Open Thread 132.75

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.

953 Responses to Open Thread 132.75

  1. johan_larson says:

    In the book “The Game of Thrones,” there is no actual game being played. The game is just a metaphor for the political maneuvering in Westeros. But what if there actually were a Game of Thrones?

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design a board game that might have been the inspiration for the book/series/TV-show “The Game of Thrones”. And since we live the strenuous life here in SSC, let’s make it an abstract game, more like chess and less like Diplomacy.

    • johan_larson says:

      First of all the game really shouldn’t be between two players. There are many speakers at the table in Westeros, and all will have their say. The game needs at least four players, maybe six or more.

      Also, the game shouldn’t be mostly about fighting. The cradle and the counting-hall matter at least as much as the barracks in this game.

    • Dan L says:

      Full-contact musical chairs thrones.

      (Gur jvaare vf gur thl jub oebhtug uvf bja punve.)

      Ok, I should expand that beyond a joke; let’s go meta. The Game is the very concept behind a game night, in which a group of people gather together to play a board game. Doesn’t really matter which game – maybe Dad chooses, maybe it rotates, etc. Maybe everyone has a good time and sticks around and the tradition continues. But as in the events inspiring the show, maybe someone rejects the status quo and seeks total victory by physically removing or dissuading any potential competitors. This is a hollow victory, and in the end the only real winner is your weird friend who sat out the whole thing in favor of obscure nature documentaries.

    • cassander says:

      I assume this would be cheating? It’s basically diplomacy with some extra steps. I enjoyed some of the earlier versions, though they could be egregiously unbalanced in certain circumstances. I’ve been told that eventually gets ironed out.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve never played it, but I suspect it’s too simulation oriented. I’m looking for something more abstract.

        • cassander says:

          Eh, I’d say not particularly. It’s got several mechanics going at once to try to replicate stuff from the game, but it’s not trying to be simulationist. More evocative.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      You’ve seen the actual Game Of Thrones board game, right? : )

      I like that there’s now a meta-review of Game-Of-Thrones-inspired board games.

      You’ve asked for an abstract game with no Diplomacy-like content, which seems likely to be very different from the actual things people like about Game Of Thrones. I’ll take the mission, though.

      My game is called “Thrones”, and it’s a direct reskin of Splendor, because Splendor is a good abstract game and the people who designed it are way better at designing board games than I am.

      In Splendor, you’re getting gems (diamond, emerald, ruby, sapphire, onyx) and you’re using them to buy gem-related cards (mines, ships, jewelers, banks). The gem-related cards give you discounts when buying other gem-related cards, so your economy grows throughout the game. At the start of the game, we set out several Nobles cards; if you get enough gem-related cards, you can start to claim nobles.

      In Thrones, you’re getting favors, which can be Sex, Violence, Magic, Honor, and Money. You can use these favors to buy cards, which depict graphic acts of sex, violence, magic, honor, or money. (All five card types are symmetric but everyone prefers the sex cards for some reason.) At the start of the game, we set out several Throne cards; if you get enough of the other cards, you can start to claim Thrones.

    • Protagoras says:

      I don’t choose to accept this mission, but Martin’s universe seems to be well suited to some types of games. I’ve played two LARPs set in Martin’s universe, and one was good and the other excellent (for some reason, I was cast as Hand to a king with a precarious claim to the throne and facing a rebellion in both games; both kings remained on the throne as of the end of the games).

    • souleater says:

      Full Disclosure: I’ve never actually watched GoT.

      “Thrones”
      Players: 8

      Preparation: Everyone secretly and randomly rolls/is delt a card* to determine their “Secret Ally” for example, John’s secret ally might be Sansa, but Sansa’s secret ally may be Dany.

      Board: Octagonal board with truncated square tiling

      Pieces: Similar in many respects to chess, with the addition of pieces that can access the intervening square tiles.

      Loss conditions: All your pieces are captured. the king can be captured the same as any other piece, but the player can continue to play the game to assist their secret ally.

      Win conditions: Your king, or your Secret Ally’s king holds the center tile for a full round, or no other kings survive.

      Pros:
      Secondary win conditions allow players to continue to play even after their king is captured
      There would hopefully be a lot of intrigue and backstabbing presuming nobody knows who is who’s secret ally.
      Passing on the opportunity to hamstring an opponent could be used to lull them into a false sense of security, only to betray them later.

      Cons:
      Having Asynchronous Alliances could create a weird paradigm where your secret ally is attacking you.
      Rolling to determine Secret allies may create a situation where one ally has 3 players supporting them, and 1 player has no one.

      • bullseye says:

        Having Asynchronous Alliances could create a weird paradigm where your secret ally is attacking you.
        Rolling to determine Secret allies may create a situation where one ally has 3 players supporting them, and 1 player has no one.

        You could avoid this by having an ally card for each player, and dealing them out to all players. However, you’d have to have some way of dealing with a playing getting themselves as a secret ally (re-deal, maybe?).

      • Jake says:

        I think one of the most essential parts of the game of thrones is choosing who to ally with. I like the idea of an abstract, capture the center type game, but if you added a simple ally-track on the side, it could help recreate the feel.

        Something like a 3-phase track where each player has an ally status with each other player, as either enemy/neutral/ally. Everyone starts off as neutral, but when you attack someone, you become enemies. If you attack the enemy of someone else, you can mutually decide to shift your status one closer to ally. Attacking power of the pieces is determined by number of adjacent allies.

        To allow for more strategic plotting for lesser victories than just outright claiming the kingship, make it a betting game, where second place and further pay out depending on how many players are playing. Alternately, have it be played where each turn you are in the king square, you get a big payout, and if you are ally of the king, you get a smaller payout, and the game lasts until the pot is extinguished.

        This could be played on the board you described, but it seems like a simple version could be played on a chinese checkers board pretty easily as well, to allow for 6 players. i may write up some rules and try it out.

        Edit: Wrote up some basic rules here

        • souleater says:

          Wow! Thanks for the write up!

          Its funny, I’ve was thinking over the original game idea yesterday, and have been thinking about writing a java program to run it (just for my portfolio/amusement, not for any sort of commercial application) but I was already thinking about implementing 2 of your ideas.

          I am definitely thinking a 6 player hex board/chinese checkers board would be better
          I was playing with some kind of “muster” mechanic as well.. but I’m not sure what that would do to game time.

          I thought about allowing people to choose their allies, but I was concerned about the game turning into a meta popularity contest or everyone ganging up on the weaker/younger players.

          For your idea, The adding allies to calculate attack could get very complicated and math heavy.. I bet there are some ways it could be simplified.

          @Bullseye, I like your idea of dealing cards better than rolling dice

          • Jake says:

            Yeah, I agree that adding allies to calculate attacks could get complicated. I was trying to think of a system that was somewhat simple, yet still conveyed the idea of shared supply chains, and backstabbing someone to break the supply lines. It shouldn’t be too hard to calculate though, just total any of your or your allies pieces connected to the attacking/defending piece. There isn’t a ton of math there.

            Choosing your allies is definitely a popularity contest. That’s why it’s the Game of Thrones. Thinking about it as a game played in the medieval setting as a gambling game may not work so well, since I’m not sure I would ever trust a game with alliances like that to be a fair game, since if a team of players always allied and only played games with fewer other players than they had in the alliance, it seems like it would be too easy to game. Multiple players all playing to win though, should have the gang-up-on-the-leader mechanic enough that it keeps the game interesting.

            Not sure if I’ll get a chance before this open thread is ancient history, but I’ll try this out the next time my gaming group gets together.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      And since we live the strenuous life here in SSC, let’s make it an abstract game, more like chess and less like Diplomacy.

      … yeah, I was gonna say, the licensed GoT board game is inspired by Diplomacy.

    • Randy M says:

      Whatever it is, when you play it, you win or you die. So rather than a chess variant, a Russian Roulette variant. Basically the Sicilian’s game from Princess Bride, only with six players.

      I have to bring up the Gargoyles episode “Leader of the Pack” in which Xanatos and his fiance Fow are seen playing a game of chess where the pieces are the titular Gargoyles and their rivals the gang call “The Pack.” It’s implied that the moves the pair make with their pieces on the board are only a reflection of what the actual characters are doing in response to their prompting–members from one side taking out the other physically.

      Ultimately, though, that’s the inverse of what you are talking about. It’s a game reflecting their real life intrigues, possibly further constrained by their own rules, rather than a real life conquest reflecting the themes of a game.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’m too lazy to design a game, so I’ll just link Kingmaker as the board game that pre-dates GoT (so not the actual GoT board game) and best matches the description. Well, accept for the whole abstract thing, because abstract games aren’t fun.

      • Protagoras says:

        Ooh, I remember playing that one in the basement of the student union in my undergrad days. Definitely a classic.

    • albatross11 says:

      The playing board should be in the form of a ladder. Only the ladder is real.

    • Tenacious D says:

      My game would use a Go board and Go rules for the placement and capture of stones. Except instead of having two players (black and white), it will have up to seven (each with a unique colour). At the end of every round, there is a Diplomacy-style phase for secret negotiations culminating in simultaneous reveals of written strategies alliances. If a group of N players all reveal cards claiming one another as allies, their stones will act as a single colour for life-and-death considerations for the subsequent round. Additionally, to reflect the fall of the Wall and Dany crossing the narrow sea, once half the players have been eliminated, the board will be considered to have its edges wrap around (no more edge and corner geometry to take advantage of).

      • jgr314 says:

        This sounds like a very interesting game. If I can find an opportunity with 4 or 5 players, I’ll try it out w/ and w/o the topology change. Unfortunately, I suspect it is too backstabby for my family to play without problematic consequences.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      C Y V A S S E
      Y
      V
      A
      S
      S
      E

      But for real, Chinese chess is a decent “game of thrones,” I think.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Calvinball… with dragons.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      An abstract game like chess, as you put it, would utterly fail to capture what’s interesting about the A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones series. It has robust, absurdly-detailed world-building on-par with the Lord of the Rings and Dune but is written from the perspective of the characters experiencing those events as they occur rather than a detached third-person recounting written afterwards. That lets it have a visceral, grounded feel despite its epic scale.

      If I were making a literal Game of Thrones based on that universe, I would try to replicate that by stealing from the video game Mount and Blade. Players might rule domains and lead armies, but their character has to do those things in game not through a menu. E.g., if you want to raise troops then you either need to ride out and raise them yourself or ask a specific subordinate or ally to do it for you (and they may refuse if conditions aren’t met). In that way it would have to be as much a tabletop RPG as a board game.

      • johan_larson says:

        I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. This is not supposed to be a game inspired by GoT that tries to capture much of the feeling of that work. This is supposed to be the game that inspired GoT in the first place. It can be quite a bit different. GRRM could have taken just a few elements of the game (team-up strategies, multiple paths to success, and a dynastic succession theme, maybe) and built GoT upon that foundation. But closer is better, sure.

      • Matt M says:

        An abstract game like chess, as you put it, would utterly fail to capture what’s interesting about the A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones series. It has robust, absurdly-detailed world-building on-par with the Lord of the Rings and Dune but is written from the perspective of the characters experiencing those events as they occur rather than a detached third-person recounting written afterwards. That lets it have a visceral, grounded feel despite its epic scale.

        Agreed. I’d also add that a lot of what makes GoT unique compared to most other modern fiction is that its “cast of characters” is rather dynamic, as opposed to being relatively fixed as it is in most other stories. Important characters die (or become unimportant via other means), while background characters are continually elevated to “important” status. This very much resembles real life, but not most fictional settings.

        How to incorporate this into a game seems like quite the challenge though. I’m really not sure what it would look like.

        • FormerRanger says:

          Using background characters could be fun. Randomly, background characters arise from nowhere and can be recruited as allies via some bidding and payment method, crossed with negotiations: “I’ll help you recruit Ser Davos if you help me take Winterfell.” Foreground (i.e., player) and background characters can die, and to keep the number of players fairly constant, if you lose all your characters you get to hop back in via some mechanic that boosts your chance to take the next new “ally” character.

    • beleester says:

      A Diplomacy hack was my first idea, since it’s hard to beat for a game of politics and backstabbing. But like you noted, Diplomacy is about actual war tactics, while Game of Thrones has a lot of political maneuvers involved before the armies ever start marching, and even when war breaks out it’s a valid option for someone to sit on the sidelines eating popcorn until they can make a marriage alliance with the survivors.

      Also, I feel the game should have some sort of ticking clock element – either just a natural loss of resources or an explicit turn limit – since the big central theme is that Winter is Coming and you need to prepare for it.

      I think I’d build it with a deck of cards. You take turns taking cards from the deck and playing them, which represents different actions depending on what card and where you play it, like rallying a noble to your banner or sending them to war. Once the deck is exhausted, Winter Has Come and you count the value of your cards to see who came out on top.

      Ideas for building it with a 52-card deck:
      * Suits represent different types of power: War (clubs), Money (diamonds), Diplomacy/Marriage (hearts), and Espionage (spades).
      * You can play a card for two things: Either you can add it to your pile for points, or you can discard it to take action against another player (which supports the theme that fighting over the throne is destroying the kingdom).
      * Aces are Thrones (which neatly maps the Ace of Clubs onto the Iron Throne), Kings and Queens are… Kings and Queens, Jacks are knights, and Jokers are Dragons.
      * Face cards have some sort of persistent benefit when you hold them, which gives you an incentive to fight for thrones and protect your nobles. Possibly they score lower than point cards, though, because when you get right down to it the throne is just a fancy chair.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      A friend and I used to play a card game that I think was called Overthrone or something similarly punny.

      It involved a deck of cards and each player was given a “noble” card of various ranks. Ostensibly it was set in Ancien Regime France and the nobles were color coded so Duc l’Orange, Marquise Verte, Comte Bleu etc. There was also a “King” card who moved between each player’s court and decided the turn order. You could stage revolts or enact various events depending on the cards in your hand, and even collect more nobles in your court if you weren’t playing with the max number of players.

      In retrospect probably dirt simple but I really enjoyed the mechanics. There was a “queen” card whose purpose I can’t remember and “the Ear of the King” card which meant you sort of played as though you had the King or something, and led to young me thinking that Kings cut off their ears and gifted them to important nobles (not, frankly, that crazy as obscure royal habits go).

      Certainly, my friends and I played the game with a role play element that resembled Game of Thrones in intrigue, quickly dissolving the rules into our own story. But we just as often enjoyed playing the game unaltered.

      EDIT: Yep, looks like they rereleased the game as Overthrone: A Game of Cards with a suitably pastiche cover and description. So, they’re way ahead of me.

    • Phigment says:

      The card game “BANG!” would fit perfectly with minimal reskinning.

      By default, it’s a spaghetti western theme, with players being a sheriff, some outlaws, some deputies, and potentially a renegade.

      The sheriff’s ID is public knowledge, and he gets extra life and cards for it.

      Victory conditions are as follows: the Sheriff and deputies win if all the outlaws and any renegades are killed. The outlaws win if the Sheriff is killed. The renegade wins if all the outlaws are killed, and then the Sheriff is killed. (Therefore, the renegade mostly acts like a deputy until the outlaws are dead, then switches sides.)

      Various cards affect who can attack who, and how often, and how successfully, at any given moment. By default, you can only attack players sitting next to you. The outlaws obviously want to kill the sheriff, but there’s a big reward for killing an outlaw, so they’re tempted to finish each other off opportunistically. The renegade wants to kill the outlaws, but he wants to do it inefficiently so that the Sheriff is vulnerable when the last outlaw drops. The Sheriff wants to kill lots of people, but gets heavily penalized for killing a deputy by accident, so has to be careful about indiscriminate violence.

      Change “Sheriff” to “King”, change “Outlaw” to “Rebel” and “Deputy” to “Loyalist”, slap a coat of medieval fantasy paint on the whole thing, and you’re in business.

    • Well... says:

      I like the idea that the inspirational board game has nothing to do with conquest or castles or dragons or whatever other nonsense the TV show and books are steeped in. (I quit watching after a couple seasons when I realized it was high-production-quality garbage.)

      Like, maybe it’s some kind of sliding-tile game like Labyrinth where you have to use your tiles to, say, create a plumbing system between some point of origin and one or more toilet (“throne”) icons that appear on the stationary tiles.

      And so this toilet/plumbing theme is what inspired such a shitty TV show.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I feel like a modified version of Twilight Struggle is called for here. Set in the Cold War, 1 player as USSR and 1 as the US, each player is given cards that signify certain “events” in the Cold War (like Nasser expelling the Soviets). You can either play the card for the event or play the card for influence points and place influence points in different battlegrounds to try to take over a nation. You could map something similar onto Westeros, with the “Events” being generic Middle Age events like “Peasant Revolt” or “Sparrows Rising.”

      You would need to modify for:
      1. Multiple players (Twilight Struggle only has 2).
      2. Change how Events are played (TS has a metagame where you try to deploy events that help your opponent very strategically, at a time when it is least likely to cause you damage)
      3. More Hero Characters (Game of Thrones is Great Man history, full-stop).
      4. A countdown timer until the White Walkers arrive (if no one has won by Turn X, everyone loses).

      Major problems with any games:
      1. You need gameplay that really encourages Save-Or-Die mechanics. Basically someone needs the opportunity to play the Red Wedding card and knock someone else out of the game.
      2. You need the opportunity to trade and negotiate, without slowing down the game.
      3. You really need some players to start out in minor positions and give them a way to move up quickly if certain conditions are met, to represent players like the Bolton.
      4. You cannot effectively model Character Flaws in your Hero Characters that feels like actual Role-Play. Basically, you need a “Banker” character, and basically need a random table that generates personality, so you know if you end up with Littlefinger or Jon Snow. Stuff like this is really the heart of GOT, because it’s ultimately about characters.

    • JPNunez says:

      Gonna go with a strong modification of Bridge; one pack of french or spanish cards is fine. The dealer is called “Throne”. Each player gets 5 cards, one player is determined as sitting on the throne, who deals the five cards. Probably max 6 players with the spanish cards, but the throne gets six cards. Minimum three players, won’t really make much sense without at least 4.

      Each player, like in poker, can replace any amount of cards, the throne will deal the new cards, and he can look at one of them as he replaces them.

      Then the order of play is determined. First, whoever who is not the throne and has the lowest card. The throne asks for a 2, for a 3, etc, etc. Then in counterclockwise order, except that the Throne plays last always. If two people have a two, the one closest to the right of the throne plays.

      If the king, queen, or jack are played, Ace beats them. If those three aren’t played, numbers beat ace. Suit normally does not matter, but in case of a tie, it should go spades > diamonds > clovers > hearts. For spanish it should be Swords > Gold > Clubs > Cups.

      After the first player puts the card he was asked for (the lowest one, say, a 2) and everyone tries to beat that card. Highest card wins that round. Winner gets to put a card in front of himself to mark himself as winner. Whoever wins most of the 5 rounds the new king and sits on the throne. In case of tie, throne remains throne, even if he lost all the rounds.

      The throne has three advantages, playing last, seeing one of the replaced cards, and getting a sixth card to play. Obviously the rest of the players can try to conspire against the throne, but for the game’s sake it should be done openly.

      Game can be played a set amount of rounds, or can continue until the throne changes or any amount of rounds.

      Throne can be determined beforehand as the group leader. Historically it used to be played when there’s a disagreement in a group between the leader and the followers, and the leader would play this “game of thrones” to allow someone to become the leader temporarily, change his opinion, etc, etc. Traditionally no money is bet in it, cause just becoming the throne is enough. In this case, a group would normally establish an amount of sets before giving up trying to change the throne. Probably one or three sets. Side bets can be done between the non-throne players about who wins more rounds.

      If there are too many players maybe the throne should be given more advantages (extra cards, probably, maybe looking at all the cards dealt, but with more players the need to replace cards diminishes). With a lot of players maybe you need to use two decks, and then ties can happen, in which case, throne should win too.

      Probably would need a lot of workshopping before being a decent game to play for real. I think I’ve given the dealer enough advantages for the throne to be hard to beat with minimum good play.

      • JPNunez says:

        Of course, the premise means that, whenever GRRM gets around to writing the last books, there’s a scene towards the ends where, uh dunno, some kingly character says “to decide this we should instead play a good old game of thrones” as he pulls a pack of cards out of his pocket.

    • John Schilling says:

      Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to design a board game that might have been the inspiration for the book/series/TV-show “The Game of Thrones”. And since we live the strenuous life here in SSC, let’s make it an abstract game, more like chess and less like Diplomacy.

      How is Diplomacy not abstract, and how is it not the answer to this question?

      OK, if you insist, I can postulate a game that’s exactly like Diplomacy except the map is wholly arbitrary and does not include the names of real places, but that’s it right there. Turn your question around, and ask “given Diplomacy on an abstract map, and describe the eight-season TV series it inspires”. The answer is pretty obvious. Games are always the most abstract form of entertaining fiction. The pieces have no names, faces, or personalities, the map corresponds to no territory, the gameplay is extremely limited and formulaic and absolutely repetitive, and the sides are absolutely identical in the name of balance.

      So we take a game of factions competing to conquer a realm, with the mechanistic actions of armies and fleets but with such balance that none can prevail except by way of alliances and treachery. We put names on the map, and names on the players, and we introduce secondary characters who aren’t faction or army leaders if only so that they have someone to talk to about something other than the details of their strategic alliances. Add romantic subplots. Make the factions fundamentally different in interesting ways, like one of them has a zombie army that recruits by converting enemies rather than occupying supply centers, and another starts with no armies but a force of dragons. Introduce ways for people to do consequential things that aren’t “I lead my army from province X to province Y with support from the allied army in Z for the eightieth time”. And have them do lots of interesting things and have lots of interesting conversations that aren’t part of the Game of Diplomacy, but always keep coming back to the central theme that there are Seven Kingdoms trying to conquer Europe Wessos by way of alliances and treachery.

      If you turn Allan Calhamer’s Diplomacy into seven novels(*) or 73 episodes of premium television(**), it’s going to look an awful lot like “Game of Thrones”. Maybe in a different setting, but otherwise similar.

      * Yeah, OK, not in this lifetime

      * Yeah, OK, 60 episodes of premium television and 13 episodes of dreck.

    • honoredb says:

      Succession

      The King is dead! Long live his rightful heir and successor, who is…um…

      A game for 3+ players. At the start of the game, there is a family tree consisting solely of the King, and a pool of N*4+1 Supporters, where N is the number of players.

      Choose a turn order at random, then begin. During their turn, each player chooses any one of the following actions:

      1. Establish your claim to the throne: Draw any number of additions to the King’s family tree, indicating older vs. younger siblings, and mark one of them with your sigil. That’s you. You can only do this once. You can’t make yourself the direct male line ancestor of the King or any player.
      2. Impugn a claim to the throne: Declare any rightwise-born child on the current family tree to be a bastard, adding a dotted line from them to their true father. (Bastards have a very weak claim as described in the appendix).
      3. Establish new ancestry: Add common ancestors between you and the King.
      4. Draw support: Claim one Supporter token from the Supporter pool. If you have any claim to the throne, claim an additional token. If it is the _strongest_ current claim to the throne among players according to the rules of agnatic primogeniture outlined in the appendix, claim a third token.

      Once the Supporter pool is exhausted, the coronation occurs. The player with the fewest Supporters, with weaker claim as a tiebreaker, is eliminated from contention and must choose another player to swear all of their Supporters to, giving that claimant their tokens. Then, as long as no player has a majority of Supporter tokens, repeat this process. Once a player gains a majority, that player wins and everyone sworn to them ties for second place.

      • Nornagest says:

        Interesting, but I feel like it needs more violence to capture the Game of Thrones feel. Maybe, instead of 2 and 3, you could play from a deck of action cards that’d include “impugn a claim” and “establish new ancestry”, but also things like “pick a House; assassinate all supporters on the table who share it”?

    • Tarpitz says:

      Just draft Conspiracy?

    • Anthony says:

      Three-dimensional chess. Each of up to 6 players starts in one corner, with their non-pawn pieces in the 2x2x2 cube at the corner, and 8 pawns to distribute among the 19 spaces in the next shell.

      Rook can move any number of cubes in a direction where the cubes share an adjacent face.
      Bishops can move any number of cubes in a direction where the cubes share an adjacent edge or adjacent corner, but not an adjacent face.
      Queen can make any move that’s legal for a rook or a bishop.
      King can move to any cube that shares at least a corner with the cube it’s in.
      Pawn can move to any cube that shares at least a corner with the cube it’s in, as long as that move does not bring it closer to its home corner.
      Knights do something weird. Not sure what yet.

      A pawn that reaches any other corner can be converted to a queen.
      Castling: When the home 2x2x2 cube contains only the King and a Rook, those two may switch places. If the home 3x3x3 cube contains only the King and a Rook, they may switch places. There is no limit to the number of times a player may castle.

    • Jaskologist says:

      All of the above suggestions will need to integrate some sort of “Strip-” aspect if they hope to really capture the spirit of GoT. I propose some combination of Spin The Bottle and Russian Roulette.

  2. broblawsky says:

    Can anyone recommend sources for learning how to implement machine learning for scraping papers?

  3. Elliot says:

    Is anyone familiar with Bjorn Lomborg’s work? His methods and arguments seem smart and reasonable to me, but his conclusions are somewhat controversial. Is anyone aware of any good/academic criticism of his work? Do SSC readers like him?

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t know enough to have a very informed opinion, though Lomberg seems sensible to me. He has been interviewed on the excellent EconTalk podcast and also on Jordan Peterson’s podcast. (I listened to that interview, and it was excellent.)

      The work he discussed on Peterson’s podcast was about a huge project where a bunch of scientists and economist and public health people tried to put the world’s needs into a kind of list based on cost to deal with them–I think with the idea of answering the question of “If I had $X to spend on fixing problems, where ought I spend it.”

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The response to Lomborg strikes me as extremely dangerous. He’s been raked over the coals for his scientific faults in what I’d happily call an isolated demand for rigor on the parts of most of his critics. That doesn’t excuse him for his rhetoric or ignorance, but it presents a problem, which is that the milder and more substantive criticisms of his egregious claims goes under the radar.

      Insofar as I’m any sort of environmentalist, I’m a conservationist. Lomborg’s chapters on biodiversity and forestry are awful. Norman Myers has a good take (published on a Lomborg smear page, but unobjectionable as far as I’m concerned) here. There are many critiques which are various degrees of shrill or understated, and I won’t bother to relate them. I mostly care about something else Myers touches on – the biggest problem I have with Lomborg, and a plainly normative one.

      The primary value of a robust and healthy ecology is not, as far as most conservationists (at least) are concerned, in the value that can be extracted from it. It’s a delicate thing, ancient, beautiful, alien. Our present relationship to it is like a child playing with a loaded gun while sitting between its sleeping parents. I believe that an anthropocentric cost/benefit analysis represents an embarrassing and shameful perspective on our collective moral obligation to the Earth and its ecology. Therefore, I do not like Lomborg. I find his worldview quite ugly.

      • albatross11 says:

        Hoopyfreud:

        To the extent I’ve followed this, I have the same impression you do of the reaction to Lomberg. It seems like there are a huge number of loud people who angrily react to him for being a heretic, and they drown out the people who might sensibly react to his arguments with better arguments of their own. I think this is a very common pattern in politics and debates about society–it’s often more effective to respond with outrage than reasoned argument. The quality of public argument on a lot of topics is really low because of this, and it seems to me that the more popular the view being defended, the lower the quality of arguments offerred. When most everyone already agrees with you, you can phone it in and most everyone will nod in agreement.

        There’s a common (loudly stated, I don’t know how widely held) belief that even engaging with wrong/bad ideas shameful and makes you an accomplice in their wrongness/badness. This rewards trying to shout people down and penalizes trying to engage with their arguments. It’s surely not a surprise to anyone at this point that I think this is a really dumb and socially destructive belief.

        As far as your specific disagreement with Lomberg, it strikes me that this is a difference in values, rather than a dispute about facts. Am I right about that? His approach seems to focus entirely on human values and give no weight to any intrinsic value of nature, which makes for easier-to-agree-on numbers, but surely misses some important things. (Turning the Grand Canyon into a gigantic blighted trash dump would be a pretty horrible thing to do even if you made enough money doing it to make up for all the lost tourist revenue.).

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          His estimates in those chapters are also extremely optimistic. This is not a climate change situation, where most of the shrill rhetoric is based on worst-case models. Consensus, middle-of-the-road ecological impact models are more than alarming enough on their own. Every assumption he makes is favorable to his thesis, and IIRC research available at the time should have made him much more cautious about deploying those assumptions. He also doesn’t go into the impact those assumptions have at all. But yes, the reason I dislike Lomborg is a values mismatch more than anything else.

        • Turning the Grand Canyon into a gigantic blighted trash dump would be a pretty horrible thing to do even if you made enough money doing it to make up for all the lost tourist revenue.

          That isn’t inconsistent with focusing on human values. The question isn’t how much tourist revenue the Grand Canyon brings in but of how much value it is to human beings.

          If the difference is not obvious, imagine some catastrophe that eliminated all drinking water. The human cost is not measured by the amount people presently pay for water.

          The cleanest way to distinguish the two approaches is to imagine some environmental change that had no effect at all on humans, indeed that no human knew about–say the extinction of some deep sea species of whose existence we were unaware and that had no effect on things we were aware of that mattered to us.

          Hoopy’s position, if I understand it, is that that would be a very bad thing, and that if he, in a moment of magical inspiration, knew about it and was able to prevent it at some significant cost to humans, say a hundred random people dropping dead, he should do so.

          Hopefully, if I am misinterpreting him, he will say so.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The cleanest way to distinguish the two approaches is to imagine some environmental change that had no effect at all on humans, indeed that no human knew about–say the extinction of some deep sea species of whose existence we were unaware and that had no effect on things we were aware of that mattered to us.

            Hoopy’s position, if I understand it, is that that would be a very bad thing, and that if he, in a moment of magical inspiration, knew about it and was able to prevent it at some significant cost to humans, say a hundred random people dropping dead, he should do so.

            Species die out all the time. That, in itself, is not a problem to me.

            When ecosystems die or undergo radical simplification – a localized mass extinction – due to human negligence or resource exploitation, that’s when I have a problem. If it were a choice between a subspecies of tube worm going extinct and a bunch of people dying, I’d have no trouble choosing to kill the tube worm – assuming that the “subspecies of tube worm” is substantially replaceable in its ecosystem by another tube worm subspecies. Much clearer, in my mind, is that if I had a choice between a random uninhabited Pacific island being strip mined and a bunch of people dying, I’d probably call the island ecology higher value. Difficult moral problems for me in this area are microecologies – for example, deep sea ocean vents, isolated mountain forests, and cave systems and sinkholes. How would I weigh ruining one ocean vent against some number of human lives? It’s hard for me to say, and it depends on particular features of the ecology in many cases.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            Yeah, I can see that. I guess what I’m objecting to is a common failure of cost-benefit analysis, in which easily-legible, easily-measured costs and benefits get included, but hard-to-see, hard-to-measure costs and benefits get omitted. Sometimes, the really important stuff is the hard-to-measure stuff, and in those cases, this kind of cost-benefit analysis can lead you off a cliff.

            I don’t know enough to know whether Lomberg’s analysis is especially bad in this regard. But I do think that the exercise he’s engaged in is really valuable. In the same way I think that thinking about charity in terms of effective altruism is really valuable, even though I’m not necessarily going to go with the results of that kind of analysis in my own charitable giving. Even with its flaws, trying to spell out the costs and benefits seems likely to help us understand what we’re really doing, and what the consequences are, in ways that moral arguments or feelings or rule-based guides to behavior will often miss.

            If someone wanted to turn the Grand Canyon into a trash dump, that might look good taking only the easily-measured costs and benefits into account, but not taking the harder-to-measure costs into account. But it strikes me that I’m really still thinking in terms of human values–it would be upsetting to millions of people that this beautiful place had been befouled and was now ugly and bad-smelling. If we turned some otherwise beautiful crater on the far side of the moon into a trash dump, and nobody objected because nobody really ever saw it, then I wouldn’t really care.

            There’s another view of this, which says that certain beautiful or majestic or otherwise worthwhile things have value independent of their human value. If the human race was scheduled to go extinct next Tuesday, this argument would say we shouldn’t have a big going-extinct party on Monday that trashed the Grand Canyon, because the natural beauty there has a value that’s independent of any human. (Hoopyfreud: am I getting this right?)

            In many ways, this seems similar to a lot of religious value arguments. Try to convince an observant Jew to eat a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and a cost-benefit analysis involving human values isn’t going to change his mind. He will just tell you that God’s law says not to eat that stuff, so he’s not eating it. Similar things apply to homosexuality, incest, cannibalism, sex with children or animals, desecration of sacred things, etc.–plenty of people will find those things wrong regardless of any argument you make from human values or human well-being, because those things are just wrong. Maybe God said so, maybe it was a bunch of gods, maybe it’s a tradition that they value, or their deep moral intuitions, maybe it’s just what they learned as a kid, but if you try to make a utilitarian argument for those things, you find yourself deeply into evil-robot land.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If the human race was scheduled to go extinct next Tuesday, this argument would say we shouldn’t have a big going-extinct party on Monday that trashed the Grand Canyon, because the natural beauty there has a value that’s independent of any human.

            Eeeeeeh. “Natural beauty” isn’t quite it. But yes, essentially.

          • GreatColdDistance says:

            Species die out all the time. That, in itself, is not a problem to me.

            When ecosystems die or undergo radical simplification – a localized mass extinction – due to human negligence or resource exploitation, that’s when I have a problem.

            I’ve seen this position a lot, but have always found it kind of confusing. (not objectionable, as I think that I share this position, but still confusing) Humans are, at least to me, just another species, evolved through the same mechanisms that produced every other species on this planet. It is the nature of a species to grow its population and consume resources until it is limited by external constraints.

            If you drop a creature with the intelligence, physical capabilities, and instincts of a beaver by a stream in a forest, it will build a dam. If you drop a creature with the intelligence, physical capabilities, and instincts of a human by a steam in a forest (give or take a few thousand years), it will build modern civilisation, extinctions and all. Why is one natural and right and the other unnatural and wrong?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If you drop a creature with the intelligence, physical capabilities, and instincts of a beaver by a stream in a forest, it will build a dam. If you drop a creature with the intelligence, physical capabilities, and instincts of a human by a steam in a forest (give or take a few thousand years), it will build modern civilization, extinctions and all. Why is one natural and right and the other unnatural and wrong?

            If you drop a brown tree snake into Guam, it’ll drive 12 native bird species extinct, hunt large numbers of lizards and vertebrates, and decrease even the floral biodiversity of the island. The fact that this is a tragedy is independent of the fact that people are responsible for introducing said brown tree snake. The fact that, in the long run, those birds would have gone extinct is just as irrelevant.

            I think it’s a sad and terrible thing when something like this happens, and that history is composed of many, many sad and terrible events. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to avoid causing said sad and terrible events. Sure, it would have happened some day anyway, probably. But I don’t want to have been a party to it. That’s very important to me.

        • Matt M says:

          Turning the Grand Canyon into a gigantic blighted trash dump would be a pretty horrible thing to do even if you made enough money doing it to make up for all the lost tourist revenue.

          FWIW – I disagree. Market prices aren’t perfect, but they are far and away the best and most objective way to determine the proper allocation of resources at the aggregate level.

          If the federal government decided to auction off the Grand Canyon to the highest bidder, I consider it incredibly unlikely that the highest bidder would be Waste Management, who has a great plan to turn it into a garbage dump.

          However, if that somehow did happen, it would mean that a garbage dump is, in fact, the most valuable usage to humanity of the Grand Canyon. And that would mean humanity as a whole is better off, even if I, personally, prefer it to be used as a tourist site.

          • JPNunez says:

            If somehow a waste disposal authority/company/whatever was the biggest bidder on the Grand Canyon, all that means is that the Matt Ms of the world (or just America?) couldn’t coordinate a gofundme on time to outbid the waste disposal company.

            National Parks are sold to private companies from time to time. The people who’d prefer it remain public just have a coordination problem. Either they cannot convince their representants that those parks should not be sold, or somehow they weren’t really looking when it happened, or some random cost cutting measure swept across the nation, etc.

            You cannot just shrug it off and say the market knows better.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes you can.

            The people who “prefer it remain public” are freeloaders who want to use physical force to coerce me into subsidizing their own hobbies.

            The fact that they occasionally get outvoted such that they can no longer do this is not a “coordination problem.” The default state of “public lands” is a coordination problem, wherein the vast majority of people who won’t visit the Grand Canyon in any particular year are forced to pay for it anyway are the ones that are having a coordination problem.

            And the demographic characteristics of parkgoes versus non-parkgoers suggests that this is quite a regressive method of wealth redistribution indeed.

          • JPNunez says:

            I doubt that the fact that people who can regularly or semi regularly visit national parks are, in gral, better off than people who cannot, means that selling off said parks will somehow make the non-visitors better off, without a very explicit redistribution scheme.

            If this seems like a problem the solution is to somehow subsidize the park visits, not just sell off parks and hope that when they are filled up with trash everyone becomes better off in a weird cause and effect chain.

          • Matt M says:

            Why would they be filled up with trash?

            Is Disney World filled up with trash?

            It’s not a “weird cause and effect chain”, it’s literally intro economics.

          • hls2003 says:

            Is Disney World filled up with trash?

            Kinda

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Market prices aren’t perfect, but they are far and away the best and most objective way to determine the proper allocation of resources at the aggregate level.

            We aren’t talking about the allocation of resources, but about the disposition of the world. “But they can’t pay me not to” is as terrible a reason to fill the grand canyon with trash as it to hunt is poor orphans.

          • JPNunez says:

            Why would they be filled up with trash?

            Because you are the one saying that if a company bought out the grand canyon and the company filled it with trash you’d be ok with it because the market said so.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the problem of getting people who value the Grand Canyon organized so they can outbid the Buy-N-Large Trash Dumping Corporation is a transaction-cost kind of problem–there’s not an easy mechanism for all those millions of people to act together because of transaction costs. This is another way in which some costs can become illegible–they’re hard to collect information on. (The way I usually see this happening in the world is that existing companies and industries and interest groups are easy to get to comment on some proposed rule or policy, whereas the diffuse millions of citizens who are affected are hard to get to comment on it.)

            This is basically Coase’s argument, as I understand it. But most of what I know about Coase is from reading a book by David Friedman, who’s part of this conversation, so maybe David can tell me if I’m understanding the idea correctly.

          • Matt M says:

            Ah, sorry, my mistake, I was confusing the scenarios.

            In my mind, let’s say there are three potential states for the grand canyon:

            1. Publicly owned, utilized for outdoor recreation

            2. Privately owned, utilized for outdoor recreation

            3. Privately owned, utilized as a garbage dump

            My overall point is that I think 3 is incredibly unlikely. In the event that the government did decide to sell the grand canyon, it strikes me as unbelievable that a garbage company would outbid the outdoor recreation companies (contrary to what you may have heard, we are not running out of places to put garbage, there is a ton of empty space in the country, and nearly all of it is less pretty and of lower recreational value than the grand canyon).

