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OT134: Open Zed

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. 26 teams have signed up for the adversarial collaboration contest so far! But don’t feel overwhelmed; if people flake out at the same rate as last year, there will still only be 10 or so final entries. I’m curious why the second post was so much more successful at encouraging signups than the first. Was it the rule that only people with A-M names could propose? The rule that nobody could post non-proposal comments in the comments section? Or did people just need more time?

2. I’ve been taking more advantage of a feature where any comment that more than three users report gets removed until I can check it over for appropriateness. Most of these comments are inappropriate but not worth banning people for, so I usually just keep them removed and take no further action. I know people don’t like moderator actions without transparency, but I don’t have enough time/energy to moderate in a transparent way and so you are stuck with this for now. Sorry.

3. Related – I want to remind people that it’s almost never a good choice to go too general. If a post like Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy is getting too many comments like “This proves that government is bad at everything” or “You are a free market ideologue too blinded to see that the free market has killed millions of people”, something has gone wrong, and it’s probably me not banning enough people. Feel free to report posts like this, though I may not ban all of them. I might crack down harder on this in the future; for now, re-read Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something.

4. Two new sidebar ads this month. 21st Night is a study program that combines spaced repetition with error logging. Sparrow is a charity app that links automatic donations to events in your life – for example, you can set it to donate 10% of your restaurant bills to ending world hunger.

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878 Responses to OT134: Open Zed

  1. johan_larson says:

    Report from New York.

    It’s hot and it’s wet. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger.

    The local bar charges $17 for a Mai Tai. I’m tempted to expense one, and call it dinner.

    The future is here, and it doesn’t work like I expected it to. I thought there would be a taxi stand at the air port. Nope, at least none that I could find. I saw taxis dropping people off, but they weren’t allowed to pick anyone up. It seems the locals all call Lyft to get picked up. That bit could have worked more smoothly, at least for those of us who don’t have Lyft already set up.

    On the plus side I did find my way to the subway and got downtown for a dirt-cheap $3.00 fare. The New York subway is a mixed bag. The trains are nice, but the stations seem old and hard-used.

    Further reports as I see more of the city.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Welcome to the City of Dis. Based on that drink price, you appear to have found yourself lodging in or near the Eighth Circle (which locals call a square, though it is neither). Or possibly Williamsburg or the meat packing district (where no meat is packed), which don’t really fit into the classic geography.

      There are taxi stands at JFK and at Newark; apparently you were at the departures area rather than arrivals. Been a while since I’ve been to JFK so I don’t know exactly where they are. If you landed at Laguardia… well, “Abandon all hope” isn’t just an empty slogan.

      We’ve got a few more days of heat and humidity lined up for you. Enjoy your stay and remember, at least you’re not in New Jersey.

  2. Deiseach says:

    Whether it’s “everything old is new again” or “there is nothing new under the sun”, thanks yet again to reading Sherlock Holmes pastiches I have been informed of the existence of electric motors in the London of 1897.

    Called “Berseys” after their inventor, Walter Bersey, who founded the London Electrical Cab Company and had his vehicles built by the Great Horseless Carriage Company (which I think is an absolutely fantastic name), or nicknamed “hummingbirds” because of the noise of the engine, they were turned onto the streets to great acclaim in August 1897, one hundred and twenty-two years ago this month. Coverage from the original publication linked in this article from the still-surviving publication “The Engineer”:

    “The vehicle resembles very closely a horseless and shaftless coupé. It is carried on four wooden solid rubber-tired wheels. There is ample space for the coachmen. The accommodation within is luxurious. The propelling machinery consists of a 8-horse power Johnson-Lundell motor, with double wound armature and fields, so that by the use of a suitable switch or controller a variety of speeds can be obtained.”

    “The current is supplied by 40 EPS traction type cells, having a capacity of 170 ampere hours when discharged at a rate of 30 amperes. The cabs can thus travel between thirty and thirty-five miles per charge.”

    The vehicle had speed settings of three, seven and nine miles per hour, controlled by a lever at the side of the driver’s box. A powerful footbrake that broke the electrical circuit could also be applied, halting the vehicle in short order. This was one of four key conditions under which taxis were granted licenses by Scotland Yard, with carriages also required to be capable of turning in small spaces and climbing central London’s steepest ascent of the time, Savoy Hill.

    Unfortunately, as this Science Museum Group exhibition post explains, within two years the company was defunct: the wear and tear on the vehicles was too great, recharging was difficult, and after six months of usage the motors became very noisy:

    Bersey electric cab, 1897, designed by Walter Bersey (General Manager of the London Electrical Cab Company). Berseys were built by the Great Horseless Carriage Company, fitted with Mulliner bodies and powered by 3-1/2 horse power Lundell type motors with a range of 30 miles, and a top speed of 9 mph. An improved version with larger batteries was constructed by the Gloucester Railway Waggon Company. Breakdowns, coupled with the high cost of batteries and tyres made operations unprofitable, and the company was closed down in August, 1899. Altogether it is thought 77 cabs to Bersey’s design were made by the two companies.

    An idea in advance of the technological capabilities of its time!

    • Nick says:

      Ah, so you’re reading detective stories too! I’ve been reading Chesterton’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. What a contrast it is with his other work.

      • Randy M says:

        Is that the sequel to the Bill Murray film, The Man Who Knew Too Little?
        Which incidentally I guess I’ll claim for the unpopular movie that I like.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I really like that movie. Or at least I did when I saw it years ago.

        • Nick says:

          The movie’s the more likely sequel, since The Man Who Knew Too Much was published in 1922.

          It’s very odd for Chesterton, because it’s so relentlessly pessimistic. It’s about a detective who solves crimes which, one after another, are covered up because they would reflect poorly on Britain and its ruling class. Our protagonist prevents guilty men from being convicted but still can’t see justice served. The stories, anyway, are well written and the mysteries pretty good; I’m also very proud of myself that I figured out VI on my own halfway through.

      • Deiseach says:

        What a contrast it is with his other work.

        Oh, definitely. Much more disillusioned and even cynical, I think because of involvement with politics/those going into politics in the latter years of his life and career, and seeing how the sausage was made, as it were: that lies behind the way that in The Man Who Knew Too Much, the Liberals and the Tories are pretty much the same, just different labels slapped on, but they’re all from the same social class, went to the same schools and universities, marry into one another’s families and mix socially. Where the titular character, Horne Fisher, gets his illusions popped by his (and his family’s) involvement in a local election; he goes into it sincerely as a Reform candidate, they encourage him because – well, because:

        “Why, don’t you know,” he observed quietly, “that I am the fool of the family?”

        “It must be a clever family,” said Harold March, with a smile.

        “Very gracefully expressed,” replied Fisher; “that is the best of having a literary training. Well, perhaps it is an exaggeration to say I am the fool of the family. It’s enough to say I am the failure of the family.”

        “It seems queer to me that you should fail especially,” remarked the journalist. “As they say in the examinations, what did you fail in?”

        “Politics,” replied his friend. “I stood for Parliament when I was quite a young man and got in by an enormous majority, with loud cheers and chairing round the town. Since then, of course, I’ve been rather under a cloud.”

        …“This is rather curious,” said the candidate, frowning. “Without vanity, I was not under the impression that my candidature was a failure. All the big meetings were successful and crowds of people have promised me votes.”

        “I should jolly well think they had,” said Henry, grimly. “You’ve made a landslide with your confounded acres and a cow, and Verner can hardly get a vote anywhere. Oh, it’s too rotten for anything!”

        “What on earth do you mean?”

        “Why, you lunatic,” cried Henry, in tones of ringing sincerity, “you don’t suppose you were meant to win the seat, did you? Oh, it’s too childish! I tell you Verner’s got to get in. Of course he’s got to get in. He’s to have the Exchequer next session, and there’s the Egyptian loan and Lord knows what else. We only wanted you to split the Reform vote because accidents might happen after Hughes had made a score at Barkington.”

        “I see,” said Fisher, “and you, I think, are a pillar and ornament of the Reform party. As you say, I am not clever.”

        But his romanticism does come out in the very last story, where he couldn’t help but maintain an idealised view of people, even politicians and Cabinet ministers, being fundamentally honest at the end of it:

        “He knows a lot about England,” said March, doggedly, “and now I know it, too, we’re not going to hush it up any longer. The people of this country have a right to know how they’re ruled—or, rather, ruined. The Chancellor is in the pocket of the money lenders and has to do as he is told; otherwise he’s bankrupt, and a bad sort of bankruptcy, too, with nothing but cards and actresses behind it. The Prime Minister was in the petrol-contract business; and deep in it, too. The Foreign Minister is a wreck of drink and drugs. When you say that plainly about a man who may send thousands of Englishmen to die for nothing, you’re called personal. If a poor engine driver gets drunk and sends thirty or forty people to death, nobody complains of the exposure being personal. The engine driver is not a person.”

        “I quite agree with you,” said Fisher, calmly. “You are perfectly right.”

        “If you agree with us, why the devil don’t you act with us?” demanded his friend. “If you think it’s right, why don’t you do what’s right? It’s awful to think of a man of your abilities simply blocking the road to reform.”

        “We have often talked about that,” replied Fisher, with the same composure. “The Prime Minister is my father’s friend. The Foreign Minister married my sister. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is my first cousin. I mention the genealogy in some detail just now for a particular reason. The truth is I have a curious kind of cheerfulness at the moment. It isn’t altogether the sun and the sea, sir. I am enjoying an emotion that is entirely new to me; a happy sensation I never remember having had before.”

        “What the devil do you mean?”

        “I am feeling proud of my family,” said Horne Fisher.

        Harold March stared at him with round blue eyes, and seemed too much mystified even to ask a question. Fisher leaned back in his chair in his lazy fashion, and smiled as he continued.

        “Look here, my dear fellow. Let me ask a question in turn. You imply that I have always known these things about my unfortunate kinsmen. So I have. Do you suppose that Attwood hasn’t always known them? Do you suppose he hasn’t always known you as an honest man who would say these things when he got a chance? Why does Attwood unmuzzle you like a dog at this moment, after all these years? I know why he does; I know a good many things, far too many things. And therefore, as I have the honor to remark, I am proud of my family at last.”

        “But why?” repeated March, rather feebly.

        “I am proud of the Chancellor because he gambled and the Foreign Minister because he drank and the Prime Minister because he took a commission on a contract,” said Fisher, firmly. “I am proud of them because they did these things, and can be denounced for them, and know they can be denounced for them, and are standing firm for all that. I take off my hat to them because they are defying blackmail, and refusing to smash their country to save themselves. I salute them as if they were going to die on the battlefield.”

  3. broblawsky says:

    So, the last major hold-out of the US Treasury Bond yield curve has finally inverted. Normally, this would be a harbinger of an economic recession, but people still seem fairly divided on whether the yield curve will be predictive this time around. What do we think about the near-term direction of the economy?

    • baconbits9 says:

      In recent history (ie post 1980) the curve has typically inverted many months, to a year and a half before a recession is official. IIRC (I might revisit this later today to check) this curve inversion is more stretched out than the typical one in the past. That is the time between the early parts of the curve inversion and the full inversion (which hasn’t happened yet) has been longer. Economic growth in the recent past has also been stretched in a similar way, the expansion has been slower and longer than typical, indicating that (maybe) the time between the first inversion and an official recession will be longer. As the inversion started in December and 18-24 months would be on the long end we would be looking at 9-15 months from now as an expected start to the recession just as a rule of thumb approach.

      • broblawsky says:

        Maybe. OTOH, typically, US recessions almost always start in Q4 or Q1 – of the 6 recessions since 1969, only 1 (1990) hasn’t started on one of those two quarters. And it would be weird for the rest of the world to be in recession this year (which seems possible) and the US to take more than an extra year for growth to fully stall out.

        • baconbits9 says:

          6 recessions isn’t a large sample though for guessing at the starting quarters especially if you are looking at 2 different quarters. If the first two recessions out of 6 start in different quarters then of the next 4 you would expect 2 on average to start in one of those quarters by random chance, hitting 3 wouldn’t be a surprise at all. If both of your first 2 recessions, by chance, ended up in the same quarter then the likelihood of 5/6 ending up across 2 quarters is reasonably high.

          And it would be weird for the rest of the world to be in recession this year (which seems possible) and the US to take more than an extra year for growth to fully stall out.

          Maybe, it isn’t clear that the ROW recession is already occurring, nor that it is particularly sharp currently. The most recent US recessions technically started in dec 2007 but didn’t ramp up until August/September 2008, and the UE rate didn’t break 6% until late July (iirc). So the ROW could plausibly start a recession in the coming 3 months, with the early stages being fairly mild and the US following as the ramp up starts would put you in the 9-12 month range.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Totally agree with the maybe though, I am far from convinced that this is a useful approach, just something I have noted.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I think we’re heading for another significant global recession, but Europe will probably be hit first (may in fact be already in its early stages, with further potential shocks to come from Brexit and Italian politics), with the US following perhaps at the back end of 2020 or the first half of 2021. What’s going on in China is both pretty important and entirely unknowable, though, so big error bars all round.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Recent capital flows into the economy do not support the current stock market price.

      But it depends on what you mean by “near-term”.

  4. albatross11 says:

    Does anyone know how well the research cited in Haidt’s _The Righteous Mind_ has held up? I’m reading this book now, and he keeps breezily describing social psychology experiments, and every time he does I find myself thinking “wait, is that one of the ones that’s held up?”

    Is there a good single source for results in experimental psych / social psych that have fallen to the replication crisis vs those that have been replicated.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’d really like to know this as well.

    • Nick says:

      I had the same question last year about Thinking, Fast and Slow. I know a couple of results didn’t hold up, basically because they’re discussed on places like SSC, but I don’t know about the dozens of others cited.

      • Taj says:

        For what it’s worth, there’s a thorough-looking treatment of Thinking Fast and Slow’s chapter 4 here, by Ulrich Schimmack. According to a Slate article from 2016, Schimmack has applied the same approach to ten more chapters, but he doesn’t seem to have published those.

      • j1000000 says:

        In that same regard, as I recall The Black Swan (which I haven’t read in a decade), it featured psychology results extremely heavily, as well as praising Kahneman. I don’t follow Taleb much but any time I see his Twitter timeline he’s insulting psychology — has he taken those citations out of The Black Swan in subsequent versions?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          When Taleb quotes Kahneman in The Black Swan (2007) (and Fooled by Randomness (2001)), he isn’t quoting Kahneman’s 2011 pop science book, because it didn’t exist. He’s quoting the research of Kahneman and his students, which has stood up very well, because they always invested in replication.

          Yes, Taleb attacks psychology for the ludic fallacy and other people attack Kahneman for the same reason. But not all accusations are true.

          It is definitely disappointing that Kahneman did a bad job of choosing what results to include in his book. If Taleb had better taste, that’s interesting. (But did he? Whom else did he cite?) Maybe it’s as simple as Taleb considered the hypothesis that academia was full of frauds and Kahneman didn’t.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Or perhaps has Scott says, the most interesting results were the least likely to replicate.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sure, Kahneman’s book consists of his own results plus the most interesting other results. That was a bad strategy. But Taleb does better than just quoting the most interesting results. Instead, he quotes Kahneman. He did something different, something better.

            (Well, I’m not sure what Taleb actually does. Maybe he quotes all the same results, the true and the false.)

          • j1000000 says:

            I realize he is not quoting Kahneman’s book, but if I recall correctly he did blurb Kahneman’s book. If Kahneman’s pre-Thinking results hold up, then, ok. But there were also a lot of non-Kahneman psychology studies in TBS as I recall. Maybe they all replicated.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Maybe I should have emphasized my second paragraph more. NNT attacks psychology for being misleading, not false. His attacks are not caused by the replication crisis, so they are not a sign that he would retract the psychology results he earlier supported. But, yes, he should audit whether the studies he cited held up.

            But the logical structure of his arguments are difficult to assess. I think he is only citing studies to illustrate what he believes and wouldn’t change his mind if they were wrong.

            “I stopped in 2010 having dinners with social scientists.” I wonder how precisely he means that?

    • Taj says:

      Part 2 of this review is a start. Plus there’s a funny picture.

