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Open Thread 133.25

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653 Responses to Open Thread 133.25

  1. Deiseach says:

    Something relaxing for Sunday; someone posted a timelapse video travelling from South Tipperary to North Waterford back into South Tipperary, going by the mountain roads (at times). My part of the country is further south, but I’ve been around these areas. Going via the Knockmealdowns, you can see down into the Golden Vale (excellent pastureland and renowned for dairying).

    When the sun shines, ’tis a grand little country 🙂

  2. Radu Floricica says:

    Does anybody know of any examples of semi-planned economy?

    I’m pretty sure nobody wants planned economies these days – we’re reasonably sure they don’t work. Completely free market on the other hand, unaided, is rather slow by itself. And the best way to speed it up would probably involve global open… everything. Which may or may not be a good idea, but it’s not an universally popular one.

    On the other hand I’m looking at what EU is doing with poorer member states, its funding programs and the attached consulting businesses. They’re partly cash infusion programs, but my guess is that their true purpose is to create neg-entropy – they don’t much care if the structures created by those programs are profitable per se, as long as they end up functional. A pretty good example would be consulting businesses that sell pre-made business plans, with high chance of being accepted for funding. When the money dries up some will die and some will adapt, but there will definitely be something where 10 years ago it was nothing.

    Which brings me to the larger question – do you know of any other attempts to engineer a working economy? I’d think something like that happened/s in China. India maybe as well?

    • Plumber says:

      Sure, it’s called “National Industrial Policy” and historically it’s been pretty common.

      In the ’80’s and ’90’s I remember many advocates of having more of one for the U.S. pointing to Germany as an example of a successful one.

    • cassander says:

      I’m pretty sure nobody wants planned economies these days – we’re reasonably sure they don’t work.

      I wish this were true, but it isn’t. the left still wants to plan the commanding heights, the only thing that has changed since the bad old days is what they consider those to be. In the past it was heavy industry, now it’s medicine, education, finance, and increasingly tech. the basic impulse hasn’t changed, just the targets. Nothing has been learned.

      • DeWitt says:

        Nothing has been learned.

        Funny that you should describe your own knowledge at the end of your very post.

        Medicine and education are run through what you’re calling ‘commanding heights’ in many places, and the right doesn’t seem to mind very much. The outcomes are fine, too. The world of today is one of entirely much more privatisation than the world of fifty or a hundred years ago, and not only is it unclear to me that it’s worked out well in all cases, very few people argue for this to be changed. To accuse THE LEFT of learning nothing is plainly ridiculous.

        • cassander says:

          Medicine and education are run through what you’re calling ‘commanding heights’ in many places, and the right doesn’t seem to mind very much.

          Yes, and? My whole point was that large swathes of modern economies are effectively nationalized.

          The outcomes are fine, too.

          yes, things are considered fine, much the way that British post-war economic performance was considered fine.

          The world of today is one of entirely much more privatisation than the world of fifty or a hundred years ago, and not only is it unclear to me that it’s worked out well in all cases, very few people argue for this to be changed.

          The idea that the world has less government today than it did in 1920 is so absurd as to not be worth discussing. That it has less government than in 1970 is not laughable but still wrong. Government control is a more complex matter than revenues, but they’re readily readily comparable across time and space. Government is directly controlling as much or more of GDP than in the past, and let us not forget that most of them were spending 2-3 times as much, as a share of GDP, on the military 1970. Dig down into country by country details and you’ll see a similar stories, that outside a few exceptional cases, the the neo-liberal wave is dead and its effects have been either exaggerated or have swamped by subsequent changes.

          To accuse THE LEFT of learning nothing is plainly ridiculous.

          To quote someone, funny that you should describe your own knowledge at the end of your very post.

          • DeWitt says:

            Yes, and? My whole point was that large swathes of modern economies are effectively nationalized.

            Then say so, rather than posting inane drivel about people to the left of you.

            The idea that the world has less government today than it did in 1920 is so absurd as to not be worth discussing. That it has less government than in 1970 is not laughable but still wrong.

            Your chart doesn’t prove what you’re trying to prove: that there is more of a command economy now than (whenever). How much revenue the government collects proves precisely nothing to do with this, because the government does more things than tell the economy to do this and that.

            If the government levies a 10% tax on toothbrushes and redistributes the resulting five billion dollars in tax money it gets among all people with the first name Alex, revenue increases by five billion. It also means exactly no command policies have went through, as the government very conspicuously isn’t producing any factories to manufacture the toothbrushes or vendors to sell them at.

            But no, throw a meaningless statistic around and blame the left. That’ll show ’em.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The idea that the world has less government today than it did in 1920 is so absurd as to not be worth discussing.

            What power the government did have in the early part of the 20th century was used in a more draconian manner than the powers it has now (or so can be plausibly argued). Conscription doesn’t currently exist, and plausibly will never come back (AWOL conscripts were subject to execution during war). Gold confiscation doesn’t exist (Executive order 6102 in 1933). Government mandated segregation is much smaller than before, and what remains isn’t racial.

            How do you compare this across time? The less expansive government is, the more draconian its policies?

          • cassander says:

            @DeWitt says:

            If you can’t be civil, I’m not going to bother with you.

            @anonymousskimmer says:

            What power the government did have in the early part of the 20th century was used in a more draconian manner than the powers it has now (or so can be plausibly argued).

            Governments spend around half of around half of GDP in most developed countries these days, much less then, while the regulatory state is orders of magnitude larger however you measure, something that touches on everyone’s life in countless ways including measures like gold seizure, though admittedly not that particular one. That’s everything from the war on drugs to the endangered species act. A few areas of government control have gone away, like segregation, but there’s no question that the amount of control, in general, is way above what it was in 1920.

          • DeWitt says:

            If you can’t be civil, I’m not going to bother with you.

            I’ve bothered with you so far just fine.

        • gettin_schwifty says:

          Cassander may be partisan and/or wrong, but you’re a dick. Starting your post with that quote and comment ensures unproductive discussion.

    • DeWitt says:

      Someone on r/TheMotte has been reviewing Lee Kuan Yew’s work, which touches on his attempts to get a succesful economy going. I can’t comment on the accuracy, and Yew is obviously no impartial source, but the reviews have been fascinating all the same.

  3. Deiseach says:

    For today’s selection of “The Church of England – making Catholics feel better about the crap our lot pull since it was established”, I submit this story, which I did not believe when I saw it at the original link, was convinced the accompanying photo was photoshopped, but when I Googled the Beeb had it up so I suppose it must be true.

    People visiting a medieval cathedral this summer will see the central aisle converted into a crazy golf course.

    The nave of Rochester Cathedral is home to a nine-hole course each including a model of a different type of bridge.

    The cathedral says it hopes visitors will learn about faith, and building “both emotional and physical bridges”.

    Opponents say it is a “really serious mistake” and “tricks” those into a search for God.

    The nave. In front of the altar. Of all places. I mean, if they’d stuck this up in the churchyard or even the porch, it would have been one thing, but putting it inside the church in the nave? Suppose someone wants to use the church to pray – oh no, silly me, imagine thinking in this day and age that people visit churches to pray! Ha ha ha, how ridiculous!

    I think, when you get to this extreme of desperation, you may stick a fork in it. If ever any of our guys – and I’m sure there are some out there who think this is a simply marvellous idea and they’d love to try it, if it weren’t for the simps and rubes in the parish who would report them to the bishop, or if the bishop was on board, would go crying to the Vatican which still kinda cares about this stuff – if ever, I say, any of our bozos do this, then it’s time to head East to the Orthodox, because we will have given up on the last remaining iota of a notion of sanctity and the holy.

    And before anybody gets on to me with “But Jesus broke all the taboos of His time in order to reach out to the people who needed to hear the Good News!”, Christ ate with sinners, infamously consorted with prostitutes and tax gatherers, and drove the moneylenders out of the Temple, but He didn’t then try turning the Holy of Holies into a gymnasium. The reverse, in fact:

    15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

    • Enkidum says:

      I don’t see anything in that about him kicking out the mini golfers though.

      Sorry.

      I mean, I’m not that sorry, but a little bit.

    • bzium says:

      if ever, I say, any of our bozos do this, then it’s time to head East to the Orthodox, because we will have given up on the last remaining iota of a notion of sanctity and the holy.

      Maybe it’s a Russian intelligence op. Make all western European religions act goofy, so the disgruntled faithful convert to Eastern Orthodoxy and then the little green men will have oppressed religious minorities to protect all over the place.

      It’s all part of the кеикаку.

    • eigenmoon says:

      if ever, I say, any of our bozos do this, then it’s time to head East to the Orthodox,

      Look up clown masses or Halloween masses or very interfaith services of Assisi 1986.

      EOs have their own problems. Be prepared to care a lot about who belongs to which jurisdiction.

      • Deiseach says:

        Look up clown masses or Halloween masses or very interfaith services of Assisi 1986.

        Oh, I know there have been some spectacular examples of idiocy which weren’t reined in in a timely fashion. But I’ve never yet (yet!) heard of anybody being so desperate to try appealing to the youth that they decided the best way would be to turn a church into a mini-golf course (instead of stuff like teaching the kids about God or explaining why people believe). What do they expect will happen – having played a round, the fifteen year old will then be inspired to ask “So who is this Christ guy and when can I get baptised?”

        A church is for prayer. If you turn that space into an amusement park, then the message you are sending the unchurched is not “We’re cool! Come be cool with us!”, it’s “Secularism has won; even in our most sacred spaces, we’ve succumbed to ‘the purpose of life is to have fun’ in order to win over people, not ‘I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly‘”.

        As to the EO problems, I am aware of them, but if Rome goes down the Swannee, to whom shall we go? who has the message of eternal life?

        • eigenmoon says:

          Ah, I see that you prefer the old form of evangelization, which supposes that you have to bring up Jesus at some point. But some Catholics came up with an alternative:

          The Little Sisters of Foucauld are a testament to the new form of evangelization, desired by so many in Latin America: instead of converting people, instead of giving them doctrine, and building churches, they decided to embody the indigenous culture and to live and coexist with them.
          […]
          They began learning their language and assimilating all that is theirs, including religion, […]
          In 50 years, the Little Sisters did not convert a single one member of the tribe. But they accomplished much more: […]

          There was also a similar approach to converting Hindus.

          So why wouldn’t the Church be desperate if among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult? So they do the logical step: using the new form of evangelization on the youth.

          to whom shall we go? who has the message of eternal life?

          Maybe you could establish a yet another Order of Doing Things the Way We Like and if you can bring in more than zero teenagers, then the Pope will leave you alone (maybe).

          Do you remember how in 2000s Moscow has thoroughly destroyed everything that Metr. Anthony Bloom did in UK? That’s how EOs roll. Maybe the Copts are somewhat more agreeable.

          • Lambert says:

            > among Americans raised Catholic, becoming Protestant is the best guarantee of stable church attendance as an adult

            I’d imagine only those serious about religion even consider conversion.
            From whatever denomination to whatever other.

        • Ben Wōden says:

          As to the EO problems, I am aware of them, but if Rome goes down the Swannee, to whom shall we go? who has the message of eternal life?

          Abandon the Chalcedonian compromise entirely and finally bite the bullet and decide whether Christ had two natures or one dual nature? Splitting the difference was always a losing plan :p

      • Lambert says:

        Don’t forget the Feast of Fools and the Carmina Burana.

        If the *Roman* Catholic Church goes bad, that still leaves 23 other Catholic Churches to choose from.

        • eigenmoon says:

          I think there is something preventing the alternative rite Churches from competing.
          You might have better chances with Trident Mass fans.

    • Aapje says:

      @Deiseach

      With ever increasing secularization, Dutch churches are regularly being given a new purpose. Like this skate hall.

      Protestants don’t see churches as holy places, but more as places to congregate, so that makes such things much easier.

      • Nornagest says:

        Like this skate hall.

        I wish that was a mosque, so I could make a “radical Islam” joke.

  4. Well... says:

    In honor of International Twins Day I created http://www.twitter.com/loosietwins [ETA: SSC is doing some weird thing with the link, so you might just type it into your browser], where I post side-by-side pictures of unrelated people who look alike (at least in those pictures). I’ll probably add ten or so tweets per day until my backlog is exhausted, then either retweet others who share their own mashups with me, or walk away entirely.

    This is the first time I’ve ever used Twitter and I’m proud to say I have no clue what I’m doing. I know that for discoverability reasons I should probably have included hashtags on each tweet, and used people’s handles instead of their names when possible, but I didn’t think of it until after my first half-dozen or so tweets and decided I couldn’t really be bothered anyway. If lots of people convince me otherwise I might change my practices, but it still seems like extra work (to have to look up each person’s handle, brainstorm hashtags, etc.) plus it will probably influence me psychologically to always be going back and checking how many followers/retweets/etc. I have, and I don’t intend for Twitter to play that role in my life.

    Anyway, check it out and enjoy, share if you want, send me your own mashups if you want, etc.

  5. I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

    Adversarial Collaboration Werewolf Prize
    One player (the werewolf) may, unbeknownst to others, take both sides of an adversarial collaboration. After the essays are revealed, SSC readers vote on which (purported) team to kill. If the werewolf manages to evade suspicion, it receives a $500 prize. Otherwise, the amount is donated to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Subatomic Particles.

    The estate of a player killed by SSC readers is ineligible to receive any adversarial collaboration prize.

  6. BBA says:

    My mom recently told me she’s taking up mahjong. I’ve found it amusing that there are manga and anime about hardened gangster types who play mahjong, while here in America the stereotypical “mahj” player is an old Jewish lady. Now I’m imagining a grandma from Boca Raton wandering away from her tour group to play mahjong in some seedy underground gambling parlor and taking the Yakuza for all they’re worth. (Sadly unrealistic considering the vast differences between regional variants of mahjong, in particular the American game is basically its own thing.)

    Somewhere possibly related to this: is there any connection between the popularity of mahjong among American Jews and the Israeli origins of the tile game Rummikub? Is there some long-forgotten rummy-style tile game my ancestors once played in the shtetls?

    • Well... says:

      My little brother had a girlfriend whose Taiwanese family were into all kinds of shady rackets, including a regular mahjong game attended by people somehow involved in organized crime (so he told me). I never heard about the old Jewish lady mahjong player stereotype.

      • Don P. says:

        The old Jewish lady mah-jongg sterotype was indeed once a thing, but it may have gone obsolete. Some lyrics from Allan Sherman, who in the 1960s specialized in Jewishing-up songs, most notably on his album “My Son, The Folk Singer”:

        [To the tune of Camptown Races]

        The Catskill ladies sing this song
        Hoo-hah, Hoo-hah,
        Sitting on the front porch playing Mah-Jongg
        All hoo-hah day

        • The Nybbler says:

          Old Jewish ladies still play Mah Jong, they’re just in Florida now. (Source: Mom is old Jewish lady in Florida)

        • brad says:

          A data point on the dying out side: my maternal grandmother (~1930) and all her friends played but my mother (~1950) and all of her friends do not.

    • Machine Interface says:

      The history of card games is complicated, but in an enormous nutshell:

      1) In China, dominoes/tiles were first invented as a variant of dice (each tile having one out of the 36 possible combinations of the throw of two six sided dice).

      2) These tile games developped their own sets of rules; this notably saw the invention of trick taking games; think Hearts, Spades, Tarot, Bridge — but without trump suits, which were a western innovation.

      3) A further specific Chinese innovation from there was multi-trick taking games, where instead of leading with a single tile, the first player could lead with multiple tiles, and the other players had to follow accordingly.

      4) At some point, paper cards were introduced and started to replace tiles in many, through not all of these games.

      5) In the 18th century, trick taking game started losing favor in China and evolved into the shedding games which replaced them, where the goal now became to get rid of your tiles/cards as fast as possible while forming combinations.

      6) The shedding game of Mahjong, using tiles, reached the west in the early 20th century and quickly becomes very popular in some circles.

      7) A different shedding game, using cards, known as Khankoo, reached Mexico probably in the early 19th century, where it developed into a local variant known as Conquian, which itself is the director ancestor of Rummy in the late 19th century.

      8) In the 1940s, a Romanian Jew living in mandatory Palestine had the idea to adapt Rummy to be played with tiles, creating Rummikub. It is not clear if he was aware of Mah-Jong or just realised that the game was well suited to be played with tiles.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        but without trump suits, which were a western innovation.

        … but it’s not a suit until the baseball cap is made from the same cloth as the coat and trousers.

      • imoimo says:

        I want to know everything about this. Do you have sources?

    • onyomi says:

      Re. the association of gangsters with gaming, obviously it’s a cross-cultural thing, but in Japan (home of most manga/anime) there’s a particular history where the groups people now call “Yakuza” (they don’t self-identify by this derogatory term, however), have their history in two historical groups called bakuto (“gamblers”) and tekiya (“peddlers”). In addition to illegal activities, these two groups carry on such traditions by running legal outfits like pachinko parlors and the sort of temporary food stands ubiquitous at festivals and fairs. There is some overlap here with what in English we might call “carnies.”

      • bullseye says:

        “Yakuza” is itself a gaming term; it means 8-9-3, which is the worst hand in a card game called Oicho-Kabu.

    • Enkidum says:

      The stereotype in China of a mahjong player is an older Chinese grandmother.

      It also is, essentially, rummy, with additional gambling rules.

      • imoimo says:

        The addition of many winning hands with varying point values seems the main difference to me. Not yet sure how that affects strategy.

    • Nick says:

      This whole discussion is amusingly opportune for me, since I’ve been watching Kaiji and Akagi. No spoilers, though! I’m only halfway through Akagi.

  7. Yair says:

    The following article explains that (at least in the USA, but probably everywhere) the idea that political parties should appeal to the center is based on a model of politics consisting in only one dimension.

    Because there are many dimension the center is not where those pundits/models say it is.

    Here is my question: It is easy to calculate mathematical distance in more than one dimension. Say, that we found the point that minimizes the sum of the distances of a population over many dimensions not just one, how would that point look? would it be “electable”? would it seem bizarre?

    How difficult would it be to do this using big data? It does not seem hard, but I’m very very far from being an expert.

    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/dems-can-abandon-the-center-because-the-center-doesnt-exist.html

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      It’s entirely straightforward to calculate the distance between two points–say, O and P–in Euclidean space. But unfortunately, that doesn’t make it easy to calculate the distance between two political positions.

      Consider a toy example, in which two individuals, say Alice and Bob, agree on every political issue save two: abortion and vegetarianism. Alice believes that abortion is immoral under any circumstances, and ought to be illegal unless the life of the mother is in serious danger. She also thinks that being vegan is a positive moral obligation, and anyone who isn’t vegan is morally a murderer. Bob thinks that neither abortion nor eating meat is a big deal.

      Presumably, we can map out Alice and Bob’s disagreement on a two-dimensional scale–one dimension for abortion and one dimension for vegetarianism. But… can we really? Both abortion and vegetarianism are nuanced issues where people can carve out a variety of ideological stances that don’t lie on an obvious single through-line. Even granting that a two-dimensional chart is sufficient, should the axes be parallel? The pro-life and anti-meat stances bear some important philosophical similarities. They’re not the same, by any means, and an intelligent and principled person could take opposing stances on the two issues, but there’s numerous arguments that carry over almost verbatim from one issue to the other. So maybe those two issues should have axes that are skew, rather than perpendicular to one another? And if so, what should the angle be between being vegetarian and being pro-life? Is there any objective way to answer that question?

      Alright, whatever, we’ve resolved this issue. There’s a 12 degree distance between the two issues, we have our two degrees of freedom, and everything is great. …Well, no, not really. In order to figure out the political distance between the two individuals, we need commensurable units on our two scales. Actually, first we need units on our scales at all. In what sense can one person be “twice” as pro-life as someone else? Or, if that issue is too nuanced, let’s take a much narrow more particular one. What should the maximum term of imprisonment be for someone who steals $1000 from someone else? If Jim believes the maximum term should be 1 year, and Kim believes the maximum term should be 2 years, is Kim twice as harsh as Jim? Or a little less than twice as harsh, because just putting someone in jail for any length of time is a big jump relative to not putting them in jail? If Li would favor allowing life imprisonment for someone who steals $1000, how much more further along the axis of “punishment for stealing $1000 via prisontime” is she? Even once we’ve resolved all these issues, there’s still the question of why we are working with Euclidean distances at all. If you want something that looks vaguely Euclidean, there are lots of manifolds that don’t look like R^n, and if you don’t care about working with something that looks Euclidean (maybe you’d rather represent people as nodes on a graph?), your space of potential metrics opens up a lot. Of course, all of this assume that you’ve managed to get good enough data about people’s political opinions to even start trying for this sort of project. You’ve mentioned big data–that’s a reasonable suggestion, although not without its own potential issues.

      None of this is to say that there couldn’t be interesting work to be done in trying to find “the center” of the (American, or whatever) political landscape. But I don’t think there’s any hope of answering the question independent of the methodology and prejudices or the person setting up the scales.

      • imoimo says:

        Do you think we could do a “big five personality test” approach? Ask a bunch of questions (maybe as specific as possible) and try to find clusters in belief-space that seem more fundamental than just modern coalitions. Distances could then be in bits (I think?) away from a specific commonly found set of answers.

    • bullseye says:

      Overall an informative article, but I have a quibble; it talks about how median positions aren’t what you’d expect on several issues, but then doesn’t say what the median positions are; instead it says what the most common positions are.

  8. onyomi says:

    Does anyone know of any good works of philosophy or political theory directly approaching the question of how to think or speak about individuals versus groups, especially for political purposes?

    “Treat everyone as an individual, and on a case-by-case basis” is a pretty good answer for many cases (e.g. equal protection before the law; also mostly works for daily life interaction–we rightly think someone is a jerk if he insists on treating an individual based on group-related stereotypes where the possibility of learning more relevant info through personal interaction exists), and one I was pretty satisfied with for a long time as a libertarian (Misesians call this “methodological individualism”).

    But there are also cases where that clearly falls flat. Not only is it impossible and unreasonable to avoid developing concepts about group averages (there’s really no question, for example, that different races, genders, classes, etc. vote differently; the question is whether that matters, and if so, how), it can put one at a major disadvantage if others are using group concepts and group identity but you only deny it to yourself and the groups others will associate you with, even if you are doing your best to treat others as individuals (“you may not take an interest in group-based politics but that doesn’t stop group-based politics taking an interest in you”).

    Obviously the opposite extreme: “treat everyone based on broad stereotypes about their group membership” is not a good answer either, leading me to strongly suspect the right balance is somewhere between that and “treat everyone as an individual, on a case-by-case basis.” But that’s a whole lot of idea space and doesn’t provide much ethical or political guidance. One can conceive of many in-between stances like “treat individuals you meet in daily life as individuals insofar as possible and design politics in such a way as to minimize the extent to which group membership matters,” but I can’t recall off the top of my head a major work or thinker who sort of tackles this issue head-on and attempts to derive some more nuanced conclusions. Any suggestions?

    *Edit to add: works treating the ethics and practice of identity per se would also be relevant. Of course, there is a lot of academic work out there about specific kinds of identity (what it means to identify as a certain gender, etc.), but I can’t recall any off the top of my head dealing directly with e.g. the ethics and practice of having an identity per se. Some, like Jordan Peterson, imply in passing that e.g. deriving a sense of self-worth based on group identity is bad, but I don’t think of that issue as his main focus, and such a one-sided approach feels a bit of a cop-out (not having any sort of identity at all isn’t a realistic option, but defining yourself wholly by others’ expectations or the accomplishments of e.g. people from your hometown or who share your race or ethnicity is obviously also problematic, again leaving us with a very big in-between space seemingly not frequently explored in much detail, at least not that I’ve read).

    • Plumber says:

      @onyomi,
      I know of no such works, but I’m curious why you’re looking for one?

      Regardless, it’s pretty easy to make up find “heuristics” of correlations with voting Democratic or Republican:
      Single mother of a son?
      Married father of a daughter?
      Church going?
      Union member?
      Black?
      White?
      Blue collar?
      College graduate?
      Renter?
      Owner?

      I could go on, but usually how far one has to drive from home to get to The City tells the tale, but sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised.

      In general though I’ve found that neither Democrats or Republicans have a monopoly on virtue, nor does political affiliation correlate much with how likely someone is to help you jump-start your car, so I wouldn’t worry much about it.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m interested in finding such works because I’m not satisfied with my current heuristics about group identity, especially as it relates to politics. I can’t in good faith pretend, for example, that it wouldn’t bother me if a million refugees from a culture very different from mine moved into my hometown, but faced with any individual refugee I’d also have a hard time saying “we don’t want you here,” especially if personal interaction revealed that said person was likely an honest, hardworking, decent person.

        One political answer to the above problem might be “let in refugees, but only those who can prove they’re honest, hardworking, and decent,” but that might a. be difficult to determine, and b. wouldn’t change the fact that a million people from a very different culture could radically alter my hometown in ways I might not like even in the case where we can only let in good, honest people. Yet at the individual level no one good, honest immigrant from a different culture is going to make the decisive difference, again leaving the individual vs. group problem (how many individuals do you let in before you’re letting in a “group”?).

        • albatross11 says:

          I think there’s a fallacy of composition thing going on there, though. Having a billion additional people move to the US would radically change the country, quite possibly in ways most people would really dislike, even if each individual person moving here was perfectly decent and sympathetic. A big part of any kind of control of immigration is numbers–it’s not just including/excluding some immigrants (for whatever reasons), it’s also deciding how many to allow to come in.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11,

            +1,000,000,000!

            Imagine someone like our host:
            Young, thoughtful, educated, articulate (and a dozen other virtues), just an ‘above average’ person.

            Wouldn’t you want someone like that as your neighbor?

            Wouldn’t you want someone like that as your employee?

            Wouldn’t you want someone like that as your tenant?

            Now imagine you and your kids competing with someone like that.

            Now imagine others like that.

            More and more.

            The ‘best and the brightest’.

            Every year.

            Thousands of them.

            For decades.

            Welcome to San Francisco.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            Same problem the South and Mountain West are having with Mexicans and Californians. The latter are far worse, by the way.

            I think this is a fantastic point and needs to be understood. I’ve never had an issue with any specific California or Mexican. But I don’t want my home to be California or Mexico.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos,
            Sheer numbers can transform an area regardless.

            Most of my co-workers this decade have been immigrants (this year though most are now the children of immigrants).

            I like them.

            My wife’s mother is an immigrant.

            But rents are high, wages are low (compared to rents and especially for those without a college diploma), and roads are crowded, and I don’t see how so many newcomers (especially including those American born) can’t be contributing to that.

            There’s many things to like about the newcomers, I doubt St. Ambrose down the street would still have enoigh parishioners without the newcomers from Mexico for example, and our host is a newcomer as well (yes other counties elsewhere in California count), but there’s just so many!

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Don’t forget dealing with pair bonds (i.e. dueling seconds, blood brothers, sworn sisters, etc… in addition to marriage) which currently or historically have carried politically real responsibilities divorced from the individual or groups.

    • Aapje says:

      @onyomi

      “Treat everyone as an individual, and on a case-by-case basis” is a pretty good answer for many cases (e.g. equal protection before the law)

      “Treat everyone as an individual” doesn’t guarantee equal protection at all. You can toss every individual gay person in jail for their individual behavior, in the same way that you can jail thieves for their individual behavior. Opinions can differ greatly on what is objectionable individual behavior.

      Your principle merely prevents you from holding people responsible for things that are more common to their group, but not for things that are true for them individually, just like for (nearly) every other member of their group. In other words, when (nearly) every furriner lacks American culture and you feel strongly about having American culture, then you can refuse to allow every non-American to migrate to the US, even while judging people individually, while upholding your principle.

      You seem to condense a situation where it is widely recognized that there are at least 4 options down to 2. The four are:
      1. things more common for people with a certain trait that you are not supposed to hold people accountable for
      2. things more common for people with a certain trait that you are allowed to hold people accountable for
      3. traits that are individual, but that you are not supposed to object to
      4. traits that are individual and that you are allowed to punish or reject people for

      Note that people rarely seem to have an empty set for 2 (and never for 4). If they say they do, they usually state a falsehood, where they rationalize the discrimination they do as being so legitimate that it’s not discrimination.

  9. proyas says:

    Someone sent me angry and harassing emails, so now I’d like to publish them online so everyone can see them. What is a good website for me to do this?

    I will post the text of the emails and nothing more, and will let other people make their own judgments.

    P.S. – I didn’t have a confidentiality agreement with the person who sent me the emails, and he sent them to me when he and I were both in the U.S.

    • dick says:

      pastebin dot com?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Are you trying to post them in a way where people can verify that you haven’t altered them, or just get the text up so that people who find you relatively trustworthy can view them?

    • Deiseach says:

      Why do you want to do this? To prove that in the case of Situation A, person B was telling lies about you? Or for revenge?

      Because while I am very sympathetic to the notion of revenge (it fits with my petty, vengeful personality to go “If that bastard thinks he’s getting away with this, he’s got another think coming!”) but in the long run it will do no good. You’ll only fuel your anger, perhaps rekindle the fight (if person B finds out you did this, and if there’s any third party who was aware of the original context and reads these, it’s very likely they’ll inform B) and gain nothing tangible in the end. Maybe even let yourself in for accusations of libel or defamation or something (I am not a lawyer, legal advice from the qualified needed here), and get into trouble over publishing private correspondence.

      Rant away here to your heart’s content or explain why you want to do this, but think two, three and four times about actually doing it – what do you hope to achieve by this? do you think that realistically this will achieve your aims? is the risk worth it?

  10. ana53294 says:

    Old article from the Atlantic about women making families.

    I’ve found that in general, many educated people seem to be horrified by any kind of practicality in searching for a partner (or maybe it’s the bubble I live in). After I mentioned to my friends that I am looking for a husband because I want a big family and to be a housewife, I get really horrified reactions. My friends are highly educated people, and they tend to think marriage is an antiquated institution and you should wait for fairies and unicorns true love. I find the whole attitude around it really bizarre. Wasn’t feminism supposed to be about having options, to work or not to work if you so choose to?

    This idea that you should wait for Mr. Perfect, and settling is wrong, is quite strange. Especially because I agree with the writer of the article that if you settle young, you are much more likely to find somebody not objectionable.

    Is it that I live in a bubble? Are highly educated people much more prone to believe in true love?

    By the way, I’ve found that men I’ve gone on dates with respond much better when asked about values and plans for marriage/kids than I would have supposed.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Settling is mostly a women’s game. Men settle far less often and, when they do, they don’t seem the least bit bothered by the fact that they’re settling.

      See maybe this is why I don’t really get this. I’m not married, but this is how I see it from the male perspective:

      My girl is not the single hottest person I’ve ever seen. She’s not the easiest person for me to talk to sometimes. She doesn’t really get my aesthetic. She doesn’t give great massages. But none of that matters.

      My girl is a smart, kind, beautiful person. She likes and cares about me. She’s passionate about the things that matter to her. As far as I’m concerned, that’s enough to make her the girl of my dreams. There are many like her (but not quite like her), but this one is mine. Maybe I have low standards, but that doesn’t sound like settling to me. It sounds like happiness, and it feels like love. If something better is supposed to be out there, I can’t imagine what it looks like.

      What I long for in a marriage is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks.

      Fuck, man, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

    • eigenmoon says:

      marriage is an antiquated institution and you should wait for fairies and unicorns true love

      I guess what they’re trying to say is that marriage is such a bad deal that only an extremely valuable partner could push the total value of the deal above zero.

      Are highly educated people much more prone to believe in true love?

      Highly educated people are more likely to derive fulfillment from something other than family, and that makes marriage less valuable to them, and that means they need a higher-valued partner to push the total value of the deal above zero.

    • EchoChaos says:

      This idea that you should wait for Mr. Perfect, and settling is wrong, is quite strange. Especially because I agree with the writer of the article that if you settle young, you are much more likely to find somebody not objectionable.

      I think the term “settling” is the problem with what I’m seeing here.

      I think it usually means marrying someone who is noticeably worse in some dimension than the best you’ve dated.

      But one problem is that modern men and women have different ideas of what “dating” means. Since even a very average woman can get a top tier man for a night by being “Ms. Right Now”, they think they are able to get a similarly top tier man for marriage.

      Because top tier women are less likely to give one night to an average guy, they tend to have a more realistic idea of what their match is.

      I agree with you that women tend to get better men if they marry young, which is fairly unsurprising. If women compared settling based on the highest tier guy that was willing to settle down with them, I suspect fewer women settle than most think, perhaps even fewer than men.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I think it usually means marrying someone who is noticeably worse in some dimension than the best you’ve dated.

        From the sound of the article Ana linked, it sounds more like it means “flawless,” honestly.

        Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.

        The usage of the word “settle” in this paragraph makes my head spin.

      • ana53294 says:

        I think “settling” in this article means “marry the nice guy you’re dating right now, instead of waiting for the *spark* or *MrPerfect*”. Just don’t ditch a good enough relationship for some mystical chemistry or connection.

        • Clutzy says:

          The idea of settling in that context is strange. Almost all the traits described as “not settling” have little effect on the outcome of a couple.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think it usually means marrying someone who is noticeably worse in some dimension than the best you’ve dated.

        Best you’ve ever imagined dating, is I think the more common usage.

      • albatross11 says:

        If “settling” means “accepting someone as a husband/wife that you don’t really want to be married to, because your biological clock is ticking and it’s socially time to get married,” then it’s a pretty terrible idea to settle. If it means “accepting a real human being you know well, with the normal complement of flaws and annoying habits but also a person you genuinely like, love, trust, are sexually compatible with, and share dreams with, even though they’re not movie-perfect,” then settling sounds inevitable if you want to actually ever get married. I suspect most people having this discussion have their brain in a superposition of those two meanings, and it leads to some odd conversations.

      • onyomi says:

        Since even a very average woman can get a top tier man for a night by being “Ms. Right Now”, they think they are able to get a similarly top tier man for marriage.

        Because top tier women are less likely to give one night to an average guy, they tend to have a more realistic idea of what their match is.

        This is quite interesting because, if accurate (as I suspect it is), it may point to a lesser-known negative consequence of female promiscuity (women being unhappy with the men who’d like to marry them because the possibility of one-night-stands with Mister wealthy 10 creates unrealistic expectations).

      • ana53294 says:

        Settling also means sometimes marrying somebody less educated. Statistics show that more women are getting a university education than men. Finding a suitable mate will mean, for some women, marrying a well-earning man with a lower education.

        There is a lot of snobbery about that among well educated people (because they got an education because they value it).

        • Aapje says:

          @ana53294

          In your example, it seems that the man earns more, but is not educated as well. Then feeling hard done by because of his deficit in education, but not feeling that she gets more than she deserves in the realm of income, seems to be a demand for a partner who is above her station in all ways, rather than is about on par on average (being better in some ways and worse in others).

          Such a demand is only realistic for many/most women if there is major gender inequality.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        I have known a few couples where one member – or both, actually – feels that (s)he settled. In most cases the problem lies not with the inadequacies of the partner, but the mistaken self-image of the ‘settler.’

    • Plumber says:

      @ana53294,
      I don’t know about Spain but in San Francisco for college graduates having kids when you’re still young is weird, for other Americans waiting until you need medical assistance to conceive your own children is weird.

      It’s quite a class and regional divide.

    • johan_larson says:

      Wasn’t feminism supposed to be about having options, to work or not to work if you so choose to?

      You don’t have to look far in Friedan, for example, to find a certain disdain for housekeeping and child rearing. Betty Friedan tried the housewife life, and found it unbearably tedious.

      I get the impression that the family life championed by feminists has both parents working full time, the kids in free daycare all day, strictly equal division of all domestic duties, and long paid family leaves when children are born.

      • ana53294 says:

        the kids in free daycare all day

        I already thought school was hell. When you are less than six, you aren’t interested in peers that much; a couple of hours in the park is enough. Small kids mostly want to be with their parents.

        A life of work, running out of work to pick up kids from daycare, running around in the morning to find clean socks before they go to daycare and then you have to run to work, and then spending the hours after work with your kids, and being unable to just rest a bit, because it’s the only time you have to spend with your kids, seems stressful.

        I’d take dull over stressful any day, but that’s me.

        • johan_larson says:

          It doesn’t sound like much fun to me either. Presumably one parent would be responsible for the kids in the morning, including dropping them off at daycare, and the other would pick up the kids from daycare and deals with them in the evening. If they wanted to relax a bit or push extra hard at work, they would do it in the evening or the morning, respectively.

      • Viliam says:

        Women should be legally allowed to make any choice, but choices disapproved by vocal feminists should be considered low-status.

        For example, whether a woman decides to be a housewife and take care of her kids, or to make a career and spend the whole day at job, it’s her free choice. It’s just, if she chooses the former, she is a loser.

        EDIT:

        Similarly, men and women should legally have the same rights, but should be shamed differently. For example, it is okay for a woman to decide to remain single and childless, focusing only on her career and doing things she enjoys. However, a man who decides to remain single and childless, making some money during the day and playing computer games at night, should be publicly shamed.