            But even if 3 somehow did happen, that would suggest that no, we’re all dramatically over-estimating how much the average person actually enjoys outdoor recreation, or under-estimating how good of a garbage dump site the grand canyon is and how important and valuable garbage storage is. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to live in a world like that. A world where the highest value use for the grand canyon involves storing garbage is probably already a dystopian hellscape in many ways. But Waste Management buying up the grand canyon to store garbage would be a symptom of such a world, not the cause of it.

          • Matt M says:

            there’s not an easy mechanism for all those millions of people to act together because of transaction costs.

            What? Of course there is. Or at least, the mechanism of “how do millions of people who each want to pay some small amount to hike in the Grand Canyon get together to purchase it for a large lump sum” is the exact same mechanism as “how do millions of people who each want to pay some small amount to throw garbage into the grand canyon get together to purchase it for a large lump sum”

            The mechanism is that a bunch of investors realize this land has value to people, and they pool their money to purchase it, and then charge access to the land. Whether the access is for hiking or for dumping garbage, the entire process remains the same.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt M

            Consider Nauru. It actually does resemble a dystopian hellscape. The island has been hollowed out and left to rot, along with the poor souls who have been left to reap the rewards of their ancestors’ greed. If you define goodness as “that which creates the most economic value,” maybe you think that what happened to Nauru is cool and good, but you must understand why many people don’t.

          • Nornagest says:

            Doesn’t look so dystopian from satellite images. Couple of phosphate mines, couple of Australian detention centers, but those cover maybe two or three percent of the island’s area. Rest is pretty typical of low islands at about that latitude.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            Look closer. The island is a thin veneer of green on a mountain of rubble. It’ll take a long, LONG time for a robust ecology to take root on Nauru. This is what 80% of the island looks like:

            https://images.theconversation.com/files/130518/original/image-20160714-12386-jx0i4p.jpg

    • There was an exchange here quite a while back on Lomborg–you could probably find it with a little searching. As best I remember, it consisted of someone making a bunch of assertions about how terrible Lomborg’s book was and someone else who, unlike the first commenter, had read the book, demonstrating that all of those assertions were false, being lifted from a transparently dishonest critique of Lomborg.

      That doesn’t prove that Lomborg is right, of course, but it was a pretty strikingly one-sided exchange.

      I was also struck at some point by an article (not here) criticizing Lomborg and saying that this case was quite unlike that of Julian Simon, a prominent critic of the population orthodoxy of the sixties and seventies who of course we now know was right. I go back far enough in that controversy to remember when the orthodox attacks on Simon were very much like the later ones on Lomborg.

      Which again does not prove Lomborg is right—I haven’t worked through his book and the criticisms of it for myself—but is a reason not to give too much weight to “all the important people say this guy is a nut you shouldn’t listen to” arguments.

  4. Adam says:

    Any roleplayers in the crowd: I’m looking for playtesters and feedback on a system I’ve developed called The Job. It’s a GM-less system for stuff like Ocean’s 11 or Mission: Impossible — basically, a heist or other team-based operation, where things are bound to go wrong, and the team is probably dysfunctional.

    – If you want to run a game on your own and let me know how it goes, that’d be fantastic. If you can provide a recording or transcript, even better.
    – If you’re interested in playing but don’t have your own group, let me know your Discord user ID, and I can arrange an ad-hoc group there.
    – If you don’t want to play, even just reading the rules and providing feedback is really appreciated. The rules doc is open for comments if you’d rather reply there.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Initial thoughts:

      Lookout strikes me as a bad play pattern. Combines with Driver fairly well in most canonical examples.

      Distraction/Face can probably be combined.

      Cat Burglar and Infiltrator seem redundant.

      The relationship table can end up with some very dissonant bi-directional combos. I don’t like this, and would prefer to see alternatives that either don’t involve past history with each other, or that must be shared and become subsequently unable to be contradicted by another roll.

      The players “upstream” in planning can frustrate other players’ (not-yet-articulated) strategies for avoiding obstacles. I’d rather see players take turns describing how they plan to address particular challenges, then string together a plan based on that.

      The relationships can mechanically contradict the “out of game reasons” clause in some cases, I think.

      I think that failure should result in a complication by default.

      I think that “you may choose to introduce a complication to add 3 to your roll, but only before you roll” would be a good rule.

      • Adam says:

        Thanks for reading! I’m not terribly concerned about the roles, since they’re meant as suggestions rather than, say, D&D’s class list, but you’re definitely right about the Lookout; it doesn’t promote a fun playstyle, and it’s a job any role ought to be able to perform anyway.

        I like the idea of the “dissonant bi-directional combos,” but then I haven’t been able to get a playtesting group together to see how it works out in practice. It’s something I could see myself revising, but not until I find that it’s not working out well.

        I see what you mean about the upstream problem, but I’m concerned about pacing if I introduce another layer before planning. Maybe I should encourage strategy discussion during character creation?

        I’m less sure what you mean about the “out of game reasons” clause. Sure, there’s some temptation to rig the challenge based on character relationships, but players are expressly warned against that earlier in the paragraph.

        I don’t think failure should always generate a complication (although certainly if you fail your sneak roll, you’re in trouble), but I’ll have to think about “add 3 in exchange for a complication” — that has some interesting possibilities.

        Thanks again!

    • Incurian says:

      I will check it out. Can you tell me, from your perspective, what a successful game feels like? Or perhaps the range of potential experiences you’d like players to come away with?

      • Adam says:

        The elevator pitch is basically “The Italian Job by way of Fiasco.” That’s not helpful if you’ve never heard of Fiasco (or, I guess, if you’ve never heard of The Italian Job), so the longer version is that there’s a high likelihood of inter-character drama, and you might pull off a heist along the way.

        As the rules mention several times, if the job goes down in flames, that’s more fun than if you pull it off without a hitch. Even when your characters aren’t sabotaging the job (intentionally or not), your team should run into lots of unexpected trouble, and between the drama and the complications, that’s where I expect the fun comes from.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      This seems like an interesting premise! I have a couple thoughts as well.

      First, it seems weird to me that past relationships are generally not correlated at all. I am not sure how to circumvent this while leaving a possibility of different perspectives, without adding a lot of complexity though.

      Also, you have a ton of treachery in the backgrounds! I’d strongly suggest setting up your system so that that treacherous backgrounds are optional–that is, the standard rule is “you roll 2d6 and get one of these dynamics, which ranges from loyal to irritable”, and then you have a “Variant Rule” sideboard where people instead roll 3d6 (say) and now include a few options for wanting other players dead. I know many people who enjoy the dynamics of high-stress cooperative games, and hate it when people backstab each other in any context, even a light-hearted social game. Even for people who enjoy that dynamic, I don’t think it is a bad idea to tacitly encourage them to ease into things by not betraying each other in the first game.

      Also, in a party of four people, with your rules as stated, I get the sense that a lot of people will be trying to kill each other. I guess that’s kind of the point, but it really does seem like a lot.

      • Adam says:

        Maybe I was ambiguous in the descriptions, but isn’t a 2 the only outright betrayal relationship? 3 could easily end with someone dead, but 4-6 are more distrust than betrayal, and 8-12 are positive relationships (though I could see a 12 causing the demise of a third party).

        In a team of 5 players, each player rolls 4 times for a total of 20 rolls (16% of which will result in 7s, for an average of 23.2 total rolls). That’s slightly worse than even odds that someone will have rolled a 2, but even then, those characters might never end up in a scene together, and if they do, there still might not be the opportunity to kill the other guy.

        (With 6 players, there’s a 62% chance for a 2, a 75% chance with 7, and an 84% chance with 8, so odds become excellent that someone wants someone else dead, but that’s still no guarantee it’ll happen. With only 4 players, there’s less than a 1 in 3 chance of a 2.)

      • Adam says:

        More explicitly: if any of 3-12 come off as betrayal, then I should probably reword them.

    • honoredb says:

      This looks fun! I want there to be more heist games in the world.

      One fairly simple way to patch the relationships thing (if indeed it really needs patching) would be to establish an official relationship between each pair of characters first, then do the secret rolls the way you have them. For example,

      For each pair of players, publicly roll a die on the following table, and have the players agree on the details.
      1. Acquaintances: You nod when you see each other. Neither of you thinks the other one thinks you have a dramatic history or any special relationship.
      2. Friends: You’ve got a history together, but nothing either of you would call dramatic.
      3. Frenemies: “Haha, yeah, of course you would bring up that one time I left you for dead.”
      4. Close Relatives: Decide on the exact relationship.
      5. Romance!
      6. Staunch Allies

      Then each of you secretly rolls 2 dice and figures out how to reconcile the result with the public relationship, using information the other character wouldn’t know. “You know that guy you killed to jack his car to make your getaway back in ’08? That was my Uncle Ben!”

    • J Mann says:

      If someone were interested in playtesting this at GenCon, (1) I would be happy to join in, time permitting and (2) it would double as an SSC FTF.

    • souleater says:

      Cool game! I don’t think my D&D group would do well with GM-less games but I wanted to make a few comments

      There seems like there could be a lot of consolidation in rolls. I saw you said they’re just examples instead of classes, but I think you might be better off outlining classes explicitly, but leaving a clause saying “Feel free to create additional classes if needed”

      Relationships:
      The wording for 11 and 12 really pushes you to (one sided) romantic relationships. I know it explicitly says it doesn’t have to be romantic, but I can’t think of a non-romantic reason I would want to run away with someone, or a way to be “very attracted” to someone in a non romantic way.
      Ideally people would be able to separate in character and out of character behavior, but in my experience, it would be weird to play a character who is romantically attracted to, for example, my platonic female friends character.
      Also, people can be creepy, and I’ve heard enough stories about women playing D&D to know that someone will use the relationship mechanic as a justification to violate boundaries/make someone uncomfortable and refuse to stop even when explicitly asked.

      • Adam says:

        Thanks for the feedback!

        Roles: I’m avoiding well-defined roles on purpose. There are a few reasons for this:
        – It seems to me that most groups have an aversion to homebrewed content. When the game explicitly encourages you to come up with your own role, it no longer feels homebrewed.
        – The suggested roles are intended for a modern heist scenario. Codifying a class/role list would reinforce the idea that that’s the only type of game the system supports, whereas I think the rules doc already leans too hard into that with the given examples.
        – The roles themselves are purposely vague — what exactly does the Gadgeteer do, for example? They’re meant to be left up to interpretation, whereas an explicit class usually has explicit and implicit expectations.

        Relationships: Yeah, there’s certainly the opportunity for it to end up uncomfortable for some players. I suppose I’ve designed with the assumption of a socially/emotionally mature/aware player base, and [insert joke about tabletop gamers here].

        For what it’s worth, though, here are some non-romantic motivations for 11 and 12:

        11 (very attracted): You idolize the other character; she’s been your hero ever since you got into the business.

        12 (run away with): The other character is your younger brother, and you’ve always felt that this profession was too dangerous.

        But on the balance, I think you’re right, and the wording around those could be improved to suggest less of a romantic bent.

        • Adam says:

          I’ve made some minor changes to the wording: #11 now says you’re “enamored with” the other character rather than “very attracted” to them, and #12 says you’d like to “run away together and escape all this madness.”

          Certainly, it’s still easy to interpret those as you want to make with the kissing, but #11 in particular is a lot better about it now.

          There’s some social commentary to be made about how we can trust people to kill each other in an agreeable manner, but simulating love is fraught with peril…

  5. Scott Alexander says:

    PredictIt still has the chance of Brexit by 10/31 less than 50%.

    Why? Boris has committed as vehemently as possible to getting it done. Europe won’t offer a significantly better deal. If nothing changes, Britain leaves by default, and nobody seems able and willing to change anything.

    What’s the scenario where 10/31 Brexit doesn’t happen? Parliament goes over Boris’ head, asks for an X-month extension with no plan for what to do with it, and Europe says yes? Everyone agrees to No Deal, but Europe offers an X-month extension to help Britain prepare better? Are either of these likely?

    • DeWitt says:

      I wouldn’t rule out the odds of PredictIt just being a little slow here, though I don’t know how quick they usually are.

    • John Schilling says:

      Parliament goes over Boris’ head, asks for an X-month extension with no plan for what to do with it, and Europe says yes?

      A great deal of the supposedly-expert reporting I have seen, seems to treat this as a serious possibility. Including reporting in the British press. I think that’s Canute-stopping-the-tide(*) level denial of reality; “Parliament passed a law saying it can not happen, therefore it can not happen, because Parliament!”. But maybe I’m missing something.

      Hardly matters. If there are people who take that theory seriously, they’ll take it seriously on Predictit.

      There’s also the Remainers who think that, as the reality of a Johnson Brexit approaches, Article 50 will be revoked over Johnson’s head. This also strikes me as very implausible, but it’s going to be factoring in to the Predictit odds.

      * Yes, yes, I know.

    • broblawsky says:

      It depends on whether Johnson understands that Hard Brexit is going to be disastrous. People who think he understands that believe he’ll find some way to weasel out of it; people who don’t think he understands that (or don’t understand it themselves) think he won’t.

      Support for Remain is pretty strong, so you have to assume the “Hard Brexit will be a disaster” group is at least 50% of the population. If you assume that at least 50% of those people believe that BoJo also believes in that, it gives you a floor of ~25%.

      • BBA says:

        I’m pro-EU, I think it’s much better for France and Germany to settle their disputes in long pointless Brussels rulemaking sessions than by invading each other…but you know what? After all these dire predictions that didn’t come true, I say bring on hard Brexit. I’m betting it won’t change much of anything at all, and in a few years we’ll be wondering why it was such a big deal. So you pay a little more in tariffs and have a slightly different regulatory environment, big deal.

        Of course, that’s easy for me to say, I’m on a whole other continent.

        • broblawsky says:

          It will crush British manufacturing. A lot of factories will be at half-shifts (at best) for months. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you cannot screw with the supply chain.

          • Lambert says:

            The smart Brexiteers are not thinking in months.
            They’re thinking 5 or 10 years down the line.

          • BBA says:

            What British manufacturing? They’re in the WTO like everyone else, which means China has eaten their manufacturing industry like everyone else.

            Honest question – what does Britain make anymore?

          • Lambert says:

            Lots *has* gone to China, Japan etc, but there’s some left. Maybe 10-20% of the economy.

            Automotive (e.g. JLR), motorsports, chemical and pharma, Aero (Rolls Royce, BAE, Martin Baker, Airbus)

        • Matt M says:

          Why is British manufacturing still a thing anyway? That can’t possibly be where their comparative advantage lies…

          • baconbits9 says:

            Why not? US manufacturing is still a thing.

          • Lambert says:

            We have the education system to produce skilled technicians and make complex, high-quality products.

            The West Midlands is a global hub for motorsports. It makes sense to make things nearby.

            Tariff-free access to the Single Market.

            250 years of inertia.

    • I still think people take things like PredictIt way too seriously. Until you can lose millions of dollars on it, the whole thing is always going to be pretty flawed.

      • Protagoras says:

        Take it too seriously compared to what? Pundits? Internet know-it-alls? Nearly all of our sources of information about politics have plenty of humiliating failures in their record.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’d like to see you (or someone else who thinks this) double your money on PredictIt just for bragging rights.

        (I’ve almost tripled mine so far, but mostly through a few very careful bets exploiting small margins, plus luck. If someone else has done better, I will bow to their theory of PredictIt’s goodness or lack thereof)

        • Why would I bet on PredictIt when I don’t think it’s a useful barometer for predictions? I’m not saying there are $100 bills on the sidewalks that the rubes at PredictIt are missing. I’m saying there are no $100 bills. How would a bet or lack of a bet prove anything either way on my agnosticism?

          • GreatColdDistance says:

            Why would I bet on PredictIt when I don’t think it’s a useful barometer for predictions? I’m not saying there are $100 bills on the sidewalks that the rubes at PredictIt are missing. I’m saying there are no $100 bills. How would a bet or lack of a bet prove anything either way on my agnosticism?

            I think the implication is that if you can’t predict better than PredictIt, then it is the best source of predictions you have. It may not be a very reliable source of predictions compared to some hypothetical oracle, but if it is the best source of predictions you have that makes it worth considering seriously.

            Conversely, if you think that there are better sources of predictions than PredictIt, the implication is “Put up or shut up”. Or to be more specific, to prove that such superior sources of predictions exist by using them to beat the PredictIt market and make a profit.

          • acymetric says:

            Unfortunately, that demand seems to require that in order to be right you must engage with PredictIt to prove it.

            I don’t see why that should be true, some people just don’t want to use PredictIt for all kinds of prefectly good reasons.

          • GreatColdDistance says:

            Unfortunately, that demand seems to require that in order to be right you must engage with PredictIt to prove it.

            I don’t see why that should be true, some people just don’t want to use PredictIt for all kinds of prefectly good reasons.

            The original claim was that PredictIt is taken way too seriously. It is not unreasonable to suggest that to prove that a thing should be taken less seriously you need to engage with that thing.

            You might not even need to use the platform itself, you could publicly record your position on given predictions and thus demonstrate that you can consistently beat the market without the hassle of actually using it. But winning consistent money on the platform would be a very clear signal that there are better sources of prediction out there.

          • But winning consistent money on the platform would be a very clear signal that there are better sources of prediction out there.

            But I don’t believe that. I believe the exact opposite, that no source of prediction is very accurate here. How would I make money on my agnosticism?

          • Dan L says:

            @ Wrong Species:

            Rejection of epistemic nihilism is pretty much the foundational assumption of my philosophy, so I’ll bite.

            I believe the exact opposite, that no source of prediction is very accurate here. How would I make money on my agnosticism?

            The obvious answer is to identify a place where the market is expressing great confidence in a specific outcome, and bet against. Hedged and repeated appropriately, this is equivalent to betting that the market has less accurate information than it thinks.

            Here’s a market where there is a great deal of confidence in a specific prediction. If you think it’s overrated and are correct, you stand to win a great deal of money. Will you bet?

          • GreatColdDistance says:

            @ WS

            But I don’t believe that. I believe the exact opposite, that no source of prediction is very accurate here. How would I make money on my agnosticism?

            That makes sense. I still feel that any source of predictions which can be credibly called the best available source of predictions is worth taking seriously, even if no source of predictions is very accurate in a platonic sense. But if you concede that there are no better sources of prediction out there, then there is nothing to prove by you making bets on it. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree regarding how seriously one should take an inaccurate-but-still-the-most-accurate-available source of predictions.

          • acymetric says:

            You seem to be assuming that PredictIt is the best source of predictions, and demanding rigor to disprove that. Shouldn’t you also be under some obligation to support your claim? Why should anyone be expected to just take it for granted that this is true?

        • Matt M says:

          I’m up about 4x, but that’s mostly on one major (and honestly pretty lucky) bet on Trump to win the Presidency that was placed early in the GOP primaries.

          But I still think Wrong Species is mostly correct here. We assume that, say, the stock market is “efficient” because we know that there are investment banks sitting out there with hundreds of millions in liquid capital who can instantly and immediately squeeze out any apparent arbitrage opportunity.

          Until the same can be said of PredictIt, we can’t really assume it’s efficient. Until people can earn a full-time living making predictions on it, it’s unreasonable to treat it as anything other than a fun hobby that people engage in primarily for entertainment purposes.

      • Lambert says:

        BTW, for British politics, you can just look at the normal old-fashioned bookies over here.

        https://www.oddschecker.com/politics/brexit/brexit-date
        There’s no ‘before November’, but it gives 11/8 by Dec ’19 and 8/15 on not before 2020.

    • Well... says:

      Sort of related: Can someone please steelman the argument for why I, a Midwestern American, should care about what happens with Brexit? At a very high level I get there’s a “perils of international collectivism vs. perils of economic and cultural isolationism” thing going on there, and I get why that’s potentially interesting, but to me it’s just not that interesting.

      Note: I have very close friends and family in England, and they care a lot about Brexit and tell me Brexit is all anyone ever talks about there[*], so I’m not necessarily opposed to understanding Brexit since I enjoy talking to them and understanding the things they care about. I just don’t really get how it would practically impact me enough that I should be emotionally invested in which way it turns out, follow news stories about it, etc.

      *Hah, “Brexit” sounds like it’d be the name of a British breakfast cereal. I’m probably thinking of Wheatabix or something.

      • joeym says:

        Does it count if we can convince you that it will have a big impact on your friends and family? I, for one, care about Brexit mostly because of my girlfriend, who is a UK citizen living in Europe and whose status would have to change overnight. But that arguably doesn’t impact me (US resident) personally.

        • Well... says:

          What predictable, practical effects would it actually have on my friends and family who live in England? (None of whom, so far as I know, would have “status” issues of the kind you referred to.)

          • joeym says:

            I can’t speak with any authority, but it is at the very least not completely crazy to believe that once the UK is out of the EU, the economy will shrink drastically due to trade restrictions, and that has all sorts of implications on people’s jobs and lifestyles. Or alternatively if you’re on the other side, it’s not completely crazy to believe that once the UK is out of the EU, productivity will grow because UK manufacturers are no longer beholden to European regulations, and that has all sorts of implications on people’s jobs and lifestyles.

          • Well... says:

            “X might happen. Or -X might happen” doesn’t sound very predictable.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        For me, as an American with no British ancestry whatsoever, I treat it as more of a bellwether for the broader conflict between elected and appointed officials raging across the western world.

        If Britain can tug itself loose from the European Union, it proves that it is at least still possible to beat the transatlantic deep state at the ballot box. That is very important to know, because once it’s no longer possible to effect policy change through democratic elections and referenda the remaining options are very unpleasant.

        • Well... says:

          To what extent is the ballot box the key tool here? They used the ballot box already and now it seems like whether Brexit will actually happen is dependent on completely different things.

          • Matt M says:

            I think part of the problem is that the vote was close, and contentious.

            Most modern western governments are not direct democracies, and are filled with “checks and balances.” Depending on the issue at hand and who you ask, “People can’t just vote for something and then immediately get it, no questions asked” is often seen as a feature, not a bug. To remainers, the fact that Brexit is being delayed (perhaps forever) doesn’t represent a fundamental flaw in Democratic government, it represents the proper set of checks and balances working as intended to save the nation from the potential ravages of direct Democracy.

            But given that the vast majority of government officials do have to answer to elections, and that the rest of them are appointed by those who do, this sort of “resistance” will only occur on closely contested matters. The more hotly debated the issue is, the more confident the “resisting” party can be, and the fiercer the resistance becomes.

          • Well... says:

            I’ve seen similar reasoning used to justify not voting: in a landslide election, it doesn’t matter who you (as an individual) voted for because no matter which way you voted, a bunch of other people created a clear outcome with their votes. In the opposite extreme where the very last vote is what decides the result, and it’s your vote, the actual election is going to be decided in the courts anyway.

          • Randy M says:

            They used the ballot box already and now it seems like whether Brexit will actually happen is dependent on completely different things.

            Isn’t that Nabil’s point?
            The EU is a political reality. Politics should be able to alter it. If the democratic process demands Brexit–by whatever margin was predetermined to be a success–and the politics fails to enact it, that means the real politics are disconnected from the democratic ones on show.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Matt M

            I think the other problem is that “contentious” means “the wrong side won.” If the vote had gone the other way with the same margin, would it be described in mass media as “contentious,” or would the question now be settled?

          • Matt M says:

            Jaskologist,

            In this specific circumstance, you may be right. That said, my perception (I am not English) is that part of the reason Leave won’t accept a second referendum is that they aren’t confident they would actually win a second time. That even the winning side isn’t fully convinced that their position represents the true “will of the people” and that their victory may very well have been something of a fluke that cannot replicate. This implication gives strength to Remain to keep delaying.

          • Well... says:

            @Randy M:

            Nabil said “If Britain can tug itself loose from the European Union, it proves that it is at least still possible to beat the transatlantic deep state at the ballot box.” I’m saying even if Britain does “tug itself loose” from the EU it doesn’t seem like it would prove anything one way or the other about whether the ballot box can be used for this kind of purpose.

            You did make something just occur to me though: It seems intuitively true that democracies should generally always do what majorities of their people want. But it’s also obviously true that democracies also need checks and balances. As Matt M said:

            Depending on the issue at hand and who you ask, “People can’t just vote for something and then immediately get it, no questions asked” is often seen as a feature, not a bug.

            It seems like the framers of relatively successful, well-functioning democracies (e.g. the United States) would say this in the maximum number of circumstances. How does that resolve? It seems incongruous.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I can’t think of any reason anybody would accept a second referendum on an issue they just won, regardless of the odds. There’s no upside, and a strong suspicion that they wouldn’t have gotten a do-over if they’d lost the first one.

            I’ve seen my kids playing rock-paper-scissors, and, upon losing, demand “best 3 of 5” and then “best 5 of 7.” Everybody knows how that scam goes, and recognizes it as cheating.

          • Randy M says:

            Depending on the issue at hand and who you ask, “People can’t just vote for something and then immediately get it, no questions asked” is often seen as a feature, not a bug.

            It seems like the framers of relatively successful, well-functioning democracies (e.g. the United States) would say this in the maximum number of circumstances. How does that resolve? It seems incongruous.

            All I know is that having an election and then throwing it out when you don’t like the result is the wrong way to resolve it.

            If some things are off the table (though I don’t see why this treaty would be), then so be it. But don’t set the table then get mad at people expecting to be served at it. (Really wasn’t sure how that analogy was supposed to end)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I was thinking of “eventually do the thing that won the vote on whether to do the thing” as more as an absolute bare-minimum than as a desireable state.

            As others have said, if the only available options are “vote Remain and stay in the EU” and “vote Leave and stay in the EU” then that proves that voting is no longer a viable means to enact right-wing policy. The British people are too weak and beaten to do anything about it, but it’s a strong signal that the American people need to prepare for the worst here at home.

          • Matt M says:

            If some things are off the table (though I don’t see why this treaty would be), then so be it.

            Absolutely. My view of the situation is that the “powers that be” in Britain stupidly allowed the referendum under the assumption that surely it would be resoundingly defeated. They were completely and totally unprepared for it to pass. This was a dramatic miscalculation on their part, but did nothing to change their view that Brexit is a completely horrible thing that absolutely should not be allowed to happen.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m saying even if Britain does “tug itself loose” from the EU it doesn’t seem like it would prove anything one way or the other about whether the ballot box can be used for this kind of purpose.

            Seems pretty clear to me. Pretty much every other institution of power, in the British Isles or on the Continent, was opposed to Brexit. The leadership of all three major parties in UK politics, was opposed to Brexit. If Brexit happens, it will happen exactly and only because the British people voted for it, and it will prove that at least sometimes “voting for it” is an effective way of achieving transformative political change.

            If not, that’s also pretty unambiguous. The major institutions of power in the UK and Europe all agreed that Brexit was a daft idea but one that should properly be decided on a democratic basis. They scheduled an election to decide that single specific yes-or-no question and agreed in advance that whatever the voters decided would be implemented. If they end up saying “No, you voted for something stupid so we’re not doing that”, then it’s going to be hard to keep a straight face while calling the UK a “democracy”.

          • Well... says:

            These are good points and have clarified my understanding. Thanks all.

          • joeym says:

            Seconding “Well…”‘s thanks. This whole conversation has been illuminating. As someone who thinks Brexit is a bad idea (mostly for economic reasons; my girlfriend’s status issues are just icing on the cake), I needed to hear the equivalent of “the people of the United Kingdom voted to hang themselves, so let them hang”.

        • Robin says:

          The other problem seems to be that the British general public was being lied to.
          https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/list-of-brexit-lies
          https://brexitlies.com/

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even taking that claim to be true, do you think there has been an major election campaign in living memory where both sides didn’t lie in service of their success? Lying by advocates in no way diminishes the legitimacy of an election.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Oh, not this nonsense again.

            The predictions that a Yes vote would cause Britain to degenerate into a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic dystopia have been comprehensively falsified by events. And yet, none of the Brexit-is-invalid-because-the-British-people-were-lied-to brigade ever seems to factor this into their arguments, or even acknowledge it. That’s how you can tell that this sort of thing has nothing to do with a principled concern for well-informed decision-making, and everything to do with reaching for whatever arguments will support the speaker’s chosen position.

      • brad says:

        I, as a NYer, don’t really care. I find it a bit interesting but I don’t expect it to have much of an impact on my life one way or the other. Contra NaD I also don’t think it “means” much either way.

      • Deiseach says:

        Can someone please steelman the argument for why I, a Midwestern American, should care about what happens with Brexit?

        You have the good fortune that, post-Brexit, and under WTO conditions with the UK bargaining on its own and not as part of the EU, the USA is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The US has the power, status and influence that the UK fondly imagines it retains as a world power with its own Empire*, so you don’t have to worry or be concerned or even interested. They can’t hurt your interests, and will be clients begging for favours at worst, clients relying heavily on “Uncle Sam, we have a Special Relationship, don’t we? I’m your Special Girl, aren’t I? You’ll do right by me, won’t you?” at best.

        I have to care about it because what happens the UK affects Ireland, otherwise I’d be happily sitting back sipping gin and watching the Brits blow themselves up, while anticipating a United Ireland.

        *Yes, we know, but some people don’t quite realise that.

    • BBA says:

      What’s the scenario where 10/31 Brexit doesn’t happen?

      Boris isn’t PM anymore.

      No idea how likely that is to happen, but it’s certainly possible.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      A couple of reasons:

      1) Boris Johnson currently has a majority of 2 or 3 MPs (with a by-election to be held soon that the Conservatives are likely to lose). Several Conservative MPs have said they will vote against the government in a vote of no confidence if it becomes clear that Johnson intends to leave without a deal on the 31st of October. That would likely lead to a general election* and an extension. I don’t know if the EU would be happy about granting it, but it seems plausible.

      2) If Johnson agrees a new deal (which is his stated aim) and manages to get that through the House of Commons, a small technical delay will be necessary anyway because they just won’t have the time to pass all the necessary legislation. So the UK still won’t leave before then (it will be a few weeks or months later).

      It seems unlikely that the EU would grant an extension just to allow the UK to prepare for no deal.
      I have no idea if Parliament could realistically bypass the government without a vote of no confidence, and the EU seems unlikely to grant an extension unless there’s a good reason for it.

      I think option 1) above is the most likely way to delay Brexit past October. Although there are potentially a few Labour MPs who could vote for the government in a vote of confidence to avoid being seen to “frustrate Brexit” (or because they just support Brexit so strongly themselves).

      *Technically I think someone else could have the opportunity to form a government before we have an election, but nobody else has the numbers required. Some kind of Remain/Second Referendum alliance seems pretty unlikely.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Worth bearing in mind: the time available to Parliament to bring down the government and hold an election before the end of October is extremely limited. Parliament will not return from recess until the 3rd of September. The absolute latest they could conceivably hold a confidence vote in order to have an election before the end of October is the 10th of September. Past that point, their only legal route to preventing No Deal is repeal of Article 50.

        • Lambert says:

          Could they repeal FTPA faster than they could get a snap election by a vote of no confidence?

    • Ben Wōden says:

      I think a lot of it might be that people believe there’s a strong chance that he’s bluffing. I think a lot of people think that, and I think they might be right. It seems to me that the only way anything is going to shift out of the current rut is if the UK is led by someone who credibly looks like they might actually go ahead with no deal. Johnson certainly credibly looks like he might actually go ahead with no deal and, of course, this might be because he actually will, but it also may well be that he’s bluffing, because bluffing would be a sort-of reasonable plan in the current state.

      CW – shameless self-promotion incoming: I blogged a couple of months ago about how I was concerned that everyone’s incentives were aligning so that nobody would compromise an inch from either extreme, and additionally so that small extensions would just be agreed on and on and on ad infinitum, theoretically to find some sort of compromise solution, but with nobody incentivised to actually find one. Johnson’s approach is one way to break that cycle, even if he doesn’t actually plan to go through with it, so I think it’s reasonable to think that some people think that this is what he’s doing – purely pretending to be okay with no deal because it’s the only way to break the deadlock, rather than actually being okay with it.

      My reasoning as to why I think compromise was pretty much impossible and unlimited extensions might have become the norm, if the current (at time of writing) approach of May et al had continued, is here https://cascadestyler.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/brexit-needs-a-deadline/ – I may well have not thought of some permutations or incentives or just generally messed up, but if my reasoning is right, then looking like being okay with no deal is pretty much the only option available, even if one isn’t actually okay with it, so it’s always possible this is what Johnson is doing (though I personally think he is sort of mad enough to go through with it – but then that might just be that he’s very good at pretending – that’s exactly what that would look like).

    • Matt M says:

      What’s the scenario where 10/31 Brexit doesn’t happen?

      The bet is that Boris is bluffing, and doesn’t have the balls to force through a politically controversial decision that will be used to blame him and his party for every conceivable bad thing that happens to Britain (and many other countries as well) for the forseeable future.

      Based on how the Brits have managed Brexit so far, it seems like a perfectly reasonable bet to me.

      • Tarpitz says:

        The Conservatives being blamed for the negative consequences of Brexit might cost them a couple of subsequent general elections. Being blamed for Brexit not happening would cost them their existence as a major force in UK politics, permanently. If they don’t deliver, Farage will be in No. 10 inside a decade.

    • Deiseach says:

      Boris has committed as vehemently as possible to getting it done.

      So did Theresa May, and was turned down by Parliament voting “no” on three occasions when she came back to them with deals to get it done.

      Boris can say “We’re leaving by Hallowe’en, with no deal”. Great. Then he has to get that past Parliament, and given that the present selection of MPs don’t seem to be able to agree on “do you or don’t you want a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?”, this is a big job to take on.

      Plus, all the problems still remain. The UK leaves the EU with no deal and hence no agreement in place. The EU says “Okay, but you are still legally bound by the contracts and agreements you made while you were still part of the EU about things like payments”. The UK says “Bite me”. The EU then goes to court.

      Boris saying “We’re gonna do it! Just like the moon shot!” does not magically make all the disputes vanish, and they remain to be dealt with, and it’s possible that by the end of October, having looked at all the pros and cons and what would happen if they go, yet another extension will be sought so he can try to herd the cats.

      Europe won’t offer a significantly better deal.

      Exactly. He knows it, we know it, Europe knows it. Yet he’s building his brand, right this minute, on “we can get a better deal and be all good pals with the EU when we leave”. There isn’t another deal or a better one to be had if he just sends over a tougher negotiating team that won’t take any of Johnny Foreigner’s nonsense and simply talks louder and slower so the Frogs and Huns can understand what John Bull wants them to do.

      So, unless he is intending some kind of last-minute showdown where he threatens to cause all kinds of trouble by gumming up the works, and so blackmails the EU into more concessions, there’s nothing there for him to get, and his speech is simply empty rhetoric, and when October comes it will be the same old muddle.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Boris can say “We’re leaving by Hallowe’en, with no deal”. Great. Then he has to get that past Parliament

        As someone unfamiliar with British-style parliamentary governments, why does he need to do that?

        I was under the impression that there’s nothing that parliament can do if he doesn’t ask for an extension, short of throwing him out and trying to have a last-minute general election.

        The EU says “Okay, but you are still legally bound by the contracts and agreements you made while you were still part of the EU about things like payments”. The UK says “Bite me”. The EU then goes to court.

        And then what?

        I’m very unclear on how exactly is the EU supposed to collect money from the UK, with or without a judgement from some toothless international court. If the British tell them to go pound sand it’s unclear how they could force the issue.

        • FormerRanger says:

          Presumably the EU could get mean. They could enact special high tariffs against British trade. They could make it difficult to visit the EU (the Brits like to look down on Europe but they like to go there on holiday). They could mess up the Northern Ireland/Ireland border (which may happen on its own in a no-deal Brexit).

          The above actions would hurt the UK, and probably be bad for EU, so it is unlikely the EU will take them*, but one never knows. No one thought Leave would win, after all.

          * They might also be unlikely because not all EU members would be in favor of them, either.

        • Zeno of Citium says:

          The EU doesn’t need the UK to actually write them a check; they can just pass tariffs or sanctions and claw the money back that way. That comes with the usual downside to tariffs, but it’s something.

          • Matt M says:

            Gonna be hilarious to watch the worldwide journalist class instantly pivot from “Every intelligent person knows that tariffs are stupid and only hurt us and make us poorer” to “Obviously these new EU tariffs on the UK are necessary and proper and will make Europe significantly better off!”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            Two things can simultaneously be true:

            1 – tariffs make everyone worse-off

            2 – tariffs are a useful tool for playing international tit-for-tat

            For example, I dislike protectionist tariffs, but think that imposing tariffs on Chinese technology is a decent idea if we do it to retaliate for massive and government-sponsored Chinese IP theft.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, sure, that’s logically possible.

            It’s also logically possible that nearly everyone has no consistent opinion on tariffs aside from “If my side is proposing them they are good, if the other side is proposing them they are bad.”

          • spkaca says:

            “they can just pass tariffs or sanctions and claw the money back that way”
            They can do that, and hope that people don’t notice that, in that scenario, the money is actually being clawed back by the EU from EU citizens, not from the UK. The consumer pays for everything in the end.

        • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

          On the latter point, I think part of the idea is that reneging on your commitments is a Bad Look and likely to punished by other countries, not necessarily just the EU. Publicly refusing to honour a deal is going to signal untrustworthiness. Which is a questionable strategy when you’re supposed to be in the process of striking lots of new trade deals with other countries.

          • Aapje says:

            The point is that they are cancelling the deal, where there is a dispute over the remaining obligations.

            It’s like a divorce: to what extent is the ex-husband obligated to continue providing for the mother?

        • spkaca says:

          “As someone unfamiliar with British-style parliamentary governments, why does he need to do that?”
          He doesn’t. As you say, the most likely mechanism to attempt to force a further extension is a vote of no confidence. No-one in this thread, I think, has mentioned Mr. Corbyn, who would normally be the one (as Leader of the Opposition) to move such a vote. And unless I misread him, this runs up against the fact that Mr. Corbyn doesn’t actually want to stop Brexit. I believe he wants a no-deal Brexit for two related reasons: 1) to increase the likelihood of him gaining power, and 2) to remove restrictions on his freedom of action if he does take power.
          He may have his hand forced – his own MPs may exert enough pressure to force him to call a confidence vote – but he will delay it as long as he can, knowing that if it doesn’t happen soon after the Parliamentary recess (which has now started), Brexit may happen anyway.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Also, Corbyn spent decades as a Eurosceptic until pressure from his party essentially forced him to change sides. I don’t know where exactly he stands on the issue of a specifically hard Brexit, but in general it’s Remainers who want to stop a no-deal scenario at any cost, whereas Eurosceptics are more likely to accept a hard Brexit even if they’d ideally prefer a soft one.