      • Deiseach says:

        I haven’t read the book but I hope the review isn’t doing it justice; for a start, the “elephant and the rider” metaphor is one that in various forms has been around for millenia; the passions are horses pulling the carriage of the self, and the driver is the reason; if the driver is in charge, the horses work well, but if the driver cannot control the horses, then the carriage is pulled to wreck. If Haidt is riffing on the traditional imagery, well and good, but he certainly hasn’t invented some cute simile to help us ‘get’ things all off his own bat.

        Also, this part makes little sense to me:

        In particular, WEIRD people (people from countries that were Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Developed and most especially the most educated people in those countries) were very much able to tamp down feelings of disgust in moral problems, in a way that seemed far from universal.

        For example, if asked if it was wrong for a family to eat their dog if it was killed by a car (and the alternative was burying it), students would say something along the lines of “well, I wouldn’t, but it’s gross, not wrong”. Participants recruited at a nearby McDonalds gave a rather different answer: “of course it’s wrong, why are you even asking”.

        But saying something is “gross” is a disgust reaction! Saying it is “wrong” is a moral evaluation. So both parties are moved by disgust, they’re just phrasing it differently: the students are saying “it’s not illegal or immoral or unethical but it is disgusting”. The McDonalds customers are just taking that a step further (or if you like, cutting out the middle step): it is immoral/unethical (if morality is based on disgust). If this is what the (in)famous “conservatives are motivated by disgust, liberals are open-minded and tolerant” finding is based on, then it’s on a wrong foundation as far as I can see.

        • Laukhi says:

          It’s been a long while since I read the book, but I believe that the section about WEIRD people was just making a point about how college students don’t generalize to the rest of the population, or something like that? It was more in support of his “morality is mostly emotional rather than reasoned” finding, I think.

    • cassander says:

      Haidt himself has somewhat repudiated his position on liberal purity/sanctity.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        /(“Apologies, but YourMorals.org is not available for use by people in the European Union until we figure out how to comply with GDPR guidelines.”/

        Oh great this reminds me that I forgot my last scheduled sacrificial offerings to our mighty Brussels overlords.

  5. albatross11 says:

    Interesting parenting moment: I took my two younger kids to the bookstore the other day. When we were ready to check out, I saw that my 14 year old son had bought a book I was also considering buying–Nicholas Christakis’ _Blueprint_. (I am now second in line in the family to read it.)

  6. bean says:

    Sorry that the Naval Gazing links post is late. I’ve been a bit busy.

    On a related note, I wrote about the various traditions and practices surrounding naval weddings.

    So You Want to Build a Battleship continues with a look at the last phase before the ship is ready for duty, trials and commissioning.

    I recently ran across an interesting article on battleship construction in the archives of Life magazine, and commented on it.

    In 1916, Senator Benjamin Tillman, fed up with the ever-increasing size of the American battleship, asked for the biggest battleship the US could build and use. The result was insane.

    I’ve been slowly chronicling the Spanish-American War, and we’ve finally come to the eve of the Battle of Santiago. The actual battle is coming soon.

    Lastly, I’ve talked about the various ways navies designated the turrets on their dreadnoughts.

    • ana53294 says:

      Congratulations on your wedding!

      You are crazy, though.

    • Deiseach says:

      Congratulations and best wishes for a long and happy married life! Here’s some Chesterton on that:

      But the wise old fairy tales (which are the wisest things in the world, at any rate the wisest things of worldly origin), the wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards: and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other.

  7. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Frankenstein was the Monster’s name, and if you deny it you’re condoning Victor’s child abuse.

    • Phigment says:

      The monster didn’t call himself Frankenstein.

      You can’t impose your culture on him by demanding he name himself after his oppressor.

      • A1987dM says:

        1) I think he meant Victor was a monster (morally, not physically)

        2) Did I have no family name when I was six months old because I had never called myself that?

        • Phigment says:

          Point 1, fair enough, although I’d say Victor gets a certain amount of extenuating circumstance credit from the fact that he had a literal breakdown and was completely nonfunctional for an extended period of time; even if he had wanted to be benevolent to the creature, he couldn’t.

          Point 2: When you were six month’s old, were you able to have long, semi-philosophical conversations with your parents explaining how you murdered their loved ones and demanding that they set you up with a spouse?

          The creature is actually pretty chatty, and it never gives us a name. Even as it clearly understands names. It tells Victor it should have been his Adam, but it never says “also, call me Victor Frankenstein Junior”.

          So, we don’t have a lot of information about what the creature itself wanted to be called, if anything, and clearly its opinion is the most relevant one for naming it.

  8. Well... says:

    For those who’ve been following my little mini-saga, I’m currently letting the oil drain from my car. 🙂

    First “home” oil change since I was 18. Feels great! The up-front costs were probably around $60-70, but doing it this way for my and my wife’s cars from now on should more than pay for itself within a year. Plus, the satisfaction!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Congratulations!

      I had to take my car to Jiffy Lube since my garage is full of boxes for our move. Oh well.

    • benjdenny says:

      Probably-unnecessary advice for the future:

      If you get into anything more complex than changing oil on your car, establish a solid rule of “don’t work on cars when you are tired”. It’s all fun and games until your finger gets sucked into a belt, breaking your distal phalanges so hard it levers your fingernail off.

  9. Atlas says:

    So, I recently read Robert Fisk’s book Pity the Nation, which I thought was quite good, and I was struck by this detail: he was describing the tragic story of a woman in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and incidentally mentioned that she had 8 kids.

    It was a record scratch moment that me think about a question I’ve often had: why does it seem like people in relatively impoverished countries can more easily afford to have children than people in relatively wealthy ones?

    The standard story I learned from my development economics textbook is about how people want to have fewer kids after the demographic transition because they aren’t as valuable as economic assets and because reduced mortality means that they can be more confident that their earlier born children will survive. (Also maybe because women have more economic leverage?) Well and good, but that’s about how many children people want to have. It seems like people in developed countries not only want less children, but feel like they can afford fewer children than they might want, due to both pecuniary and time/labor costs. (And/or, the high perceived price of having children affects how many children they want to have.)

    What’s up with this? If a woman and her husband in a refugee camp in 1970s Lebanon can manage to raise 8 kids, darn it, why can’t I and my hypothetical future wife in (probably?) 2020s-2030s America do the same if one or both of us is a well-compensated white collar professional? Why is it that having a child in a fairly rich country today is seen as such a major financial and personal commitment when it doesn’t seem to be to the same extent in poorer countries?

    • DinoNerd says:

      If you let your kids live in the conditions they’d experience in a refugee camp, social services would probably come take them away from you.

      Somewhat more seriously, we have very high standards for the minimum that a child needs, and for how long they need it. They’ve increased notably in my lifetime – I’m 61. What we aspire to give them is even more extreme.

      • Atlas says:

        If you let your kids live in the conditions they’d experience in a refugee camp, social services would probably come take them away from you.

        That actually might raise a profound question about natalism/anti-natalism: if those conditions are so horrid as to be unfit for children from the point of view of a civilized society, why did/do people reproduce in them?

        Somewhat more seriously, we have very high standards for the minimum that a child needs, and for how long they need it. They’ve increased notably in my lifetime – I’m 61. What we aspire to give them is even more extreme.

        Indeed. Unstated in my post, because I was writing it in a relative hurry, but highly relevant to my argument is my belief that both college and the developmental effects of better-than-adequate parenting are highly overrated. (Arguments that have both been made by Bryan Caplan.)

        • j1000000 says:

          As someone thinking about having kids, I ponder stuff like this a lot. I agree with Caplan’s book in that I doubt that elite colleges, violin lessons, etc are important. Yet as I remember the Caplan book, he basically suggests parents shouldn’t force kids to do activities the kids don’t want to do, because they don’t matter — and when parents spend less time on those activities, they’re happier, and so are the kids.

          But when I see parents running kids around today, my sense is they’re driving them to things the kids WANT to do.

          Sports, specifically. A lot of kids LIKE sports, so when they see their friends playing year round on some expensive soccer team, going to expensive sleep-away soccer camps, they want to as well, both to be with their friends and to not fall behind in soccer. If you say no, again and again, your kid can get angry with you, and then everyone’s annoyed.

          College is the same way. The end of the movie “Lady Bird” made me feel this way — maybe you as a 50 year old think off-brand state or community college is just as good as regular college, but your kids very often may not, whether that’s due to peer pressure or college counselors or whatever. Suddenly you have your spouse siding with the kid against you, and it’s hard to take a stand when Tier 2 U is at #20 in the US News and World Report Rankings and Off Brand State has average SATs of 900, and now you spend your life savings on an Art degree.

          I suppose you could take a stand on all of these things — but Caplan says your kids do remember how you treated them, and what if this creates lingering bitterness? Not to mention unpleasantness in the near-term.

          • Fifty years ago, if you wanted to play sports, you found some neighborhood kids and joined them. You didn’t need mom and dads explicit support to play. I don’t know why the only activities for kids now are so organized.

          • acymetric says:

            Put simply: out of control risk aversion/poor understanding of risk. Of course this conversation has been discussed here at length but we could always discuss it again.

          • j1000000 says:

            @acymetric, don’t understand, would love more thoughts

          • @acymetric

            Ok but why has it changed so much?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            As always, I blame the media. “Summer of the shark” phenomenon. Focus on extremely rare but salacious stories of harm to children, everybody gets freaked out, and now if you let your kids walk down the street alone somebody calls the cops.

          • acymetric says:

            Parents don’t let their kids run free around the neighborhood anymore because of perceived dangers (fear of kidnapping, etc).

            Some of this can be traced to atomization of society (people don’t know their neighbors as well, so they don’t trust them to intervene if something weird appears to be happening or not to do something weird themselves).

            I’m sure there are a bunch of other factors. My position as that these fears and the resulting overprotective behavior are irrational (for most people, obviously there are neighborhoods where you don’t necessarily want your kids left unsupervised but those are the exceptions and most of the people with these fears do not live in such a place).

          • souleater says:

            I would also point out that 50 years ago, if your kid was endangering himself your neighbor would call you or handle it themselves. Today, If I saw, for example, two children having a fist fight in a yard, I wouldn’t involve myself. Too much risk for blowback.
            Being a good neighbor in 1919 meant looking out for each other.
            Being a good neighbor it 2019 means keeping your head down and not bothering anyone.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @souleater

            I am curious how old you are, if you have any kids and where you live.

            That is not my experience with other parents and kids in a neighborhood.

          • Nick says:

            If the kids were getting themselves in trouble and a neighbor intervened, how many parents would say, “How dare you, my perfect Timmy would never do that, blah blah blah”? Because that’s what happens with discipline in a lot of classrooms, from what I’ve been told.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t think you have to go all the way back to 1919. It was that way in the 90s…maybe even early 2000s.

          • j1000000 says:

            @ConradHoncho — I dunno. I don’t think I’d let my son be an altar boy or join the boy scouts. I feel like shark attacks are rare because no one goes into the water after a shark sighting.

          • syrrim says:

            A story regarding a friend-of-a-friend: their parent’s family is quite poor, but the parent is quite successful. Naturally the parent faced endless requests from family members asking for money. So they sent all their kids to expensive private schools so they could point to it whenever someone tried to suggest they had spare money lying around. You could take the same approach in reverse: spend all your money on big houses or fancy vacations or something, then when your kids come asking for money you can say you don’t have it. You’d probably benefit alot from making sure they don’t go to private school, so none of their friends can afford to do anything expensive, so they won’t think of it in the first place.

          • souleater says:

            @echoChaos

            I’m only 27, I own a home in a relatively safe area, but have no kids of my own.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @souleater

            Being someone who isn’t yet a member of the “parents” group around the town, that may account for some of it.

            I think you’ve probably got an exaggerated view of 1919 relative to 2019. I have had other parents in the neighborhood talk to me and vice versa. Fortunately my kids are young enough that they haven’t gotten into big trouble yet.

          • Cliff says:

            I don’t think I’d let my son be an altar boy or join the boy scouts.

            My kids are in cub scouts and there’s no way any abuse could take place there. Kids don’t go to events without their parents. It’s parents+kids always.

          • Cliff says:

            If the kids were getting themselves in trouble and a neighbor intervened, how many parents would say, “How dare you, my perfect Timmy would never do that, blah blah blah”? Because that’s what happens with discipline in a lot of classrooms, from what I’ve been told.

            I’ve never heard of this happening. In my neighborhood, neighbors certainly would intervene. The closest I’ve heard of is for younger kids on a playground, if one misbehaves and another parent tells that kid off directly, their parent may get pissy.

          • acymetric says:

            All parents go on all camping trips? That is definitely new if true. What about scout camp (although those concerns would apply to essentially any camp)? Every kid’s parents are present for the entirety of all meetings? I’m not saying Scouts is necessarily a hotbed of sexual predation or anything, but there is virtually no way what you’re saying can be true. If it happens to be true for your troop, your troop is an outlier. That would suggest kids whose parents are too busy to attend all events can’t be in Scouts (which seems like kind of the opposite of what the purpose of the Scouts would be).

            Also note that they said “Boy Scouts” not “Cub Scouts”.

          • acymetric says:

            I’ve never heard of this happening. In my neighborhood, neighbors certainly would intervene. The closest I’ve heard of is for younger kids on a playground, if one misbehaves and another parent tells that kid off directly, their parent may get pissy.

            Are you at least loosely familiar with these neighbors? The point is that this is becoming less common and that a neighborhood where people don’t know each other’s names and might not even recognize each other if they bumped into each other at the store are just going to keep their head down. Not that the Joneses down the street who seemed nice when you talked to them, brought that delicious casserole to the potluck last summer and also have a child that your kid runs around with sometimes would do so.

          • Randy M says:

            My kids were temporarily in a Scout troop (sea scouts). I believe a parent was required for each family on the overnight trips.
            But perhaps this greatly increased expectation of parental involvement was what led to the troop losing members/leadership.

            As for our neighborhood, it would be nice if we saw people out of doors more often. People stay inside so much these days it’s hard to get to know each other.

          • Nick says:

            As for our neighborhood, it would be nice if we saw people out of doors more often. People stay inside so much these days it’s hard to get to know each other.

            If I wanted to be outside, where would I go? My and my neighbors’ front lawn is a parking lot.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My kids play in parking lots.

          • Nornagest says:

            All parents go on all camping trips? That is definitely new if true. What about scout camp (although those concerns would apply to essentially any camp)?

            When I was in Cub Scouts in the early- to mid-Nineties, my dad was almost always there, but that’s because he happened to be the “Den Leader” (all the adult roles in Cub Scouts have hokey Jungle Book titles). The other kids in my group didn’t have their parents participating in den meetings (day activities with 5-6 boys), though they did often come to pack meetings (occasional evening meetings involving 100-ish people) and events like Pinewood Derby. I don’t remember parents being required for overnight trips, though again, my own dad was always there. By Boy Scouts, I was doing most things independently.

            Around the same age, my sister attended a series of sleepaway summer camps; no parents there.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          if those conditions are so horrid as to be unfit for children from the point of view of a civilized society

          A nation wants its citizens to be productive and successful. Productivity and success are always relative between persons. The conditions that allowed relative productivity and success in earlier eras places them on the public dole in this era (low-hanging fruit, and all that).

          why did/do people reproduce in them?

          Infant murder is frowned on these days. Sex provides enjoyment in crappy conditions. Sex leads to children.

        • Murphy says:

          if those conditions are so horrid as to be unfit for children from the point of view of a civilized society, why did/do people reproduce in them?

          Sex is cheap entertainment that people have a built-in drive to partake in.

          Birth control costs money.

          In crappy societies Women often have a lot less control of their own reproduction.

          Different views on horriblness: people in crappy conditions can still view their lives as worth living even if someone in a lovely comfortable life might view it as worse than death.

          evolution doesn’t care about happiness. People who find themselves in a position and go “well I guess I’ll just never have kids” don’t make up your ancestors very much.

        • John Schilling says:

          If those conditions are so horrid as to be unfit for children from the point of view of a civilized society, why did/do people reproduce in them?

          Because what you are describing as the point of view of “a civilized society” is in fact only the point of view of a subset of the population of a very small and non-representative subset of actual civilized societies in human history. And because that point of view is narrow-minded, parochial, stupid, and wrong.