        So it’s like legally: everything is allowed; but by social pressure (e.g. in media) you should follow the prescribed road, which goes like this:

        A woman is supposed to focus on her career, and later settle with a man she feels is unworthy of her, and have a child or two with him. Alternatively, she can marry young, but should remain childless, and later divorce, thus gaining a kind of “basic income”.

        A man is supposed to accumulate money, and be ready to get married when a woman asks him to. Whatever happens later, he is supposed to keep making money, as much as possible. Hobbies are not okay, because they interfere with his reason for existence.

    • onyomi says:

      It seems like the mainstream US culture right now has greatly devalued and deemphasized family-having and child-rearing to the point where the idea of getting married primarily for the purpose of raising a family, which was marriage’s traditional primary purpose, seems weird (since now marriage is viewed as first-and-foremost about finding your soulmate).

      Slightly tangential: it strikes me that the gay marriage debate boils down to two different views of marriage. The oversimplified conservative position is “marriage should be between a man and a woman!” but I think in olden days in many cultures it would have been almost as strange for two elderly divorcees or widows/widowers of the opposite sex to get married. Sure, older single people shacked up so as to have companionship, but it would have been weird to have a wedding, because a wedding implies at least the possibility of children.

      But the modern view of marriage is not, primarily, about children, but about recognizing a special relationship between two people. On that understanding it seems obviously bigoted to deny that kind of recognition to two people just because they happen to be of the same sex (or too old to have children, for that matter), but it may be, in some cases, at least, that those who see the anti-gay marriage position as bigoted are not considering the existence of this older view of marriage and its social functions. By the same token, those who oppose gay marriage may be unaware of or opposed to a widespread change in the emphasis of the institution of marriage.

      • Viliam says:

        the modern view of marriage is not, primarily, about children, but about recognizing a special relationship between two people

        I suppose it is because the state wants to have strict rules, and therefore relationships have to be legible. “Is X allowed to get information about medical state of Y, or not?”

        Hundred years ago, in a village, this would not be a problem; people would use common sense, and most likely the gossip would get to everyone, anyway. (For a gay couple, saying that they are “good friends who live together” would probably achieve the same purpose.)

        But today, the state wants to have the relationships clearly defined. Unless you make your relationship legible, the state will consider you a complete stranger. This is why old people get married, and a part of why gays want to have marriage.

        • S_J says:

          The oversimplified conservative position is “marriage should be between a man and a woman!” but I think in olden days in many cultures it would have been almost as strange for two elderly divorcees or widows/widowers of the opposite sex to get married.

          From my own knowledge (family history during Colonial-era New England), it was not uncommon for elderly widows/widowers to marry. Divorce was rare, but not totally unheard-of.

          Remarriage for widows/widowers was more common during the early years of settlement. Several patterns happened: if a spouse died before the age of ~40, often the remaining spouse would remarry and then have more children with the second spouse.

          If the spouse died after the age of ~40, remarriage was less common, but it still happened. It might have been economic-necessity of some sort: it was much easier for a widow/widower to run the household/farm if they remarried.

          On the contrary, not every old widower/widow remarried.

          Similar patterns shows up in the family history in the 1800s and 1900s also: some widows/widowers/divorcees would remarry, others would remain single. The cause isn’t always easy to figure out. [1]

          To agree with you, even in the olden days of Colonial New England (or England of that time period)

          [t]he state wants to have the relationships clearly defined.

          The local government wants some sort of rule to figure out how to handle a couple that cohabits, has children, and has property to dispose of on death. So does the local religious authority. (I’ve seen a few cases where the a child’s birth date was vague, but the baptism date is known…)

          Generally, family law and the associated family records (births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, wills, and documentation of estate) is mostly about property, and supporting children until the children reach adulthood. [2]

          The 20th Century has added things like health-insurance coverage, medical power-of-attorney, and similar. Most of which exists because the State wants relationships to be legible, and the people want their intimate partners to have legal privileges associated with the partnership.

          [1] In at least one case, a divorced woman and her widowed sister lived nearby (and possibly in the same house) for many years. Their tombstone has their names-from-marriage on it, which took me a while to figure out. Two women with different surnames buried together.
          Until I found the obituaries of the two women, which clarified that they were sisters, that they had each been married, and what had happened to their husbands.

          [2] There were even laws in England allowing men to be charged for child-support, if they fathered a child out of wedlock. Those laws began during the reign of Henry VIII, to give some idea of how old the concept of child support is in English law.

          In New England, the process for supporting such children was different, but court cases and financial punishments related to such illegitimate children were a well-established legal process by the 1650s.

          By the time of the mid-1700s, the courts in North America would regularly levy charges of weekly or monthly child-support on the fathers of illegitimate children, and hand the money to the local Overseers of the Poor to aid the support of the child.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This sounds an awful lot like “legibility” from Seeing Like a State.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        which was marriage’s traditional primary purpose

        Citation? Plausibly you’re right, but I can think of other reasons for the formation of marriage in prehistory (from the autocratic political to the boundary setting tribal to the interpersonal).

        • onyomi says:

          Bit random, but I tend to cite premodern China off the top of my head as it’s the tradition I know best: Song Dynasty ritualist Zhu Xi lists the appropriate age for weddings as 14 to 20 (sui–slightly younger than how we calculate) for women and 16 to 30 sui for men.

          He spends more time emphasizing that people should not get their children engaged too young as that was presumably a bigger issue at the time (causes conflict between two families if you betroth your children in infancy and one of them doesn’t make it to adulthood), but the very fact of upper limits listed implies such a focus on childrearing years (of course, when people prescribe it also tends to mean people aren’t always following the guidelines, but in his time that probably meant e.g. a 30 year old woman marrying a 40 year old man–in traditional culture everyone not destitute would have been married off by family well before then; the fact that women can be married pretty much as soon as menarche also indicates an emphasis on front-running the risk of premarital pregnancy).

    • Matt C says:

      Congratulations on knowing what you want and having the courage to say it to yourself. (Being able to say it to others is a nice bonus, too.)

      After I mentioned to my friends that I am looking for a husband because I want a big family and to be a housewife, I get really horrified reactions. My friends are highly educated people

      I think you are breaking a taboo here. Smart women are not supposed to want to be housewives. Like smart men, but even more so, smart women are supposed to want to climb a status ladder somewhere. You are openly defecting from this social expectation. Being a housewife is for losers, regressives, or dummies.

      It’s not only that you want to be a housewife, but that you’re declaring it so openly. You aren’t supposed to just come out and say it like that!

      It is not uncommon for smart women to “discover” that they want to stay home with the kids after having the first one. Sometimes this probably is a discovery. I bet it isn’t always. But this is the normal script for opting out of the career advancement track.

      My wife got the same thing when she told her friends she would stay home to raise the kids. I think she had the same reaction as you. You’re not alone. But the cluck cluck isn’t very important, really.

      By the way, I’ve found that men I’ve gone on dates with respond much better when asked about values and plans for marriage/kids than I would have supposed.

      This is a little surprising to me too. I’d expect people to flinch if this comes up too early. I’m glad it’s working out well, though.

      Good luck finding your husband!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Seconded!
        The younger you have the mental clarity to do this, the better.
        Rationally, it seems to me that people either shouldn’t get married in this society, or should “settle” early and have children.

      • ana53294 says:

        This is a little surprising to me too. I’d expect people to flinch if this comes up too early. I’m glad it’s working out well, though.

        Well, most of the guys I’ve gone on dates were quite open about them not wanting kids either now or on the next five years. I do consider me not wasting more time with them or getting emotionally invested in a doomed relationship a good outcome. And guys were really respectful of my priorities and some of them wished me good luck.

      • Viliam says:

        It is not uncommon for smart women to “discover” that they want to stay home with the kids after having the first one. Sometimes this probably is a discovery.

        Having kids is different from what people imagine. More exhausting, but at the same time, more emotionally rewarding.

        More exhausting means you don’t desire anymore to have a job on top of that. And more emotionally rewarding means the idea of staying at home with kids doesn’t seem so boring and pointless.

        (I suppose people don’t hear about this much, because we often socialize at work, and it seems bad for your career to talk too much about how something else is much more meaningful than making your boss more rich.)

    • Viliam says:

      Are highly educated people much more prone to believe in true love?

      I would expect that middle class has most freedom to optimize in marriage for things other than survival and power.

      If you are a poor woman, you want to avoid marrying a guy who makes you pregnant and then remains unemployed. If you are a lady from the top 0.001%, if you want to remain in your elite circle (yes, you do), you don’t have many choices. If you are a middle-class woman, as long as you don’t marry a working-class guy, your life should be okay. Therefore you can add other criteria to your choice, without ruining your life.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If you are a lady from the top 0.001%, if you want to remain in your elite circle (yes, you do), you don’t have many choices.

        Eh, I think such a woman could marry anyone reasonably decorative and socially ept from the professional class and up and remain in her elite circles.

    • Garrett says:

      Strange. I’m looking for a wife to start a large family with.
      If you are interested in doing so somewhere in the US, let me know and I’ll post my contact information here.

    • ana53294 says:

      Pearson also got hacked, exposing private info about thousands of students.

      That’s a risk you never get with print books.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    True or false?
    The people of Georgia are Southern Caucasians.

  12. Machine Interface says:

    Which of the two claims in each of those pairs do you feel is truer?

    1a) Progressives decry conservatives for their selfish, clannic individualism, in contrast to the progressives’ collective spirit of solidarity and universal brotherhood.
    1b) Progressives decry conservatives for their hierarchial, conformism-demanding, stiff and moralizing collectivism, in contrast to the progressives’ valuing of individual expressions of difference and creativity.

    2a) Conservatives decry progressives for their selfish, hedonistic individualism, in contrast to the conservatives’ collective spirit of community and family.
    2b) Conservatives decry progressives for their horizontal, ideologically conformist, politically correct and moralizing collectivism, in contrast to the conservatives’ valuing of individual strength and merit.

    • EchoChaos says:

      1b and 2a.

      I think this is probably based on the fact that the arguments today tend to be cultural and social.

      The opposite is probably true about economics, but nobody cares about economics in politics when the economy is roaring.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      All of the above, depending on which hits harder at the time (or, more charitably, the thing where large groups are non-uniform)

    • Jake Rowland says:

      1a and 2b, but that’s basically the directions my biases would predict.

    • Urstoff says:

      1b and 2b. Progressives and conservatives are both collectivists, they just have different in-groups. Both still adopt the language of “freedom”, though, and market themselves that way.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think 1b is most generally true, followed by 2b, 2a, and 1a last.

    • Deiseach says:

      Neither, because I don’t think either pairs best describe the reasons side A disagrees with side B.

      Some progressives feel that it’s selfishness, some think it’s clannishness (under the guise of nationalism), some disagree about hierarchy, some about moralising and so forth.

      Same with conservatives: some are socially conservative, some are fiscally conservative, some are ‘classic’ liberals which now counts as right-wing and so on.

    • Plumber says:

      If by “progressives” you mean “lean towards voting for Democrats” and “conservatives” you mean “lean towards voting for Republicans” I’d say 1a and 2a are true slightly more often, and I agree with both, individualism is the post 1960’s blight, most Americans would probably be happier with laws more like Swedan’s and a culture more like Utah’s (though they’d likely be even happier if they personally got to still be individualist but their neighbors were communalist).

      • The Nybbler says:

        (though they’d likely be even happier if they personally got to still be individualist but their neighbors were communalist)

        Of course. That’s called being on top. The thing about community is there’s some people who get a boatload of support and little responsibility or restriction, some who get pretty much all responsibility and restriction and no support, and a lot of people in the middle. It’s always good for the first bunch, and always bad for the second bunch.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Depends which progressives and which conservatives we’re talking about. On a broader, national/international level? 1b and 2a. In my own personal social circle’s conflicts? 1a and 2b.

      This question is very interesting and I feel like I have learned something by considering it. +1

    • bullseye says:

      All of the above. Conservatism and progressivism each have individualist and collectivist elements.

      If I have to pick, I’d say B for both, because U.S. culture as a whole leans toward individualism. Also I’m not sure “clannic individualism” makes sense.

    • A1987dM says:

      It depends on which progressives and which conservatives you’re talking about. I’ve definitely encountered all four attitudes.

  13. eyeballfrog says:

    So in the comments to the recent billionaires post, there seem to be a hell of a lot of people saying that Amazon is a horrible employer that squeezes blood out of its workers.

    But I actually know people who work in Amazon distribution centers, including my brother-in-law. And they all think it’s a great place to work. My brother-in-law supports my sister and her two kids on his income alone and, while they don’t live like kings, they aren’t one flu away from bankruptcy, and have a considerable benefits package.

    On the other hand, I can find no shortage of stories online about how horrible working conditions are in Amazon distribution centers. I realize there are problems with this methodology, but that still means there are competing claims about this. So which is it?

    • Oscar Sebastian says:

      As a general rule, if a variety of trustworthy sources are saying, “Yeah, this national company is a big problem,” and you’re going, “But everyone I know in my geographic area who works for them is happy!”, you are an outlier.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I suspect there may be considerable dispute over the identity – or indeed existence – of trustworthy national sources on such matters.

      • lvlln says:

        I mean, saying that he’s an outlier seems tautological here. But what’s not interesting is whether or not eyeballfrog is an outlier, what’s interesting is whether eyeballfrog’s impression as an outlier is more accurate than the impression given by the variety of trustworthy sources.

      • Matt M says:

        I’d consider the personal testimony of someone I know to be about 1000x more trustworthy than some article by the Washington Post…

        • EchoChaos says:

          Impressive belief in the Washington Post.

          Honestly, as with most things, people believe lived experience way more than they believe someone else’s report. I know people who work for warehousing and shipping companies (UPS, Amazon, etc). They’re tough, demanding jobs, but they seem happy to have them and don’t complain much.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s also probably relevant that the average Washington Post piece on this topic is itself going to be a collection of anecdotes rather than some sort of statistical analysis of data. Only there’s a much greater chance that the anecdotes are curated and biased towards the story the author wants to tell, whereas the guy you happen to know is going to have his own opinion and express it to you regardless of your own priors about whether capitalism is good or evil.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          It’s interesting that you chose WaPo as an example.

      • Clutzy says:

        Not really. National sources on such things generally come from 3-5 big cities located in left-leaning areas. These places may face unique “breakage” rates compared to most distribution centers, thus have the most aggressive anti-theft and anti-sloth enforcement procedures. This is not uncommon in lower-trust, lower-social cohesion areas (just go around comparing the security features at various corner stores in different neighborhoods).

        This combined with media’s general lean toward the sensational, and the fact that there will always be a greasy wheel who got fired, means national reporting is probably not giving an accurate picture of what goes on.

    • It’s pretty easy to go to a large organization and find an example of someone doing something bad without it representing a general tendency.

    • Jake Rowland says:

      Amazon’s growth means a lot of people are working in Amazon’s warehouses who have never worked in warehouses before. Warehouse work is not fun. If you have a thousand people doing warehouse work for the first time, it’s not unreasonable that a hundred of them hate it. If a writer for the Washington Post interviews five of those hundred, you have a compelling article on how Amazon is a terrible employer. I don’t know that this is what’s happening, but it seems sufficient to explain the trend.

      Now everything I just wrote is theory, not even anecdote. But it’s not like an article that interviewed a handful of employees is much better. Amazon has 3.8/5 stars on glassdoor and 3.6/5 on indeed. That seems pretty reasonable to me. I don’t know how hard those sites are to game, or how much that is biased toward white collar work, but I think it’s a better sample than a thinkpiece.

      • Dan L says:

        +1

        The correct baseline for Amazon warehouse work is not Amazon datacenter work, it’s Prologis warehouse work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article that makes the right comparison.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Amazon warehouses are basically franchises, but the buck for worker treatment at those warehouses stops with Bezos, not the warehouse management, because it’s very easy to Five Whys your way to, “Amazon has insufficient worker protections/auditing/whistleblowing.” The fact that you know people who like their jobs is evidence that Amazon is not imposing a company culture of misery and exploitation. The fact that people pee in bottles on 14 hour shifts in other warehouses is evidence that Amazon is permissive towards “misery and exploitation” style management.

      • Matt M says:

        The fact that people pee in bottles on 14 hour shifts in other warehouses is evidence that Amazon is permissive towards “misery and exploitation” style management.

        What percentage of workers pee in bottles?

        I have absolutely no idea what the answer is, nor can I propose any methodology by which we might find it.

        But let’s just stipulate a number, let’s say 5%. We can probably reasonably conclude that either these are the bottom 5% of workers in terms of efficiency (if they weren’t, they’d have time to take bathroom breaks like everyone else), OR that they… uh… just don’t mind peeing in bottles and use the extra five minutes of time to take a break in some other way, or simply work at a slightly less frenetic pace.

        A lot of employers would simply fire their least efficient 5% of employees. But Amazon isn’t doing that (at least not quickly enough to remove bottle-peeing as standard practice), so they can’t be that evil. And what does it say about the rest of the conditions associated with the job that even the bottle peers themselves don’t, you know, quit?

        The fact that people are willing to pee in bottles rather than not work for Amazon biases me towards thinking Amazon is probably a good job to have, not a bad one!

        • Oscar Sebastian says:

          A good job to have relative to the alternatives available to people who are currently working at Amazon, peeing in bottles. That does not show Amazon is a good job overall unless you’re willing to commit several fallacies to get to your preconceived answer.

          EDIT: Actually, I’d just like to add how unbelievably messed up it is to try to justify working conditions that lead to people pissing in bottles. Your entire post isn’t just poor logic, it’s morally contemptible. It is very necessary and undeniably true for me to tell you that if your first instinct to hearing about those conditions is, “They just aren’t working hard enough,” that you need to reevaluate your character.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Let’s just stipulate a number, let’s say 5%.

          https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a3af3e22aeba594ad56d8cb/t/5ad098b3562fa7b8c90d5e1b/1523620020369/Amazon+Warehouse+Staff+Survey+Results.pdf

          A lot of employers would simply fire their least efficient 5% of employees. But Amazon isn’t doing that (at least not quickly enough to remove bottle-peeing as standard practice), so they can’t be that evil.

          https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations

          In a signed letter last year, an attorney representing Amazon said the company fired “hundreds” of employees at a single facility between August of 2017 and September 2018 for failing to meet productivity quotas. A spokesperson for the company said that, over that time, roughly 300 full-time associates were terminated for inefficiency.

          The number represents a substantial portion of the facility’s workers: a spokesperson said the named fulfillment center in Baltimore includes about 2,500 full-time employees today. Assuming a steady rate, that would mean Amazon was firing more than 10 percent of its staff annually, solely for productivity reasons.

          Apparently, Amazon increases its targets on an ongoing basis as long as 75% of its workers are capable of meeting them. Consider what that’s likely to do to turnover over time, assuming you allow a worker to fail to meet quota for a month prior to being fired. It’s an insane and stupid paradigm. When you push people that hard, you get accidents, damage to goods, and injuries. But even with all that, good managers have the ability to override the computer systems when circumstances demand. Is it really unbelievable that there are managers who are bad?

          This whole post smells really just-world-y to me. I agree with MissingNo below; the fact that they’re still at the job means that it’s better thank the next-best alternative (of unemployment). If your bar for “not deserving of outrage” is “better than homelessness” I can understand why you’re confused as to why people are bothered by this sort of thing, but you have to understand that that’s not a mainstream position, and a lot of people are going to find it a morally reprehensible one.

          • Matt M says:

            Apparently, Amazon increases its targets on an ongoing basis as long as 75% of its workers are capable of meeting them. Consider what that’s likely to do to turnover over time, assuming you allow a worker to fail to meet quota for a month prior to being fired. It’s an insane and stupid paradigm.

            Lots of employers have a “Fire the Bottom X% of employees on a regular basis” sort of policy. We can debate whether 25% is the right number or not, both from an efficiency perspective and from a morality perspective, but it’s not as if this is some sort of weird and uniquely evil concept that only Amazon engages in.

            Hell, I worked in strategy consulting for a global elite firm. The very prototype of what’s considered an elite, high-level, respectable, great, white-collar job. Various websites rated our firm as one of the top “best places to work for” multiple years running. And yet… Consultants had about 3 years to get promoted to manager (i.e. prove that you’re more efficient than your peers). About half would quit, voluntarily, before then (a subgroup of which I was one). Of the 50% who were left, about half would get promoted and half wouldn’t. That’s a 3-year attrition rate of 75%. Is that evil, or nah? Does whether that’s evil or not depend on whether the average annual wage is $30K or $200K?

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M > “…Does whether that’s evil or not depend on whether the average annual wage is $30K or $200K?”

            I don’t have a logical reason why that I can articulate, but my gut instinct is yes, basically I feel that inflicting more of that much on-the-job misery is more acceptable at $200,000 a year than at $30,000.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The very prototype of what’s considered an elite, high-level, respectable, great, white-collar job.

            You left out “ladder-based.” Amazon pickers aren’t on a promotion track, competing for a limited number of senior slots. The 75% who can cut it achieve the lofty goal of continued employment, not a managerial position. This is practically the most apples-to-oranges comparison I can imagine.

            Lots of employers have a “Fire the Bottom X% of employees on a regular basis” sort of policy.

            It’s a shit policy in a production environment. There’s a reason why companies famous for their production floor productivity don’t generally overlap with companies that institute stack ranking and churn quotas. Production worker churn is expensive, even for Amazon, and it turns out that morale is actually important.

          • Matt M says:

            Man, if I could have just kept my consultant job after 3 years I might not have quit! I felt like that lifestyle was barely sustainable, but that being a manger definitely would not be, so I went ahead and quit in advance rather than wait for them to either fire me, or offer me a promotion I didn’t want.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Is there any hypothetical set of working conditions that would convince you Amazon is doing something wrong?

          • Matt M says:

            No, so long as it was voluntary and employees were free to quit.

            Maybe something like “Mandatory term of X years with some sort of horrible punishment for violation coupled with overly restrictive noncompete” or something like that.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that the best answer to employers treating their employees badly is having a good enough economy, and good enough social welfare programs, that you don’t get a lot of employees who feel like they have to put up with shitty treatment in order to keep food on the table.

            When there’s a line of hungry unemployed folks just outside the factory door, the existing workers are almost never going to have a lot of bargaining power, and that’s likely to lead to the employers treating them badly. (And people being people, this will often include employers treating their employees badly/ignoring their complaints even when this is costing the employer money.).

          • Ant says:

            By your logic, Matt, there are also no abusive relationship in the modern world, since people are always free to leave their spouse.
            Unfortunately, leaving your job isn’t easy when you don’t have interesting qualification, and some people have an irrational aversion to change their life, and unscrupulous people can take advantage of this.

    • MissingNo says:

      1st rule of employment: While not an excuse for poor treatment(and any signs of abuse by a manager should be reported to the law when possible) people working at a job work there because it is better than their next best alternative. This is how you know that complaints about sweatshops are bunk**

      As someone who has worked in some dangerous jobs (and was employed with a host of people who have worked a variety of blue collar jobs) there are jobs…maybe a little less hectic, but more dangerous, more polluted with chemicals, and ultimately “worse” (depending on personality type, I suppose) than amazon probably a street or two down in another warehouse….and those companies are not ultimately ran by techie geniuses who at least know how to structure their warehouse capably, if perhaps lacking in empathy for restroom breaks.

      Why are those companies not getting articles written about them? It might just boil down to the fact it doesn’t sell papers as much and people chalk it up to “yeah these lower status jobs are terrible what about it?”

      ** Barring the ones that have high levels of pollutants. Horrifyingly, in some 3rd world countries the standards of pollutants are so poor that each month in there raises the chances of a long term immune/hormonal dysfunction by 1 percent…nearly ensuring everyone working in one for 5 years gets a permanent disorder.

    • Deiseach says:

      Amazon, as far as I understand it, contract out their distribution centres to third-parties. So naturally, some companies will treat their workers better and some will regard them as nothing but resources to be squeezed dry of as much value for as little return as possible in order to keep costs down. Depending if Warehouse Group 1 is a big organisation that has a comfortable return on running the centres, it’s worth their while to find and retain good workers and so offer decent pay and conditions (also, unions probably make a difference here). If Group 2 is a one-man-band running on tight margins, then high turnover of the least employable and treat them like shit because you expect them to be fuck-ups and to walk out on you is the way to go.

      • disposablecat says:

        This isn’t the case – many employees at Amazon warehouses (maybe half the grunts?) are third party contractors through various agencies, but the centers and the employees are all owned/run/managed by Amazon, and this is intended to be standardized across the country/world. The ones who don’t get fired eventually get full time positions with Amazon itself, which have equivalent benefits to the corporate workers in Seattle.

        (Side note: your comments are great lately in general and I’ve really been enjoying them)

    • Well... says:

      If you want to know about a particular Amazon warehouse you could go on one of those glassdoor type websites and read what employees have said about their experiences working there. Obviously this is not perfect information due to selection bias and (probably) a generally low quality of writing/expression, but I’d still trust that more than whatever journalists have written about it.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      eyeballfrog, I’m tentatively going with the idea that your brother-in-law works in an unusually good amazon warehouse, but I’m guessing. I await more information.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      How old are the stories, and how old is the anecdote? Employment conditions change over time, often in response to criticism.

  14. Randy M says:

    I’d like to take a moment and use up my quota of self-indulgent posts to note that my user name is now blue.
    This links to a fiction project of mine that might be of interest to some of you. It’s not quite rationalist fiction, but as the first chapter concerns spaceflight, mind-brain interface, and ai, it’s basically SSC fan-fiction. Soft Sci-fi.
    There’s 4 chapters written (not all posted yet), each of which is basically a short story in and of it self, so if you do end up liking it you shouldn’t be left without closure too bad even later chapters slow down.
    Take a look if you’ve got time this weekend; I’d appreciate feedback.

    • Nick says:

      basically SSC fan-fiction

      No kidding—the first words are “John Alexander”!

      I’ll read it a little later and leave my thoughts. 🙂

    • souleater says:

      I just finished the first chapter, and I really enjoyed it. I’ll read the rest a little later, but I hope you’ll continue to write.

  15. Yoreth says:

    Anyone else going to DEF CON? I’m hosting a LW/SSC meetup: Thursday, August 8, 2019; 4:30pm – 6:00pm; Cafe Belle Madeleine (Paris Las Vegas). See the sidebar, or the events page at Less Wrong.

  16. Conrad Honcho says:

    Democrats of SSC, what did you think of the debates? Who went up, who went down, and who do you think is going to get the nom and why?

    For the purposes of learning with the outgroup thinks rather than fighting with the outgroup, if the non-Democrats of SSC want to talk about why the candidates were wrong and/or crazy, perhaps do it not in this thread?

    • Plumber says:

      @Conrad Honcho,
      I’ve only watched a little bit of the debates (I have kids and an early start work time okay!), and my chief impression of the latest one was that Gabbard looked mighty fine in white and she caught my attention in a way she hasn’t previously, and since we are auditioning someone to see a lot of on television for four years so that’s a totally valid consideration!

      Harris didn’t do as well and that has reduced my estimate of her being the nominee.

      Bidden did better, but what really struck me is that even he, the “moderate”, is now effectively campaigning to the Left of Obama, not just Bill Clinton which shows me that the Democratic Party has really changed in a short time, don’t get me wrong I like the “public option” in principle but I think that this change will hurt in the general election, there’s just only so much “base” to “fire-up”! Otherwise Biden is right that campaigning for open borders is “insane”, my estimate that he’ll be the nominee has gone up.

      Sanders and Warren impressed me by not much attacking each other despite being them each being the obvious rivals to be the “Left” candidate, which shows me that they really are driven by ideology not personal ambition, Warren dropped on obvious opportunity to distance herself from Sanders, and Sanders likewise dropped an opportunity to cast himself as “the real deal” and the difference between the ‘social-democrat’ and the ‘democratic socialist’ is looking smaller.

      Speaking of agenda’s, it sure seems that most of the “debate” is over about what to ask congress to do, less about what Presidents are actually empowered to do, which makes some sense as few voters understand administrative details or care much about foreign affairs.

      As to who will be the nominee?

      I’d put the odds at Biden winning it at 35%, either Sanders or Warren at 25% which jumps to 45% if one of them drops out early and endorses the other, Harris I’m guessing also has a 25% chance to be the nominee, and some other candidate winning I guess has a 15% chance to win.

      • drunkfish says:

        I’m not convinced Sanders and Warren being gentle to eachother reveals much ideologically, though i do honestly believe they’re both primarily ideologically driven. I find it pretty plausible that they know they’re competing for similar pools of people, and figure that attacking eachother is less likely to win over fans of their opponent than out-ideology-ing eachother. I saw a stat that said Warren mentioned trump 0 times in her first debate but 12 times this round (making for the most mentions of trump in the room), which to me reads as “debate strategy is HIGHLY calculated and informed significantly by data/focus grouping/something”

        [Caveat: I didn’t watch the debate, though I think I’m allowed to comment here since I’m pretty well aligned with the left-ish wing of the democratic party.]

    • dick says:

      I avoid presidential debates, I think they’re a bad way to learn about the candidates, and also really unpleasant to watch, even for candidates I like. So, I’m no help here.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      I think Sanders and Warren played a smart game at the debate but due to some inside info I think Bernie will be in single digits by Iowa. He still has the best ideas but his campaign is a mess. There’s a reason Warren outraised him this quarter. I suspect something similar in the next set of filings.

      Biden did a lot better this time IMO. No one really had a killer debate but killer debates are pretty damn rare so not shocking. September will be interesting. Personally I see Warren as the most likely nominee. Biden second most likely.

  17. Deiseach says:

    Watching the neighbours as the goings-on next door have an effect on us here in Ireland, I think that Boris Johnson intends to call a general election before the October deadline for leaving the EU, and I think he has had this in mind from the start.

    Because right now, the government majority has been reduced to one, as a result of what looks on the face of it to be Play Stupid Political Games, Win Stupid Prizes. The only way this result makes sense, if it is not purely down to being damn stupid and tone-deaf and thus proving you shouldn’t be left in charge of a dog much less the fate of the nation, is if it’s an excuse to call a general election on the plea of “we need to be in a position of strength to negotiate hard deals with the EU, so vote in a Leave Government and give us that mandate”.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been dealt a significant blow after the Conservatives lost the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to leave him with a working majority of just one. …The loss leaves Mr Johnson with the support of 319 MPs, including the DUP which props up his majority, while opposition parties now have 318.

    So why was the by-election called? The ever-popular good old expenses fraud on the part of the sitting MP:

    Mr Davies’ recall came after he pleaded guilty in March to submitting two false expenses invoices for nine photographs costing £700 to decorate his new office.

    He was fined £1,500, ordered to pay £2,500 towards legal costs and told to carry out 50 hours of community service.

    So what do the Tories do? Select a shiny new scandal-free candidate to run on a ‘clean hands’ platform, or stick with the old disgraced ‘bilked the taxpayers so he could have a fancy office’ candidate? You guessed it:

    Despite 19% of the electorate petitioning for his recall, the Tories selected Mr Davies to fight to reclaim the seat.

    Now, maybe they hoped that despite the wider public opinion of such carry-on, the constituents would still be in favour of their local MP and re-elect him as, after all, “Mr Davies won the seat from the Lib Dems in 2015 and secured a majority of 8,038 in the 2017 general election.”

    Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and the Liberal Democrats won it back:

    Mr Johnson’s first major challenge as Tory leader became his first major defeat with the announcement of Jane Dodds’ victory for the Liberal Democrats in the early hours of this morning.

    …The vote may also be seen as an early victory for the “Remain alliance” of anti-Brexit parties, with Plaid Cymru and the Greens agreeing not to field candidates in order not to split the pro-EU vote.

    So yeah, I definitely think Boris is going for a general election, which is why he has ramped up the hardline rhetoric about “if the EU don’t re-negotiate, we’re going out without a deal!” no-deal Brexit, both in hopes of shaking loose the DUP and getting enough of a majority to function without them, and to gain more time (despite all the “no, definitely leaving by Hallowe’en” talk) from the EU on the grounds of “can we have an extension because we need to have this election?”, with extra time and a solid majority enabling him to work something out less stringent and sell it as “victory! we got what we wanted on our terms!”.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I genuinely haven’t the foggiest clue what goes on with the politics of that strange island that birthed us, but is a General Election considered in the Tories’ favor right now?

      I thought one of the reasons they had a leadership election was because they couldn’t afford a GE.

      • DavidS says:

        The polls suggest the Tories are in an OK position, though new leaders usually get a bounce, so it’s hard to say. Brexit alongside some other things has shaken up the two-party default to the point where polls a month ago showed 4 parties on fairly level pegging: Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and the single issue ‘Brexit party’. Boris winning would rely on
        1. Getting Brexit supporters voting Tory in marginals between Tories and LibDem/Labour
        2. Labour and LibDem voters not supporting each other’s parties as part of a ‘remain alliance’
        3. Labour not being able to simply rally all the anti-Tory/anti-Brexit votes

        The recent rhetoric from Boris Johnson looks like it will help with (1)

        (2) s hindered by the fact that while Labour members/supporters are largely pro-Remain, the leadership is still on the fence about it. Also the Coalition followed by the rise of Corbyn and Corbynism means Labour and LibDems are further apart than they once were: Labour constantly say how LibDems voted for Tory austerity cuts and LibDems that Corbyn is an extremist, apologist for anti-semitism etc. etc.

        (3) is hindered by Labour’s aforementioned position on Brexit and Corbyn’s pretty dire personal ratings.

        I saw someone today argue that to win a majority the Tories might only need about 33% of the national vote. So a general election may be a good way for Boris to get a firmer mandate for his vision of Brexit far more easily than an actual second referendum. My reading of Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party, is that he’ll formally/informally stand aside if he thinks it will lead to Brexit.

        I’m actually not sure if he’s aiming for an election, though that’s the assumption of much of the commentariat. This may be ‘if you wish for peace prepare for war’. I think what he wants is to negotiate in public (so he’s said he’ll only meet EU if they accept the withdrawal agreement is no longer on the table) and so be in a position so if there is an election it’s forced on him by what he’ll present as EU refusal to negotiate and Parliamentarians refusing to follow through on the referendums and their manifestos. The negotiating in public also means Labour can’t just say ‘we’d get a better deal’ because he’d say ‘EU have made clear they’ll only accept current withdrawal agreement, refused to even speak about other options, so are you saying you want that deal’.

        I think he’s also building momentum and support in a way that might allow him to actually cut a deal with the EU. His rhetoric and previous role in the referendum means that I think he could actually compromise and get lots of moderate Brexiteers on side when if the same compromise was presented by Theresa May or Jeremy Hunt (his rival for Tory leader) they’d have seen it as surrender.

      • Deiseach says:

        but is a General Election considered in the Tories’ favor right now?

        I wouldn’t have thought so, but with a majority of only 1 and the DUP likely to cut up rough if they don’t like how things were going (May bribed them to buy their support), what is Johnson going to do? Already there are rumblings of direct rule if Stormont doesn’t get its act together; if the mainland does that, then it’s likely the DUP will walk away from supporting the Tories unless they get a whole Christmas list of goodies to make up for it, and if the DUP goes then the government falls. The Unionist parties may claim they want direct rule, but they’ll want guarantees and goodies in return, not simply for the government in Great Britain to then sideline them and leave them out to dry over the border and the backstop etc.

        Plus, May calling a general election when she did, which resulted in needing the DUP support, was the stupidest decision amongst a raft of Tory stupid decisions, but she was persuaded into it anyway. Boris may feel that, buoyed by giving May the boot and the energy over the tough-talking on Brexit (the Empire strikes back!) plus support from Farage and that wing of the Brexiteers, and that Labour under Corbyn is a dead duck, it may be to his advantage to go for an election now, with the impetus from his leadership victory still remaining, dump the DUP and get the mandate from the people.

        I have no idea, but I do have a feeling that a general election is seen by some as the way to cut the Gordian knot left by all May’s failed efforts to get a deal and get Brexit done.

        • dodrian says:

          May calling a general election when she did, which resulted in needing the DUP support, was the stupidest decision amongst a raft of Tory stupid decisions

          At the time May was polling well above Corbyn and was projected to win plenty of seats. I don’t think calling the election was a stupid decision, but her campaigning was certainly incompetent, to put it mildly.

          I don’t know what Boris’ best option is, but now that Labour has finally come out for Remain (sorta, but probably the most firmly JC is going to get), if he can come to a “gentleman’s agreement” for the Brexit party to run leftish candidates in Leave majority Labour constituencies in exchange for not running candidates in the Tory heartlands (and vice versa), then probably the best chance he’ll get of commanding a majority in the Commons would be now.

          • Deiseach says:

            At the time May was polling well above Corbyn and was projected to win plenty of seats.