  6. J. Mensch says:

    Dominic Cummings, a big SSC fan, is now a leading advisor to the UK prime minister.

    • Lambert says:

      The bloke played by Cumberbatch in that thing on Channel 4 reads SSC?

      Kinda reminds me of Thiel. Or maybe a stick man wearing a black pork-pie hat.

      Rationalist, in the sense that he seems to believe that being smarter and better informed than everybody else is a superpower, and one you can learn.

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t get the enthusiasm on here for him; for one thing, he resigned in a huff in 2014 to go off and help free schools start up based on his notions about education. Given that he’s back in politics, and that I can’t seem to find any trace or record of how these schools performed or if they ever existed, I’m going to assume that the project didn’t work out the way in practice that his revolutionary theory of education forecast it should.

      If I’m wrong and it’s a network of thriving technocratic academies turning out baby geniuses, I would be very pleased to be pointed towards it. There’s something slightly off-putting about him as far as it strikes me, possibly just that he has a very abrasive personality, a sense of his own rightness, and does not suffer fools gladly (and if you don’t agree with him, then you’re a fool). I suppose it’s just that I’m cynical about people swooping in with sweeping changes that will involve completely new structures from the foundations up; they tend to move on to new and bigger things while leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess resulting from the demolition of the old structure, then dismiss any failure of the new structure as the fault of the incompetents they left behind (while they went on to another step up the ladder of their glittering career). They somehow never stick around for the long haul and the messy bits of the shiny new world they want to build.

      • Viliam says:

        I don’t get the enthusiasm on here for him

        Selection bias? The impressed people keep talking, the unimpressed ones ignore the topic…

    • aiju says:

      I like the idea of Scott as a government advisor:
      “An alpha data science/AI operation — tapping into the world’s best minds including having someone like David Deutsch or Tim Gowers as a sort of ‘chief rationalist’ in the Cabinet (with Scott Alexander as deputy!)”

      https://dominiccummings.com/2019/06/26/on-the-referendum-33-high-performance-government-cognitive-technologies-michael-nielsen-bret-victor-seeing-rooms/

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        It would be funnier if he was appointed as “Scott Alexander.” There’s something funny about the idea of a pseudonymous cabinet officer.

  7. HowardHolmes says:

    David Friedman,

    I can’t get this pieceoff of my mind so I will here have another go at it.

    Your argument begins by stating that evidence for facts is weaker than we normally suppose using the tiger on the table as support. Yet the story does not support the assertion. There is sufficient evidence of there being no tiger so that in realty no one would think there might be a tiger. You yourself admit this in the discussion. Evidence for facts is not weak. It is clear and convincing. When we have problems convincing people of facts it is due to our lack of evidence, not to the nature of our subjective perceptions.

    You then suggest that the case for normative reality is parallel. This is supported by examples of moral stances for which the strength of evidence supposedly comes close to mirroring the tiger example. Your first example is causing pain to others. You suggest that it is a virtual universal stance that one should not cause pain to others. I say hogwash! If there is any universal normative stance on pain it is closer to “don’t cause pain to others unless it benefits me.”

    Imagine a person who has a voodoo doll (recalling your pin story). Every time they stick in a pin, their bank account is credited with $100, and somewhere in the world a random person feels a pin prick.. This person will never know the cause, and your actions will never be found out. Now who do you know that would, given a lifetime of owning such a doll, refrain from using it occasionally? Who do you know that you feel confident would not end up using it a good deal? How about if the pin stick gave you $5,000 in exchange for some random person getting a head cold? People routinely cause pain for a lot less. Even your pin sticky little man only changed his habits when he saw a way to benefit himself. His decision had nothing to do with whether it caused pain and everything to do with escaping repercussions.

    Your next example is lying. Everyone lies constantly. If people really think they should not lie they have the strangest way of demonstrating that belief. People do not believe that they should not lie. If they did, they would not lie.

    Your final example is torturing children. I will say that people do not torture children nearly as often as they lie, but how often does the opportunity arise to torture a child and receive a large benefit? In the previous OT someone gave you several examples like Nazi prison guards and slave ship owners (or slave owners) to which you did not respond. Also I will note that there are billions of people in the world who routinely allow children to starve to death while they eat out at a nice restaurant with the money that could save them. Who do I know that doesn’t do this? No one. Our moral concern for the welfare of children is mere tokenism and only for show. If we cannot sacrifice anything significant to prevent suffering what makes you think we would avoid causing suffering for the most trivial of reasons?

    If there is anything at all to moral realism it is that we are really immoral as hell…all of us. If there is anything universal about morality it is that generally people will do whatever benefits themselves with no significant regard for the welfare of others. If there is any argument about the existence of altruism it is whether or not it ever affects behavior, not whether it often does. No one can be so naive as to think that anything less than most of our actions are for our own benefit.

    There is something universal about people’s claims. They all will say that we should not lie. They all will say that they care about others. They all will say that one should never cause others pain. If all you mean by morality is what people say, then I have no case. If moral beliefs are shown by actions then my case is a slam dunk.

    • Lying is really weird because it’s pretty universal to have rules against it, but we do it all the time and nobody seems really bothered about it until they are. Then suddenly it’s very serious. Sometimes a third party observer will mock them for hypocrisy and other times they will join in the condemnation but there’s not always a clear way to predict which is which. It’s not that we aren’t hypocrites over other things but we alternate between thinking of lying prohibitions as empty words that we just tell kids and then other times it’s something that is very serious and the difference often switches at such a dizzying pace.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Could you give some examples?

        • We tell kids to tell the truth while building up this pretty elaborate Santa Claus myth.

          On the other side, Republicans wanted to impeach Bill Clinton over him lying about having sexual relations with a woman.

          • A1987dM says:

            Well, your parents weren’t under oath when they told you about Santa, unlike Bill Clinton.

          • Aapje says:

            @A1987dM

            Yes, but that is part of the edifice. Clinton was made to answer questions about his sex life that most people would lie about and would understand people lying about. Yet once some magical words were said, Clinton was not allowed to lie anymore.

          • Nornagest says:

            On the one hand, it was absolutely a cynical political play. But on the other, lying under oath, on any subject, to an investigation empowered by Congress, is kind of a big deal when you’re the President of the United States. You can boil this down to “magical words” if you like, but the point of those magical words is to have a socially accepted override to our regular cultural norms of (dis)honesty, for those occasions when actual literal honesty is called for.

            It was a disgusting fiasco all around. Everyone involved should have resigned from office out of pure shame, if not spent a quiet night reflecting on their sins with a bottle of whisky and a revolver, or gotten voted out in a landslide when that didn’t happen. But Bill Clinton doesn’t get a pass there.

          • Deiseach says:

            Clinton was made to answer questions about his sex life that most people would lie about and would understand people lying about.

            In fairness, Aapje, this was not “Your neighbour Jim Huggins has a fling on the side with the next door Mrs Sally Jones”, this was “President of the United States has fling with intern working in the White House – so we’re already talking huge power imbalance and inappropriate boss-subordinate relationship – with young and impressionable woman only a few years older than his actual daughter; not alone is he cheating on his wife, which you can think of as a private personal matter, but he’s then lying under oath – and perjury is serious, even if you have a good reason to lie – and there are rumours of other affairs verging on harassment or even sexual assault”.

            Yes, the Starr enquiry was a witch hunt to find any dirt to get Clintion impeached and an over-reach. Yes, Clinton deliberately lying and logic-chopping (“depending what the definition of ‘is’ is”) and perjuring himself and having the bad judgement and lack of self-control to get into an affair with a much younger woman working under him, while in public office, means that there’s a lack of trustworthiness imputed to his other decisions while in office (think of all the bribery and corruption allegations).

            In other words: nobody, apart from Mrs Huggins and Mr Jones, is really affected by Jim doing the horizontal mambo with Sally Jones so it’s none of our business. Make it that Jim is the Mayor and Sally is a clerk in the Planning Department, and there are long-standing rumours that Jim is very approachable by people wanting to get planning permission if they come bearing brown envelopes and will exercise his influence on their behalf to get the Planning Department to come to the ‘right’ decisions, and it becomes the public’s business.

        • Matt M says:

          Well, your parents weren’t under oath when they told you about Santa, unlike Bill Clinton.

          And I wasn’t under oath as a child when I lied to my parents about anything I may have lied about, and then was heavily punished when caught.

          What’s your point?

          • Randy M says:

            Some people find oaths and the like useful for dispensing with any unstated beliefs that a particular situation contextually justifies lying. Having a formal mechanism in official circumstances may be useful to accommodate these people.

            Personally I try for a higher standard, even with children. I’d rather say “I’m not going to tell you that right now, ask again later,” to serious questions than reference storks and whatnot, although intentional and obvious irony for humors sake is of course another matter.

          • acymetric says:

            Let’s all drop the Bill Clinton example because obviously it was going to lead to this discussion and not to a discussion about why we hate lying except for when we love it (sometimes it is borderline obligatory). Forget about oaths and lying politicians entirely.

            I’m pretty sure this:

            We tell kids to tell the truth while building up this pretty elaborate Santa Claus myth.

            And I wasn’t under oath as a child when I lied to my parents about anything I may have lied about, and then was heavily punished when caught.

            Is a proper example of where the dichotomy is.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      All three of your examples are interesting and reasonable, and I think they make it abundantly clear that what we say we should do is very far both from what we want to do and from what we actually do. From this, it’s natural to conclude that

      If there is anything at all to moral realism it is that we are really immoral as hell…all of us.

      I’ve never read a moral philosopher who seriously disagrees with this. It’s a cornerstone of the Christian faith: mankind is fallen, and evil, and that is why we need Jesus Christ. David Friedman alluded to CS Lewis’s “The Abolition of Man” in the document you linked to–one of the first points he made in that book was that every culture has a moral code, and everyone in that culture breaks that code. This is a bizarre state of affairs, which evolutionary biologists resolve by framing morality as hypocritical social pressure, and which Christians resolve by saying that mankind is out of harmony with the divine good. You allude to a similar point when you say

      People do not believe that they should not lie. If they did, they would not lie.

      This statement only seems like it would be true for someone of perfect integrity (that is, someone who totally abides by their internal moral code). But (excepting only Jesus Christ) no one has that kind of integrity. I agree that almost everyone lies to each other (and everyone lies to themselves). But that doesn’t mean that people believe the lying is good, or disprove that they believe they should not lie! To the contrary, it highlights the important insight that our sense of morality is separate from our sense of desire! This is also clear to me from self-reflection–the ways I act shift both to accommodate my desires and my morals (generally, as you observe, following the former more than the latter), but the internal sense of the two is quite distinct.

      • HowardHolmes says:

        Joseph Greenwood

        I agree that almost everyone lies to each other (and everyone lies to themselves). But that doesn’t mean that people believe the lying is good, or disprove that they believe they should not lie! To the contrary, it highlights the important insight that our sense of morality is separate from our sense of desire!

        I disagree. The conflict comes from the lies we tell ourselves (and that ourselves believe). We do not tell ourselves “one should jump off a cliff” and then find within ourselves the desire to not jump off cliffs. In this case there is no conflict between desire and morality because we are not bullshitting ourselves. When we tell ourselves that we do not believe lying is good we are merely bullshitting ourselves. We live as if we believe lying is good. One of my favorite maxims is “a belief if that upon which a person is willing to act.” One knows I prefer strawberry ice cream because that is what I choose when I am at Brahms. One knows I prefer lying because that is what I do incessantly. I lie because I think I should lie. You can’t take credit for being moral while being immoral. This is what people do with words. They want credit for doing without doing. They want to say they are concerned about the dying children in the world without writing a check. All bullshit.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          One of my favorite maxims is “a belief if that upon which a person is willing to act.”

          This is a principle which many in the rational-sphere subscribe to, but it seems obviously false to me. You have numerous beliefs which bear no pertinence whatsoever to your actions. For instance, what colors are a zebra’s stripes? What is the chemical composition of ordinary table salt? How many states are there in the United States? Is Egypt a European state?

          Now, your beliefs about those things would influence how you answer my questions, but my beliefs about lying influence how I answer your questions, too, so that’s no good as a distinguishing factor. Also, many of those things could in principle change how you act: if you are a chemist, the chemical composition of table salt might be very relevant. Alternately, if you are in some kind of fantastic MacGyver scenario and you really need to produce some chlorine gas, the screen-writers might give you an excuse to apply your knowledge. But I daresay that you possess many bits of esoteric knowledge–that is, strong beliefs–which you will never have the opportunity to apply, and maybe can’t even imagine a use for. (Quick! Find a scenario where you’d need to use the fact that pi is irrational)

          Okay, okay, but that’s kind of cheating. I live in a particular context, and just because that context doesn’t give me opportunities to apply everything I believe doesn’t mean I don’t hold to those beliefs, just that they aren’t relevant. Neither of us can say the same for a belief about lying. Opportunities for deceit abound in day-to-day life, and many people take them regularly.

          Have you ever been up late at night playing a game, or reading a book, or watching a movie, or drinking a beer? It’s 2 AM, and a little voice in your head is saying “You’re going to be exhausted and grumpy in the morning” but you do it anyway because *mumble* hyperbolic discounting *mumble*. Sure enough, in the morning you wake up hungover or exhausted and think “I should have listened to that voice.” You may dispute the “should” I just wrote, but I don’t think it’s fair to say you didn’t believe the voice. You made an accurate prediction! You just didn’t care enough about it at the time. Similar examples are easy to produce. There are lots of factors that go into every decision you make, and many of them are not decisive even if you have preferences about them. Notably, these preferences generally reflect actual features of the world. To a moral realist, morality is an actual feature of the world, and “I want to be moral” is a preference. It just may be outweighed in many (some? all?) particular cases by other preferences a person happens to have, for instance for $100. I know for a fact that morality affects how people act because it has changed how I act in a variety of particular instances. It hasn’t motivated me to give away all I own to starving children, but I do give up 10%. I make a concerted effort not to lie or deceive people, although I do frame things in ways that I think people want to hear. Do these things make me a moral person? No, not at all, not even close, but they demonstrate conclusively (to me, with my personal knowledge of what I do and why I do it) that morality isn’t a completely vacuous concept. (I grant they don’t prove morality has any existence outside of my brain)

          You can’t take credit for being moral while being immoral.

          This is true. But you can acknowledge that your decisions have adverse consequences while still making those decisions.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Joseph Greenwood

            You have numerous beliefs which bear no pertinence whatsoever to your actions. For instance….How many states are there in the United States?

            Quite the contrary, I am willing to ACT on any belief I have. Given the opportunity to place a wager on the number of states, I would do so and do so with a significant sum of money.

            But I daresay that you possess many bits of esoteric knowledge–that is, strong beliefs–which you will never have the opportunity to apply, and maybe can’t even imagine a use for.

            Yes, I cannot ever imagine being in a position where someone wants to wager me regarding the number of states, but I still claim to believe there are 50 because I am willing to act on that belief and I know I am willing. For the record I do not subscribe to the idea of degrees of belief. Belief is 100% or zero.

            Have you ever been up late at night playing a game, or reading a book, or watching a movie, or drinking a beer? It’s 2 AM, and a little voice in your head is saying “You’re going to be exhausted and grumpy in the morning” but you do it anyway because *mumble* hyperbolic discounting *mumble*. Sure enough, in the morning you wake up hungover or exhausted and think “I should have listened to that voice.” You may dispute the “should” I just wrote, but I don’t think it’s fair to say you didn’t believe the voice.

            Good call. I do not debate the fact that I had a belief regarding the fact of whether or not staying up late will have consequences. I deny the idea that I believed that I should not stay up late. Staying up late clearly had benefits in my estimation or I would have already been asleep. On balance I believed that I should stay up. How do I know this? Because I stayed up.

            “I want to be moral” is a preference. It just may be outweighed in many (some? all?) particular cases by other preferences a person happens to have, for instance for $100.

            Claiming to have a preference is an empty claim unless it affects action. If I prefer strawberry ice cream I will choose it over chocolate. To argue that I also prefer chocolate is meaningless. You can only prefer one or the others which is the meaning of prefer. Saying you also prefer chocolate is just attempting to claim credit for something that is false. (otherwise known as lying).

            I know for a fact that morality affects how people act because it has changed how I act in a variety of particular instances. It hasn’t motivated me to give away all I own to starving children, but I do give up 10%.

            You give 10% so you can brag on occasions such as now. It is a meaningless token. You give the 10% to reinforce your self deception that you really care. I grant that it is important to you that you see yourself as a caring person. You aren’t. You care more about whether your grass is water than you do about other people.

            I make a concerted effort not to lie or deceive people, although I do frame things in ways that I think people want to hear.

            If you truly thought you should not lie, then telling the truth takes no effort. The effort we feel is the lie to ourselves. Lying to ourselves is hard to do, but we have evolved a large brain specifically for that purpose.

            Do these things make me a moral person? No, not at all, not even close, but they demonstrate conclusively (to me, with my personal knowledge of what I do and why I do it) that morality isn’t a completely vacuous concept.

            What you are saying is “I can commit adultery but since I feel bad, it proves I am a good person.” 100% unadulterated bullshit.

            But you can acknowledge that your decisions have adverse consequences while still making those decisions.

            True. Most actions have various consequences. We can pretty much predict those consequences. How we act given that knowledge proves what our moral beliefs are.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            Quite the contrary, I am willing to ACT on any belief I have.

            Okay! A belief is something you are willing to act on, if the opportunity presents itself. I’m comfortable with this definition.

            Claiming to have a preference is an empty claim unless it affects action.

            No. Claiming a preference is an empty claim unless it could affect action in some hypothetical situations. If somehow I were given the power to feed all starving kids with no tradeoffs, then I would prefer to feed all starving kids. Ergo, I have a preference for the more moral outcome. The strength of my preference for no starving kids is measured by my willingness to continue to strive for such a situation in the face of trade-offs.

            Actually, no. It’s more than that. Following in Leonard Savage’s tradition, decision-theorists define a preference (more or less) the manner described above, but when I say I have a preference for vanilla icecream over chocolate icecream what I mean is closer to “When I imagine eating vanilla icecream, and then imagine eating chocolate icecream, I feel happier with the former image than the latter.” This is of course positively correlated with action, but it makes sense even for a conscious entity that can take no actions whatsoever.

            You give 10% so you can brag on occasions such as now. It is a meaningless token. You give the 10% to reinforce your self deception that you really care. I grant that it is important to you that you see yourself as a caring person. You aren’t. You care more about whether your grass is water than you do about other people.

            It isn’t a meaningless token because it entails real sacrifices and changes in my consumption habits. Also because it (hopefully) will engender real positive outcomes for other people. A belief is something I am willing to act on, right? Well, I am acting on my belief that morality is important. If you like, my actions show that I don’t think morality is infinitely important, but that’s not the same thing at all! If you go to Brahm’s and buy icecream once a week, and I say “You don’t really like icecream, because if you did, you would spend all your money on it,” then I’m just being silly. Likewise if I said “You buy icecream to reinforce your self deception that you really like icecream.” Self-image is important, and how we act plays into our self-image, but Occam’s razor suggests that people do moral things because they care about doing moral things, and the burden of proof is on those who want to show that it’s because of social pressure, or self-deception, or whatever. Honestly, I think those do play a role in why people do what they do! But my default assumption if someone does something nice is that they do it because they wanted to do something nice.

            Does it matter at all here that I am a deontologist, and I think that my moral obligations can be discharged before all the world’s problems are solved?

            If you truly thought you should not lie, then telling the truth takes no effort.

            False. If you feel no desire whatsoever to lie, but do feel a desire to tell the truth, then telling the truth takes no effort (beyond what it takes to figure out what is true =D). But of course people want to lie! I never disputed that people like doing bad things! If I ate a cookie and my wife got mad because it was the last one, then I would like to make someone else responsible, by lying. But I also want to do the moral thing, and tell the truth. The effort is in overcoming the former urge in favor of the latter. Notably in this example (and in my experience this generally holds), I didn’t want to lie because I enjoy lying, but because I enjoy cookies and not my wife’s wrath. I don’t value the sin for its own sake, but I do value the righteousness for its own sake.

            What you are saying is “I can commit adultery but since I feel bad, it proves I am a good person.” 100% unadulterated bullshit.

            I didn’t say that. I don’t know how you read that into what I said. Also, I agree that experiencing guilt does not discharge any moral obligations–it’s just a helpful reminder that we have moral obligations to discharge. Also, where did I claim I was a good person?

            EDIT: I didn’t think there was anything that needed responding to in your last assertion, but reading it over again, I have changed my mind.

            Most actions have various consequences. We can pretty much predict those consequences. How we act given that knowledge proves what our moral beliefs are.

            How we act given that knowledge demonstrates what our preferences are (by definition, apparently). But unless you claim that people are perfectly moral beings who always perfectly follow their own moral codes–which is a belief that I have never heard articulated by someone who believes in morality–we shouldn’t expect people’s preferences to perfectly align with their moral beliefs.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Joseph Greenwood

            If somehow I were given the power to feed all starving kids with no tradeoffs, then I would prefer to feed all starving kids.

            This is what I mean about moral claims being bullshit. Morals are supposed to be about value yet you want credit for preferring an outcome that costs you nothing. Where is the value? I will continue to call bullshit on any moral claim not demonstrated by action. Currently you could save more dying kids, and you do not. That is your morality. You can’t help yourself to a larger piece of the pie at zero cost.

            Occam’s razor suggests that people do moral things because they care about doing moral things, and the burden of proof is on those who want to show that it’s because of social pressure, or self-deception, or whatever. ,

            I will make no attempt to force you to tell the truth about your motivations You know the truth. If you prefer lying about it, it is for your own reasons.

            Honestly, I think those do play a role in why people do what they do! But my default assumption if someone does something nice is that they do it because they wanted to do something nice.

            That is a start but leaves unanswered the question of why they want to do something nice. Hint: so people will like them.

            Does it matter at all here that I am a deontologist,

            No, all moral claims are bullshit.

            If you feel no desire whatsoever to lie, but do feel a desire to tell the truth, then telling the truth takes no effort

            We always and at every moment do exactly what we want to do. If someone lies, they want to lie. No one is putting a gun to their head.

            I would like to make someone else responsible, by lying. But I also want to do the moral thing, and tell the truth.

            Untrue. You only want one thing, and that is what you do. If you want A more than B, your wanting B is irrelevant and meaningless. The net want is what you want. The rest is just empty claims.

            The effort is in overcoming the former urge in favor of the latter. Notably in this example (and in my experience this generally holds), I didn’t want to lie because I enjoy lying, but because I enjoy cookies and not my wife’s wrath. I don’t value the sin for its own sake, but I do value the righteousness for its own sake.

            The effort is imagined. Bench pressing 500 lbs takes effort. Making a decision to do what you most want to do take no effort at all. The effort is in trying to imagine the world as being different so that you can both have your cake and eat it. It is not that way. There is A; there is B and there is your preference for one or the other.

            But unless you claim that people are perfectly moral beings who always perfectly follow their own moral codes–which is a belief that I have never heard articulated by someone who believes in morality–we shouldn’t expect people’s preferences to perfectly align with their moral beliefs.

            I claim people are not moral beings at all. Their actions line up perfectly with their desires. Their moral statements line up perfectly with their propensity to lie.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I maintain that this is a strange and reductive view on both wants and morals, and it is very dissonant with my internal experience and fairly dissonant with my external observations, but I don’t care to say much more than that at this point in the conversation.

        • FormerRanger says:

          One knows I prefer lying because that is what I do incessantly. I lie because I think I should lie.

          That’s a very interesting comment. I don’t think I’m a shining light of 100% morality, but thinking about it for a few minutes I can realistically say that I don’t lie anywhere near “incessantly.”

          Can you elaborate on this? Are you Eleanor Shelstrop? (“fake” version)

          • HowardHolmes says:

            In every social conversation what goes on in your head is foreign to the persona you portray. You pretend (with great effort) to be interested in what the other person is saying, but a counter narrative runs in your head. Generally what you say is what will get you liked and respected, and is judged that way. It is not what you are really thinking.

            My wife and I live in silence and have no relations with others. Doing this it is easy to see our lies every time we open our mouths. If I occasionally slip up, I might ask her a question. I find that unless it is some information I need for something I am doing I am NOT interested in the answer. I am not asking the question because I am interested, but rather because I want to BE interesting. This is a lie. We find that we do not enjoy talking to others unless it is to pretend to impress them with ourselves.

          • souleater says:

            I feel like I lie constantly… If I didn’t my life would look like this

            vegetarian Girlfriend: Where do you want to go for dinner?
            Me: I want to go to the steak house

            Manager: Why were you late getting into work?
            Me: I was constipated.

            Cashier: How are you today?
            Me: Not so good, my D&D group cancelled on me.

            Mom: Why don’t you ever want to spend time with me?
            Me: Probably 25 years of low amplitude emotional abuse.

            Sometimes I lie because I don’t want people to feel obligated, sometimes I lie because I don’t want to make my problems other peoples problems, sometimes its because I just don’t want to deal with the repercussions. A lot of the time, I think its because I know the truth would cause problems or awkwardness, and the lie is only problematic if you get caught

          • Randy M says:

            Honesty doesn’t mean only saying the parts that would get you into trouble. You can be truthful and tactful. And some of those seem like you might want to actually address the issues they would reveal eventually, right?

            vegetarian Girlfriend: Where do you want to go for dinner?
            You: I’ve got a craving for steak; do you know any good vegetarian dishes that would satisfy that?
            Or
            You: I feel like steak, but I know that doesn’t really sit well with you. I’m going to have a bit before we go out, then we can meet at that veggie place you like and I’ll have a drink.
            Or
            You: You know, let’s talk about our new diet. I know I said I was going to become vegetarian because it was important to you, but I’m finding it is a big issue for me. Can we work out a new compromise?
            ~
            Manager: Why were you late getting into work?
            You: I had personal health issues that took longer to resolve than expected. Can I stay late to compensate?
            ~
            Cashier: How are you today?
            You: All things considered, pretty good.
            Or
            You: I was planning on meeting friends but they canceled. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Maybe next week, huh?
            ~
            Mom: Why don’t you ever want to spend time with me?
            You: I’m sorry you’re feeling neglected mom. Let’s compare schedules and get together soon.
            Or
            You: Actually, you’re extremely critical of me, mom, and now that I’m an adult, I am not going to have that in my life. If you’d like to address this, we can still have a relationship, but otherwise, we’re going to keep it superficial.

          • @Randy

            That seems like something that sounds good in theory but in practice doesn’t work. For the vegetarian girlfriend example, it doesn’t matter how tactfully you put it, it sounds like you are telling her she’s a burden. Unless the meat eating thing really bothers you, it’s best to just lie about wanting to eat steak.

          • J Mann says:

            @Wrong Species – I don’t think it’s a lie to incorporate your broader preferences when you say where you would like to eat. Let’s say your order of preference without looking at plausibility or consequences would be:

            1) Dining in the distant past with your hero, Aristotle, and a Greek translator.

            2) Dining in the more recent past with Hitler, and assassinating him.

            3) Dining at the most expensive restaurant in town, which you cannot afford.

            4) Dining at the second most expensive restaurant, which you could afford, but you would prefer not to spend that much money.

            5) Eating at a steak house, but it would cause your girlfriend to suffer.

            6) Staying home and cooking.

            7) Going to the town’s vegetarian restaurant.

            It’s sort of perverse to say that you have to answer “in the past with Aristotle” every time you get asked where you would like to eat, or else you’re a liar.

            I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say “how about we stay home and cook,” given the preferences above. You would theoretically prefer all of the options above it, except that they either aren’t feasible or would have consequences that move them down your priority list.

            It’s much harder not to lie if your girlfriend asks you “Sometimes, do you wish we could go out for streak?”, but maybe you shouldn’t lie in that case.

          • Randy M says:

            Frankly, if he can’t be honest about his desires, she is a burden. People negotiate all the time in the form of “I want X, but I know you don’t like X, right? Okay then, how about Y?” If she is going to be offended that he even likes steak, I don’t think the relationship will work (but don’t break it off on my account!).

            But even so, you can have an honest response that dodges the larger issue.
            VG: Where do you want to go?
            BF: I think we should go to Dave’s Zucchini shack.
            Unspoken assumption: Not because I’d like it best, but because I value our relationship more than my immediate preferences.
            Or even
            BF: I don’t feel like making a choice, you pick tonight.
            Unspoken assumption: Because you’re going to start a stupid fight if I express a different preference, and I just want to get laid.

            I consider someone honest even if they don’t blab their opinions whenever remotely relevant.

            But if pressed on the issue, it’s preferable (practically and morally) to clear the air:
            VG: It’s so great that you no longer like consuming the flesh of innocent animals.
            BF: Actually, I do still like the taste of a good juicy steak but I value you more/eat it when you’re not around/hide it behind an over sized pile of peas and carrots when we’re together.

            edit: J Mann beat me to it.

            edit: This kind of carefully chosen diction, perhaps uncharitably compared to rules lawyering, may be objected to on the grounds that it is harder for people without good verbal intelligence to successfully pull off, but on the other hand, so is keeping track of the stories you tell to get out of various obligations, so I think that’s a wash.

          • souleater says:

            The way this conversation has turned I feel like I need to disclose that I actually lied about the vegetarian thing. In this case I lied because the true situation takes a while to type out, and I didn’t think explaining everything really forwarded the discussion.

            While my girlfriend is a vegetarian, I too happen to be a vegetarian, and have been since before we met. I lied about wanting steak because its easier to frame the discussion around meat eating than having to spend a 3 paragraphs explain the real situation:

            She has a garlic and onion allergy, and I was raised on italian food. She has and will suffer through her allergic reactions to make me happy, and if I say I want to get italian food she will insist we get it because she wants to be sweet and then patiently tell me the allergic reaction isn’t that bad.
            For obvious reasons, I won’t put my food preferences above her medical needs, and we end up eating at home or with us at a chinese food place or her feeling like a burden.

            The problem is not that I can’t be honest about my desires, its that if I tell her what I want, she prioritizes me even at cost to herself.

            Also, I’m planning to propose in august. Wish me luck!

          • Randy M says:

            Also, I’m planning to propose in august. Wish me luck!

            Good luck, moreso with the marriage than the proposal, because I’m sure you wouldn’t ask if you weren’t pretty confident of the answer.

            if I tell her what I want, she prioritizes me even at cost to herself.

            I’ll assume you’ve looked into alternatives (like a burger restaurant that also has a passable plate of spaghetti or explaining the situation to your local Italian restaurant) and for whatever reason they don’t work.

            Like J Mann and I were saying, you’re not dishonest for deciding to express a want that is based on more than just your tastebuds. “I want to go out for Chinese” synthesizes a weak preference for Italian and a strong desire not to see her suffer.

            But it might be worth discussing how you both seem to prioritize what you think the partner wants even at the expense of their stated or revealed preferences. Something like, “I know you are happiest when I get what I want, but please understand that I also can’t enjoy myself if I see you suffer!”

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Souleater and Randy M

            My point exactly. Souleater tried saying the truth. Randy M fed him back a bunch of bullshit. This further discourages Souleater from being truthful because all he gets back is a bunch of lies trying to one up him.

          • Randy M says:

            😀 I appreciate the honest feedback, Howard. There might be something to that deep down, but now I’m not sure how to respond sans any ulterior motive. Touché.

          • J Mann says:

            @souleater – Congratulations! For what it’s worth, my wife and I do that all the time.

            She tells me that she really wants me to pick my first choice without consideration for her preferences, and then I lie and say my first choice is the thing that will make her happy, because I value her happiness over my restaurant choice, even though she specifically told me not to incorporate that value.

            On the one hand, I wish we hadn’t gotten into that dynamic, because I think it leads to a lot of good but not optimal choices where we are trying to guess the other person’s preference. On the other hand, we have a pretty happy marriage. Go figure.

            Howard, you have a very vigorous writing style that I really enjoy, but you sound pretty sad. I can’t think of much, but if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.

            (And FWIW, I’d argue that Randy and I responded honestly to the hypothetical presented, and that it resulted in more clarity in the discussion, which I personally value.)

          • Nick says:

            When once a sort of official, legal, or nominal Unselfishness has been established as a rule — a rule for the keeping of which their emotional resources have died away and their spiritual resources have not yet grown — the most delightful results follow. In discussing any joint action, it becomes obligatory that A should argue in favour of B’s supposed wishes and against his own, while B does the opposite. It is often impossible to find out either party’s real wishes; with luck, they end by doing something that neither wants, while each feels a glow of self-righteousness and harbours a secret claim to preferential treatment for the unselfishness shown and a secret grudge against the other for the ease with which the sacrifice has been accepted. Later on you can venture on what may be called the Generous Conflict Illusion. This game is best played with more than two players, in a family with grown-up children for example. Something quite trivial, like having tea in the garden, is proposed. One member takes care to make it quite clear (though not in so many words) that he would rather not but is, of course, prepared to do so out of “Unselfishness”. The others instantly withdraw their proposal, ostensibly through their “Unselfishness”, but really because they don’t want to be used as a sort of lay figure on which the first speaker practices petty altruisms. But he is not going to be done out of his debauch of Unselfishness either. He insists on doing “what the others want”. They insist on doing what he wants. Passions are roused. Soon someone is saying “Very well then, I won’t have any tea at all!”, and a real quarrel ensues with bitter resentment on both sides. You see how it is done? If each side had been frankly contending for its own real wish, they would all have kept within the bounds of reason and courtesy; but just because the contention is reversed and each side is fighting the other side’s battle, all the bitterness which really flows from thwarted self-righteousness and obstinacy and the accumulated grudges of the last ten years is concealed from them by the nominal or official “Unselfishness” of what they are doing or, at least, held to be excused by it. Each side is, indeed, quite alive to the cheap quality of the adversary’s Unselfishness and of the false position into which he is trying to force them; but each manages to feel blameless and ill-used itself, with no more dishonesty than comes natural to a human.

            ~Screwtape

          • J Mann says:

            @Nick – thanks, that’s delightful

          • Nick says:

            @J Mann
            Delightful in Screwtape’s sense of the word? 😉

          • J Mann says:

            Whoops – I didn’t mean to quote Lewis, thanks! (I just really enjoyed reading it.)

            We definitely have some of that in my own marriage, but I don’t think it’s a source of evil or resentment, just kind of inefficient in the same way that birthday presents instead of cash are inefficient, and for similar reasons.

          • Nick says:

            Ah. Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you’re suffering from the more severe form Lewis depicts.

          • J Mann says:

            @Nick – don’t worry, I didn’t interpret you that way.

            I was just engaging with the Lewis piece. There’s a sense in which he’s right, and a sense in which it’s just another one of the goofy inefficiencies that we might profitably reform, but manage to work with.

        • Dack says:

          One knows I prefer lying because that is what I do incessantly.

          Sounds like a lie.

      • Deiseach says:

        People do not believe that they should not lie. If they did, they would not lie.

        People believe that people in general should not lie, and certainly you should not lie to me because that is taking unfair advantage of me, but if I lie to you then I have good and pressing reasons, and besides it’s not really a lie, it’s a little white lie or a fib or equivocation or you’re trying to corner me and persecute me.

        We pull this shit for every rule and moral code we break. All of us.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          I agree that when we break moral principles, we have a strong inclination to rationalize rather than repent.

    • Well... says:

      At first I was going to write something really snarky about journalists, and also “Let’s see how miniature Yorkies do when we release them into the wild” but then I realized this isn’t that controversial an idea if you qualify it with “it depends on the type of pet”.

      I’ve always sensed there’s something strange about keeping birds in those little cages. Same for fish, bugs, reptiles, and other animals we haven’t actually domesticated and have to keep in aquariums/terrariums. There might be exceptions if you’re willing to do a lot of work to make sure they have their, uh, creature comforts.

      Caveat: I only read the headline of the article.

      • Deiseach says:

        I do agree that the mania over treating pets as though they were humans (I am never quite certain how much is a joke and how much is serious when people talk about their “fur babies” or being a “cat dad”) is silly. And if you’re going to insist on keeping your cat or dog as an indoor pet (because if you let cats out they will kill small animals like birds and mice) then that’s an element of cruelty to an animal that is not meant to be kept indoors except for fleeting moments to be let outside to relieve themselves or taken on walks. (Also, everyone putting up photos on social media of their cats or dogs licking the faces of small babies, are you people crazy? Animals on the floor, not on the furniture, certainly not in the cradle, and put outside to sleep at night not on your bed! What is wrong with you?)

        On the other hand, there’s plenty of good reasons as to why if you insist on keeping a pet like cats and dogs that you spay or neuter them, as having litters of young that you certainly can’t keep (unless you’re a professional breeder) ends up in cruelty all round and means that yes, you do have to control their sex lives and if they get to keep their sex organs.

        I don’t know how sentimental I’d be about rats; yes, intellectually I realise that pet rats are quite a different matter to wild rats, but I think instinctively of rats and mice as vermin, and if I saw a nest of young rats I would not be all “oh the pity, the empathy of momma rat!”, I’d try to find some way to destroy them before they infested my house.

        • Well... says:

          I am never quite certain how much is a joke and how much is serious when people talk about their “fur babies” or being a “cat dad”

          I know people who do this. It’s weird. I don’t think they are joking, but they aren’t being dead serious either. It’s more like a motte, intended for cuteness rather than argumentation. The bailey is “Yes, OK, I’m a sad lonely person.”

          Also, everyone putting up photos on social media of their cats or dogs licking the faces of small babies, are you people crazy? Animals on the floor, not on the furniture, certainly not in the cradle, and put outside to sleep at night not on your bed! What is wrong with you?

          Hygiene-wise I don’t have a problem with dogs doing this. It’s good for the kids. Helps build their immune systems. Besides, I’ve heard dog saliva has a lot of powerful enzymes in it that kill the really nasty germs.

          The bigger problem with letting a dog lick your kids’ faces while you stand idly by is that to the dog, this means “With approval from my pack’s Alpha, I have superceded the Alpha’s own kids in status; each lick of their faces cements my position above them on the hierarchy.”

          Anyway, good points about how the intuitively cruel thing is actually the humane thing.

          • Randy M says:

            The bailey is “Yes, OK, I’m a sad lonely person.”

            I’m not sure this is the proper use of Motte and Bailey; this isn’t an argument the other person is trying to sneak past you, they just don’t particularly want to put their emotional problems on display (granting that being lonely is a motivation).

            On the one had, I do worry a bit about people who get very devoted to their pets gradually losing sight of the moral distinction between even delightful animals and people.

            But I don’t want to scorn people who take a cute pet to assuage loneliness. Even if it is somewhat self-defeating in some cases, where a devotion to or responsibility for a pet can interfere with opportunities to meet new friends or partners, or even prevent people from feeling able to have children (“I worry if fluffy will feel left out”), despite this, given that modern society is atomizing, people should have a way to mitigate feelings of loneliness.