          • Randy M says:

            What are the conditions in a Lebanese refugee camp?

            malnourished children play in little more than rags between crumbling bullet riddled buildings and amidst open sewage….every winter the rain floods the camps and open sewage is washed into people’s houses.

            Not wanting children in such conditions doesn’t seem so stupid. Obviously this isn’t a view shared with the occupants, as their population has increased in the seventy years (!) they’ve been living in camps in Lebanon. Or else that piece is skewed and there are nicer camps or areas in them. However, they are free to leave, although it doesn’t sound like they have an easy time getting resources to do so.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      They put way less effort and resources into their kids. Duh.

      And their societies are built around doing that. If you tried the same thing in a developed country, you’d be arrested.

      • Atlas says:

        They put way less effort and resources into their kids.

        Yeah, I know, that’s why I mentioned “pecuniary and time/labor costs” as perceived to be higher for parents in developed countries. My question was more, what are those costs and is there a way to not have to pay them in full?

        And their societies are built around doing that.

        That is a very good point. High-fertility groups in the modern US like the Amish don’t just have fecund families, they have communities built around enabling those families.

        If you tried the same thing in a developed country, you’d be arrested.

        Well, there are individuals and (usually religious) groups that manage to have many children in the modern US without getting arrested for their treatment of them, so not necessarily.

        • thasvaddef says:

          what are those costs?

          All a child needs is food and shelter.
          Bulk soybeans currently stand at $316/tonne which contains 4 460 000 Calories and 360 kg protein. If a 14 year old needs 2000 Calories and 140g protein per day that means 2 tonnes is enough food for 14 years. (some micronutrient supplements may also be needed)

          The average 2400 square foot home in Missouri costs $240 000. Assuming a 14 year old is 5 foot tall and 2 feet wide, 4-tier bunks and no hot-bunking, the cost is $250 per child (Children expected to be outside in daytime except during extreme weather). Conveniently assume the house needs replacing every 14 years.

          After 14 years the person is an adult and is expected to do work equal to or exceeding their maintenance costs.

          Other costs:
          Entertainment: free (children amuse themselves with sticks and rocks etc)
          Education: free (older children can teach younger children, and they can learn your trade by watching/helping)
          Water: free (river)

          Total cost per child: $982 ($70/child/year)

          US median household income: $60 000/year
          Therefore maximum children per couple: 850 at a time, with a little left over for luxuries (e.g. blankets, non-ragged clothes).

          Of course, in our decadent age parents dote on their children with unneccessary luxuries such as branded footwear, non-kin childminding, tulip-subsidy education, private healthcare, restaurant meals, expensive hobbies and electronic entertainment, bringing the total price up to equal to their total income without limit.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I can’t tell if this is ironic or you genuinely think yourself clever for making these posts.

    • Clutzy says:

      You can. I had neighbors with 12 kids. They weren’t richer than my parents (3 kids). You simply need to accept difficulties. In a lot of areas this means a long commute and stay at home parent combo so you can afford the food to feed them, and do all that without paying for expensive child services (which are all horribly overpriced and under-deliver compared to traditional situations). You also have to accept that things like college have to be financed by your children, not you (which is a reasonable choice, if not socially acceptable for all people). If you do those things, you can have a huge family. If you look at what Scott et al always talk about in “cost disease” discussions its always these pseudo basic essentials. Education, healthcare, housing. Just minimize those, like how poor countries do, and you can afford 5+ kids.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        This seems to be the best answer. My in-laws came from large families, but most families these days would balk at having 5 kids in a house with only one bathroom, not having lots of extra-curriculars that require tons of driving, throwing all the kids in the back of a stationwagon (now illegal!!!!), or having your kids join the military to pay for college.

        Plus, mom was a stay-at-home mom. That’s a luxury item.

      • Atlas says:

        Very sensible and encouraging response.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Success of the children need to be considered. The trade-offs may end up costing some of the children a better future.

      • Where is this expectation of parents paying for their kids college? Is this just a thing that big city elites do, because I don’t ever hear about it except on the internet and the media.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s one of those “nice if you can do it” things. Or it was, anyway, before college got so expensive. 20 years ago, hey, it was great if mom and dad can throw in $3k a year for tuition, but if not, that’s a pretty small loan to have to pay back. Now that $3k is $12k and the loan is substantially more burdensome. Parents are aware of this, and have a long time horizon. If your state has a prepaid college program, it’s not so burdensome to get them on it when they’re born and start putting in $x/month. Also, the prepaid college thing (here anyway) locks in tuition at the rate when you start the program.

          I wish this weren’t the case and it were still affordable for kids whose parents don’t plan that far ahead to go to college, and I’m sure somebody’s already written (or will eventually write) thinkpieces about how this concentrates generational wealth or something something planning privilege something something rentier class, but it is what it is.

        • Garrett says:

          > Where is this expectation of parents paying for their kids college?

          I think that comes from the FAFSA which takes into account parental income. Basically, it’s become a de-facto requirement.

          • acymetric says:

            Or the kids can take out loans to cover a tuition amount based on their parents’ income if the parents won’t be contributing.

          • What acymetric said. This is why people don’t have kids anymore. You “have to” pay for their college. You “have to” help them do their homework. You “have to” sign them up for a dozen different extracurriculars that you then have to drive them to. It’s ridiculous.

          • Cliff says:

            So only nonconformists will have kids…

    • Aapje says:

      @Atlas

      I found a graph showing the disaggregated inflation, which suggests that children have become relatively more expensive.

      If we assume that children compete with other ways to spend money and that people’s expectations increase with having more money, then it makes sense that having children became less attractive as a way to spend money, in the same way that maids became less attractive, which also became relatively much more expensive.

      Women working also surely has a huge effect as it means that:
      – women have an alternative way to gain status than having and raising children
      – gaining wealth and status by working conflicts with gaining status by raising children

      In many countries, we see that elite women maximize their enjoyment in life and/or status by working (either paid or voluntary) and then have the children be raised by a nanny. The woman then gains the status of both motherhood and working, but the former is more of a delegated job, where she takes credit for relatively low effort.

      • Atlas says:

        I found a graph showing the disaggregated inflation, which suggests that children have become relatively more expensive.

        Because of the increasing prices of childcare and college education, specifically?

        If we assume that children compete with other ways to spend money and that people’s expectations increase with having more money, then it makes sense that having children became less attractive as a way to spend money, in the same way that maids became less attractive, which also became relatively much more expensive.

        I think I’d respectfully somewhat disagree (with the second part about children having become less attractive as a way to spend money). People in the US (and perhaps developed countries more broadly) spend a lot of money and time on their children these days, so I think that, say, having a child who goes to Harvard is considered a very, very desirable way for American parents to spend money. So I think the posited causality here might be reversed or absent.

        Women working also surely has a huge effect as it means that:
        – women have an alternative way to gain status than having and raising children
        – gaining wealth and status by working conflicts with gaining status by raising children

        That is a very good and very important point. The status norms about this seem to be very different in modern high-fertility religious groups than they are elsewhere.

        In many countries, we see that elite women maximize their enjoyment in life and/or status by working (either paid or voluntary) and then have the children be raised by a nanny. The woman then gains the status of both motherhood and working, but the former is more of a delegated job, where she takes credit for relatively low effort.

        Sounds right; my mother observed to me that many of her younger female coworkers see having a child while working at the same time as a status symbol. That doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad model to me, but that’s because I don’t believe that who raises a child is all that important in their development. So, if a white-collar woman makes enough money in an hour of work to afford more than an hour of outsourced childcare, and thus could hypothetically afford to have more children by working, that seems like an ok family planning result from my point of view. (Though possibly she would find it rewarding to be a stay at home mom, which is a perfectly legitimate consideration.)

        • Aapje says:

          Because of the increasing prices of childcare and college education, specifically?

          Yeah, mainly. Toys and TVs did get cheaper, but my impression is that this provides relatively little benefit to parents. It enabled the ‘keep your kids safely close by’ standard and the ‘shower your kids with more toys than they can play with’ standard, but didn’t really make parenting easier or cheaper.

          I think I’d respectfully somewhat disagree (with the second part about children having become less attractive as a way to spend money).

          Perhaps, although increased costs resulting in a poorer cost/benefit ratio, which in turn makes people choose to have fewer servants or children, is exactly the pattern. People who have servants today spend a lot more on them than those who had servants in 1900.

          Lots of people don’t want to have kids at a young age and spend their money on travel instead.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The question is not if she can afford it, it is if she had any choice in the matter whatsoever. Contraceptive access outlook in refugee camp: Not Good.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is an excellent point that I hadn’t thought about in such discussions before.

      • J Mann says:

        I think contraceptive access in Palestinian refugee camps is actually relatively good, although refugee life certainly presents other obstacles. The UN has been operating family planning clinics since the 90s. For example, this study compared women living in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan to women living outside the camps in Jordan and found that living in a camp was associated with both increased contraceptive usage and increased usage of UNRWA services generally.

      • Atlas says:

        Indeed, but that’s sort of orthogonal to my question: whether she had a choice in the matter or not, she managed to have and raise many children.

      • “Contraceptive access outlook in refugee camp: Not Good.”

        It’s only a factor if they want it but can’t get it, do they want it? Studies in Africa have found that women want even more children than they end up having.

    • EchoChaos says:

      If a woman and her husband in a refugee camp in 1970s Lebanon can manage to raise 8 kids, darn it, why can’t I and my hypothetical future wife in (probably?) 2020s-2030s America do the same if one or both of us is a well-compensated white collar professional?

      You can. I have four so far as a sole provider white collar professional. It does require some hard work. My wife stays at home, I bought a home in a lower cost area (although it is currently gentrifying) and we homeschool, never eat out and don’t buy many luxuries.

      But if that is your priority you can absolutely do it while still providing everything that they need.

      • Randy M says:

        This, and also don’t start having kids when you’re nearing 35, like some couples we teach.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Agreed. I thought it was obvious that if you want eight kids you need to start closer to twenty than to thirty.

          Which is an advantage for women relative to the other way of doing things. There is lots of time to have a career from thirty-five to sixty-five while all the kids you had before twenty-five are off making their way in the world.

          • Randy M says:

            Agreed. I thought it was obvious that if you want eight kids you need to start closer to twenty than to thirty.

            You’d be surprised how outraged women are to hear the word ‘geriatric’ in connection with their first pregnancy.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Which is why they are now “Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancies”

          • Randy M says:

            Why do I picture Dr Nick from the Simpsons lecturing: “Remember, ladies, “Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancies” is A MAP to complications!”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Because you are much better than me at coming up with funny stuff.

            Thanks for that audio/visual image.

        • Atlas says:

          Duly noted. The one possible problem I have with that is that men’s attractiveness to women seems to generally be higher in our early 30s than in our early 20s. Though I suppose that this could be resolved to some extent by marrying a younger woman.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My coworker is 36 and just married his 23 year old girlfriend of 3 years a few months back. She’s already pregnant. I think he’s got the right idea.

          • Randy M says:

            Are you trying to solve society’s problems, or optimize your own life while living in the extant society?

            Because the averages aren’t determinative of all your possibilities.

            You may be able to find a young woman with similar goals even as a young man, with careful searching, wise standards, and decisive action.

          • Nick says:

            It’s doable, but there are downsides. Like, the woman is already going to outlive him by about 5 years on average, so with a 13 year age gap she’s likely to outlive him by 18. That’s a long time for a widow to be on her own!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t see how that’s his problem.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t see how that’s his problem.

            It’s possible he anticipates coming to care for the breeding partner.

            edit: I know you weren’t being serious, but you know I couldn’t let that pass.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, yes I was being flippant. I largely don’t think it’s much to worry about because you can’t predict how long you’re going to live. My paternal grandmother died at 75 but grandpa is still kicking at 99.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The obvious solution is to marry off twenty year old women to fifteen year olds. This is the perfect society and nothing can go wrong with it.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I’m sure personal health matters more here than statistical averages; if you’re a healthy guy, you don’t have as much to worry about there. Even so, if we saw men marrying women ten years their junior become really common, expect the number of widows to triple forty years down the road.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Even so, if we saw men marrying women ten years their junior become really common, expect the number of widows to triple forty years down the road.

            So the plan is to outlive those guys and clean up at the Senior Center.

          • Nick says:

            So the plan is to outlive those guys and clean up at the Senior Center.

            Bingo.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: That was a dog of a joke.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No need to go barking at him, though.

          • Randy M says:

            You think that was a little rough?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            We’re going to spend the rest of the day chasing our tails on dog puns aren’t we?

          • dick says:

            It was OK. 9/10.

          • albatross11 says:

            EchoChaos:

            I predict substantial support for this plan from 15-year-old boys. We can call it the Tommen Plan.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @albatross11

            And if there is anything we have learned from Tommen, absolutely nothing went wrong with that at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            See, that’s another benefit–it comes bundled with a plan for aggressive urban renewal.

      • Atlas says:

        You can. I have four so far as a sole provider white collar professional. It does require some hard work. My wife stays at home, I bought a home in a lower cost area (although it is currently gentrifying) and we homeschool, never eat out and don’t buy many luxuries.

        But if that is your priority you can absolutely do it while still providing everything that they need.

        Good to hear. Since you listed it as one of the relevant factors, is homeschooling lower cost (all things considered) than public schooling? While I have immense contempt for the educational system, and have no doubt that I would greatly enjoy homeschooling my kids, that seems, perhaps wrongly, like it would be more of a challenge than just dumping the kids off at a local school.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Since you listed it as one of the relevant factors, is homeschooling lower cost (all things considered) than public schooling?

          Homeschooling is absolutely lower cost than public schooling, but the costs are not direct.

          For example, the town I live in has two school districts, one of which is among the most highly rated in the state and the other of which is… not. If I sent my kids to the best public schools, it would cost me twice as much (or more) to buy a house.

          But the town itself is relatively equal in safety and livability in both districts. It’s low crime, walkable and pleasant. So being able to live in the cheaper district is a massive financial benefit from homeschooling without sacrificing either education or other quality of life factors.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Someone made an observation that if you’re in a good public school district you’ve already got your kids in “private school.” The tuition fees are bundled with the price of your granite countertops.

          • acymetric says:

            You can’t ascribe all those costs to education though. You might have wanted to live in that area/that house for any number of reasons other than the public schools.

            In other words: just because someone removes schooling from their housing considerations because they’re going to home school does not mean they would choose to live in cheaper housing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            Of course, but note that I am talking about my specific situation where the entire town was pleasant to live in but one school district is noticeably worse.

            This is a not uncommon situation in the United States, especially right across a school district boundary where prices can drop dozens to a hundred thousand dollars across that line.

            In my case, and many others, being free of that line allowed me to save a huge amount of money (and lowered my commute as a bonus).

          • acymetric says:

            @EchoChaos

            I was more directing my comment to Conrad Honcho who made a more general point. Probably should have “@” him to make that clear.

            I definitely agree that it can be a way to save money for people who are homeschooling, and it certainly appears to be the case for you, but I don’t think you can generalize that to cost/savings of homeschooling generally.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the huge drop in housing prices across a school district line is pretty common where I live, too. Ironically, as best I can tell, even the crappy schools I’d never send my kids are probably better academically than the rural high school from which I graduated.

          • Cliff says:

            You have to be very careful and know the area very well if you do that. Generally, schools that are “good” just have better students. So there is a high correlation between neighborhood quality and school district, and where you don’t there may be changes over time or redistricting. But certainly there are instances where a small part of a good neighborhood falls into a “bad” school district, etc.

        • Randy M says:

          Since you listed it as one of the relevant factors, is homeschooling lower cost (all things considered) than public schooling?

          There are a lot of things to consider here. I dunno if anyone ultimately makes the decision on price.

          Let’s see:
          There’s the housing costs that EchoChaos lists. In my mother-in-law’s neighborhood, houses in one end are less than those on the other because of school district comparisons.

          We rent an apartment, and part of the reason we got such a good deal years ago was that my wife had time to search everyday. Paying $500/mo or so less than the place down the street is very helpful.

          In CA, you can apply for charter school funds as a homeschooler. This is how our daughters have taken horseback riding and theater lessons. (The music lessons were free from family or college students doing it for a class). This may go away, but there may be similar programs elsewhere.