            At the time, May had become prime minister after some spectacular public betrayal and back-stabbing of Johnson by Gove, after they both had embraced the Leave option and after a messy leadership struggle; she was seen as personally Remainer and reluctantly Leave due to circumstances; and the whole necessity for a new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister had been triggered by David Cameron acting like a prick and buggering off after his mishandling of the Referendum led to the unexpected and unplanned for Leave vote instead of sticking around to clean up his own mess and take responsibility as the leader of the nation.

            The party and the country were on rocky ground and that’s when she decided, due to advisers egging her on to believe the polls, that an election would mean a sweeping Tory victory? Add more upheaval to the already unsteady state of affairs instead of taking a while to calm down and look at her options? The result shows that those polls were about as accurate as the ones claiming Hilary had it in the bag and Trump might as well not show up, he’d get so few votes. Ending up clinging on to power by shoving a bribe of £1 billion to the DUP to prop her government up was not “win(ning) plenty of seats” as the polls would have it. It was a desperation move and ended in desperation.

            I do think politicians ought to take polls with a hefty dose of scepticism; prior to the 2015 election it was assumed the Tories would have to go into another coalition, but underestimating the Conservative vote meant that the actual result was a majority for the Tories. Presumably swinging to the opposite extreme in 2017 to correct for that error led to the over-confidence that the Tories had a huge lead over Labour. Well, that ‘huge lead’ melted away over the course of the campaign and ended with the Conservatives losing 13 seats and Labour gaining 30. So May threw away a majority for a shaky deal and in the end never got Brexit done because Parliament said “no” to every kind of option offered, plus she got the boot in favour of Johnson after all.

            EDIT: The fact that May was able to call a snap election, under the terms of the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, because the end vote was 522 to 13 should have given her pause; if Labour really thought the polls were correct that they were in for a trouncing, they’d have voted differently – there were 283 Conservative MPs to 279 Labour MPs in the 2015 parliament, so Labour must have felt they had a good chance to do even better in a new election. You don’t get a “near unanimous” vote to hold an election where the second party thinks it’s in for a beating.

            So on balance, yes, I think that was a very stupid decision.

    • gdepasamonte says:

      As I understand it, an election would need to be voted for by a 2/3 majority in the Commons. Aside from any other issue, would Labour vote for one in sufficient numbers given that they will almost certainly be trounced? Some of the old guard might take that as a blessing (creative destruction and all that), I don’t know.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Isn’t it the case that basically no opposition party ever votes against an election because it’s a signal to the populace that they don’t really want to run the country?

      • Lambert says:

        You only need a simple majority to call a GE, but there’s a 14 day period when MPs can try to form another government. I think that would only happen if there’s a partner in a coalition which is willing to switch sides, e.g. Lib Dem-Tory to Lib-Lab coalitions without a GE.
        And I can’t see the DUP joining a Remain Coalition.

        • Fitzroy says:

          No, that’s wrong.

          Since the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, it requires a 2/3 majority (435 votes) to pass a motion to hold an early general election.

          You may be thinking of no confidence motions, which do only require a simple majority to pass. A government which loses a confidence motion has 14 days to regain the confidence of the House (IE to succeed in a confidence motion). If they cannot then a general election is held.

          • DavidS says:

            Yes, and if he does want an election Labout will try to make it him accepting a vote of no confidence against himself. But ultimately after saying the want an election they can’t credibly vote against one. The fixed-term parliament act doesn’t seem to have been developed with any reference to political practicalities: in practice the opposition will vote to have an early election!

          • Lambert says:

            You’re technically correct.

            But the outcome is more or less the same, unless the incumbent government can re-inspire confidence or a new coalition forms.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Johnson calling for a general election seems to me to be as smart a move as Remainers holding the Brexit referendum in the first place, i.e. not at all. He has the government, even if precariously, he need only keep wheeling and dealing until October to get out one way or another. I don’t know if that’s what he intends, but if he’s the Brexiteer he claims to be, it seems foolish to the extreme. He could quite plausibly lose the election to those who would delay until they could get enough support to repeal Article 50.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Not even October. There’s only about a week after Parliament returns from recess in which the government could be brought down in time for a pre-deadline election, and Parliament has no authority to negotiate an extension with the EU. I think a highly likely outcome is an election shortly after a No Deal exit which Parliament are unable to prevent through having moved too late, which would in all probability go very well for the Tories.

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh, I don’t think an election would be a good idea, but Johnson is thinking past Brexit – he’s going to be PM for the next four years or so, so even with a Brexit happening in October he and his cabinet still have to run the country after that, and right now he doesn’t have the numbers to have solid power.

        Right now, he’s vulnerable to junior partners such as the DUP making demands and refusing support; a thin margin of only 1 seat means every debate and vote in Parliament can always go the wrong way and having to juggle things so that 1 vote margin means a win all the time is going to be very, very difficult. I imagine he’s planning to call an election sometime in order to see if he can strengthen his hand, I can’t see right now as being a good time, but Boris may think that strike while the iron is hot and now he’s finally won the leadership after all the back-stabbing, he can pull off the impossible twice.

  18. gdepasamonte says:

    A while ago, I read about the Morant Bay rebellion. Briefly, in 1865 native Jamaicans revolted against the British colonial government, which responded by brutally suppressing the rebellion, killing more than 400 people. The conduct of Governor Eyre, who directed the suppression, was the huge issue of its day back in the UK, and the great men of the period divided into factions supporting and condemning him. I found the composition of these factions quite striking.

    The Governor Eyre Defense and Aid Committee was set up by the writer Thomas Carlyle, author of a celebrated history of the French Revolution, and of the novel Sartor Resartus. He was ardently supported by the art critic John Ruskin, a towering figure of the Victorian period, famous for his brilliant defenses of JMW Turner and Gothic architecture, and later for his writings about economics and social justice which were admired by Gandhi and the British Labour Party. Charles Dickens and Alfred Lord Tennyson, probably the most important literary figures of the period, also attached their names to this committee.

    In other words, the Defense Committee contained the Victorian artistic and cultural establishment, representing novels, poetry, the visual arts, letters, and through Carlyle, the literary strand of philosophy.

    The Jamaica Committee, which wanted Eyre brought to trial, was founded by John Stuart Mill. Other prominent names on this committee were Charles Darwin, his enthusiastic advocate Thomas Huxley, and the great geologist Charles Lyell (along with a number of liberal political figures). That is to say, the committee contained a good deal of the Victorian scientific establishment, together with the non-literary strand of philosophy represented by Mill. In fact, the only artistic output I have ever come across by anyone on the Jamaica Committee is the novel Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes, an insufferably written account of the life of a public schoolboy from Merry Old England (I couldn’t finish it).

    If you look at all the names, the divide is not quite so neat as the above, but I think those are the most famous ones. Why did the cultural establishment and scientific establishment of the time see this so differently? What should we conclude from this?

    • Protagoras says:

      I expect details of the case not contained in any brief summary contributed to where at least some of the people ended up siding in the controversy, so it is probably risky to conclude very much. I do see that Herbert Spencer was also part of the Jamaica Committee, which I suppose isn’t really surprising as the reputation which might have led one to expect otherwise seems to be undeserved. Spencer in his own time was an even more prominent philosopher than Mill (and certainly equally associated with the more scientific-minded philosophers).

      • gdepasamonte says:

        I musty admit, I had never even heard of Spencer. His reputation seems to have tanked even more than Ruskin’s or Carlyle’s. (And Carlyle seems definitely more unpleasant. Perhaps unpleasant enough that he is remembered largely for being so.)

        • Protagoras says:

          I think he wins among philosophers for the most epic collapse in fame (unless there’s somebody equally or more famous in their own time who’s just been completely forgotten, so that I don’t even know about them). Nobody really talks about Gilbert Ryle any more, but big as Ryle was at his height, he wasn’t as big as Spencer. And there’s a host of historical figures who these days are “that guy famous philosopher keeps mentioning in famous text” who were actually more famous than famous philosopher back in the day, but, again, can’t think of any case that rivals Spencer.

        • Deiseach says:

          I must admit, I had never even heard of Spencer.

          Sic transit gloria mundi! The pre-eminent Social Darwinist of his day, the 800 lb gorilla of British intellectual life, often mentioned by Chesterton* in his writings as the kind of opposition people would naturally recognise and identify as against religious belief and pro-science – and now it’s “Who?” 😀

          Well, well, Clio writes her verdict on even the brightest reputations, and the star of today is not even the cinder of tomorrow, being sunk in darkest obscurity to future generations! Perhaps a lesson for the Titans of our moment such as Musk and others I won’t name here? 😉

          * Some random samples:

          “You can’t really mean, Mr. Braintree,” remonstrated the lady, “that you want great men to be killed.”
          “Well, I think there’s something in the idea,” said Braintree. “Tennyson deserved to be killed for writing the May-Queen, and Browning deserved to be killed for rhyming ‘promise’ and ‘from mice,’ and Carlyle deserved to be killed for being Carlyle; and Herbert Spencer deserved to be killed for writing ‘The Man versus the State’; and Dickens deserved to be killed for not killing Little Nell quick enough; and Ruskin deserved to be killed for saying that Man ought to have no more freedom than the sun; and Gladstone deserved to be killed for deserting Parnell; and Disraeli deserved to be killed for talking about a ‘shrinking sire,’ and Thackeray—”
          “Mercy on us!” interrupted the lady, laughing, “you really must stop somewhere.  What a lot you seem to have read!”

          I never read a line of Christian apologetics. I read as little as I can of them now. It was Huxley and Herbert Spencer and Bradlaugh who brought me back to orthodox theology. They sowed in my mind my first wild doubts of doubt.

          Herbert Spencer would have been greatly annoyed if any one had called him an imperialist, and therefore it is highly regrettable that nobody did. But he was an imperialist of the lowest type. He popularized this contemptible notion that the size of the solar system ought to over-awe the spiritual dogma of man.

          In the days when Huxley and Herbert Spencer and the Victorian agnostics were trumpeting as a final truth the famous hypothesis of Darwin, it seemed to thousands of simple people almost impossible that religion should survive. It is all the more ironic that it has not only survived them all, but it is a perfect example (perhaps the only real example) of what they called the Survival of the Fittest.

          When poor old Herbert Spencer still had influence, it was often suggested that Dreams were the origin of Religion.

          The age of Herbert Spencer demanded Free Trade and was horrified at Free Love; the age of Bernard Shaw demanded Free Love and vehemently vetoed Free Trade.

          None of these things seek to establish a complete philosophy such as Aquinas founded on Aristotle. The only two modern men who attempted it were Comte and Herbert Spencer. Spencer, I think, was too small a man to do it at all; and Comte was a great enough man to show how difficult it is to do it in modern times.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            None of these things seek to establish a complete philosophy such as Aquinas founded on Aristotle. The only two modern men who attempted it were Comte and Herbert Spencer

            Comte I have heard mentioned exactly once before, in David Stove’s list of dangerous lunatics. I suppose that developing an all-encompassing system of philosophy is always going to be a difficult choice of career, but it does seem a hard fate after all that effort.

          • Deiseach says:

            Comte I have heard mentioned exactly once before, in David Stove’s list of dangerous lunatics.

            And here ends the valiant but doomed attempt to provide a rational alternative to all the old traditions based on superstition and religion! Alas for the hopes of philosophers! 🙂

            Take it away, GKC:

            And the same antithesis exists about another modern religion — I mean the religion of Comte, generally known as Positivism, or the worship of humanity. Such men as Mr. Frederic Harrison, that brilliant and chivalrous philosopher, who still, by his mere personality, speaks for the creed, would tell us that he offers us the philosophy of Comte, but not all Comte’s fantastic proposals for pontiffs and ceremonials, the new calendar, the new holidays and saints’ days. He does not mean that we should dress ourselves up as priests of humanity or let off fireworks because it is Milton’s birthday. To the solid English Comtist all this appears, he confesses, to be a little absurd. To me it appears the only sensible part of Comtism. As a philosophy it is unsatisfactory. It is evidently impossible to worship humanity, just as it is impossible to worship the Savile Club; both are excellent institutions to which we may happen to belong.

            …But if the wisdom of Comte was insufficient, the folly of Comte was wisdom. In an age of dusty modernity, when beauty was thought of as something barbaric and ugliness as something sensible, he alone saw that men must always have the sacredness of mummery. He saw that while the brutes have all the useful things, the things that are truly human are the useless ones. He saw the falsehood of that almost universal notion of to-day, the notion that rites and forms are something artificial, additional, and corrupt.

            …If Comtism had spread the world would have been converted, not by the Comtist philosophy, but by the Comtist calendar. By discouraging what they conceive to be the weakness of their master, the English Positivists have broken the strength of their religion. A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool. It is absurd to say that a man is ready to toil and die for his convictions when he is not even ready to wear a wreath round his head for them. I myself, to take a corpus vile, am very certain that I would not read the works of Comte through for any consideration whatever. But I can easily imagine myself with the greatest enthusiasm lighting a bonfire on Darwin Day.

            That splendid effort failed, and nothing in the style of it has succeeded. There has been no rationalist festival, no rationalist ecstasy. Men are still in black for the death of God. When Christianity was heavily bombarded in the last century upon no point was it more persistently and brilliantly attacked than upon that of its alleged enmity to human joy. Shelley and Swinburne and all their armies have passed again and again over the ground, but they have not altered it. They have not set up a single new trophy or ensign for the world’s merriment to rally to. They have not given a name or a new occasion of gaiety. Mr. Swinburne does not hang up his stocking on the eve of the birthday of Victor Hugo. Mr. William Archer does not sing carols descriptive of the infancy of Ibsen outside people’s doors in the snow. In the round of our rational and mournful year one festival remains out of all those ancient gaieties that once covered the whole earth. Christmas remains to remind us of those ages, whether Pagan or Christian, when the many acted poetry instead of the few writing it. In all the winter in our woods there is no tree in glow but the holly.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Deiseach, I can understand why you wouldn’t like Spencer, but he wasn’t really a Social Darwinist; that was a story invented in the mid 20th century, when nobody read him any more so it was possible to get away with just making stuff up about him.

            @gdepasamonte, I would only have any respect for David Stove’s list of dangerous lunatics if he had the self-awareness to include his own name.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            I suspect he’d be the first to admit that he was “too small a man” to be dangerous. You don’t like him, I take it? I don’t think he is required or even important reading, but I do enjoy his writing, and I think the irreverence and “deflating” quality are helpful for a certain cast of mind to read. Obviously he isn’t going to help you find out what Hegel & co. were actually about, or anything like that.

        • Plumber says:

          @gdepasamonte,
          I’m much more familiar with Spencer than I am with Mills (mostly because I’m even more ignorant of Mills) and that’s from a book that my future wife had on her shelf called “Social Darwinism in American Thought” (which despite Spencer being English cited him as an influence, and she had it next to John Rawls’ “Theory of Justice”, and “Collected Works of Karl Marx”, so “Right”, “Liberal”, and “Left”) back in the very early ’90″s,and then years later The New Yorker had an essay on Herbert Spencer.

    • dick says:

      Was there also a political divide? Like, was this sort of equivalent to, say, Hollywood actors supporting a cause because the Democrats support it and actors mostly vote Dem? Also, what were the talking points about why the artists supported Eyre, if that can be summarized?

      • gdepasamonte says:

        Well, it does look like there is an authoritarian vs individualist divide, which probably divided along party lines too. But Hollywood actors aren’t thinkers. Where was the Jonathan Swift of 1865? Ruskin and Dickens at least clearly cared greatly about some kinds of social injustice, but the writers on the whole seemed to be unconcerned by individual rights and liberties in the ordinary sense. Only Ruskin could have written** the peculiarly repulsive “Men may be beaten, chained, tormented, yoked like cattle, slaughtered like summer flies, and yet remain in one sense, and the best sense, free”.

        As best I can tell, the writers had such contempt for the Jamaicans that they thought they ought not to be extended the ordinary rule of law to protect them from summary killings. The scientists extended them at least that courtesy (not necessarily a great deal more than that, I think).

        Edit: **This sounds more thoughtless or deluded than cruel in its original context, and Ruskin is in my opinion very much worth reading.

    • eightieshair says:

      Interesting to see Mill on the Jamaica Committee, given that he was a pretty big booster for colonialism. Maybe he was mad at Eyre for making Empire look bad?

      • gdepasamonte says:

        Yes, to be clear the Jamaica Committee wanted Eyre to be tried for murder, but it was not explicitly anti-colonial or anything. I think given the politics of the time there was a lot of room between supporting Eyre and abolishing the colonies.

      • Protagoras says:

        Mill was very much for uplifting the natives, and not at all in favor of exploiting and murdering them. He may have deluded himself about the extent of the benefits of colonialism to the colonized because of his financial stake in it, but he was sincere in caring about such benefits.

  19. fion says:

    Why do fossil fuels get such huge subsidies? There is an article in the Guardian reporting on research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development that claims a cut of 10-30% in the subsidies paid to fossil fuels* could pay for a “global transition to clean energy”.

    So is there something I’m missing? Is there a steel-man argument for fossil fuels to get so much public money? Or is it as awful as it sounds?

    *I think globally, but the article doesn’t seem to make it explicit… Maybe they think it’s obvious.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Global electricity production: 26000 twh. Aka, the annual output of 2000 European Pressurized Reactors. Now, some of this is already clean so that is too high, but we also need to electrify everything which is currently fossil fuels – all of industry, all of transport. Let us just double that number, and call it good.

      4000 eprs. (or equivalent reactors) Lets assume that scale of mass production lets us match Taishan prices.

      15 trillion dollars.

      We also need some storage to make that ocean of reactors actually match up with demand. That is another half a billion per reactor.

      17 trillion total.

      Annual fossil fuel subsidies: 5 trillion. So if you are plowing that into reactor build instead, the fleet is fully paid for in 3 years and four months.

      Note that a reactor which has no capital costs encumbrance – And since we paid for this entire fleet out of the treasuries of the world, it does not, produces power at 10 euro / mwh. So. Uhm. Yhea. Could do a complete energy transition and cut the wholesale cost or power to a fourth of what it is by redirecting the subsidies.

      This, of course, does not cost out what it will cost industry to switch production processes currently depending on fossil fuels to electricity based methods, but if you are selling power to industry at ten euro / mwh, industry will damn well do that on its own. Especially since this level of “Doing something about global warming” will probably make any industrialist currently burning fossil fuels more than a bit concerned their business model will be illegal in a year or two.

      … Also, I dont think you would get to stop at 4000. At that point, the flow of CHEAP POWER; UNLIMITED CHEAP POWER!” will have gotten its own constituency. So global electricity consumption would probably go up pretty fast.

      • Hey says:

        Note that this $5 trillion estimate counts the lack of a carbon tax as a subsidy, so “redirecting” it would imply taxing carbon, which is undeniably hard to sell to the public. (But that’s still a more popular proposal than building 4000 EPRs)

      • EchoChaos says:

        At that point, the flow of CHEAP POWER; UNLIMITED CHEAP POWER!” will have gotten its own constituency.

        I am 99% sure this is the constituency of fossil fuels.

    • Aapje says:

      The article does not that most of these subsidies are in oil producing nations.

      It’s a subsidy for cooking, heating and transportation. The latter is commonly subsidized everywhere in the world, as countries really want people to get to work, to the shops, etc. Subsidizing cooking and heating might be seen as a form of welfare or UBI.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I’ve looked at the IISD’s numbers for Canada (here) before, and a lot of their line items seem like non-central examples of subsidies. The biggest federal items are exploration and development tax credits; tax policy for all industries promotes reinvesting in the business (e.g. accelerated depreciation of capital investments, R&D tax credits) so if this kind of thing is a subsidy then what business isn’t subsidized? The biggest provincial item is a Crown royalty reduction, which seems to carry the implicit assumption that the previous royalty rate was the correct one for all time.

    • cassander says:

      They don’t. Traditionally most studies of fossil fuel studies included figures for general tax subsidies, like depletion allowances, that are perfectly normal features of tax codes. the study you cite sources a figure of 372 billion a year subsidizing fossil fuels for the whole world which itself is drawn largely from OECD data that includes such tax expenditures. It also ignores the fact that even if you accept the 400/100 billion figure, fossil fuels generate 80% of global energy, while renewables generate 3%, so fossil fuel subsidies per energy unit are much lower than renewables.

      This was misleading, but not nearly as misleading as the recent trend to label the failure to tax carbon as a subsidy, then claim that the US spends more money subsidizing carbon than it does on defense.

      • Clutzy says:

        Traditionally most studies of fossil fuel studies included figures for general tax subsidies, like depletion allowances, that are perfectly normal features of tax codes.

        ^^ This. Almost all such articles count things that every company deducts, particularly capital intensive companies. Its like being mad at Ford if they take depreciation credits for a new factory they built in Birmingham.

      • sharper13 says:

        Also, these misleading headlines leave out the fact that most countries have massive special fuel taxes (above and beyond regular sales taxes) which you’d need to offset any special subsidies with.

        In the United States that’s “52.64 cents per gallon for gas and 60.29 cents per gallon for diesel.” or somewhere around $150-200 Billion/year.

        The average OECD fuel tax rate is $2.62/gallon.

        The net result is very much the opposite of a subsidy.

    • fion says:

      Thanks for putting me right, everyone. As usual, the answer to “am I missing something” is “yes”.

  20. DavidS says:

    Hi!

    Looking for diet/health advice from SSC hivemind as most people seem to divide into
    1. ‘common sense’
    2. whatever latest woo they’ve read
    and hoping for something more evidence-based.

    I’m looking primarily for ‘what to eat’ advice but open to ‘how to exercise’ too (where the fight seems to me to be whether cardio is good or pointless and to be replaced by weight training). I’m concerned with losing weight to a moderate degree (i.e. going from currently ‘just into obese category by BMI’ to ‘lower end of overweight category by BMI, maybe even in ‘correct’ category’ and with health. Not immensely concerned about being ripped etc. I have good access to parks and space for home weights/mats: have nearby gyms too though generally less pro-gym.

    Starting mostly from scratch: not eating great, and doing pretty much nil exercise.

    As context, I’m fairly but not utterly time-poor, enjoy food (not someone who’d like to live off Soylent), am better at giving things up than moderating them, and do sometimes eat out etc. so can’t go down a ‘only raw, weigh the individual chemical components yourself’ model (though the place I live means veggie and vegan are pretty plausible, as is paleo if it’s in a moderate form rather than ‘if the dressing has been prepared using artificially pressed olives’ or something.

    Many thanks in advance for any help!

    • episcience says:

      You should look into strength training. Free weights at the gym, using something like the Stronglifts 5×5 program, I found the most straightforward and easy to get into a routine (there is an app, it tells you how to do the different lifts, what weights, and how many reps, all you do is press the button and do what it tells you).

      Weightlifting and strength training communities are also very good at evidence-based diet advice, since they monitor their progress minutely. Generally they will give advice about “bulking” and “cutting” — you want the latter if you want to lose weight. The main thing is when you are at home to minimise carb intake, and have a lot more protein and fat, and greens to fill you up. When you eat out (which I do a lot too), you can either just ignore your home rules or look for things like steaks or chicken which aren’t (as) likely to be loaded with butter and oil. You could also look into intermittent fasting, though if you start going to the gym regularly that won’t be necessary. (IME, vegan or paleo diets only work to the extent they indirectly get you eating less processed food and more protein and greens, so I’d stick to the “macro” based model.)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Priority should be weight loss, for now. A lot of things get better and easier when you’re out of “obese” and into “normal”. Exercise won’t burn enough calories to count, so while very good, it’s not a priority in the beginning. Resistance is better than aerobic.

      Depending on how fast you want to lose weight, there are two basic approaches: calorie counting (which always works and is as fast as you want) and ad libitum, where you change what you eat but not how much. The latter is much more sustainable long term. It’s advisable to do calorie counting for at least 2 weeks to get a feel for how much you’re eating.

      Without writing a gigantic post, the basic stuff for a successful diet (either of the two ways) would be something like this:

      – avoid being hungry. Yes, it’s counter intuitive, but there’s no direct link between hunger and calories, only between hunger and food volume.

      – so what you want to track is how satiating food is. Ballpark, hunter gatherers ate food with an average of 50-100 calories/100g. Bread is 400/100g, a burger is 500/100g etc. No surprise we’re getting fat. For long term maintenance eat food with ~150 cals/100g, for weight loss eat food that’s under 100cals/100g.

      – best way of doing that is adding to the diet lots and lots of vegetables and fruit. Note the word “add” – for long term success pay more attention to what you add than what you remove.

      – stuff to avoid is sugary beverages (including fruit juice). Also if you have the willpower, remove anything that’s made of wheat. But don’t push it if you’re not ok with it, this one will hurt – try to limit it though. Desserts as well – but they’re not worse than bread, surprisingly. Chocolate is actually okish, dark chocolate is downright healthy.

      – when losing weight fast make sure: 1. you sleep well and 2. you eat enough protein (1.6g/kg). Otherwise you’ll also lose a lot of muscle along with the fat.

      – eat fish

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Interesting post.

        I have read that one should expect weight loss to occur in stages, because of the way the body adapts to changes in food intake. I.e., it gets more efficient in certain ways, causing weight loss for a given diet to taper off much faster than one would expect from calorie counting math. The way to handle that is apparently to just let it happen, and expect a short period of “rest” where one’s body weight hardly changes at the new diet, followed by a renewed push where the diet is altered further, resulting in the weight change rate to resume.

        Can anyone confirm or refute? (I might have a bookmark around that talks about this; not sure if I still do.)

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I don’t think so. I can think of a couple of things that might mimic this effect in certain conditions, though.

          First is that there’s a diminishing returns effect on calorie restriction. If you’re eating 1600 calories at maintenance, your actual productive weight loss is going to be remarkably similar at 900, 600 or 300 calories per day. Almost no difference – after a certain threshold, the body just adapts by consuming less energy (mostly by decreasing fidgeting and unnecessary movement).

          Second, there’s quite lot of hormonal and metabolic changes as you lose fat and gain muscle. They often go in different directions, and so it depends on your exact weight loss path and possibly your genetics, so it’s not predictable. The most well-known is that a pound of muscle consumes more energy than a pound of fat, but there are a lot more. For example there’s something called thermic effect of food that’s 0-15% of food calories that you’re using for digestion. In obese individuals, TEF is zero for carbohidrates.

          There is a also a funny (rumored?) effect where when losing fat fast there is little visible difference for a while (some say there’s a pre-loss stage where the belly fat looks a bit “marbled”), and at this point eating something rich in carbs like a pizza will make you look suddenly thinner the next day.

          So the weight loss path is going to be anything but straight, but that’s no reason to actually try to alter your diet. Just maintain the same caloric deficit, and at some point start working out as well. At least for a few months beginners can easily gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.

    • johan_larson says:

      If you’re starting from nothing, you may be disappointed with how little you’ll be able to do up front. There are a lot of couch-to-5K and couch-to-10K programs that recognize that sedentary people are starting from a low baseline and ramp things up veeery gradually. Here’s one that gets you to running a 10K in 12 weeks; the first day you will do a grand total of 8 minutes of running.

      http://www.myrunningtips.com/couch-to-10k.html

      If you were to follow that program and improve your diet by cutting your worst indulgence to a once-a-week treat I bet you’d see a difference.

    • lvlln says:

      First of all, I think weight loss is one of those things where it’s really hard to come up with a universal strategy due to different people being too different psychologically. That said, I’m a big proponent of counting calories, mainly from my own personal experience and my understanding of biology. About 10 years ago, I went from spending most of my life hovering around 30-32 BMI to about 24 BMI in about a year, and 95% of that was just from counting calories and keeping to a strict limit (the other 5% being starting a running/lifting regime). I didn’t care what I ate – I ate Pop Tarts and bacon for breakfast and drank beer hanging out with friends and all that – but I made sure that I consumed fewer than 1,200 Calories per day on at least 6 days out of the week. Not having to worry at all about denying myself whatever tasty foods I wanted as long as the volume was small enough made sticking to the diet fairly easy.

      I recommend counting calories religiously for at least a week or two, until you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of accurately estimating the total calories you consume in a given day. And those first couple weeks of limiting calories were the worst for me; I ate fewer calories per day in the weeks and months that followed, but they were far easier than the initial period when I was getting used to the lower calorie intake rate – I think most people have a similar experience. And for finding foods that maximize satiety per calorie consumed, I found protein, especially beans, to be helpful. Carbs, especially sugar, tended to leave me relatively hungry again fairly quickly while being calorie dense. Again, I think that’s the experience for most people.

      Since you’re better at giving foods up than moderating them, perhaps cutting out some foods that are particularly high in calorie-to-satiety ratio might be good for you, like any sort of liquid that has calories in it, and baked sweets. And I also found that it was surprisingly easy to retrain my taste to enjoy the taste of foods that were low calorie density and relatively healthy, as I had to eat less of foods that I had traditionally found tasty, like candy or chips. So try really getting into foods with low calorie density and seeing which ones you can learn to enjoy – for me that was things like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Whether you should do cardio or or lift weights depends primarily on which one you will actually do. Try solo cardio, a few sports and strength training, then choose whichever one you like most (or if you dislike all of them, whichever is most tolerable).

    • SamChevre says:

      Steinmann, Sam
      5:10 PM (2 hours ago)
      to me

      I tend toward the lazy version of common sense, biased toward “I’m not likely to hurt myself” (I have weak joints and injure them easily). I’ve lost about 20 pounds over the past 14 months, and gotten back to close to my mid-20’s weight.

      Things to give up as routine things: sweet drinks (including coffee drinks), alcohol.

      Eat more: vegetables; I find it pretty easy to add 8 oz a day of vegetables just by bringing some cooked vegetables to add to my lunch.

      Walking is a great, safe easy form of exercise; can you add a 20-minute walk to your routine easily? I started with my employers walk-to-run program and started running, but I’d lost most of the weight already–that really helped with my physical condition but I’m eating more.

      I find it easiest to lose weight by not eating breakfast – the standard “all your calories in 8 hours” intermittent fasting. How well that works seems to vary a lot by person.

    • J says:

      Nutritionfacts.org does videos of literature reviews that support plant based diets. Remember to supplement b12 if you go full vegan. I went vegetarian gradually over a few years by reducing meat intake gradually (hooray for cafeteria dining) until I was eating literally a single bite of meat per day. Nutrition science is awful but “eat as many vegetables as possible” is perhaps the most defensible diet position around.

      I had the best weight loss success with intermittent fasting: eating only lunch (but eating as much as I wanted for lunch). Eating only dinner is easier but didn’t lose weight for me.

      Walking/biking to work and dancing have been the best sources of exercise for me.

    • edmundgennings says:

      Lentils, split peas, and beans cooked in bulk with spices-sauces and vegetables and then frozen in individual plastic bags is incredibly low work per meal and very satiating per calorie. I can happily have 400 calorie lunches this way. It has the side benefit of costing less than 2 dollars a meal if done correctly. This enables a range of different preparations of with different spices and different legumes(and possibly some ham with the beans and split peas) so when one open the freezer one can pick one of 6 different flavor profiles. Even with spices and practice this will never be the most tasty option, but it can quickly become reasonable and it is incredibly convenient, though it does require a bit of start up work.

      For exercise find something that you like doing and ideally combine weights 2 days a week with cardio maybe four days. Incorporate some sort of audio that you like while you exercise.

  21. ottomanflush says:

    Is chiropractic a science? If not, does this mean it is ineffective? I’ve always had the impression that chiropractic was pseudoscientific and that you should always go to a physiotherapist instead. But is physiotherapy even scientific or medical in a way that chiropractic is not?

    Background: I ask this because my personal trainer recommended I try a chiropractor. I’ve been in physiotherapy for a few months and that has failed to fully resolve my back issues.

    • episcience says:

      It’s not scientific, and there is a lot of “woo” in the practice. AFAIK the scientific literature has not concluded there are any benefits from it. There is also the risk that some of the spinal manipulations chiropractors do can hurt or injure you. However, anecdotally, I know a number of people who have said that it has really helped them with things like posture and joint/back pain. So if there is a chiropractor that you trust to do it safely then it may still be worth trying even if it’s not necessarily evidence-based.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’ve spoken with a man who began training to become a chiropractor. He dropped out after a year, and ultimately went to med school. According to him, what he was being taught at the school of chiropractic was embarrassing nonsense. Chiropractors really do know a lot about the back and spine, but they think they can cure all sorts of other things too. If you have back pain or some sort of problems with posture, a chiropractor might be able to help you. For other issues, you would probably be better off consulting some other type of specialist.

      • Randy M says:

        From my limited second hand experience, doctors aren’t much better than chiropractors at curing back pain other than through pills. Pain that doesn’t have an obvious acute cause in general is not an easy fix for current medicine. So if you get any not-pill pain relief from a chiropractor, that’s probably worth the cost.

        I’m suspicious of chiropractors that ask for regular visits rather than an up front cure; but it’s conceivable that the modern environment puts frequent strain on backs which a periodic adjustment can alleviate temporarily. But the scheduling brings to mind unscrupulous mechanics who can always find something to fix.

    • jgr314 says:

      This is askew from your question, but one suggestion about dealing with back pain is that you should look at a collection of interventions/changes and not a single cure. The following are all things to consider:
      (1) stopping certain exercises
      (2) adding some strength exercises (core stabilization)
      (3) adding physio/mobility exercises
      (4) stretching
      (5) massage
      (6) getting more sleep
      (7) changing your sleep posture
      (8) changing your sitting posture (esp if you have a desk job)
      (9) surgery (extreme cases? structural issues?

      For (1) – (5), the activities might not even be centered on your back or particular area of pain, issues could potentially be in other areas like shoulders and hips.

      Personally, I have been scared off chiropractic interventions b/c of evidence of potential harms, but my exploration of the research was a long time ago and I don’t have the evidence to hand. For physiotherapy, while I didn’t find especially convincing evidence of clear benefits, it also didn’t seem to present the same type of risks.

    • dick says:

      I researched this lightly a while back. It was certainly founded in quackery of the worst kind, and there are still chiropractors that could be described that way. Many modern chiropractors are trying to make it more like what you’d consider scientific medicine, but their work is not done, and the field is still deeply split. I think it is more akin to massage therapy than medicine – you go there, ask for a certain procedure, they do it, many people swear it’s great, but the benefits are subtle and hard to demonstrate, and it’s not that likely that three different chiroporactors will do the same procedure for the same symptoms.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I agree with dick in that some chiropractors are all about aromatherapy and your chakras and crystals and a bunch of other flavors of woo. And others are basically sports medicine types. And in between. If you can find someone who sticks to the bones, muscles and nerves, and maybe will allow you to take a pass on the seemingly obligatory “adjustment,” you’ll quite possibly get a lot of relief.

    • J says:

      Sarno’s book produced the best results I’ve seen for chronic pain, for several members of my family.

  22. gdepasamonte says:

    A while back, I read about the Morant Bay rebellion. Very briefly, in 1865 there was a revolt by native Jamaicans against their British rulers which was brutally suppressed. The conduct of Governor Edward John Eyre, who directed the suppression, was the huge issue of the day back in the UK, and the celebrated men of the time divided into factions supporting and condemning his actions. The composition of these factions is very striking:

    The Governor Eyre Defense and Aid Committee was organised by the writer Thomas Carlyle, author of a history of the French Revolution and of the essay On Heroes and Hero-Worship. It was ardently supported by the art critic and social writer John Ruskin, a towering figure of the Victorian period, famous for his brilliant advocacy of the paintings of JMW Turner and of Gothic architecture, and later for his impassioned tirades against injustices caused by the industrial revolution and sanctioned (in his opinion) by the new science of political economy. Other supporters were the writer Charles Dickens, and the poet Alfred Tennyson, probably the two most important literary figures of the time.

    In brief, the faction supporting Eyre contained the giant figures of the Victorian cultural and artistic establishment – representing the visual arts, novels, poetry, letters, and, in Carlyle, philosophy of the literary kind.

    The four most recognisable figures on the Jamaica Committee, which wanted Eyre to be brought to trial for mass murder, are to my eye: Charles Darwin, his supporter Thomas Huxley, the great geologist Charles Lyell, and the philosopher John Stewart Mill, who founded the Committee. (Others more versed in political history may recognise other names before Lyell and Huxley, but Lyell at least was a definite colossus). The only artistic output I have had contact with by anyone on the Jamaica Committee is the novel Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes, an insufferable and naive account of the life of a public schoolboy from Merry Old England, which I was unable to get more than halfway through.

    In other words, the Committee contained a good deal of the Victorian scientific establishment, along with Mill representing the “non-literary” strand of philosophy (for want of a better term).

    If you look at other members of the groups, the divide is perhaps not quite so extreme as it seems above. At least one important scientist supported Eyre, though I had not heard of him; and there are a few writers I have not heard of listed as opposing Eyre. But it is still pretty striking, I think.

    Why where the scientists and cultural figures of this time so extremely different in their views? Have they always been like that? (Did it start with Rousseau maybe?) Is it still like this? Is it strange that Dickens and Ruskin, who (along with Mill) were very concerned with at least some sorts of questions of injustice, were on Eyre’s side?