          • Well... says:

            Yes, to be clear: I don’t scorn people for being lonely, certainly not for finding comfort in a pet. To me the issue is pretending their pet is their kid. I get there are similarities or comparisons you could draw between having pets and having kids, but to actually call your pets your kids is crossing some kind of line for me.

            (Oh and BTW I’m sure I was using motte and bailey wrong; it was the closest metaphor I had cognitively at hand at the time; hopefully it was still clear what I meant.)

          • Randy M says:

            Sure. It used to be a sentiment that offended me; now it just makes me kind of sad.

        • FormerRanger says:

          I’ve had several cats and several dogs in my life. The cats have all been indoor spayed females. The medium to large dogs have had full freedom of the outdoors within a fence around a reasonable size yard. I haven’t had both a dog and a cat at the same time.

          The difference is that outdoor cats, in addition to killing wild birds, are preyed upon by a variety of other predators, chiefly coyotes, but sometimes hawks and fishers. Those who aren’t predated are often killed by cars. Small dogs are also sometimes preyed upon, even if they have a refuge such as a doghouse.

          In my experience indoor cats have little to no interest in going outside. A decent sized house is a small but acceptable territory for them.

          And yes, I talk to my current cat, and she has learned to vocalize in response (different vocalizations than “Feed me, I’m hungry”). She likes the attention, and I enjoy her liking the attention. She is now an old cat, but still sprightly and active and quite obviously happy. Her litter mates (she was born feral) have all perished from the hazards of outdoor life, those who had them tell me.

          I agree that if you let your cat lick your baby’s face, you have obviously never witnessed the full extent of a cat “cleaning” itself.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      “A survey earlier this year found that many British pet owners love their pet more than they love their partner (12%), their children (9%) or their best friend (24%).”

      • Deiseach says:

        As I’ve said before, the English like animals a lot more than they like people 🙂

  8. johan_larson says:

    It has been a week since I set out to play Go every day, and I have kept my promise so far. Thank you to SSCers jgr314 and PedroJSilva who have challenged me to games on the Online Go Server, and are showing me ever so gently how much I don’t know.

    I should mention that jgr314 set up a group called SlateStarCodexers on the server. We currently have three members. If a few more players join, we should be able to organize some events.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      It took me longer than I’d like to admit to realize that you weren’t talking about Pokemon Go…

      • bean says:

        Hmmm…..
        Given their nominal similarities, is there no way we could combine the two?

        • johan_larson says:

          PokeMobs: gather your Pokemon and surround others. If they get packed too tightly, they suffocate.

          It would be a grim game.

      • jgr314 says:

        Name confusion is one of the two major problems with the game go. My personal preference is to switch to the chinese or korean names (weiqi or baduk), but this battle isn’t winnable.

    • Enkidum says:

      Joined. Happy to start a correspondence game with anyone.

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    With the rhetoric about Trump’s Presidential victory being a working-class insurrection against the Republican Party, and one of the most popular Democrats after Biden literally calling his desire to be elected President “Our Revolution”, I wonder: what’s even the definition of a political revolution, and is a working-class revolution in the United States remotely plausible ever?
    Every violent overthrow of a government in the name of the working class (in the last 102 years, at least) has actually been carried out by a vanguard of university graduates, not by workers. And in a regime that changes its Rulers with elections, workers could use their greater numbers to throw elitists out of office, but being done without bloodshed and reversible every few years, it cheapens the meaning of “Revolution” to nearly nothing. We’d need to change the name of political events like France 1789 and Russia 1917 to the French and Russian Super-Important Killy Things.
    Yeah, I dunno where I’m going with this.

    • BBA says:

      A Twitter thread I read a few days ago and lost the link to (I only read Twitter in private mode, in an effort to wean myself off it entirely – so far it isn’t working) suggests that the recent growth in the hard left originates in the Great Recession being particularly hard on employment in fields dominated by elite liberal arts graduates – journalism, law, academia. Thus you have a bunch of overeducated people who find themselves among the proletariat and the “precariat” instead of in the prestigious, high-paying jobs they were expecting to get. This is how you get Occupy, and then the DSA.

      Now these people are not considered “working class” as generally understood in America, because they went to college and “class” is entirely determined by whether you went to college and where, as opposed to your economic status. And so far, their “revolution” hasn’t got that much to show for it. But it’s about as close to a working class revolt as we’re going to get.

  10. Incurian says:

    From the Adversarial Collaboration post (commented on here since I don’t want to be overly obnoxious on a real post):

    Once two people have agreed to be a team, the person with the top-level comment can edit it to clarify they’re not interested in taking more offers.

    That’s not very poly-friendly.

    Snark aside, would it be bad to encourage groups of larger than 2 to collaborate (especially given the low completion rate)?

  11. Jaskologist says:

    I haven’t seen anybody comment here on the Sohrab Ahmari vs David French “feud” yet, and it’s right up our alley. There’s shades of Moldbug in it. Basically, the religious right is debating whether classical liberalism has failed.

    Ahmari got it started with Against David Frenchism:

    Such talk—of politics as war and enmity—is thoroughly alien to French, I think, because he believes that the institutions of a technocratic market society are neutral zones that should, in theory, accommodate both traditional Christianity and the libertine ways and paganized ideology of the other side. Even if the latter—that is, the libertine and the pagan—predominate in elite institutions, French figures, then at least the former, traditional Christians, should be granted spaces in which to practice and preach what they sincerely believe.

    Well, it doesn’t work out that way, and it hasn’t been working out that way for a long time—as French well knows, since he has spent a considerable part of his career admirably and passionately advocating for Christians coercively squeezed out of the public square. In that time, he—we—have won discrete victories, but the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us, and I think that French-ian model bears some of the blame.

    David French responded:

    In essence, Ahmari is forsaking classical liberalism — the commitment to neutral principles (such as free speech, religious liberty, and due process) grounded in respect for individual liberty — for a largely undefined version of Christian statism. Classical liberalism (especially polite classical liberalism) is the path to defeat and decay. Only a more robust statist Christian response can meet the challenge of the illiberal secular onslaught.

    Yet in forsaking classical liberalism, Ahmari is essentially forsaking the framework for ordered liberty established by the Founders. “Frenchism” — to the extent such a thing exists — reflects the two main components of that commitment to ordered liberty. It combines a zealous defense of the classical- liberal order with zealous advocacy of fundamentally Christian and Burkean conservative principles. The government is responsible for securing American liberty; the people are responsible for advancing American virtue.

    If you follow anybody in that sphere, you’ve probably seen them weigh in on the debate. Douthat in particular has had much to say, and will be moderating a live debate between them on September 5 at Catholic University of America, for those in the area.

    • Jaskologist says:

      There have been so many thought-provoking pieces following up on this.

      Ross Douthat:

      French is a religious conservative who thinks that the pre-Trump conservative vision still makes sense. He thinks that his Christian faith and his pro-life convictions have a natural home in a basically libertarian coalition, one that wants to limit the federal government’s interventions in the marketplace and expects civil society to flourish once state power is removed. He thinks that believers and nonbelievers, secular liberals and conservative Christians, can coexist under a classical-liberal framework in which disputes are settled by persuasion rather than constant legal skirmishing, or else are left unsettled in a healthy pluralism. He is one of the few remaining conservatives willing to argue that the invasion of Iraq was just and necessary. And he opposes, now as well as yesterday, the bargain that the right struck with Donald Trump.

      Ahmari, on the other hand, speaks for cultural conservatives who believe that the old conservative fusion mostly failed their part of the movement — winning victories for tax cutters and business interests while marriage rates declined, birthrates plummeted and religious affiliation waned; and appeasing social conservatives with judges who never actually got around to overturning Roe v. Wade. These conservatives believe that the current version of social liberalism has no interest in truces or pluralism and won’t rest till the last evangelical baker is fined into bankruptcy, the last Catholic hospital or adoption agency is closed by an A.C.L.U. lawsuit. They think that business interests have turned into agents of cultural revolution, making them poor allies for the right, and that the free trade and globalization championed by past Republican presidents has played some role in the dissolution of conservatism’s substrates — the family, the neighborhood, the local civitas. And they have warmed, quickly or slowly, to the politics-is-war style of the current president.


      Then alongside these practical power plays and policy moves, the post-fusionists want something bigger: A philosophical reconsideration of where the liberal order has ended up.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Rod Dreher

      The Ahmari vs. French standoff is a version of what Patrick Deneen, in a 2014 TAC article, identified as “a Catholic showdown worth watching.” Deneen identifies the antagonists not as left vs. right, but a dispute between two kinds of conservatives within US Catholicism. On one side are classical liberals — the Neuhaus/Novak/Weigel folks — who believe that Christianity can be reconciled with liberalism, and enrich it. On the other are those — Alasdair MacIntyre, David Schindler — who believe that they are fundamentally incompatible.

      First, if not liberalism, then what? I’m not sure that Ahmari is a Catholic integralist — someone who, broadly speaking, believes that the Church and the State should not be separate — but Catholic integralists have an answer. It is not remotely likely to happen in this fundamentally Protestant country. The Catholic Church can’t even get most of the Americans who profess the Catholic faith to agree with some core Catholic teachings. When integralists convince American Catholics themselves to believe in Catholicism, then we’ll talk.

      • Randy M says:

        Yeah, this shows a weakness of the more strident side. If you cannot even mobilize enough forces to enforce the peace treaty, what makes you think you can actually gain territory?

        On the other hand, if free speech is a compromise between having laws against blaspheming competing gods, and one party pushes the compromise of free speech while the others push enforcing their codes, you end up with a compromise where you enforce some of the codes from the latter groups and give the former no protections. If the side offering free speech instead pushes for their interests, they may be able to introduce free speech as a compromise and satisfy all sides and at least enjoy equal protection.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Compromising between free speech and blasphemy laws, and winning incremental victories over time, has worked out pretty well for the free speech side over time, at least in the US. This doesn’t apply to all institutions, but for the state itself, it absolutely does.

    • It’s hard to take French seriously when he’s so ridiculously naive. He says:

      Moreover, if one rejects kindness, there is no inherent power in cruelty. Do Trump’s insults, for example, deter his opponents or motivate them?

      If the conservatives decided to throw Trump under the bus, does anyone honestly think that would make the left less aggressive towards the right? A common sentiment I’ve heard, more so when Trump first got elected, is that impeaching him would be bad because Pence would become President and he would be much worse, because of his social conservatism.

      I understand wanting to promote Christian values and liberal ones as well. The problem is that French seems to think these go hand in hand and that the best way to promote Christian values is through liberal ones. It’s just wrong.

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. The correct answer to “Do Trump’s insults, for example, deter his opponents or motivate them?” is “Neither. They have no effect whatsoever on his opponents.” The relevant question is actually whether Trump’s public insults deter or motivate his allies. Based on his victory in the GOP primaries, it would seem that among the set of “people who might conceivably vote Republican”, Trump’s Twitter behavior attracts more support than it does alienate and chase off.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        I don’t see anything naive about that. People hate Trump theatrically because he invites them to. The #resistance exists precisely because Trump is big and crude and brash. The minute he’s out of office, it’ll fade away like smoke and fog.

        Will that make the left disappear entirely, of course not. But will it make the slacktivists less energetic, the liberal pundits less strident, the protests more sparsely attended? Undoubtedly.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I might believe that second paragraph if this aggressiveness had not ramped up long before Trump descended the escalator. Check the articles on this blog tagged “things-i-will-regret-writing”, and note the dates.

    • broblawsky says:

      The case French fails to make – and which is, I think, the most trenchant point against Christian statism – is that there cannot be a generically Christian state. By necessity, it must be a sectarian state – specifically Catholic, or Southern Baptist, or Lutheran. We’ve seen this reenacted over and over again throughout history, in the West (as in the European Wars of Religion), in the Middle East (in the perpetual Shia vs Sunni conflicts) and even in the Far East (in the case of Chinese persecution of Buddhism, Christianity, and other minority religions).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The case French fails to make – and which is, I think, the most trenchant point against Christian statism – is that there cannot be a generically Christian state. By necessity, it must be a sectarian state – specifically Catholic, or Southern Baptist, or Lutheran.

        This this this.
        French is utterly, naively wrong, but he’s arguing against people who are building a castle in the air. The foundation for Christian statism would be at least 51% of the population in communion with each other.

        • I don’t really see this as much of an issue. It’s not the 17th century anymore. It’s not even the 1950’s. Christians don’t have the animosity to different sects as they used to. You could have a government that promoted Christian values without it taking a position on the Eucharist.

          • dick says:

            Does it not seem likely that the reason the Presbyterians and Baptists don’t fight with each other today is that one doesn’t have legal authority over the other? I think not having a state religion is one of the central lessons of classical liberalism. To suggest that it no longer applies sounds like, “I think we can tear down the floodwall now, we haven’t had a single flood since it was built.”

          • broblawsky says:

            How confident are you that no one would try to make a grab for the throne? I think the best you could hope for is a sectarian government that tolerates some minority faiths as long as they know their place, like Iran.

          • sharper13 says:

            The problem with solving issues politically is that they quickly become winner-take-all. Political solutions seriously tend towards one-size-fits-all solutions based on what will get the most support being prescribed for everyone. There’s a reason school choice has been such a difficult fight to implement politically, even while at remaining popular with many grassroots constituencies of the politicians opposing it.

            Markets reverse that, because with individuals as the decision-makers, each making many, many individual decisions, they each get their specific needs catered to.

            So while you currently have a “market” for religion where they more-or-less peacefully coexist in the U.S., once there is a State religion, it very quickly ends up that some specific religion wins out and gets official support. At least, every other time it’s been tried, including in other current Democracies which are mostly atheist, where you’d think people would care even less.. Maybe next time it’ll be different, but I think more evidence for that would need to precede the actual attempt.

          • RDNinja says:

            I think you’re right that the old battle lines are irrelevant, but now the divisions are within the denominations themselves. You could easily unite pro-life, anti-gay rights Evangelicals and Catholics, but they would end up in fierce opposition to pro-choice, pro-LGBT Catholics and Evangelicals.

          • I don’t think the legal authority has much to do with current Christian intersectional peaceful coexistence. It has much more to do with the bigger threat of secularism and to a lesser extent Islam. Whether Jesus is physically present in the communion bread seems a lot less salient when the culture promotes drag queen children.

            I understand that having power can change people but can you imagine Baptists and Presbyterians literally wanting to kill each other anytime soon? It just sounds ludicrous.

          • dick says:

            I don’t think the legal authority has much to do with current Christian intersectional peaceful coexistence. It has much more to do with the bigger threat of secularism and to a lesser extent Islam. Whether Jesus is physically present in the communion bread seems a lot less salient when the culture promotes drag queen children.

            I understand that having power can change people but can you imagine Baptists and Presbyterians literally wanting to kill each other anytime soon? It just sounds ludicrous.

            Today, when Presbyterians support legal abortion and a high minimum wage, and Baptists support the opposite, we don’t call it sectarian division, we call it political division. I think one of the lessons of classical liberalism is that being tribalized around policy positions works better than being tribalized around religious sect membership. Every functioning religious community in which people with opposing political views can come together in fellowship and eat casserole in the church basement without arguing about gun control is evidence of that.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            +1

          • Deiseach says:

            You could have a government that promoted Christian values without it taking a position on the Eucharist.

            What’s the Christian value on abortion/gay marriage/trans rights/animal rights/guns/ordaining women/baking cakes for gay trans marriages?

            The only “Christian” values you will get agreement on for government promotion are “It’s nice to be nice, so we should be nice”. That’s not even counting all the people who say “Hey! What about Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu values? What about agnostic/atheist/humanist values? I’m not sending my kid to your school to be turned into an obedient little Christian foot soldier!”

            You have the United Alliance Of Face-aches protesting over memorials on government land. Now, in this particular instance, I think the work in question has little artistic merit and is open to criticism on the grounds in question, but it is also plainly meant naively and sincerely as a memorial to fallen soldiers and the use of a cross is to symbolise a grave, not “Only Christian soldiers count”.

            Imagine what the Face-aches would get up to if you had a government explicitly promoting “Christian values”.

          • Nick says:

            @Deiseach

            The first part of what you said, endorsed; that’s the same argument I make to Jaskologist below.

          • This whole conversation is pretty abstract because Christians don’t have the power to enforce their beliefs on the government level. The best they can hope for is that they win on a few issues that are religiously tinted, like restrictions on abortion. But I was thinking what would happen if we put that all aside and asked what would happen if Christians did somehow have that power, against all odds. I certainly don’t think it would be sectarian in the sense that Presbyterians, for example, would be the national church, persecuting the Baptists or Catholics or even the Mormons.

            As for the liberals, I’m guessing that the overlap between Christians who want a more activist Christian government and those who are perfectly accepting of transgenderism is pretty low.

        • Randy M says:

          I think this valid concern may be able to be mitigated with state religions (rather than national) with easy exit and some weak federal oversight, ala archipelago (or federalism). Even then, I’d prefer smaller states than we have now.

          • Nick says:

            MBD at National Review has argued this wouldn’t even be a violation of separation of church and state, on the grounds that the early states were confessional. I’d likewise be fine with a compromise like that, and it’s surely more likely than turning the entire US into a confessional state or something. Which is not to say likely simpliciter.

          • liate says:

            @Nick
            Well, that was before the 14th amendment. The “no law respecting the establishment of a religion” clause of the first amendment was incorporated (judged as applying to the states instead of just the federal government) in Everson v. Board of Education. It might theoretically be possible for rights to be de-incorporated, but that seems both unlikely and like to de-incorporate other Bill of Rights rights.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Randy

            So let’s say there’s a Wahabi fundamentalist state and a 12 year old girl gets raped and is all set to be executed for it. She’d be able to request extradition? The whole legal system of the state would be considered legitimate, but avoidable?

            This isn’t a gotcha. This is a question about the mandate of the state, and an implication about the reason the Articles of Confederation didn’t work.

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “I think this valid concern may be able to be mitigated with state religions (rather than national) with easy exit and some weak federal oversight, ala archipelago (or federalism). Even then, I’d prefer smaller states than we have now”

            As a Californian I’m all in on smaller States, in terms of bringing back State Religions (IIRC Connecticut had the last one) a quick web search shows me that they’re only a few States that come close to having a majority sect.
            Alabama is about 31% Baptist, Rhode Island is about 44% Catholic, and Utah is 55% Mormon.
            Having a state religion may not mean increased religiousity though, there’s a “Church of England” with relatively empty pews, which brings something to mind:
            Lots of studies show that folks who attend religious services at least once a week tend to be happier and more prosperous than those who rarely go, but the completely secular tend to do better than those who profess faith but attend church less than two times a month, could enforced attendance like in colonial New England be beneficial?

            In Oakland, California there’s a “Humanist Hall” across the street from a church, so I could imagine even atheists having a required place to be once a week.

            Though the correlation may go the other way and being happier and more prosperous is what encourages folks to meet once a week.

          • Randy M says:

            @Hoopyfreud
            I suppose I should have said State denominations, but I won’t fight the hypothetical.
            Let’s consider the status quo. Let’s say some state in the union decided to make Jay Walking a capital crime. Or tagging, or hate speech, or litter, or other minor acts that in some areas wouldn’t even be offenses. Does the federal government have a say in this?

            I believe in this case it would eventually go to the Supreme Court under the “No cruel and unusual punishments” clause. It would probably be similar under hypothetical (or rather, historic) ‘individual states can have state religions America’. An over arching set of rules would be agreed to that would include things like no cruel and unusual punishment, but wouldn’t preclude a state giving official recognition to various degrees to a particular creed.

            Just because Rome decided who would be executed, that doesn’t mean Jerusalem was secular, by our understanding of the term anyway (the High Priest may have disagreed).

            Here’s a random thought from out of nowhere, though, for an alt-America (not necessarily just for $Christian_America). Forbid capital punishment entirely. Even forbid life imprisonment. The harshest punishment is ten years in jail, or exile. However, if no other state is willing to accept the convicted exile–if they all agree the verdict was fair and the crime beyond forgiveness–then he is eligible for capital punishment.

            @Plumber
            I don’t actually see this happening short some revolutionary turmoil that I don’t want or some widespread revival that I won’t predict.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            It would probably be similar under hypothetical (or rather, historic) ‘individual states can have state religions America’. An over arching set of rules would be agreed to that would include things like no cruel and unusual punishment, but wouldn’t preclude a state giving official recognition to various degrees to a particular creed.

            “To various degrees” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. If there’s an underlying anti-theocratic strand of society that is preventing the passage of, for example, blasphemy laws, I think it’s inevitable that you inherit the “problems” of liberalism with them. Your grand bargain is much, much trickier to strike than I think you think it is. Perhaps impossible.

          • So let’s say there’s a Wahabi fundamentalist state and a 12 year old girl gets raped and is all set to be executed for it.

            I don’t know much about the Wahabi, but under Islamic law the Hadd offense of illicit intercourse requires consent, so rape doesn’t qualify. Further, the death penalty is only for offenders who have had the opportunity for licit intercourse, so unless the 12 year old had either been married or a concubine, even if convicted she would only get a beating.

            Am I missing some failure of the Wahabis to adhere to any of the four Sunni schools of law? I’m pretty sure the Saudis are Hanbali.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Am I missing some failure of the Wahabis to adhere to any of the four Sunni schools of law?

            My mistake – the incident I’m thinking of was in Afghanistan, not Saudi Arabia, and the victim was imprisoned, not executed. I got it confused with the SA case of the victim of a rape being punished for being in her rapist’s car and the execution by guerrillas of a Somalian rape victim.

      • Nick says:

        ETA: (Epistemic status: Thinking aloud.)

        Yes, it must be sectarian. How long is that a deal that Christians can afford to balk at, though, as the status quo rapidly deteriorates? There’s a good chance your eleven year old will come home from public school one day saying she’s transgender. Her psychologist will agree, and if you demur you will be a bigot, and might even appear as such on national media. What is a Catholic state going to do to you worse than that? Will we bring back the Spanish Inquisition? I don’t think so. If you want to know what a 21st century sectarian state looks like, you’re better off looking at Poland than the Wars of Religion. We’ve contended with liberalism a few centuries now, after all, and we actually have learned a few lessons from that.

        • DeWitt says:

          you’re better off looking at Poland than the Wars of Religion.

          Everyone with half a brain getting out when they can, if they can, and never looking back? Sounds about right.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Isn’t that because of economics? Largely because they’re still recovering from a half century of communism. Plus all the mass murder.

          • bzium says:

            Yes, it’s because of economics. The implied claim that people were emigrating en masse because of religion seems very dubious to me.

            It also doesn’t look like everybody with “half a brain” is desperate to get out, but then maybe I only think that because I’m one of the 35+ million brainless idiots.

        • S_J says:

          Will we bring back the Spanish Inquisition?

          Epistemic status: only as serious as Monty Python.

          Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Their chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear. Their two chief weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency. Their three chief weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Amongst their four weapons are such elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, a fanatical devotion to the Pope, and ….

          More seriously:

          There’s a good chance your eleven year old will come home from public school one day saying she’s transgender. Her psychologist will agree, and if you demur you will be a bigot, and might even appear as such on national media.

          The psychologists and media may require you to perform an auto-da-fé of some sort. Public contrition in front of a nationwide TV audience. Acquiescence to a treatment program for your child, even if you think that action is comparable to encouraging an anorexic to continue their starvation-diet.

      • Jaskologist says:

        That was pretty much Dreher’s rebuttal: “The Catholic Church can’t even get most of the Americans who profess the Catholic faith to agree with some core Catholic teachings. When integralists convince American Catholics themselves to believe in Catholicism, then we’ll talk.”

        But I’m not sure it’s accurate. There are a lot of things the different sects of Christianity agree on, especially contra liberalism.

        • Nick says:

          I think there’s value in having the state profess a kind of Mere Christianity, but I worry it would be harmful in the long run. The lesson of Deneen’s critique of liberalism is that even if the state declines to act on a vision of the common good, this will simply be taken as a new vision of its own, one dependent perhaps on folks’ having more comprehensive visions, but undermining those all the same. Adopt a minimal Christianity, and in a generation or two that minimal Christianity will become one more sect insisting, say, that Christianity Has No Doctrine On Abortion or some such nonsense. And this will put Christians who belong to actual traditions like Catholicism or Lutheranism in a bind once again.

          So by all means, let the government profess a certain sect.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Note i am a non-christian:
        I think the kind of state a christian would prefer to live in isn’t necessarily one that goes so far into promoting religion that it is sectarian. Things like banning abortion, blue laws, public displays of generic religiosity / public prayer, and certain bans on obscenity are sufficiently vanilla that they are acceptable to about 90+% of christians.

        Most of what is described above was, in fact, so generic that having them be part and parcel of state and local governments was not seen as violating the separation of church and state until the postwar era. The governments many of these traditionalists grew up with were secular by the standards of broad history but were far less hostile to [specifically christian] religions than current governments.

        The question might be what political battles would be fought if secularism as we knew it was non-existant and christians were the only dominant political force; then you might have a resumption of the old political battles over things like regulating liquor which do split along sectarian lines. But such questions are academic since barring a massive revival movement + mass deportations no such domination could occur.

      • John Schilling says:

        is that there cannot be a generically Christian state. By necessity, it must be a sectarian state – specifically Catholic, or Southern Baptist, or Lutheran

        I disagree. This isn’t the seventeenth century, and even if it were, there were a number of successful multisectarian Christian states in seventeenth-century Europe. It is entirely possible to have a system where everyone has to be a member of some Christian denomination but no one sect is privileged over all others.

        If that’s going to be enforced by law, then you need a bureaucracy or court to decide on whether or not Mormons and Unitarians are really Christians, but even then it wouldn’t follow that the court would have to, or is even likely to, decide that only e.g. Missouri Synod Lutherans are True Christians. If, as I thing French et al would prefer, the enforcement is mostly unofficial and less than absolute, if it’s a matter of religions losing their protected-group status so that Christians can socially and economically ostracize the atheists and the state’s role is limited to things like making Christmas a holdiay and laughing at the guy who sues his boss for firing him when he took off Eid al-Fitir, then you just need a broad informal consensus and can afford some fuzziness around the edges. Bob the Baptist says that Alice is a Damn Dirty Atheist what needs a good shunning, and Charlie the Catholic goes along with it because that’s a clear case of ‘us’ vs ‘them’. Mike the Mormon counts as Christian in Utah but gets the cold shoulder in New York; Jerry the Jew is tolerably half-Christian in New York but not in Alabama, and none of this breaks a workable system.

        I think this is the most likely stable outcome for a “Christian” United States. No denomination of Christianity is strong enough(*) in America for its adherents to imagine that they will come out on top if they try to shun everyone who doesn’t adopt their particular brand, almost all American Christians think they are collectively strong enough to win out over the atheists, etc, if they presented a unified front and the Law wasn’t standing in their path, and none of them really care enough about the intra-sectarian differences to risk breaking a pragmatically useful alliance supporting things they do really care about.

        * The Catholics might be large enough, but hindered by the fact that American Catholics aren’t going to trust their own church hierarchy with real power over their lives.

        • broblawsky says:

          What makes you think that no court will, in fact, decide, that Missouri Synod Lutherans are the only True Christians? All you have to do is get 5 Missouri Synod Lutherans on the Supreme Court.

          • John Schilling says:

            Five extremely stupid, selfish Missouri Synod Lutherans. Since Missouri Synod Lutherans make up ~0.8% of US Christians and extremely stupid people make up ~0.8% of the Supreme Court, I don’t think this is a serious danger.

          • Nick says:

            No, what the Court needs is four more Catholics, dammit.

          • broblawsky says:

            It’s only stupid and selfish if you don’t win.

          • John Schilling says:

            It is stupid and selfish because you won’t win. The Supreme Court is not in fact omnipotent.

          • broblawsky says:

            In our government, under our Constitution, yes. Our Constitution also prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Ultimately, any Constitution that permitted the establishment of a state religion would also have to give someone the power to decide whether or not any given individual or institution is a follower of that religion in good standing – most likely, some kind of Supreme Court. In Iran, it’s either the Supreme Court or the Special Clerical Court, as far as I understand it, depending on who violates the law in question.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @broblawsky:
            In that context “getting 5 Synod Lutherans on the Supreme Court” is either anti-climactic or impossible.

            If what you really mean is that the officially sanctioned religion tends to be redefined as necessitated by the powerful, I happen to agree this is likely, but it’s quite different from your original statement.

          • John Schilling says:

            The current US government definitely has the authority to decide who is or is not a lawyer, but the prospect of a Supreme Court ruling that only graduates of Harvard or Yale can practice law in Federal courts is laughable. “Five Supreme Court justices favor X” plus “X is within the Federal government’s power” does NOT equal “X will be mandated by law”.

            It is unlikely that the United States will adopt Christianity as an official state religion, but if it does, virtually all plausible paths to that end will involve an agreement among many Christian denominations that no one sect will be placed above the others as the One True Christianity of America. In which case, “Haha! Justice Anderson was only pretending to be a Presbyterian, he was secretly Lutheran all along, and now that he’s on the bench it’s all Lutherans, nothing but Lutherans, or off to the camps with you!”, will fail and will so obviously fail that it would be mind-numbingly stupid to try. Do we really need to explain to you the many, many forms such a failure could take?

        • dick says:

          It is entirely possible to have a system where everyone has to be a member of some Christian denomination but no one sect is privileged over all others.

          But abortion is either going to be legal or illegal, right? And the minimum wage will either be low or high, and religious education in schools will either discuss the Trinity or it won’t, etc, etc. The extent to which the sects disagree on these policies is the extent to which sectarianism will demolish the facade of unity among Christians.

          • John Schilling says:

            Only to the extent that these things already “demolish the facade of unity among Americans”. And while there are a few US citizens who count themselves “ashamed to be Americans” over the nation’s refusal to take their side on these issues, that’s very much a minority belief. So is e.g. the US surrendering sovereignty to the United Nations because the UN’s policies are more object-level aligned with the speaker, or expelling either Texas or California because the remnant US would be more favorable to the speaker’s faction.

            In a hypothetical United Christian States of America, there would be a Liberal Christian Party and a Conservative Christian Party, yes. The Conservative Christian Party is not going to be trying to legalize or legitimize Islam simply because the Muslims will vote with them to ban abortion.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that there are Christian churches in the US with very different positions on all these issues. Some Christian denominations have openly gay ministers/pastors/priests, some have ministers/pastors/priests preaching that homosexuality is a sin. (There’s a church near where I live that has had a rainbow flag on their sign for the last decade; I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they’re pretty welcoming to gays who want to join.). Some Christian denominations oppose abortion, some are neutral; some tend to align with Democrats on economic issues, some with Republicans. Catholic social teachings look a hell of a lot more like Bernie Sanders than they do like Mitt Romney.

            Nearly all Christian denominations in the US are pretty positively inclined toward Jews, so you’d probably be looking at a coalition between Christians and Jews, with Jews maybe more accepted in theory than in practice when you got away from the coasts and big cities. As John says, probably Mormons would be sort-of members of that coalition, with more acceptance out West and less elsewhere. And there are plenty of other boundary cases–Unitarians and Quakers have been part of the US forever, but they’re kinda weird relative to mainstream US Christianity–are they in or out? How about Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists?

          • dick says:

            In a hypothetical United Christian States of America, there would be a Liberal Christian Party and a Conservative Christian Party, yes. The Conservative Christian Party is not going to be trying to legalize or legitimize Islam simply because the Muslims will vote with them to ban abortion.

            I’m not sure how that’s relevant, it’s not quite what I’m predicting. I’m talking more about the reverse, the process by which division occurs within those parties. Today, we don’t think of Christians as being divided on (for example) the issue of affirmative action. It might be the case that Presbyterians support it more than Baptists, but that’s not a tribal division – or rather, the tribal division is dominated by all the other stuff the left and right disagree on, not the other stuff Presbyterians and Baptists disagree on.

            In your UCSA, that will no longer be true. As long as half the country wants more affirmative action and the other half wants less, the parties will self-organize until one of them is the pro-affirmative action party and the other is the anti-affirmative action party, and bang, affirmative action is now a religious issue that divides Christians. It won’t matter that there’s nothing about Presbyterianism that a priori leads to supporting affirmative action, any more than it currently matters that there’s nothing about opposing abortion that a priori leads to opposing corporate taxes. Once they correlate, they will reinforce – that’s the nature of tribalism.

          • John Schilling says:

            In your UCSA, that will no longer be true. As long as half the country wants more affirmative action and the other half wants less, the parties will self-organize until one of them is the pro-affirmative action party and the other is the anti-affirmative action party, and bang, affirmative action is now a religious issue that divides Christians.

            Yes, exactly like affirmative action is now an issue that divides Americans, without stopping them from being Americans or from running the United States of America as an American country. I do not see how s/American/Christian turns something that clearly does work tolerably well for Americans into something that will fail for Christians.

            And it doesn’t lead to a requirement for explicit sectarian dominance, any more than e.g. Texans mostly oppose gun control and Californians mostly support it requires that we decide that either Texas or California is the One True American State.

            Possibly you are misunderstanding what other people are claiming. Nobody is suggesting that if the United States becomes an explicitly or strongly-implicitly Christian state, everybody will agree on every political issue or even that everybody will agree that one group of Christians will get to decide every political issue.

          • dick says:

            Possibly you are misunderstanding what other people are claiming.

            There are several over-lapping discussions going on, so we may well be talking past each other. The thing I’m arguing against is the idea that Christian sects won’t be divided against each other in a Christian state because they aren’t divided now. I’m not saying that the UCSA would devolve in to religious warfare, just that it would expose and amplify the divisions that exist and create new ones as new tribal allegiances form, resulting in sectarian divisions we don’t have (or don’t notice) today. In other words, I’m saying that this “Presbyterians and Baptists don’t hate each other” thing we have going is a result of liberalism, something we would lose if we abandon it.

            Furthermore (and the next part I’m much less sure about), I think that one of the lessons of classical liberalism is that having a country divided along ideological lines is just inherently better than a country that’s divided along sectarian lines. Having ideological tribes isn’t great – it’d be nice if e.g. people decided whether they supported abortion and whether they supported corporate tax hikes independently, rather than joining the tribe that supports both or the one that opposes both – but I don’t think that’s an option, as long as we’re using monkey brains to do our thinking. So, since we have tribalism, I think history has proven that left/right tribes work better than Catholic/Anglican tribes (or for that matter, Northern/Southern tribes or Tutsi/Hutu tribes).

          • Randy M says:

            So, since we have tribalism, I think history has proven that left/right tribes work better than Catholic/Anglican tribes (or for that matter, Northern/Southern tribes or Tutsi/Hutu tribes).

            Previously you were saying that the evidence that religious tribalism was bad was lack of arguing in church (Every functioning religious community in which people with opposing political views can come together in fellowship and eat casserole in the church basement without arguing about gun control is evidence of that.), which I’m not going to argue against (because I don’t want arguing in Church, and I know there has been, etc.) but here you are making reference to civil war.

            I think you are on shakier ground that political affiliation is less likely to lead to violent conflict than religious. There’s a lot of confounders, like the levels of prosperity. And a lot of historical examples of religious conflicts were along political lines.

            Also, I’m not sure why blue versus gray is different from blue versus red. Because participants in the American Civil War saw their affiliation as a member of a state, rather than as a member of a supra-state party? I think we can find examples of ideological rather than geographical civil war, even if you don’t think the US civil war counts as ideological.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are several over-lapping discussions going on, so we may well be talking past each other. The thing I’m arguing against is the idea that Christian sects won’t be divided against each other in a Christian state because they aren’t divided now.

            But they are divided now, in exactly the way you say they would be divided in that hypothetical future. Some denominations support abortion as a woman’s choice, gay marriage, extensive social safety nets, etc, and some don’t. This does not result in their saying “Those Presbyterians aren’t real Christians, only us Lutherans are real Christians”, or any other such thing, and I don’t see why that would change if we were to de facto or de jure drive the minority of Jews, Atheists, Muslims, etc out of American politics.

          • dick says:

            @Randy M

            …but here you are making reference to civil war.

            I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that, before liberalism, it was common to have one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another, and the contribution of liberalism to the world was, “What if we tried not doing that.”

            @John Schilling

            …I don’t see why that would change if we were to de facto or de jure drive the minority of Jews, Atheists, Muslims, etc out of American politics.

            I thought we were doing a little more than that. Here’s David French from one of the original essays OP posted:

            In essence, Ahmari is forsaking classical liberalism — the commitment to neutral principles (such as free speech, religious liberty, and due process) grounded in respect for individual liberty — for a largely undefined version of Christian statism. Classical liberalism (especially polite classical liberalism) is the path to defeat and decay. Only a more robust statist Christian response can meet the challenge of the illiberal secular onslaught.

            That’s what I’m attempting to predict the outcome of – not just an America from which the non-Christians have been mysteriously removed, but an America that gives up on the whole classical liberal idea of trying to appease everyone with neutral laws. He imagines that the new un-neutral laws will favor “Christians” and disfavor “non-Christians”, but as soon as the illiberal government has to decide a policy that the Christian sects disagree on, the laws will be favoring one sect over another.

            What happens then, I dunno, this is a wacky hypothetical. If the UCSA is dominated by one sect, maybe there’s no overt fighting but the other sects feel like persecuted minorities. If the UCSA is roughly split, maybe the different sects will exist in a state of tension like the two political parties do today. But what I think won’t happen, what cannot happen, is that the Baptists says, “Well, the Lutherans won the vote and abortion is legal, but that’s okay because we’re all Christians and we’re all on the same side here.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ dick:

            I just meant that, before liberalism, it was common to have one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another, and the contribution of liberalism to the world was, “What if we tried not doing that.”

            Is it? The spread of liberalism didn’t stop European nations from enthusiastically colonising the rest of the globe, nor did it have much of a noticeable impact on the popularity of euthanasia and scientific racism. (Indeed, the biggest opponent of these latter things was the Catholic Church, hardly a standard-bearer of liberalism.) America, which is usually considered to have been the most liberal major country out there, had a decades-long programme of ethnic cleansing directed against the Indians, was one of the last Western countries to abolish slavery, and had an elaborate legal and cultural system of discrimination against black Americans until within living memory. There was a period of a few decades in the late 20th century when “Look at the content of someone’s character, not the colour of their skin” was the prevalent view, but with the rise of identity politics this sort of colourblindness is ailing fast, if not already on life support.