          Exactly how much we’re giving up from the second full-time earner is questionable after all the other expenses we’d accrue in child care, home care, eating out, taxes, whatever else. We’d be up some, I’m sure, but not double, and my wife is able to pursue some income in various at-home services.

          The actual schooling? It’s basically negligible. $100 bucks every few years in books, some paper, some on-line subscriptions and hand-me down lap-tops.

          If your kids are unique in some way, it’s more complicated. Maybe they need to be in public school to pay for the special ed instructor; maybe you can’t stand having them in school because they are bullied or have some quirk that makes learning in a classroom difficult.

          • In CA, you can apply for charter school funds as a homeschooler.

            If that was true when we were home unschooling, a decade+ ago, we were not aware of it.

            To what extent does doing that get official attention to your homeschooling that results in constraints on what you do?

            When we were doing it, we simply filled out a form registering our home as a school. We were supposed to keep various records but there was no provision for anyone to ever ask us for them. In effect, entirely unregulated.

          • Randy M says:

            To what extent does doing that get official attention to your homeschooling that results in constraints on what you do?

            We were hesitant to be part of the program at first for this reason, but while there’s some hoops, but I wouldn’t say we’ve felt constraints so far.
            My wife meets about monthly with another woman and shares some material the children have been working on.
            The program may be going away due to people misusing the funds, though.

          • The Big Red Scary says:

            In CA, you can apply for charter school funds as a homeschooler.

            There’s a similar provision in Russia, where I live, but although most of my friends have their children on “family education”, no one I know has tried to get government funds for it. The problem is that while Russian laws support the liberty of the family fairly robustly, the Russian bureaucracy sometimes does not (busy-body social-workers seem to be a universal phenomenon), so most people try to fly below the radar. In the US, where homeschooling has been going on for generations, there are legal defense funds to help with this situation. So far, Russian homeschoolers are not as organized.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You should consider whether homeschooling vs social schooling is better for the individual needs of your children when the time comes.

          Otherwise the kind of parent who optimizes for their own needs and drives with respect to children risks becoming a kind of parent who “shouldn’t have had (so many) kids”.

          • ana53294 says:

            Assuming your kids will inherit your genes, and some of your own issues, is quite logical.

            I am a socially awkward girl with Asperger’s who was bored out of her mind in school. I assume my kids will probably share traits with me, hopefully my intelligence among them, and will be bored out of their mind by an ordinary school.

            Of course, if my kid turns out into a ray of sunshine who needs/likes to be with peers all the time and wants to go to school, I would absolutely send them there.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I was bored out of my mind with school, hated it and did not want to go (although I did very well at it). My kids are little rays of sunshine who love it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Is social school referring to public and private schools or is that a separate thing? I’ve never heard that term before.

            That aside, judging from the homeschooled people I met in community and four-year colleges the fear that homeschooling makes kids grow up to be awkward and isolated isn’t based on anything besides sour grapes and the sunk-cost fallacy. If you made your kids suffer for years in a prison-like public school or you paid through the nose to put them through private school, you’re going to want to latch onto anything to justify why you didn’t just homeschool them. It’s cheaper, safer, and depending on the study either has no effect on academic preparedness or leaves children more prepared. So that leaves socialization as the only real avenue of attack.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Conrad

            How typical do you think that is?

            I will be glad if my kids turn out to be socially adept, but at the moment I’m assuming that my genes would win. I wasn’t born into a social family, after all; my parents are both a bit socially awkward, although I had even more issues.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I have no idea. Like most SSC posters, I am rather atypical compared to the populace at large. I don’t have any official diagnosis but I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if I were on the spectrum somewhere and I’m rather disagreeable. My kids, though, are little social butterflies who make friends with anyone. Probably comes from their mother, who is universally loved by everyone for being an extremely nice and cheerful person.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve heard it helps if you marry a social butterfly, and that this a good idea in general for folks on the spectrum, because if they marry other folks on the spectrum like themselves, their kids will be on average even more socially awkward.

            (Cue Conrad’s “I don’t see how that’s my problem” 😛 )

          • EchoChaos says:

            My kids are total social butterflies. I was always the charismatic group joining/leading guy, so that’s no shock (my wife is even more extroverted than I am).

            My biggest concern for my oldest son is that I’ll be a grandfather as soon as he discovers girls. He loves homeschooling because it means really flexible time to go out places like museums and play with other homeschooling friends.

            My wife has a great support network of homeschooling families and play dates are easy and keep her sane as well, plus give my kids plenty of social interaction with kids of all ages, not just their own tight age band.

          • who was bored out of her mind in school.

            I went to a very good private school and was bored most of the time. My wife went to a good suburban public school and was bored most of the time.

            One of the reasons for unschooling our kids, first in a very small and unconventional private school and then at home, was not putting them through that.

          • j1000000 says:

            @nabil — Surprised by that. Even if homeschooling had NO effect whatsoever on sociability, I’d think the parents who opt into homeschooling their kids would on average be kind of odd, and would pass those slightly odd genes on down, and the kids would seem odd even if it wasn’t the fault of homeschooling.

          • albatross11 says:

            ana:

            Yeah, I think I’d have been much happier getting homeschooled until high school. My wife would have gone out of her mind being homeschooled. This is definitely something you want to think about an an individual level with your kids’ nature and how they’re doing in school/at home.

          • albatross11 says:

            My kids have gone to Catholic elementary school, and my oldest two have also gone to public magnet schools for high school (and in one case for middle school, and now for high school). This was a mix that seems to me to have worked very well for them. But I think it’s really important as a parent to notice when things are going well or badly for your kids, and to be willing to make changes as needed. My oldest son was *miserable* in the first Catholic school he attended; moving him to a different one was a huge win. (This works only because we live somewhere with a lot of private and religious schools. We could have tried several more Catholic schools, other Christian schools, and secular private schools before we ran out of options.).

          • The Big Red Scary says:

            You should consider whether homeschooling vs social schooling

            We’ve arranged for the best of both by gathering a group of like-minded familes to form a cooperative school. We rent a house, stock it with books, musical instruments, tools, art supplies, and let the kids do as they please. Every member of the school, both kids and adults, has a vote on all decisions, and we have some kind of rotating committee for handling conflicts.

          • Cliff says:

            We’ve arranged for the best of both by gathering a group of like-minded familes to form a cooperative school. We rent a house, stock it with books, musical instruments, tools, art supplies, and let the kids do as they please. Every member of the school, both kids and adults, has a vote on all decisions, and we have some kind of rotating committee for handling conflicts.

            Where are you located? What was necessary to get that started? That’s something I would be very interested in but I assume in the U.S. there would be regulatory barriers.

          • Nick says:

            @Cliff
            Per his post above, he lives in Russia.

            I’ve never heard of anything quite that elaborate here in America, but there are definitely local homeschooling networks in some areas like EchoChaos describes. Enables homeschoolers to socialize their kids and to share some of the load. There are also alternatives that do function more or less as schools—Montessori is one, as are the little classical academies that have been sprouting up the last decade or two.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Cliff

            Surprisingly few. It’s a common arrangement amongst American homeschoolers. Look up “umbrella schools”. You almost certainly have some in your area.

            We are part of one as well.

            Edit @Nick

            That and even more elaborate is common in the USA.

          • Nick says:

            My impression is that, as far as regulatory barriers go, you’re more likely to encounter them in Europe than in America. Unless the cases I hear about in Germany and the UK and the like are outliers.

          • zoozoc says:

            I just want to mention that my wife is trying out homeschooling this year (basically preschool). The organization/curriculum is called “classical conversations” and it is popular in the area because it includes parents getting together once or twice a week for tutoring/studying/lessons. The added organization makes it a little more expensive than a curriculum-only home-school, but the cost is still extremely low, mostly due to parents helping with most of the organizing.

            Similarly, my parent’s church started a “co-op” school that meets three days a week for part of the day, with the other two days for learning at home. Basically a half-way point between traditional school and home school.

            I do not believe either of these is “accredited” by the state. I myself went to a private school that also was not “accredited”. But this did not add any barriers that I could tell to going to college since I was able to get a good SAT/ACT score. In fact, I am not sure what being “accredited” actually buys you besides the state officially saying your school is up to its standards. The reason my private school wasn’t accredited was mostly due to regulatory cost with a side of “having to comply with the state requirements for what we have to teach”.

    • Deiseach says:

      You can have eight kids. But probably your wife will need to stay at home as a full-time mother and home-maker, unless both of you are in jobs earning enough to pay for childcare and someone to come in as a charlady a couple of times a week.

      This means that you’re going to be the sole income earner, and while you can certainly raise a family on that money, it probably means that your kids are not going to college (or not all of them); this is going to reduce their prospects of getting decent jobs (unless you can convince them all to become tradesmen) and it is certainly going to affect your quality of life both while you are raising them and afterwards when you retire.

      You won’t have the same spare money to invest, save, or sock away for retirement; you will be spending more on supporting ten people than your next door neighbours in the same circumstances who are supporting four (or even three). You certainly can do it, but the expectations of people with greater resources are accordingly greater. Someone from a background where everyone has four kids and manages to knock along in middle/working class circumstances will not have the same expectations of “but you need to be putting X amount of your salary into investments!” as someone from a higher socio-economic class and background.

      In sum, you can do it but you will be regarded as poorer and will be in some measures poorer than your peers. People don’t want to be poor, they have been raised with the expectation that “I am of a certain class and have certain educational qualifications and have certain skills and talents and so should be having a certain lifestyle”. That doesn’t mean ‘jetting off on exotic holidays four times a year’ but it does mean things like ‘of course you will be taking out a private pension policy and putting your savings into funds like this and putting away this much of your salary as savings and you will be able to afford these necessities of life’. Even if you can live with a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back without that anticipated by retirement million-dollar investment account, you will be poor by those standards.

      Are you able to be poor? By which I mean, can you take on the mental burden of living like a poor person (even if you’re not really-by-objective-measures-hungry and at risk of homelessness poor)? Then have your eight kids (and expect to be lectured about how irresponsible you are and the state of the planet and so on and so forth by all your peers in the tones of “I’m only concerned about your health which is why I’m telling you that you’re a disgusting ugly fat lump of lard”).

      • and while you can certainly raise a family on that money, it probably means that your kids are not going to college (or not all of them)

        I don’t think that follows. College can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are community colleges. Kids can work their way through school. Sufficiently bright kids of relatively poor parents can go to elite schools on generous scholarships.

        • Atlas says:

          There’s a lot of truth to this. My own college education is/has been considerably less expensive than that of many of my high-school peers thanks to various factors. (Most importantly choosing to go to a public university in-state.)

      • EchoChaos says:

        it probably means that your kids are not going to college (or not all of them); this is going to reduce their prospects of getting decent jobs (unless you can convince them all to become tradesmen) and it is certainly going to affect your quality of life both while you are raising them and afterwards when you retire.

        Note that for college there are lots of options for Americans that don’t involve a lot of money. I know a family with twelve kids and all of them but one (his choice) have gone to college so far. The military, scholarships, etc. can all get you into college at very low cost.

      • Atlas says:

        Well said, Deiseach. I guess from my point of view, it seems like the quest to gain happiness through more money seems like a hedonic treadmill, whereas children generally seem like a genuine source of lasting happiness, so that seems like a trade worth taking to me. Put another way, I’d rather have a modest house with lots of children running around in it than one of those grand Southern California mansions you see Hollywood bigwigs having in the movies with no one else there. (Though of course in the best of all possible worlds, I’ll happily take the kids and the mansion.)

      • Cliff says:

        Not to be a jerk, but this seems like a made up statement from someone who has no reason to know the actualities. Just about all of it I think is wrong.

        First of all, child care like everything else gets less expensive as you have more kids. Once you have 3 kids needing child care, it makes more sense to hire a nanny, who can take care of any number of children. I can’t really emphasize the decreasing costs of each marginal child enough. Hand-me downs mean no clothes, toys, etc. for anyone but the first one or two. A large house isn’t that much more expensive to build than a smaller house. Healthcare costs about the same for a family of 5 or of 10. Your spouse only quits work once. Etc.

        Second, as others have pointed out all your kids can go to college. There is plenty of aid, scholarships, loans, low-cost options, etc. to get anyone through college.

        Third, of course you can still invest and save. You just have to make the budget work. Eight kids is more expensive than two, but if you make enough money and budget appropriately, of course you can still save money and invest.

        Around me I don’t see anyone looking down on you. I think you would be looked at with a bit of awe.

        So yes, kids cost some money and you will have less disposable money than you would have had with less, but maybe you would have wasted that money on status symbols or junk anyway.

        • baconbits9 says:

          First of all, child care like everything else gets less expensive as you have more kids. Once you have 3 kids needing child care, it makes more sense to hire a nanny, who can take care of any number of children.

          Not significantly though. If there are 2+ years between kids then Kid 1 is off to school shortly after a nanny becomes ‘cost effective’, then you are back down to two kids in full time day care/nanny plus some part time for the kid in school. Then number 2 goes off to school and there are no savings. If you are planning on 4+ kids and you keep your age gap between them low you can make it work but
          1. It isn’t easy to ensure this happens and
          2. If Mom is taking 3 months off for each child then you are losing a lot in expected earnings/promotions/raises.

          I can’t really emphasize the decreasing costs of each marginal child enough. Hand-me downs mean no clothes, toys, etc. for anyone but the first one or two. A large house isn’t that much more expensive to build than a smaller house.

          Large houses are significantly more expensive, either they are built up which is expensive or they are built out meaning lower density and either higher taxes per house or fewer publicly provided goods. Higher heating/cooling costs and higher maintenance costs as well.

    • jgr314 says:

      I grew up in an area with a large Mormon population. Families with 6-8 kids were pretty common. Some of the things that seemed to make it work for them:
      (1) low cost area of the country
      (2) extensive community support
      (3) the mothers (and older sisters) basically just took care of the kids and didn’t do anything else
      (4) aspirations for the kids were at least a step lower than they could have been. There were several kids around my age who had the potential to get into Ivy+ universities, but they didn’t even try. A lot of girls didn’t even expect to go to college at all.

      Now, I know a lot of people who have the financial resources to have large families, but they don’t want to, especially because of point (3). The mothers have their own professional careers and, in general, both parents prefer to allocate their resources to other priorities. Among those priorities, they can allocate a lot of money to the small(er) number of kids that they have in tutoring/music lessons/extra sports coaches, which is one other reason there is pressure on other families trying to keep up.

      Personally, I couldn’t take the sleep deprivation another baby would cause, so 3 is plenty.

      • Atlas says:

        Very interesting, thanks for sharing. It does seem like having lots of children would be easier if you’re part of a community that attempts to encourage it.

        Among those priorities, they can allocate a lot of money to the small(er) number of kids that they have in tutoring/music lessons/extra sports coaches, which is one other reason there is pressure on other families trying to keep up.

        From my point of view, those aren’t very high priorities, so hopefully that can help me raise children more frugally.

        Personally, I couldn’t take the sleep deprivation another baby would cause, so 3 is plenty.

        Professor Caplan argues in Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids that the costs of childbearing are heavily frontloaded but the benefits are somewhat delayed—it’s no doubt a lot of work taking care of an infant, but when he visits you 40 years later with your grandkids, it’s a big payoff. (Although at 3 you’re already considerably above the US TFR, so congrats.)

        • but when he visits you 40 years later with your grandkids

          My daughter in law is delighting in her first child, planning on three more. My son already has two children by his first wife, so that will give me six.

          All that remains is for my other two children to find suitable spice.

        • albatross11 says:

          Kids add a lot of variance to your life. My wife and I are pretty low-drama people, but three kids adds a lot of drama–especially our daughter[1]. We’re probably a little more homebodies than is good for us–our kids require us to go out and do a lot of stuff (take them to events/practices, volunteer at school/church, etc.), and that makes our schedules less predictable.

          In my experience so far, it’s totally worth it, even long before anyone (hopefully!) brings home any grandkids. But to be fair, I knew I wanted to raise a family even when I was an 18-year-old college student a decade from being mature enough to contemplate doing so, and my wife is traditional enough that she probably wouldn’t have been as happy in any other kind of life than being married with kids in a pretty traditional household.