  23. If you follow political arguments on the internet long enough, you’ll generally see this debate play out countless numbers of times, between a capitalist and a socialist:

    Capitalist: Markets are better because government is inherently coercive, taking away our freedom.
    Socialist: No, capitalism is inherently coercive.
    Capitalist: That’s stupid. It’s not coercion for me to say this property is mine and you don’t have a right to it.
    Socialist: Capitalism is not this natural state. It’s an institution that limits your access to things, creating winners and losers. Democracy is more fair.
    Capitalist: How is democracy not coercive? Two wolves and a sheep and all that.

    After that, it usually devolves to them talking past each other. I do think both have a point, but they are missing something more fundamental. The issue is not capitalism vs socialism. It’s bureaucracy vs something more personal.

    When it comes to forces acting against us, we generally distinguish between natural and unnatural forces. Natural forces of course, are things like hurricanes or earthquakes or animals. Unnatural forces, probably better referred to as cultural forces are things concerning other people. It goes all the way from our parents controlling us when we are younger all the way to the power of kings. When an earthquake happens, we are upset but it’s considered irrational to be angry at the Earth. It’s not something we have control over so what’s the point? On the other hand, if we feel like we are being exploited by someone, we do get mad at them and generally want to change it. Our feelings involving cultural forces evolved during a time when we personally knew who was wronging us. Today, however, the main forces controlling our lives are institutional bureaucracies.

    Nature is traditionally something that is out of our control. People are something that we think of us having some control over. However, bureaucratic power is so diffuse that it can feel like no one is in charge, confusing us. On the one hand, they are created and maintained by people. On the other hand, they often have a life of their own greater than any one person. This can lead to these absurd Kafkaesque situations where the system as a whole makes no sense. The inability to properly deal with them leaves us frustrated and despondent.

    Anarchists on the left talk about something similar but I think they have the wrong focus in blaming hierarchies rather than bureaucracies. We may not like those with power over us but at least we know how to react to them.

    How do we deal with this? I’m not sure. Bureaucracies were created to deal with modern problems so we shouldn’t eliminate them. And trying to reform them often has the paradoxical effect of entrenching their power. Anarchists on the left propose that we decentralize power to extremely small scale communities but I’m not sure that’s practical in our modern environment. The world seems too complex for that to work. Learning to live with it seems our only option but that just leaves us alienated as we struggle to deal with this lack of autonomy. And as the world gets more complex, bureaucracies will probably get bigger, not smaller.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Today, however, the main forces controlling our lives are institutional bureaucracies.

      No, you’ve already fallen for the trap.

      The main forces controlling our lives are ourselves, our employers, and our families, followed by bureaucracy and community. Bureaucracy is the main force controlling our institutions (and therefore our jobs, to a certain extent, but that’s definitely not what controls most of our jobs). You may argue that that’s a distinction without a difference, but I think it’s not, and I think it’s important that it’s not. This is important because the left is (classically, at least) rebelling against the “employers” bit by shifting that power to bureaucracy, community, and individuals, and the right is (classically, at least) rebelling against the “bureaucracy” bit by shifting power to family, community, employers, and individuals.

      Left and right can agree that bureaucracy is at least nominally undesirable; the left thinks that this is because employers (or landlords or whatever) can capture it and the right thinks this is because literally everything else is better. For what it’s worth, I’m on the side of “power corrupts” and would prefer that bureaucracies and employers enjoy far less power than they do now, such that we’d have:

      Individuals > families* > communities > employers > bureaucracies

      *: where families that are toxic can be easily and painlessly broken away from, but are also easy to find mutual support in

      But anyway, the problem is that mass movements, by their nature, tend to erode individual power and shift it towards [Moloch] by convincing you that you don’t have any in the first place. Bureaucracy and capital (which is really what I mean by “employers,” but I was burying the lede) are totalizing forces. Eventually, most people will admit this, I think, and most of those will agree that being fascist to own the [outgroup]s is probably bad. Unfortunately, getting this far is really hard when it comes to true believers. But anyway, once this common ground is established, it’s actually fairly simple to get people past the hangups you’ve described by asking the right question:

      How should we make sure that people have power in their own lives?

      • I’m not sure if I’m unclear in this but I’m not referring to “bureaucracy” only in the government sense. Large corporations also have their own bureaucracies and these are definitely not something that the left generally loves.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t see that that matters much, honestly. Capital isn’t just money either.

          If bureaucracy creates aligned systems, capital creates controlled systems. The two sides of the debate are talking past each other because they disagree about what the greater threat to autonomy is, not because they want a bigger bureaucracy/more concentration of capital.

    • Reiterating here: I’m referring to both public and private bureaucracies.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      We vote the occasional Trump. *ducks*

      But seriously, this is why Hillary was scaring me more than nuclear war. The march of the bureaucracy (both gov and corporate) was … is getting to be unstoppable and much disconnected from the people. Voting is supposed to be the cure for something like that – when the ruling elites become too disconnected, it becomes apparent that they lost the mandate of heaven and they badly lose an election. This is not necessarily true now – for one thing, we’re getting close to working applicable sociology so the elites will, at some point in the future, learn how to avoid the appearance of disconnect. Also, a two party system like you guys have in US is way easier to hijack.

      • Brexit seems like a clear backlash against EU bureaucracy, which, from what I can tell, is both more powerful and further disconnected from democracy than US institutions.

        But I think it goes beyond the explicit organizations themselves. It’s a more pervasive sense that no one is in control. The end state is something like a black box AI forcing us to live a certain way. Even if it helps us reach our goals, we don’t like the idea of a human tool that we don’t understand and is uncontrollable dictating our lives like that.

        One of the notable features of our age is how everyone has a narrative of these decentralized forces, beyond the scope of individual control, that oppresses us. Whether it’s the patriarchy, the deep state or something else, I think they’re different manifestations of a common issue.

  24. sunnydestroy says:

    For those into finance/investing:

    Some interesting research from O’Shaughnessy Asset Management with a thesis that makes a lot of sense. Essentially, patents and patent growth are a good indicator of future growth, especially combined with R & D spending as a combination innovation metric.

    Combining that with some value metrics seems to yield a pretty solid looking investment strategy.

  25. Mark V Anderson says:

    I believe there are two reasons folks favor government re-distribution between income classes:

    1) Provide a reasonable minimum income for the poor, and
    2) Create lower inequality between recipients, lower the GINI

    I think that #1 is almost universally accepted these days, and #2 is also accepted by a majority, but a substantial minority would disagree. In the US, #1 is the rationale for hundreds of laws in the US. But #2 is also part of the law, most obviously as a part of graduated income rates, but also the rationale is assumed in many policy debates, where a possible reason for a policy would be that it favors the middle class over the rich. I agree with #1, but am against #2, as I will explain below.

    Here are several reasons that some have more income or more wealth than others for what I consider undeserving causes:
    a) Inherited wealth
    b) Family money to set up businesses and education
    c) Family connections in getting jobs
    d) Inborn physical or intellectual talents
    e) Luck

    But here are many reasons that some do better than others financially for deserving reasons:
    f) Number of hours worked
    g) How hard someone works at a job
    h) Sucks it up at a poor job, when it is the only job available, or it will result in a better job in the future
    i) Trains for a better job: college or other school
    j) Picks a less fun job because it pays more or is more secure. This includes those who take fun majors in college instead of more practical ones
    k) How much of one’s paycheck is saved vs spent
    l) The income risk and variance one is willing to take for the chance to become rich. In some cases this greater risk causes people to become poorer, but that is also deserved.
    I am not saying that those that make the choices to have more income and wealth are better people. But they do deserve their higher income/wealth when they make these choices. Being poor is not a moral failing.

    Because there are both deserving and undeserving reasons for people to have more money, a perfect deity might be able to improve society by taking money from the undeserving and re-distributing it to those who are more deserving but have less money. But this would not mean the resulting distribution of income and wealth would be anywhere near equal, because some deserve a lot more than others.

    The reason I am not in favor of rationale #2 above is that I don’t trust the government to improve the distribution of income/wealth so the deserving get more and the undeserving less. I think it is at least as likely that the government will give to the undeserving and take from the deserving.

    Of course this covers only the ethics of financial distribution. Re-distribution would also reduce incentives of those with great inborn intellectual talents to make advances to civilization, since they wouldn’t deserve to receive all the benefits that would result from such advances than they would otherwise receive. Also, re-distribution causes a lot of deadweight loss in an economy, as much effort is spent trying to increase one’s own standing as the deserving.

    Please tell me if I am wrong. Is there a good method of re-distributing from the undeserving to the deserving, in a way that would be politically acceptable in a democracy?

    • Eric Rall says:

      1) Provide a reasonable minimum income for the poor, and

      I see a significant split even here, between those who favor an unconditional baseline standard of living for the poor, and those who draw a distinction between the Deserving Poor and the Undeserving Poor (or God’s Poor and the Devil’s Poor) and only support alms for the former to the extent the two categories can reasonably be distinguished.

      How exactly the two categories are distinguished is the subject of considerable complex disagreement, but for the most part it seems to boil down to the Deserving Poor being poor due to circumstances largely beyond their reasonable control, while the Undeserving Poor are poor due largely to foreseeable consequences of their own choices, especially choices that (in the categorizer’s view) can be attributed to a moral failing.

      You see quite a bit of this baked into the current US welfare system: a lot of programs are designed to give more benefits to those with dependent children (since the children are seen as blameless even if their parents have made bad choices), and many programs also have some kind of work requirement for able-bodied childless adults to continue qualifying for benefits. The perennial push for drug testing as a precondition for benefits is also an attempt to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor.

      And looking at the huge mess that is our welfare system is a cautionary tale for attempts to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor. And one that’s going to be informative for any serious attempts to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving rich.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I was thinking the same about the difference between “Deserving Rich” and “Undeserving Rich”.

        Ignoring the fact that I disagree with some of the categories, I think the lesson good.

    • Chalid says:

      On average, rich people have been luckier than poor people. So, in your framework, that justifies some degree of redistribution between the “rich” and “poor” groups; rich people as a group have more “undeserved” wealth than poor people as a group, so a blunt redistribution from “rich” to “poor” could lead to a less unjust outcome.

      Also, I think you’re ignoring the main reason many people want lower inequality, which is the diminishing marginal utility of money. Give someone earning $25k/year an extra $10k and it’s lifechanging; give the same $10k to someone earning $800k/year and they’ll barely notice.

      • Statismagician says:

        That last paragraph is, I think, the crux of the matter.

      • quanta413 says:

        Also, I think you’re ignoring the main reason many people want lower inequality, which is the diminishing marginal utility of money. Give someone earning $25k/year an extra $10k and it’s lifechanging; give the same $10k to someone earning $800k/year and they’ll barely notice.

        This also means though that if you want use money to motivate someone to do something and what you want them to do takes a long time and/or is a pain in the ass, you may have to pay out seemingly absurd amounts of money.

        If $800k/year guy has some super unique skill and you need him to work twice as much and give up all his leisure time, you need to more than double his pay.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Exactly. For me, diminishing marginal utility of income is the key reason to favor redistribution. Constraints on desirable level of government redistribution for me are its adverse effects on personal freedom and on GDP.

        • Matt M says:

          Does it bother you at all that you cannot compare utility between individuals?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            You mean in a sense that some rich people would get more utility from marginal dollar than some poor people? That certainly sometimes happens, but I do not think that it is sufficiently widespread phenomenon for it to have large impact on what are right policy choices.

          • Matt M says:

            You mean in a sense that some rich people would get more utility from marginal dollar than some poor people?

            Yes, that is the low level takeaway – that the math doesn’t necessarily work in favor of redistribution. But the much more important high-level principle is that you can’t even do math on this at all. It doesn’t make sense to even try, because you aren’t using a common set of units. It’s literally apples and oranges.

            To make an analogy, what if I told you that one person owned 1 million apples, and another person owned 1 million oranges. Diminishing marginal utility would suggest that we could dramatically improve society by taking away 100K apples from the first person and giving them to the second, right? Because the guy with no apples will get more utility from 100K apples than the guy with 1M apples, right?

            No, wrong. Because anyone who has 1 million apples is probably, like, the owner of an applesauce processing plant or something like that. And the guy with 1 million oranges but 0 apples probably owns an orange juice plant. He doesn’t want any apples. He wouldn’t know what to do with 100K of them if he had them. Society would be much worse off if you redistributed among these two, even though diminishing marginal utility is still, in fact, a thing, for each of them.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I do not agree with that at all. Common units for apples and oranges are money representing their market value.

          • dick says:

            Also, a hundred thousand of something is not a marginal amount. And “I can think of a fairly ridiculous corner case where this law doesn’t apply” is evidence for the law applying generally, not against.

          • Matt M says:

            I do not agree with that at all. Common units for apples and oranges are money representing their market value.

            And there is no “common unit” for personal utility. Utils don’t actually exist.

            “Money to Bill Gates” is a different unit of good than “Money to a homeless bum.”

            It may be true that their personal utility functions are similar enough such that we can make some guesses about whether redistribution might result in an overall net gain. But it may also not be true. We simply don’t know. And all we’d be doing is guessing.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, a hundred thousand of something is not a marginal amount. And “I can think of a fairly ridiculous corner case where this law doesn’t apply” is evidence for the law applying generally, not against.

            The relevant marginal unit can be anything. 100K is probably an exaggeration, but 1 apple is probably too small. The applesauce factory owner doesn’t think in units of 1 apples.

            And the point isn’t that the law doesn’t apply, it’s that the law isn’t a law at all. “Diminishing marginal utility” is a law that applies within individuals only. It is a law on the individual level because there are zero cases where it is not true. You cannot engineer a hypothetical wherein someone gets more utility out of their own personal 100,000th unit than they get from their 1st unit. There are no edge cases where that is not true. No “exceptions that prove the rule.”

            The fact that it’s trivially easy to think of such exceptions in the case of people trying to apply a sound individual law to interpersonal exchanges shows how that logic is flawed.

          • Lambert says:

            >there are zero cases where it is not true.

            Socks, tires, eggs when I don’t have a small cake tin.

            What is the marginal utility of one hand clapping?

          • Matt M says:

            What is the marginal utility of one hand clapping?

            You are missing my point about the relevant marginal unit.

            The marginal unit for clapping is a set of two hands. Diminishing marginal utility makes no claims regarding utility between fractions of incomplete units.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Fuel? The unit that gets me from West Podunk to East Podunk has some value, but the unit that gets me to Metropolis has more

          • Matt M says:

            But you’re adding it to the previous units in that case.

            Without the first unit of gas, you don’t go anywhere. Without the sixth unit of gas, you cannot consume the seventh unit at all. Etc.

            And if your point is that any travel to a destination less far away than Metropolis is entirely without value, then your relevant marginal unit is “tank of gas” or “enough gas to get to Metropolis” or something like that.

            If this seems like a fairly obvious, self-evident tautology, then that’s because it is. That’s what makes it a non-controversial economic law, and what distinguishes it from stuff like “redistribution is a net good” which is clearly controversial and highly debatable.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            In this sense, we are also just guessing that Earth won ́t stop rotating and Sun will rise tomorrow. It is however a guess in which we have high confidence. Just like a “guess” that one more dollar of income usually brings more utility to poor person than to rich person.

          • Lambert says:

            There is no ‘marginal unit’.
            It’s all infinitesimals.
            Can’t change dy/dy by saying that d is too small.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Just like a “guess” that one more dollar of income usually brings more utility to poor person than to rich person.

            My factory can do a hell of a lot more with $10 million than you can do with $10 million, even though my factory probably has more money than you right now.

            Similarly, if you give Bill Gates $10 million, he is probably going to invest 90+% of that into his charitable contributions. If you give me $10 million, I am going to pay off debts and set up some trusts for my hypothetical children.

          • dick says:

            You cannot engineer a hypothetical wherein someone gets more utility out of their own personal 100,000th unit than they get from their 1st unit.

            Sure I can. “But what if the guy’s wife bet him a beej that he couldn’t get 100,000 units?” That’s a corner-case, in the same way that “But what if the guy owned an applesauce factory?” is.

            The relevant marginal unit can be anything.

            I can only suggest starting with the Wikipedia article about it.

          • Chalid says:

            Does it bother you at all that you cannot compare utility between individuals?

            No, this is silly. We all go through life acting as if you can compare utility between individuals. If I give my wife the last piece of pizza because she likes it more than I do, I’m not the slightest bit bothered by the philosophical objection that my wife’s utility from the pizza is not directly comparable to mine.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            I suspect you are confusing social utility with personal utility.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I suspect you are confusing social utility with personal utility.

            The recipients of Bill Gates’ charity are getting personal utility, and a factory making improvements provides utility to all the end consumers of that factory’s product.

          • Lambert says:

            I can invest that money into a similar factory, and get the same benefits.
            But ultimately the money’s got to go and do something that some humans want at some point. If you give it to the factory, it ends up going to the owners of the factory and/or the workers.

            I can also give the money to the Gates Foundation or Givewell or whomever.
            That there’s a man so rich that he might as well give all his spare money to helping the global poor is not an arguement against diminishing marginal returns on money.

            Maybe all rich people are utility monsters with respect to money or something.
            But the fact that marginal utility of almost all resources diminishes from the perspective of the individual suggests otherwise.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The marginal dollar you give to Bill Gates is not consumed by Bill Gates. Similarly, the marginal dollar you take away from Bill Gates is not consumed by Bill Gates. You taking away money from Bill Gates is not transferring money from Bill Gates to middle class Americans, it is taking away mosquito nets from poor African so middle class Americans can buy bigger houses, newer cars, and bigger TVs.

            And please don’t say you are actually going to use the money on healthcare, because this thread isn’t about raising taxes to fund the social safety net: it is explicitly about taking away money from rich people to give to less rich people, with “diminishing marginal utility” as a justification.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            The recipients of Bill Gates’ charity are getting personal utility.

            Yes, and I do not dispute that from the perspective of social utility, it may well be better to give one marginal dollar to Bill Gates than to random person. But this is because Gates is probably going to spend his marginal dollar on activities that help very poor people or that raise GDP.

            I already listed two exceptions from broad principle that policy should aim for income equality – protections of personal freedom and GDP, i.e. raising income of the whole society. Now I´d like to amend that since I totally forgot about environmental damage which is not adequately covered in GDP statistics. Probably I am still forgeting something else, but my position is essentially Rawlsian – social utility is best served by income equality with exceptions that are justifiable under “veil of ignorance” conditions.

            Disclaimer: I haven´t actually read Rawls, this is my headcannon version of Rawlsianism.

          • quanta413 says:

            In this sense, we are also just guessing that Earth won ́t stop rotating and Sun will rise tomorrow. It is however a guess in which we have high confidence. Just like a “guess” that one more dollar of income usually brings more utility to poor person than to rich person.

            Those questions are nothing alike.

            The earth rotating is a brute physical fact that we have extremely high confidence in. Whether or not the earth rotates is an empirical question.

            The idea of using utility to make moral decisions is a convenient normative choice that isn’t even an empirical question. It’s a philosophical one. Lots of philosophers aren’t utilitarians; I think protagoras or somebody else here once linked a survey of philosphers belief about ethics and even consequentialism wasn’t reaching something like 70% agreement. Much less the subset of utilitarianism.

            For economics, utility doesn’t need to be interpersonally comparable although there are other issues. In an ordinal sense, it’s well known that you can’t necessarily make an ordinal scale of utility out of a collection of humans who have different judgements about the utility of various things to them. You can aggregate utility cardinally, but now you’re back to the question of ethics or morals since there’s nothing measurable to work with here.

            No, this is silly. We all go through life acting as if you can compare utility between individuals. If I give my wife the last piece of pizza because she likes it more than I do, I’m not the slightest bit bothered by the philosophical objection that my wife’s utility from the pizza is not directly comparable to mine.

            From an economist’s point of view, you gain more utility by giving your wife a piece of pizza than by eating it yourself in that case. Basically by definition. I agree it has nothing to do with comparability, but it also doesn’t answer the philosophical objection at all. Assuming that humans use something like aggregate utility to ground judgements in giving stuff to each other is begging the question. The normal human sense of “I’ll give my wife the pizza because she likes it more than me” is not well explained by the idea of aggregating over utility functions.

            The philosophical objection doesn’t mean you won’t do things for people. Altruistic behavior is part of your utility function if you could be defined to have one. It’s all logically rather circular once you assume that humans can rank what they prefer in order (no A > B > C > A) and a few other things. Utility can be very convenient for doing further economics, but utilitarianism is a huge normative judgement and as questionable as any other huge normative judgement.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @quanta413

            I do not claim that it is obvious that one should follow consequentialist morality. However, whether or not diminishing marginal utility of income exists is an empirical question and I have very high confidence that answer to it is yes, it indeed exists.

          • quanta413 says:

            I do not claim that it is obvious that one should follow consequentialist morality. However, whether or not diminishing marginal utility of income exists is an empirical question and I have very high confidence that answer to it is yes, it indeed exists.

            A typical economists idea of utility is not measured directly. It is inferred by people ranking their individual preferences which themselves are inferred from either behavior or by hoping that people aren’t lying on surveys of their preferences. By these measures, there is diminishing marginal utility of income for most individual people. On this we agree, and this is what economists are generally talking about when they talk about “diminishing marginal utility”.

            But this shows nothing about marginal utility across people which is what Matt M is questioning. Unfortunately, neither of these methods allow you to compare utility across individuals. So you’re standing on nothing empirical as far as that claim goes. Utility as measured by economists is not much like utility as thought of by utilitarians. The words are the same which is unfortunate. Comparing utility across people is a normative choice. A highly questionable one since it is known that without a cardinal measure of utility that works across people (basically starting with the answer you want), it is in general impossible to construct a social decision function that fulfills a few simple desiderata of fairness and rationality from the known utilities of individual agents in the social group.

            You could say “One dollar causes more dopamine release in a poor person than in a rich person” or something like that in an attempt to measure something comparable across people, but that wouldn’t answer the philosophical question at hand and that wouldn’t be decision utility. There is no particularly good reason to maximize the feeling of happiness across the population at any given moment. Lots of people (most?) don’t even try to maximize their own happiness at any given moment. And how do you aggregate that over time? Some people maximize their subjective feeling of happiness at any given instant while totally neglecting the future, while others discount their future feeling very little.

            Your original syllogism is something like this

            (A) We should increase total utility
            (B) Utility shows decreasing marginal returns with respect to income
            therefore
            Therefore
            (C) Redistribution could increase total utility (absent your choice of constraints)

            (A) is a normatively true statement about utility for a utilitarian.

            (B) is empirically true for decision theoretic utility which is something completely different from what you’re talking about in (A), but may be normatively true if you’re a utilitarian. You need the subjective part to get (C) to be the conclusion that follows from (A) and (B). That’s why I say it’s nothing like the question “Is the earth rotating?”

            You’re conflating an empirical fact about decision theoretic utility with a normative question about experiential utility.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @quanta413

            Ok, this is very interesting discussion, so I am perfectly capable of dragging it for a long time.

            You are correct that economists, or at least microeconomic textbooks, use the term “utility” in different sense than me here, although those concepts are related by intelectual pedigree.

            So, to clarify, by personal utility I mean something broadly synonymous with concepts“wellbeing”, or “quality of life”. I am well aware that those are not exactly measurable, but I also do not think that their non exact nature is fatal for their use as basis for morality, since alternatives are worse. Feeling of happiness for example is terrible on this, as you also correctly point out. Non aggression principle or “it was written in the Holy Book” are imho also worse alternatives, for reasons I do not particularly want to get into in this thread.

            However, I maintain that increases in quality of life with respect to income are also subjected to diminishing marginal returns, just like increases in utility as defined by economics.

            To summarize, I am highly confident of those three empirical facts:

            1) Quality of life exists, and is capable of changing for better or worse.

            2) Increases in personal income, other things being equal, usually result in improved or at least unchanged quality of life.

            3) For a given person, improvements in his or her quality of life due to increased income are usually subjected to diminishing returns. I.e. if her income consists of minimum wage, increasing it by 50 % will cause larger improvement in her quality of life than if her´s initial income is in millions of dollars.

            I concede that there are exceptions from 2) and 3), but I do not think they are very important. And 3) only holds if persons in questions are in some sense identical. You are of course right that, due to impossibility of precisely measuring quality of life, interpersonal comparisons are very problematic.

        • Clutzy says:

          I’ve never seen actual evidence of this assertion being favorable for redistribution. The school across the street has infinitely more whiteboards than I do. I have 0. Giving me a whiteboard would not make me better off, it probably makes me worse off.

          • Chalid says:

            Presumably you spend a bunch of your life doing things to get money and none of your life doing things to get whiteboards.

          • dick says:

            “These so-called economics experts claim that all tangible goods have value, but what about Mallomars? Those things taste terrible!”

          • Plumber says:

            @dick,
            That was hilarious!

            Thanks.

          • Clutzy says:

            @dick

            Your snark is funny, but the point isn’t just that I’m not better/worse off, but its a clear dead-weight loss either way. Its not clear that I would do better with a dollar, twenty, or a billion of Warren Buffett’s dollars than it would be in his pockets. The most obvious example is the ruinous ends of lottery winners that are so often the norm, and athletes, and one hit wonder bands, and …

            Now that said, I do have a few outstanding business ventures that need only a few million in seed money to absolutely take off, and they will absolutely make the world a better place. Just email me you bank account and routing number at nigeriancapitalist@nigerianprince.gov

          • AlesZiegler says:

            As Chalid already noted, whiteboards are not money, and income is measured in money. Whiteboard has negative value for you because you would have to bear storage or waste disposal costs of it, which are in principle measurable in money.

            Giving you money, on the other hand, would most likely make you better of.

          • Clutzy says:

            Giving you money, on the other hand, would most likely make you better of.

            Yes, but there is not good evidence that giving me money over giving it to Buffett is an exchange that makes the world better off. Particularly because there are a lot of people like me, and not a lot of people like Warren Buffett, so to give me and people like me any noticeable amount he would have to divest a noticeable amount, and wouldn’t be able to put that into his wise ventures, while many people in my income levels would use it to upgrade our perfectly good 2016 Carollas.

    • abystander says:

      What is luck is often in dispute. There are those who say that Gates, Bezos, Zuckerburg, etc built their companies from scratch and thus deserve all their wealth. Others say that they were lucky to be in the right position at the right time. An operating system was inevitable, a one stop shopping website was inevitable. A major social network was inevitable. Gates and company might deserve millions because they used their talent to exploit their opportunity to exploit their luck, but they don’t deserve billions.

      • MorningGaul says:

        An operating system was inevitable, a one stop shopping website was inevitable

        I reject this hypothesis. If an operating system was inevitable. The first desktop computer was in 1970. The Apple II was in 1977. MS-DOS came in 1981, but I doubt it’s what you meant by OS. Windows 1.0 in 1985 and it was a flop. It’s only with windows 3.1 that things took up, and that was in 92.

        If a usable operating sytem was inevitable in 92, why wasnt it in 77, when you already had computers being useful and affordable?

        • Aapje says:

          MS-DOS is definitely an OS and a very successful one. It’s very hard to argue that Gates built his company from scratch, since MS-DOS was not actually developed by Microsoft, but acquired from another company, perhaps involving fraud (Microsoft settled for a substantial amount of money with that other company).

          MS-DOS’ success was largely due to the deal with IBM to ship the software with their hardware, which was the result of Digital Research demanding too much money to license CP/M. Microsoft was extremely lucky in that they were in talks with IBM about licensing Microsoft’s version of BASIC to IBM, heard about IBM’s troubles with CP/M and happened to know of an OS that they could acquire and then license to IBM.

          Microsoft was truly in the right places at the right time.

      • Chalid says:

        At a slightly less elite level, everyone whose pay is closely tied to company performance (i.e. just about anyone who makes serious money) has a lot of their pay attributable to luck. Engineers who joined AMD 15 years ago are a lot poorer than equally competent engineers who joined NVDA at the same time. The startup lottery is of course the extreme example of this.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Yep. I get a yearly bonus based on company performance. I’m a middle manager and while I can affect my team a decent amount, I am certainly not changing the direction of a multi-billion dollar company enough to seriously affect my pay.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The problem with “luck” claims is not their accuracy — I’ve played the startup lottery four times and won only once, so I know there’s luck involved. It’s the idea usually lurking behind them that the lucky person has no claim on their winnings. And the proposed redistribution often has nothing to do with luck; no one suggests that the winning low-level NVIDIA engineers should compensate the losing low-level AMD engineers. Instead, the claims of luck are leveraged to suggest both the NVIDIA and AMD engineers be taxed to support the poor (who did not even enter those lotteries)

          • Chalid says:

            no one suggests that the winning low-level NVIDIA engineers should compensate the losing low-level AMD engineers

            But they do, because taxation is progressive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Both the NVIDIA engineers and the AMD engineers get taxed. None of the money flows to the AMD engineers; it all goes to other people. It’s not enough that taxation is progressive. Nobody’s proposing taking Bezos’s money to increase the compensation of former drkoop.com engineers.

          • Chalid says:

            The NVIDIA engineers and AMD engineers both use national defense, roads, police forces etc. The NVIDIA engineers pay a greater amount for these shared goods. This is redistributive.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, I understand what you’re saying. It’s still mere sophistry to claim that’s the winners compensating their losers for luck. The NVIDIA engineers are paying net taxes. The AMD engineers are paying net taxes. Some hypothetical person who earned the same as the AMD engineer at some staid and boring company is paying the same taxes as the AMD engineer.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure. The AMD engineers were luckier than average too, so income is redistributed away from them, but less so than from the still-luckier NVIDIA engineers.

            I mean you could imagine a system where the NVIDIA engineers’ money is redistributed to the AMD engineers, the AMD engineers’ money is redistributed to some other set of still less lucky people, and so on until you get to giving money to the unluckiest people of all. Net it all out and you get something resembling a progressive income tax + welfare programs.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Sure. The AMD engineers were luckier than average too, so income is redistributed away from them

            This relies on income being entirely dependent on luck, not just luck having an effect on income. That’s a bait-and-switch.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The AMD engineers were luckier than average too, so income is redistributed away from them

            AMD engineers are wealthier than average, which is an entirely different thing than luckier. AMD engineers may very well be more likely to have immigrated from a foreign nation than the average population and therefore LESS lucky than average.

          • Chalid says:

            This relies on income being entirely dependent on luck

            No it doesn’t. Show your math?

            If income was entirely dependent on luck, the “just” outcome would be everyone earning the same amount after redistribution. The intermediate outcome of progressive taxation is what you get in the intermediate case of imperfect correlation.

            engineers are wealthier than average, which is an entirely different thing than luckier.

            Surely you agree wealth and luck are correlated?

            And this depends on what you count as luck. If you look at the things the OP by Mark Anderson considered to be causes of “underserved success” those might account for a majority of outcomes.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This relies on income being entirely dependent on luck

            No it doesn’t. Show your math?

            The only evidence you have for the AMD engineers being luckier than anyone else is their income. So you’re treating their income as being entirely dependent on luck.

          • Chalid says:

            Repeating myself: if income was entirely dependent on luck, the “just” outcome would be everyone earning the same amount after redistribution – the after-tax income of the NVIDIA and AMD engineers is identical.

            Moving partially toward that outcome means we’re treating income as partially dependent on luck.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Surely you agree wealth and luck are correlated?
            And this depends on what you count as luck. If you look at the things the OP by Mark Anderson considered to be causes of “underserved success” those might account for a majority of outcomes.

            Wealth and luck are correlated all else being equal, but that doesn’t mean wealth and luck are even correlated on a social level, and it surely doesn’t mean that you can determine that for each individual. We also don’t have the math to describe luck vs. unlucky, which means we can’t do comparisons between individuals. To do this properly, the IRS needs to assign you a Luck Score that changes the proportion of taxes that you pay.

            Obviously, the IRS cannot do that. But without that, two people of the same income are paying identical taxes, when the idea that they are the same “luck” is clearly wrong.

          • Chalid says:

            Wealth and luck are correlated all else being equal, but that doesn’t mean wealth and luck are even correlated on a social level

            yes it does? How would you get wealth and luck being correlated for individuals but not for income quantile?

            Not going to grind through the math, but you should get a stronger correlation at the social level due to averaging – meaning that “the average luck of people who earn less than $50k/year is certainly worse than the average luck of those earning $50k to $100k” – this is something you could not say at the individual level.

            it surely doesn’t mean that you can determine that for each individual

            sure, of course you can’t determine that.

            If luck is unobservable, then no system will be perfectly fair – anything will be unfair to some individuals. This includes of course includes non-redistributive systems.

            If you find something which correlates with luck (in the case under discussion, income), and use that as the basis of a redistributive system, you can construct something that is more fair *on average*. We cannot say whether it is more fair or less fair for any particular individual.

      • JPNunez says:

        Yeah gonna go with no on Bil Gates.

        From news dot ycombinator

        Mary Gates, Bill Gates’ mother, was on the same board as John Opel, the president, chairman and CEO of I.B.M. They discussed her son’s company and Mr. Opel mentioned Mrs. Gates to other I.B.M. executives. A few weeks later, I.B.M. took a chance by hiring Microsoft, then a small software company, to develop an operating system for its first personal computer.
        So a discussion Mary Gates had with John Opel while they were both serving on the board of United Way of America resulted in an IBM contract being placed with her son Bill’s company Microsoft to create an operating system for IBM’s first personal computer.

        It’s funny this story is not told in the Microsoft’s wikipedia page, but it is told on Mary Gates’ wikipedia page.

        That’s not luck. It’s rich people having contacts.

        • Aapje says:

          That seems incorrect. Sources seem to agree that Microsoft first did business with IBM to license Microsoft Basic to them (which was actually developed in house) and that during meetings about that product, Gates learned that IBM was looking for a CP/M-like OS.

          Microsoft also licensed Microsoft Basic to another computer company that had developed an OS, so Microsoft then bought that OS and licensed it to IBM.

          Perhaps IBM learned about Microsoft Basic through Mary Gates.

          • JPNunez says:

            IBM first approached MS for an operating system but Gates seemingly directed them to DRI. Negotiations with DRI failed and IBM went back to MS and DOS was born.

            Maybe Bill thought her mom didn’t understand computers enough and that MS would not be able to fulfill the contract at first and that’s why he redirected them to DRI.

            Rich people will always downplay contacts. From time to time meritocracy will kick in, we gotta recognize. But if the already-rich-kid’s company miraculously gets lucrative contracts thrown his way, that he didn’t even want in the first place (see Bill directing IBM to DRI), and the kid’s mother and the IBM CEO are friends, the simplest explanation is … contacts. Also it seems the contract offered to DRI was worse than the one offered to MS.

            I can imagine Bill complaining to his mother “but moooom, I cannot make an operating system for IBM! It’s too hard! You don’t know nothing about computers, mom!”.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That particular story traces back to Mary Gates’s obituary. Note the vague sourcing — “by some accounts”.

          Another account claims Opel didn’t make the connection until after the decision was made.

      • quanta413 says:

        Gates and company might deserve millions because they used their talent to exploit their opportunity to exploit their luck, but they don’t deserve billions.

        Whether or not anyone “deserves” anything is the wrong question. Even given the substantial component of luck involved, it takes a lot of people a lot of work to accomplish the “inevitable”. It’s only inevitable in as much as many people are motivated to work on it. If people know they have a large risk of failure that is outside their control, then the pay off for success needs to be higher than it would be if success was certain. Whether billions is “too much” or not is not really a question you can know the answer to.

        Sometimes you can motivate some people with stuff besides money. Scientists are motivated largely by prestige. Does Einstein “deserve” his many orders of magnitude greater fame than almost any other scientist? Once again probably the wrong question.

        But I bet a lot of work really does need to be motivated by huge amounts of money. It’s not like Bill Gates is wealthy through salary; he’s wealthy because of the value of Microsoft. How much money can you tax from Microsoft without losing more than you gain? 10% more than currently? Double?

    • Aapje says:

      @Mark V Anderson

      Your list of undeserving causes is incomplete. Also, it is not actually possible to neatly separate out deserving and undeserving causes.

      For example, you rank those with better education as deserving a better income (i). However, Ivy universities are extremely disproportionately attended by children of the rich and/or well-educated. In general, higher education is extremely hereditary. So to what extent is having a better education down to effort, risk-taking, willingness to endure current suffering for future benefit*, etc, rather than being lucky enough to be raised in a culture that prepares you for college, having connections, being born to wealth, being born with a high IQ, etc?

      * Although arguably, college is actually more pleasant than being in the workforce.

      The reason I am not in favor of rationale #2 above is that I don’t trust the government to improve the distribution of income/wealth so the deserving get more and the undeserving less.

      Some undeserving will always benefit, no matter what you choose. It’s just a different group of undeserving that benefit.

      If you redistribute, the undeserving will benefit by getting benefits from interventions that seek to help the deserving who fail to prosper in the capitalist system due to ‘luck’ factors. If you don’t redistribute, people who undeservedly prosper in the capitalist system due to ‘luck’ factors will benefit.

      I think it is at least as likely that the government will give to the undeserving and take from the deserving.