            More generally, I’m not sure where the meme that integralist societies will inevitably collapse due to religious infighting comes from. I mean, I guess it’s true that all socio-political arrangements inevitably break down, but if you take a serious look at Western history I think it’s difficult to argue that integralism is inherently less stable than liberalism. Integralism was the norm in Europe from the late Roman period (and arguably earlier, if you count the old Graeco-Roman poleis with their civic cults, but I’ll stick to Christian integralism because that’s the form under discussion), began to decline with the rise of Protestantism, and finally ceased to be normative some time in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. So, that’s a period of about 1500 years in which integralism was the normal way for Christian/European/Western polities to be organised. As for liberalism, the USA is normally considered the world’s first properly liberal state, although if we’re taking a strict definition of liberalism as “The government has to be (as far as possible) completely neutral between competing religious and moral views”, then even the US wouldn’t count until the 1960s. Either way, however, liberalism has been the norm for far less time than integralism was, and is to all appearances already starting to collapse. So I’m not sure that there’s much justification for the idea that liberalism is more robust than integralism.

            As a final point, I don’t even think that liberalism is necessary to preserve order in multi-cultural countries. Arrangements like the Ottoman millet system, Dutch pillarisation and Swiss localism seem to have done a good enough job at maintaining peace between different religious and ethnic groups, for example; conversely, liberalism has only had to deal with multiculturalism for several decades, and already the prognosis for long-term success looks poor.

          • albatross11 says:

            The way this plays out much of the time now is that we end up with a compromise position that nobody’s entirely happy or unhappy with. Absent Roe v Wade, I expect this is what we’d have in the US w.r.t. abortion–most states would have more restrictions on abortion than the strongest pro-choicers would like, and fewer than the strongest pro-lifers would like.

            Sometimes, one side wins and drives the victory home and the other side is just defeated, but most of the time, we end up with compromise and then various attempts to slide the compromise one way or the other when your side gets power.

          • dick says:

            Is it? The spread of liberalism didn’t stop European nations from …

            I agree that America is not a perfectly liberal country, and that countries who claim to believe in classical liberalism often fail to uphold it, but I don’t know how that’s relevant here? It seems orthogonal to what we’re discussing.

            I’m not sure where the meme that integralist societies will inevitably collapse due to religious infighting comes from.

            I didn’t know either, and “collapse” is a strong word. I agree that having a state religion used to be the norm, that’s what I was saying in the para you quoted. I don’t think historical examples are a very good guide towards what would happen in a Christian USA in 2020, and I’m not sure it’s all that relevant, either – I don’t think Amari et al are discussing an alternate-reality path our country could’ve taken, they’re telling modern real-world Christians to vote differently today.

            And I’m saying, when he makes the argument that the country would be better off if Christians voted for more explicitly Christian laws and legislators, he’s cheating by pretending that there is a unified group called “Christians” who share a coherent worldview and want more-or-less the same thing from their government. The fact that, even if they succeeded and replaced 100% of our government with devout Christians, we would still have the same old fights over abortion and evolution and taxes and so forth, because Christians are divided on those issues, is a way to illustrate that.

            Either way, however, liberalism has been the norm for far less time than integralism was, and is to all appearances already starting to collapse.

            I don’t know what that means, but I’m pretty sure I disagree with it and it sounds like it merits its own digression. If you’re referring to SJW/woke politics, and suggeting that it constitutes a threat to classical liberalism, then… let’s just say that my response would be dismissive enough that it would be unfair of me to type it out before you get a chance to explain what you mean in more detail.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I agree that America is not a perfectly liberal country, and that countries who claim to believe in classical liberalism often fail to uphold it, but I don’t know how that’s relevant here? It seems orthogonal to what we’re discussing.

            If you argue that liberalism is good because it stops race-based domination, then it seems relevant to point out that liberalism’s historical track record when it comes to stopping race-based discrimination is somewhat patchy.

            Alternatively, if you’re actually arguing that “the contribution of liberalism to the world was, ‘What if we tried not doing that’, although nobody actually listened”, then that may be true, but it also deflates the ideology’s achievements somewhat.

            And I’m saying, when he makes the argument that the country would be better off if Christians voted for more explicitly Christian laws and legislators, he’s cheating by pretending that there is a unified group called “Christians” who share a coherent worldview and want more-or-less the same thing from their government. The fact that, even if they succeeded and replaced 100% of our government with devout Christians, we would still have the same old fights over abortion and evolution and taxes and so forth, because Christians are divided on those issues, is a way to illustrate that.

            Not really. Ahmari’s essay refers to “traditional Christians”, “religious conservatives”, “conservative Christians” and the like, so it’s pretty clear that he’s referring to traditional/conservative Christians, not liberal ones.

            I don’t know what that means, but I’m pretty sure I disagree with it and it sounds like it merits its own digression. If you’re referring to SJW/woke politics, and suggeting that it constitutes a threat to classical liberalism, then… let’s just say that my response would be dismissive enough that it would be unfair of me to type it out before you get a chance to explain what you mean in more detail.

            You don’t think that half the political spectrum adopting race- (gender-, sexuality-, etc.-)based identity politics is a threat to classical liberalism? It seems to me that it’s exactly the sort of “one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another”-type situation you credited liberalism with having done away with. So yes, I do think the rise of SJ is a threat to classical liberalism; there are also the rises in suicide, mental illness, single-parent families, and so on, which aren’t exactly great advertisements for the success of the liberal project.

          • dick says:

            If you argue that liberalism is good because it stops race-based domination… Alternatively, if you’re actually arguing that “the contribution of liberalism to the world was, ‘What if we tried not doing that’, although nobody actually listened”, …

            “Liberalism” is not a government achieving equality, as depicted in Star Trek, it’s just a government that tries for equality. I argued that it is better than what came before it, which was governments that don’t try. It seems like you’re using a non-central definition of that word?

            You don’t think that half the political spectrum adopting race- (gender-, sexuality-, etc.-)based identity politics is a threat to classical liberalism? It seems to me that it’s exactly the sort of “one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another”-type situation you credited liberalism with having done away with.

            No. Identity politics is not a threat to liberalism, it’s a feature of it, because we reserve that term for the second group to get some power. We don’t use it to describe, say, the whites who wanted to continue owning slaves, or the men who tried to deny women the vote.

            Living in a liberal government that strives for equality does not mean that the majority stops oppressing the minority, the latter smiles sweetly and says thank you, and then we all live together in harmony. It means that everyone squabbles with everyone, trying to get as much power for their own side as possible, the government tries to decide their squabbles neutrally, and sometimes your side loses.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Liberalism” is not a government achieving equality, as depicted in Star Trek, it’s just a government that tries for equality. I argued that it is better than what came before it, which was governments that don’t try. It seems like you’re using a non-central definition of that word?

            But I think lots of “liberal” governments didn’t even try for equality, at least not in a global sense. E.g., Jim Crow-era America clearly wasn’t trying and failing to make all its citizens equal; it was actively preventing them from being so.

            No. Identity politics is not a threat to liberalism, it’s a feature of it, because we reserve that term for the second group to get some power. We don’t use it to describe, say, the whites who wanted to continue owning slaves, or the men who tried to deny women the vote.

            “Identity politics” doesn’t just refer to a group trying to gain power or equality, it’s a specific outlook which involves treating people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals. Somebody who says that Dante, Homer, and Nietzsche all represent the “white male” perspective is engaging in identity politics, as is somebody who claims that the offspring of a white trailer-trash single mother is privileged whereas Barack Obama’s kids are oppressed; Martin Luther King wasn’t engaged in identity politics, even though his political activism was focused on improving conditions for a particular group, because he wanted people to be seen primarily as individuals rather than as black or white.

            Living in a liberal government that strives for equality does not mean that the majority stops oppressing the minority, the latter smiles sweetly and says thank you, and then we all live together in harmony. It means that everyone squabbles with everyone, trying to get as much power for their own side as possible, the government tries to decide their squabbles neutrally, and sometimes your side loses.

            I’m surprised I have to tell you this, but a country which is divided into squabbling sectional interest groups is going to be a bad place to live in, because there’s going to be no social trust or capacity for collective action. It’s also not going to remain liberal for very long, because people are going to fear their enemies getting power more than they fear the state, and are consequently going to demand greater state power to protect them from the other side (as J. S. Mill pointed out back in the 19th century). Then, of course, there’s the likelihood that one side will actually get power and use it to oppress everyone else, that is if the country doesn’t pull a Yugoslavia and fall into civil war first.

          • dick says:

            But I think lots of “liberal” governments didn’t even try…

            If you like. I don’t like arguing about semantics on the internet, I think it is the Most Boring Thing in the World. Feel free to replace my usages of “liberalism” with “the thing described in the wikipedia article on Liberalism.”

            [Identity politics is] a specific outlook which involves treating people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals.

            That’s a pretty derogatory way to put it, but yeah, it’s when someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group. And I’m saying, that’s a feature, not a bug. Eight thousand years from now, there’ll still be a Martian supporting a policy just because it’s good for Martians. And you’ll be there going, “…but that policy is bad for Earthlings, he’s using identity politics!” Yes, he is, and so are you when you point out that it’s bad for Earthlings. That’s what a liberal society looks like, a bunch of different groups squabbling.

            I’m surprised I have to tell you this, but a country which is divided into squabbling sectional interest groups is going to be a bad place to live in, because there’s going to be no social trust or capacity for collective action.

            I know, I know. Not what I would’ve picked either. Take it up with the Creator that used tribalistic monkey brains to copy off of when creating us in his image.

            However, if you’re gay, the world where gays and straights squabble over how many rights gays should get beats the shit out of the world where the straights decide and the gays don’t get a say. And (I think) the former is objectively better than the latter; meaning, the oppression that the majority inflicts on a powerless minority tends to be, if one could quantify it, far greater than the oppression that the minority inflicts on the majority after they get some political power.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you like. I don’t like arguing about semantics on the internet, I think it is the Most Boring Thing in the World. Feel free to replace my usages of “liberalism” with “the thing described in the wikipedia article on Liberalism.”

            I’m not sure that helps your position. I don’t think the politicians who passed Jim Crow laws cared much about “equality before the law”, for example.

            That’s a pretty derogatory way to put it, but yeah, it’s when someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group.

            “When someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group” isn’t an accurate paraphrase of “treating people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals”.

            I know, I know. Not what I would’ve picked either. Take it up with the Creator that used tribalistic monkey brains to copy off of when creating us in his image.

            The traditional solution was to encourage people to identify with the nation as a whole rather than their sectional interest group. If US citizens identify primarily as “American” rather than “white” or “black” or “male-to-female transsexual trapped in a ciswoman’s body” or whatever, then they’re more likely to support policies which benefit America as a whole, rather than specifically white Americans at the expense of black Americans. The problem with woke politics is that it encourages people to identify as white or black or whatever rather than as Americans, creating increased social conflict as people increasingly ignore the common good of the nation as a whole and instead focus on screwing as many privileges as possible out of anybody who doesn’t fit in with their own narrow interest group.

            And (I think) the former is objectively better than the latter; meaning, the oppression that the majority inflicts on a powerless minority tends to be, if one could quantify it, far greater than the oppression that the minority inflicts on the majority after they get some political power.

            Citation needed. If anything, it’s more likely to be the other way around — a powerless minority can be mostly left alone without any danger, whereas an oppressed majority has to be constantly kept down lest they decide to overthrow their oppressors.

          • Enkidum says:

            If US citizens identify primarily as “American” rather than “white” or “black” […] then they’re more likely to support policies which benefit America as a whole, rather than specifically white Americans at the expense of black Americans. The problem with woke politics is that it encourages people to identify as white or black or whatever rather than as Americans, creating increased social conflict as people increasingly ignore the common good of the nation as a whole and instead focus on screwing as many privileges as possible out of anybody who doesn’t fit in with their own narrow interest group.

            So… there has literally never been a single moment in the entire history of the US when the negative situation you describe did not exist. It’s really hard for me to understand how the opponents of identity politics claim that it is illegitimate because it treats everyone in one ethnic group the same, when this was literally one of the founding principles of your country.

            Also, acknowledging that groups exist, and are important, and that members of many groups tend to have aligned interests, is not the same as denying that any individual differences exist.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Enkidum,

            Irish immigrants used to be considered a separate group with their own interests. Now they aren’t. That change is a good thing for both Irish Americans and for the country. That change was a reduction in identity politics.

          • dick says:

            “When someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group” isn’t an accurate paraphrase of “treating people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals”.

            I know. Your definition was bad, so supplied a better one. What makes mine better? Real people holding it. “I support this policy because it’s good for gay people as a group” is something that people actually say sometimes. “I support this policy because I view gay people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals” is not.

            This is arguing semantics, which I detest, but it’s an important point. You introduced the term “identity politics” by saying:

            You don’t think that half the political spectrum adopting race- (gender-, sexuality-, etc.-)based identity politics is a threat to classical liberalism?

            I (charitably) assumed you were describing a position they actually hold. (And again, I suggest looking key terms up to see if you’re using them in the most common way. The first sentence of the wiki article is fairly close to my definition, and nowhere near yours.) If you have a theory about the real reason that gay rights proponents actually support gay rights or whatever, argue the point honestly. Don’t redefine an existing term to include your theory and then just use it until you get called out on it.

            (cont’d)

          • dick says:

            The problem with woke politics is that it encourages people to identify as white or black or whatever rather than as Americans, creating increased social conflict as people increasingly ignore the common good of the nation as a whole and instead focus on screwing as many privileges as possible out of anybody who doesn’t fit in with their own narrow interest group.

            I’m pretty sure everyone thinks their own side’s policies are the ones that “benefit America as a whole.” If there was any point to that paragraph other than expressing the hope that people might one day realize your side is right, I couldn’t find it. An example would help. Like, what would a gay rights activist circa 2000 do if he were following your advice? Could he and his friends have legalized marriage faster or better by “identifying with America” really hard? How would that work? Or was he supposed to say “Gosh, I’d like to get married, but that whole battle might be really disruptive so I’ll just put America first and give up on the whole wedding idea”?

            Citation needed.

            Okay. Let’s stick with gay marriage. Prior to it being legalized, some people said, “Hey, it’s against the law for gays to get married – we think that’s oppression!” After it was legalized, some other people said, “Hey, gays can get married now – we think that’s oppression!” Both sides are entitled to their opinion, but it seems obvious to me that the former is worse than the latter.

            Some people might disagree. That’s okay, that doesn’t mean the US has abandoned liberalism. We abandon liberalism the day we start saying, “It doesn’t matter which side has it worse or what resolution would be more fair – we are siding with the Christians because this is a Christian country.” Which is what I think Amari was in part suggesting, hence me piping up.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure everyone thinks their own side’s policies are the ones that “benefit America as a whole.”

            Perhaps. But woke politics sets the weight on the benefit to certain demographic groups to zero or negative value. That is, harm to cis-white-males is either of no consequence or a positive good. Sometimes they even say this out loud.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I know. Your definition was bad, so supplied a better one.

            “That’s a pretty derogatory way to put it, but yeah, it’s when someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group” does not mean the same as “Your definition is bad; a better one would be ‘when someone in a group supports some policy because it’s good for their group.'” Pretending to agree when you actually disagree isn’t “charitable”, it’s disingenuous and annoying.

            What makes mine better? Real people holding it. “I support this policy because it’s good for gay people as a group” is something that people actually say sometimes. “I support this policy because I view gay people as interchangeable representatives of their demographic group rather than as individuals” is not.

            I gave examples of things people say that would fit my definition — treating white, male authors as if they all had the same white, male perspective; treating poor, disadvantaged whites as if they’re inherently privileged for being white. There are other examples, as well, a common one being “Of course white people are advantaged, just look at all the white people in Congress” is a thing people say quite a lot (as if white people all have the same interests and outlook, and the sorts of policies that would advantage a wealthy college graduate from New England would also advantage a broke, unemployed opioid addict in West Virginia).

            Though even if we adopt your definition, identity politics is still bad for the good functioning of government. Most Middle Eastern governments are corrupt, nepotistic messes, for example, in no small part because people identify with their tribe or clan rather than the country as a whole, and consequently anybody who gets power tends to use that power to reward their fellow tribes- or clansmen, and screw the other guys.

            I’m pretty sure everyone thinks their own side’s policies are the ones that “benefit America as a whole.” If there was any point to that paragraph other than expressing the hope that people might one day realize your side is right, I couldn’t find it. An example would help. Like, what would a gay rights activist circa 2000 do if he were following your advice? Could he and his friends have legalized marriage faster or better by “identifying with America” really hard? How would that work? Or was he supposed to say “Gosh, I’d like to get married, but that whole battle might be really disruptive so I’ll just put America first and give up on the whole wedding idea”?

            An example would be not setting the weight of benefit to certain demographic groups to zero, as The Nybbler put it. Or supporting equality under the law rather than demanding that some groups be permitted to commit petty crime with impunity and whipping up an angry mob against those who disagree. Or a gay rights activist saying “I guess I theoretically could go and find a Christian cake-maker, demand he make a cake for my gay wedding, and then sue him when he refuses; but I don’t like this sort of vindictiveness and think it’s bad for society as a whole, so I won’t.”

            Okay. Let’s stick with gay marriage. Prior to it being legalized, some people said, “Hey, it’s against the law for gays to get married – we think that’s oppression!” After it was legalized, some other people said, “Hey, gays can get married now – we think that’s oppression!” Both sides are entitled to their opinion, but it seems obvious to me that the former is worse than the latter.

            That’s a straw man, and you know it. It’s not “Gays can get married now — we think that’s oppression!”, it’s “My company is demanding that we all wear rainbow lanyards to show our support for gay rights, and if I refuse I’ll get fired — I think that’s oppression!”

          • albatross11 says:

            One aside: People are naturally going to think in terms of what’s better for people like themselves, because that’s what they best understand. I have a fairly clear picture of policies that would help 50+ white professionals with kids and mortgages get along in expensive east-coast suburbs. By contrast, my understanding of what policies would help underclass blacks in Baltimore or underclass whites in West Virginia or farmers in Iowa or second-generation Mexican farmworkers in California is going to be very theoretical and shaky on details and mostly derived from my ideology.

            So even without the us-vs-them aspects of identity politics, I think some level of identity politics are almost required in a democracy.

          • albatross11 says:

            To my mind, the best definition of the downside of identity politics is a (very loose) paraphrase of something Lee Kwan Yoo said: When politics are divided mainly along identity lines (race, religion, language), then people vote for a crook because he’s *their* crook. That is, instead of voting on ideas or policies, you largely vote on identity[1]. That eliminates a lot of the effective feedback you can get from democratic elections.

            [1] The trope namer for this in modern times is Marion Barry.

          • dick says:

            Pretending to agree when you actually disagree isn’t “charitable”, it’s disingenuous and annoying.

            It wasn’t pretense, as I said, I assumed you were referring to the position they claim to hold. In general, claiming to know the real reason why your outgroup does what they do is not load-bearing and I try to ignore it.

            An example [of what the people I’m talking about ought to do] would be…

            Those are just different ways of saying “The people who disagree with me should agree with me.” Do you not understand that, from their perspective, it’s the Christian baker whose vindictiveness is bad for society?

            (As it happens, I agree with you on that one. I think the Christian baker should’ve been left alone, and for the gay rights movement to support that lawsuit was kind of like “twisting the knife” after they had already basically won a total legal victory against the homophobes. But, obviously, not everyone agrees with us on this, and, “Well, they oughtta!” does not get us anywhere.)

            I gave examples of things people say that would fit my definition — treating white, male authors as if they all had the same white, male perspective; treating poor, disadvantaged whites as if they’re inherently privileged for being white.

            Thank you for clarifying who you’re talking about. I feel every bit as sanguine about liberalism surviving wokeness as I did when we started. Maybe more! I mean, did you read the Oberlin article? It’s an example of some SJWs taking a precarious legal position and losing resoundingly. If that’s the evidence that wokeness is a threat to liberalism, I’d say liberalism is looking pretty solid.

            That’s a straw man, and you know it. It’s not “Gays can get married now — we think that’s oppression!”, it’s “My company is demanding that we all wear rainbow lanyards to show our support for gay rights, and if I refuse I’ll get fired — I think that’s oppression!”

            It was not a straw man, that’s exactly the sort of thing I meant. There was some oppression before gay rights became a mainstream position (e.g. gays being beaten up) and there was some oppression after (e.g. what you just described) and I am very much arguing that the former was worse than the latter.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Your position appears to have shifted quite significantly over the course of this discussion. You started by saying that “before liberalism, it was common to have one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another, and the contribution of liberalism to the world was, “What if we tried not doing that””; now you’re claiming that a situation in which some groups “twist the knife” and oppress others even after winning a total legal victory is liberalism working as intended. If that’s what you think a liberal society looks like, it’s no wonder you’re so sanguine about liberalism’s prospects, since under your definition basically any society that’s ever existed would qualify as liberal.

          • dick says:

            Your position appears to have shifted quite significantly over the course of this discussion. You started by saying that “before liberalism, it was common to have one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another, and the contribution of liberalism to the world was, “What if we tried not doing that””…

            …once again, that wasn’t a position, that’s just what the word means.

            I think we’re done here. If you take home nothing else from this pointless thread, please consider looking up the definitions of key terms. This is not me implying that you’re stupid. People tend to attach different connotations to different phrases, and looking them up in a neutral source makes it more likely that we’re all using those terms equivalently and not talking past each other.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            I strongly disagree that having a biased point of view is the same as identity politics. Identity politics is when you intentionally form allegiances by ‘identity,’ judge people for their identity, etc.

            It’s not the same as having blind spots, interests or such.

            For example, if you form a party around government subsidies for superhero movies and D&D meetups, then that is going to be a nerd party in practice. However, if you don’t explicitly call it a nerd party or argue that other interests than superhero movies and D&D meetups are problematic because they are not nerdy, then it is not identity politics.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            …once again, that wasn’t a position, that’s just what the word means.

            “[B]efore liberalism, it was common to have one geographic/ethnic/religious/linguistic/etc group have power over another, and the contribution of liberalism to the world was, “What if we tried not doing that”” is a factual claim, not a definition.

          • dick says:

            [That] is a factual claim, not a definition.

            …a claim about what a word means, i.e. a definition.

            Check please!

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The case French fails to make – and which is, I think, the most trenchant point against Christian statism – is that there cannot be a generically Christian state. By necessity, it must be a sectarian state – specifically Catholic, or Southern Baptist, or Lutheran. We’ve seen this reenacted over and over again throughout history, in the West (as in the European Wars of Religion), in the Middle East (in the perpetual Shia vs Sunni conflicts) and even in the Far East (in the case of Chinese persecution of Buddhism, Christianity, and other minority religions).

        I dunno, the US until about 1960 did a reasonably successful job of being a generically, non-denominationally Protestant state.

    • Clutzy says:

      I’ve seen this before. I think Charles Cooke defends Frenchism much better than French. That is, I think, because he is a better decision maker than French (who can easily be tricked by minor anti-Trump outrages like the Koi pond non-story). However, I have not seen the French-wing really ever engage with a steelman of Amahri’s position, which I think boils down to this:

      There are arenas, battlefields, etc that exist in the public square: public k-12, higher ed, tax schemes, zoning boards, the legal system. Despite the efforts of classical liberals for a long time, they have had no success in making these systems into the neutral forums that they claim. Indeed, its possible that many of these, like education, can never be truly neutral. So, given there are these arenas, its important to bring a sword to a swordfight, and not to wear golf shoes to a tennis match. And all of these things are the things David French does, metaphorically. He waltzes into a YMCA for some basketball wearing flip flops, turns his ankle and his team loses because they were playing 4v5. He then says, “well basketball courts should be flip flop friendly, we can’t buy new Jordan’s like the other guys, that would be unfair.” Also he really hates one of his teammates shoes because he wears under armor, and French hates Steph Curry.

      And that is the split I see.

    • Nick says:

      I wrote a long post for SSC on the debate back when it was ongoing, and eventually decided not to post it. Here’s a few things I would add.

      The first thing missing from this quote-style summary is the history. It started on Twitter, and the extemporaneous nature of the original remarks has had an outsized impact on the debate as a whole. Ahmari reacted to a drag queen story hour by blaming “Frenchism.” French begged confusion. Ahmari responded with the First Things piece above, in which he accuses French of, among other things, an airy, above-it-all mentality, Russian collusion conspiracism, and trying to fight atomic individualism with more atomic individualism. French came back with a piece that spent a good deal of its time responding just to these falsehoods, and quite successfully. And long after those two pieces were up, defenders of Ahmari like Ross Douthat had to clarify that Ahmari mischaracterized both French’s views and his work in the public square, while Ahmari’s critics had ample material lowering his credibility right out of the gate! We certainly needed a stark contrast to kick this debate off, but the conclusion to draw from those corrections is either 1) the contrast Ahmari wants to draw doesn’t actually exist, or 2) French is a poor choice for it.

      The second thing missing is that, while Ahmari has no doubt been influenced by the rise of integralism among Very Online Catholics and the critics of liberalism folks like Patrick Deneen have been making—Ross or Rod have been writing a bunch about this the last year or so, and I’ve got posts on SSC discussing it, like a short exchange with LadyJane a few months back about Deneen’s book—still, Ahmari has been influenced just as much by Trump’s transformation of the Republican coalition. In 2016, Ahmari was a critic of Trump. Yet in his First Things piece, he’s adopted some kind of Scott Adams–esque view:

      With a kind of animal instinct, Trump understood what was missing from mainstream (more or less French-ian) conservatism. His instinct has been to shift the cultural and political mix, ever so slightly, away from autonomy-above-all toward order, continuity, and social cohesion. He believes that the political community—and not just the church, family, and individual—has its own legitimate scope for action. He believes it can help protect the citizen from transnational forces beyond his control.

      Again, Ahmari makes it easy for French to reply:

      Donald Trump wouldn’t even fully grasp what this paragraph means, much less recognize it as a governing philosophy. He is a man of prodigious personal appetites. A man who proudly hangs a Playboy cover on the wall of his office. A man who marries and then marries again and again, yet still feels compelled to find porn stars to bed. In his essay, Ahmari condemns the man who craves autonomy above all else. He is, without knowing it, condemning Trump.

      So, there you have it. To Ahmari, the alignment of forces looks like this: In one corner is the nice milquetoast libertarian, David French. In the other corner is the strong instrument of social cohesion, Donald Trump.

      I know, this was all right there in the articles you linked. I’m drawing attention to it because it raises two uncomfortable possibilities: either Ahmari is not so clearsighted as his rhetoric requires him to be, or he’s embracing some rather uglier methods to winning the culture war than Christians should countenance. And either way, we have to acknowledge Trump has been as much a liability as he has been a champion.

      The reason I’m being so hard on Ahmari here is that I’m pretty much on his side. I’m frustrated that he screwed this up. I think something like Deneen’s critique of liberalism is right, and the practical response of Christians should be the formation of Benedict Option–style communities. (Note, though, it’s French who makes that possible; he’s the religious liberty lawyer, after all!) Of course, as Rod has told everyone from the moment he suggested it, the BenOp does not require retreating from the public square; rather, it’s a strategy for ensuring we can bring the fight to the public square at all, a generation from now. And our whole purpose in the public square is and will be to reorder it to the common good, as Ahmari calls for in his article. Contra his critics, that line wasn’t masked Francoism or whatever. It follows from what Deneen and others before him have said: liberalism isn’t neutral, and the sooner we all recognize that, the sooner we start arguing—and voting—as we should have been all along. Enough with this crap from my fellow Catholics that abortion is a woman’s choice. Abortion is murder, and if we believe that, really believe that, we had better stop voting otherwise. The point of the BenOp is to ensure that the 70% of America that is Christian really believes it. And the thrust of Ahmari’s critique is—or would be, if he weren’t fantasizing about Trump—let’s act that way.

      • Randy M says:

        the BenOp does not require retreating from the public square; rather, it’s a strategy for ensuring we can bring the fight to the public square at all, a generation from now.

        The point of the BenOp is to ensure that the 70% of America that is Christian really believes it.

        How does this retreat enable you/us to gain strength? How do you convince even your own to cleave to truth and each other in the face of apparent surrender or defeat?

        Part of the response, I think, is that Christianity–perhaps uniquely, perhaps not–grows from integrity and conviction in the face of persecution. This doesn’t look like either anointing Trump nor like declaring that a nation’s sins have at most individual consequences.

        • Nick says:

          How does this retreat enable you/us to gain strength? How do you convince even your own cleave to truth and each other in the face of apparent surrender or defeat?

          Have you read Rod’s book? (Worst answer ever, I know.) The idea is to build communities, and institutions in and between communities, that are faith-forming. Maybe that means a local classical school or a homeschool network. Maybe it means pushing individuals and families to join prayer groups. Maybe it means moving somewhere where communities of like-minded believers already are. These things exist today, but they’re marginal. Rod gets into specifics like this in the book.

          Part of the response, I think, is that Christianity–perhaps uniquely, perhaps not–grows from integrity and conviction in the face of persecution. This doesn’t look like either anointing Trump nor like declaring that a nation’s sins have at most individual consequences.

          I’m not sure quite what you’re getting at, especially your last clause. Can you expand on it?

          • Randy M says:

            Have you read Rod’s book?

            Not that one. I skimmed Crunchy cons and wasn’t impressed. I should give Bennedict Option a look, I thought the argument was largely laid out in his op eds.

            I’m not sure quite what you’re getting at, especially your last clause. Can you expand on it?

            mm, I don’t know. I think that sentenced replaced one that basically said “I’m not sure what this looks like right now”. Need to think about it more to say anything worth reading, but I wanted to keep the discussion going. But basically Christians need to be able to say forthrightly “Your divorce/abortion/porn/gossip/etc. is wrong even if you don’t feel bad about it, for reasons x,y,z,” while also not doing those things. And probably this kind of courage/integrity is easy in times of persecution rather than in ascension, and also more convincing in times of hardship rather than in times of plenty.

          • Nick says:

            Ah. I think that there’s a lot of things corrosive to faith today that aren’t persecution. Like, if popular media is ostentatiously sex-crazed (I’m not saying it is, just a hypothetical), this would not be remotely conducive to Christian views on sexuality, but no one’s getting persecuted. Likewise liberal abortion laws are on their own not persecution, although these have to be resisted to avoid being normalized. But they can go that way, like in the latter case—there are designs about forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, for instance. The trouble is that this persecution typically comes after a good deal of corrosion. Progressives can overplay their hand and get backlash, like with the Jack Phillips case, but if they play their cards right, there will be rainbow flags hanging from virtually every church long before Phillips is driven out of business. In a situation like that, don’t bet on integrity or conviction.

          • Nick says:

            Thinking about this further: there’s a way in which I feel I’m kind of talking past you when I say that persecution won’t solve things, because it kind of already has. It’s my generation, I wrote last thread with the nuns, who realize the stakes and are embracing orthodoxy and countercultural witness, unlike our Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents. In that sense, the madness of the last few years has indeed caused the integrity and conviction of these young people. This is also why I have to reiterate that the BenOp is not a retreat as such. We can’t hide behind the walls of Fortress Catholicism, for instance; we’d actually be failing to prepare our kids to leave in the world. So I guess I agree the stark contrast which persecution presents to the young BenOpper is very instructive.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This doesn’t look like either anointing Trump nor like declaring that a nation’s sins have at most individual consequences.

          They don’t. I generally agree with Nick and with Dreher. Except I wouldn’t call it the “Benedict Option” so much as the “Lot Option.” Flee the cities. Do not look back. They’re not going to do well. The tent cities and the human feces and the rats and I hear maybe even the bubonic plague in San Fran?

          Or rather, fight defensive political battles (even if that means aligning with Trump), shield your children, and use the misery that progressivism brings to the cities that adopt it as instructional tools. I’ve argued before on here that the people who adopt the progressive cultural ideas do not reproduce. So just…wait a generation or two while defending your own family and community.

          • Randy M says:

            Flee the cities.

            Got a job for a chemist?

          • Nick says:

            Got a job for a chemist?

            Yeah, my wife turned to salt; do you think you can reverse it?

            ETA: Okay, joking aside: it’s admittedly easier for some of us than for others. I can tell you these communities do sometimes develop in the cities; I’ve mentioned before the Hyattsville group near DC.

          • Randy M says:

            Not a Lot I can do about that, I’m afraid.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know. I work doing tech stuff (I don’t get more specific for doxxing reasons) but I live in a small city (maybe 100k pop) and make a good living. It is possible.

            Maybe money is not the most important consideration for people considering a move for religious and cultural reasons. Or move to Texas (not Austin) but keep voting Republican.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe money is not the most important consideration for people considering a move for religious and cultural reasons.

            It isn’t, but going from a steady salary and a good apartment to an unknown is a challenge. We’re thinking of starting to look seriously for a new job, though, despite my aversion to marketing myself. Even apart from cultural complaints, it’s hard to envision buying a home in CA given the cost of living. (Our dirt is not magic, we just price it like it is)

          • Nick says:

            Even apart from cultural complaints, it’s hard to envision buying a home in CA given the cost of living. (Our dirt is not magic, we just price it like it is)

            I hope you paid attention to Le Maistre Chat’s recent threads about moving; lots of places suggested were good cities with affordable cost of living. Like, cough, virtually anywhere in Ohio.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho, 
            I read up on the Hyattsville group previously, and my first thought was “That mostly sounds like living as my grandmother did in a majority Irish Catholic neighborhood 100 years ago (the creation of which wasn’t welcomed, though self-improvement efforts helped) acceptance , or how many live in mostly immigrant “barrios” today (that’s not a dig), the difference being the social class of the community and being an “intentional community”.

          • and use the misery that progressivism brings to the cities that adopt it as instructional tools.

            You might want to look at the Amish model. They lose about ten percent of each generation and still have a population doubling time of about twenty years.

            Part of that seems to be having a pretty gloomy picture of the “English” (non-Amish) life style, rather like the view that some leftists have of capitalism–everyone doing soul killing jobs to make money to keep up with the Joneses.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think Ahmari and French are both missing something, and it’s because they’re too close to the Church to see it.

      Faith is not enough to keep a religion alive. Religions, like all belief systems, need to offer their adherents something tangible. The promise of heaven and the idea of being beloved or chosen of God doesn’t really work today, I don’t think, and the failure of that promise is, I believe, due to religious institutions leaning on them far too hard in the past. “Fuck your Hell, your moralizing bullshit is worse” and “Magic Sky Fairy” are the anti-memes, and ones the church doesn’t have a good answer for. No, for the Church to survive, it has to offer something substantive and temporal.

      If you’re Moldbug, you think that the Church appears to have less to offer because modern society is subsidizing D E G E N E R A C Y and we’re all collectively footing the bill for the massive social costs that these people are incurring, but I find that view hard to swallow, and it’s rare to find a Christian intellectual willing to bite that bullet. It’s relatively popular on SSC, because I think it’s the strongest argument that can be made, but the people who support it around these parts should know by now that it’s not very compelling. Divorce is probably the best form of that argument, but the correlation between educational attainment and divorce rates is a decent counter IMO. “We’ll drive down the divorce rate by punishing divorcees” is a much worse argument than “we’ll drive down the divorce rate by not forcing people into unhealthy relationships,” especially given the dramatic decrease in spousal abuse we’ve seen under the latter regime. If you really care about B I R T H R A T E S, that’s another good argument, but it doesn’t help that most people don’t. Again, you can argue that there’s a degree of moral fulfillment that people are missing out on by not having kids (above replacement levels), but the fact that they aren’t is a good argument for you being wrong. And hell, I agree that the balance of factors makes having a kid a little too hard on the margins right now, but the problem is that Church doctrine doesn’t promise a way to make that burden much easier. A Church-subsidized preschool is a drop in the bucket.

      So here’s the thing, from the outside view, that French doesn’t understand: faith is a terrible tool for keeping a religion intact. I’m sure the Catholics here have plenty of opinions on the American version of the Church. Keep in mind that faith is not what that Church lacks. And here’s the thing, from the outside view, that Ahmari doesn’t understand (and French sort of does): his argument is to essentially resolve this problem by punishing people who are not in the Church through the mechanisms of the State, and something like 90% of Americans will fight tooth and nail against that. This is, in part, because the world is actively confirming that liberalism has a real social impact, and that the misery of theocracy is worth dying to avoid.

      For the Church to survive, it must prove its worth as an institution to people with an outside view. Not on moral or theological, but on pragmatic grounds. It must be an institution that makes the people in it more powerful, at least in their own perception of themselves. It must give more than it takes. I don’t believe it can. But as long as this is what the debate looks like, the Church will be consigning itself to a long, slow decay. As far as I’m concerned, as long as this is what the debate looks like, that’ll be what it deserves.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I think all of these insights are very keen and say what I couldn’t articulate after reading the piece. Some Christians consider the religion’s initial spread a “miracle”, guided by the Holy Spirit, which is not how I would charitably describe it as an outsider (sorry Dante in Paradiso).

        What this sounds like to me is someone who’s drunk the Kool-Aid and thought “we had a good start, and we’ve had a couple Great Awakenings in America why not one more? But this time we grab some power and sort all this stuff out, even if it’s just for ourselves?” Except the stuff that goes into “Great Awakenings” – the Jewish Jesus Cult, some listless millenarians in a field – isn’t strictly what comes out. The institutions have to come together and take in converts and establish some real power and you always leave some people behind. This is so often a failing point of cults, who are more parasitic on their believers than mutually beneficial, and so struggle to become established. No matter how memetically thrilling a cult’s beliefs are, and how deep the adherent’s faith, without some kind of mutual-aid, something self-reinforcing as well as expanding they’re more likely to whither than persevere.

        Maybe you can string something together with the Benedict option, but I suspect that’ll end up looking a lot less like what goes into it than they expect.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Divorce is probably the best form of that argument, but the correlation between educational attainment and divorce rates is a decent counter IMO. “We’ll drive down the divorce rate by punishing divorcees” is a much worse argument than “we’ll drive down the divorce rate by not forcing people into unhealthy relationships,” especially given the dramatic decrease in spousal abuse we’ve seen under the latter regime.

        It’s not a ‘better’ argument so much as it is a a more palletable one, it certainly feels less cruel.

        I’ve heard [but may be wrong] that millenials have lower divorce rates but marry much later. The response to the ease with which people can initiate divorce and the damage it can inflict has been to be extremely judicious about picking partners, or just not picking partners at all and remaining single long term. In this sense the average quality of marriages could be said to have been increased but you get instead a sex recession. More importantly, the resulting birth rates are unsustainable and heavily weighted towards unplanned pregnancies. Economics plays a role here as well obviously, both in deciding whether to marry/divorce/have kids.

        I operate on the assumption that the number of relationships that are truly physically or verbally abusive is small relative to the number of relationships that are subpar relative to the initial expectations of the people involved. Raising the social and legal bar around divorce (or simply limiting the ability of anyone to profit financially from divorce) Would therefore compel vastly more people to prioritize making a potentially viable relationship work then it would preventing someone from leaving an irredeemably toxic one.

        Trying to configure your rules in a way that prioritizes the emotional well-being of individuals has two major flaws: 1. Perception of emotional well being is inherently subjective 2. People can be socialized into thinking themselves better/worse-off than they truly are. You end up with intangible and unattainable goals and unsustainable outcomes.