          [1] This is the normal kid kind of drama–as kids get older, they can also add the serious gut-wrenching kind of drama where they have serious physical or mental health issues, are drinking/experimenting with drugs, are getting seriously bullied in school, are in trouble with the law, are failing in school, etc. Thank God, we haven’t had to deal with much of this so far.

          • Randy M says:

            as kids get older, they can also add the serious gut-wrenching kind of drama

            We are looking at this stage of life approaching. Early childhood is physically exhausting, with babies waking you up at night, falling and crying for you to run over and pick them up, even just the physical play of tossing them in the air.

            Ages about 6 to 12 are pretty chill, ime, some petty mischief and boundary testing, occasional bickering, sure. But they’re getting more and more capable and yet still want to please you. There’s opportunity for finesse in managing conflict while letting them learn to solve problems, and you want to demonstrate how to resolve differences amicably. It’s a lot of good times for not nearly as much effort.

            Teen years… we’re about to see. I’m hoping a strong foundation of demonstrated care and consideration will temper the rebelliousness that can come at this time.

          • Teen years… we’re about to see.

            People vary a lot. My wife’s comment on being a teen is “I’ve been younger than that and I’ve been older than that.”

    • Odovacer says:

      Tangentially, I’ve often wondered how much parental investment each child gets in a large family. Like, by the time #10 pops out, how much do mom and dad interact with her? Is it mainly the other children raising her, or is it highly family dependent? There’s only so much time in the day.

      • EchoChaos says:

        In my experience, mom and dad focus heavily on the newest and the next-newest gets shunted to a lot more “learning on their own” and “playing with siblings”. This makes sense, because at two to three that is a fairly natural time to want to do those things.

        If not done well, this can mean the next-youngest gets angry at the youngest for “stealing” being the baby from him.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      why does it seem like people in relatively impoverished countries can more easily afford to have children than people in relatively wealthy ones?

      From my experience with people having lots of kids in a relatively impoverished country, namely Russia, it’s not that they can afford kids easily in the sense you mean, it’s that they don’t plan ahead whether they can and just have them, because that’s what people do, or poor access to contraception, or accidental pregnancy, or whatever. And once kids are there, you will find a way to give them some food to eat and some clothes, if not much else.

      One classmate of mine with whom we were kind of friends at the time had two or three younger sisters, and they all lived in the same room of about 150-200 sq ft with their mother and stepfather, in a dormitory style housing with a kitchen and bathroom shared by many families. He would wear the same sweater throughout the winter and occasionally miss the school to look after his siblings. He also was very thin. I’d expect to see somewhat similar conditions at best in a refugee camp. If you’re ok with similar life for your kids (and social services won’t mind), I think you can afford 8 kids in the US on not too high salary.

      • Cliff says:

        The U.S. is a much richer country than Russia. Poor people in the U.S. don’t generally live like that. The very idea of a person being so poor they were skinny is a surprising one for me.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I think the standard story is largely wrong, the reason people tend to have fewer kids in more developed countries if because there many other things to do besides have kids (and I don’t just mean the sex part). There are more potentially meaningful jobs that could be your life’s work and more entertainment options if your desires point that way. The opportunity cost for having kids gets much higher as you get richer.

      • Do you think the median employed woman has a job that is more interesting and meaningful than being a housewife rearing children?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The real question should be,

          Do you think the median employed woman has a life that is more interesting and meaningful than it would be if she were a housewife rearing children?

          Leaving out the bit of working where you earn money by doing it seems disingenuous.

        • I was responding to:

          There are more potentially meaningful jobs that could be your life’s work

          • baconbits9 says:

            This was relative to the number of jobs available in lesser developed areas, not a direct ‘these jobs are better than raising children’ comparison.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The median woman is pretty close to having/doing both in places like the US, with one or two kids plus a job/career. Those that work and have no kids enjoy much higher disposable incomes. With mass schooling having one or two kids might keep you out of the workforce for 2-5 years, allowing for both to be experienced.

        • DinoNerd says:

          One thing I always want to ask men who are looking to marry a housewife – would they be willing to take on the house spouse job themselves? If not, do they think that being female would make that job more attractive, or other jobs less attractive?

          I.e. let’s reverse your question – “do you think the median employed man has a job that is more interesting and meaningful than being a housewife rearing children?” If that seems absurd to you, then there’s no point arguing about the attractiveness or otherwise of the job of childrearing, and/or the economic arrangements it comes with.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The difference between a woman staying home and a man is probably between 200 and 300 hours of extra work over the first year of a child’s life.

          • Randy M says:

            do you think the median employed man has a job that is more interesting and meaningful than being a housewife rearing children?

            Not David Friedman, but absolutely not.
            With the caveat that feeding and changing an infant isn’t terribly interesting, with any later ages, I’d say it beats 7 of the top 10 most common jobs, easy. Especially if you like your family and derive more satisfaction from meeting their needs than random strangers.

            The discontented feminists neglected to realize that a great many jobs are boring and/or unpleasant.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The discontented feminists neglected to realize that a great many jobs are boring and/or unpleasant.

            Jobs can be changed much more easily than children, and require fewer hours. If you don’t actively like raising children I could easily see it being a burden greater than a job you don’t like.

          • Randy M says:

            Jobs can be changed much more easily than children, and require fewer hours. If you don’t actively like raising children I could easily see it being a burden greater than a job you don’t like.

            Maybe if you really don’t like children.

            But a lot of those other jobs are going to be dealing with people, and it seems to me easier to handle an unpleasant child that you have some authority over than an unpleasant customer or boss that you must attempt to please. If your family is Homer and Bart Simpson and consistently awful, maybe it’s worse because you have no escape.

            It’d be interesting to ask nurses, waitresses, secretaries, etc, who have children which they’d rather be around if money were no object, their families or their customers/coworkers.

            Maybe the more relevant consideration is the status of the position in wider society, and even if we all value Motherhood as much as Baseball and Apple Pie, a job that about 1/4 of the population does can’t be high status. But then again, most people are never going to be high status, by definition.

          • EchoChaos says:

            One thing I always want to ask men who are looking to marry a housewife – would they be willing to take on the house spouse job themselves?

            No, but that’s not terribly relevant. One reason I was looking for a housewife is that it doesn’t appeal to me and I needed it done to meet my lifegoals.

            If not, do they think that being female would make that job more attractive, or other jobs less attractive?

            Yes, I think that on average women find housewife more attractive than men find househusband. I cite the substantially higher number of women pursuing it than men.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But you are biasing it by dropping money, money can bring satisfaction, especially bonuses and raises.

          • Cliff says:

            I would rather take care of the kids than do what I do (ignoring the money aspect). But yes, I’m sure there has been a survey that shows women would much rather take care of children than men would. After all, they are more people-focused.

          • Randy M says:

            But you are biasing it by dropping money, money can bring satisfaction, especially bonuses and raises.

            1. This is a different objection
            2. In some cases, yes, but see the two-income trap.

          • ana53294 says:

            One thing I always want to ask men who are looking to marry a housewife – would they be willing to take on the house spouse job themselves? If not, do they think that being female would make that job more attractive, or other jobs less attractive?

            You are asking the question to the wrong audience.

            Maybe because I live in a liberal bubble, but I’ve met multiple men who would like to be househusbands. They like socializing with kids, they don’t particularly crave status or money, want an egalitarian marriage and don’t find their current careers that fulfilling.

            But men like that aren’t looking for housewives, because their worst nightmare is being solely responsible for feeding their family.

            A man who wants to be a SAHP needs to look for a Sheryl Sandberg, not for Mrs Cleaver.

            The point of an arrangement where one works and the other is a SAHP is that both people are doing what they would prefer to do. If both of them would rather work than be a SAHP, or both of them would rather be a SAHP than work, it is clearly a non-optimal arrangement, unless they both want to be SAHP and are financially independent enough to retire. Wanting to be a SAHP is one of the main goals of pursuing financial independence for me.

            Being a woman may or may not make being a SAHP role more attractive. But statistics don’t matter when you’re searching for one person. What matters is that both of your goals are complimentary to each other.

          • I.e. let’s reverse your question – “do you think the median employed man has a job that is more interesting and meaningful than being a housewife rearing children?”

            No.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294 (& DinoNerd)

            There are far fewer Sheryl Sandberg’s than Mrs Cleavers, though.

            Also, someone like Sheryl Sandberg is much more likely to expect her husband to work than someone like Bill Gates is. A life goal of becoming a househusband reduces your dating prospects much more than a goal of becoming a housewife.

            Furthermore, studies suggest that men are punished harder for career interruptions, so getting a job again when the kids are older is probably harder for a man.

            You can also expect bias against you by the courts in the case of divorce, as well as by family & friends.

            So it doesn’t really matter that much if a man prefers to be a stay at home parent, if the option is fairly unrealistic for most, especially as something to aim for.

          • J Mann says:

            One thing I always want to ask men who are looking to marry a housewife – would they be willing to take on the house spouse job themselves?

            I don’t see that that question is super incisive. Specialization is a thing that can make some partnerships work. If I’m a reliable planner and look for someone creative and fun (and who is looking for a reliable planner), that works fine.

            Similarly, if I simultaneously (a) want to work really hard at in a high paying career and (b) raise kids, it can make sense to look for someone who (a) doesn’t want to work really hard in a high paying career and (b) does want to raise kids.

            In my case, my wife and I both work full time at jobs that leave us enough time to mostly parent the kids, but I can see how it makes sense for some couples to arrange with an earning parent and a stay at home parent, whether the stay at home parent is a housewife or househusband.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            There are many reasons why being a househusband is a worse deal than being a housewife – lack of women who want to be sole providers being one of them.

            Women who want high-flying careers usually don’t want children, and the hormonal shock of a pregnancy may cause some of them to prefer to cut hours to spend more time with kids (and thus want a spouse who can bring in the bacon).

            Men are probably a bit more laidback when it comes to keeping house and child-raising standards, so they won’t expect spouses to keep an impollute house and raise geniuses. Women would probably have much higher standards of what is an acceptable level of cleanliness and childminding, thus making the lot of a househusband harder.

            I’m just saying that houses where one specializes in being a SAHP and the other works, would be sub-optimal if they both want to be SAHP, unless they have enough money to both retire.

            I think a man who wants to be a SAHP would be best in finding a frugal spouse and the FIREing by saving enough money, and his wife can choose to retire or not as she wishes. It’s probably the best overall option.

          • DinoNerd says:

            I worded that badly, but I don’t personally know anyone, male or female, who would prefer to be a stay at home parent. I know a few men who support a stay at home wife, but I don’t personally know the wives.

            People who have that preference – or who claim acquaintances with that preference – show up regularly on SSC – and of course on the internet no one knows whether you are male, female, hermaphrodite or neuter.

            But what I don’t actually see is anyone claiming their preference (or that of a specific identifiable person) is related to the alternatives available to them.

            That only comes up as a thought experiment, or a push back against some feminists’ postitions. And no one ever applies that logic to males.

            Personally, I like the set of jobs generally available to US females in 2019 a lot better than the set available in 1959 or even 1969. Sure, plenty of jobs are actively unpleasant, or simply overwhelmingly boring. But not any more so than (my expectation of) childrearing, and at least paid employment puts money [= at least some empowerment] into your pocket.

            And from where I sit service/people jobs are particularly unpleasant – so the traditional jobs of waiter/waitress, secretary, teacher, nanny really don’t attract me any more than the job of SAHP.

            But I’d still probably take them in preference to SAHP, because they at least tend to only consume 40 hours a week.

          • Randy M says:

            But I’d still probably take them in preference to SAHP, because they at least tend to only consume 40 hours a week.

            That’s not a fair comparison. Someone has to watch the children in the other hours. So the question is, parenting 128 hours plus working 40, or parenting 168 hours.
            Maybe the variety makes the former preferable to you, but you can’t say parents work more hours unless you are comparing them to working full time and never having children, which has it’s own drawbacks if you want children.

            Maybe you’ll say that all men with homemaker wives will ignore all household duties on the assumption that it is the wives responsibility. This is not my experience, and it is the couples responsibility to discuss these matters prior to marriage.

            But what I don’t actually see is anyone claiming their preference (or that of a specific identifiable person) is related to the alternatives available to them.

            Men and women are different.
            Nonetheless, I would prefer to hang with my kids full time if money were no option. I’m not jealous of my wife, because I love her and want her to have a pleasant life and she does the home schooling better than I, but I do think she has the superior option.

            I look forward much more to 5:00 PM than I do 8:00 AM. I don’t think this is unusual among working parents.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            Women who want high-flying careers usually don’t want children

            I don’t believe that. Lagarde has children, AKK has children, Clinton has children, Nancy Pelosi has children, Marissa Mayer has children. Theresa May wanted children, but couldn’t due to fertility problems. Angela Merkel doesn’t have children of her own, although her husband has two. It’s unclear whether she didn’t want or couldn’t have children of her own.

            Surveys I’ve seen suggest that over 95% of people want children, so it seems that when older people never had children, this is more likely due to circumstance than a lack of desire.

            I think a man who wants to be a SAHP would be best in finding a frugal spouse and the FIREing by saving enough money, and his wife can choose to retire or not as she wishes.

            Women seem to desire an ‘average’ life more than men, though. The stereotype is that single men tend to be quite willing to live in squalor and need a woman’s hand to make them respectable. Anecdotal evidence from people near me definitely fits with men having a far higher tolerance for squalor, at least relative to women.

            The FIRE lifestyle seems similar to a sort of permanent diet and we know how well people are able to keep up diets (not very). Mr Money Mustache got divorced this year, BTW. Perhaps his wife stopped enjoying frugality as a lifelong job??

            I think that you are looking at it from the point of view of: having already decided to be a SAHP, what is the most feasible choice that may result in that outcome?

            This is very different to a point of view of: what life choices have the best chance of making me happy, given that I like being around kids more than a job? Or a point of view of: if I decide on a FIRE lifestyle to enable a SAHP life, what is is the chance that I succeed?

            I don’t think that SAH parenting is a very realistic thing for men to plan for, in the sense that the stars have to align to such an extent that it’s like planning for what you’ll do when you win the lottery. You better have a more realistic plan next to that, which is what you’ll have to follow if you don’t get very lucky.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            I am not discussing whether a man being a SAHP is easy, or happiness maximizing; I am merely pointing out that such men exist, but they won’t exist among the men who are looking for a housewife.

            The original question was whether such men exist, and whether being a SAHP as opposed to a job is an option some men want to take. And yes, they exist, and it’s an option, albeit a hard one.

            Anecdotal evidence from people near me tells me that it’s the women who tend to be frugal, and men tend to spend it. And studies that work on giving extremely poor families in developing countries money find that women are much more likely to invest the money in improving the family’s life (fix home, buy medicines, better food), and men spend it on alcohol/drugs and gambling. Anecdotal evidence from around me shows me that, also, women sacrificing a lot more for family.

            Thus, bachelor men living in squalor is not proof of their frugality; they just spend their money on toys (videogames, fancy cars), alcohol/pot, and women. I know a lot more men who are potheads than women.

            Mr Money Mustache got divorced this year, BTW. Perhaps his wife stopped enjoying frugality as a lifelong job??

            MMM explicitly said that he was the one who asked for divorce, that it was not about frugality, and that it was about them not putting in the work to make marriage work.

            Since his wife has not posted anything about their divorce, her not being a public persona and all, I choose to believe him and not speculate on his account of the matter.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            I am merely pointing out that such men exist, but they won’t exist among the men who are looking for a housewife.

            This seems obvious to me. Women who want to be housewives also don’t seek a househusband, but a provider. Why would things be different for men?

            And yes, they exist, and it’s an option, albeit a hard one.

            Which can mean that it’s not a realistic option for 99% of men.

            Compare it to becoming a professional soccer player. It’s clearly an option in the general sense, in that there are people who manage to get such a job. However, there are very many people who have such a lack of talent that they have zero chance to get such a job. Even those with talent have a very high wash-out rate, so (Western) soccer youth academies tend to demand that their students stay in school, so they have a solid alternative career path.

            If you need a very rare combination of skills and luck to become a househusband, then it is something that most men can’t reasonably design their life around.

            And studies that work on giving extremely poor families in developing countries money find that women are much more likely to invest the money in improving the family’s life (fix home, buy medicines, better food), and men spend it on alcohol/drugs and gambling.