      I disagree. Some interventions seem way better than other interventions. Take public education. This is a wealth transfer from the rich to the poor, but the benefits are of the ‘teach a person to fish’ kind, so a failed intervention doesn’t actually give anything to the undeserving (or the deserving for whom education doesn’t work to increase their income). When it does work, the benefits are quite large (note that I’m not (just) talking about higher education, but teaching people basic skills like literacy).

      The less generous welfare is compared to having a job, the less incentive there is for the undeserving to seek out welfare, so the higher proportion of welfare recipients are truly deserving.

      In general, I would argue that the law of diminishing returns holds, where it is very unwise to forgo the big returns that you can achieve by helping those who fail to prosper in a hardcore capitalist model, but also very unwise to try to remedy all injustices that the capitalist model allows to happen.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @Aapje
        You say that at least some interventions will be better than others. Your only example is public education. I am not sure that public education is a net benefit to society, when considering how much is spent compared to value received. But it also isn’t what I am talking about.

        I am looking for programs to re-distribute money from higher to lower incomes to increase equality, not public spending programs that are meant to increase infrastructure, and only incidentally may decrease inequality. Are any re-distribution programs likely to make income and wealth more equitable?

        • EchoChaos says:

          @Mark V Anderson

          Why do we care particularly about equality? Imagine a world where everyone has twice the Purchasing Power Parity equivalent wealth that they do today, except for millionaires and above, who have four times. Clearly that world is far better than the world we have, but it is also less equal.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos,
            I really can’t imagine such a world, however I can imagine a world in which I struggle to gain credentials (a union journeyman plumbers card and a licence from the County of Santa Clara) to increase my income 4x but in the years I do that housing prices go up 6x, then 10x because a giant cohort of well educated newcomers move in and bid up housing prices, and at the same time medical and education prices go up, so I have a greatly expanded ability to buy toys, clothing, books, and cars, but a home and a hospital stay are further away, and so is the brass ring of enough of education so my sons can have a hope of staying near their grandparents, while I read of an “expanded economy” and the top 1% having their incomes expand more than 10x, while the bottom third has a bit less purchasing power than 40 years ago, and for three years in a row average lifespans go down in the republic I live in, while tent encampments spread.

            I can easily “imagine” that.

            Sorry, getting 4x the blue jeans but half the house (or less) just isn’t that impressive,

            Frankly extra taxation on upper incomes doesn’t even have to be redistributed to help, them just not being able to bid up housing as much would.

            There’s even more homeless with the “boom” than there was during the “bust”.

            As bad as they were the old public housing projects were better than tents, please raise taxes and bring back the projects.

            E.T.A.: (Yes, I’ve been alerted that many States other than California haven’t experienced this, but where I live and have grown up I clearly see that ‘a rising tide’ just doesn’t ‘lift all boats’, some are submerged).

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            Land is one of the few things they aren’t making any more of. So it is, of course, impossible for everyone to own twice as much land as they do now.

            But outside of major metro areas (I am aware you live in one), we’ve actually seen that the wealth gain I am talking about HAS happened in America. We’re far less equal than we were in the 60s, but everyone has far more wealth than they did then as well.

            As a fairly socially conservative guy, I’m in favor of things like restricting immigration and foreign land ownership in order to prevent those pressures on native Americans.

            Also, I note that I am in favor of policies to help those bottom third. What I am not in favor of is redistribution just to reduce a specific “inequality” number.

          • Ant says:

            Because in real life, inequality of power can spiral society in oblivion, and even before that inequality are bad for the economy. “Trinkle down economy don’t work” seems very consensual among economist.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @EC
            Actually my point in asking for programs to increase equality was because I know others favor more equality. I am in favor of “fair” income and wealth. That does mean equality of results for the effort made, but certainly not the same result for everyone. My original point was that I don’t think any government program will successfully achieve this, so I was asking SSC people if they thought government could achieve this in some manner. There has been a number of comments in this thread, but none to answer my question.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Deserving and undeserving in my mind are bad concepts, in my opinion.
      There are desirable and undesirable outcomes [and antecedent behaviors] that you want to encourage/discourage in the context of any scheme which rewards or penalizes other people.

      People mentioned ‘deserving/undeserving rich’ — No one is capable of deciding what their genetics or formative environment are, and in that sense, no one ultimately deserves good outcomes, bad outcomes, or even arguably equal outcomes.

      On the other hand, for any standard you set in how wealth gets redistributed (Market economies being one way and component of distributing income/wealth) is going to affect the quality of life indirectly of every other person. And while you can argue about genetic/enviromental determinism, there does appear to exist a kind of functional free will in that different external social/external/legal circumstances do affect how people behave.

      ‘Deserving/Undeserving’ in this context can be understood as whether distributions of income/wealth that work to a particular type of person’s favor generate ‘more of a good thing’ or ‘more of a bad thing’.

      It’s for reasons like this that i tend to cringe when people imply that if someone gets an education it means they merit a higher income or standard of living. Very little attention is paid to the value of the end-product.

      • Aapje says:

        I agree.

        Establishing a society where a hard-working musician whose music almost no one wants to listen to, gets as much income as a hard-working musician whose music makes many people happy, results in bad outcomes. The better outcome is to push the shitty musician into do a different job that makes other people happier, even if it is at the expense of his personal happiness a bit. On the societal level, we are better off when we push people into jobs that create great benefit for others. Even the shitty musician is usually going to be better off when we do this.

        Rewarding activity that make the lives of others better, means rewarding people for both their choices, but also for their luck.

        I don’t think that there is an alternative.

        • Deiseach says:

          The better outcome is to push the shitty musician into do a different job that makes other people happier, even if it is at the expense of his personal happiness a bit.

          Yeah, but culturally that means you end up with “everyone likes Thomas Kinkade art, and that’s the only art anyone ever gets to see, so it’s the only art they learn to have a taste for; meanwhile, you push the unsuccessful Van Gogh into becoming an office clerk because ‘sorry Vincent, it’s clear you don’t chime with public taste, nobody wants to buy your pictures, face reality – you’re just a shitty artist, go do something more useful that will earn you a living’. That is actually worse for society in the long term.

          Even Thomas Kinkade fell victim to this; he had a reasonable level of talent, was never going to be a major artist, but his popular soft-pastel cosy cottages sold like hotcakes so eventually he degenerated into a parody of himself, churning out product (or having others churn it out for him) and building an empire of tat.

          • Aapje says:

            How was Kinkade a victim? You yourself say that he never had the potential to make something that would appeal to the elite. He did have the talent to make works with mass appeal, which presumably made a lot of people happy. Seems like a happy outcome to me, for him and for the world.

            Note that his production-methods, for which he was derided by some, are actually very similar to those of many famous artists, like Rembrandt, who ran workshops where the pupils made paintings in a very similar style to the master or copies of his work, which could be sold for less money to those with less wealth.

            As for Van Gogh, you can of course always find exceptions. But the consequence of making a society with more people doing (currently and often permanently) underappreciated things, is that fewer people will do currently appreciated things. It seems unlikely that the relatively few people who whose works will become much appreciated, will make up for the people stop making currently appreciated things.

          • AG says:

            @Deiseach

            Culturally, what you end up with is where we’re headed now with online content, where it’s increasingly impossible to make a living making online content.
            And yet, there’s more content available than ever, because people are also still doing it as amateurs out of passion.

            This is orthogonal to the quality of the big winners of the online content lottery, too. The success of [insert Youtuber you don’t like here] doesn’t stop there from being a whole lot of Youtube videos you do like, made by people who don’t make a living on Youtube.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The better outcome is to push the shitty musician into do a different job that makes other people happier, even if it is at the expense of his personal happiness a bit.

          Is the counterfactual the shitty musician being subsidized or being poor?

          • Aapje says:

            If he’s poor, he either lacks other skills that other people like enough to pay for or he refuses to use his other skills.

            If he gets subsidized to make music, even though pretty much no one likes that music, and he can do a job that helps society quite a bit, then this is a poor outcome for society.

  26. eyeballfrog says:

    So in the comments to the recent billionaires post, there seem to be a hell of a lot of people saying that Amazon is a horrible employer that squeezes blood out of its workers.

    But I actually know people who work in Amazon distribution centers, including my brother-in-law. And they all think it’s a great place to work. My brother-in-law supports my sister and her two kids on his income alone and, while they don’t live like kings, they aren’t one flu away from bankruptcy. Part of this is Amazon’s benefits package, which has a strong healthcare plan and paid parental leave (not just maternity leave). He also says he does not have a problem with making quota, and although holiday seasons tend to require overtime hours, he does get paid for them and gets his vacation in the post-holiday lull.

    On the other hand, I can find no shortage of stories online about how horrible working conditions are in Amazon distribution centers. I realize there are problems with this methodology, but that still means there are competing claims about this. So which is it?

  27. j1000000 says:

    I’ve been thinking about books recently — I read quite a bit but mostly I just kind of read books and am done with them and move on. I’ve been thinking about the idea of “applied” reading, for serious lack of a better term.

    I’m curious about books that have “inspired” or helped SSC’ers. I guess I don’t really have any specific criteria — whether it’s someone reading The Secret in the obvious self-helpy way or Meditations in the ancient wisdom sort of way or Atlas Shrugged or even just something like reading Free to Choose and becoming an economist, just wondering if anyone here’s ever been truly inspired by a book.

    • Plumber says:

      Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford was good and it helped reconcile me to my job

      Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad was a good on courage, cowardice, snd redemption.

      The character of Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings was inspiring (not those pieces Aragorn and Frodo!)

      Samuel Vimes in many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels is also an inspiration as were Jim Casy and Tom Joad’s in Ty he Grapes of Wrath

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think Pratchett in general was incredibly important in the development of my moral sensibilities, and as such is by far the author who has most influenced my thinking.

    • dick says:

      Robert Anton Wilson’s early non-fiction, especially Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology, although what got me to read those was the Historical Illuminatus Trilogy, a fiction bildungsroman perfect for precocious teenagers. These books helped me internalize some concepts (the general inaccuracy of “is” as preached by Korzybski, the Moloch-ian impersonal evil of bureaucracy, and especially the idea that a lot of human behavior is hard-coded detritus from our plant and animal ancestors, which Wilson basically cribbed from Tim Leary’s 8-ciircuit brain model) that I still find valuable and think about twenty-odd years later.

  28. Ben Wōden says:

    So what’s up with wasps?

    When I was a child, there were always billions of the buggers around. I hated picnics pretty much entirely because of these asshats. I was pretty frightened of them back then and found it pretty impossible to enjoy food with several wasps constantly harrasing me, and there always seemed to be two or three about within a minute or two of sitting down to eat. Wasps seemed like an ever-present, and mildly vexation, fixture of life.

    Then, several years ago, it occured to me that I’d barely seen a wasp in years. I’m not sure exactly when the transition happened, but I think sometime between 2007 and 2012. I’m not sure if it was gradual or sudden. I just realised that I hadn’t had to remove one from a house in several years, hadn’t been stung for maybe a decade, and could quite happily eat outside any time of year and barely see one. In the summer of 2014 or maybe 2015, I got stung on the palm of the hand (while playing a Smite! tournament, which was pretty frustrating) and what struck me most of all was how horrendously unlucky that was. If I’d been stung by a wasp in 2004, I’d have barely thought anything of it. It would have been as ordinary as stubbing a toe.

    Last year, I started seeing wasps about in small numbers, which made me think about how little I’d seen them in the last decade. The, this summer rolled round, and suddenly they’re absolutely everywhere again! I’ve been eating my lunches outside a lot, and there are a couple around each day now, and yesterday there were three minimum throughout, to the point where it started to get annoying, like it was when I was a child.

    Has anyone else noticed this (the decline or the reversal)? Is it localised to the UK? To Reading? Did they never go away but I just stopped eating outside so much (seems unlikely)? Does it matter? Why does this happen? If my observations are representative of, say, the UK, the UK wasp population must have se-sawed across a range of two or more orders of magnitude. Is this normal? Is it anything to do with CCD or is that just bees? Any insect people have any enlightening information about this?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Yeah, this. Bugs are dying. Lots and lots of bugs are dying, and we don’t know what will happen because of it.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          One thing I noticed is The Windshield Phenomenon, that my father’s car used to get absolutely covered in bugs on the highway. Now I never see the distinctive yellow splat mark on anybody’s car window.

          And I thought. Oh! Of course. Cars have gotten more aerodynamic, how silly of me. The bugs just slide by or something.

          Then I recalled that my father’s greatest pride is just how long he had kept his car in working order, and there hadn’t been a switch until well after the yellow splats had vanished.

          • Dack says:

            My windshield doesn’t collect bug splats like I remember windshields from vehicles in the 90s collecting them. The vertical part of my bumper sure does though. But I only notice those when I wash the car (~1/week) versus every trip on the windshield in the 90s.

          • drunkfish says:

            Could this be related to driving habits? When I do urban highway 55-65 speeds, I get almost no bugs. When I spend a couple hours at 80 on an interstate, my windshield ends up caked with them.

            My impression is that the number of bug splats rises very rapidly with higher speeds(, which I’m guessing has to do with the boundary layer of air around the car getting too small to eject them before they crash).

          • JPNunez says:

            It seems it’s hard to say either way, cause (a) nobody really collected data about insects on the windshields ever before and (b) if there is an insect die off, it may not be regular geographically.

        • AG says:

          For me, it was ants. 7 years ago, I woke up to ants coming through the open window. I kept the windows closed for 5 years. This year, I’ve been able to keep them open with no issues.

          The flies and ants bothering my office at work have also mostly disappeared in the last couple of years.

          The odd thing is, where is all of that carbon going/gone? Is there an uptick in plant mass to account for what the insects aren’t eating?

      • Lambert says:

        My money’s on changing agricultural practises.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Perhaps the places you’ve lived have changed? My parents used to not have any wasps at their house. Then they got a pool, and now wasps are everywhere, apparently attracted by the pool. Did you move somewhere where the availability of water changed?

      • Ben Wōden says:

        I have moved from Cornwall, where I grew up, to Reading, which is much drier and more urban. However, I think the decline happened while I was still in Cornwall, my main haunt in Reading has been the university, which is right by a big lake and is very green, and the recent uptick that got me thinking has been in Reading.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I’ve been noticing a lot more hawks in recent years as well, buts that’s not a rigorous observation.

      Both could indicate reduced usage of pesticides.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Does this decline affect mosquitoes too, or there wasn’t much of them in the North America to begin with? By now I’ve lived one year in Pennsylvania and another in California and I don’t think I’ve ever been bitten by one.

      • FLWAB says:

        I can assure you North America has plenty of mosquitoes. They were plenty of a bother for me growing up in western Washington state, and now that I live in Alaska they’re even more of one. It felt like you couldn’t leave a cup of water outside for more than a day before it was filled with little twitchy mosquito larva! So no, there are plenty. I mean maybe there are less than there used to be, I don’t know.

      • bullseye says:

        I always got loads of mosquito bites as a kid in Georgia in the 80s, but hardly any in the 90s. At the time I figured I had somehow become less attractive to them.

        • Randy M says:

          This may in fact have been what happened; I rarely get many insect bites, but my kids seem to get a lot.
          Probably because I am in doors most of the time as an adult.

          • bullseye says:

            I was comparing summer camp as a child to the very same summer camp as a teenager, so the difference wasn’t time spent outdoors for me.

        • Nick says:

          Same here, except I was a kid in the early 2000s.

          I’m definitely outside less than I was then, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make up the difference.

    • Urstoff says:

      Wasps have always been present where I live, but the trend I’ve noticed the most over the last decade or so is a decline in mosquitoes and an increase in flies. I wonder if that has to do with the never-ending suburban development in my area.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Might; I wouldn’t be surprised if development codes require mosquito-mitigation measures.

        • johan_larson says:

          I think in the US that’s mostly done through tax-funded mosquito abatement districts. And they do work that matters. Malaria was a real problem in the south, well into the twentieth century, if I recall correctly. But no more.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I can confirm that this mirrors exactly my observations in Oxford (there was a chunk in the middle where I lived in London, but was still back in Oxford frequently). So it’s possible that the wasp resurgence at least is confined to the home counties, or to England or Britain as a whole, but I absolutely do think it’s real.

    • Algirdas Vėlyvis says:

      (A bit late with my reply…)

      I like eating my lunch outside summertime, so I think I have a fair idea on the abundance of wasps. Last few years in Toronto wasps have been fairly annoying, “billions of the buggers around” as you say.

      I moved to the fine town of Bracknell, UK, this April, and there are essentially no wasps here, all summer long. I think there was one buzzing around my pork chop yesterday, but both of my meals today were wasp-free.

  29. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In re Billionaire Philanthropy: were there any conclusions about how common the view is that billionaires shouldn’t get to do innovative philanthropy, they should be taxed instead?

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the view before I read Scott’s post– possibly at metafilter.com– but I’m not sure I’ve seen very much of it.

    • Randy M says:

      There was a lot of skepticism about Scott’s Twitter methodology, but no better polling data offered unless I missed it.

      • Nick says:

        It’s like I said in the comments—Twitter isn’t representative of the public at large, but it is representative of the journalistic class writing the thinkpieces to which Scott is responding.

        • Dan L says:

          it is representative of the journalistic class

          [citation desperately needed]

          Journalists are significantly over-represented on Twitter, true. They make up more than a hundredth of a percent of its userbase!

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder how that differs of you look at passive users vs active tweeters vs people who get retweeted often.

          • Nick says:

            Citation is “spending time on Twitter.” Seriously.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Randy M:

            There is a steelman to be made here that professional journalists are dramatically over-represented among specifically high-visibility users, but I don’t think it rises to the level of “representative”. It’s a different argument, and I’m not going to make it for anyone.

            @ Nick:

            Scott has previously written about how he built an ideological filter bubble entirely by accident, with p = 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001. I’m not randomly adding zeros or orders of magnitude – I really do want you to take a minute and recognize how damn strongly personal experience can be biased by selective association.

            Done thinking about it? Ok, good – now I want you to think about how bad it could get if there was profit motive in deliberately skewing what viewers saw.

    • benjdenny says:

      I definitely know people who would say “yes” if asked “should billionaires be taxed and not allowed to do billionaire philanthropy” but they are all the same kind of folks who would say “success should be limited to X sum I’m comfortable with that billionaires definitely exceed” so it’s sort of moot. I feel like even if you could find a data source that answered the first question, it would be misleading unless it also addressed the “we would hate anything you do and refuse to acknowledge any merit because you shouldn’t exist in the first place” folks.

    • AG says:

      The “billionaires should be taxed” specific approach is relatively recent, as hopes for other means of wealth redistribution (trickle down, margins whittled down by competition, margins returned to labor) increasingly diminished, as well as the increasing gap between the class that can significantly invest in and reap gains from the stock market and those who can’t (b/c of lack of means or lack of literacy).

  30. jgr314 says:

    This is old, but I just saw it and I don’t think it has been discussed on SSC in the past: The Sperminator.

    There are several things that puzzle me about this “job,” but the two main ones:
    (1) I am not attracted to Houben’s strategy, even though it seems reproductively optimal.
    (2) from a group perspective (soft eugenics?), this doesn’t seem like a person we would want to disproportionately reproduce.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      That’s very bizarre. I’m familiar with men who have had huge numbers of children through sperm donation, but I had thought that the idea of literally being paid to have sex with and impregnate other men’s wives was just a juvenile fantasy. Good work if you can get it, I guess.

      As for the eugenic concerns, while he’s photographed from an unflattering angle and was described as a bit of a loser the fact that he was a frequent sperm donor prior to this means that he’s already vaulted some hurdles in terms of height, educational attainment, and family medical history. They won’t take just anybody’s donation, it’s actually a fairly selective process. I probably wouldn’t necessarily mind living in a neighborhood of this guy’s kids, they might be a little creepy but would be able to function in civilized society.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m a bit surprised anyone is willing to do this. Unless there’s a lot of legal work going on they just don’t talk about in the article, this guy could face all sorts of demands for child support.

      • jgr314 says:

        He doesn’t seem to have any assets to seize, so I guess there’s no point.

        • johan_larson says:

          He has a job of some sort, so he has a (possibly rather modest) income stream. One of his baby mamas could come looking for that, although it may not be worth the trouble unless she really needs it.

    • metacelsus says:

      I once stumbled across the r/breeding [warning: highly NSFW] subreddit when someone linked it in a thread talking about pokemon. Let’s just say that some people are really into getting pregnant/getting partners pregnant.

    • Atlas says:

      See also this article about a CUNY math professor who has sired 20+ kids through DIY sperm donation.

      • metacelsus says:

        The first five women he worked with successfully sued him for child support, and nearly half of his paycheck is garnished for his offspring.

        Hmmmm, that’s a pretty good reason to not do something like this

    • Shion Arita says:

      (2) from a group perspective (soft eugenics?), this doesn’t seem like a person we would want to disproportionately reproduce.

      Why? He doesn’t appear to be physically or mentally impaired.

  31. Rock Lobster says:

    In U.S. history, the frontier has a lot of historiological significance as a driver of political and economic developments, particularly in contrast to those of Europe. For example the frontier is cited as a reason that socialist movements didn’t gain traction and that income inequality was lower in the U.S. than in Europe.

    Classical and pre-Classical Greece also had a frontier culture (I don’t know if that term is actually used), with many city-states setting up colonies along the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. Do modern scholars treat Mediterranean frontier culture similarly as a driver of political and economic trends such in the ancient Greco-sphere?

    • Machine Interface says:

      Europe did have a frontier: Siberia. The Russian conquest of Siberia has many similarities with the conquest of the western frontier in the US. Yet it yielded almost opposite results on the comparison points you mentionned.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Wasn’t Siberia a lot harsher than the American West?

        Also, Russian serfs were much more tied to their land than lower-class (white) Americans.

    • Eric Rall says:

      In a pre-industrial economy, having a frontier open for settlement has two big egalitarian effects, both following on from land making labor more productive (two peasants on two acres of land yields more harvest than the same two peasants both working one acre) and adding land temporarily breaks the Malthusian equilibrium (where the peasant population increases until marginal labor productivity reaches subsistence level, where peasants are making just enough (after rents, seed corn, etc) to maintain their population).

      The first is that labor productivity rises above subsistence level until the frontier is fully populated, increasing farmers’ (not necessarily peasants anymore, especially in the American context) economic, political, and social clout. The second is that land becomes less valuable, reducing the economic, political, and social clout of the landlord class.

      The US had the particular good luck that our frontier got smashed wide open a few decades before the start of the industrial revolution, giving a near-perfect window of temporary non-Maltheusian society that smoothly transitioned into the permanently post-Malthusian industrialized society. Effectively, the US had several decades’ head start on the rest of the world in terms of reorganizing society for a post-Maltheusian world. It also helped that we rebooted our institutions right around the same time.

  32. Bobobob says:

    So I’m reading Taylor Branch’s history of the civil rights movement–first installment, “Parting the Waters.” It’s uncomfortable stuff, and the only way I can psychologically process it is by imagining it happening long ago on some other planet.

    Branch does a superb job guiding readers through the Freedom Riders, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the development of Martin Luther King, among other topics. But one thing he never quite explains is *why* southern whites were so violently, hatefully, viscerally opposed to the idea of any civil rights at all for black people, including the right to vote, to the point of beating up and murdering protesters and blowing up churches. The chapter on James Meredith is unbelievable–there was almost another Civil War over the idea of letting a single black student into Ole Miss.

    Where did the blind rage come from? My guess is cognitive dissonance–something along the lines of “we enslaved these people and treated them like animals, if we admit they have rights then we have to recognize that we’re terrible people”–but that seems naive even as I type it. Was it a holdover from the Civil War? Lack of education or opportunity? Resentment of northerners? I don’t get it.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Where did the blind rage come from?

      Pretty much the same place any hatred for the outgroup comes from. Blacks were a highly visible outgroup to Southern whites, so using violence to keep them in “their place” is just standard human nature.

      Was it a holdover from the Civil War? Lack of education or opportunity? Resentment of northerners?

      Note that this is from the perspective of a white Southern Republican whose family have been Republicans since forever, so channeling unreconstructed Southern Democrats is a bit harder for me, but my understanding is that it was mostly the latter, a smidge of the former, with basically none of the middle.

      Remember that it was university students, not random lower-class people who were attacking Meredith, for example.

      People are more tribal than we’d like to believe, and a remote elite forcing a change of lifestyle is basically the best way to guarantee a backlash. For a modern vision, look at the riots in California when Trump came to speak there. It seems less “hateful” because it’s not about his race, but it’s the same thing. Young, educated men get furiously angry and riot because someone from their outgroup is doing something they don’t like.

      • Bobobob says:

        But northerners were only part of the story–M.L. King, Ralph Abernathy, the people who organized the Freedom Rides were all from the deep south. Did Mississippians resent the meddling of Georgians as much as they did the meddling of the Kennedys?

        It seems to me that the deep south’s visceral hatred of blacks preceded (but was aggravated by) its visceral hatred of northerners.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          But northerners were only part of the story–M.L. King, Ralph Abernathy, the people who organized the Freedom Rides were all from the deep south. Did Mississippians resent the meddling of Georgians as much as they did the meddling of the Kennedys?

          If Southerners resented the North for imposing emancipation on them, I think it makes perfect sense that they’d have even more resentment for Southerners who were (as they saw it) siding with their Northern oppressors. People who ought by rights to be part of the Ingroup but instead join the Outgroup are often hated even more than people who are simply the Outgroup.

    • Aapje says:

      Why was there so much animosity against blacks in Philadelphia, as noted by WEB Du Bois?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      the only way I can psychologically process it is by imagining it happening long ago on some other planet.

      I think you aren’t familiar enough with the broad scope of history, and perhaps not evolutionary biology. The hated other is a standard part of human history, repeated over and over. The oldest tales we tell frequently involve conquest and genocide. Recent examples of ethnic hatred abound, whether it’s Nazi Germany, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Rwanda, or even Myanmar today. These are by no means the only examples.

      This is a very uncomfortable fact, especially if you’ve grown up thinking that the world is just. Embracing morality while reckoning with the fundamental unfairness of reality is one of the hardest problems out there.

      But I also think you may be in the wrong comments section if you want an actual exploration of why this occurs. Too much of time will be spent in arguing whether it occurs, and whether it’s even bad, and why acknowledging it having occurred would be bad. Or people may just be too exhausted to even engage with the river of BS unless they are prodded by someone saying something outrageous.

      • EchoChaos says:

        But I also think you may be in the wrong comments section if you want an actual exploration of why this occurs. Too much of time will be spent in arguing whether it occurs, and whether it’s even bad, and why acknowledging it having occurred would be bad.

        Really? I am the most prolific Southerner here (I think) and I agreed that this occurred right away and discussed why it did.

        This seems overly pessimistic to me.

      • Bobobob says:

        Actually, I feel like I’ve already gotten some good explanations of why it occurred. I don’t think anyone here is arguing (or is likely to argue) that it *didn’t* occur the way the history books have it, or that the Ole Miss students were justified in behaving the way they did.

        It’s the irrational depth of the reaction that puzzles me. Didn’t it occur to any of the white segregationists in Alabama or Mississippi that if they gave some token ground, and didn’t reflexively start firebombing churches and lynching freedom riders, things might have worked out more to their advantage? (And yes, I know there were some reasonable white people from the south, without whom things would have been even worse.)

        • Hindsight is 20/20. The white segregationists used these kinds of tactics for a hundred years after the Civil War to great effect. They did all this to scare black people in to submission and also threatened more trouble if any one in power tried to push the issue. It wasn’t until around the 1960’s that anyone thought it was worth pushing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Yes. And of course, whilst there are cases where political factions tried to block much-needed change and ended up losing everything as a result, there are also cases where making concessions just emboldened the opposition and led to further change, and it’s not necessarily clear prae facto (or even post factum) whether a given situation is one of the former cases or one of the latter.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Didn’t it occur to any of the white segregationists in Alabama or Mississippi that if they gave some token ground, and didn’t reflexively start firebombing churches and lynching freedom riders, things might have worked out more to their advantage?

          Yes, it did occur to them. And note that the segregationists with ACTUAL POWER did work with them and give ground while working within the system.

          This is like asking people affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement why they didn’t stop a random crazy from shooting cops in Dallas. It doesn’t take a high percentage of violent crazies to create some pretty visible events.

          • Bobobob says:

            Point taken, but from what I’ve been reading about Alabama in the early ’60’s, a couple dozen or so nonviolent protesters would often wind up encountering a couple hundred or so screaming white people. That type of crowd seems more than “random” to me.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Bobobob

            You’re conflating counter-protesters with “violent crazies” here.

            Screaming people against something are standard normal political stuff. Googling will show you thousands of examples from the last year in virtually every country. You get it in Russia, the USA, France, etc.

            That is a totally different level than firebombing/lynching, which the segregationist governments went after hard and supported the Feds in going after.

            And for the good reason that such things were bad press for them if they wanted to maintain segregation.

          • Bobobob says:

            Okay, maybe not lynching or shooting, but shouting insults, throwing bottles, blocking peoples’ way, and acting in a generally intimidating manner. Which stood out all the more because the black protesters were usually passive and nonviolent. So I don’t think “counterprotesters” is quite the right word here.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Bobobob

            Why not? The black protesters using passive non-violence was an intentional decision on their part, of course, but loud, intimidating protesters are still protesters.

            It’s like saying that the gilets jaunes aren’t protesters because they block roads and do some property destruction.

            You’re playing a semantic game at this point, and it’s not particularly reasonable.

          • Bobobob says:

            I don’t think it’s a semantic game at all–it’s the crux of why the civil rights movement was successful. Waves after waves of TV and newspaper reports about relatively well-behaved black protesters being screamed at and worse by white counterprotesters (I will use your word). I wasn’t there, of course, but I don’t get the impression that the black protesters were all that “loud and intimidating” to white people, unless (as seems to be the case) those white people were extremely tightly wound.

            There was also an inequality built into the movement from the start. If the black protesters had started throwing bottles, the governor would scream “race riot!” and have an excuse to overreact. There were no such consequences for any white people, as far as I can tell.

          • Bobobob says:

            Sorry, I think I misread your comment–you were calling the white protesters “loud and intimidating.” Ignore that last part.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Bobobob

            You are mistaking my objection. The Civil Rights movement intentionally kept violent blacks out of the spotlight in favor of peaceful demonstrations as a PR tactic. It was a very good PR tactic that helped a lot in their success. I am not arguing that at all.

            What I am objecting to is your conflation of the anti-Civil Rights protesters who were loud (which was bad PR) with the violent fire-bombers and lynchers (who were actual criminals cracked down on). They are two different animals.

            To your second point, race riots were far more likely to happen in Northern cities than Southern.

            Edit to add: Saw your second comment. I think we’re on the same page now.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I am including Bull Connor in that. He specifically worked within the system to try to suppress Civil Rights. He did so violently, but within the law as it stood at the time. I am unaware of any laws he broke.

            Conflating the heavy-handed tactics of the legal segregationists with the firebombings and lynchings of the extra-legal is what I am discussing.

            I am not a white separatist and I have black family. Ad hominem is not terribly useful here.

          • dick says:

            Oh, and just so you know @Bobobob, you are having this conversation, IIRC, with an avowed white separatist.

            This seems a) like the dictionary definition of ad hominem, and b) kind of dickish to bring up, considering that EC got temp-banned for discussing it and hasn’t brought it up again since.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            1. If you have time to look up what I’ve said, you have time to report it accurately.

            2. Still an ad hominem.

            3. My views on the national character do not reflect my views on Southern integration. As I’ve pointed out before, I have black family and come from a Southern Republican family. We opposed the Southern Democrats of the time and their actions. I am not pro segregation now or then.

          • souleater says:

            oof.. This conversation puts EC in a very awkward position vis-a-vis the “no politics gag order” He probably feels like he can’t defend himself at all without risking permaban.

            Although, I’m not really sure if its an ad hominem to point out someone’s political philosophy in a kind, and accurate way.

            If I’m discussing limited government with someone and find out they’re proponents of religious theocracy.. I might just conclude our underlying values are vastly different, and a debate about it would be unfruitful.

          • Randy M says:

            Although, I’m not really sure if its an ad hominem to point out someone’s political philosophy in a kind, and accurate way.

            Ad hominem is not about tone, it is about relevance.
            Of course, you don’t have to formally disprove someone’s argument to decide you don’t want to engage with it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Excuse me, but how on earth is it an ad hominem to point out that someone has extreme views on race and power dynamics in a discussion about race and power dynamics?

            If we were talking about, say, environmental regulation, and I pointed out that Friedman was an anCap, would that also be ad hominem?

            He is making an argument that there is nothing wrong with what Bull Connors did for gosh sakes.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think there are three different discussions here:

            a. There were actual terrorist attacks. Those are always and everywhere the work of extreme outliers, though often with some level of acceptance or even turning-a-blind-eye type support from a larger subset of people.

            b. There were protests where a lot of angry people showed up to yell at (say) a little girl being sent to a white public school. This isn’t extreme-outlier stuff, but it was still surely the most fanatical few percent–most people in town weren’t protesting.

            c. There were a lot of people who were genuinely upset and angry about desegregation, and opposed it intensely. This seems weird as hell from most of our perspectives, and probably seems extra-weird when reading about Americans acting this way in living memory. If you read about intense anger/hatred in some issue involving people from another country and time, it probably seems less weird. Genuine widespread anger at lower castes mixing with upper castes in India would be no more reasonable by our values, but would probably seem less strange since it’s faraway foreigners with a very different religion and culture, rather than American Christians 60 years ago.

            I think the original post was trying to understand (c), more than (a) or (b). And I think the truth is that a lot of purity and tribal and group-status taboos live below the level of conscious thought, and are not really explicable in terms of logical reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @EchoChaos

            Bull Connor seems to have intentionally allowed violence against civil rights protestors to happen, by keeping back the police.

            I wouldn’t call that legal.

            @HeelBearCub

            You seem unable to distinguish between white separatism and white supremacy & between ‘Bull Connor didn’t break the law, but worked within the system’ and ‘Bull Connor did nothing wrong.’

            Your comments seem both very uncharitable and very ineffective, by evading the actual disagreements and/or by making accusations where you seem to lack comprehension.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aapje

            If Bull Connor did in fact break the law in that way, I wasn’t aware of it. I was discussing the Birmingham suppression of the march, which was entirely legal, although widely considered too harsh. That is what most people (including me) think of when they say “Bull Connor”.

            Note that Southerners were the ones who replaced him because we agreed that what he did was wrong.

            One of the problems that we have is there is no good word for “wrong, but entirely legal”, which describes most of the politicians in the South in the Civil Rights Era.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:
            The original question was:

            But one thing he never quite explains is *why* southern whites were so violently, hatefully, viscerally opposed to the idea of any civil rights at all for black people

            EchoChaos made a claim that it was only a few crazies, not officials, causing the issues:

            It doesn’t take a high percentage of violent crazies to create some pretty visible events.

            But Bull Connors isn’t that. He turned fire hoses and police dogs on the marchers.

            Yes there were a wide range of responses to the civil rights marchers in the South. There were plenty of moderate responses, even by pro-segregationists. But the idea that the hatred and violence and visceral reactions were somehow limited to a few crazy whites in some cult version of a Klavern simply isn’t true.

            The other thing that should be noted is that the moderate responses were mostly to talk about maybe doing something while actually not doing much at all.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You are misrepresenting my position. Again.

            That statement is specifically in response to “didn’t reflexively start firebombing churches and lynching freedom riders, things might have worked out more to their advantage?”

            Nobody in power was firebombing churches or lynching people. Some of them may have privately wanted it, but publicly they were working with the Feds to stop those things specifically for the reason Bobobob stated.

            In response to the original question on hatred, my response was: “Blacks were a highly visible outgroup to Southern whites, so using violence to keep them in “their place” is just standard human nature.”

            I didn’t say that was good, and in fact I don’t think it was.

            If you’re going to argue against me, please do so in good faith.

          • Bobobob says:

            To turn away from lynchings and firebombings for a moment, where on the spectrum of legality was it when a southern sheriff arrested Martin Luther King (or one of his associates) for “blocking the sidewalk” or “illegal assembly” or a minor traffic infringement?

            Would the selective enforcement of a law be considered strictly legal, either from the perspective of 1960’s Alabama or today? (For some reason, reading about civil rights, this kind of thing bothers me *more* than outright violence, maybe because I can see myself being one of those selectively prosecuted people.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Bobobob

            Legal and still widely used today, unfortunately.

            There are a LOT of laws and keeping all of them perfectly is basically impossible. It’s a common tactic for cops/sheriffs to harass people who are irritating them.

            Not always irritating politically either. If you or someone you know has lived in small town America, someone has a story of getting on the wrong side of a cop and meeting this kind of perfectly legal harassment.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub (& EchoChaos)

            According to the supreme court, the protesters were wrong to violate the law, rather than challenge it in court, which they could have.