        • Matt M says:

          The response to the ease with which people can initiate divorce and the damage it can inflict has been to be extremely judicious about picking partners … Economics plays a role here as well obviously, both in deciding whether to marry/divorce/have kids.

          I wonder to what extent the perception among many/most men (regardless of whether it is accurate or not) that divorce and family courts are overwhelmingly biased towards women is serving as an extra check on male judiciousness in partner selection.

          If you believe that the system will mostly distribute things (both wealth and say, child custody) fairly and equitably, then the overall “risk” from divorce is low and you might be more inclined to accept a less than trustworthy partner. But if you believe the system is rigged against you and will inevitably result in a massive wealth transfer combined with you never getting to see your kids again, you’re probably going to be quite careful in terms of partner selection.

          The implications are interesting, in the sense that, if you have an overall societal goal of “lower divorce rates” then “publicly declare that divorce will result in a completely and totally unfair arrangement that favors one party over the other” might be an effective solution.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          More importantly, the resulting birth rates are unsustainable and heavily weighted towards unplanned pregnancies.

          If you think this way, sure, the argument is bad. But also, surely you understand that the standard liberal position is that unplanned pregnancies are bad and can be prevented with education and lowering the barrier to contraception. This is fairly well-supported empirically, as I understand it. The real problem here is that NOBODY CARES ABOUT BIRTHRATES. I don’t want to come across as rude, but I cannot stress enough how much nobody cares. It is simply not a mainstream concern. It is not even a concern you can (easily) reason people into. It is an ideological concern that is completely foreign to the public at large.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree that few people care about birthrates for the sake of birthrates. But people do care about their culture continuing. Which is largely determined by rates of birth, death, and conversion.

          • Protagoras says:

            Influencing birth rate is a very long run strategy. Very long run strategies have an extremely poor track record, almost invariably falling to either changing circumstances or a loss of commitment to the strategy by those who would need to continue it (or both). So the expected return of worrying about birth rates is very small, even though birth rates do indeed, as you say, matter a lot.

          • Matt M says:

            Influencing birth rate is a very long run strategy. Very long run strategies have an extremely poor track record

            Really? The progressive “long march through the institutions” seems to have worked out quite well. They have nearly everything they would have wanted in 1920, and all without any civil war or other notable single incident/tipping point.

          • “It is simply not a mainstream concern.”

            Well, the Left loves to trot it out to justify immigration. I think it will be a more significant concern as America’s fertility rates head toward German levels.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            the Left loves to trot it out to justify immigration

            Insofar as the economic reality of an inverted population pyramid is something people are worried about, sure. My point is that “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US” is not a slogan that practically anyone strongly identifies with.

          • “My point is that “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US” is not a slogan that practically anyone strongly identifies with.”

            I think most people in the world would identify with it, if they aren’t jumping up and down about it, it’s because it’s not a real danger to them; they aren’t being replaced.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Non-Nativists economists care about sub-replacement fertility in the context of a shrinking of the working-age population and the affect on pensions and the labor market *even if* they are content with solving the problem by replacing the entire native population with foreigners.

            But whether or not a sufficient number of people care about a phenomenon is a rather odd way to evaluate a course of action. Whether someone doesn’t care about climate change doesn’t really alter whether it’s going to impact the way the world is going forward. And it’s ultimately going to matter more to a population over time than any specific cause of mortality that may have entered the public dialogue. (opiods or mass shootings for example)

            Even in the context of not caring about the economy as a whole and in additon not caring whether the native population is diminished, replaced, or disappears entirely, if you *only* care about gender equity, whether or not it can be sustained by *any* population on earth for any period of time is relevant. The fact that the only social models that can replicate themselves sufficiently are 1. Patriarchy 2. Unplanned parenthood does not bode well for people who want gender equity and planned parenthood. Particularly if the idea is to export gender equality and planned parenthood to the rest of the world.

            The only conceiable way I see the current model of social interaction surviving beyond a century more would be if going forward human being were created without conventional parentage in labratories and raised by the state at taxpayer expense.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The only conceiable way I see the current model of social interaction surviving beyond a century more would be if going forward human being were created without conventional parentage in labratories and raised by the state at taxpayer expense.

            A century is only 4 generations. Japan’s TFR has been below 1.5 since 1992, and below replacement since 1970. By 2060, with no increase in birthrates, the population may even drop to levels not seen since 1960 (the horror). US TFR is 1.8, with “large metro areas” seeing something closer to 1.7. I’m going to be honest – I’m not especially alarmed. Like Protagoras said,

            Very long run strategies have an extremely poor track record, almost invariably falling to either changing circumstances or a loss of commitment to the strategy by those who would need to continue it (or both)

            And that’s not even getting into the idea that

            only social models that can replicate themselves sufficiently are 1. Patriarchy 2. Unplanned parenthood does not bode well for people who want gender equity and planned parenthood

            I won’t argue that civil rights for women aren’t linked to decreased fertility. But extrapolating marginal changes in fertility in a world that’s completely different from that of 80 years ago into civilizational collapse and then blaming the whole thing on the lack of patriarchy seems unjustified without a clear causal model.

      • Ross Douthat has talked about the merits of Christianity on pragmatic reasons and I think he’s right. Christianity is not something people can support merely because it has good effects. It has to be supported in its own right, for two reasons. If you try to retain the structures of Church without faith, the whole thing falls apart anyways. But more importantly is that Christianity is not primarily about these good effects. A Christian follows the religion because of God, not because it promotes social cohesion or lowers divorces rates or whatever.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          A Christian follows the religion because of God, not because it promotes social cohesion or lowers divorces rates or whatever.

          Why not both? Aim for heaven and get the earth for free.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Douthat is much better about this, but I still find his arguments pretty hollow. Part of this is that I’m very bad at this whole faith thing. I just don’t get it. But yes, I agree – without faith, everything falls apart. I’m just saying that it falls apart without empowerment as well.

          • The church isn’t a club where you put in your dues and then you get benefits. Or at least, that’s not Christians conceptualize it. It’s more about the sense of obligation. If you get enough pious Christians together, then any kind of organization will organically follow. You say that the lack of faith isn’t the problem but non-belief is up pretty dramatically and even most nominal Christians aren’t really that committed to it. Organizations are important in the sense that they reinforce their faith. That’s why Christians are supposed to go to church every week. But it’s the faith, not the organization, that is really fundamental here.

            The Christian problem today is not the lack of organization, it’s the lack of faith in modern society. The churches that are most resilient today are the ones that cultivate that faith with their members, not the ones who are trying to appeal to outsiders.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Wrong Species

            The church isn’t a club where you put in your dues and then you get benefits.

            This isn’t what I mean to imply. Neither were the Masons. With faith but no organization, you get “spiritual” new-agers placidly bouncing between structures that tap into that faith. With organization but no faith you get a pure bureaucracy. But per Douthat himself, the “lukewarm Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers” – those with faith but not institutional commitment – appear not to be finding what they seek in the Church these days. Something in the mix doesn’t sit well. The answer seems (obviously, to me) to rest in the changing relationship the Church has with civil society. If you have another explanation, I’m happy to hear it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not sure I’m convinced the spiritual new-agers have faith in anything. That’s not meant as a put down or snark, I mean, I don’t think they can articulate anything consistent they could be reasonably said to believe.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I don’t think they can articulate anything consistent they could be reasonably said to believe.

            I mean I agree. Almost all spiritual new agers I know are after the feeling of tapping into something greater than themselves, which is only half of a religion. That’s my point.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d almost say the opposite. New Agers find faith behind every rock and blade of grass. All you need to to to convince at least some New Agers to have faith in something is to dangle a crystal from it. If they don’t look convinced yet, tell a story about how it’s part of the native spirituality of some exotic foreign land.

            What they don’t have is coherence in their faith.

          • When I say “faith”, I’m not talking about mere belief in supernatural forces. I’m talking about the belief in the Christian God, and wanting to serve him. People who are leaving the church are not these people who are committed to God, but are just disappointed in their respective churches. If that was the case, then we would see a large increase in something like the Anabaptists of the 16th century. Instead, we’re seeing a rejection of Christianity because people just don’t buy it anymore. That’s the fundamental problem for Christianity today.

            The “lukewarm Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers” are not people strong in faith but disappointed in organizations. They just go because of tradition. Their attendance on those days isn’t any more meaningful than the fact that atheists celebrate Christmas.

            I also have a strong disagreement with Douthat here. He says that the rise of the “spiritual but not religious” crowd isn’t increased secularism, just a different way to express religious impulses. But it’s nothing more than a vague belief in the supernatural, that doesn’t really affect how they live their lives. There are the people who believe in “chakras” and “auras”, but the number of people who take that seriously is pretty small.

          • Nick says:

            @Wrong Species
            I’m not sure that’s exactly true, the part about it not affecting how they live their lives. Certainly, they aren’t taking commandments from any god seriously. At the same time, the impulses to serve and to live in a certain way are still there. I don’t think it’s a coincidence a lot of those types embrace environmentalism and vegetarianism, for instance.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            Some examples of non-church groups that seem to manage with the values and community-building and seem to have some staying power:

            Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

            Political parties

            AA, Al-Anon, and related 12-step groups

            Labor unions

            Local sports teams/organizations

            What other examples are there? Boy Scouts and AA et al have some built-in theism, but also try to make it flexible so that it can be nondenominational in mixed-religion groups or more focused on a single-religion in groups that are mostly one religion. Political parties and labor unions[1] and sports teams tend to be nondenominational or nonreligious–often you get nationalistic symbols and rituals instead of religious ones, like the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem.

            [1] I have no personal experience of labor unions, so I’m speculating based on stuff I’ve heard and read.

          • Matt M says:

            I am unconvinced the Boy Scouts will survive their semi-forced recent secularization.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wrong Species:

            I think there’s some of both of these going on.

            a. There are (and have always been) people who go to church because it’s a cultural/community thing or a tradition, but don’t really believe in it. Probably there are less of these people now, since less of membership in the community seems to rely on church attendance.

            b. There are (and have always been) people who fall away from a given church because it doesn’t really speak to them or feel very rewarding. Some of these people drift off to another church, but some just stop going. Maybe it’s more common to just stop going when there’s less of a common social norm of going to church. (At one extreme, if the stores are all closed on Sundays and the TV is just showing televised religious services, you may as well go to church.)

            c. There are (and have always been) people who have some deep unmet needs without which they’ll have a hard time living their lives and being functional. To the extent that a church helps meet some of those needs, they’ll keep going both because it’s rewarding and also because going makes them a more functional, better person. To the extent the church doesn’t meet those needs, they may not keep going because going isn’t making them more functional, so maybe they just stay in Sunday morning to sleep off the previous night and don’t really even notice what they’re missing.

          • Nick says:

            @albatross11
            Tangentially related, Helen Andrews had an interesting piece in the Hedgehog Review (here’s a copy from her website) alleging that AA and therapy groups like it is contemporary society’s “last acceptable path to spiritual growth.”

            It seems to me like it’s a little narrow, since Eat, Pray, Love–style “finding yourself” journeys are, I would think, still in vogue. But it’s interesting all the same.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t know. The fact that the Mormons have largely shifted away from them seems like a pretty bad sign. OTOH, I think they were losing people from more liberal parts of the country with their previous policies.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            As a young boy I was part of a non-religious conservationism-based outdoors organization, and I think that has legs. No idea whether the actual scouts will manage it.

            @Albatross

            There’s a difference between feeling a calling and pursuing a goal. Most of those institutions are goal-directed, with the exception of the Scouts. Anyway, my thesis isn’t that the Church has been replaced – I don’t think it has, and I think that that’s actually pretty bad.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If you really care about B I R T H R A T E S, that’s another good argument, but it doesn’t help that most people don’t.

        And my argument is that the future will belong to the people who do. The positive effects of religion and the negative effects of progressivism are not evenly distributed.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          And?

          What happens, will happen. The future belongs to the people who live there, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t see a need to get there ahead of the curve. I mean, I also think you’re wrong – that the people who care a lot will always be on the fringe – but even if you’re right, I don’t see how that makes for a good argument in favor of the ideology. The fact that, in the long run, we’re all fated to die doesn’t push me towards anti-natalism.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t see how that makes for a good argument in favor of the ideology.

            I’m not arguing for converts. As a Catholic, we’re not particularly big on evangelizing. The context of this thread is about Christian responses to the Culture War, with Ahmari and French arguing over the best way to fight. My argument is don’t fight, just run, because the enemy is in the process of killing themselves. Just stay away so they don’t bring you down in the flailing.

            You stated:

            For the Church to survive, it must prove its worth as an institution to people with an outside view.

            No, it doesn’t. For the Church to survive, it just has to keep its head down and keep doing what it’s been doing for 2,000 years for another generation. For the Church of Progressivism to survive, they’d have to stop aborting, homosexualing, sex changing, contraceptioning, divorcing, promiscuousing, etc., its children away. And if it stopped doing those things it would cease to be the Church of Progressivism.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Again, outside view, but I think that the Church is afraid of losing its soul if it runs. Catholicism has existed as a cultural monolith for over a millennium, and that part of its identity has been withering. Even if the strategy is “head down,” the Church is going to have to change in order to cope with the change in its relationship to its flock. And the real problem it has to grapple with is not the flailing of progressives, but the liberalism that has been eroding that relationship quite reliably for more than 100 years, and ever more quickly.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Jaskologist

            Less of this please.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay well now we’re talking about something different, the relationship between the Church and the flock. You were talking about what the Church needs to advertise to outsiders. I agree the internal problem has been the liberalism, and that’s…becoming addressed with the TradCath movement. Look at Nick’s post last OT about the upsurge in nuns, and the recent uptick in men becoming priests. And they’re conservative reactionary. And a lot of people are sick of Pope Francis. Maybe we get Cardinal Sarah next.

            So, no, the Church does not need to offer really anything to those on the outside. To those on the inside it needs to offer MOAR CATHOLICISM, which is the way the pendulum appears to be swinging.

            In that regard, maybe I side with David French. Keep fighting the religious liberty battles in court, and just…wait.

            ETA: @Jaskologist there’s a reason I don’t live in California. If you do…take the Lot Option.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Look at Nick’s post last OT about the upsurge in nuns, and the recent uptick in men becoming priests.

            I think that people are reviving the strong institutions of the Church for a lack of strong spiritual institutions elsewhere. I think that’s perfectly fine and good, but that “monastic institutions within the church” are very different from “the institution of the church.” The former is self-sustaining and self-motivated; the latter requires active engagement. It’s not about conversion, but about creating and maintaining the ties that bind. If I refer to the former as “cults,” please don’t think that I think that they’re dangerous or stupid. But I do think they’re not suitable backbones for a religious culture. They’re insular, dogmatic, and rely on adherents who seek to make their entire lives about their religion. When I’m talking about “the outside view,” I mean the people who would be (or are) Easter-and-Christmas Christians, not Richard Dawkins.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The increased interest in what you describe as “monastic institutions in the Church” is evidence of increased faith and engagement among the body of the Church at large. My church is full of families and children. Parking is a problem on Sunday morning. The Church continues to grow in both numbers and fervor.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The Church continues to grow in both numbers and fervor.

            Your church, but not the church at large. At least not yet. Everything beyond this is obviously conjecture, but I’m pessimistic (pretending I take your view for the purposes of defining pessimism) on the long-term religiosity of the American people. The historical reaction to a decline in liberalism, whether in a conservative direction or a progressive one, has been a return to liberalism. As long as the Catholic church cannot accommodate that liberalism, I don’t see how it can survive. In modern society, I think that liberalism is fundamentally more empowering than the Church.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think we might just have an error of fact here. The Catholic Church in the US had a slight decline a decade or so ago but since has been growing. So it seems odd to talk about an organization dying when its getting more members each year than it loses.

          • albatross11 says:

            Part of this is a difference of opinion on a factual question: Does the kind of community that can grow up around more traditional religious values lead to more human flourishing, or is the kind that can grow up around liberal values better? I don’t know that for sure, but it seems clear that a lot of people do feel the need for stuff that they get from more traditional values.

            One interesting problem for the Church is that many of our positions make it very difficult for some people to join or be part of the community. If you’re gay, there’s a place for you at a liberal parish like ours, but you’re probably never going to be entirely comfortable because our doctrine tells you you’re supposed to live a life of voluntary celibacy, which is a pretty high bar. Similarly, if you married in the Church, divorced, and then remarried, our teachings basically say you’re now living in sin. There’s a (slow, difficult, expensive) workaround in getting an annulment[1], but it isn’t always even possible.

            [1] This strikes me as an example of getting around impossible-to-change rules discussed in David Friedman’s recent book on legal systems different from our own. “It was because of the hardness of your hearts that Moses gave you this law.” But peoples’ hearts are still pretty hard, so….

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Part of this is a difference of opinion on a factual question: Does the kind of community that can grow up around more traditional religious values lead to more human flourishing, or is the kind that can grow up around liberal values better? I don’t know that for sure, but it seems clear that a lot of people do feel the need for stuff that they get from more traditional values.

            Given liberalism’s individualistic focus, I’m inclined to doubt that a community can actually grow up *around* liberal values. You might be able to have communities growing up in societies which embrace liberal values, but the communities themselves will be about something else.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Sorry, but the error of fact is yours. Absolute numbers are misleading here, not least because of immigration from Latin America. Wikipedia:

            According to a more recent Pew Forum report which examined American religiosity in 2014 and compared it to 2007,[50] there were 50.9 million adult Catholics as of 2014 (excluding children under 18), forming about 20.8% of the U.S. population, down from 54.3 million and 23.9% in 2007. Pew also found that the Catholic population is aging, forming a higher percentage of the elderly population than the young, and retention rates are also worse among the young. About 41% of those “young” raised Catholic have left the faith (as opposed to 32% overall), about half of these to the unaffiliated population and the rest to evangelical, other Protestant faith communities, and non-Christian faith. Conversions to Catholicism are rare, with 89% of current Catholics being raised in the religion; 8% of current Catholics are ex-Protestants,[51] 2% were raised unaffiliated, and 1% in other religions (Orthodox Christian, Mormon or other nontrinitarian, Buddhist, Muslim, etc.), with Jews and Hindus least likely to become Catholic of all the religious groups surveyed. Overall, Catholicism has by far the worst net conversion balance of any major religious group, with a high conversion rate out of the faith and a low rate into it; by contrast, most other religions have in- and out-conversion rates that roughly balance, whether high or low. This is credited to the more liberal stance of the Church since Vatican II, where conversion to Catholicism is no longer encouraged, and the de-emphasizing of basic Catholic religious beliefs in Catholic education.

            It’s demographic cliffs like this that make BenOp all the more necessary. What we’ve been doing the last few decades has been a disaster.

          • Randy M says:

            Part of this is a difference of opinion on a factual question: Does the kind of community that can grow up around more traditional religious values lead to more human flourishing,

            That’s only a factual question once you agree to a definition about what human flourishing is, and even then it’s not empirical until you agree on a metric and methodology.

            I’m not trying to be pedantic; to take an example from elsewhere on the thread, some people might look at the single lady who cares for stray cats and think “how sad, that she slipped through the cracks and was never able to satisfy her maternal instincts in an actual family” and some might think “how awesome, that she has the freedom to pursue her vision of improving the world.”

          • albatross11 says:

            My experience is that conversions to Catholicism mostly seem to come in a few different categories:

            a. Non-Catholics who go to Catholic schools often seem to convert later on–even if they weren’t required to go to the religion classes, they at least ended up comfortable with the values and symbols of the religion.

            b. Newman Centers (Catholic churches on campus) and youth groups often get young people interested who eventually convert.

            c. Adult converts seem to mostly be people who married a Catholic, agreed to raise their kids Catholic, started coming to Mass regularly, and felt called to join.

            You also occasionally see people who just started coming to church because they felt like they needed something, and eventually wanted to join the Church. But the converts I know[1] seem to mostly fall into those categories.

            [1] I’m an adult convert, a mix of (b) and (c).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well that’s interesting. I thought that had reversed but I was wrong.

            I still think the best option is to hunker down in the country and small towns and let the progressive cities drown in human waste, rats and plague.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I don’t necessarily disagree. But given what Rod has been documenting happening even in his very conservative corner of Cajun country, parents have got to be pretty vigilant about this stuff. Progressive madness is all over TV, and it is or will soon be in the schools, your local library….

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Part of this is a difference of opinion on a factual question: Does the kind of community that can grow up around more traditional religious values lead to more human flourishing,

            That’s only a factual question once you agree to a definition about what human flourishing is, and even then it’s not empirical until you agree on a metric and methodology.

            Quite so. I’d be incredibly miserable in a religious community.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh, I’m not talking about “flourishing” which does sound like a value judgement. I’m just talking about reproduction. In the end, who reproduces more, religious people (even if not necessarily Catholics right now) or progressives?

            I need to do more research on exactly which populaces are growing and shrinking and how much. But I find it hard to imagine a way the progressives out reproduce the religious except by conversion. Which means refuse requests for Open Borders, buy Inquisitors and then just wait.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            I think having at least replacement-level fertility is a pretty important thing overall, but I’m very sure that fertility rate isn’t the only (or even the most important) measure of what makes a good society or community or life. The countries with the highest fertility rate right now mostly don’t look like success stories to me. And while I want my children to eventually give me grandkids, I don’t want them to make themselves miserable maxing out the number of grandchildren at all costs[1].

            Now, societies that can’t replace themselves won’t be around to provide whatever benefits they provide, in the long run. (Though it’s quite possible to have a society which has multiple components, some of which birth the babies and some of which absorb the fallen-away into their low-fertility luxury gay space communism ways.)

            To my mind, the strongest argument for social conservativism is that figuring out what a life well lived looks like and how to get there is a multi-lifetime project, and there’s substantial wisdom to be gathered by looking at stable arrangements that evolved over the centuries, and also at rules that said *not* to do some stuff. I think we can (and must, given social and technological change) hill-climb from there to get to strategies that work for most people to live a good life in today’s world. And I think we need to allow the freedom for people to be weird and say “thanks, but no thanks” to our traditional lifestyles, because some folks will never be happy there and some subset of them are the most creative/productive/interesting folks we produce.

            [1] My genes would want that, if they could want things, but I’m not my genes, and I don’t.

        • Garrett says:

          Where can I find intelligent young women who do care about such things and are open to a relationship with an atheist?

      • albatross11 says:

        For the Church to survive, it must prove its worth as an institution to people with an outside view. Not on moral or theological, but on pragmatic grounds. It must be an institution that makes the people in it more powerful, at least in their own perception of themselves. It must give more than it takes. I don’t believe it can. But as long as this is what the debate looks like, the Church will be consigning itself to a long, slow decay. As far as I’m concerned, as long as this is what the debate looks like, that’ll be what it deserves.

        I think this is almost right. To succeed long-term, the Church needs to prove its worth as an institution among its believers, and also attract enough new members to offset its losses from people leaving.

        What I see in my parish is that we have a lot of families with children, a core of people who stick with the Church even as 20-somethings when most people stop coming, and then a fairly big influx of people returning to the Church when they have kids. Baptism and first communion and confirmation are rituals that happen in the Church, and are kind of the obvious markers for raising your kids in the Church. Religious education (Sunday school, more-or-less) and various youth groups and activities are also a part of that. But my sense is that a lot of parents want a community in which to raise their kids. (Indeed, I think a lot of people are absolutely starving for a community of any kind, in our extremely atomized commercially-mediated society.) My wife and I teach a baptism class with new parents who want to get their kids baptized, so I have listened to a lot of parents, often new parents who are suddenly realizing that the way they were living as a couple of adults isn’t quite the same as how they’ll need to live to raise their kids well.

        Our parish has been growing for many years. And then, we had the most recent news stories about sexual abuse scandals in the Church (ironically, most of the scandals were quite old, and as best I can tell, the US Church is probably handling this stuff a lot better now), and I’ve seen a noticeable drop in attendance. This doesn’t look to me so much like people finding the Church unrewarding–instead it looks like people becoming disillusioned by horrible behavior in the Church hierarchy.

        It seems to me that one of the things the Church needs to do the most is to try harder to support forming a community among the members. It’s easy to just show up to Mass an hour a week and otherwise have no interaction with the community, and while that meets some peoples’ needs, I think it misses a lot of the value of what the Church can offer. Our parish has a very active youth group (one of the couples we taught in our baptism class originally met in the teenagers’ group, then went off to college, eventually reconnected and got married, and at last count I think they’re up to four kids)–that’s been a huge and important part of my older son’s life these last few years. I think we should do more along these lines, for different ages. Playgroups for parents with kids, small communities of faith, marriage encounter, knitting circles, AA meetings, scout troops, etc.

        This is based on my belief that:

        a. American society is way the hell too atomized and separate, and there are a lot of people who are pretty lonely and a lot of problems in the world that would be decreased by having more community ties.

        b. A church is a really good place to build those ties. We have a reason to show up every Sunday and for various other events, we have a physical building and a natural organizing point for volunteers, and we tend to have enough in common that building up a community is probably easier. We also have a lot of people willing to volunteer for things, and people willing to listen sympathetically to you when you’re having a hard time for some reason.

        c. Those ties can extend long past the initial thing that created them. Friends you made when your kids were together in scouts remain friends when those kids go off to college. I know couples who met in baptism class and made lifelong friendships from it. (We have some couples we’re friends with whom we taught in baptism class, for that matter.)

        d. That all works within a structure of belief in which we’re obliged to be willing to help each other and try to help the bigger community around us, and a structure of belief that tells us something about how we ought to be organizing our lives. I don’t see a value-neutral organization managing any of this stuff nearly so well. (Though I can imagine an organization with strong values that wasn’t religious working out in a similar way for most of this stuff–indeed, the main source of community for a lot of people is their workplace, and that’s nearly always secular and pretty agnostic about a lot of values other than showing up and doing a good job at work.)

        • Nick says:

          This is all really good stuff. One thing I want to highlight:

          The Church is clearly doing a lot for the people who actually do come, or come back to, your parish. That’s probably not true everywhere, but it can be made true, with the efforts of staff and community members. (A lot of what you mention, indeed, can be done adjacent to official parish activities, like inviting people over for coffee and prayer or planning to meet for daily Mass a certain day or the week or the like.) That doesn’t mean it’s obvious from the outside that it’s doing that good. It might not even be obvious from the inside.

          There’s a mistake in Hoopyfreud’s post, I think, where he says that the Church needs to prove it’s worth, and it’s evidently failing to do so, therefore it’s probably wrong about divorce, etc. I don’t think this follows. It could be failing to prove it’s worth for myriad reasons, like the awful scandals, and at the same time be right about a hell of a lot. Certainly it’s true, though, that it needs to prove itself. It very much does, because demographically the numbers are not good.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            There’s a mistake in Hoopyfreud’s post, I think, where he says that the Church needs to prove it’s worth, and it’s evidently failing to do so, therefore it’s probably wrong about divorce, etc.

            Not quite. The Church needs to prove its worth, but the solutions it offers to issues of divorce, etc. just seem worse overall than the alternatives I can see from where I’m sitting, therefore it’s evidently failing to do so.

        • A good deal of what you describe reminds me of my observations in the SCA, which provides a non-religious community. We have just driven across the country to spend two weeks camped out with ten thousand fellow medieval hobbyists, starting tomorrow. We spent the last few days visiting with friends near Chicago who we met through the SCA, and a few days back had dinner with them and two other families.

          A common subject of discussion in the SCA, nowadays often online, is about how to attract new members, retain old ones, make the group feel welcoming to teens and young adults.

          The SCA is a historical recreation group, but it’s clear that a lot of the value, for many people, is the community.

      • “We’ll drive down the divorce rate by punishing divorcees” is a much worse argument than “we’ll drive down the divorce rate by not forcing people into unhealthy relationships,”

        The argument doesn’t sound particularly compelling to people who see it as attacking a strawman.

        • albatross11 says:

          We’ve actually driven down the divorce rate a lot by having fewer people get married, but at the cost of having a lot of unmarried parents. If that means two people who live and raise their kids together, but didn’t get that piece of paper from the state, maybe that’s not such a big deal[1]. But a hell of a lot of the time, that means a woman raising some guy’s kids by herself, while he runs off and finds another woman and maybe sends some child support sometimes. I don’t know for sure that the cure was worse than the disease here, but it sure seems *plausible* that it was. Though really, this is probably a pendulum-swing thing–we had too much pressure on people not to get divorced so people stayed with horrible abusive spouses and crazy or addicted spouses and had very hard lives. Then we loosened that social pressure, but too much, and so now we have lots of guys with a baby mama or two but no wife, and lots of kids being raised without their dad–and now those moms and kids and sometimes the dads have very hard lives.

          [1] But my impression is that in the statistics, it is kind of a big deal–presumably because the paper is a marker for long-term commitment or religiosity or traditional values or something.

      • SamChevre says:

        I think this is a key point, but I think that the church would do this naturally with no help from the government. All I want is the state to stop stopping the church from “be an institution that makes the people in it more powerful.”

        Sixty years ago, churches were important; they affected where you worked, who you married, what schools your children went to, etc, etc,etc. Those things didn’t go away by accident, and they didn’t go away because people stopped wanting them: they went away because the state switched from freedom of association and free exercise of religion (Anglo-American liberalism) to egalitarianism and secularism (French-style liberalism).

        • albatross11 says:

          Sam:

          Can you point out what changes in laws you’re thinking of?

          • SamChevre says:

            Centrally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964–which made it illegal for private employers to have religious criteria for their employees; in addition, the rules against sex and marital status discrimination meant that employers could no longer consider behaviour to which objections tended to be religious (divorce, single parenthood, gender non-conformity). Almost as importantly, Abingdon Township and Lemon, which moved from a hands-off model at the national level with a lot of local variation to a French secularist model of government at all levels.

            In the 1930’s, my great aunt had to get special permission to finish out the school year after getting married Memorial Day weekend. In 1946, my grandfather got a list of churches that it would be acceptable to join when he got his first professional job. In 1965, both of those things were illegal.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think there are competing notions at work here, but both seem to be appealing to the principles that Chesterton felt were at the root of “what is America?” in his 1921 visit there:

      America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

      …America invites all men to become citizens; but it implies the dogma that there is such a thing as citizenship. Only, so far as its primary ideal is concerned, its exclusiveness is religious because it is not racial. The missionary can condemn a cannibal, precisely because he cannot condemn a Sandwich Islander. And in something of the same spirit the American may exclude a polygamist, precisely because he cannot exclude a Turk.

      …The Americans are very patriotic, and wish to make their new citizens patriotic Americans. But it is the idea of making a new nation literally out of any old nation that comes along. In a word, what is unique is not America but what is called Americanisation. We understand nothing till we understand the amazing ambition to Americanise the Kamskatkan and the Hairy Ainu. We are not trying to Anglicise thousands of French cooks or Italian organ-grinders. France is not trying to Gallicise thousands of English trippers or German prisoners of war. America is the one place in the world where this process, healthy or unhealthy, possible or impossible, is going on. And the process, as I have pointed out, is not internationalisation. It would be truer to say it is the nationalisation of the internationalised. It is making a home out of vagabonds and a nation out of exiles.

      …Another is that the chief mark of the Declaration of Independence is something that is not only absent from the British Constitution, but something which all our constitutionalists have invariably thanked God, with the jolliest boasting and bragging, that they had kept out of the British Constitution. It is the thing called abstraction or academic logic. It is the thing which such jolly people call theory; and which those who can practise it call thought. And the theory or thought is the very last to which English people are accustomed, either by their social structure or their traditional teaching. It is the theory of equality. It is the pure classic conception that no man must aspire to be anything more than a citizen, and that no man should endure to be anything less. …But the idealism of America, we may safely say, still revolves entirely round the citizen and his romance. … But citizenship is still the American ideal; there is an army of actualities opposed to that ideal; but there is no ideal opposed to that ideal. American plutocracy has never got itself respected like English aristocracy. Citizenship is the American ideal; and it has never been the English ideal. But it is surely an ideal that may stir some imaginative generosity and respect in an Englishman, if he will condescend to be also a man. In this vision of moulding many peoples into the visible image of the citizen, he may see a spiritual adventure which he can admire from the outside, at least as much as he admires the valour of the Moslems and much more than he admires the virtues of the Middle Ages. He need not set himself to develop equality, but he need not set himself to misunderstand it. He may at least understand what Jefferson and Lincoln meant, and he may possibly find some assistance in this task by reading what they said. He may realise that equality is not some crude fairy tale about all men being equally tall or equally tricky; which we not only cannot believe but cannot believe in anybody believing. It is an absolute of morals by which all men have a value invariable and indestructible and a dignity as intangible as death. He may at least be a philosopher and see that equality is an idea; and not merely one of these soft-headed sceptics who, having risen by low tricks to high places, drink bad champagne in tawdry hotel lounges, and tell each other twenty times over, with unwearied iteration, that equality is an illusion.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I just want to amplify this long excerpt. I found it a rewarding read.

      • Aevylmar says:

        This is beautiful. I miss Chesterton so much. I wish someone today could write like he did then – or, at least, would.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      People saying “But there’s no way we could set up a full theocracy in America!” are taking an excessively binary view of the situation, IMHO. There are plenty of things which the government (state or federal) could do to clip the wings of progressivism without requiring the establishment of a theocracy or state Church. E.g., cut funding for universities which don’t do enough to rein in their student activists, ban drag queen story hour-type events, modify or repeal the more pernicious anti-discrimination statutes, pass laws preventing indecency or excessive violence from being shown on film or television, slap extra taxes on businesses which engage in political lobbying or propagandise on topics outside their actual business interests, use anti-trust laws against big tech, etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        I imagine this would start by a conservative SC majority deciding that the constitution really doesn’t forbid school prayer or public religious displays after all.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          @albatross11

          For a moment, I read your comment as saying

          I imagine this would start by a conservative SSC majority deciding that the constitution really doesn’t forbid school prayer or public religious displays after all.

          which completely changed how I read it.

          • Deiseach says:

            a conservative SSC majority

            Shhhh! You’re not supposed to give away the top-secret secret plan this soon! 😀

    • I remember back when the Viganò letter was in the news and they asked a bunch of Catholics about whether they should expel the gay priests, one anonymous Catholic said they can’t do so because then there’d be a shortage of priests. I don’t think there has ever been a better example of the Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action.

      My own view of the long-term potential of religion is rather dim for this reason. In a society hostile to religious values, it’s usually easier in the short term to take the path of least resistance, of non-enforcement, of looking the other way. But when you do that, you lose what to us atheists/agnostics/deists looks like the only benefit of religion, the social conservatism it nurtures. Perhaps it looks different to those with “real” faith, I get the sense that David French is one of them. His tribe is not socially conservative people, it’s people with faith, and so he feels closer to Bristol Palin than to the secular social conservative.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I remember back when the Viganò letter was in the news and they asked a bunch of Catholics about whether they should expel the gay priests, one anonymous Catholic said they can’t do so because then there’d be a shortage of priests.

        I don’t think that’s true, though. Catholic priests aren’t much gayer than the population at large. One could say it might exacerbate the already existent shortage. Then again it might also reduce it, as there’s evidence that enforcement of rules emphasizes the value of participation as you allude to in your second paragraph.

        • Nick says:

          I think you’re underestimating how many priests are gay; it’s definitely more than 3-5%. At the same time, quite a number of them (I’m not going to claim a majority or something) are actually trying to live out their vocation. I think the focus should be on kicking out sexually active priests, which we can be pretty sure from prior studies would mean a disproportionate number of gay priests.

          You’re right to think, though, that this wouldn’t just straightforwardly worsen the priest shortage. One of the things the “gay mafia” in a diocese targets is the seminary. Some seminaries have a lot of sexual activity, and seminarians who won’t participate in that are sidelined, or a sexually active vocations director will recommend for them to be removed. This sort of thing is extraordinarily pernicious. Letters sent in to Rod’s blog claim JPII’s reforms got rid of the worst of this at American seminaries, but there are some where it still happens. Boston’s seminary was fingered; so was Philadelphia’s. If celibate straight and gay seminarians weren’t leaving in disgust or being thrown out of seminaries like this, it would mitigate some of the shortage from throwing out sexually active gay priests.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, more than 3-5%. I remembered numbers around 7% when last we were arguing about sex abuse scandals, but googling around now I find surveys saying anywhere from 9% to the ludicrously improbable 50%.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t believe 50% either, but I bet it’s north of 10%. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at the data, though.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, even as someone who is fairly cynical about the church, 50% sounds ludicrously high.

            Of course it is important to remember that not all gay priests are sexually active, and not all sexually active gay priests are sexually active with young boys.

          • Nick says:

            Of course it is important to remember that not all gay priests are sexually active, and not all sexually active gay priests are sexually active with young boys.

            Yes on both counts. It’s precisely facts like these that need to be kept in mind lest it become some kind of witch hunt. The primary problem at present, as I see it, is networks of sexually active priests who protect each other, whether by hiding the sexual activity or burying evidence or attempting to promote one another. Many of them are gay, but not all. And some of them are, or were, having sex with for instance teenage boys, but statistics suggest that’s dropped off precipitously thanks to reforms.

          • albatross11 says:

            Indeed, I believe that was Cardinal McCarrick’s behavior–he wasn’t alleged to have slept with anyone underage, but he was alleged to have slept with seminarians under his instruction.

            One widely claimed explanation for the Church hierarchy’s extremely deferential handling of priests accused of sex scandals (almost always with teenaged boys) is that the accused priests could threaten to disclose the higher-ups’ own sexual behavior in retaliation. I don’t know whether that’s true.

            I also don’t know to what extent the higher-ups thought of an adult priest sleeping with (say) a 15 year old boy as a major crime–in many states, that would have been above the age of consent, and you can imagine guys with a strong personal incentive to come up with a justification convincing themselves that it wasn’t so bad. Especially if there was also an ongoing policy of dealing with adult sex scandals by quieting things down with talk or money or threats or promises, and moving the priest out of reach of his current temptation, and if this was commonly done for gay priests with a goal of preventing it from becoming widely known how many priests were gay.

  12. sharper13 says:

    An interesting continued discussion around the Baumol theory and it’s implications for cost disease some here will find interesting. I linked to the comments because they’re almost as good as Kling’s summary of recent economist’s discussions at lunch with Tabarrok.

    • JPNunez says:

      A pure Baumol Effect would raise wages in every occupation where productivity growth is slow, including for barbers and waiters. That has not taken place.

      As I understand it Baumol means that only because the musicians _can_ become factory workers, do the wages of musicians go up. The wage up chain can go far, but it has to be plausible for the people to change jobs.

      Once you change from musicians to doctors, and factory workers to *other highly qualified professions*, doctor’s wages go up along with lawyers’ wages, college teachers’ wages, but not necessarily musicians or factory workers, or barbers or waiters.