            A reporter tried to find the source for that oft-repeated claim and found nothing.

            This kind of memery is typically extremely deceptive, if not outright false.

            MMM explicitly said…

            OK, fair enough, but you ignore my point that his lifestyle seems like a job in itself. He spends a lot of effort on saving money.

    • Viliam says:

      It is a combination of many factors, but most of them point in the same direction: you = less kids.

      Probably the only thing in favor of your reproduction is that more of your kids will survive. If you have three kids and all of them survive to adulthood, you are spreading your genes just as well as a person who had eight kids, but three of them died in infancy from sickness and malnutrition, and two of them died in a local war before reaching adulthood. On the other hand, this one factor in your favor means quite a lot!

      Just compare living in a village, surrounded by your extended family, with living in a city, surrounded by strangers. In the village, you have a garden in front of your house, where your kids can play. No need to take them to a playground and stay there unproductively watching them; you can work at your home or in your garden while the kids play. You can let an older child take care of younger siblings, because if something happens, you are near and they can call you. You can share babysitting duties with your extended family; on Monday you also take care of your sibling’s children, on Tuesday the sibling returns the favor and you have a free day. And of course the grandparents are there to help. Your children can contribute economically: a three-years old can already feed the poultry.

      The city is an opposite of this, and you also need a car to get anywhere; good luck if your family doesn’t fit into one car!

      Plus, what others already said…

      • baconbits9 says:

        Probably the only thing in favor of your reproduction is that more of your kids will survive. If you have three kids and all of them survive to adulthood, you are spreading your genes just as well as a person who had eight kids, but three of them died in infancy from sickness and malnutrition, and two of them died in a local war before reaching adulthood. On the other hand, this one factor in your favor means quite a lot!

        This means nothing evolutionairily, the comparison isn’t between you and some distant ancestor, it is between you and the current population. If you could have 3/8 children survive back then and 8/8 now, with no other considerations you would expect your peers to have more than 3 surviving offspring, diluting your impact of 3 surviving kids in the pool.

    • Lambert says:

      One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that people in the developed world get a pension once they’re too old to work.

      In the developing world, nobody’s going to support you in your old age except your extended family.
      Children are your best shot at not dying destitute.

      This turns childern from a money sink into an investment.

    • Machine Interface says:

      As an asides, a lot of people are mentioning the possibility of older siblings taking care of younger siblings as an argument for why a large amount of kids in a family is actually manageable; but I remember reading that this is actually structurally bad in that families that rely on this scheme statistically have a lot more child-abuse going on than the average family with less children — which doesn’t seem nonsensical, having people with a still partially undevelopped sense of empathy and responsibility take care of younger, vulnerable people with minimal supervision doesn’t seem like very sound parenting.

      • Cliff says:

        Maybe depends on the children. My ten year old daughter is a huge help and very good at caring for our two year old, and happy to do it.

    • Atlas says:

      Thank you for all the insightful responses, my friends! Best wishes to all the parents (and at least one grandparent) who shared what’d they’d learned from their experiences. I hope to join and rise through your ranks in the future.

  10. oriscratch says:

    I’ve noticed that a lot of young people, especially teenagers, listen to music almost constantly. I know several people who have, according to Spotify, spent several entire months of their lives listening to music.
    Personally, I don’t listen to music because I’m afraid that it takes away my time to think. Most people seem to listen to music at times when they’re bored and doing nothing (such as while sitting in a vehicle) or while doing routine tasks.

    The problem is, these are also the times when my attention is free to wander and think about random topics. I’ve come up with lots of interesting ideas and refined my thoughts/opinions about many important issues during these times. This seems to be the case with others, too – people such as Einstein and Newton are rumored to have come up with their best ideas at times when they had nothing to do and were daydreaming instead.
    But if I started listening to music in my mental free time, would this cut down on the time I have to think and daydream? My attention is limited, and listening to music will likely take up a large portion of this attention. Music is simply a bunch of nice-sounding vibrations that don’t hold much value aside from the pleasure one gets from them. Attention used for listening to music is attention not being used to think. Over the long term, trading ideas and mental development for momentary pleasure might not be such a good deal.
    Of course the effects should only be significant if I spend very large portions of time listening to music, but, as I mentioned before, this already happens to people I know.

    If my concerns are valid, could music end up having a negative effect on society? Imagine if the majority of people spent most of their mental free time listening to music. Assuming that my concerns are valid, then most people would have very little time or attention available for free, independent thought. A large number of important activities that normally happen when our minds have nothing to do – forming independent views on political or moral topics, coming up with new ideas in philosophy, mathematics, or science, realizing new insights, etc. – might be less likely to happen once most of our normally free attention becomes occupied with the stimuli of music. If Einstein had spent large portions of his time listening to music, could it have distracted him from having the daydream that supposedly led him to discover special relativity? I don’t know.

    Of course, I might be overreacting. Some studies show that music actually boosts creativity (which I don’t dispute, but I think the loss of free attention outweighs this gain). Some also mention that music actually promotes free, independent thought, but this confuses me. If you’re thinking about something other than music, then you must not be paying much attention to the music. But if you’re not paying much attention to the music, then why listen to the music at all? Maybe it’s because you can’t stand silence, but is that a result of listening to a lot of music in the first place?
    If music doesn’t inhibit how much attention you devote to thinking freely in your free time, then none of this is a problem. But I’m concerned that for many people, it does.

    Thoughts?

    Extra note: I think this also applies to any other activity people do in their free time that isn’t intellectually useful.
    Disclaimer: Since I don’t listen to music, it’s possible that my concerns are really just the result of me trying to rationalize my own behavior to myself. Huh.

    • alwhite says:

      I think you need a little bit of both. I don’t listen to music much either. I easily go on 8 hour car rides in silence and just let myself think. I know a lot of people who are terrified of that prospect.

      The complete lack of silence I see as a problem. There are studies out there about this. I don’t feel like pulling them up, but you can look for them if you like. I see your concerns happening with people who avoid silence at all costs. However, I would expect a person who has an hour a day or similar wouldn’t have those issues.

    • I don’t think of music as inhibiting my thought process. It’s usually more background music than something I’m deeply focused on. I don’t know why people like having background music on if they’re not paying much attention but it is comforting. Podcasts are more likely to disrupt these kinds of thought processes than music.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I frequently daydream and have “free” and “independent” thoughts while listening to music, so this whole post reads as nonsensical, based on a false dichotomy.

      If Einstein must work in silence, by all means, but don’t pretend everyone works like Einstein – or that all work benefits from Einstein’s preferred methods – or that society as a whole suffers from its diversion from the standards set by Einstein. Maybe silent meditation, unstructured daydreaming, and listening to music can be ranked by their usefulness, but there’s time enough for all of them anyway.

      Also, if I may be the token romantic: Music is good.

      • ksdale says:

        Counter-anecdote: For me, there isn’t such a thing as background music, either I’m listening to it, in which case my thoughts are shallower and my trains of thought shorter, or I’m not listening to it, in which case it is just noise and might as well be off.

        This seems like it may be one of those things where peoples’ brains just work differently. I definitely don’t read the parent comment as nonsensical.

        • DinoNerd says:

          That was true when I was younger. Now I work in a 12 person pod – it’s noisy. I can concentrate better with opera coming direct to my ears, in a language I don’t expect to understand, because then I don’t try to interpret all the conversations in earshot.

          That’s not to say I can concentrate all that well, of course. But music is less bad than the alternatives.

          • gbdub says:

            Yeah, this. Music can be distracting, but it’s relative. Is it more distracting than the rest of the environment you’re in? For me, most of the time, unless I’m home by myself, it’s not.

            I’m in a cube farm and if I need to do any focused work I pretty much have to have earbuds in, preferably playing something instrumental.

      • acymetric says:

        I’ll second this. I frequently find that a song a really like will start, only for me to drift off thinking about something else only to realize I’ve missed the song (or my favorite part, or whatever the case may be).

    • sammy says:

      I have a similar experience. I try to have some time to just think each day and music definitely interferes with this process for me, especially music with words in it. However, things like podcasts or nonfiction books usually spark new ideas. I also find that writing ideas and questions down (even if they make almost no sense) causes me to have more ideas.

    • meh says:

      Music is simply a bunch of nice-sounding vibrations that don’t hold much value aside from the pleasure one gets from them.

      Perhaps this is your experience, but is anything else backing up this claim? A quick search found there is value:
      https://lifehacker.com/listing-to-a-single-song-on-repeat-when-you-want-to-get-1690818056
      https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-exercise-workout-music-playlist_n_4173931

      I’m sure there is a large percent of people who do not perform well with music, but why project this into a superiority over the rest of society?

    • Hyperfocus says:

      It looks like my previous reply got eaten. Short answer, I agree completely! I’m almost completely incapable of getting any mental work done if I’m listening to music (or if there’s music nearby and I can hear it, or if there’s a TV on within my field of vision, or if the web page I’m trying to read has animated ads, etc.). With that said, housework begs for broom handle karaoke.

      • Nick says:

        Purely instrumental music I will make do with, but if there are lyrics I can’t tune it out. I can’t fathom how people listen to music with lyrics 16 hours a day. Like, why would I want anyone’s message, no matter how banal, to get that much of my attention?

        I’ll say though that there are folks who seem to work differently. I’ve read that John Von Neumann preferred noisy environments. Per Wikipedia:

        In Princeton, he received complaints for regularly playing extremely loud German march music on his gramophone, which distracted those in neighboring offices, including Albert Einstein, from their work.[55] Von Neumann did some of his best work in noisy, chaotic environments, and once admonished his wife for preparing a quiet study for him to work in. He never used it, preferring the couple’s living room with its television playing loudly.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I blast metal (mostly power, but some thrash) with lyrics constantly. It helps me focus because it drives out intrusive thoughts and replaces them with music I like.

          This allows my primary train of thought to continue without worrying about intrusive thoughts, and since I know the music already, I don’t need to process the lyrics.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Purely instrumental music I will make do with, but if there are lyrics I can’t tune it out. I can’t fathom how people listen to music with lyrics 16 hours a day. Like, why would I want anyone’s message, no matter how banal, to get that much of my attention?

          This is no small part of why I listen to a lot of non-English music

    • USB_qsd says:

      The problem is, these are also the times when my attention is free to wander and think about random topics. I’ve come up with lots of interesting ideas and refined my thoughts/opinions about many important issues during these times. This seems to be the case with others, too – people such as Einstein and Newton are rumored to have come up with their best ideas at times when they had nothing to do and were daydreaming instead.
      But if I started listening to music in my mental free time, would this cut down on the time I have to think and daydream? My attention is limited, and listening to music will likely take up a large portion of this attention. Music is simply a bunch of nice-sounding vibrations that don’t hold much value aside from the pleasure one gets from them. Attention used for listening to music is attention not being used to think. Over the long term, trading ideas and mental development for momentary pleasure might not be such a good deal.

      This a failure to recognize that listening to music almost certainly fosters creativity and abstract thinking. We don’t want to go down a road where we’re autistic robots who say “Error: Music is nothing but vibration patterns with no immediate value when weighted against thought bandwidth on concepts involving actual or potential utility”. This is how you create robot world. This is a popular idea in theocratic middle east, where it’s not uncommon to hear that any music that isn’t the call to prayer or explicitly religious is the work of Satan. Creativity kills religion because you get Einstein to make a farce out of whatever ancient text is operative. This is true in secular 2019, or some ancient theocracy of ignorance.

      You probably don’t arrive at Einstein if Beethoven was removed from spacetime.

    • eigenmoon says:

      It makes no sense to discuss music in general because it can have very different density and very different loudness. Try playing some minimalistic music not too loudly. Most people can easily think or daydream or write a comment (like I’m doing right now) over that. Can you?

      Now I’m of course aware (I’d even say painfully) that teenagers won’t listen to that, they’d listen to shit. But that’s a very different problem.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      For many people, like for me, listening to appropriate music actually helps them to think and get things done. Especially useful for writting.

      • AG says:

        Yep. Music can inspire thinking via many avenues. The timbres are usually associated with a feeling. The lyrics may inspire thoughts. The song itself may be associated with a memory that inspires. The song may have a historical context that inspires. Recognizing rhythm patterns can get the brain started on creating other patterns. The music can prevent distractions. Minor bopping along to the beat may increase bloodflow to the brain.

        Music is great, and I pity those who don’t experience it as I do.

        • ana53294 says:

          Music is great, and I pity those who don’t experience it as I do.

          Not wanting to listen to music while doing other things does not mean you don’t enjoy it, though.

          For me, I love to listen to music, but it’s an activity that requires concentration and my full attention (I prefer classical, more complex music, but none of that modern atonal stuff).

          • acymetric says:

            I guess I can understand that some people can’t do both, but I would distinguish between active listening and passive listening here.

            Is it hard to pay attention to a TV show/movie when there is background music? What about if there is music being played at a restaurant, or in some kind of store?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            To me, a TV is instant and total distraction. I have a really hard time focusing if one is in eyesight and I’ll actively move in restaurants to avoid it.

            Music isn’t distracting at all, although I can switch to more actively appreciating it.

          • ana53294 says:

            I don’t like most pop music, because I find it not much better than noise, and classical music just sucks too much of my attention.

            So I prefer quiet

          • acymetric says:

            @EchoChaos

            I meant that most TV/Film involves soundtracks/backing music. I was wondering if the same people who can’t think when music is on also can’t follow a film or tv show if there is music playing in the background.

          • ana53294 says:

            @acymetric

            Music in movies/TV is usually fine-tuned to the moment, they choose tunes that have the same emotional charge as that scene, etc.

            I find that the sound that most matches my thinking moments is quiet.

          • AG says:

            “Pop or classical” seems like such a limited scope of music. There are millions of genres out there to be enjoyed in various settings.

            Music for doing something else is generally a satisficing situation, rather than optimizing. I usually prefer maximalist music for active listening, but if I’m working on something else, “inferior” music can be better to facilitate that doing something else. There’s a reason why elevator/lounge music or video game music has evolved the way they have, precisely in order to not get in the way of people doing other things.

    • Urstoff says:

      The first step should probably be trying to understand why people enjoy music; it’s clear that you don’t value the enjoyment from music that other people do, which probably means their experience of music is quite a bit different from yours. This is especially apparent in your “why listen to music if you’re not concentrating on it” comment. This is a bizarre question to people who enjoy music, although it may be hard to articulate why it’s bizarre. Listening to music that you are familiar with is generally more enjoyable than listening to new and unfamiliar music, and because you are familiar with it, you don’t need to concentrate on it to hear all of it and take it in. Some genres are probably exceptions here, but most of the music that people listen to is not so musically complex that familiarity can’t be attained.

      In contrast, most people would probably think that a life spend trying to maximize thinking time is strange and alien.

    • beleester says:

      The problem is, these are also the times when my attention is free to wander and think about random topics

      This is almost exactly why I listen to music while working. Having my attention wander when I should be working is really really bad for getting work done. Maybe you’re better at focusing when it’s quiet, but that’s not the case for me.

      A large number of important activities that normally happen when our minds have nothing to do – forming independent views on political or moral topics, coming up with new ideas in philosophy, mathematics, or science, realizing new insights, etc. – might be less likely to happen once most of our normally free attention becomes occupied with the stimuli of music.

      This is a fully general argument against any sort of entertainment. Young people are reading science fiction books instead of coming up with new ideas in philosophy. Young people are watching movies instead of doing math. Young people are playing video games instead of… you get the idea. You are not morally obligated to spend 100% of your time on the advancement of society, unless you’re a really hardcore utilitarian.

      Music is simply a bunch of nice-sounding vibrations that don’t hold much value aside from the pleasure one gets from them.

      There’s an apocryphal story about Winston Churchill – someone asked him if they should cut funding for the arts during WWII, and he replied “Then what are we fighting for?” If we cut music and other non-productive time out of our lives, then we’ll be more productive, but what are we doing with that productivity? Advancing society is an instrumental goal, not a terminal one – we want to advance society so that we can spend less time laboring and more time on things we enjoy, like art and music and games.

  11. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Budget season is here! As a friendly reminder, if you complain to your accountant that you are not a “numbers person,” your budget is cut by 10%. 10%, after all, is just a number!

