be about as far from “effective”, under any reasonable definition of effective, as possible? Why is funding Eliezer Yudkowsky’s philosophical ruminations on something that is no closer to being real today than it was 20 years ago more effective than funding the creation of art?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Expected Utility is a basic measure that’s calculated as the product of expected value and the probability you’re going to get it. Well, it’s more like a sum of products of possible outcomes, each with its probability.

      For a flute player, it looks a lot like: 80% chance he’ll be a good flute player, 19% chance he’ll be a bad flute player, 1% chance he’ll be a very good flute player. Overall, people will listen to flute – that’s pretty much what you expect to get.

      From MIRI you also have 80% chance of interesting philosophical ruminations and that’s it, but you also have a few smaller chances of much higher impact. In particular, you have a chance that people that actually develop AI will read whatever philosophical ruminations MIRI produces (that’s actually a pretty high likelihood, since there aren’t really that many specialists). And there’s a smaller but real chance that they’ll be positively influenced, and that will move AI development in the future in a positive direction. In this case you have a small probability times a very very high effect, for a pretty damn high expected utility. Many orders of magnitude higher than a flute player.

      We’re not talking about Pascal’s wager, btw. AI alignement is one of those once-in-the-history moments where the value is pascal-wager-sized, but the probabilities are measured in percent points, or fractions or percent, if not higher.

      • sty_silver says:

        I think the chance that Miri is useful is higher than you’re making it sound. A lot of their research isn’t trying to be directly applicable but is simply aiming to give one a basic understanding of very hard problems, so that one is less confused and can start to think about them in a useful way. AI alignment is now becoming a more diverse field with different organizations pursuing different strategies, and the kind of work Miri does will likely positively influence the work other researchers do.

        A good example for this are their papers on logical induction. Classical math doesn’t provide any tools to reason about logical uncertainty, because the only tool to reason under uncertainty it has is probability theory which assumes perfect deductive ability. So Scott Garrabrant et al came up with an algorithm that takes as input logical statements (say mathematical theorems) and outputs ‘probabilities’ about the yet unanswered theorems which fulfill all kinds of neat consistency properties. The runtime of their algorithm is hilariously awful, and in its current form, it’s, without doubt, completely unusable. But the goal isn’t to produce an algorithm that anyone actually implements, it’s to make one less confused about what it means to argue about logical uncertainty in the first place. If this is something needed in order to align an AI, then I’d put a fairly high percentage on their current work being helpful, regardless of which team ends up developing the solutions that work.

        Anyway, I agree that your argument would go through even if it was in the single digits.

        • Orpheus says:

          A lot of their research isn’t trying to be directly applicable but is simply aiming to give one a basic understanding of very hard problems…

          All well and good, but again in the context of EA, why is giving one basic understanding of very hard problems considered on par, effectivity wise, with curing malaria and saving African children or whatever?

          • Matt M says:

            I’m pretty sure the basic logic behind MIRI’s premise is something like “We aim to prevent the complete annihilation of the human race by hostile/rogue AI.”

            The “expected utility” of such an endeavor is quite large, even if you think the probability of it succeeding (or even being necessary in the first place) is incredibly low.

          • Orpheus says:

            @Matt M
            I am sure that if I dive deep into the internet, I will find hundreds of nuts concerned about something or other completely annihilating the human race (some that come to mind: Aliens, mutants, Kaiju, the lizard people, Jews etc.). Should we shower them with funding too? If not, why do you think death by AI is more reasonable than death by aliens?

          • Matt M says:

            Orpheus,

            You asked why people would give to this cause. Your question has been answered, both by myself and many others.

            You continue to object “But they might be incorrect about the various probabilities!” or “But that applies to other groups as well!” Which is certainly true.

            But I think it’s dishonest of you to phrase this as “I just want to understand why people do this” when you seem to have a much greater agenda of “I want to tell you that AI isn’t actually a uniquely large risk” in mind.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Orpheus

            I am sure that if I dive deep into the internet, I will find hundreds of nuts concerned about something or other completely annihilating the human race

            I was under the impression we’re considering EA’s ranking as, well, competent. If you question it, *shrug* sure, but that’s very much a different topic, and one we haven’t even touched yet – nobody here, you included, has mentioned anything even remotely close to “How did EA reach this conclusion and is it correct”.

            Honestly, I’m not the one for that conversation. I’m not very familiar with EA and definitely not with the (presumably competent and probably complex) way they reach their conclusions.

          • Orpheus says:

            @Matt M

            You asked why people would give to this cause.

            No. I asked why EA would give to this cause.

          • sty_silver says:

            Because a substantial fraction of EAs think that extinction through AI is likely enough to be a priority, thus making AI alignment research highly effective. I’m an example; I think the probability that we go extinct by AI is somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3.

          • If not, why do you think death by AI is more reasonable than death by aliens?

            Because it follows from a few not unreasonable assumptions. All of them have to hold, so the combined probability is not, I think, high.

            Death by aliens also follows from a few not unreasonable assumptions, but it’s less clear what one could do about it.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          You and Radu make a decent case for MIRI being Plausibly Altruism – but what’s the evidence that it’s Effective?

          If you bought Theranos’ marketing pitch, they would have looked like a good cause to throw money at too.