            That doesn’t seem unreasonable, because even if a law is unconstitutional in part, that doesn’t mean that it is unconstitutional in whole. Violating the entire law doesn’t allow for the courts to strike parts of it, but uphold other parts. Furthermore, it is the courts who have the legal right to decide if a law is unconstitutional, not citizens or the executive. It seems unreasonable to argue that Connor (or any other member of the executive branch) is/was to blame for upholding an law that wasn’t declared to be unconstitutional by law.

            The civil rights protesters could have sought to have the law declared unconstitutional, but didn’t.

            In The Netherlands, (mass) protesters need to notify the mayor, who can then set limitations on the protest for reasons of peace and order & who can order an end to the protest (or even ban it) for the same reason. If protesters don’t notify the mayor, (s)he is allowed to end the protest right away, including by arresting people or by dispersing the crowd, which can mean using water cannons and dogs.

            It is not uncommon for the protesters to disagree with a mayoral decision and to go to court, who can then side with the protesters or with the mayor. This seems like a good remedy in civilized society.

          • dick says:

            Excuse me, but how on earth is it an ad hominem to point out that someone has extreme views on race and power dynamics in a discussion about race and power dynamics?

            Because it might cause readers to interpret his current comments less charitably and misrepresent them. Since you asked this, you have twice summarized him (“He is making an argument that there is nothing wrong with what Bull Connors did” and “the hatred and violence and visceral reactions were somehow limited to a few crazy whites”) in a way that he subsequently complained was an uncharitable misrepresentation. That’s either a very good illustration of why ad hominem is bad, or a hell of a coincidence.

          • JPNunez says:

            @aapje

            You seem unable to distinguish between white separatism and white supremacy

            There is no practical difference between them in an America that keeps concentration camps of immigrants from the south border.

          • Matt M says:

            It is not uncommon for the protesters to disagree with a mayoral decision and to go to court, who can then side with the protesters or with the mayor.

            This is where I remind you that the Unite The Right protest did this, and had a federal court order requiring the city of Charlottesville to allow them to stage their protest, which the mayor flagrantly violated, ordering the violent disruption of the protest and mass, wide-scale scattering of the various assembled groups, creating the conditions necessary for someone to be ran over in a crowded city street normally reserved for vehicle traffic.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            By the way, a strict construction of the First Amendment makes assembling a peaceful angry mob a Constitutional right.

            Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
            There are ways around this (see if it’s incompatible with the Founders’s demonstrated intent, “living Constitution”, Deconstructionism), but there it is.

          • Aapje says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Note that Dutch law explicitly doesn’t require a permit to demonstrate, to at least try to set a norm where people get to protest where and when they want.

            However, of course safety concerns can be abused to hamper protests unreasonably.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Didn’t it occur to any of the white segregationists in Alabama or Mississippi that if they gave some token ground, and didn’t reflexively start firebombing churches and lynching freedom riders, things might have worked out more to their advantage?

          It occurred to some. Back in Durham, NC, I visited a local history museum with some newspaper articles from the early 1950’s essentially saying, “Look at these black people suing over ‘separate-but-equal’; we’d better start making things actually ‘equal,’ or the Yankees might not let us have them ‘separate’ anymore.”

          Unfortunately for them, nobody listened to their prophecy until it came true.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            This goes in the category of interesting alternative history what-ifs, but one has to explain how doctrines like diseparate impact and judging quality by outcome wouldn’t eventually become the dominant method by which people judge these things. “Treating people the same” in this context has become reactionary.

            My guess is even if these governments took great pains to ensure that funding was equalized, any performance gaps would have eventually forced the ultimate historical outcome.

    • broblawsky says:

      Mudsill theory is also part of it. From the perspective of someone whose worldview is built around this, if the caste below you becomes elevated, that means that you’re being pushed down into their place. From the perspective of the Southern racist, race relations are a zero-sum game.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      The disgust response is a powerful thing. It lends a veneer of biological certainty to existing hatred. In the worst cases, it’s a feedback loop. It’s probably easier to boot up than it is to logic away. It’s certainly been a factor in the worst racists I’ve encountered.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Honestly, I suspect that it was a reaction to the upending of the social order. The just world fallacy is powerful, and the suggestion that things are actually kind of awful for the people you share the world with is often met with, “no, actually things are fine.” This isn’t the same as what you’re talking about, because it’s not about admitting you have done or are responsible for bad things. People really, really hate to believe that the institutions they’re familiar with are unjust or morally reprehensible.

    • Atlas says:

      Where did the blind rage come from? My guess is cognitive dissonance–something along the lines of “we enslaved these people and treated them like animals, if we admit they have rights then we have to recognize that we’re terrible people”–but that seems naive even as I type it. Was it a holdover from the Civil War? Lack of education or opportunity? Resentment of northerners? I don’t get it.

      That was probably a majority of it, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that white Southerners had no legitimate concerns about school integration or urban life. If you look at the race riots of the 1960s, you’ll notice that most of them—Watts, Newark, Harlem, Detroit, etc.— happened outside the South. The 1960s also—during a time of high economic growth and low unemployment, contra many people’s intuitions about poverty and crime— saw a massive spike in the rates of all violent crimes, which lasted until the 1990s. This obviously had extremely negative effects on cities like Detroit, New York City, Chicago and Oakland. As Barry Latzer notes in The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America, the uncomfortable truth is that you can’t look at this issue without considering the racial angle. Furthermore, as Raymond Wolters argued in Race and Education, 1954-2007, I don’t think that school integration was successful, because it was based on an incorrect understanding of the roots of differences in student achievement.

      To be clear, none of this is meant to justify the status quo circa 1960, which was very immoral even if one is an ethnic nationalist. However, I think these are nonetheless highly pertinent considerations in understanding American urban and racial politics that are conceptually absent in the minds of people who get their weltanschauung from reading The Atlantic and watching The Wire. Not wanting your family to be victimized by violent crime and not wanting your children to have to go to bad schools are real and reasonable concerns.

    • Read Sakai’s “Settlers: The Myth of the White Proletariat.” It’s all about protecting that sweet white labor aristocracy economic privilege.

  33. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I haven’t been watching the democratic debates, because I value my sanity, but literally everyone around me has been loudly blasting footage or analysis of the debate so I couldn’t avoid accidentally hearing some of it.

    So what’s the deal with Elizabeth Warren’s nuclear policy? When I (over)heard her speak it sounded like she was calling for a total renunciation of the use of nukes, even in retaliation to a nuclear attack. Analysis I read later described her position as “no first use” which solely allows for retaliatory strikes. If I understand the policy correctly, that means that the White House wouldn’t launch nukes even if Russia decided to invade Poland or North Korea decided to invade South Korea.

    We have at least one expert on nuclear strategy and a lot of both democrats and foreign policy wonks here, so can someone just confirm to me that this her actual policy? I have never had a very high opinion of Elizabeth Warren but if I’m understanding her position correctly it’s so plainly suicidal that I have trouble imagining anyone holding it even as pandering.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I don’t know if that’s her actual policy, but it IS the stated policy of the People’s Republic of China (the Republic of China has made no such promise).

      And, at risk of defending a Democrat, here goes.

      It isn’t suicidal and actually makes sense for the side with total tactical superiority to promise not to escalate to strategic unilaterally. In the Cold War, when it was plausible that the Soviets could overrun a large part of Germany or even some of France/the Low Countries before the United States could come to bear, threatening to be the first to strike made sense.

      But the United States is a massive favorite in any conventional war with the Russians right now (and especially against the Norks). Making sure such a war doesn’t go nuclear protects the American people, who are only at risk if it goes nuclear, while not affecting our chance of winning much or at all.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        the Republic of China has made no such promise

        This may be pedantic but that promise would be completely meaningless coming from Taiwan, because they aren’t a nuclear power. It would be like the US publicly promising not to deploy Yetis in Afghanistan: confusing and vaguely suspicious.

        But the United States is a massive favorite in any conventional war with the Russians right now (and especially against the Norks). Making sure such a war doesn’t go nuclear protects the American people, who are only at risk if it goes nuclear, while not affecting our chance of winning much or at all.

        This is where I step way outside of my area of expertise, but if I were trying to invade a neighbor defended by the US military my plan would not be to win tank battles but to dig in and exhaust the US public until America withdraws. There’s a reason why North Vietnam is just called Vietnam while North Korea is still North Korea.

        Nuclear weapons change that math. If the US would win the war in two hours instead of two decades, the weakness of the American people becomes irrelevant as a factor.

        • EchoChaos says:

          This may be pedantic but that promise would be completely meaningless coming from Taiwan, because they aren’t a nuclear power.

          Is joke. You may laugh.

          This is where I step way outside of my area of expertise, but if I were trying to invade a neighbor defended by the US military my plan would not be to win tank battles but to dig in and exhaust the US public until America withdraws.

          The United States public is basically irrelevant when it comes to blowing apart an actual occupying military, as opposed to doing an occupation ourselves. The last two wars we’ve fought against real militaries have ended in days to months, not until withdrawal. Remember if we’re talking about the Russians invading Poland or North occupying South that we need to drive them out, not occupy Poland or South Korea in the face of resistance.

          Edited to add: You are basically describing Saddam’s tactic to take Kuwait. It is not exactly remembered as something that was a challenge for the United States to do.

          Freeing a country is really different from supporting an unpopular government against a more popular mass movement.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Is joke.

            Right, sorry. I haven’t been sleeping well lately so my sense of humor is a bit dulled.

            The last two wars we’ve fought against real militaries have ended in days to months, not until withdrawal. Remember if we’re talking about the Russians invading Poland or North occupying South that we need to drive them out, not occupy Poland or South Korea in the face of resistance.

            I don’t think that we can take it as a given that a war with Russia or North Korea could be won in “days to months.” The last two wars the US fought against a country with a real military were both against Iraq, which is really not a good basis for comparison.

            I also don’t think that we can assume that there won’t be an element of unconventional war like in Vietnam. Poland and South Korea may be bad examples in that sense, but consider an invasion of other NATO members like Estonia or Latvia. Given Russia’s M.O. in past invasions we should expect to face a mixture of Russian-backed insurgents and little green men in addition to uniformed Russian troops.

          • Watchman says:

            But the point here is that liberation of the invaded territory will be easily achieved conventionally. Russian-backed insurgents might remain an issue but would have minimal support and probably no ability to hold territory. And note that insurgents haven’t won a war against a NATO power since Vietnam (the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are still there…), so asymmetric warfare may be less effective than generally believed.

        • Anthony says:

          This may be pedantic but that promise would be completely meaningless coming from Taiwan, because they aren’t a nuclear power.

          That we know of.

          Admittedly, it would be hard even for Taiwan to develop nuclear weapons in secret, but there’s a pretty strong incentive for them to develop enough to break the first wave of a mainland invasion.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Russia is not the Warsaw Pact. The EU absorbed all the most densely populated parts of that alliance, and since then, the bits it absorbed have been doing rather better than Russia. The union has something like 13 times the industrial output of Russia, and this shows in balance of forces. Air superiority, in particular is just laughably lop-sided.

          And for the Union, it would be a war of survival. Everyone would conclude the intent was to salami their way to the atlantic seaboard, so all fucking in now, and have the war on the baltic plain, which is what the european forcestructure and logistic chain was built for.

          You know what you call a combined arms offensive into hostile ground where the enemy outnumbers you, is better trained, has better weapons, owns the skies, and is going to drown you in materiel (due to having an order of magnitude more industry) if the war takes more than a couple of months? “Suicide”.

          The only way for Russia to win a conventional war with an EU member would be for the US to join in on the Russian side.

          Short of that, the outcome is going to be Putin having to threaten nuclear war to stop the French taking Moscow. Again. While the Donbass suddenly gets occupied by italians.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            The EU is indeed much wealthier than Russia, but it is also composed of some of the most militarily unprepared countries in the world. Only six EU counties currently meet NATOs minimum spending requirements and has regular embarrassments like German troops using broom handles in place of machine guns during war games exercises because they simply don’t have enough real guns.. And they’re about to lose the most serious military power in Europe due to Brexit.

            The EU’s only plausible defense plan right now is to beg Uncle Sam to bail them out. As long as NATO still exists, that plan is viable. But it means that the cost of defending Europe, both in lives and dollars, is almost entirely borne by the United States.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            That is a common talking point. It is wrong.

            Again, Russia is not the warsaw pact. It has about half a million active duty personnel. The EU combined force strength is three times that, EU gear is better (if you think the german scandals are bad, what do you think Russias procurement looks like?) I am not saying its impossible Russia would try this – the south did, after all, bomb fort Sumter, so “This is a sure fire way to suffer humiliating defeat” is not a guarantee something wont happen.

            But they would loose a conventional conflict really, really badly. There is a reason europe cheapskates on the military. We can count. The army we have is overkill for fending off all plausible enemies. Why spend more?

          • ana53294 says:

            Just the country of France spends more on the military than Russia.

            The issue why we’re America’s bitch is not so much military spending, as lack of political priorities. While political priorities usually come with money, money alone won’t solve those problems.

            Our soldiers are fat, old, and unprepared; while we can bomb Russian occupied Baltic countries to oblivion, the logistics of carrying tanks and soldiers there are not ready. We also bicker and spend billions on stupid stuff for the army (such as the two billion euros the Spanish government spend on developing changes to Leopard tanks; it’s unclear how much of it was useful).

            The EU doesn’t need to spend that much more money. It needs to prioritize training, stop treating its armies as places that solve unemployment (old soldiers should retire, and younger ones hired; serious commitment to training, and firing people who are unfit).

            I think there is a lot that can be done to improve our armies while not increasing budgets, although budgets should be increased. Increasing budgets without first implementing a lot of the efficiency measures (fire lots of unfit old soldiers) will not give us a better army.

            @ Thomas Jorgensen

            I don’t doubt that Russia would be unable to occupy Poland, much less Germany.

            But Russia can occupy the Baltics, or at least make the Baltics unlivable.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            Keeping older soldiers around is actually a pretty good ‘cheapskate’ strategy for a defense-oriented army. When a serious war breaks out, you promote most current soldiers to sergeants and have them train newly enlisted/drafted soldiers.

            Scaling up is a lot easier this way than by constantly refreshing your soldiers, where these are more combat-capable, but less capable of training others.

          • Randy M says:

            we also bicker and spend billions on stupid stuff for the army

            The way we get around the military spending money on stupid stuff is to give them so much money some of it will be well spent just by chance if nothing else.

          • bean says:

            But they would loose a conventional conflict really, really badly. There is a reason europe cheapskates on the military. We can count. The army we have is overkill for fending off all plausible enemies. Why spend more?

            Because it’s not overkill? I get the economic argument against the Russian threat. It’s not wrong, or it wouldn’t be if you guys were actually trying. But a lot of that money goes to what is basically corporate welfare. Europe as a whole has a lot more types of weapons than the US does, on a much smaller budget, and while some of those weapons are very good, a lot of them are superfluous. (The US isn’t immune to this, but the sheer scale of our military makes us a lot more resistant to it.)

            There’s also nonsense like the state of the Bundesweher, which seems like it would lose a war with my old Boy Scout troop. Economics may win wars in the long run. But wars don’t always last that long, and in the first days, morale, training, and general competence matter a lot more. How many Europeans are you willing to see die to protect the Baltics? And is that number more or less than the number the Russians are likely to kill if they invade?

            (It’s also worth pointing out the logistics situation. NATO can’t deploy nearly as many troops to the Baltics as you might think.)

          • ana53294 says:

            (It’s also worth pointing out the logistics situation. NATO can’t deploy nearly as many troops to the Baltics as you might think.)

            I’m pretty sure Spain would have as hard a time as the US to deploy troops to the Baltics. Harder, actually, since we have a smaller navy.

            Trains would have to change gauge in the French border, and I think again in Poland? Most roads are not useful at all in transporting tanks, because many bridges are not capable of withstanding that weight, and where would we get all those trucks that can carry the tanks?

            Europe as a whole has a lot more types of weapons than the US does, on a much smaller budget, and while some of those weapons are very good, a lot of them are superfluous.

            While I think an EU army is a stupid idea, a unified EU army logistics plan would make a lot of things massively cheaper, such as developing one tank for the whole of Europe (something that can be carried over European roads), instead of each country developing their own weapons. A European Defense Research Institute would probably achieve more things.

            So, each country would train its soldiers on its own, and have their own ranks and whatnot. But they would use the same models planes, tanks, guns, and ships. This way, in a hypothetical war, a Spanish tank does not have to wait for the parts from Spain, but they can get the parts from Poland or Germany.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            In the short term “We have 3x the soldiers” tends to be pretty decisive.

            Look, there are good reasons to do military reform in the EU. Ana is correct that it is just daft that we do not have unified procurement, for example. But those reasons are that it is a good idea to fix these things in and off themselves, not that we should be clutching our pearls in fear of the Russian hordes.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            My understanding is that such things only matter in the long term, not the short.

            In the short term, a smaller but better trained and equipped army can achieve substantial success. Sometimes, but not always, enough to win the war.

            In the long term, industry, population and logistics are king.

          • cassander says:

            @ana53294 says:

            I’m pretty sure Spain would have as hard a time as the US to deploy troops to the Baltics. Harder, actually, since we have a smaller navy.

            Definitely much harder. the EU wasn’t capable of doing the libya intervention without serious support from US ISR assets and tankers, and that was orchestrated largely out of Italy and France and involved no ground troops.

            While I think an EU army is a stupid idea, a unified EU army logistics plan would make a lot of things massively cheaper, such as developing one tank for the whole of Europe (something that can be carried over European roads), instead of each country developing their own weapons. A European Defense Research Institute would probably achieve more things.

            You can’t really have those things without a unified army. Different armies are going to have different doctrines and organizations that call for different equipment. And even if you can get on the same page in terms of what is desirable, when you bought your current equipment is going to strongly shape what your needs are coming down the line. Unless you have a unified army (which I agree will never happen) you’re never going to get unified equipment beyond the level that NATO is at today.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The Russian army is not better trained and equipped. FFS. Read what you are typing. Now stop, and consider.

            Training costs money. Russia skimps on this! They maintain a small subset of their forces at a high level of training, but the bulk of that half million men? Not Spetsnaz.

            The cold war is over. Russia is not the warsaw pact. This appears to be hard to grasp, but really now, do you really think Russia – petro-state and kleptocracy is the modern Prussia in terms of training, doctrine and procurement?

            Or are you just ragging on europe because that is what you, as a somewhat rightwing american is supposed to do?

            Russia is straining its economy at the seams to sustain the forces it has, and they are inferior to existing european forces in every single respect, and in an actual conflict, europe can raise one heck of a lot more soldiers. Russia cant really afford to equip the ones it has.

            In conventional terms, the party who should be concerned is Russia, not the EU. (and “Oh my god, we are about to be ground to dust under a EU boot” being a strategic fear would actually explain a lot of Russian actions…) except, of course, the EU could never politically agree to embark on a war of conquest. Defense, sure, but offense?… pfhfhththt.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            I agree with this, I just think that the logistics and the vulnerable position of the Baltics make it very hard to defend the Baltics or retake them without destroying much of the Baltics.

            A Russian friend who could not avoid the draft so he ended up serving (although his family did bribe somebody so he did not end up in a unit where they abused soldiers) told me they got to fire live ammo twice, back when military service was two years. I asked him if he at least got any training in self defense and fighting, and he told me that other than a few drills, they mostly spent time digging ditches and being bored out of their minds.

            From what I’ve been told by people who for one reason or another could not avoid the draft, they don’t seem to train anybody but the permanent staff.

            So Russian drafted soldiers don’t count, other than bodies than can be piled up under tanks, and AFAIU modern weapons mean that piling bodies is not a very useful strategy.

            Having better trained armies would mean that fewer soldiers will die while we kick out the Russians, we can flip the finger at the Americans when they get arrogant, and in prevent Russians getting any ideas in the first place.

          • bean says:

            In the short term “We have 3x the soldiers” tends to be pretty decisive.

            It would, if you actually did. But you don’t. Russia’s total armed forces are approximately a million men active. (Twice that in reserve, but I’m not going to count that.) Germany, France and the UK between them have maybe 60% of that, and they’re the top three in Europe on the list. All told, it’s probably fairly even in terms of personnel strength, but when you start to work in deployment numbers, things shift in Russia’s favor very fast.

            Yes, the Russian armed forces have serious structural issues. These go back centuries. That hasn’t stopped them from being formidable over those same centuries. I certainly wouldn’t be so quick to write them off, or to use it to excuse the serious structural issues that have infected a lot of European armies over the last 20 years.

    • Incurian says:

      I recommend this book if you want to learn more on the topic: https://smile.amazon.com/Strategy-Conflict-New-Preface-Author/dp/0674840313/

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Warren is endorsing an explicit No First Use policy, not a no use policy. She also is questioning the development of newer, low-yield nuclear weapons (think Bunker Busters).

    • bean says:

      There are reasons the US has historically not adopted a “no first use” policy, and they probably still hold. Essentially, “no first use” was a diplomatic tool for the Soviets. They probably had the strength to win a war with NATO by conventional means. In that case, they don’t want nukes being used. NATO survived because the Soviets weren’t sure we wouldn’t take any war nuclear. We’re in a fairly similar situation with China today. No First Use is probably in their interest because it raises their chances in a war. Giving the same guarantee is going to increase the chance of such a war happening. This is a bad thing.

      • EchoChaos says:

        We’re in a fairly similar situation with China today.

        I am not sure we are for at least a generation. Our navy is too superior to theirs and all the wars we are concerned about require sea control.

        After that, you’re probably correct.

        • bean says:

          The situation is a little different, but the same logic holds. If China invades Taiwan or something like that, we’re going to have trouble dealing with it. They’re close to home. We aren’t. And their navy is getting better very fast. Depending on how things shake out, a decade or two from now we could be facing a situation where we can’t be sure we’d win such a war at a reasonable price.

          • ana53294 says:

            I have seen articles that Taiwan could actually defend itself – or at least China taking over Taiwan in a conquest is not a fast straightforward thing.

            Surely, if Taiwan gets attacked, and they are able to hold for a week, the US can deploy enough of an army to defend Taiwan? Also, the kind of deployment China would need to fight such a war would be visible to the US intelligence, so the US could have most of its Navy in the South China sea.

          • Protagoras says:

            But China keeps getting stronger. The trend in Chinese economic growth obviously can’t go on forever, but people have been predicting it slowing down for a while now, and so far it doesn’t seem to have (though Chinese statistics are, of course, always questionable). If it does not slow down in the next decade or two, China will soon be able to afford to outspend the U.S., in addition to of course always having the vastly greater manpower. The technological gap is also shrinking, and is obviously something that is likely to continue to shrink (or flip over to a Chinese advantage!) if the economic situation continues to improve for China.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @bean

            My understanding tracks with ana53294’s article, which is that an invasion of Taiwan would be a brutally costly gamble. Two decades from now, sure, that’s a different problem, but that’s next generation.

            To be clear, I am not a fan of a “No first strike” doctrine, but I don’t think it’s a meaningful increase in the chance of an invasion of Taiwan.

          • bean says:

            Taiwan is an example case, not the only possible one. A serious war with Japan or the Philippines would also be on the list of “very bad, maybe not winnable, start thinking about the nukes.”

            Also, the kind of deployment China would need to fight such a war would be visible to the US intelligence, so the US could have most of its Navy in the South China sea.

            A lot of ships, yes, but remember that we have worldwide commitments and a fleet to keep running. Right now, a third of our ships are actually deployed at any given time. (Yes, I know about the 7th Fleet, but if you do too, you know why that’s not as comforting as it should be.) Another third could probably deploy on pretty short notice, but we’re talking weeks to months to get into the fight. The last third are mostly in the yard, and it will take a lot of time to get them out. At best, we could have maybe a quarter of our Navy on station promptly.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @bean

            Japan is even less winnable than Taiwan for the non-nuclear Chinese. The Philippines are on the verge of plausible for them, I suppose.

            Our naval superiority has absolutely eroded relative to our “sail two carriers to the Straits middle finger” total superiority in the 90s, but we are at least a generation (20 years) out from China for sure winning a war in their near sphere of influence.

            And if we degrade to that level of near-peer, Japan won’t take that lying down.

          • souleater says:

            ana53294’s article made the claim that we would have about 60 days advance notice of any Chinese military buildup along the strait. I imagine that would be sufficient time to move out battleships into position.

            A hyper realistic video game detailing a hypothetical Sino-Taiwanese war would be interesting (if unprofitable) to develop. I imagine it would be good for taiwanese moral to see plausible defensive scenarios.

          • bean says:

            Japan is even less winnable than Taiwan for the non-nuclear Chinese. The Philippines are on the verge of plausible for them, I suppose.

            I’m not talking about an invasion of the Japanese mainland. That’s not really plausible. But the South China Sea has the potential to get very hot, and publicly committing to “we won’t use nukes if you don’t” makes it more likely, because there’s a decent chance they’ll be able to win a war there, or think they can. Even (or particularly) if it’s a war over a few minor islands.

            I imagine that would be sufficient time to move out battleships into position.

            60 days will get a lot of ships, but I’d be surprised if it was more than a third of our fleet strength, and some of that will be pretty green. Also, none of them will be battleships.

            A hyper realistic video game detailing a hypothetical Sino-Taiwanese war would be interesting (if unprofitable) to develop. I imagine it would be good for taiwanese moral to see plausible defensive scenarios.

            That’s what CMANO is for, and I’m sure there’s a scenario for that.

          • mendax says:

            GMT’s Next War series has a game on that.

            The military had some fun with it, looks like.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yes, I know about the 7th Fleet, but if you do too, you know why that’s not as comforting as it should be.

            You’re making me nervous here. You’re not usually this coy.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re making me nervous here. You’re not usually this coy.

            The Seventh Fleet’s Problems.

            TL, DR: Top brass concluded that since the 7th Fleet had X ships deployed in a critical area of operations, they could always assign X ships to operational missions. This resulted in approximately (X-X=0) ships undergoing maintenance and/or training, and sailors undergoing extreme sleep deprivation as they tried to sneak in critical maintenance and training on their off hours. Cue American warships literally running into civilian tankers and freighters minding their own business because the surface navigation radar hasn’t worked in three years and the lookouts haven’t slept in three days, etc.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            The Seventh Fleet’s Problems

            Aha. Thanks.

      • Atlas says:

        They probably had the strength to win a war with NATO by conventional means.

        Is this a consensus view among military analysts? Without knowing much about the specifics of hardware or military sizes, my “view from 10,000 ft.” speculation would be that NATO would win a conventional conflict with the USSR, if that conflict that was a Soviet invasion of Western Europe and NATO’s aim was limited to expelling the invaders. (I hasten to note that nothing I have seen in the historical or documentary record suggests to me that the Soviet Union seriously considered doing this.)

        Firstly, defense is consistently tactically and strategically easier than offense. Of course, enough of an advantage in population/industrial capacity can still be decisive, but the US, the UK, France and (at that time West) Germany, plus various smaller European countries, would seem to me to have comparable total population, and, judging from Barry Eichengreen’s economic history of Europe, greater total economic/industrial capacity than the USSR and its allies. That might not tell you much about the initial stages of the conflict, but it seems to me that the 20th century suggests that the wealthier/more populous coalition in a conventional war tends to have an advantage that grows as the war drags on.

        Relatedly, my impression from reading about the Korean and Vietnam Wars—and I eagerly welcome the corrections/additions of more knowledgeable commenters— is that the US tended to have better aircraft than the USSR. (Possibly the Arab-Israeli conflicts, like the 1982 “turkey shoot,” are relevant here.) Therefore, my guess would be that NATO would ultimately gain air superiority, at least over its own territories, in a conflict with the USSR. I would further conjecture that a NATO advantage in airpower would ultimately be more valuable than and overcome a Soviet advantage in armor/infantry.

        Furthermore, the Soviets would have to worry about resistance and nationalist movements in both previously occupied and newly conquered territory. Operation Gladio suggests that NATO planners were aware of the potential of such methods and would have eagerly exploited them in a conflict. You could certainly fairly point to the dismal inefficacy of CIA/MI6 operations in the Baltic states, Ukraine and Albania in the early post-WW2 period as a counterexample. However, I think you’d have to consider that US support for anti-Soviet resistance was often limited in scope and nature due to (rational and wise) fear of escalation, as in e.g. Hungary in 1956, or even to some extent Afghanistan in the 1980s. In the case of a large scale conventional conflict, there would be no such limitations, and the CIA would be free to deliver as lethal weaponry in as large quantities as it could figure out how to transport to anti-Soviet resistance forces. I would say that the 20th century record of armies fighting counter-insurgency campaigns in foreign countries suggests that guerrillas tend to be much, much more trouble to deal with than is initially suspected by occupying armies. Guerrillas aren’t going to defeat the Red Army by themselves, but they’re going to make fighting NATO at the same time a lot harder.

        In that case, they don’t want nukes being used. NATO survived because the Soviets weren’t sure we wouldn’t take any war nuclear.

        I read a bit about this controversy in HW Brands’ Cold War book and some of Steve Sailer’s writings, and (somewhat separate from the no first use issue) the obvious question about it to me seemed: Why not let (more) European states develop their own nuclear deterrents and thus obviate the potentially very dangerous uncertainty about whether or not the US would go nuclear in response to a Soviet invasion? And, if the Europeans don’t want to use nukes in their own defense, fair enough, but then why should we?

    • John Schilling says:

      “No first use [of nuclear weapons]” policies are not really credible for anyone, to anyone. If e.g. Russia launches a large salvo of missiles loaded with VX and Novichok agents at CONUS targets, killing a few million people and crippling the US military logistics system, we’re nuking Russia no matter what promises POTUS Warren may have made, and everyone knows it. What is the alternative? We don’t have chemical weapons of our own, and we just hypothetically lost the ability to deploy new ones. We’re not going to settle for launching a few token salvos of cruise missiles and then declaring economic sanctions. We can’t invade and conquer Russia with just conventional weapons and with our logistics crippled. Moscow’s gonna glow. Well, something in Russia gets a dose of instant sunshine, and something both important and populous enough that everyone will clearly understand that Moscow is high on the list of places scheduled for a nuking.

      By the same token, Russia (and China, and everyone else) knows that if the CONUS logistics base isn’t crippled, the United States eventually can defeat them using precision-guided conventional weapons alone – and that their strategic nuclear forces would be decimated very early in that conflict. If we were to embark on that path, they’re not going to say “Well, technically you’re not using nuclear weapons, so we’ll let ourselves be first disarmed and then conquered if that’s what you’re after”.

      Nor is there any real value in trying to make pedantially precise and literal statements like “We commit never to use nuclear weapons, unless we are attacked with nuclear weapons (but maybe nuclear ASW depth charges are OK), or with chemical biological or radiological weapons against targets in urban areas or by more than X number of precision-guided weapons against strategic targets in our homeland (see appendix B2 for definiton of “strategic targets” and B3 for list of territories we consider “homeland”) or by weaponized autonomous AI…” and so on. By the time any such pedantry would be tested and adjudicated, you’re at war, and the kind of war were “Aha! You violated section III clause 2.1 of your pledge, so you have to surrender now!” is going to be laughed at.

      No First Use pledges are mostly propaganda, with a side order of negotiation value. They are basically a precommitment to not engage in or openly prepare for the sort of high-intensity conflict where nuclear weapons would offer a decisive edge, on penalty of being broadly recognized as The Lying Cheating Mass-Murdering Bad Guys. But if this sometimes has value, it is a decidedly asymmetric value. Most useful for parties whose strategies involve a long period of low-intensity conflict, and keeping their high-intensity warfighting preparations under tight control rather than sharing plans with allies, and maybe scoring enough underdog points that you’ll not be counted as The Bad Guys even if you do nuke first. Also favorable to people who already are recognized as The Bad Guys, in that it makes them look slightly less bad until it no longer matters what anyone thinks of them.

      The United States, past and present, has not found this propaganda/negotiating strategy to be useful, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. It would be one thing if Warren were to articulate a coherent grand strategy in which a US no-first-use pledge would be sensible, but just unilaterally saying “We should promise to be the Good Guys who never nuke anybody first” isn’t it.

      • Randy M says:

        Well put John.

        No First Use pledges are mostly propaganda, with a side order of negotiation value.

        Diplomatic capital is only valid if you are around to spend it. Everyone knows “we won’t nuke first” has an unstated “unless” which basically invalidates the preceding clause for all practical purposes.

        Which isn’t to say that there isn’t some variation at the point where various potential presidents would flip the nuclear switch–but unless we get to those points, I doubt any of them could, would, or should articulate precisely where they are.

      • Dan L says:

        If e.g. Russia launches a large salvo of missiles loaded with VX and Novichok agents at CONUS targets, killing a few million people and crippling the US military logistics system, we’re nuking Russia no matter what promises POTUS Warren may have made, and everyone knows it.

        Minor clarification – if Russia launches a large salvo of missiles at strategic targets within the US, we’re almost certainly not going to wait long enough to find out what the payload is before nukes start flying in return. The fact that anything resembling a nuclear first strike must be treated as such is one of the big limits on conventional use of ballistic missiles. No promise is going to be strong enough to change that.

        • John Schilling says:

          Minor clarification – if Russia launches a large salvo of missiles at strategic targets within the US, we’re almost certainly not going to wait long enough to find out what the payload is before nukes start flying in return.

          Actually, we probably are. This is one of those things where, like “no first use”, the US deliberately cultivates uncertainty in order to confound any plans an enemy may make. But our actual plans probably have been and continue to be to ride out a first strike and launch when the dust clears and we understand the situation better. And Russia’s plans are very likely the same.

          • bean says:

            Really? This contradicts basically everything I know on the subject. Particularly because it basically sacrifices the ICBM force.

          • JPNunez says:

            That’s why nuclear powers like having submarines with nukes. So they don’t get taken out of action if they get struck first.

          • John Schilling says:

            Particularly because it basically sacrifices the ICBM force.

            It might sacrifice most of the ICBM force; it is a statistical near-impossibility to lose the entire force to a first strike.

            The United States didn’t build a thousand ICBMs because we felt we actually needed a thousand missiles with two thousand thermonuclear warheads to annihilate the Soviet Union. And we didn’t put them in dispersed hardened silos as a subsidy to the concrete industry. If the USSR destroys eight hundred of our missiles on the ground in a first strike, they still lose absolutely. If destroying 80% of our ICBMs on the ground required their committing 85% of their ICBMs to a massively redundant first strike, they lose both absolutely and relatively. But if we launch missiles based on a blip on a radar screen and later decide that was a mistake, then we lose absolutely.

            As JPNunez notes, there are the submarines, and the bombers on airborne alert. Also note that basically nobody has built any new ICBM silos since the broad deployment of PGMs; the focus has shifted to mobile missiles and precisely because they are even harder than silo-based ICBMs to destroy in a first strike.

            If we’d seriously planned to nuke Moscow as soon as our satellites and/or radar gave clear indication of an attack, we’d have told them that. And there would have been no clearer way to tell them that than to save a few billion dollars on hypothetically useless concrete and put a wing of Minuteman missiles on open pads.

          • bean says:

            There’s plenty of space between “launch as soon as we have a blip on the radar that might be a missile” and “launch when all of our sensors have very credible detections of a major inbound Russian salvo.”

            The United States didn’t build a thousand ICBMs because we felt we actually needed a thousand missiles with two thousand thermonuclear warheads to annihilate the Soviet Union.

            You’re right. We needed a lot more than that.
            Also note that the ICBM silos all date back to the 60s, when the accuracy/yield tradeoff meant that silos were reasonably survivable. Why we’re preparing to buy a new missile for them is another issue entirely.

            As JPNunez notes, there are the submarines, and the bombers on airborne alert.

            Submarines, yes. But airborne alert ended in the late 60s and the bomber force is very much not set up for it today.

          • Dan L says:

            I’m quite confident that the massive retaliation doctrine was designed with the assumption that any Russian first strike would have a significant counterforce component at least into the 70s, and that the primary (but not only) way of combating this was for missiles to be in the air before they could be destroyed. The selective escalation that followed was more complicated, but as Bean says – it’s going to depend a lot depending on what the contact looks like.

            But uncertainty about uncertainty is still uncertainty, and the main point definitely holds – the US doesn’t really benefit from making promises about its strategic doctrine, especially when they aren’t really believable.

    • FormerRanger says:

      If you look at the sort of adventures that are most likely to happen among the superpowers in the near future, we have (a) Russia invades one or more of the Baltic states or Poland: NATO members, (b) Russia escalates its slow-moving war in the Ukraine, (c) NK invades SK, (d) China invades Taiwan.

      Adventures with non-superpowers could include (a) Iran invading Saudi Arabia or one or more of Gulf States, (b) Iran attacking Israel in some way to support something Hamas or Hezbollah does, and that’s all I can come up with.

      What these adventures have in common is that the bad guy actor initiates a conventional attack somewhere, and the US and/or NATO needs to defeat it without using nuclear weapons. One can easily imagine Russia successfully overrunning a neighbor using conventional weapons (with some help from comms infrastructure attacks). One can imagine China successfully executing a massive missile attack on Taiwan, or successfully blockading Taiwan (until the US Navy sinks all their ships), and at the outer edge of probability actually invading Taiwan, but not successfully.