    Also, a friendly reminder. When they say you are paying 40% in benefits? That means you are paying 60% in wage. That means, every 60 cents you are paying in wage, you are paying 40 cents in benefits. That means for every DOLLAR you pay in wages, you are paying 67 cents in benefits.

    That means your full-time workers are expensive. That means your full-time workers who have been doing this for 10+ years are VERY expensive. They need to be something like 3-4 times better than a temp to be worth their cost.

    Finally, GIGO. If, for instance, you decided not to record your scrap correctly all year, and do an inventory count AFTER we finalize the budget….well, now you’re screwed for this year AND next year. And if HR, for some reason, hasn’t decided on the healthcare plan yet for 2020, we cannot budget healthcare expenses accurately . Finalize your big items in the FIRST half of the year, thank you.

    Also. Clean up your invoices. There’s no way I am accruing for every expense on the books. I am looking at you, Des! If you still have open invoices from 2018, I am coming after you!

    • Deiseach says:

      Also. Clean up your invoices. There’s no way I am accruing for every expense on the books. I am looking at you, Des! If you still have open invoices from 2018, I am coming after you!

      I feel your pain, ADBG. We’re gathering everything together to ship off to our auditors, except the boss keeps changing their mind about a particular expense and how to handle it. I’m pretty sure I have all the paperwork (AND RECEIPTS! AND INVOICES!) gathered up for the financial year in question, now if they would only pick a category and stick to it (and let me have the information about various bits’n’bobs they’re hanging on to) then it would all be good to go.

      Thanks for reminding me that I will have three months worth of itemised items to go through for our quarterly returns to one of our funding bodies in two weeks time 🙂

    • Deiseach says:

      That means your full-time workers are expensive. That means your full-time workers who have been doing this for 10+ years are VERY expensive. They need to be something like 3-4 times better than a temp to be worth their cost.

      More seriously – this? Is why lots of places are cutting down numbers, or replacing full-time workers with part-timers, or reducing part-time hours to be under the Magic Number (e.g. if you are legally entitled to such-and-such benefit after 40 hours worked, they schedule your rota to be 39.5 hours).

      It’s also why people at a certain age and career level are finding it hard to find an equivalent job if they’re made redundant or decide to switch – you’re at a stage where your salary expectations are at a level where the prospective new employer might decide they can get a graduate or immigrant on a H1B visa who will be trained in the Newest Thing (so your years of experience on Standard Thing aren’t an advantage) plus they only have to pay them half or even a third of what you expect. Unless you’re a superstar or are moving up the promotion ladder from a current position, you’re now in the danger zone of “are you X times as good as a temp or a new hire straight out of college?”

      • Gobbobobble says:

        See I read that and actually thought “oh need to be only 3-4x better than an untrained schmuck? That’s a comfortingly low bar!”

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Kinda depends on the job, the temp, and the economy. “Temp” doesn’t necessarily mean untrained: some of ours are actually trained to do jobs they aren’t technically allowed to do. Either because it’s impossible to hire them, or because the economy is so atrocious that you can buy labor for extraordinarily cheap.

          Plus, some jobs are pretty much impossible to 3x or 4x, because they are extremely simple jobs. Our team wants to replace temps with full-time employees because they are supposedly more reliable, but they might have an easier time if they just paid temps more.

          • acymetric says:

            Spoken like someone from accounting. 😉

            At least in a production environment, temps are notoriously unreliable. Not all of them, of course sometimes you get good ones, but a lot of the good ones end up getting hired on full-time somewhere so the temps that cycle around are of lesser quality.

            The benefit may not be worth the cost of converting the entire team to full-time, but they would almost certainly be more reliable.

        • andrewflicker says:

          I’m with you- that should be relieving to many skilled people. Last time I had to hire temps, I went through half a dozen before I found someone decent, and even they didn’t work out when we wanted to offer them a permanent position. The median temp, in my experience in three different companies, has NEGATIVE productive value.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you try to go temps in any competitive industry for any period of time then other companies can just poach your best workers (ie longest tenured) easily.

      • LeSigh says:

        It’s also why

        It’s sensible for employers support decoupling benefits from employment, as long as we can figure out a way to do so without crushing taxes (which we can).

    • tocny says:

      Hello fellow accountant! I am an auditor though, so I don’t have the same concerns as you. My concerns are oh, you didn’t record scrap correctly all year, and oh, there are a whole bunch of expenses that haven’t been accrued for throughout the year (although it would depend on the size of the enterprise if they are material or not).

    • LeSigh says:

      I don’t comment here often, but I thought I should let you know that the more of your comments I read, the more I like you.

  12. theredsheep says:

    Recommend me some durable men’s walking shoes? I used to be a Rockport guy, but the last two pairs I’ve owned have fallen apart after barely a year apiece, if that. Checking out Amazon reviews, I find pretty much every brand I look at has about five percent of its reviews say “they used to be great but they’ve gone down in quality and fall apart at once.” My wife and I spent about an hour Googling and found good words for Keen shoes. They have the same 5%. Gah!

    I’m not looking for super-cheap here, but I can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars on footwear. A plain black shoe suitable for work and/or church is what I’m going for here. Durability is a must because I’ll probably be doing clinicals in these shoes–that means a lot of walking. Thank you!

    • Buttle says:

      As of a couple of years ago Allen Edmonds seems pretty good to me. Nice leather, come in a full range of widths, I have found them comfortable.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Are we finally going to unite and throw the lizardmen out of power, or are we going to go on letting them ruin our shoes?

      Seriously, I recommend Ecco.

    • Yair says:

      I’ve had the exact same disappointing experience with Rockport and am currently looking for the exact same information/recommendation. Hopefully, someone has some advice on this and is kind enough to share it.

    • Aapje says:

      @theredsheep

      I suggest reading this and would especially suggest looking into the brands they list as disruptor brands.

      My experience with such brands (for other clothing than shoes) has been good, because those companies can’t coast on their brand name, but are still in the process of building it up. So they have to provide very good value, while established brands often start coasting on their brand name.

      Of course, discounts/clearance can drive the value/cost up a lot too.

      PS. If you walk a lot, then any shoe is going to wear out relatively fast. Depending on how you wear shoes on the inside (which I think depends on how you walk), it might be advantageous to buy a bit expensive shoes and to resole them when the sole wears out

    • Deiseach says:

      ECCO shoes are good quality, if a little expensive; I needed hard-wearing walking shoes (like yourself) and was recommended them by the shoe shop (the assistant asked if I was a nurse, so seemingly people who are on their feet all day like nurses wear this brand!)

    • Urstoff says:

      Do sneakers count? Because the New Balance 990s are pretty much the gold standard for general-purpose shoes.

    • DBDr says:

      I’ve had good luck with Merrell hiking shoes and boots.

      Any of the moab shoes are good; they have the best combo lightness, airflow, and toughness for me.

      I took them on a hike around the olympics and through southern spain; they held up great in mud and rock and dust.

      NOTE: When they say wide, they mean W I D E. I have wide feet so they are great for me; but if you can find them to try on in person, do so.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I frequently see Keen brand recommended highly by fellow hikers. One quote: “they’re like a couch for your feet”.

      Indeed, I have a pair of Keens, and they are incredibly comfortable. I got them for rainy weather – waterproof. I could walk in two inches of slush, and my socks were still warm and dry.

  13. johan_larson says:

    I am disappointed to find that both the CIA and the NSA have recruiting videos on YouTube. Come on guys, you are supposed to be the secret masters. All-knowing. All-seeing. Learn to cultivate some mystique, for crying out loud.

    • John Schilling says:

      Those are actually the KGB and Mossad recruiting videos.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The CIA used to advertise jobs in the National Clandestine Service (which apparently is back to being called the Directorate of Operations, but whatever) on the radio. I figured this was to fill some sort of weird government requirement and they’d never recruit anyone they found that way.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I assume it’s this sort of situation.

    • Atlas says:

      I was going to and will probably make a post in the future about how disappointed I’ve been by reading a couple books about the actual history of the CIA (and intelligence services in general.)

    • johan_larson says:

      Is there some US security or intelligence service that is only rumored to exist, or even officially denied?

      This could be quite the conspiracy theory rathole, I suppose.

      • Aapje says:

        There is the British Secret Intelligence Service, but sadly enough their existence isn’t actually a secret.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        For the longest time the NSA was like this.

        The agency was formally established by Truman in a memorandum of October 24, 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9. Since President Truman’s memo was a classified document, the existence of the NSA was not known to the public at that time. Due to its ultra-secrecy the U.S. intelligence community referred to the NSA as “No Such Agency”.

        The memo is still classified, and almost no one has seen it. Literally we don’t know what exactly the NSA is chartered to do.

      • Atlas says:

        From Kingsman: the Secret Service:

        [Valentine receives a notice that Professor Arnold has been terminated]

        Valentine : Fuck that guy, whoever he is! I’m gonna… He made me kill Professor Arnold. Goddamn loved Professor Arnold.

        Gazelle : Well the good news is we know the emergency surveillance system works.

        Valentine : You know what’s not good news? ‘My colleague died,’ that’s what he said. This is an organization and they’re all over us. Whoever you spoke to…

        Gazelle : I told you. I made contact with the KGB, MI6, Mossad, and Beijing. They all insist it wasn’t one of theirs.

        Valentine : Beijing. So freaky how there’s no recognizable name for the Chinese Secret Service. Now that’s what you call a secret, right? You know what? Fuck it. We need to speed things up. Bring the product release forward.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The NSA’s existence was a pretty badly-kept secret. They had (and have) their own exit on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the only signage being a dire warning that you probably shouldn’t be there. That was a little hard to hide. The dire warning is still there, but it’s complemented by a huge sign marked “NSA”.

        There were some others that were at least slightly less-well-known before becoming public.

        • albatross11 says:

          I gather people interested in cryptography in those days (amateur cryptographers and the odd math professor) knew of their existence. And also that they recruited a fair number of people with undergrad math degrees to come learn crypto from them–sort of a cross between an apprenticeship and a graduate program.

        • DarkTigger says:

          There was the joke that “NSA” was an abbreviation for “No Such Agency” while the officals still denied it’s existence.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      The CIA had a recruiting ad in our annual (yearbook) at Georgia Tech in 1983.

  14. viVI_IViv says:

    I’ve been taking more advantage of a feature where any comment that more than three users report gets removed until I can check it over for appropriateness. Most of these comments are inappropriate but not worth banning people for, so I usually just keep them removed and take no further action. I know people don’t like moderator actions without transparency, but I don’t have enough time/energy to moderate in a transparent way and so you are stuck with this for now. Sorry.

    Once you say this feature exists, you create an incentive to abuse it.

  15. emiliobumachar says:

    The Passover Chapter of Unsong, without the first segment with the Unitarians, would make a good opening for the book.

    Maybe just the segment with Uriel and Moses.

  16. Hamish Todd says:

    Hey everyone, I am rewriting the opening of my okcupid profile. They’re below. I will be changing specific wording. Would appreciate input on, essentially, whether you think they’re a good idea either at the level of appealing to the people I’d like to date – or whether you think I’m being wrongheaded in my expectations about dating. Here’s the rest of my profile by the way: http://okcupid.com/profile/hamishtodd1 – hit me up if you’re in London!

    “Looking for someone to have long conversations with. Best if the long conversations involve respectful disagreements, because there’s nothing I like more than hearing facts and thoughts that I’ve not heard before! I’m privileged to know many intelligent, honest people, and when they express a subtle opinion that I do not agree with, it’s often connected to their knowing some set of things that I do not know, and so I get to hear what they are.

    Even in the boring situation where I am right and the other person is wrong, I find it’s rare that they’re *entirely* wrong, and I get to learn something anyway. And maybe the disagreements don’t get resolved, which doesn’t feel as good. The important and enjoyable thing, in my opinion, is to try to understand one another =)”

    • Nornagest says:

      Cut everything after “long conversations with”. And don’t use words like “disagreement”, “debate”, or, God forbid, “wrong” in whatever you replace it with. No matter how respectfully you qualify it, if you lead with something like that it’s going to sound like you’re itching to pick a fight over the breadsticks.

      You can talk about how much you like hearing other perspectives (ideally, in phrasing that positive or moreso) further down your profile. Way further down. Does OKC still have an “anything else you should know about me” section? Use that one if so.

    • Randy M says:

      I shouldn’t comment, for the obvious reason and also because I’ve never done the internet dating thing. Maybe this is a perfect opening to stand out with.

      That said, while I get from this that you aren’t looking for a quick physical relationship, it isn’t clear that you are looking for a romance of any kind.

      • Hamish Todd says:

        This is one of my main worries. My ideal of romance is basically fun conversations like the one I’ve just described, plus heartfelt cuddles and sex. I have had this before… but would you say it’s a rare thing?

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t think you’re alone in valuing all that. But is there a reason it has to come in one package?

          But that’s an aside, the point was just that from those two paragraphs (I don’t care to sign up for OKCupid for the rest, sorry) I don’t get anything but the search for intellectual debate partner. Perhaps on that medium, the rest is assumed, but consider that you might be turning off women (?) who are there primarily for romance. I’m also not sure if you’re looking for exclusivity or long term/marriage. (Apparently answered elsewhere)

          What about “I’m looking for a woman who will keep me intellectually humble with her wit and good humor as we grow old together, or at least keep each other entertained for a few fun dates.”

          edit: Someone should start a dating site with A/B testing as a feature for user pages.

    • J Mann says:

      I’d rewrite it to be more positive, unless you want to screen heavily. (And there’s nothing wrong with that).

      Something like:

      “I particularly like being exposed to new ideas, new challenges, and new things, and would love to meet someone who is interested in discussion and exploration.”

      (My internet dating situation is about 15 years old, so things may have changed, but my experience is that if you’re a man looking for a woman and not either gorgeous, wealthy, or both, you kind of need to hustle to get much interest, but a funny and engaging profile helps when the people you email check you out.)

    • Urstoff says:

      No matter how respectfully you write that sentiment, people are going to think you are the “Debate me, coward” guy.

      • Hamish Todd says:

        I’ve tried to rewrite it many times, and I think you’re right, and I also think you’re perceptive for realizing that this is the fundamental struggle. I think I just have to deal with the fact that people will have to deal with that.

    • ana53294 says:

      I think you have to choose.

      When I look at a profile, and I see:

      Looking for women for short & long term dating, hookups, new friends, and open to non-monogamy.

      I don’t know what I’m seeing. Too many options is sometimes bad. I would say, either lose the hookups, or drop the intelligent conversations bit.

      When I see “hookups” it doesn’t seem like a guy looking for an intellectual companion, but maybe that’s just me. But I do avoid guys who state hookups in their profiles.

      Flings with stimulating conversations and casual sex are already covered by “short term dating”.

      • Hamish Todd says:

        It’s not just you, it’s many people. “Hookup” and “long term dating” is sort of by definition exclusive things, it’s true. For various social reasons I would say your reaction is understandable.

        However, I can be (am) honestly looking for both from different people. If there was someone who made it clear that they were only interested in long-term relationship-based dates, and I suspected from their profile that I would be uninterested in them for a relationship but would be interested in them for a hookup, I would *not* go on a date with them, because it would be immoral to mislead and waste their time like that.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          It’s definitely reasonable to be looking for a mixture of things, but I think it’s probably wise to separate the different things across different apps — for OKCupid stick with “dating” or “relationships” and go to Tinder or wherever for more casual stuff (“new friends” can probably go in both but I’m not sure if people are ever successful with finding those on dating apps). This means you’ll lose people on OKCupid who are looking for hookups and are put off by you only mentioning relationships, but I expect there are far fewer of them than people looking for relationships who will be put off by the mention of hookups (even they are in the same position of looking for both!). I think “non-monogamy” also burns weirdness points unnecessarily. If you can put it in a separate field of “preferred relationship style” or whatever then that’s probably fine, but putting it in the main text sends the wrong signal IMO.

          • acymetric says:

            I think listing both hurts both ways. People looking for short term might be prone to reading it as “really wants a long term relationship but proposes short term in hopes of getting the hooks in and turning it into something long term”. Of course from the other way, people looking for long term are going to take the “short term” as evidence that you don’t really want something long term, you’re just saying that to get the short term that you actually want.