  13. Well... says:

    Last time I wrote about oil changes, my thinking was it seems not worthwhile to change my own oil.

    But by now I have purchased some jack stands from a thrift store ($6 each) and a pretty decent jack from Aldi that had gone on clearance ($20). (I bought these so I could change my own brake pads, which was totally worth it.) I already own a funnel but would need to purchase a filter wrench and a drip pan, plus the oil and filter for each oil change. But I have a little time on my hands, my car is due, I kind of like the DIY aspect, and I’m feeling a little squeezed on cash lately, so…

    Convince me why I should pay someone else to change my oil!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      You shouldn’t. You will save money (and probably time) by doing it yourself. And you may not even need a jack, depending on the type of car you drive. I have SUVs and don’t bother with a jack.

      Also don’t forget the crush washer.

      • Well... says:

        I drive a tiny hatchback. I will need a jack. Fortunately I have one.

        When you say the crush washer do you mean the oil filter gasket? I haven’t heard of a crush washer before.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Crush washers. You should be able to search for the right size for your vehicle or ask at the auto parts store. There will be a rubber gasket on the outside of the filter to prevent external leakage (comes pre-attached to filter) but the crush washer goes around the drain plug bolt. Don’t reuse crush washers. Just buy a pack of 6 or something and it’ll last you years.

          You should need a drip pan, a funnel, a wrench for the drain plug, a filter wrench*, the filter, oil, and a crush washer. If you’re nervous you might just want to go to the auto parts store and tell the guy you’ve never changed your own oil before and he’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need.

          I like changing my own oil because you save money, you know it’s done right, and I don’t have to drive to the service shop** and wait around while they do it. Especially because most of the time waiting is just…waiting for the oil to drain. At home you get it started go back inside and read SSC for 20 minutes and then come back.

          * I prefer the metal ones that fit over my car’s filter with a little hole in the bottom for my socket wrench. I don’t like the adjustable kind with a strap because they never seem to work right. Maybe I’m just bad at them. Also, the wrench is only for taking the filter off, not for putting it back on. Hand tighten when installing.

          ** You do have to drive by an auto parts store and drop off the used oil, though, but that’s much faster than waiting at the service shop.

          • Well... says:

            I have changed my own oil before, but it was like 15 years ago on my first car. But I basically remember what to do, plus there’s Youtube.

            I know about the metal filter wrenches, that’s what I would plan to buy.

            Also, I know about crush washers. I call those drain plug gaskets. Tomayto tomahto I guess.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, you said in your previous post “oil filter gasket.”

          • Well... says:

            Yup, left it off by mistake! 😛

    • Matt M says:

      If you don’t actively enjoy working on cars, and if you have a reasonably successful/well paid career (my prior is that most people posting on SSC probably do), the primary cost of changing your oil isn’t really the $10 you save from not paying Jiffy Lube, but rather the opportunity cost of your leisure time.

      Do some quick estimates in your head as to how much $/hr your leisure time is worth. Compare how long it takes you to change your own oil with how much incremental money you pay to Jiffy Lube to do it for you. Easy math.

      I’ll also note that a very simple, no-frills “oil change only” at most quick lube places is pretty cheap. They mostly make their money by upselling other services (occasionally ones that aren’t even remotely needed, but YMMV on that). If you’re good at saying “Nope, just the basic, cheapest, oil change, nothing else, thanks” the cost is often surprisingly low.

      • Well... says:

        I am well paid, but that doesn’t mean I have a lot of disposable income. In fact I have extremely little. (One of the joys of having kids, bills, student loans, a mortgage, no benefits, etc.)

        I don’t get paid during my leisure time (and here I am not counting “time I am not at work but have to do chores/cook dinner/run errands/supervise the kids”) so if I can use that time to save money, even $10, I probably should.

        Plus, I enjoy doing productive things[*] with my hands in my leisure time. And I like the satisfaction of having things that exist or work properly or are well-maintained because of work I did with my own hands. So, 2 hours spent changing my oil is WAY more enjoyable than 2 hours spent watching Youtube.

        Another consideration is the quality of oil in my car: at a mechanic’s shop they’re likely to pour in oil from the bottom of a 55-gallon drum, and that oil will carry all the crud it’s accumulated off the inside of that drum. Especially true at a Jiffy Lube type place. Right?

        *Well, some things. I don’t really like mowing my lawn that much. I don’t like scrubbing dirt off of things. Etc. Maybe the differentiator is additive vs. subtractive processes!

        • J Mann says:

          Based on my experience changing the oil in my mower, disposing of used oil can be a hassle. I’d make sure there was someone in your area who is willing to take the used oil.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Any auto parts store should take it.

          • acymetric says:

            For free?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes.

            I was under the impression they’re required to do so by law (if you sell oil you must collect used oil) but that could just be a state or local law/ordinance. But every auto parts store around here does. I walk in with my catch can, I say “I’ve got some used oil here” they say “great, thanks,” they take it in the back and pour it into a drum that gets hauled away for recycling every so often.

          • b_jonas says:

            Some gas stations take used oil for free here. They take cooking oil as well, which is why I know this, since I don’t own a car.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            On used oil- in my experience, at least in places with colder winters garages will have a furnace in which they burn used oil to heat the workshop.

        • Don P. says:

          @Well:

          Plus, I enjoy doing productive things[*] with my hands in my leisure time. And I like the satisfaction of having things that exist or work properly or are well-maintained because of work I did with my own hands.

          This is all you need, I think. You like doing this sort of thing, so by all means go ahead.

          • Well... says:

            Yeah, I think I was really just using this thread to finally talk myself into buying the last few items I needed. Ironically, over the phone at work today I let my wife know “Hey, I’m gonna start doing more of the maintenance and basic repairs on our cars rather than taking it to mechanics every time” and she protested.

            Her motte (hope I’m using it right this time, we’ll see, here we go) was that doing the work myself would take time, thus take me away from being with her and the kids. I pointed out that sitting at the auto mechanic’s shop for an hour and often a lot more was just as bad, plus the mechanic we trust most happens to not have a courtesy shuttle.

            So then her bailey was she doesn’t like the optics of “broke down cars sitting in front of the house”, to which my reply was that I wouldn’t do any repair that would require a car to sit there in front of the house on blocks or anything, only standard maintenance that I could do within an afternoon.

            Then she reminded me I had only asked her opinion and that I was free to do what I want, and that she does what she wants all the time without consulting me. Then we laughed, said I love you, and hung up.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Do some quick estimates in your head as to how much $/hr your leisure time is worth. Compare how long it takes you to change your own oil with how much incremental money you pay to Jiffy Lube to do it for you. Easy math.

        How long does it take you to change your own oil?

        Put down drip pan. Unscrew drain plug. (1 minute)

        Go inside for 15-20 minutes of leisure time while oil drains.

        Unscrew filter. Screw in new filter. Screw in drain plug. (1 minute)

        Pour oil into engine. (3-4 minutes).

        Clean up (3-4 minutes).

        It’s about 10 minutes of actual work, and you can do it any time on a Saturday without any disruption to your day. But driving to Jiffy Lube and back, and waiting around while they do it, assuming you’re not in line behind two or three other people can suck an hour or more out of your day.

        ETA: Also I buy my oil and filters and what not off Amazon, so I don’t even have to go to the store for that.

        • Well... says:

          Plus they might mess up your car, put cruddy oil in it, and you have to listen to a bunch of obnoxious upselling.

          I didn’t address that earlier though because I’ve been scheduling my oil changes at the local AAA mechanic, who I trust.

      • HowardHolmes says:

        Don’t pay any attention to Matt M about how to spend leisure time. Changing your oil will be twice as satisfying as a movie, video, sports program or visiting with people for that matter.

        • Watchman says:

          A bit unfair. I like doing things with my hands a certain amount (DIY and gardening mainly) but will pay others to do most things on my car, mainly because I don’t like getting my hands all oily…

          It’s a matter of taste and choice.

    • John Schilling says:

      Convince me why I should pay someone else to change my oil!

      I refuse. If you have the tools and the time and the talent to change your own oil, and if your car is due for an oil change but no other major maintenance, you should change your own oil. And probably rotate the tires and do a basic inspection. This will keep useful talents fresh, it will boost your self-confidence, it will probably be more fun than whatever else you are doing if only by novelty, and it will provide a check against shady mechanics ripping you off. And it will probably save you a few bucks.

      These are perhaps not sufficient reason for someone to go out and buy a jack and jackstands, learn basic auto mechanics from scratch, make extraordinary efforts to free a spare hour in their schedule, etc. But from the description, you’re already 90% of the way there and you didn’t frame the question as “should I tear myself away from my harem of supermodels so I can trade places with my staff mechanic for an hour?”

    • The Nybbler says:

      Changing your own oil takes time, gets you dirty, loses you knuckle-skin, and doesn’t make any obvious difference to the way the car is running once you’re done. And then you have to find a place to take the used oil (depends on local regs). And it’s usually cheap to pay someone to do. It’s probably one of the poorest ways to economize working on your car (e.g. you probably saved a lot more on brakes).

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, this. It seems to me there are two main cases where it makes sense to do your own oil changes: you need the money it saves you, or you want to be a handy DIY sort of person. Neither of these were true for me, so I had someone else do my oil changes when I owned a car.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m not even convinced you’re actually saving money.

          I suppose it depends on where you go for the oil change, I guess, and how much oil your vehicle takes (most place just charge a flat rate, so it is a better deal if your vehicle takes more oil).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Maybe there’s cheaper places, but a full synthetic change at Jiffy Lube for my SUV is about $75. Buying a case of oil off Amazon is about $25 and the filter is about $15.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, comparing the cost of changing your own oil to having it changed is often not a like for like for comparison.

            Especially when you take into account that Jiffy Lube or elsewhere frequently is going to upsell you things that you also don’t need.

          • acymetric says:

            Only if you let them.

            If you don’t know enough about cars to decline whatever various nonsense they try to push on you, I’m not sure you know enough to change your oil.

    • SamChevre says:

      You should not pay someone else to change your oil, but IIRC you have kids; mine think changing the oil is an awesome project to help with–and the 11-year-old can do an oil change by himself.

      The two bits of advice I’d add. Get some oil absorbent (Oil-Dri or the like) and put it down, then put a broken-down box on top of it, and put your oil pan on that–then you can avoid getting oil running down your driveway. And use extended-life oil–Wal-Mart has it for about the price that an oil change package is at Advance, so if Advance or Autozone doesn’t have it in a current package, go to Wal-Mart.

      • Well... says:

        Instead I bought a valvomax (I think that’s what it’s called) oil plug. It comes with this kind of flexible spout thingy so it lets the oil right down into the pan (or even an empty jug) without any splashing.

        Noted about the Walmart oil.

        Your 11 year-old is awesome, good job on that one!

    • proyas says:

      Convince me why I should pay someone else to change my oil!

      I’ve been changing the oil on my own car for years without a problem. Doing it myself, I know it’s done right, I can do it on my schedule (no wasting time in those horrible waiting rooms at car mechanic shops), and I can do 12-hour oil changes if I want (just leave the oil pan open overnight) to get out way more gunk than most people ever do.

      The only benefit to paying a mechanic to change your oil is that he will usually do a free inspection of your car’s basic features and functions while you’re waiting, so you’ll find out if one of your turn signals or running lights is broken. Of course, you could easily teach yourself how to check these same things and do it during your at-home oil changes.

      BTW, since 2008, I’ve only been changing my oil about once every 7,500 miles, and I’ve only used cheap-o generic brand motor oil and filters from Wal-Mart or K-Mart, and my engine has never had a problem.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I’ve only used cheap-o generic brand motor oil and filters from

        AFAIK, the real question here is more about how long you want the engine to last before a major (not worth the expense) overhaul, not whether it will make it to the next oil change.

  14. sami says:

    I would like to know more about the history of mapmaking. I visited my childhood home recently and was struck by my total lack of a mental map of the area, despite deep familiarity with the routes to places I had often travelled, both by car and hiking. Everywhere I’ve lived since, I always consulted a map first when I was a stranger to the area, so my mental picture of the route to a particular location would always be hung on the overall map. But when, as a child, I was learning the territory solely by traveling through it, this knowledge never cohered into any kind of mental map, and it made me wonder at what point in human history mapmaking, and map-thinking, became common. Also, the territory I’m referencing here is extremely rural, hilly, densely wooded, and liberally spotted with bodies of water; there are few vistas where you can see very far in any particular direction, and the roads curve this way and that and loop all over the place, making it impossible at any random point on a road to discern the overall direction of travel, if you don’t know it already. So, was this particular environment especially ill-suited to the formation of a mental map, or is it a peculiarity of my own brain that I never came up with one? Do most people have mental maps (meaning something similar to an actual map, not a sense like “I know the road forks up here”) to places they are familiar with but have never looked at an actual map of? Does it depend on the territory? Did mapmaking develop first in flatter places more conducive to mapping on flat paper? I feel like someone here is likely to know some interesting tidbits on map history.

    • I can’t speak for other people, but I have very poor mapping intuition. Back when I played WoW, my character would warn other members of his party that he could get lost on a tabletop. When I spent some time in Canberra, I eventually realized that my mental map of the bit near where I was staying was inside out—I had been working on point to point navigation, not following a mental map.

      One of the claims made in evolutionary psychology, for all I know true, is that men are, on average, better than women at map making sorts of tasks. But my wife used to make her living doing three dimensional mapping (for Shell, to find oil–she was a geologist).

    • Tenacious D says:

      I recently read Sea People, a book about the settlement of Polynesia. It included a discussion of Polynesian navigation, which is based more on the observer-centred experience of crossing the ocean (e.g. how the stars will shift overhead as the journey proceeds and how birds/clouds/waves behave near islands), compared to European navigation that takes on an external view, attempting to locate a ship on an objective grid. The author draws some parallels with the differences in perspective and focus between oral and literate cultures.

      • sami says:

        That is interesting. It’s not immediately obvious to me why or how oral vs. literate culture corresponds to experiential vs. a more point-on-grid style of navigation. Maybe in the sense that map-making requires a leap of abstraction from the concrete experience of terrain to a removed, birds-eye-view? I’m not sure if the transition from oral to literate culture entails a similar move toward abstraction, or if both transitions just have the same root cause.

        • Tenacious D says:

          If I recall correctly, the author wasn’t saying that there was a causal link between literate culture and point-on-grid navigation, just pointing out the ways (in both domains) in which the systems people use for communication and navigation shape the sorts of things they notice and remember. For example, she says that literate cultures have more linear narratives, whereas oral cultures can reliably pass on who did what, but when can be one of the first things to get lost or jumbled.

          When it comes to navigation, as @Watchman says in a lower sub-thread,

          [There’s] a learned reflex to using maps: the better you are at reading maps, the more likely you are to be able to think in terms of mapping conventions. The obvious analog here is language, where as you get more practiced you begin to be able to think in a language, which makes sense: mapping conventions are a symbolic language expressing features in space.

          My understanding of how the author of Sea People thinks about this question is that using charts, compasses, and sextants shapes someone’s thinking toward the birds-eye-view perspective on spatial orientation while traditional Polynesian techniques both rely on and promote a very different mental frame of reference.

    • Well... says:

      So, was this particular environment especially ill-suited to the formation of a mental map, or is it a peculiarity of my own brain that I never came up with one?

      I have no data about your brain and would be unqualified to analyze that data even if I had it, but your description of that landscape sounds like it would be very difficult to form a mental map just by traveling thought it. I have a very keen sense of direction and spatial awareness but one of the hardest things for me to do is to go around a bunch of blind curves (such as those running along the sides of hills) and know exactly what direction I’m traveling in at the end relative to the direction I was traveling in at the beginning. Like, if the road I’m on is straight and headed due north, then it bends to the left for a while, then straightens out again, and it does this gradually (not like a cloverleaf exit on a highway), it’s hard for me to gauge whether I’m now going northwest, west, or maybe even in a southward direction.

    • CatCube says:

      I was just where I grew up, which has almost exactly the environment you describe. I have a gross mental map of the area, mostly formed by looking over state-level maps, but I do have some difficulty with direction due to the winding roads.

      I went on several drives through the woods, and ended up relying on a platbook that I had picked up from the county for other reasons. I did this because 1) Google maps has some real problems in rural areas that can make it dangerous to rely on 2) Cell service is very poor, so you might find yourself without access to a map if you’re relying on your cellphone and Google maps and 3) Part of the reason for the driving around is to exercise my ability to navigate without the electronic pacifier (I typically try to use turn-by-turn navigation for <50% of any trips, to help me form and maintain the mental map you talk about, and even referring to a paper map and associate to where you are yourself is better than just letting the magic box tell you when to turn for this)

      That definitely helped me "fill in" more of the mental map that I had. There's a lake that the township had a camp on that we went to often as kids, but it turned out to be a lot further south than I thought when I was navigating there with a paper map.

      • sami says:

        I hate to think what my navigation skills would be like had I grown up in the era of Google maps. I tend to be absent minded, so without the necessity of looking out for landmarks, etc, I may as well be sleep-driving, at least from the perspective of internalizing my trip through the landscape. On my recent trip I looked at some of the type of county plat maps you described in preparation for a day long swimming trip, and it was mildly mind-blowing to see the huge discrepancy in distance as-the-crow-flies, vs. the road mileage I was already so familiar with. I was delighted to find that I could easily swim in a day, via lakes and the dugways between them, (and I am a slow, leisurely, lots of breaks type of swimmer) to a spot that would take two hours by car to reach.

      • Cell service is very poor, so you might find yourself without access to a map if you’re relying on your cellphone and Google maps

        You can download a map of the relevant area at some time when you have a good connection. Once you have a map, GPS doesn’t need a cell connection.

        • Nick says:

          Didn’t Google disable offline maps? Or is it still possible to manually download them or something?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            For anecdotal information, Google Maps on my phone will actually ask me if I want to download the offline map for my trip sometimes. I’m not sure what prompts it, as I’ve only seen it a couple times, but it seems like something they’re actively encouraging at least in some cases.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            As moonfirestorm said, I can and do still download maps in Google Maps.

            It’s very useful for driving in the mountains (hills?) of Pennsylvania or certain parts of upstate New York where you can get a GPS signal but mobile data is spotty. Likewise when I drove in state parks in the Pacific Northwest. The problem is that Google Maps will try to download the local roads for half of the country if you let it, so you need to check if the area you’re downloading is significantly larger than where you’re planning on driving.

    • Watchman says:

      On the history of map-making, I can’t say for certain how old this is but the Greeks and Chinese were both producing maps in the first millennium BC, and were capable of using these practically or symbolically. Since maps are a form of drawing and don’t require writing it may be that maps are older than written works in human history, as like writing maps work on a shared understanding of meaning.

      You are however conflating maps and mental mapping here. To try and explain this, I might have to give some personal background. I’ve always been good at mental maps: if I can walk or drive to a place once, in general I’ll be able to travel there again without a map or guidance. But mental mapping is like much ancient mapping as it is as much symbolic as representative. It’s about knowing how your landscape fits together, not visualising it as a map. You’re not thinking turn left in half a mile but rather turn left at the Kings Arms (I grew up in rural England so navigating by pubs is normal) or just past Jamie’s house, or in the case of my recreated journeys, matching remembered images from the first time I drove to reality as prompts. This does not require knowing how things lie on the ground, just how they connect in your experience; so, where I grew up I knew all the routes across fields and walls (hidden stiles being a fun local feature) but couldn’t actually link two different sets of fields together until my dad and I explored a short footpath over a hill linking the two. Looking at a map they’re almost parallel and 500 metres apart. To a 10-years old me they were two different spikes away from the hub of my house and were effectively different universes.

      What is worth stressing here is that actually thinking in terms of modern scales and standardised maps is unusual, and tends to be a learned reflex to using maps: the better you are at reading maps, the more likely you are to be able to think in terms of mapping conventions. The obvious analog here is language, where as you get more practiced you begin to be able to think in a language, which makes sense: mapping conventions are a symbolic language expressing features in space. I do orienteering as a sport, basically cross country with a map to select your own route, and as a result can visualise the world as actual maps. But this is a separate ability to being able to mentally map where I want to go (I can combine the two to visualise where I’m planning to go, but that’s less reliable). From what you say you had a mental map of your childhood environment as well , but can’t manage to visualise this as a conventional map. This doesn’t mean you’re no good at mental mapping but simply that your ability to translate the mental map in your head to the one of the modern languages of mapping is not sufficiently developed to produce a modern map. The basic test of a mental map is whether you get lost or not, not whether you can draw it out for someone else to follow.

      All of that said if you do want to improve your mental mapping, do activities involving heavy map use (orienteering and some endurance races, hiking, navigating around unknown towns (North American grid systems probably still work but are less fun than older towns) a lot. You will probably develop useful mental ways of categorizing spatial relationships so you can effectively create mental maps more effectively, as well as being able to think in map conventions. Mental mapping, like thinking in maps, is a learnable skill.

      • sami says:

        Perhaps I was using the term wrong, but by mental mapping I did not mean the ability to think in terms of standardized scales and modern maps; I agree that is a learned and specialized skill. I meant the ability to picture something that would correspond to a bird’s eye view of the terrain, even if very distorted. Something like a mental image that results from “this road and this stream and this lakeshore and this other road here form a closed loop, and these things are inside the loop, and these things are outside of it”. If I sat down with a pen and paper and really thought about it, I could probably draw something like this for the place I grew up, but it is not something that arose naturally from my navigation of the terrain using landmarks. I wonder how many people come up with naive mental maps of this sort versus navigating by landmarks, when they haven’t first seen a map. Is it a cultural difference or a more innate mental trait, or is it dependent on topography? I imagine if I had grown up somewhere with more opportunities for seeing vast stretches of the landscape, I may have developed that mental habit, but perhaps not. On the other hand, for places that I saw on a map before learning to navigate them, I will often mentally reference the map when thinking about location or navigating, so it’s definitely learnable, if not likely to be spontaneous.

    • bullseye says:

      When I was almost 8, I moved to a new town with a lot of bike paths. I was much better at remembering routes than forming mental maps, even though I was familiar with actual maps and even looked at maps of the area I was exploring. Based on that experience, I figure you learned to navigate your home before you were old enough to have mental maps, so you just never had any use for a mental map of that area.

    • Cayzle says:

      You may find the link between autistic savants and mapmaking to be interesting. One category of savant expertise includes “Mechanical or spatial skills: including the capacity to measure distances precisely without benefit of instruments, the ability to construct complex models or structures with painstaking accuracy, or the mastery of mapmaking and direction-finding.” Source: Savant Syndrome by Darold Treffert

    • The Nybbler says:

      While I have a pretty decent sense of direction, a map in the sense of a 2D representation of the territorial geography is definitely not my brain’s native format. More like a graph in the computer science sense (that is, an idea of how places are connected to one another), plus some directional information so I have an idea that one place is north/east/west/south of another. The additional information means I can sometimes navigate through unfamiliar territory by having a general idea of which way I need to go, and also which features would mean I’m going the wrong way. Well short of an actual map though.

  15. Plumber says:

    Ross Douthat in his latest NYT column linked to Slate Star Codex yet again.

    • benjdenny says:

      Conor Friedersdorf linked from his column in the atlantic today, as well

      • Plumber says:

        I just read Friedersdorf’s essay, which seems very “old news” to me, but I suppose these things need to be repeated.

  16. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I’ve had a thought bouncing around in my head for the last eight years or so, which the discussion about David French and how liberalism relates to Christianity has brought to the surface.

    Liberalism, in the sense of classical liberalism, is a humanist ideology. While humanism existed for centuries before liberalism became a political force, and many illiberal regimes have claimed to be humanist, it is hard to imagine a liberal state which doesn’t officially subscribe to some form of humanist ideology. Culturally, it’s considered the “neutral” ideology within the US, especially when compared to other religious or political ideologies.

    Interestingly, however, “Secular Humanism” has also been defined as a non-theistic religion by the Supreme Court. While circuit courts have refused to grant cert to cases by creationists arguing that promotion of secular humanist ideology violates the establishment clause of the first amendment, it’s still a seemingly quite plausible argument given how broadly the establishment clause is read today. With a plaintiff who isn’t a creationist and a friendlier court, it’s conceivable that much of the current ideological content of public education would constitute a violation of students and parents constitutional rights.

    I have two questions related to this thought. The first is how plausible it is, legally and politically. The second is that if such an attempt to disestablish Secular Humanism in the US succeeded, what would the results look like?

    • Randy M says:

      I wonder if there will be attacks on “humanism” from the other side, as unfairly elevating members of a particular species due to random characteristics granted by dint of birth.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      it’s conceivable that much of the current ideological content of public education would constitute a violation of students and parents constitutional rights.

      Can you give me some examples of the sorts of SH things you’d expect to see stricken from K-12 education?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I’ve thought about it and I actually can’t point out any one specific thing.

        The things that religious conservatives tend to point to are weak. Evolution is a factual matter where the alleged ethical implications are very vague and usually not dealt with in class. Comprehensive sex education is clearer, because “sex positivity” is fundamentally an ethical or ideological claim, but if it’s packaged as part of a health class it’s easy to frame it as one more piece of health advice.

        I’ll need to think about it more.

        • Nick says:

          It might be worth considering social studies and history classes specifically. Progressives and conservatives could certainly teach American history differently, for instance. One could see the civil rights movement as ending with the successful overturning of miscegenation laws, while another could see it as culminating in Obergefell v. Hodges.

        • dick says:

          Seconded, I have no idea what secular humanism even means, beyond being a convenient label for the people on the opposite side of “I want the schools to push my religion’s tenets.” The fact that (for example) most of the Americans who oppose high school sex ed classes do so because they’re Christian doesn’t imply that the people on the other side share a religion; implying that they do just seems like a lazy strawman to make them easier to argue against.

    • albatross11 says:

      There’s a fundamental problem here:

      If you educate children and care for them many hours a day, you’re going to need to convey some values. Any coherent bundle of values will look a lot like a religion, even if there are no gods to be worshiped, and any coherent bundle of values will offend those who have different values but need to send their kids to that school.

      The solution we seem to have come to in the public schools is to work up a kind of secular median set of values, based on what school boards and teachers believe, and with various activist groups trying to work the refs around the edges to push their preferred values into the system. That inevitably means that we have public schools teaching values that a lot of parents strongly disagree with, and ignoring things that many parents feel are extremely important values.

      The cleanest solution I can see for this problem is some mix of vouchers and homeschooling. Unfortunately, homeschooling is a minority taste (like churning your own butter–maybe you’ll get results more to your liking, but it’s a lot of work), and vouchers are politically very hard to do in the modern US, for a bunch of reasons[1].

      [1] One important reason is that a lot of people absolutely want to use the power of teaching values in the schools to defeat the wrong values of the other side–see battles on sex ed and busing. Another is that house prices in most of the US are tightly bound to school district boundaries, and so letting people bypass public school boundaries would transfer billions of dollars of value from the wealthiest people in the best neighborhoods to poorer people in worse neighborhoods. Still another is that public schools emply a lot of people and those people don’t take kindly to plans to disrupt their lives and careers. And so on.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Yeah, that’s kind of what I was gesturing at.

        It may not be possible, and it certainly isn’t desireable, to raise children in a total ethical void where they are only ever taught facts and never the moral context surrounding them. Every educator, whether they’re a parent or a professional teacher, is going to impart some sort of worldview. But that’s also why compulsory education in government-run public schools is problematic: it inherently establishes a single government-approved ideology that all kids are legally required to be exposed to 6-8 hours a day and five days a week for twelve nine-month years.

        Which is why I really like voucher programs. I suspect that voucher schools aren’t actually any better at teaching white and Asian kids than public schools, with the effect we see is entirely due to student selection and better outcomes for black students. Likewise, they are likely only cheaper because they don’t have to deal with the teacher’s unions, and you can union-bust without privatizing education. The real advantage is that there’s nothing stopping parents who object to the ideology taught in public schools from saying “screw you” to the local school board and taking their tax money across the street to a competing voucher school.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s definitely impossible, if only because the school itself has to have rules and those are part of what is being taught.

          Banning or allowing Mary to walk around the school nekkid is an ethical decision. There is no neutral decision.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          … You do realize this is a very coherent argument for the government making public schooling absolutely mandatory? It is kind of important that everyone at least *know* what the prevaling ethical framework is, or you are darn well risking civil war in the long term.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think everybody who’s not very, very sheltered is going to “at least know what the prevailing ethical framework is”, and the number of very, very sheltered people isn’t going to be large enough for them to start a civil war. And I think it’s debatable whether the US even has a “prevailing ethical framework” at the moment, and consequently whether universal public schooling is actually going to keep the peace. If anything, I think it’s likely to do the opposite, since no matter what set of ethical principles you teach, a significant proportion of the country is going to view you as trying to indoctrinate their children with your false and ungodly / bigoted and fundamentalist propaganda.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen,

            In a totalitarian state, sure. It’s absolutely essential that everyone is indoctrinated into the ruling ideology at a young age or else you’ll face everything from dissent to violent revolution when adults with different values are forcibly prevented from forming communities with those values.

            But the United States is still nominally a free society, where people are in theory permitted to manage their own affairs and act according to their own values. In practice, of course, this hasn’t been the case for at least the last six decades but that freedom to live your own life is still the source of America’s legitimacy in the public imagination.

            As I would prefer to see America move away from its current totalizing ideology back towards federalism , reducing the degree of state indoctrination is very important.

  17. Conrad Honcho says:

    So Fire Emblem: Three Houses come out tomorrow, the review embargo has lifted, and wow, that is some serious critical acclaim. I’m still in the middle of two other games right now so I’m not going to have time to start it for another week or so. But boy does that look good.

    • Randy M says:

      This is part of why I bought the Switch, but I haven’t finished Octopath, FF XII, Disgaea V, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Dragon Quest builders 2 yet, nor really touched Mario & Rabids, Hollow Knight, or Civ VI, so I don’t think I’m going to get to it this year.

      I’ve never played a FE game, but love the genre and look forward to the opportunity.

    • BBA says:

      I’ll probably get a Switch for this.

    • JPNunez says:

      Got it, unlocked last night, played the first hour, it’s ok.

      Very excited to get to play more later today.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What house did you pick?

      • acymetric says:

        Would I be ok jumping having not played a Fire Emblem game before?

        I did play some game with a similar playstyle a long time ago but I can’t remember for the life of me what it was. It was for the GBA or DS, and was basically Fire Emblem but with Gundams (not actually Gundams, just giant piloted robots) instead or something along those lines.

    • zoozoc says:

      Man, I was considering buying a switch recently, decided instead to get a new computer and buy controllers for it instead. But this and some other switch titles are really giving me some buyer’s remorse. But I’m too stingy to get both. Maybe in a couple years.

      • acymetric says:

        Yeah, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. I want a Switch, but I can get an Xbox One or PS4 for like half the price.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I assume you mean the original ones, not the XB1 X or the PS4 Pro, right? I stick with what I said to you a few weeks back: that is some old hardware that’s going to be obsolete in a little over a year. You’re not going to get any new games for it after that, so you’re just playing the back catalog.

          • acymetric says:

            I remember that advice and it’s good advice, but that’s a lot of back catalog to burn through (possibly with discount games)!

            Yes it would be the the original ones, I don’t care so much about various high-res support because I won’t be running a 4k ultra high def TV until probably around the release of the PS12. My 7 year old Dynex is working just fine 😉

            As best I can tell all the games that run on the X or Pro also run on the original consoles.

      • Randy M says:

        If it makes you feel better, PC games on steam are about $10 cheaper than the Switch version of those games.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        They’ve just announced a Switch Lite for $200. The difference is it doesn’t actually switch (can’t hook it up to a TV) and the joycons don’t detach. So, that’s an option.

      • Matt M says:

        The Master Race finds your lack of faith… disturbing.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Awakening was the first Fire Emblem game I played, which I ended up really enjoying and then really hating.

      I started on hard, made it to chapter 12 or so, and decided that it was fun but too easy so I would restart on max difficulty. My first run on max, I made it to chapter, I dunno, 9, which then seemed impossible to complete because I had been putting my XP into leveling the wrong units, making a team that was ill-suited to the current challenge. So I restarted with a new strategy, made it to chapter 5, decided the strategy sucked, rerolled with a new strategy, made it pretty far with the strategy seeming great, then chapter 13 kicked my ass because it had an enemy composition my build was totally unprepared for. At that point I was frustrated: I couldn’t reasonably foresee that my build was weak to matchups I’d never seen, and every time it turned out my build was bad I had to restart from mission 1 allocating my XP differently. So I quit.

      This thread seems like as good a place as any to ask: are there any FE games where I won’t have this problem? Games where you can respec, or stop to grind XP, or somehow get enough advance knowledge to avoid spending all your limited XP leveling a build that can’t win?

  18. jgr314 says:

    @Well… and others who have been focused on fitness/health recently: what have you been doing and has it been working?

    • Well... says:

      Baseline (last year or two): I’ve been trying to lift weights 5 days a week (split routine), and drink a whey protein shake[*] after each gym session. I try to stretch every night. Moderate-to-high success.

      Recently (last month or two): I’ve been trying to get more cardio. Moderate success at that. I also stopped eating breakfast; I have coffee in the morning, then a piece of fruit (or two) and sometimes a couple handfuls of peanuts at mid-morning. I set a couple recurring alarms twice a day to remind me to stand up straight and suck in my belly for ten minutes. Success. And of course I’m still trying to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, although for the past week or two it’s been more like 6. But still, I’m trying.

      With these interventions, I feel and look much healthier than I did before. I continue efforts to increase my success with these interventions and introduce others.

      * I figured out the hack for a great tasting protein shake I actually look forward to drinking: I use whole milk (about 3/4 pint) and two scoops of vanilla-flavored whey protein powder, plus one spoonful of instant decaf coffee. I suppose if one wanted the caffeine one could use regular instant, but I don’t.

      • jgr314 says:

        One protein shake technique I like, b/c I work out in the morning and like really cold drinks: I make the shake the evening before with about half the total milk, then freeze overnight. In the morning before heading to the gym, I add the rest of the milk. By the time I’m done with my workout, the frozen base has thawed enough to get the consistency I prefer.

        I don’t really like coffee, but did an experiment for a while by adding caffeine powder to something I would drink pre-workout. I never noticed an effect, so stopped doing that.

    • MissingNo says:

      Training for a bodybuilding contest. I’ve bumped up the length of my workouts and I have started a basic cut to get back down to a lean bodyfat.

      Its working rather well. My shoulders have greatly increased in size.

      I don’t actually do squats or deadlifts heavy anymore, even though those are supposedly the “best” leg and lower back exercises. I’ve had a scare thanks to those exercises before and I can get most of the benefits out of the leg press and high rep/ light lifting with those exercises.

      For diet: I supplement with 125 grams of liquid protein a day, and take care to not consume too much at one time thanks to its limited digestibility (its recommended to not consume more thank 20 grams in liquid form at a time). Otherwise 2-3 meals a day. The hardest challenge is cutting out the tasty ice creams n pizzas.

      • jgr314 says:

        I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with good trainers who monitor my form, otherwise I’d steer clear of heavy squats and deadlifts, too. As it is, deadlift is the only thing where I feel strong compared to my lifting companions, but my max is still not absolutely impressive (330lb, 2.2x bodyweight).

      • Well... says:

        I can get most of the benefits out of the leg press and high rep/ light lifting with those exercises.

        When you say high rep/light lifting, how many reps are we talking? And what % of your 1RM are the weights? (I also have moved to the leg press from squats, for similar reasons as you, plus the latter are just so darn uncomfortable.)

        • MissingNo says:

          Sometimes my ego gets larger than my head, but I try keeping it below a weight I can do 20 reps for on squats or deads.

          And I’m thinking of giving up the deadlift entirely. I’m thinking of how my body is going to be in 20 years doing deadlifts.

          • Well... says:

            Is that “20 reps and you’re completely busted” or “20 reps now, 20 more in a couple minutes, and 20 more a couple minutes after that”?

          • MissingNo says:

            By *below a weight* I mean I can do more than 20 reps. But whenever I talk about reps I mean to failure. So for squats I will try using a weight where I can do more than 20 reps.

            Totally busted. At the end of a good workout, my 20 rep max can turn into only 10 reps…which is what should happen.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Trying to lose weight fast on ad libitum* and failing. Still think it’s great as a lifestyle diet, still think you can lose weight slowly on it, but if you have a time limit apparently calorie+macros counting is the way to go. So going back to it starting today.

      * Focus on what you eat, not on how much. Many many variations – mine involves lots of vegetables and fruit, nothing made from wheat, counting protein and supplementing if necessary and the occasional fish for the healthy fats. Doesn’t exclude the occasional slice of pizza or dessert, if they’re rare enough.

    • RDNinja says:

      I’ve lost about 30 pounds in the last year. I started by simply limiting sugar, restricting myself to 1 sweet treat per week. That worked for a while, then I plateaued. Now I track calories with MyFitnessPal, which is a godsend.

      I also combine that with 3x/week strength training. I used to do the Stronglifts 5×5 program, but plateaued on that, so now I’m doing Wendler 5/3/1. It’s slow going because I’m on a calorie deficit, but I also have a protein goal (being able to buy good protein bars at the discount grocery store for 15-25% of retail is a big help). I tried a bulking phase for a while in there, but it didn’t go very well, at least partly because of low testosterone. I’m going to try to lose another 50 pounds in the next year and see if that raises my levels any more before trying to bulk again.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ve been running–started with my employer’s walk-to-run program in February. I’ve always liked walking and running half a block, but have gotten more sedentary over the past couple decades and especially over the past couple years–I injured my ankle in 2015 and that really cut down on how much walking I did. I’ve been running between 2 and 3 miles 3x a week since April, and the difference in general physical condition is noticeable–my blood pressure is lower (I can tell because I’m blacking out when I stand up again), I’ve lost the 20 pounds I’d gained over the past decade, and my ankle isn’t hurting any more than it was before I started.

      • j1000000 says:

        “my blood pressure is lower (I can tell because I’m blacking out when I stand up again)”

        A little confused here. You black out when you stand up and that’s good? Or is there a “not” missing?

        • SamChevre says:

          Sorry that was confusing. The lower blood pressure is good, not the getting dizzy/ blacking out.

          I have had postural hypotension since I was a teenager. My resting blood pressure had gone up enough that I didn’t get dizzy when I stood up, but was getting close to the top of “normal” when until 5 years ago it was at the very bottom of normal. When I’ve had it checked, it is lower–but I can tell that it is lower even without getting my blood pressure checked because I’m again getting dizzy when I stand up.

  19. J Mann says:

    All: Did anything in Mueller’s testimony cause you to change any of your beliefs, and if so what, which and why?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      No, just confirmed my prejudices. I thought amont the best questions were Mike Turner asking “where’s the Office of Exoneration?” Essentially, where does Mueller get off putting the “cannot exonerate” line in the report when absolutely no one has the authority to exonerate anyone? To which Mueller has no answer.