      What is hard to imagine is one of these excursions succeeding to a level that would require a nuclear weapons attack to defeat it. If such an attack was required, it would be a US-on-Russia/China/Iran attack on their home ground, which would inevitably prompt a retaliatory attack on ours, or on our allies.

      The exception might be China launching an amphibious attack on Taiwan and gaining a foothold that the RoC couldn’t dislodge. Then we would consider nuking whatever PLA assets were still afloat in the South China Sea. China might not see such an attack as requiring retaliation, but then again it might.

      First use of nuclear weapons has unofficially been limited to use in existential situations for the possessor. The US has to one degree or another extended that policy to NATO and to other allies such as Japan. Officially our policy is to say to potential enemies, “Do you feel lucky?” and not eschew first use. This is almost entirely a legacy of the Cold War in Europe, for reasons mentioned by other commenters.

      So the real question is, does the current strategic situation anywhere resemble the Cold War situation, where first use actually made some level of sense? The downside of saying “no first use” is that even today, it is possible that a Russian invasion of the Baltics or of Poland could succeed, or (less likely) a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could succeed, or (even less likely) a NK invasion of SK. These are all places we have pledged to defend. (We have not pledged to defend Ukraine.)

      We can say “no first use” and potentially embolden those possible aggressors, or we can keep our current policy and make their strategic calculations more difficult. As others have suggested, saying “no first use” would be a lie anyway, if push came to shove. Let’s stay truthful and keep potential enemies guessing.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Out of curiosity, is there any reason you exclude the possibility of an India/Pakistan conflict from likely future nuclear adventures? Naively, it seems in same realm of plausibility as some of the aforementioned pairs.

        • FormerRanger says:

          I would agree that India-Pakistan is one of the most dangerous conflicts not involving a superpower.

          I didn’t mention it because I was looking at wars the US would almost certainly end up involved in. If India and Pakistan have another war, there is essentially zero chance the US would use nuclear weapons on either of them, even if they used nuclear weapons against each other.

    • Lambert says:

      What are the actual effects of a no first use ‘policy’?

      Would it actually make it any harder for POTUS to order a first strike, or is it just a promise?

      Once nukes start flying, we’re in a new era of history. The fact that we’d promised not to shall just be a footnote.

      • John Schilling says:

        Would it actually make it any harder for POTUS to order a first strike, or is it just a promise?

        It’s just a promise. Things like Bush the Elder taking the tactical nuclear weapons away from front-line combat units makes it materially harder for nuclear wars to start, because now a first strike can only come by order of (acting) POTUS rather than being delegated down to field commanders with “if you’re in danger of being overrun…” contingency nuclear authority. But we’ve already done that, and the proposed no-first-use policy is just a promise.

        The next-level material change would be to take the warheads off all our missiles and put them in bunkers in e.g. New Mexico, so that in order to nuke anyone we would have to ship the warheads back to the missile sites and re-mate them. We think that actually is Chinese policy, more or less, and it may be North Korean and Pakistani policy, but there are good reasons why it probably isn’t going to be US policy any time soon.

        • Randy M says:

          We think that actually is Chinese policy, more or less, and it may be North Korean and Pakistani policy,

          Are they really confident in their secrecy? That sounds like the situation that is vulnerable to a first strike.

          • John Schilling says:

            If we knew which bunkers held the warheads, sure. We don’t have enough warheads to destroy them all. The Chinese and North Koreans are pretty confident that we can’t tell which bunkers have nuclear warheads and which just have e.g. crates of artillery shells, and both of them are pretty clearly planning to ride out any American first strike rather than try to launch under attack.

            Pakistan, isn’t even thinking in terms of a nuclear war against the United States or anyone else capable of that level of first strike. Their nukes are for deterring/fighting India; for the United States they are confident of our recognizing that we need them as a regional ally more than we hate/fear them for their loose nukes and unsavory friends. Centralized custody of the nuclear weapons actively helps with some of that.

          • Lambert says:

            Whose political objectives are furthered by surprise total war with China?

            You don’t get an attempt at brinksmanship. Just an all-or-nothing attempt to neutralise any second strike capabilities. Plus you really piss off 20% of mankind.

          • Randy M says:

            Whose political objectives are furthered by surprise total war with China?

            Well hopefully nobody.
            But it seems like transporting nuclear warheads from bunker A to launch site B might be noticed by spy satellites or whatever. The kind of enemy you have nukes to deter may be the kind of enemy capable of locating your nukes and disabling them in the time needed to transport and assemble.

          • Eric Rall says:

            But it seems like transporting nuclear warheads from bunker A to launch site B might be noticed by spy satellites or whatever.

            I expect we could notice trucks the right size to be carting around warheads, traveling with an appropriate military escort for security. The hard part is figuring out what’s inside the trucks. Is is a nuke? Is it conventional military supplies? Or is it a decoy rigged up by the Chinese Army’s art department to look like a nuke, being shipped around specifically so American and Russian spies can’t be sure where the warheads are this week?

            The US was seriously considering a similar decoy system for part of our nuclear arsenal, albeit one applied more ambitiously to entire ICBMs instead of just the warheads. The search terms are “Multiple Protective Shelter” or “Peacekeeper Racetrack”. It was cancelled because of cost, but it’s a much more tractable problem if you’re only shuffling the warheads around.

        • bean says:

          We think that actually is Chinese policy, more or less,

          Wait, seriously? That seems extremely dangerous. Yeah, we may not be able to take out all the bunkers that have warheads in them, but that just makes the delivery systems the weak link in the chain. And those are a lot harder to hide, and a lot more vulnerable to a first strike. I can sort of understand for the Norks, but I didn’t think China’s delivery systems were set up to make use of that.

          • John Schilling says:

            China’s delivery systems are now mostly mobile ICBMs, and there’s not much difference in vulnerability between TELs scattering from the missile base to dispersed launch sites, and that plus trucks scattering from the warhead bunker to the same dispersed sites. And China has enough strategic depth that there won’t be US drones circling overhead when they do.

            The remaining fixed-site ICBMs probably have dedicated subway lines from the warhead bunkers to the silos, so again not much difference.

            Submarines are the big question mark. So far, Chinese SSBNs have mostly operated on a sortie-on-demand basis, so a dedicated subway line between the warhead bunker and the submarine pen is workable. Takes time, but you weren’t going to warm up the nuclear reactor on five minutes’ notice anyway. If the Chinese ever feel the need for continuous at-sea deterrence patrols, this would have to change.

            Until then, the Chinese Communist Party is still very big on centralized control of nuclear weapons.

  34. johan_larson says:

    The SSC group of Go players on the Online Go Server has grown to seven members, from three last week. The group name is “SlateStarCodexers”.

    And two weeks in, my plan to play a game every single day is still on track.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m not familiar with the game, but is it too late to change your group name to “SlateStarGodex”?

    • drunkfish says:

      I offered a monthly game with a bet not to be the one to fail to keep up the game, and then promptly failed to check that comment thread. Joining the server and will attempt to win the bet, but I’m certainly prepared to honor losing.

    • benjdenny says:

      Joined up. Looking forward to getting curbstomped a bit.

  35. ana53294 says:

    In the post Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy, there seemed to be quite a few people who thought it is actually possible to tax billionaires out of existence. I have thought about this quite a lot in my more radical teenage years, and I could not come up with a way of doing it that would keep my country from becoming a shithole.

    So, assuming billionaires have at least the following rights:

    They can leave the country at any time, together with their family, friends, and any possible hostages.

    They will not get incarcerated without being accused of a crime, and in any case, during this lockdown period, they will have access to lawyers, visitation rights, and the cases against them will be public and provable. They will also get a fair hearing, where they will be represented by lawyers. Any punishment they receive will be fair and transparent; no torture or misterious dissappearings. None of the locking in hotel and then they give tons of money dark shit.

    They can exchange all the iliquid assets for more liquid assets (foreign currency, gold, etc), and are free to leave the country with them. Not USSR, China. Anything that can be carried can be taken abroad, with suitable exceptions for national secrets and pieces that are part of the cultural, artistic or historic heritage of a country, and anything except for the national secrets can be sold freely to residents in country.

    Non-citizens abroad will pay exactly the same taxes as local residents, or lower ones, since they don’t enjoy the benefits of citizens, for possessions held in the country. No confiscative taxation on foreigners.

    Non-citizens and non-residents enjoy the same protections under the law, and their property rights enjoy the same protections, including intellectual property. If IP does not exist, and nobody has it, it’s fine if foreigners don’t get it either.

    So, how would you introduce confiscative taxation of billionaires, while keeping the rights I elaborated, and considering that billionaires have the right to leave the country and there are lots of countries that will welcome them? Even France, with its taxes, would still be better than the confiscative taxation system.

    Absent a world government where you can’t just leave anywhere, I just don’t see it happening.

    • EchoChaos says:

      The short answer is you can’t. I’m not sure you can prevent billionaires from existing with a repressive one-world government either, honestly. Communist China has billionaires, after all.

      Unless you’re just eradicating wealth in general and creating a society of poverty, you’re going to have a point however many zeros one percent.

      • ana53294 says:

        That’s what I think, too, but there were many comments that said that it is possible, just a bad policy. And I wanted to understand how people think it would it be possible to do so.

      • MorningGaul says:

        I read it as if you are implying that “communist” China tries to prevent billionaires. They don’t.

        • Anthony says:

          It’s possible there weren’t any billionaires when China actually was Communist, though the lives of the Inner Party members was much better than those of ordinary people. But “when China actually was Communist” doesn’t fit the condition of “not a shithole”.

        • EchoChaos says:

          My point is that modern wealth demands a tiny percentage of billionaires no matter what economic system you actually run. Your choices are billionaires or a society of poverty.

          Also, the People’s Republic of China is still a communist state ruled by the Communist Party, so I am not sure why you’re putting scare quotes there.

          • Anthony says:

            “Communist” implies an economic system as well as a political system. While the Communist Party of China rules politically in accordance with Marxist-Leninist doctrine about power, the economic system is only Communist in the sense that the economic system of France is Communist.

    • salvorhardin says:

      “They can exchange all the iliquid assets for more liquid assets (foreign currency, gold, etc), and are free to leave the country with them. Not USSR, China. Anything that can be carried can be taken abroad, with suitable exceptions for national secrets and pieces that are part of the cultural, artistic or historic heritage of a country, and anything except for the national secrets can be sold freely to residents in country.

      Non-citizens abroad will pay exactly the same taxes as local residents, or lower ones, since they don’t enjoy the benefits of citizens, for possessions held in the country. No confiscative taxation on foreigners.”

      I don’t think either of these are safe assumptions to make, unfortunately. AIUI Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal, for instance, already includes an exit tax that would in practice have to violate the first one.

      • Randy M says:

        But in the time between those policies being passed and them taking effect, we’d see the billionaire exodus.
        Except for those who thought they could fight it or valued their residence more.

    • John Schilling says:

      They can exchange all the iliquid assets for more liquid assets (foreign currency, gold, etc), and are free to leave the country with them.

      Note that the United States implemented “nobody may exchange any assets of any kind for gold” for almost half the the twentieth century, without the United States becoming a “shithole”. It is far from obvious that the United States would have become a “shithole” if it had extended that policy to foreign currency. So I do not think this is an actual constraint, and some of your others are dubious as well.

      Also, thanks to SWIFT, FINCEN, and the dominance of NYC in international banking, the United States Government has very nearly the de facto power to administratively zero out any dollar that exists on the ledgers of any bank anywhere in the civilized world, and it has something close to a policy of zeroing out bank-ledger dollars that are created by people depositing anything remotely resembling billions of paper-cash dollars without a thoroughly vetted legitimate reason. It can probably wield the same power w/re Euros, on account of the EU not having the stones to grow up and be a Real Country and settling for America’s Bitch status. And British Pounds because London can’t afford to piss off Washington while Brexit is a thing. Yen and Francs are iffy. Having and exercising this power has not turned the US into a “shithole”.

      The US government also, again without becoming a shithole, claims and exercises the power to tax US citizens anywhere in the world, and decide for itself who is a US citizen even if they decline the “honor”. To date, those powers have been exercised within reasonable(ish) limits, but there is no reason it must remain so.

      If the United States Government decides to impose a 99.9% wealth tax on “American Billionaires”, there will be essentially no American or ex-American billionaires except for a handful of criminals with great expertise in black marketeering and money laundering. As for non-American countries, see above re EU fiscal independence, but e.g. Vladimir Putin has great power to either impoverish Russian oligarchs or to protect them from American authorities, so that’s on him.

      Implementing a “tax all American billionaires into economic oblivion” policy almost certainly would transform the United States into a “shithole”, but primarily because of the critical role billionaires play in the US domestic economy. Taxing all expatriate American billionaires into oblivion, but allowing the ones who stay in bounds to keep title to their billions so long as they keep them under the watchful eyes of US regulators, might work. At that point, tax and regulatory powers could probably be tweaked to phase out domestic billionaires in a generation or so, and while this would certainly make America a much poorer nation, it might be possible to stay clear of “shithole” status.

      • ana53294 says:

        Implementing a “tax all American billionaires into economic oblivion” policy almost certainly would transform the United States into a “shithole”, but primarily because of the critical role billionaires play in the US domestic economy. Taxing all expatriate American billionaires into oblivion, but allowing the ones who stay in bounds to keep title to their billions so long as they keep them under the watchful eyes of US regulators, might work.

        The reason for American billionaires to leave would be the introduction of the confiscatory taxation.

        Note that the United States implemented “nobody may exchange any assets of any kind for gold” for almost half the the twentieth century, without the United States becoming a “shithole”.

        The US dollar was worth something outside the US during that period. So people could take something that was valuable outside the country. I am not sure the US could prevent becoming a shithole if they removed US dollar convertibility like the USSR, and other shitholes.

        People from the USSR who were suffering from having their money devalued all the time, could not buy either land, stocks, gold, diamonds, dollars, or anything that could hold value when coin is devalued. It was illegal to actually hold foreign currency (with some exceptions). So people had no way to have savings, or to take those savings outside the country.

        And sure, you could not use USD to buy gold in the USA. But did anything prevent a rich American from having a vault full of gold in a Swiss bank?

        • hls2003 says:

          But did anything prevent a rich American from having a vault full of gold in a Swiss bank?

          I’m not sure about formerly, but nowadays Swiss banks do you no good. Some years ago the U.S. leveraged access to the U.S. financial system to force Swiss banks to give up the names and accounts of its American depositors to U.S. regulators and/or criminal investigators.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, IIRC, a whole lot of foreign banks will no longer accept US Citizens as customers at all, because of the regulatory burden associated with doing so.

        • John Schilling says:

          The reason for American billionaires to leave would be the introduction of the confiscatory taxation.

          What I am trying to tell you is, that isn’t a good reason for American billionaires to leave, because it doesn’t prevent the confiscatory taxation. The United States government has the legal authority to tax anything that resembles an “American billionaire”, anywhere in the world. And it has the practical ability to collect those taxes, just about anywhere in the world. Unless you live in someplace like Russia or North Korea, or are a very capable criminal mastermind, the United States Government knows how much money you have and what bank accounts you keep it in. And the United States Government call call those banks, even though they be in other countries, say “Your client’s money is really our money, zero their account and add it to ours, Or Else”. And it will happen.

          The defense against this is not living in another country. The power of the US government reaches into the banking networks of other countries. The defense against this is having your lawyer convince a judge in a US court that this is illegal, and the US government not deciding it is worth the hassle of openly disobeying a US court. Or your PR people convincing the US electorate that this is unjust, and their (convincingly threatening to) electing a new government that will leave you alone.

          To make those defenses work, it is best if you are in the United States, and you certainly don’t want to look like you have fled the United States to stash your ill-gotten gains in some shady offshore bank account.

          • Fitzroy says:

            And the United States Government call call those banks, even though they be in other countries, say “Your client’s money is really our money, zero their account and add it to ours, Or Else”. And it will happen.

            their London bank will say “Certainly, please give us a copy of the relevant civil recovery order endorsed by the British High Court”, because if they don’t then the putative billionaire is going to sue them into the ground.

            Getting the relevant order may turn out to be quite straightforward but it might not. The High Court may decide, for example, that taxing into oblivion someone who has lived in the UK their entire life but is only American as an accident of birth is entirely inequitable and refuse to endorse the order. Especially when that putative billionaire is contributing a significant amount of taxation to the UK exchequer, thank you very much.

            And either way it is going to go very public and make the US government in general (the only government in the world other than Eritrea’s that practices citizenship-based taxation) and the IRS in particular look very bad indeed even worse than usual.

            Imagine how it would play in Peoria if Kenya, for example, decided to do the same and sought to enforce a $39 million tax bill against Obama?

            (Yes, I know Obama isn’t Kenyan. But his father was. And the Kenyan constitution says: “a person is a citizen by birth if on the day of the person’s birth, whether or not the person is born in Kenya, either the mother or father of the person is a citizen”, so they could decide he is a Kenyan person for taxation purposes).

          • John Schilling says:

            their London bank will say “Certainly, please give us a copy of the relevant civil recovery order endorsed by the British High Court”, because if they don’t then the putative billionaire is going to sue them into the ground.

            What their London bank will actually say is “We’ve just noticed that you are an American billionaire, and your business isn’t worth the risk of getting caught in the crossfire between actual governments. Please take your money and deposit it in an American bank,”. We’ve already seen this happen w/re European banks and American non-billionaire customers; if eradicating American billionaires ever becomes a real political prospect at home, I expect Europe’s banks will decide they have enough European-billionaire customers to keep them solvent without courting that risk.

            And either way it is going to go very public and make the US government […] look even worse than usual.

            Quite, and rightly, so. When has that ever stopped Washington? Or inspired the governments of Europe to unite and stop Washington?

      • Watchman says:

        Note though that if the US imposed regulations that made it expensive to access the US system, such as confiscation of large amounts of money, then NYC would cease to be a major banking centre. Banking is highly fluid, and can shift centres rapidly. If the US government sought to grab money from the system routes to transfer money away from US jurisdiction would exist.

        Likewise, US ability to tax outside the US depends on this being accepted by other countries. If the US seeks to tax someone in Europe at punitive rates they risk the European country refusing to help them because they wish to tax that money. A US that was moving itself away from the centre of the banking system and destroying it’s own economic base in this way would not be in a position to impose its will either.

        • John Schilling says:

          Note though that if the US imposed regulations that made it expensive to access the US system, such as confiscation of large amounts of money, then NYC would cease to be a major banking centre.

          Major banking centers are so massively useful that people will keep operating and using them even if it does become “expensive”.

          Banking is highly fluid, and can shift centres rapidly.

          This appears to be false. The physical infrastructure, the expertise, and the trust networks, are very difficult to establish ex nihilo, and non-Americans are almost certainly going to tolerate a huge degree of expensive US meddling before they go through the enormous trouble of building a duplicate NYC. The Europeans all but promised to develop a new international banking system to facilitate continued trade with Iran if the US pulled out of the JCPOA, as a matter of state policy for reasons of national security and credibility, and, …?

          We’re America, Bitch, and you all are America’s Bitches. I am morbidly curious as to what it would take to change that, but I fear that none of us will like the answer when we find out.

      • ana53294 says:

        OK, I take your point, I guess the US may be able to impose confiscatory taxation of billionaires. Because we are America’s bitches. I do believe that a US that pisses of so many people and is such an unfriendly place for foreign investment, and ignores the fourth amendment, will be a shithole.

        I still don’t think a country like Spain or France could, though, without becoming a shithole.

    • JPNunez says:

      You are not wrong but it is still true that

      -You probably ain’t taxing billionaires enough.
      -Countries should coordinate to tax them more effectively.

    • drunkfish says:

      A thought, that I’d be interesting on feedback about from someone who knows more economics than me, though I doubt it works. What if we just taxed the hell out of stock sales above X dollars. Bezos’s wealth is mostly tied up in Amazon stock, so tell him that he can sell 500k of his stock with normal taxes, but if he tries to sell (say) above $1 million worth, we tax it at 99%. That’s effectively a ban on him selling his stock at all, since he gets almost nothing for it. What would happen in that situation? You’ve pretty much overnight converted all of his moderately-illiquid assets into completely illiquid, worthless assets. Does that crash amazon stock? Or could you do that and just force that wealth to stay tied up forever. And if you do force it to stay tied up forever, how does that impact the economy (where I’m thinking of: if I burn $1, I’ve very slightly deflated our currency and accomplished a tiny wealth transfer to everybody who has us dollars).

      I’m not sure if this violates one of your rules, but even if it does, I don’t really care unless that has legitimate shithole-ifying effects.

      Edit: hmm, does this just prevent any companies from ever going public? Could you make a carve-out that you can sell stock if the money stays tied up in the business for reinvestment purposes?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I’m not sure if this violates one of your rules, but even if it does, I don’t really care unless that has legitimate shithole-ifying effects.

        I’m pretty sure that shithole would be the result. Liquidity of the stock market is an important part of the dynamic US economy.

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        Humanity probably gets stuck on one planet a lot longer, possibly too long (Blue Origin is funded largely through Bezos selling ~$1B of Amazon stock annually).

  36. DinoNerd says:

    So, I was thinking about property, particularly land, and found myself wondering how libertarians can justify the idea of land title, while keeping their extreme abhorence of taking without consent or compensation. (e.g. “Taxation is theft”.)

    Let’s say I own some land, according to the laws and customs of the current community/government of a given area. I presumably bought or inherited it it from someone else, who bought it from a third person, and this goes back for some distance into the past. But it doesn’t go back forever, and it’s very unlikely to go back to the very first human inhabitants of the area. At some point, this land will almost certainly have been taken from someone else by force. Most likely this happened several times, in the form of invasions/conquests.

    To avoid some of the usual hot buttons, I’m going to place my thought experiment in England. In 1065, the land was owned by Alfred the Anglo-Saxon. In 1066, William the Conqueror defeated the Saxon King, claimed ownership of everything, and started handing out land and title to his followers. In 1067, all the Normans agreed that the Norman baron Boffo owned the land. Alfred wound up dead or exiled, but of course he had heirs, who had heirs. In fact, their great great great grandchildren are still living in England. How do I have any more claim to this land (that was bought/inherited in a long chain from Baron Boffo) than the nth generation heir(s) of Alfred, or whoever they sold their title too.

    Ignore practicality here. We may not be able to identify Alfred’s heirs, and all kinds of “interesting” consequences would result if our legal system supported their claim to “my” land. But that’s just practicality. and when I read libertarians on the internet, they seem much more attached to ideas of what is right than to ideas of what is practical.

    Or more correctly, I’m specifically adressing the set of libertarians whose objections to taxation etc. are based on claims of what is right, not on practical claims about better choices being made by individuals, and corporations, than are made by government officials. (Not sure if the latter count as libertarians, but I imagine some antigovernment types make both classes of argument from time to time.)

    I’m also not addressing e.g. Burkean conservatives – for them, an argument based on “right of conquest” will make sense – as will an argument based on the last conquest/theft being too long ago for anyone to need to care about it.

    I’m also not adressing a hypothetical where I have clear title back to the first people to settle the area, or the first people to use the land in some way, thus “improving” it.

    So what’s the libertarian argument here? If I am a receiver of stolen goods, or the heir of the actual thief, what gives me any better title than my neighbour John, who uses violence today to take the land away from me, whether personally or via the police/military?

    • Lambert says:

      In practise, English law takes the pragmatic ‘too long ago for anyone to care about it’ option.
      You’ll never have to trace property rights back past Richard the Lionheart.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_immemorial

    • onyomi says:

      I think with all types of property (not just land) and conceptions of property I can think of (not just libertarian voluntary exchange) the strength of a claim relative to competing claims tends to be more important than the strength of a claim in any absolute sense.

      So if libertarian ownership depends on documenting a history of voluntary exchange, “mixing of labor,” etc. it might be the case that you acquired some land voluntarily from a guy who acquired it voluntarily from a guy who acquired it voluntarily from a guy who stole it, but unless the heirs of the person the last guy stole it from have excellent records it’s going to be hard for them to put together a stronger claim than you. Plus, if you and the chain of voluntary acquirers have invested a lot of resources into improving the land I think is a factor that matters for many libertarianish thinkers like Locke, in addition to the history of changing hands alone.

    • johan_larson says:

      How does the law handle stolen goods that are passed to third parties?

      Suppose Abe stole something of mine, like a car. But Abe doesn’t have it any more. Maybe Abe died, and his son Bill inherited it. Or maybe he sold the car to Cathy.

      If I as the original owner find the car, I could certainly reclaim it from Abe. But may I take it from Bill or Cathy, who had nothing to do with the original theft? And more remotely, could my heir Dave, who would have received the car if the theft had not occurred, do either?

      • AlphaGamma says:

        This is something that varies between countries (not a lawyer, based only on what I’d heard, etc etc).

        Some countries (common-law jurisdictions are more likely to do this) make it impossible to have good title to stolen property. If you bought something in good faith that turns to be stolen, the last legitimate owner can demand it from you.

        In others, a good faith purchaser (who didn’t know, and shouldn’t have known, that what they bought was stolen) becomes the owner, and the victim of the theft is SOL.

        Still others compromise, and allow the former owners of stolen property to force a later good-faith purchaser to sell it to them for fair market value.

        All this came into the spotlight a few years ago when valuable paintings which had been stolen from a London house several decades earlier turned up on the wall of an Italian factory worker’s kitchen. The thieves had left the paintings on a train in Italy, and the factory worker, who had no idea what they were, had bought them for a very small sum at a railway lost property auction. Under Italian law the factory worker owned the paintings (after 10 years), under English law they belonged to the heirs of the person they were stolen from.

        I can’t find what actually ended up happening.

        • EchoChaos says:

          That’s a really fascinating story and makes me wonder about other situations where you could lose something because of a weird chain of custody like that.

    • eigenmoon says:

      Libertarians see that too. Lysander Spooner makes the same argument. David Friedman in The Machinery of Freedom writes:

      […] at the beginning of this book, I conceded that the basis of property in unproduced resources such as land is shaky, and argued that it does not matter very much, since only a small fraction of the income of a modern society is derived from such resources.

      Some libertarians are OK with land tax.

      The main point of rights-based libertarianism is that you own the fruits of your labor and taking them from you is theft. Land is open for discussion.

      • This isn’t some minor issue that just needs to be worked out. It fundamentally undermines the libertarian critique of the state.

        Let’s think of the thirteen original colonies of the United States as thirteen corporate entities. In 1787, they got together to propose a merger. After some back and forth, they made an agreement and a new corporate entity was created called USG. It has been in existence since then, even purchasing land in 1803, with full sovereignty of everyone in its border. It even has fences on its southern border to keep out trespassers. Now tell me why USG is inherently illegitimate without reference to anything that happened before 1787.

        • eigenmoon says:

          That depends on what you mean by “full sovereignty of everyone”. If you mean that everyone is sovereign as an individual, than USG is legitimate, but of course it can never tax or conscript sovereign individuals. If you mean that a corporation has bought slaves, serfs, citizens or other kinds of subjects and keeps them subjugated – that’s a crime right there.

        • Evan Þ says:

          If you assume the thirteen states had some substantial form of title to their land, and if you assume the USG actually did purchase similar title to the land it bought after that… well, in that case your conclusions follow, but back when I was a libertarian I would’ve disputed both points. And even now, I’d protest that the USG has itself limited that title by a contract called the Constitution.

          • That’s my point. Libertarians are ultra radical when it comes to the illegitimacy of the state but suddenly become pragmatists with property, and not for any philosophically consistent reason. To be consistent, you can accept the current state and property ownership or you can fight against both.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Wrong Species

            Suppose that we live in a peaceful village but suddenly robberies start to occur. What’s so strange about holding the ultra radical belief that the robber must be caught while at the same time believing that it’s too much of a hassle to cancel all deals made since the robberies began just because some of them may circulate stolen money?

        • sentientbeings says:

          This isn’t some minor issue that just needs to be worked out. It fundamentally undermines the libertarian critique of the state.

          Not really, no. It would require at least two things that libertarians don’t endorse (in addition to granting legitimacy of “land ownership” to the state). It would require that the owner have complete say over the extent of others’ rights within that land, and it would require that people be subject to that situation without agreement. Neither of those positions are endorsed by libertarians.

          • Let’s say that the state collapses and something like anarcho-capitalism emerges. Disney owns 34 miles of land in Florida. It uses some of that land to build apartments and rents it out to people. The tenants sign an agreement where they pay rent and Disney agrees to provide services such as road maintenance, house upkeep, security, among other things and in addition, Disney is the final arbiter of any disputes. Any break with this agreement means the tenant can be evicted. 100 years pass and everyone who signed this original agreement is dead. What’s the difference between Disney the landlord and Disney the city-state?

          • sentientbeings says:

            100 years pass and everyone who signed this original agreement is dead

            That’s where you’re smuggling in (almost all of) what you need. No libertarian would endorse the idea that the agreement is passed on. That has no justification within libertarian theory.

            The other little bit of what you need is actually pretty complicated and there are different points of view, but it’s related to how binding contracts are and how breaches are handled, and can be addressed both from a pure-libertarian-law perspective as well as a law-as-produced-by-polycentric legal system perspective, and is beyond the scope of what I can really cover here.

          • No libertarian would endorse the idea that the agreement is passed on.

            Disney makes it pretty clear: the children who grow up there can live by the rules and continue to reside there or they are kicked out. How is that fundamentally any different than a state? Would having the children sign a piece of paper making this implicit agreement explicit legitimize the whole thing?

          • Jiro says:

            Disney makes it pretty clear: the children who grow up there can live by the rules and continue to reside there or they are kicked out. How is that fundamentally any different than a state?

            If the parents’ contracts don’t allow children, then the children have to leave as soon as they are born. Presumably there are still laws requiring that parents take care of children, so such a contract would also imply that the parents must leave.

            If the parents’ contracts do allow children, it depends on what the contracts say. Smart parents will sign a contract allowing a grace period, and the children can stay until the end of the grace period. They would have to sign a contract to stay any longer.

            Stupid parents may sign a contract without a grace period, but not only can we not prevent stupid parents, consider that in the real world when someone’s lease runs out, they have to move, no matter what their age.

            In none of the cases would there just be an implied contract that obligates the child to pay rent for his lifetime or obligates Disney to keep the apartment available for a similar time.

            Also, an apartment with enough of the characteristics of a house that giving it to children is like inheriting property would be really unusual. For instance, people would not treat an apartment as an investment.

          • sentientbeings says:

            Short answer:

            The unlibertarian part is forcing the “agreement” on the residents. If residing there is contingent on renewing the agreement, that is licit from a libertarian perspective. (whether children are competent to do so is a separate question)

            Extended answer:

            Let me get ahead of you on the next point. You’re going to say: but the government owns the land, so they can kick you out, too! Expecting me to say: but the government doesn’t legitimately own the land. With your rejoinder being: Aha! That was the point that I was saying was fundamentally important!

            First, let me say that’s a more sophisticated argument than most manage, which is to your credit. It’s not one I haven’t seen before though, and it’s not as good as you might think.

            I want to respond while granting the premise of legitimate ownership of the land by government or Disney or what have you, but before I go into that I want to make a certain distinction clear. There is an underlying flaw in this entire line of comparison. When some libertarians, such as David Friedman, say that original ownership doesn’t matter that much, it’s because in practice we’re dealing with an ongoing system and best claims, and difficulty in adjudicating certain tricky cases or lack the evidence for earlier claims doesn’t prevent normal operation of the system. However, there’s always the chance that such ownership is legitimate – that is what actually presents the difficulties in adjudication. The state *never* has legitimate ownership. This point isn’t just a matter of degree (i.e. similarity with some Disney state-substitute). Look at states as they are. They don’t dispute being states. They claim a monopoly on legitimate force. There was/is no agreement. So the scenarios don’t actually begin from the same premise.

            Addressing your question more directly, with the granted premise of legitimate ownership:

            Typically, a state does not kick you out for violating the rules. A state imprisons or impoverishes you or kills you. The state also determines its own mechanisms for redress of grievances. That is not the the scenario proposed by anarcho-capitalism. Don’t say “OK, well we add that into the agreement with Disney.” If you add in enough of those things, sure, Disney is a state, and then what are we debating? In normal behavior between private actors, each has some say in how grievances are addressed. The amount of say can be imbalanced, but it is never entirely one-sided, and it does not begin from violence as a premise of enforcement. Anarcho-capitalism as a system consists of a certain set of institutions. One can argue about whether those institutions are effective or stable, but ascribing all the qualities of something outside those institutions to the system itself isn’t an indictment of the system, but of the things outside it.

            Here are some features of contracts, usually explicit, sometimes implicit through relevant law:
            – Defined parties
            – Defined subject matter
            – Capacity of parties to enter contract
            – Method of exiting contract
            – Method of redress for breach of contract
            – Ability to negotiate terms

            When children (really grown, competent adults who are children of original signatories) in your scenario make the decision to sign on or not, these things come into play. In a state, everything just gets heaped on you (please do not pretend that something like voting is an equivalent mechanism of dispute resolution to, say, torts between private parties).

            The ability to exit is extremely important, and they are not equivalent in private vs. public spheres (though the mechanism is still helpful even between states). When you try to exit from a state (1) the state often impedes you by threat of force and (2) you enter into threats by another state. If you define your Disney scenario such that the whole world consists of Disneys, then sure, you’ve got more states. (Hardcore) Libertarians think they are all illegitimate. The libertarian or anarcho-capitalist vision entails actual ability to exit, and it proposes that the ability to exit is likely to exist, usually for reasons involving market forces.

            If you presume that Disney is all-powerful regarding law in their territory, sure, that basically makes them a state. Congratulations on question-begging. As I mentioned earlier, though, that’s not part of the libertarian premise. You have to think about what libertarians want to occur and what is actually likely to occur. If somebody offers a contract that says: “you have to do whatever I want, forever”, would you sign it? I wouldn’t.

            There are actually different libertarian perspectives on how to deal with someone signing such a contrived contract, but usually they don’t actually find it binding in a particularly onerous way, because it violates certain principles of contracts. Where do these principles come from? Usually through the actual practice of business and law, outside of any libertarian theorizing.

            Consensually signing a piece of paper – formalizing consent rather than pretending it or ignoring it – is not a trivial distinction. It provides incentives for the Disney of your example to not behave like a state.

          • @sentientbeings

            That’s a lot to unpack there. I’m going to try and summarize a few of your points and respond to them.

            First, here’s a few of the things that you think are important differences between states and just really big property owners:

            1. Their legitimacy in rights
            2. Imprisonment
            3. Signing an explicit agreement
            4. Everything gets “heaped” on you
            5. Exit Rights

            I have no more interest in the founding of the state than you do in the founding of the property ownership, so I’m ignoring 1.

            2-4 don’t seem really fundamentally important. If the US government said that from now on, every adult, starting with all adults but then being a thing you had to do on your 18th birthday, had to sign an agreement agreeing to the laws or else they’re kicked out, you would still have a problem with it, even outside of its founding.

            Exit Rights seem important but still not really fundamental. If seassteading became a thing, I think libertarians would still think governments are illegitimate.

            Given that my scenario has a libertarian answer to 1-5(I didn’t say this but I’m assuming for the sake of the scenario that exiting DisneyWorld is simple and with plenty of alternatives), is it a state?

    • ana53294 says:

      In Spain, we have a legal term called usucaption*, where if you acquire a property in good faith, in a public manner, and fulfilling all obligations that come from possession, and the ownership lasts more than a certain amount of time undisputed and there was no violence in acqusition, or if the violent act prescribed, you get clean title of ownership.

      There is a reason that crimes prescribe. Even rape, where your property rights to your own body are violated, has a statute of limitations. Property usurpation obviously should also have a statute of usurpation.

      *It’s a term in Roman law. I am not sure how anglo-saxon law works in that regard.

      • FormerRanger says:

        That sounds pretty similar to the concept of “adverse possession” in US and English Common Law. However, certain titles of ownership in the US (maybe just in some states?) are protected against loss by adverse possession.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Requisite “some of us never could square that circle.”

      But I don’t see why libertarians wouldn’t treat it the same way as any other stolen good (that is, defer to the property law that governs contracts on such things).

      Just on your last point. Presumably the whole non-aggression principal will favor you over neighbor-nobody John taking over because you have some kind of contract on your side. But it wouldn’t favor you over the original owner, who could kill you for trespassing? I’ll be honest I’ve never thought the principal could handle much stress on it.

    • Jiro says:

      If your land is stolen, it also doesn’t give you any worse title than the government or your neighbor either.

      The implication of “nobody owns the land” is not government, it’s anarchy.

    • John Schilling says:

      So, I was thinking about property, particularly land, and found myself wondering how libertarians can justify the idea of land title, while keeping their extreme abhorence of taking without consent or compensation. (e.g. “Taxation is theft”.)