      Also, the very good question from whom I cannot recall as to why, if the goal was to examine Russian interference in the election and our political process, didn’t he investigate the origins of the Steele dossier? We know Steele paid Russian intelligence agents for the information. Why did they sell it to him? Were they giving up the big Russian state secret of installing a compromised puppet as US President in exchange for a couple of rubles? If I were Putin I’d be very mad at them about that. Maybe Mueller should investigate whether or not they got put in gulag. Or whether maybe getting half the country to lose faith in our elections and the legitimacy of our government and tying everyone up for two years in divisive investigations was part of the Russian interference plot. Seems like that would have been good a thing to investigate. But apparently, “not in my purview.” Unlike Paul Manafort’s taxes and Michael Cohen’s taxi cab medallions and the like which are obviously in his purview.

      • Eigengrau says:

        When he said “cannot exonerate” he clearly meant he could not say there was not enough evidence to establish a crime of obstruction. Contrary to part 1 of the report where he explicitly says there was not enough evidence to establish the crime of conspiracy. In other words, there was enough evidence to establish a crime of obstruction, but he cannot indict due to DOJ policy. This was laid out in the report fairly clearly and reiterated in Mueller’s testimony. Turner is being overly pedantic and he knows it.

        The Russia investigation began many months prior to the Steele dossier. It is hardly some paramount aspect of the investigation, despite its prominence in the media. The dossier included leads, not evidence, and that is how it was treated by investigators.

        Peripheral matters like Michael Cohen’s taxi cab medallions were not in Mueller’s purview, and he accordingly passed those matters off to other prosecutors as they arose. Again, all of this is in the report.

        • J Mann says:

          What I don’t get is that the report lays out the evidence of what Trump actually did in great detail.

          What Congress wants is for Mueller to make a legal conclusion of whether those facts support the crime of obstruction. Since there has never been a prosecution on similar facts,* Mueller’s opinion is just one more lawyer’s opinion – Congress should just take the facts as explained and decide what to do with them.

          * This isn’t to say it’s not obstruction either, just that Mueller’s opinion and a bucket of warm spit will leave you exactly one bucket of spit richer.

          • Randy M says:

            That sounds exactly like you get it. They want someone else to give their conclusions a stamp of approval from an impartial authority, and the impartial authority doesn’t want to take responsibility for that. It sounds similar to the FBI not prosecuting Clinton on her procedural mistakes/crimes (although I can’t admit to reading either report).

          • J Mann says:

            Still, if I was a Democrat, I wouldn’t try to get Mueller to agree that Trump asking his subordinates to shut down the investigation, then getting talked out of it, was insubordination.

            I’d just say: “You found conclusive evidence that the President attempted to shut down the investigation several times, and was only prevented from that because several different staffers refused to do so?”

            Mueller: That’s what the report says, dumbass.

            Me: I will now introduce Lawrence Tribe, Preet Bharaha, and that guy who writes all the legal explainer columns for that magazine, and they will all agree that is criminal obstruction!!!!

          • EchoChaos says:

            @J Mann

            The weakness of that approach is that those are confirmed anti-Trump culture warriors. The advantage of Mueller is that he is (or was) a fairly respected Republican prosecutor.

            Getting anti-Trump people to agree that Orange Man Bad is easy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I still don’t think that would rise to obstruction.

            Bribing a witness is obstruction. Offering a bribe to a witness that they refuse is obstruction. But driving to the ATM to get cash with which you intend to bribe a witness but then giving up on the whole plot because the machine is broken is not obstruction.

        • EchoChaos says:

          When he said “cannot exonerate” he clearly meant he could not say there was not enough evidence to establish a crime of obstruction.

          Yeah, those are two entirely different sentences with very different meanings as understood.

          “I cannot exonerate the President” and “There is not enough evidence to establish that the President committed a crime” are different. The fact that they used the one that sounds more like the President is guilty is not an accident.

          In other words, there was enough evidence to establish a crime of obstruction, but he cannot indict due to DOJ policy.

          Mueller specifically said this was not true.

          The Russia investigation began many months prior to the Steele dossier.

          The Dossier was published in 2016 before the election. Mueller was appointed in 2017. This is clearly wrong.

          • J Mann says:

            @EC – It sounds like the general FBI investigation into Russian interference in the election began at least a few months before the FBI got the dossier, but that the dossier was used to intensify and extend the investigation, particularly regarding the Carter Paige surveillance.

            ETA: Sorry, I didn’t read up-thread for context!

          • EchoChaos says:

            @J Mann

            Sure, but that is not Mueller’s investigation, which had the specific mandate of election interference. Given that the Steele dossier existed prior to the election, it is clearly a possible vector of election interference and therefore should have been investigated.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            +1 to everything EC said.

            With regards to “exoneration,” I’m pretty sure if, after laying out all the information in Vol II, Mueller had said, “since this information is insufficient to charge the president with a crime, he is exonerated” the Democrats would be screaming at him, “where the hell do you get off exonerating anyone?! That’s not a power prosecutors have! That’s not a power investigators or the Attorney General or even the President has!” So going out of his way to say “cannot exonerate” is not a legal term useful in a report submitted to the Attorney General on possible crimes committed. It is, however, useful rhetoric for partisans and for CNN to splash on their chyrons.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with both EC and Conrad.

            Maybe it’s my partisan bubble talking here, but I’m also struggling to remember an instance where a prosecutor so frequently went out of their way to helpfully remind us that a lack of pressing/recommending charges totally doesn’t absolutely exonerate the accused. The only instances I can think of where this happens are similarly politically charged ones (stuff like Kavanaugh, or maybe a university Title IX investigation).

            As one random example, Kobe Bryant, at the height of his prominence in the NBA, was once accused of rape. The police investigated, found insufficient evidence to proceed, and dropped the case. Most people concluded he probably didn’t do it, although the people who already hated him for basketball fandom-related reasons believed he totally did. But what didn’t happen was the police going on ESPN several times and loudly announcing that hey, let’s be really clear about the fact that Kobe Bryant is not exonerated and that some evidence of wrongdoing totally still exists and he might very well have done it, we can’t really be sure, and so on and so forth…

    • S_J says:

      I was surprised by the comparisons to the Kenneth Starr investigation. Apparently, the Starr report noted several actions by President Clinton which were stated as “may have risen to impeachable conduct”.

      In contrast, such phraseology apparently never appeared in the Mueller report, with respect to President Trump.

      I’m not sure it changed my opinion on President Trump measurably. It does lessen the impact of the Mueller report, in my mind.

      • John Schilling says:

        It increases my respect for Mueller as a “just the facts” investigator staying within the bounds of his investigation, where Starr often seemed to believe his mandate was to bring down the President by any means necessary. And I don’t think it lessens the impact of the report, because that basically was the report.

        It does I think conclusively dash the hope that Mueller was going to deliver a “Trump is actually a crook, probably in cahoots with Putin, I wasn’t allowed to say that in the report but he totally is a crook” bombshell. That was a pretty faint hope to begin with. And I note that Predictit, FWIW, is selling “Trump will be impeached in his first term” at $0.20, down from $0.29 at closing on the 22nd.

        • Clutzy says:

          Starr also got his mandate, essentially, from Congress as it was the old IC not the SC. He reported to Congress, not the DOJ, so his role was very different. Although the IC was and is (and should be) incredibly controversial as a result.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It increases my respect for Mueller as a “just the facts” investigator staying within the bounds of his investigation

          Manafort taxes, porn star payoffs, taxi cab medallions, questionable process crimes, pre-dawn raids on Roger Stone with tip-offs to the media. And all of this entirely on one side. No investigation into the origins of the Steele dossier. No investigation into potential FISA warrant abuse. He can only be said to have stuck to his purview in as much as his purview was “get Trump and Trump associates.” Interesting things about Russian interference and he can’t be bothered. Potential crimes by Trump opponents and he can’t be bothered.

          And when it comes to “just the facts,” don’t prosecutors have an ethical duty to minimize disclosure to protect the reputations of the not-proven-to-be guilty? When you investigate Bob for alleged rape and cannot find evidence sufficient to charge Bob with rape, the prosecutors do not hold a press conference to detail all the non-rape things Bob did. “Well, we can’t charge him with rape, but check out Bob’s browser history! Weird stuff that Bob was into! We can’t prove Bob’s a rapist but maybe you can kinda see how he might be? Can’t say he is tho. But can’t say he isn’t…eh, eh, eh?!” If they’re not going to recommend indictment or impeachment for obstruction then there’s absolutely no reason to publish Vol II at all. Just say “we investigated for potential obstruction of justice and did not find evidence enough to warrant a recommendation for prosecution or impeachment.”

          And I had this exact same complaint about Comey and Hillary’s email server. I think she should have been indicted. If anybody else did what she did, they’d have been indicted. But if you’re not going to indict…don’t hold a press conference about it to list all the “extremely careless” things she did that are bad and embarrassing but not bad enough to warrant an indictment.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If anybody else did what she did, they’d have been indicted. But if you’re not going to indict…don’t hold a press conference about it to list all the “extremely careless” things she did that are bad and embarrassing but not bad enough to warrant an indictment.

            Don’t you? Maybe not for Bob, but for presidential candidate Bob it seems like pertinent information.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Bob’s browser history is quite pertinent information for his political enemies, yes. But the FBI has no business violating ethical standards intended to protect the dignity of the accused so pertinent information can be delivered to the accused’s political enemies.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The results of a publicly funded investigation into an official holding public office should probably be made public.

          • albatross11 says:

            baconbits:

            +1

            This is a politically charged investigation in which the two parties and various powerful people in the government very much want to tell the public different things about the conclusions and contents of the report. This is exactly the situation in which this kind of investigation should be made public, redacting nothing but the very most sensitive information, so the public can actually find out what was discovered instead of getting a Republican and Democratic set of talking points that contradict each other.

    • EchoChaos says:

      All: Did anything in Mueller’s testimony cause you to change any of your beliefs, and if so what, which and why?

      Yes. I had believed that Mueller was competent, although mostly malicious in trying to get Trump for not being “one of the elite”.

      I revised my opinion of his competence down several notches.

      It changed none of my priors on Russian collusion.

    • Clutzy says:

      I previously thought he was a competent guy who had some not great motivations (covering the FBI’s ass and keeping “in” with DC insiders mostly). Now I think its pretty clear he is not competent at all, possibly failing mentally who had a duty to resign/’refuse appointment. And he has let his previous reputation as a fairly middle of the road guy lend credibly to the work product of other people who haven’t earned such reputations.

    • BBA says:

      Token liberal here. It reconfirmed my belief that Pelosi is right to slow-walk impeachment until the heat death of the sun.

      • Plumber says:

        Democrat or Republican Pelosi increasingly seems to me to be of a few (there must be some others?) elected officials in DC that’s still relatively effective and sane.

        • Matt M says:

          The Trump years haven’t changed my mind on much, but they have strongly changed my mind in favor of both Pelosi and McConnell as being rather shrewd, intelligent, and effective leaders of their party – able to adapt quite well to changing circumstances.

    • broblawsky says:

      It convinced me that the Trump campaign put real effort into working with Russian intelligence, and that they will do so again in 2020.

  20. I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

    Is organic food any better than normal food? More precisely, is food produced acording to the USDA organic regulations any healthier or better for the environment than food that only follows the general regulations?

    The organic regulations include a list of allowed “synthetic” substances and a list of banned non-synthetic substances. Farmers may use allowed synthetic substances and non-banned non-synthetic substances. So is there any a priori reason to believe that the organic process would result in a safer or more nutritious product? Let’s say Chemicals Kyle and Organic Otto both buy the cheapest pesticide they are allowed to use. The difference is that Otto’s pesticide is not allowed to be synthetic. But organisms have been trying to poison each other since the dawn of time, so it’s not clear to me why that’s so great.

    I was kinda tempted to announce an adversarial collaboration side “Organic foods are not any healthier or environmentally friendlier”, but I know very little about the subject and don’t want to fall flat on my face if it’s the case that organic is actually obviously better.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      I second this question. How many of organic food regulations have notable scientific evidence that they are beneficial for health or/and environment?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I believe that rBGH-containing milk has strong evidence for being less good than non-rBGH milk, and organic meat animals are given fewer antibiotics (and contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Organic plants are not guaranteed to be “better” by most metrics than their conventional counterparts, but will sometimes be fresher depending on your store. Organic processed foods are often tastier, but (IMO) simply by dint of being premium brands. Annie’s mac and cheese is better than Kraft, but it’s not because of the organic ingredients.

      Personally, I buy organic meat, eggs, milk, and mac and cheese. Everything else I buy that’s organic is incidentally so.

      • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

        That’s how it’s gotta be, isn’t it… one must do an individual analysis for every product >:[

      • SamChevre says:

        I believe that rBGH-containing milk has strong evidence for being less good than non-rBGH milk
        I’d like to see that study–since all milk contains BGH, it would be surprising to me if rGBH made it less good.

        I think the largest ascertainable difference isn’t that the food is healthier, but that not using routine antibiotics is much better for avoiding antibiotic resistance. That implies that organic animal products have the largest impact.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I’d like to see that study–since all milk contains BGH, it would be surprising to me if rGBH made it less good.

          Yeah, some cursory searching has made me much less confident. Antibiotic usage still strikes me as a good justification, though.

    • sami says:

      In general, I think it’s safe to say that the USDA organic label may be better for you, but probably isn’t better for the environment. In my opinion, the USDA made a big mistake by categorically excluding GMO crops from organic labelling; because of this, organic crops usually use more water, and may require more pesticides than genetically modified crops. GM doesn’t have to mean RoundUp-ready corn and the like, bred to tolerate Monsanto’s strongest herbicides- it can mean drought resistant cotton or higher protein wheat and rice. The biggest reason that organic is not environmentally better is land use; for monoculture cropland (which produces most organic stuff that you’d find in the average supermarket), organic agriculture requires a fallow period for fields, around one year out of every four or five. Because of this, organic farming requires more land to produce a given amount of food, averaged over time. This is incidentally one reason that it may be healthier for you to eat; the fallow period can restore certain micronutrients that get depleted over time with more intensive agriculture. Note that there are organic farming methods that do not have these environmental drawbacks, such as no-till agriculture and permaculture, but these are way, way more labor intensive and smaller scale by nature, so not likely to be producing the food you find in your supermarket. I’m sorry not to be able to link you to any references for any of this stuff; it’s just my summary of all the reading and research I’ve done and I’m dead tired and about to go to bed. To give you an idea of my background, I have extensive experience working on experimental permaculture farms in urban and rural areas, but don’t subscribe to the anti-technology views that can be common in those circles.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Do I understand correctly that one can make GMO food that is significantly healthier and/or environmentally friendlier than it’s non-GMO counterparts, probably even without it being cheaper and hence lower-class? Is there any effort to do so, or maybe even an existing brand? Seems there’s a large market for it made of people concerned with health and the environment but otherwise technophiles, aka the Silicon Valley.

        • sami says:

          It’s already been done- there is Bt cotton which produces its own insecticide and requires much less water to grow, making it healthier for the workers who would otherwise be applying pesticides, and better for the land (less danger of soil salinization from irrigation), and there is e.g. GM golden rice, with contains vitamin A (a big deal in parts of the world where many people have vitamin A deficiencies). It’s not as far as I know marketed to affluent Westerners though, because there’s a reflexive distrust of GM technology, IMO mostly based on an unrealistic romanticization of farming.

      • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

        Why is acreage the biggest consideration for environmental impact? Just because it displaces whatever else could have been there?

        • sami says:

          It displaces whatever functional ecosystem could otherwise be there, and tilled land under cultivation, organic or no, is much more vulnerable to Dust Bowl type catastrophes.

      • SamChevre says:

        Another issue is that organic vegetables are disproportionately grown in irrigated deserts, because the dryness helps with pest control. And irrigating the California and Texas drylands is not very sustainable or environmentally friendly.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      It’s probably just a matter of (perverse?) incentives. Somehow the large scale retail market is not structured to favor well-tasting vegetables, not to mention nutritious. It is however very well structured to favor vegetables that are cheap to produce, good looking and keep well. I don’t think any of that changes if you introduce arbitrary constraints, like not being able to use pesticides.

      The only solution I can think of is either using very specialized stores (not necessarily local, but it might help). Either that, or using a working rating system. But since the latter would solve half the world’s problems and destroy most of marketing and advertising industries, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it. something something blockchain being useful for a change.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        The only solution I can think of is either using very specialized stores

        They are called “ethnic food stands” and “farmers stall markets”, and I love shopping at them.

        A bunch of the operators of such have told me that Square has saved them. (For another example of a billionaire who’s done a billion dollars worth of good. Pity about his side project with that birdsite social media thing…)

    • pjs says:

      Organic per se might or not be healthier, but it’s also more expensive to produce. (On average, it must be: adding production constraints of any sort should raise costs.) So if it’s organic, you can suspect the farmer isn’t competing solely in the “cut any corners to drive down costs and price” game, so just maybe quality is higher (or the staff is paid more, or ??). This is irrespective of any innate benefits of organic production.
      This reminds me (maybe CW, and maybe not so resonant with a US audience) of the (IMO) value of looking at whether an item is made in China or not. For many items this creates an increasingly clear and hard-to-fake signal: if made elsewhere, the maker apparently isn’t trying to save every fraction of a penny to make something that looks like the final product (and is just good enough to survives the warranty period.) I believe this is currently a valuable signal even if many Chinese manufactorers can compete in quality and in every other “good” dimension with anyone else. So, perhaps, “organic” is a similarly costly-to-fake signal of something – possibly something good.

  21. Well... says:

    Are people with strong episodic memory naturally better storytellers?

    • Paper Rat says:

      Storytellers as in writers, or just general telling a story in an interesting way?

      I don’t think it matters much for writers, other than having a good memory is pretty much a plus regardless of your occupation.

      For just general storytelling ability I would think good performance, imagination, ability to think fast and smooth delivery are all more important than good memory.

      For example, one of my friends is an amazing storyteller, he can really paint a picture with words and keep listeners entertained. Thing is, he often gets a bit creative with facts, drops some important but uninteresting bits of the story and exaggerates reactions people in the story might have had. You’d never know he does that if you didn’t witness the event firsthand (or knew this particular person for a long time :)). When confronted about these things, he usually will say that he doesn’t remember the situation in question very well, but rather the story about the situation, and, based on past experiences, I’m inclined to believe that he tells the truth about that. So in this case bad episodic memory, being an extrovert and talent for acting makes a great storyteller. It could be that too strong a memory might’ve been a hindrance for this person’s storytelling skill, as he wouldn’t be able to embellish stuff so freely and still believe the story himself, which is important for immersion.

      • Well... says:

        I’m not so convinced it makes a difference between writers or oral storytellers. I suppose writers get more chances (via editing) to make their stories better, but if it takes you a year to get a 1-page story so it’s really well told, that’s pretty lousy. (I don’t quite put myself in that category, but I’m bad enough that I feel a certain urgency in seeking ways to improve my storytelling.)

        Some of the best oral storytellers I know are horrible performers, but they craft the story well enough it doesn’t matter. My dad is one of these; your description of your friend could fit my dad as well, with the exception that my dad will claim he does remember the situation well and that I or whoever is doubting him is the one who’s got it wrong. So regardless whether his mind is recording events accurately, the point is it’s recording events in such a vivid sort of way that he can easily pull it up later for a great story.

        • Paper Rat says:

          I was thinking about fiction writers, for whom imagination and ability to build a coherent narrative is, I believe, more important than having a clear memory of events. Though maybe they are the wrong type of storyteller for this discussion, since you did mention episodic memory specifically.

          So regardless whether his mind is recording events accurately, the point is it’s recording events in such a vivid sort of way that he can easily pull it up later for a great story.

          Yeah, it does sound like my friend. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a “strong episodic memory” though, rather a “strong conviction that your episodic memory is strong” with good portion of creativity thrown in. Also, when my friend admits to a bit of overly imaginative storytelling it’s less an accusation and more friendly ribbing on my part. We both understand, that he forgives me my often annoying pedantry, and I forgive him his flights of fancy with regards to telling stories.

          • AG says:

            We could test this by comparing memory-test results of stand-up comedians vs. the populace.

          • Well... says:

            @Paper Rat:

            “Fiction” is a broad category, but let’s assume novelists since that’s probably what most people think of when they hear “fiction writers”. Novels are one big coherent narrative, but within them, like movies, they are built of scenes which are themselves little coherent narratives. I don’t believe you are likely to be a good novelist if you can’t also tell a really compelling story in the length of a scene. There are exceptions probably, but generally I think the pattern holds.

            I guess my hypothesis is that what counts with episodic memory is one’s brain forming little coherent stories, or maybe one long continuous one. Usually the stories are based on what the senses perceive; although both senses and the recording process are capable of error, what gets recorded is a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and (it seems to me) even often a conflict, a call to action, rising action, a climax, and a resolution.

            By contrast, my memory feels more like a kind of mosaic of details and overarching themes — in other words, I have classic semantic memory. With a lot of effort I can reach back and string together a series of events from the past, but it almost never comes out in a way that is interesting or exciting, and usually I forget something from the middle and have to add it back in later.

          • Well... says:

            @AG: Why stand-up comedians?

          • Paper Rat says:

            @Well…

            With your definition of episodic memory I think we’re in agreement that people with a “narrative” way of remembering things have an advantage when it comes to storytelling. I was always a bit vary of that way of thinking, since one’s personal narrative can sometimes run away pretty far from what’s happening in reality and lead to quite unpleasant situations, but maybe that’s the price one has to pay for experiencing life in way that actually makes some sense. At least it’s gotta be more comforting than experiencing life as a bunch of random disjointed events.

            People with stronger semantic memory probably are at a disadvantage when it comes to fiction, unless they lean towards absurdist or post-modernist prose, where, it seems to me, one can better leverage more general, systematic understanding of the world.

          • AG says:

            A stand-up comedian’s job is to relay episodes of events to the audience in a compelling way. Meaning that they have to remember events in their life and reconfigure them into digestible stories within a building structure to a comedic climax.

            Consider Tom Papa’s weekly “Out in America” routine on Live From Here (the continuation of Prairie Home Companion), which is perfectly demonstrating the concept through the fact that it’s a near weekly feature. And it’s basically a more overtly structured and comedic successor to Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone segments, except that the Out in America events supposedly happened to Tom Papa himself, whereas Garrison would invent characters for things to happen to, albeit maintaining that sense of “it happened to us as a town community,” taking on the role of the gossip recalling events.

  22. MissingNo says:

    What’s a habit you mostly stopped? Mine has probably been heavy coffee/caffeine consumption, mostly due to this effect. I’m not totally perfect (I still drink it in case I feel I really need to stay up and cram). But I have stopped drinking pepsi/dew just at a restaurant or casually, and I now treat it as the drug it is.

    https://www.gwern.net/docs/nootropics/2005-james.pdf

    “Although caffeine is widely perceived to have beneficial psychostimulant effects, appropriately controlled studies show that its apparent beneficial effects on performance and mood are almost wholly attributable to reversal of the withdrawal effects that occur after fairly short periods of abstinence (e.g. overnight). That is, the caffeine-induced improvements in performance and mood often perceived by consumers do not represent net benefits, but rather reversal of the performance-degrading effects of caffeine withdrawal”

  23. MissingNo says:

    What is one aspect of your life you gave up thanks to evidence, personal or scientific, that it was a net negative?

    Gwern has an article on his site on withdrawal reversal and caffeine. Most of the effects in daily life are due to removing withdrawal symptoms, not the perk up effect for at least a third of Anericans. I’ve stopped drinking Pepsi/coke at a restaurant and try not consuming caffeine every day, only when tired and I need to study.

    • fraza077 says:

      Not sure if it qualifies as personal evidence, but I noticed that gaming made me a more irritable person. I would be impatient with my girlfriend, not sleep as well, and generally life was not as good when I gamed. Gaming before sports also appeared to hinder my performance at sport (primarily soccer).

      I gave up gaming about 3 years ago, apart from occasional (twice a year or so) weekend binges. I’m quite lucky in that I can’t get into games like I used to, which makes it easier to stay away.

      • MissingNo says:

        I gave up gaming about 3 years ago, barring the occasional story game like Undertale or Lorelai.

        Mostly, I *really* can’t risk getting effectively addicted to a game like Planetside 2 at this stage in life. Been there, done that, negative life consequences.

    • Matt says:

      Not gave up, but rather avoided entirely.

      My maternal grandfather ruined his life and died early due to alcoholism, and I never got to meet him. Everyone told me growing up that I would have really liked him, that he was interested in the same things as me, etc. I felt his absence strongly in my life.

      My father ruined his life and died early due to alcoholism.

      I don’t drink – never did.

      • AG says:

        I watched my mom’s coffee habit growing up. She eventually weaned herself onto decaf for a while, but I saw the withdrawal symptoms. I’ve been paranoid about caffeine addiction ever since. I like the way some caffeinated drinks taste (coffee, tea), so I don’t completely abstain, but I limit myself to twice a week, always allowing for 3+ days after to prevent tolerance from building up.

    • SamChevre says:

      I started going to church again after college, after giving up in disgust before I went to college, because I could see that I was becoming a sort of person I didn’t like.

      • Randy M says:

        because I could see that I was becoming a sort of person I didn’t like.

        From going, or from not going? Or both?

        • SamChevre says:

          From not going. So I started going again, and have ever since.

          • AG says:

            In contrast, I found that more church-as-church participation (rather than charity-volunteering-at-church) tends to make me more misanthropic.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Blue light filter on phone plus no computer a few hours before bed. It has improved my sleep pretty dramatically, and the few times I break the rule, my sleep is crap.

      I drink coffee every day. For me, there is diminishing returns after 2 cups, but the people I know who DON’T drink coffee have all the same problems I do in the morning: it takes them forever to get moving and thinking.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      I used to drink soda relatively regularly and I gave it up on purpose because it’s empty calories. I’m very happy about that choice. I’ll have a soda every once in a while, but it’s like dessert now, not something to have with a meal.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Most online multiplayer games. I like them, but one of a handful of negative things seem to reliably happen:
      – the game is tuned for play in groups, and the pickup groups are full of nasty people, making that aspect of the game more like a chore than anything else
      – the game is tuned to require regular play (otherwise your position regresses), and servicing your must-do-daily stuff becomes such a chore that you never get to “play” (in the sense of fun) once you get past midgame/develop a good position
      – success at the game is effectively controlled by money paid, and the price to do really well is absurdly high for the level of entertainment received.
      – the game is infested with “griefers” – people whose particular pleasure is destroying other people’s enjoyment, not to gain comparative advantage, but because that’s what they consider “fun”.

      I’m back to playing against the computer, which doesn’t care if I disappear for a week or month, and doesn’t generally act like an ass.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      About the half of my dietary habits at a certain point. I’m lucky to be naturally lean, that is when I don’t exercise I lose weight, not gain it, so I never worried about the amount of calories I consume. But at one point I encountered the evidence that even if you don’t gain weight it’s just as or more bad for your health to eat junk (might sound pretty obvious in retrospective I know). It also coincided with some other changes in my life which made it way easier to control what I eat – so I restricted added sugars to something like the recommended level (including totally stopping drinking any sugary drinks) and removed almost all of junk food, and also started to eat more vegetables, dairy and fish and somewhat less of red and fat meat and salt. It actually wasn’t that hard even to my own surprise, otherwise I’d probably wasn’t able to maintain the changes.

      Also I always enjoyed the sun and tanning, but then started avoiding it after learning just how bad it is for your chances of skin cancer (it also has to do with moving into much sunnier climate though).

    • salvorhardin says:

      Regular social media (Twitter/FB/etc). Used to spend a fair bit of time on it, found I was much happier after I stopped. Now when I want online community and commentary I go here. 🙂

      Gaming too, it was just too much of a time suck once I became a parent. And +1 to ADBG about blue light filters and restricting screen time before bed, though I’m still not as good about that as I want to be.

    • rubberduck says:

      Back in high school I couldn’t stop playing Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, I would start one level just out of boredome and before I knew it I’d sunk in an hour. I deleted both from my phone and since then have avoided mobile games entirely. I have no regrets.

      Side-note: I never had any drinking problems, and afaik I am not related to any alcoholics, but I used to drink a couple times a week just for pleasure, to try out a new beer or something like that but not enough to feel the effects. A few months ago, for no clear reason, I totally lost the desire to drink. It doesn’t disgust me, and I don’t think it tastes bad or is morally wrong or anything, but now I only drink if someone offers me something in a social setting. Even if I buy a beer, it ends up sitting unopened in my fridge for weeks. I would not say that the change has been a net positive or negative, because a) I was not drinking enough for it to be a problem before, and b) I ended up consuming the extra calories through other unhealthy foods (primarily ice cream… sigh.)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Reddit. Took some Cold Turkey and a few month, now it’s settled. I can read the occasional link but I don’t dive anymore.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah, me too. Although in my case it was deleting the Reddit app on my phone, not any kind of principled decision to swear off the whole site. I’ll still hit up certain subreddits on desktop occasionally, but my days of waking up, rolling over, grabbing my phone and scrolling down /r/all until I hate everyone in it are over.

  24. blipnickels says:

    Does anyone know how the Benedict Option types feel about the Evangelical media subculture?

    By Evangelical media subculture, I mean the weird parallel cultural products produced specifically for Christian audiences. I’m thinking of Veggie Tales on TV, War Room in movie theaters, and POD on the radio. Like, there are definitely “Christian” bands and shows and the like and I’ve seen bands hawking their merch in megachurches. A lot of these are financially successful and they all share Dreher et al’s disdain for modern “degeneracy” and are trying to provide “wholesome” Christian alternatives. The whole subculture is kinda vague to me but there was an entire South Park episode about it, so I’m pretty sure it’s a real thing.

    So request #1, does anybody have more details on this subculture, especially of any organized religious efforts to intentionally build a subculture.

    Request #2, does anyone know what Dreher et al think about it? Because it seems a lot closer to a real Benedict Option than anything else and yet I don’t see any attempt to build on it.

    Like, if you were realistically pushing the Benedict Option, cultural institutions seems like a major thing you’d want and a subculture that can consistently push out multi-million dollar movies and make a profit of them is pretty solid. But at the same time a lot of this stuff, like POD or Veggie Tales, is from the Bush years or earlier and it hasn’t stopped Christianity’s fall in the US.

    Or to rephrase, let’s imagine Dreher gets to design his perfect Ben Op community. Will people still watch movies? If so, it seems obvious Dreher would want them to be Christian movies. If so, what kind of movies does Dreher envision and how are they different from War Room or similar fare?

    What I’m really trying to get at is:

    #1 The number of Christians in the West is falling
    #2 Drehrer et al want uniquely Christian institutions to ?insulate? them from modernity and prevent this decline
    #3 It seems like there was a similar attempt, semi-ongoing, in the 90’s and 00’s to produce purely Christian media, eg Veggie Tales
    #4 Veggie Tales was born in the 90’s, it failed to prevent the Christian decline we see today
    #5 How would Drehrer et al’s cultural institutions differ from Veggie Tales? Or does he want 20 Veggie Tales?

    PS. I don’t actually know much about this subculture, see request #1, and my references are just those things big enough to have caught some mainstream attention. Like, I’ve never seen Veggie Tales, I don’t know anyone who has, but I still know what it is. POD was ok though.

    • FLWAB says:

      I grew up in that subculture, and I hope I can help a little.

      But the first thing to know is that it is not designed to be a Benedict Option parallel culture. It can function as one, but its not how it came about and its not how it has continued: and as far as I can tell its not been doing so well in recent years. Take me as an anecdotal case in point: I was raised Evangelical, I’m still evangelical, but I don’t consume much of that media anymore and even when I was deepest in it it wasn’t a true alternative: it was a supplement. You went to see your regular movies, and other times you picked up Christian movies from the church sharing library. You listen to Christian music on the radio, but everyone at school is listening to mainstream stuff. If you were willing to go Benedict Option, to home-school and sequester your family in a cultivated religious environment then Christian Media could be a great help to you. But most people didn’t do that, or at least didn’t do it thoroughly. I mean we can’t all home school, and if you go to public school (or even a Christian private school) then you’re going to encounter mainstream media and culture.

      I think I’m rambling a bit so I’ll try to focus: the reason Christian or Faith Based Media came about wasn’t to provide a shield against the mainstream culture: it came about because of capitalism. There was a market to be filled and money to be made filling it. Pious families like to watch movies and listen to music, but they’re not keen on all the swear words and violence and sex. They turn on the TV and find its full of objectionable material, stuff they definitely don’t want their kids to see. So where are they going to go? The answer used to be, in the 90’s and early 2000’s, your local Christian bookstore. The Christian bookstore was the cornerstone of the Christian subculture: there you could find Christian novels of all genres (Pastor Randy Alcorn, for instance, has written many crime thrillers: ones with no swearing, and where the main characters are faithful or have a conversion experience), Christian movies, Christian kids shows on VHS and later DVD, and plenty of Christian music. Not just that: Christian toys, Christian T-Shirts with Christian messages, Christian bumper stickers, those little silver fish things, cross jewelry, anything Christian you can think of. They were run by the faithful but make no mistake: they were businesses. There was a lot of money to be made catering to Christian (particularly Evangelical) tastes. We were a market and so products rose to meet our particular demands. The point wasn’t to create a parallel culture: that was just a selling point for families who did want to create a parallel culture. And if you didn’t particularly want to go Benedict Option but did want some wholesome music with no profanity and some shows for the kids that would teach them good values, then they were there for you too: in fact, I would guess that was the primary market.

      Since the rise of the internet these stores have gone the way of the dodo: the few that are left are hanging on by a thread, the fate of most subculture specialty stores after the internet made it easy for subcultures to buy their weird niche products online. But interestingly enough it seems like the industry as a whole has suffered a great deal. Big Idea (the Veggietales studio) went bankrupt in 2001, mostly due to bad business decisions but also because their market had bottomed out and they had over leveraged themselves while thinking that their sales could continue growing indefinitely. Now Veggietales is owned, through several subsidiaries, by Universal Studios. For a long time there wasn’t much new Veggitales content, although a new season has been ordered for next year. As the Christian Bookstores have disappeared Christian books have mostly shifted to Barnes and Noble and selling direct online, Christian non-theatrical movies have moved to Pureflix (while surprisingly more of them are actually making it to theaters, something you almost never saw in the 90s), and Christian TV has shriveled up and the remains are pretty much all fled to RightNow Media, the Christian streaming service. They have a weird model: several Christian streaming startups have gone bust over the last couple years and RightNow is the only one left and they survive by selling to churches, not individuals. Your church can pay a large fee subscription and then all members of that church get access. It’s weird but it works for now, though it makes the whole industry much more hidden from the mainstream.

      Christian music is it’s own thing. It predated the 90s boom in Christian media, and it’s still going fairly strong as far as I can tell.

      To get more to the point: it didn’t work as a Benedict Option because most Evangelicals weren’t going for the Benedict Option. And the fact is if you don’t go whole hog, there isn’t much of a point. I listened to Christian radio until the day I moved out of my parents house and went to college, which was about the same time I discovered that there are way, way, way better bands and songs out in the mainstream. Its mostly a competition thing I think: more bands compete in the mainstream so you get better music. And while Christian movies have come a long way, they’re not great and Hollywood movies are just better: better budget, better writers, the product of a huge industry full of experienced craftsmen instead of a few passionate rookies that some Texan gave enough money to make a direct to DVD film for a niche audience.

      I feel like I’ve rambled enough, but that’s the gist of it. If you want to build a cloistered community, the Christian Media industry will help you out. The fact is most people weren’t trying to do that, so of course it didn’t work.

      • RDNinja says:

        I second everything FLWAB says, and add:

        All of the Christian media you’ve heard of (except the Kendrick brothers movies) is just an imprint or subsidiary of a big secular conglomerate. “Christian” media is just another genre, not a parallel institution.

      • I mostly agree with this except the part where you say it’s about numbers. There are more people working in Hollywood so all the good film makers go there. However, I think the bigger problem is that Hollywood has a tradition going back over 100 years while explicitly Christian movies are very new. It’s a kind of infant industry problem. Christian movies suck right now because they are still trying to reinvent the wheel. If they have enough time, they can develop to the point of making their own movies. Hong Kong, for example, has a long tradition of movie making. The big problem for these Christian movies is that they need to have enough demand to sustain them but since their movies suck, the Christians prefer Hollywood movies. So yes, the Benedict Option needs to come first and then I think you could have a burgeoning Christian movie industry that has more to offer than propaganda films.

        • AG says:

          The common issue is that explicitly Christian media has higher and more overt purity standards than even explicitly SJ media, which is bad for good storytelling. The best Christian-valued fiction actually tends to be secular media whose writers have accidentally reinvented Christian values (and/or appropriating Christian imagery), but because they aren’t bound to making their stories squeaky clean, they can get closer to actual emotional resonance.

          Media about Christianity, by ex-Christians, tends to be fairly interesting. Your “The Young Pope” and “Book of Mormon”s, and I’m sure a few runs of Daredevil have writers who related.

          • If by “explicitly Christianity”, you mean things that are specifically made to support Christianity, then you might have a point. But if you are referring to anything that is consistent with Christian values, then I strongly disagree. Lord of the Rings was written by a Christian. Does it lack emotional resonance?

            If you feel like contemporary social justice isn’t very restrictive, then that’s because it permeates our culture and you’re used to it.

          • AG says:

            Yes, I’m referring to “made for Christians to consume as Christian media” things.

            Just as you can have good stories consistent with SJ values (Fury Road, Moonlight, Get Out, for examples), which is different from an explicitly SJ story.
            Besides, the really restrictive SJ stuff is mostly in YA. TV and Film still cost way too much to reduce their earning power to bow to all of the standards.

            SJ in mainstream media is primarily asking for stories that weren’t being told to be told, and thus, SJ-resonant stories enrich the story-field via diversity, whereas Christianity doesn’t have that many stories left to tell that haven’t been told, so they’re mostly stuck with defining themselves from non-Christian stories by what they don’t allow.

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            Off your point about emotional resonance and Christian/non-Christian filmmakers, many people (myself included) feel the absolute best movie made about the Life of Christ is The Gospel According to St. Matthew by Pierre Paolo Pasolini a gay, atheist, communist.

          • Machine Interface says:

            A lot of Pasolini’s films are very faithful adaptations of classic literary works, and The Gospel follows that model: Pasolini felt in love with the text and decided to carry it to screen as closely as possible.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Depends a bit what you mean by “Christian-valued fiction”, doesn’t it? The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory are great novels written by a Catholic writer about Catholic protagonists and their struggles with doubt and temptation, but I suspect many would-be consumers of Christian media would find them altogether too unwholesome for their taste.

          • AG says:

            @Tarpitz

            This is exactly what I mean. The best fiction is messy and full