      The same way everybody else does, by accepting a de facto statute of limitations on stolen-property claims. Soviet Russia never gave back any of the land the Tsars stole and said “It is for you, the great-grandchildren of the people our great-grandfathers stole this land from, to decide whether you shall be communists or not and if so be part of our communist nation or your own”. The Democratic Socialists of Sweden and Norway aren’t lining up to give Lappland back to the Sami people. The kingdoms and theocracies of the Islamic world would go ballistic, perhaps literally, over any proposal that since the Dome of the Rock was built over an old Jewish Temple, it should be torn down and given back to the Jews.

      In practice, and for a number of overlapping reasons, the statute of limitations tends to run back about three generations. Rarely, e.g. the Dome of the Rock, much longer. Otherwise, everyone of every political, social, and economic alignment believes that if they acquired title or claim to land in good faith, and there isn’t a living victim or at most a living grandchild of a victim to claim theft, then the theft is ancient history and the good-faith claim stands.

      Claiming literal chain-of-title back to prehistory is not a thing that most libertarians do, and demanding it of them is an isolated demand for rigor rather than a gotcha proof of hypocrisy. It should be ignored, not engaged, but you’ve earned enough credibility that a brief explanation here seems appropriate.

      • Protagoras says:

        This is all very well for a utilitarian libertarian, but how does a deontological libertarian justify the statute of limitations?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Do such exist? Most deontological systems aren’t terribly libertarian.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure. The non-aggression principle, which a lot of libertarians still take more or less seriously, is a deontological rule.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          One possible approach:

          Stating this patterned strand of a free capitalist society more precisely, we get “To each according to how much he benefits others who have the resources for benefiting those who benefit them.” This will seem arbitrary unless some acceptable initial set of holdings is specified, or unless it is held that the operation of the system over time washes out any significant effects from the initial set of holdings. As an example of the latter, if almost anyone would have bought a car from Henry Ford, the supposition that it was an arbitrary matter who held the money then (and so bought) would not place Henry Ford’s earnings under a cloud. In any event, his coming to hold it is not arbitrary.

          — Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, looks to me like one of the examples where Nozick goes consequentialist when the going gets tough, thus contradicting his rejection of consequentialism elsewhere.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I used to be a deontological libertarian, and that was pretty much what it worked out to in my mind. Yes, it was consequentialist in practice and I wasn’t really satisfied with it, but I quieted my conscience by pointing out that Alfred the Anglo-Saxon himself, and similar original owners, were all long dead. (As for the ones who were still alive, I told myself I was happy to adjudicate their cases on a case-by-case basis.)

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Is Nozick is arguing that it’s better for society if Henry Ford gets to keep the money, or just giving a reason why his keeping it ought not to be objectionable to a deontologist? I’m a value pluralist myself and so I wouldn’t object to seeing deontological and consequentialist arguments being advanced by the same person, but it’s not clear to me that that’s what’s happening here.

        • John Schilling says:

          There are deontological libertarians, but their rules are “we shouldn’t steal anything”, not “we are obligated to return anything our non-libertarian ancestors might have stolen”. “What we built or bought is ours”, not “what we bought from people who can prove chain of title to someone who built it on terra nullis…” And no, the one does not deontologically require or imply the other.

        • albatross11 says:

          How would *any* moral system adapt to the fact that we need to live on land and use capital, and yet every piece of land’s title goes back to someone taking it from someone else by force, and all capital probably incorporates some ill-gotten money somewhere? (Similarly, probably everyone’s genetic heritage involves a fair bit of rape and incest.)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      If I am a receiver of stolen goods, or the heir of the actual thief

      It’s not very often going to be obvious who the heir is. Let’s say A steals some land and sells it to B who sells it to C who sells it to D. Meanwhile, the money B paid A for the original sale is bequeathed by A to B’, who leaves it to C’, who leaves it to D’. If the argument is meant, as it appears to be, specifically to call land title into question, it seems to commit us to saying that D is a receiver of stolen property but D’– the literal heir of the actual thief– is in the clear. And any modification intended to let D’ share in the guilt threatens to turn into a fully general argument against anyone owning anything.

      • DinoNerd says:

        And any modification intended to let D’ share in the guilt threatens to turn into a fully general argument against anyone owning anything.

        Yes. I’m not trying to knock down libertarianism here (much, anyway), but to understand its vision of society, so I started with the clearest case, but an argument like this could be used to support ideas like “all property is theft”. I don’t want to go there – it offends my Burkean streak – but I can see the beginning of a trail leading that way.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Fair enough. I’m libertarian-adjacent enough to have gotten into arguments with a certain number of people of people who believe that land ownership really is different in kind; it sounds like we agree that it isn’t, really.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Property rights have value largely due to the context they exist in. Factors like infrastructure, institutions, and access to markets matter a lot more than any “inherent” value of land. For example, I did a search for property for sale and found a woodlot (the closest thing I could think of to truly unimproved land, although it would still benefit from having nearby mills, and roads to get to them) for $300/acre and an urban building lot for over $250,000/acre (and I know a lot of cities are way more expensive than the one I live in)–having nearby jobs, schools, and stores, along with infrastructure like roads, power, and water can raise the value by 1000x (or more) compared to land on its own. Expecting land title to have a longer continuity than the context that provides the vast majority of the value seems very impractical.

      But my libertarian leanings are more pragmatic than dogmatic.

    • bullseye says:

      Not really relevant to your point, but William was the first King of England to claim ownership of all the land. The pre-Norman owner of Boffo’s land probably wouldn’t be Alfred.

  37. ldsrrs says:

    Here is a idea for scamming the earned income tax credit turning the EITC into a sort of national basic income.

    Three unemployed people each start a paper folding business. They each trademark part of their designs (or maybe copyright, not sure) to have a monopoly on the folded paper they sell. In one year, Alice sells 10 folded sheets of paper to Bob for a total of 20,000 dollars, Bob sells they same quantity of his own to Carol for the same value, and Carol does the same with Alice. They all have the same amount of money as they did before, but now they each have an extra 20,000 dollars in income, which they can use to get EITC.

    I wonder what the IRS does to prevent this sort of thing.

    • In Cell says:

      It’s not any sort of national basic income because the whole point of a basic income is that it doesn’t drop off when you make more money like the EITC does.

      The IRS doesn’t have to prevent this kind of thing because none of Alice Bob or Carol are actually able to live on $500/year (or $3.5k per year if they each have one child) which is what the EITC gives them.

      A B & C’s scheme bars them from actual paying jobs which dooms them to a homeless-tier income.

    • dick says:

      Don’t they have to pay taxes on their income?

      • Plumber says:

        @dick,
        Yes but the whole point of the scheme is that the income from thr credit exceeds the taxes paid (in the past I have gotten some E.I.T.C. but not enough to be more than the taxes I paid, but it is possible though, as had been pointed out upthread, the total gain possible is small).

    • Level8Civilization says:

      The IRS generally has bigger fish to fry. If your returns pass their computer checks and you aren’t a big fish they’re going to ignore you unless you draw an unlucky “random audit” lotto number.

      That said, I strongly doubt such circular arrangements are legal because I can think of a lot more applications than just EITC. You’d probably get hit with some sort of conspiracy type statute if you were caught and the IRS bothered to prosecute. And with EITC if you do get hit with fraud, you lose your ability to claim EITC for 10 years afterwards.

    • SamChevre says:

      Don’t forget that the 20,000 would be business income, so subject to OASDI tax. After paying $3120 each in OASDI taxes, the net profits from EITC would be very small.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Ah yes. I was actually thinking this idea was pretty clever (although obviously illegal if the IRS caught onto the circular nature of the transactions), but it is also true that you’d have to pay for social security and medicare on the “income,” so it wouldn’t work out so well.

    • Aqua says:

      not familiar with this credit, but if it is a “tax credit” like the name implies, you don’t actually get the money

      what happens is you subtract that from any taxes you are paying (and you can’t go in to the negative). So if you are due to pay $0 in taxes, and you get a $500 credit, it doesn’t matter, you are still at $0

      • The Nybbler says:

        The EITC is what’s called a “refundable tax credit”, which means you do get the money even if this means you net less than zero tax.

  38. MissingNo says:

    Here is a lovely question and some existential thinking on deep fake tech and the singularity. Is everything proceeding smoothly because, as Elon Musk suggests, its all been gameified since the start?

    I suspected I would be seeing some sort of public breakdowns or even wars with cheap fake tech…but maybe its all just a show? Is Trump asking if the airports got taken over during the Revolutionary war just…entertainment? Or just some really really weird test, as religion claims ?

    >Just going down the simulation rabbit hole

    Finally. This is what we are/I am.

  39. BBA says:

    This week in presidential racism.

    I have some thoughts, but none of them are printable, so I’ll leave them unprinted.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Well that’s just terrible.

      One of the things about Trump is that we have unprecedented insight into his thoughts and words due to leaks and tweets. We forget how terrible prior Presidents were because their stuff was more hidden by the press/staff.

      It reminds me of Scott’s “You are still crying wolf”. Trump may be gauche and tasteless, but we can be pretty confident he isn’t calling Africans “monkeys” in private because that would leak the next day.

      • BBA says:

        [screams internally]

      • albatross11 says:

        Given the things Trump has said openly, I kind-of assume that if any horrible thing ever crosses his mind, he just goes ahead and says it or tweets it.

        • BBA says:

          [internal screaming intensifies]

          If you two are saying “he doesn’t use slurs, therefore he isn’t a racist” then I think you’re doing what Moynihan called “defining deviancy down.”

          (Staying terse because this is not a topic I can discuss rationally at any length.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            I am not saying that (although I believe it).

            I am saying that prior Presidents did stuff that was absolutely TERRIBLE that never got reported because their staff realized it was terrible and kept it secret.

            Reagan calling Africans “monkeys”, LBJ pulling out his dick in meetings, Nixon doing all sorts of shit, etc.

            If Trump does something on that level, I guarantee it is front page news tomorrow.

          • albatross11 says:

            BBA:

            I have no idea how you could get that from what I wrote.

            Trump doesn’t seem to have much of a filter. So if he thinks “Africans are all monkeys,” I assume he’ll just tweet that sooner or later.

          • sharper13 says:

            If Trump is racist, then shouldn’t there be evidence of that from before he was President? Or is the theory that he became one only once nominated?

            I’d bet that I can find at least two news sources demonstrating Trump isn’t racist for every news source you can find claiming that he is from before his most recent Presidential run. I specify that limitation because the incentive structure for left-wing news reporting him as a racist based on limited evidence changed significantly when he was identified as the opposing Party’s representative.

          • BBA says:

            No, I’ve seen this movie before. When your guy does it, you carefully parse every word, bend over backwards giving him every benefit of every doubt, and eventually find some explanation that, if you squint at it the right way, is perfectly benign. Whereas when my guy does it, he’s the most racisty racist to ever racist, no further discussion allowed. Everyone does it, I certainly do. What the hell is the goddamn point anymore? Nothing matters, nobody cares, vnefvjfdnvjdfvcx–

            [well, my head a splode]

            (For the record: I consider Joe Biden a racist. And I’m probably going to vote for his doomed campaign in November 2020 anyway.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @BBA

            A lot of people treat racism as a “one moment trap” type of thing where a single statement/action catches someone and outs them as “racist”.

            I don’t know (or much care) if Reagan genuinely thought blacks were inferior or if he said something terrible once and was otherwise totally fine.

            The important thing is how you treat people of another (or your own) race on a day to day basis. As I’ve mentioned before, I have black family. I would be racist if I treated them as less “my family” than other members because of that. I wouldn’t be racist if I told an off color joke about race to them.

            Trump’s consistent actions throughout his public life shows that he likes and seeks the approval of black members of his cultural group. For example, going out of his way to get A$AP Rocky helped in Sweden, his friendship with Kanye West, etc.

          • broblawsky says:

            @EchoChaos: As an open advocate of white nationalism, what do you consider to be adequate evidence of racism?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            Making (or attempting to make) laws that treat different races differently, with one being substantially worse off would be evidence of racism against the race that is worse off. (I think the pre-Civil Rights South was racist)

            Attacking, physically or verbally, someone due to their race. (I think Reagan’s remarks are racist)

            I also think that the vast majority of white Americans are not particularly racist. Most racists tend to be minorities who are racist against other minorities or whites.

  40. nkurz says:

    You might have seen news about the travails of the Danielle Stella, a Republican challenger to Ilhan Omar’s seat as US Representative from the state of Minnesota. It’s reported that she has recently been arrested twice for shoplifting: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/07/29/ilhan-omars-challenger-accused-of-stealing-279-items-from-target/

    I happened across an interview with Stella, and… it’s really strange. I’d be interested to hear what others make of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg8PYhy10yg

    While it’s presumably edited to make her look bad, she comes across so poorly that I have to suspect that her entire campaign is actually performance art. If not that, perhaps she’s mentally ill, and it would be most polite not to notice her at all? But I find the idea that she’s a genuine candidate and this is just an unflattering edit has to be at best a distant third place in likelihood.

    I realize that without having watched the video, you probably think this is exaggeration, or pointless culture war trolling. But if you watch the first 45 seconds of the video, I think you’ll agree that something is off here. If nothing else, and somehow her candidacy is straightforward and real, this is an incredible example of how selective editing can be used to create a false impression.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      There’s a real interview (with Infowars, so uh, however real it is) with her here: https://www.stella2020.com/media. It doesn’t seem dramatically different.

      I suspect that she’s simply not accustomed to public speaking. I don’t think her speech in that interview is worse than Trump’s own, honestly. And it takes a certain kind of person to run in a hopeless district.

    • Erusian says:

      Republicans and Democrats don’t put any resources into races they don’t think they can win. Often, they literally will not answer phone calls from candidates in races they think are unwinnable. The partisans in that district are usually directed to donate/volunteer in neighboring districts that can be won. As a result, it’s super easy for almost anyone to get the nomination and they are almost by definition people the local party doesn’t care for. Which means not the best or brightest.

      Ilhan Omar’s district is deep blue: the Democrats consistently get 70+% of the vote. The Republicans have almost certainly written it off as unwinnable. The party probably wasn’t planning on running anyone but this woman ran for their nomination and there’s no option to nominate nobody. They probably think of her as a loon too.

      • dick says:

        I don’t disagree with anything you said, but it could also be argued that it would be very clever of the GOP to invest in Ohan’s challenger on the grounds that Trump really enjoys taking potshots at her and that would make her local election get national coverage. Like, if her opponent lost with 45% of the vote but made her look bad on the national stage, the GOP would consider that money well spent, wouldn’t they? They certainly like putting her face on fundraising materials.

        Viewing that interview charitably, she could easily be a regular person who sounds nutty because she’s under a deluge of adrenaline due to being new to public speaking on camera.

        • Erusian says:

          I don’t disagree with anything you said, but it could also be argued that it would be very clever of the GOP to invest in Ohan’s challenger on the grounds that Trump really enjoys taking potshots at her and that would make her local election get national coverage. Like, if her opponent lost with 45% of the vote but made her look bad on the national stage, the GOP would consider that money well spent, wouldn’t they?

          I’ve made similar arguments in the past. There’s actually an even stronger incentive than you’ve brought up: both parties redistribute resources from safe races to contentious ones. The more you can make safe districts unsafe, the fewer resources they can divert to those contentious races.

          I’ve also made the argument that even if the race is unwinnable, you have resources in that district and making them feel unwelcome is poisoning a well. You don’t necessarily need to give them money or lie about their chances, but just picking up the phone would help.

          The answer is, as far as I can tell: the GOP and Dems are run by politicians who are independent from each other and individualistic. The party bosses don’t have enough influence to force them into line for the greater strategic good.

          Everything is optimized around winning races and neither side as much of a career path for people who lost races. On top of that, the money belongs to the candidate who raised and they’re already loath to part with it. Convincing them or donors to put money into a race that they’re going to lose due to some strategic vision is a tough sell. Especially when the alternative is keeping the money for themselves or spending it on a race that gets someone into office, who then owes them favors.

          • SamChevre says:

            Wasn’t this idea the foundation of Dean’s “50 State Strategy”–make Republicans run against credible, well-financed opponents even in safe seats?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @SamChevre

            It was. My understanding is that the return on that is still disputed. In a year where the wave is your way, it can flip some unexpected seats and take more swing seats out of action due to funding, but on the other hand, you can put too much effort into safe seats and lose some swing seats you might have gotten with better funding.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          This is where R and D thought processes differ. Reps are still laughing about Beto, about Stacey Abrams, Osoff or whatever his name was. Moral victories don’t count, so wasting time and money to draw attention to you losing is a very bad choice.

          • Nick says:

            What Democrats (at least the ones I pay attention to!) were telling themselves after Beto and Abrams’ losses is that they were building support for a more successful run next time. Michelle Goldberg at the Times for instance was very optimistic about a Democratic candidate winning next time in Georgia.

          • Anthony says:

            Publicly, we’re laughing, but I hope the RNCC and RSCC are paying attention and trying to figure out how to make sure the next Beto is also a loser.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I understand the party not putting many resources into races, but I’m not sure why they can’t get anyone to mount at least a token campaign. I live in a district that votes 70-30 D and has essentially been D since the Depression, but we still have several respectable candidates running in the GOP primary.

        Sure, there’s no money getting thrown into the race, but at least there is SOMEONE running.

        • Anthony says:

          If there’s factional combat in the state party, there may even be contested primaries for hopeless seats. In California, the Republican Party allocates delegates to the party convention based on how well the candidate did, and the candidate basically gets to appoint them. Winning candidates get more delegates, but just showing up, even if you get blown out 90-10, gets you something.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yep. When I was growing up in North Carolina’s fourth district, some of my parents’ friends volunteered in a few hotly-contested Republican primaries to support the Tea Party insurgent against an establishment Republican candidate. Everyone knew the victor would go down in overwhelming defeat to the incumbent Democrat, but there was at least a chance to spread the message.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I am in Omar’s district. We always have Republican challengers in this district, even though everyone knows they can’t win. This particular candidate is much worse than most we’ve had.

          I think running for Congress even in an unwinnable race is sometimes beneficial because it gains the candidate some publicity that could be tough to get in a lower level race. Although this district is unwinnable for Republicans, Minnesota isn’t totally blue, so the losing Republican can sometimes use it as a springboard for state-wide office. We do have some well known Republicans in Minneapolis, even if they have no power in the city itself.

          • albatross11 says:

            The other thing is that an otherwise-hopeless candidate can hope for a bolt from the blue that takes out their opponent. If Omar shows up on surveillance video taking a briefcase full of money from a known mobster, then her challenger’s campaign is suddenly no longer hopeless.

          • Clutzy says:

            The other thing is that an otherwise-hopeless candidate can hope for a bolt from the blue that takes out their opponent. If Omar shows up on surveillance video taking a briefcase full of money from a known mobster, then her challenger’s campaign is suddenly no longer hopeless.

            Seems a bit naive to me given the recent campaigns we have seen in America.

          • albatross11 says:

            Didn’t Obama win his first big political seat because nasty details from his opponent’s divorce trial came out? And how about Doug Jones?

          • Randy M says:

            Didn’t Obama win his first big political seat because nasty details from his opponent’s divorce trial came out?

            Specifically wasn’t it 7 of 9’s other half? Um, 2 of 9, I guess?

          • Nick says:

            Seems a bit naive to me given the recent campaigns we have seen in America.

            It’s not naive at all. Look at Democrat Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama, for heaven’s sake.

          • John Schilling says:

            Or David Duke almost becoming Louisiana’s governor in 1991, because nobody bothered to stop him from securing the normally worthless Republican nomination in such a deeply blue state, and then Democratic nominee Edwin Edwards was caught engaging in almost literal briefcases-of-cash level corruption.

            Edwards pulled off a pretty solid win, but it took extraordinary measures and it should not have been possible for a literal Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan to get that close to running even as corrupt a state as Louisiana. For congressional or gubernatorial elections, there’s no excuse for leaving major-party nominations lying around for the taking just because they are extreme long shots.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M:

            Specifically wasn’t it 7 of 9’s other half? Um, 2 of 9, I guess?

            It gets better: the name of 7 of 9’s husband was Jack Ryan.

          • LHN says:

            Ryan was already pretty convincingly losing in Illinois before the scandal hit, which is probably one reason the state GOP was so willing to throw him under the bus. Despite the fact that their subsequent actions (Alan Keyes, really?) demonstrated a total lack of a plan B.

          • Clutzy says:

            It’s not naive at all. Look at Democrat Doug Jones’ seat in Alabama, for heaven’s sake.

            But see: Clinton 1992 & 1996; Trump 2016 (admittedly mitigated by Clinton 2016); David Vitter 2010; Kennedy (both, many); Rangel 2010-Present.

            Also, a sex scandal and shady donors are different. Media can spin anyone into a shady/not shady donor based on their whims, and they are fairly willing to shill for Omar. Her weird family situation was well known prior to her run, but was not reported widely, and remains underreported.

    • SamChevre says:

      I think this is the same phenomenon as the appalling candidate for Democratic Senator in Tennessee in 2012; it’s a hopeless race, so no “real” candidates are competin.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      The interview in nkurz’s link has a *hard* cut – you can the camera suddenly zoom in rather a lot right before she says “He should say that Ilhan Omar.” I don’t know what’s up with that but I’d assume everything after that is cut together maliciously – which is really strange because the leadup looks undoctored and she’s obviously terrible at public speaking. I don’t think suggesting she’s mentally ill just from the interview makes any sense – it’s the sort of interview an average person would give if they decided to run for Congress and hadn’t prepared, i.e. terrible.
      What might be compulsive shoplifting isn’t great, the article says she believes in the QAnon conspiracy theory, so regardless of any diagnosis, she’s either a complete fool or pandering to complete fools. The cold open of the InfoWars interview *on her campaign site* is her saying Ilham Omar, as to death threats, “brings some of it on herself by what she chooses to do,” which is kind of wildly against the entire idea of civil society, so she’s definitely not the sort of person who should be writing laws, but it’s not really useful to try and diagnose someone with a mental illness over 45 seconds of an interview no matter how bad it is.

  41. The Nybbler says:

    I’ll spare the group the latest on Model Aircraft Ranting at least until the FAA actually makes their new regs or I get busted or both. But the “Class E screwup” is worth its own post. The FAA has for decades wanted to restrict model aircraft to below 400′. The recent FAA reauthorization bill did just that (to the consternation of sailplane people). But the language is this, from 49 USC 44809

    “(a) In General.—Except as provided in subsection (e), and notwithstanding chapter 447 of title 49, United States Code, a person may operate a small unmanned aircraft without specific certification or operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration if the operation adheres to all of the following limitations:
    […]
    “(5) In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

    “(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.

    So no >400′ in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace. No operation in B,C, or D without authorization, which won’t be granted above 400′ (if at all). No operation “within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport” without authorization, which again won’t be granted above 400′ (if at all). There’s class A, but you can’t reach it without going through prohibited airspace (and most models can’t reach it at all). And there’s the most common class E, sometimes called class E5, which starts at 700′ and thus can’t be reached either.

    But “Class E airspace designated for an airport” (sometimes called E2) has a particular meaning. There’s also class E3 and class E4, which are “Class E Airspace Areas Designated As An Extension To A Class C Surface Area” and “Class E Airspace Areas Designated as an Extension to a Class D or Class E Surface Area”. These airspace designations extend to the surface, and are NOT B,C,D, or “Class E airspace designated for an airport”. Which means no altitude restriction and no permission requirements; you can go to the top of the class E. The reason these are designated class E is that there might be IFR traffic wanting to use it, so they’re some of the worst places to fly a model above 400′. But they’re the only legal ones.

    (or they would be, if it was legal to fly under the model aircraft rule at all. It is not. But I promised not to do the full rant)

  42. johan_larson says:

    In OT 133, @broblawsky gave us what might be the moral of a modern fairly tale, “Always confirm your kills, kids.”

    You are invited to give us some more such morals.

    • Erusian says:

      Don’t feed the trolls.

    • Enkidum says:

      Clear your browser history.

    • Nick P. says:

      Backup your data.

      If you don’t want it known, don’t put it on the internet.

      “The Cloud” is someone else’s computer.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The cute girl in your WoW guild who wants to “borrow” gold all the time is a dude.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        The cute girl in your WoW guild who wants to “borrow” gold all the time on the internet is a dude.

        FTFY.

        Seriously though, seeing the level that a lot of these bots and spammers operate at makes me embarrassed for the guys who get rolled. If a profile that’s two minutes old with a picture from a model’s website messages you that should be a very strong clue that something is up. They might as well be claiming to be Nigerian princesses.

        • Anthony says:

          Need pictures of hot Nigerian girls for scam opportunities…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          If the cute girls you encounter on the internet are all dudes, that’s a “you” problem, not the internet’s problem.

        • Matt M says:

          Really? I actually have the opposite impression. Lately I’ve been impressed at how sophisticated the bots are at avoiding these sorts of obvious tells.

          Most of the bots I encountered on Tinder weren’t of obvious model pics. They were like, reasonably cute 7-8s. As in, they looked to be somewhat reasonably attainable for the average guy (or at least how the average guy perceives himself). And they used proper grammar and avoided shilling for a webcam site until like 10 messages in rather than immediately.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          @Anthony,
          To be honest that might be more effective. I’ve hardly ever seen a bot or scammer using pictures of black women, and even then they’re typically lighter skinned.

          Nigerian and Ghanaian women can be pretty damn hot so while they probably still get a lower response rate it might still work to get men of taste.

          @Matt M,
          I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for the last three years, and even before that I used OKC or met women through my daily life. So I can’t really comment on Tinder bots.

          But the ones I see on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are very primitive. One or two steps above “Enlarge your penis” spam emails from the Yahoo era.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I honest-to-God know a hot twenty-something English actress who left her movie producer husband for a Lithuanian man she met in Final Fantasy Online (and had still not met in the flesh at the time she left said husband), to whom she is now engaged and with whom she just had a baby. I mean, she’s stir crazy, and the aforesaid Lithuanian man probably now wishes she had in fact been a bot, troll or scammer, but she exists, is female, and is very good looking.

    • EchoChaos says:

      All nudes leak eventually.

      • Matt M says:

        In the future this won’t really matter.

        When everyone has leaked nudes, no one does.

      • Lillian says:

        It’s not a leak if you upload them yourself. Though it could be a serious felony if you’re too young when you do it. Which to this day is still one of the stupidest and most fundamentally offensive things i’ve ever heard.

        • albatross11 says:

          The even worse one is prosecutors charging a teenager with kiddie-porn for having a nude picture of his teenage girlfriend on his phone. Every now and then, I hear of a case like that, and think that the optimal solution involves the prosecutor in question getting tarred and feathered.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s always been my opinion that if i want to do something, and i’m not hurting anyone else by doing it, then it’s my god-given right to do that thing. Whether it be fucking people old enough to be my parents or plastering my nudes all over the internet. Sixteen year old me was not happy to find out that as far as the government was concerned this wasn’t the case. My reaction is best described by the most common phrase in my school disciplinary records: “Defiance of authority.”

          • Deiseach says:

            Sixteen year old me was not happy to find out that as far as the government was concerned this wasn’t the case.

            Well, if sixteen year old you was extraordinarily mature, intelligent, wise and had great impulse control, then it would be okay.

            If sixteen year old you was like the rest of sixteen year old us, you were a damn fool and it’s more by luck than brains you didn’t do anything that spectacularly screwed-up your future. “Romeo and Juliet” is all about “Take two dumb, horny teenagers and put them into a fraught situation and don’t let any adult with common sense near them, stir, leave to sit, and see what results”.

    • Randy M says:

      The truth is out there, but between photoshop, statistics, and carefully selected anecdotes, it’s pretty hard to tell it apart from the convincing fakes, not least because your own eyes probably are lying as well.

    • FormerRanger says:

      “Never say anything in an email that you would be uncomfortable seeing in the New York Times.”

      “Never read the comments.”

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      On the internet, the women are men, the men are children, and the children are FBI agents.

      • John Schilling says:

        Yes, but the fat beardy guy is a smokin’ hot asian chick.

        • Protagoras says:

          I actually knew a hot asian chick who played a lot of online games and played male characters to avoid getting harassed (I don’t know how much gaming she does these days; she’s a doctor and has a couple of kids, so presumably not as much free time as when she was younger).

    • BBA says:

      Everyone is a bigot, whether they think they are or not. Some of us are just ashamed of it.

  43. Plumber says:

    A ways back I made fun of the Public Defenders building when they changed their restroom signs to read “All Gender” which led to such circumlocations as “The leak is in the All Gender Restroom without the urinal, not the All Gender restroom with one”, but now in their infinite wisdom some higher up ordered a big manufactured “All Gender” sign placed on the restroom by the boiler room here (which is used 99% of the time by men) covering up the note that had been there at least since ’79 that read: “If the door is locked there may be a lady inside, knock and check before unlocking it”.

    Not a big deal, but it seems silly to me.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Eh, it is my understanding that such things go a long ways to make trans people feel included, and they don’t seem to have a real negative impact on anyone, so a bit of silliness seems more than worth it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Making a one-seater officially “all-gender” might not have any negative effect, but then you get stuff like this. (No, there’s no men’s room out of frame, or so I’m told). I think the seeming of a lack of real negative effect is just a case of proponents discounting any negative effects on those who claim one of the conventional genders.

        • TakatoGuil says:

          or so I’m told

          Those four words are carrying so much of your point, and yet they’re one of the most unreliable strings in the English language. You yourself note how trivially easy it is for this scene to be getting misrepresented by someone with an agenda. You will excuse me for holding my outrage until the such time as I see something actually convincing.

          • Eternaltraveler says:

            I know the Habit burger place near me has no men’s room, only an all gender restroom and woman’s room.

          • bassicallyboss says:

            A pizza place near me has this exact situation going on, for whatever my word is worth. My friends and I found it entertaining at the time.

          • DarkTigger says:

            On the one side it is a great way to circumvent the usual conservative argument against all gender restrooms.

            On the other hand it is hard to ignore the snarking troll on my left shoulder who like’s to make comments about this.

          • Buttle says:

            My public library changed both of the men’s restrooms to all gender a year or so ago. No change to the women’s restrooms. I’ll admit that it bugs me a bit.

        • dick says:

          stuff like this.

          Er… where did you find that? I went to look at the comments, but it’s not a public post. I tried reverse image search, no dice. Are you part of a members-only group of bathroom signage enthusiasts?

          • Aapje says:

            People do share links.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s from the all-politics New Jersey subreddit, r/NewJerseyUncensored (not to be confused with the Leftists-Only New Jersey subreddit, r/NewJersey). I believe it’s supposed to be at Rutgers University.

        • FormerRanger says:

          I worked at a company that had Men’s rooms, Women’s rooms, and Bathrooms. These were all single occupant. My experience is that women used the ones labeled “Women” and men used the ones labeled “Men” and “Bathroom.”

          Very informal polling suggested that women did not use the “Bathrooms” because men left them filthy, an observation I agreed with. I have no experience with Women’s rooms, and no idea if they are also filthy.

      • EchoChaos says:

        they don’t seem to have a real negative impact on anyone

        This is the sort of thing that seems trivially true to Blue Tribers and not at all true to Red Tribe.

        I consider the impacts they have negative.

        • GreatColdDistance says:

          What are the negative impacts you would associate with all gender bathrooms?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Confusion amongst children, lack of distinctness between the sexes, exposing people to uncomfortable situations, lack of respect for religious preference for clear differentiation.

          • Machine Interface says:

            You could defend racially segregated restrooms with the exact same set of arguments.

          • SamChevre says:

            For me, there’s no problem with single-occupancy restrooms being all genders; the problem with multiple-occupant restrooms being all-gender is the either there are urinals, or there aren’t, and knowing which restroom has urinals is helpful. (And not having urinals is a waste of water and space.)

          • nkurz says:

            @EchoChaos:

            Presuming we are talking about single-user-at-a-time bathrooms, is the issue the mixed gender usage over time, or the explicit labelling? Do you feel that home bathrooms have these negative impacts as well? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a bathroom in a private home that was explicitly single sex, but I also don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a sign proclaiming that it’s for all genders. Personally I would find a sign odd, although I’m not bothered at all by the mixed usage.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Machine Interface

            And therefore they aren’t negative impacts? What is your argument here?

            Are you arguing that all bathrooms should in fact be mixed gender? I suspect even in California that would be unpopular.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @nkurz

            The explicit labelling. Unlabelled bathrooms (or just labeled as “bathroom”) are fine with me.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You could defend racially segregated restrooms with the exact same set of arguments.

            Humans of different sexes are different in ways humans of the same sex and different races are not, and the former differences are relevant to restroom usage and the latter aren’t.

          • Well... says:

            A couple people have responded to Machine Interface’s argument, but I think I reject it entirely:

            Kids are not confused by the fact that people of different races use the same bathroom. People of different races can use the same bathroom without it meaning they are less racially distinct. Provided they don’t do the kinds of things that would ordinarily make anyone else uncomfortable in bathrooms, people of different races can use the same bathroom without making each other uncomfortable. If there are religions (which ones?) that demand clear differentiation between the races, it’s hard to see how using the same bathroom would threaten that.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Kids are not confused by people of different gender using the same bathroom either.

            The other arguments are similarly specious, which is why I was bring up racial segregation – they proposed exactly the same argument as how it would confuse/scare children, how black people had different standard of hygiene that were relevant to bathroom usage, and how religion mandated this separation and distinction (or are we going to pretend that Southern Baptists were overwhemingly civil right advocates in the segregated south?)

            Same lies about the same manufactured issue.

          • secondcityscientist says:

            I’m curious about the age range during which children would become confused. My preschool-age kid needs to be accompanied to use a public restroom, and he’ll go with whichever parent is available at the time. By the time he’s able to use a public restroom without an adult, I don’t think it will be that hard to explain the concept of a universal bathroom to him.

          • dick says:

            A couple people have responded to Machine Interface’s argument, but I think I reject it entirely…

            Right, because you don’t object to mixed-race bathrooms. If you did, you’d have some list of reasons why you object to them, like EC does for all-gender bathrooms, and it would sound just as silly to people who don’t share that view as EC’s does to people who don’t share his.

          • JulieK says:

            the problem with multiple-occupant restrooms being all-gender is the either there are urinals, or there aren’t, and knowing which restroom has urinals is helpful.

            Another problem is that some men would not want a woman to walk in the room while they are using the urinal.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Machine Interface

            Your argument is essentially “people had problems with something I like that are similar to the problems people have to this other thing I like”.

            Of course they do. Because other people have different values than you do. Therefore what? What you are saying is essentially “screw the outgroup’s values, enforce mine” rather than engaging the point.

          • Well... says:

            @Machine Interface: I think those are fair points, it just doesn’t strike me as accurate that exactly the same arguments make the same amount of sense against mixed-race bathrooms. But I accept it as plausible that maybe they literally were used.

            @secondcityscientist: I’ve given some thought to what my kids (ages 2 and 6) would think if we were at Kroger or something and saw a man walk into the women’s bathroom or vice versa.

            The 2yo probably wouldn’t notice. If for the next decade or two he grew up seeing this regularly, I’m guessing he’d just be acculturated to it, and probably adjust his own public bathroom habits somewhat (always use a stall no matter whether he was just peeing, maybe?).

            The 6yo would probably call a foul: “Daddy, a man just went in the girl’s bathroom!” If she and I were in the bathroom together (because I still accompany her to the men’s room if we’re out somewhere and she has to go and I’m the only one available to take her) and both men and women were walking in and out behind us, if she noticed it at all and wasn’t off in her own world she might lean over and mutter “Daddy, there are girls in here who aren’t kids!” And she’d either think it was funny or strange or both. If this was something she kept experiencing for another couple decades I’m guessing she would become used to it as well, and her bathroom habits would no doubt also evolve in response, though it’s harder for me to predict exactly how.

            I can tell you, I don’t like the idea of my daughter being in a public bathroom and men freely walking in, even if my daughter would only be at her most vulnerable while she’s also behind a locked door in a stall. That unfairly stereotypes men, maybe even in a way that’s statistically unsupported, but it seems like a pretty natural instinct and it must come from somewhere.

          • albatross11 says:

            nkurtz:

            Yeah, the natural endpoint for the push for gender-neutral restrooms is that most places will have one-holer gender-neutral restrooms. This will be a little less efficient in terms of money and space, but probably a little more pleasant otherwise.

          • albatross11 says:

            Objecting to the labeling on one-holers seems like it’s just objecting to a tribal marker for the other tribe.

            An all-gender multi-user public restroom has more opportunities for awkward and uncomfortable encounters and for social modesty violations of various kinds. I don’t know how that should be balanced with inclusion for transpeople, but I don’t think the social discomfort of a largish number of people using those bathrooms should be entirely ignored in the calculation.

      • Lillian says:

        Eh, it is my understanding that such things go a long ways to make trans people feel included, and they don’t seem to have a real negative impact on anyone, so a bit of silliness seems more than worth it.

        Depends on the trans peo