            Agree that splitting across multiple platforms might be good, except that a lot of the women will also be operating on multiple platforms, and if this description is slightly off-putting, having outright contradictory information across platforms will be even worse if any of them notice.

            Of course its a cliche, but maybe something along the lines of “not looking for something immediately serious but open to it if something develops” or some such. Kind of says the same thing but in a less “take whatever I can get” tone.

        • ana53294 says:

          Your profile does not say whether you want kids.

          But as a person who does, I think you have to take into account gender differences.

          A guy might not view as a waste of his time having a hookup with a girl he likes enough to hookup with her but not enough to date her. A girl looking for marriage and kids will much more likely find it a useless distraction to her precious fertile years.

          If you do want kids and a partner to have them with, even the very low cost signal of dropping hookups as an option from your profile is useful. You are almost into your thirties, and girls that age (especially as soon as they turn 30; it’s a magical number) start to hear their clock ticking.

          If you don’t want kids, keep it; it will scare all girls who have a ticking clock and you save them grief.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This does not sound sexy at all.

      And is this honest? Like, is this what you actually want out of a girl? A debate partner? Or do you think this is what they want to hear?

      I’ve never done internet dating, but I’d go for the direct approach. “I like blondes. And stacked. No crazies. Hit me up.” May not work, but if anyone responds, at least I’m getting what I want.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Different people have different desires; news at 11

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I know, that’s why I asked if this was what he actually wanted (a debate partner) or if this is what he thinks girls want to hear.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I met my wife on internet dating.

        I made it clear I was looking for an attractive religious woman who wanted to be the mother of many future children.

        That’s what I got. 10/10

        If you want a debate partner, you will probably get one. But as Conrad says, is that what you want?

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      It’s clear what you’re looking for, and I don’t think it’s impossible to achieve. But I agree with others that this is the wrong way of expressing it. Enjoying thought-provoking discussions is common, but something about being so deliberate and explicit about it seems weird — it reads a little bit like an application for a job which is not a good vibe. I’d rewrite to something along these lines:

      “Looking for interesting people to have long conversations with. Come tell me about [x], [y] or whatever cool thing you’re into!”

      where [x] and [y] are fairly specific things you’d be interested in. If you go moderately specific for [x] (e.g. Mexican history) and way over-specific for [y] (e.g. phonology of 17th century Norwegian) that adds a nice bit of microhumour.

    • Atlas says:

      I’m a rather unworldly young fellow, so feel free to discount my advice accordingly, but I think you might be somewhat misguided in your expectations. (Most of what follows will be a rehashing of some key points from the very insightful book Mate by Professor Geoffrey Miller and Tucker Max.)

      There’s no one size fits all model for what all women everywhere want, but there is a combination of traits that has decent predictive value for a man’s success in the dating market. (Professor Miller would contend that this has a lot to do with paleolithic selection pressures, but you don’t have to necessarily agree to find this model useful.) Unfortunately, being a smart, respectful conversationalist who enjoys thinking about and discussing abstract topics does not seem to lead to much success in most mating markets.

      I would say that this is because (unfortunately) most women are not looking for a partner who will be good at logically and politely sharing insight into abstract ideas. They are rather looking for men with traits like extroversion, athleticism, aptitude for dealing with real world problems, success in a prestigious, well-compensated field and high willpower and confidence (an often somewhat misunderstood concept).

      In other words, women are, naturally enough, looking for men who will add value to their lives. They want men who they can throw at broken, heavy, dangerous, confusing or scary things and trust to get rid of them. They want men who are good at and have (by normie standards) exciting and “fun” physical hobbies like kayaking/dancing/skiing that they can do together. They want practical, responsible men who will be good at co-running a household and raising children.

      This no doubt sounds like a lot, and it is, but this is the bear in the joke about stopping to put on sneakers. You don’t need to live up to this ideal, you just need to do a bit better than the other guys she’s considering as potential mates. It sucks, and it’s something I really struggle with myself, but it seems like that’s the world we live in. (If you can prove this theory wrong by finding a qt waifu who just enjoys long, thoughtful conversations, all the more power to you.)

      I’ll also suggest that, while online dating is fine, you might also want to try “incidentally” meeting women in real life settings that work to your advantage. With online dating, you’re describing rather than demonstrating your virtues to a woman, and you’re meeting her with the explicit intent of courting her, which is (for most guys anyway) fairly stressful. By contrast, if you do regularly do an activity where you hope to meet women, you’re showing rather than telling her your virtues, you can build a social network of friends who can vouch for you to her and it’s less stressful because you aren’t attempting to court a complete stranger out of the blue.

      In any case, I wish you the best of luck.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think this is very good advice. Although I chuckled at “demonstrating your virtues” because it reminded me of the DENNIS system.

      • I would say that this is because (unfortunately) most women are not looking for a partner who will be good at logically and politely sharing insight into abstract ideas.

        As your “most” implies, women vary. My wife’s account of her reaction to our first meeting is “I’ve finally found someone interesting in this place” (VPI, where I was an assistant professor and she a grad student in a different field).

        But she almost certainly was not thinking in terms of romantic courtship, given how long it took me to persuade her to marry me.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I can see it now.

          DF: But dear, don’t you see that you need to discount your future happiness that you might find with another partner in two ways. First you have already (obviously) considered the time aspect, but have you considered that you hold a local monopoly on my heart? This will allow you to extract rents far in excess of what you would from your average expected future partner, so if I could refer you to figure 1.3 again, you will see the shaded area (here) that indicates the full extent of the rents that you could extract from our relationship. This figure will end up being quite large as I currently enjoy a very satisfying life and the implication of entering a voluntary agreement is that both of us will experience gains from doing so, leaving you to capture from a much larger utility function overall.

    • serench says:

      I can’t see the rest of the profile but for what it’s worth, I would be messaging you privately if I were in London or nearby. A conversation partner is what I’m looking for too and you seem interesting and genuine. My only advice about what you’ve written is to reduce the formality a little – try increasing the use of contractions rather than phrasings like ‘I do not’

  17. edmundgennings says:

    I find that I have some tendency when in public places to rest my eyes on more physically beautiful people, and a strong tendency to rest my eyes on people I find ugly, as well as people that represent a higher degree of danger.
    Doing the first makes me happier much like smelling something nice would. The second makes me considerably less happy much like smelling something malodorous would. The last is neither pleasant or unpleasant serves some purpose, undoubtedly not much given my safe environment but some.
    Is there any good reason not to try to suppress my tendency to disproportionately rest my gaze on those I find ugly and or increase my tendency to disproportionately look at those whom it is enjoyable to see?
    I imagine that there is some amount of increased risk of crime from people I find ugly, but the effect is probably quite small and I probably already take too much precautions given the very low level of danger in my settings.
    As long as I avoid staring etc I imagine the people being looked at will not care.
    But I could imagine renorming being a problem.

    • Randy M says:

      Resting your gaze but not staring sounds like a difficult line to toe. I’d expect some occasional awkwardness here.
      More importantly, if you are literally avoiding seeing ugly people, you may do it metaphorically as well, overlooking the problems of someone you may have otherwise wanted to help, or missing the chance at a friend you don’t notice.

      But I definitely don’t think there’s anything weird about the behavior; wanting to look at good looking people is almost tautological, and ‘hacking’ yourself into thinking all appearances are equally aesthetically pleasing sounds impossible and likely to backfire. But indulging in it does make you sound shallow.

      • edmundgennings says:

        Yeah, though I have not had awkwardness from staring at people I perceive as ugly, though I have a strong enough halo effect that I do not perceive anyone who I am freinds with to be ugly. Hence there may be more of a risk of awkwardness.
        My goal would primarily be to reduce the time I spend looking at people I perceive as ugly to the amount of time I spend looking at people I find neutral though overshooting would have that risk.
        This is definitely shallow. One of the advantages of the internet is that one can get advice on these sorts of things

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      How’s your face (character, not quality)?

      I apparently look like I’m staring at whatever I’m looking at due to heavy eyebrows, sunken eyes, and a resting angry face (despite not being, like, ugly ugly – I think I’m pretty nondescript). I know it makes people uncomfortable, so I try to look out of windows.

      • edmundgennings says:

        I have a resting happy face. This has its upsides but I imagine will cause some awkward moments as my line of work involves a lot of funerals and will involve a lot more in a few years.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I think you’ll be fine then. If anyone visibly takes offense, assert dominance by picking your nose.

        • Aapje says:

          @edmundgennings

          Make it your strength and specialize in those funerals where they dance and sing; as well as funerals of miserable gits whose family is happy to see them dead.

    • Lambert says:

      I think more or less everyone has these tendencies.

      It seems pretty adaptive, from an evolutionary standpoint.

      • edmundgennings says:

        But why is looking at ugly people adaptive? I could imagine it being that people I perceive as being ugly are simply outside my tribe who I do not know and whom have facial asymmetries.

  18. baconbits9 says:

    Some thoughts on inflation spurred by some comments I’ve seen around recently.

    The Great Depression was likely initiated by the destruction of money, if you had $1,000 in the bank one day and then it went under the next then that money was largely gone. In the modern world this doesn’t happen so easily, FDIC insurance on its own will prevent a large amount of that destruction. Modern crises are largely about the velocity of money declining suddenly*, in fact you might describe them as having general increases of stock and decreases of flow.

    This combination of exploding stock and falling prices confused a lot of onlookers around 2008** and caused quite a few incorrect predictions. Looking back now a lot of it seems a lot more obvious to me now***, the Federal Reserve increases the money supply when velocity falls, in a way the decrease in velocity causes the increase in MS. In other ways this is also true, money flows into low risk bonds in high risk environments, bonds with a zero coupon are basically money substitutes, meaning that a decline in velocity that leads to a decline in bond yields can be conceptually approached as a decline in velocity causing an increase in the money supply. That is a technical consideration but it opens up the possibility that a decline in V can lead to increases in M, and that a rebound in V could therefore decrease M which would partially offset each move.

    This is not, however, the whole game. It is fairly easy to describe a scenario where a change in V or M has the opposite effect. If a government is printing to cover its debts then M is increasing, and holders of money are anticipating future declines in value and so move to avoid holding money, increasing V. Or V increases, which pushes up prices and the government prints more to cover its rising deficits.

    The long and the short of it is that M and V shouldn’t be treated as independent variables, or as having a fixed relationship. Naturally this makes predictions more difficult, but hopefully actually puts us on a path where more accurate predictions can be made.

    *Velocity and monetary stock both dropped during the GD.
    ** Including me
    *** Famous last words

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      MV=PY is an identity (i.e., tautologically true).

      A recession is (roughly) when Y drops; due to sticky wages & prices, P only decreases slowly.

      When V plummets, Y will fall unless M increases quickly enough to offset. Conversely, no matter what happens to V, Y can be prevented from falling by increasing M enough to compensate.

      ETA: Y also can only increase so fast; if M grows too quickly (e.g., the debt monetization scenario you describe), P spikes. If V also starts climbing, hello hyperinflation.

      ETA2: None of these quantities are readily measurable; PY (aka NGDP) is the most so.

      ETA3: Variable definitions:
      P = price level
      Y = real GDP
      M = money supply
      V = money velocity

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Naturally this makes predictions more difficult, but hopefully actually puts us on a path where more accurate predictions can be made.

      I feel you may have accidentally jinxed the economy or something. BRB, investing in gold, rice, and ammo.

    • Robin says:

      Your words remind me of those of Michael Unterguggenberger, mayor of Wörgl in Austria during the great depression. He introduced a demurrage-charged local currency and wrote on the backside of the banknotes these dramatic words (rough translation by me):

      To everybody!
      Slowly circulating money has thrown the world into an unprecedented economic crisis and millions of working people in terrible misery. – The downfall of the world has (just from an economical point of view) taken its terrible beginning. – It is time to save the down-spiralling economy machine by clear recognition and decisive action, lest humanity be driven into civil wars, chaos and disintegration.
      People live from exchanging their YIELD. The slow circulation of money has stopped a great part of the exchange of yields, and millions of ready-to-work people have thus lost their living space in the economic structure. – The exchange of yields must therefore be increased again, and the living space for all those already expulsed must be won back. To this end serves the “work confirmation certificate” of the municipality of Wörgl:
      It alleviates misery, gives work and bread!

      Sure enough, if your money loses value all the time, you want to get rid of it quickly, which increases V.

      At least it worked fine back then… Unfortunately the idea is mixed up with some esoteric semi-crackpot ideas by Silvio Gesell, which has done a lot of damage to its reputation.

      What are the usual methods for controlling the velocity of money?

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        What are the usual methods for controlling the velocity of money?

        You can’t; only money supply is controllable.

  19. Douglas Knight says:

    To what extent are medical residents receiving education from the hospital and to what extent are they providing valuable work to the hospital? Do residents work long hours for their education, or are the hospitals exploiting them?

    Residencies, more than medical school slots are the choke point. The AMA is, more or less, a cartel limiting the expansion of medical schools in the USA, but foreign schools are acceptable. For example, Scott has an Irish MD and managed to get a residency in America. The limit on the number of residency slots is more mysterious.

    Hospitals claim that they lose money on residents, despite the long hours. They refuse to take more residents, except as subsidized by medicare, $100k/year. Is this their revealed preference? Or is this collusion, that they refuse to lower the price? Another window into this is that hospitals occasionally sell the right to this medicare funding. The recent bankruptcy of Hahnemann Hospital lead to an auction of its ~550 slots, which sold for $55 million, that is $100k/slot. That doesn’t sound like much to me.

    (This was not a very liquid auction. They only accepted bids for the whole set of residencies, so there weren’t many bids. I think that the winners were a large consortium that will spread them thinly, while other bids were a chain of hospitals that would have divided them up into a few clumps and a company that wanted to (re)create a whole hospital.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Not an expert on this, but my impression is hospitals are telling the truth and residents lose money.

      I agree this is mysterious, since you get to hire doctors for much less than usual salary. I think the considerations are:

      1. The doctors are almost useless for a year or so while they learn basic skills.
      2. It probably takes almost as much attending labor to oversee and teach residents as it would have taken to just treat the patients in the first place.
      3. Residents are rotating in and out of different positions so frequently that you can’t always count on having X residents in a position. Often hospitals will try to make their wards self-sustaining without any residents, and then they don’t have to worry about how many residents will or won’t be there any given month.
      4. The government requires residents to do a bunch of different rotations, and often your hospital will not be able to handle all of those. For example, all psychiatry residents have to do an geriatric psychiatry rotation, but the hospital I trained at didn’t have a gero psych ward. So they had to get another hospital with gero psych to take their residents for that rotation. I think that probably involved both paying the other hospital money for their trouble, and continuing to pay my salary even though I wasn’t at their hospital that month.
      5. The government often requires residents do a month on various random things they will never use in real life. For example, I had to do a month of ECT. But I started off knowing nothing about ECT, and you can’t become a good ECT practitioner in one month, so realistically that month was me following an ECT doctor and nodding my head so we could check this off the list. I wasn’t producing any profit for the hospital that month, but they still had to pay me. A surprising amount of residency is like this.
      6. Because of the need to check off various rotations, hospitals might have to start programs that aren’t economically viable, just to give their residents exposure to those programs. For example, it was clearly an economic mistake to have an emergency psychiatry program at my hospital, but the ACGME requires it and starting it ourselves was easier than paying another hospital to take our residents for it, so we did.

      My preferred solution to the economic problem would be changing the requirements to say that a psychiatry resident must do X years of psychiatry, but they don’t necessarily have to do exactly one month of every single subfield of psychiatry the ACGME can think of. But until someone makes that change, residencies will keep being net losses.

    • MissingNo says:

      If you can get away with saying you somehow *lose* money on cheap labor you do. That’s my immediate suspicion (the labor also appears to be subsidized) . But someone who is purely in training obviously can’t contribute. And as the comment above says, if the hospital is self sufficient without a single resident then all the residents are effectively in training, so….

      Who is norming the accuracy of diagnosis of residents vs doctors on the job for a few years?

      I’m sure that for the most motivated doctors they improve in quality every year. But perhaps the average one who isn’t obsessed with self-improvement and is now happy with the steady salary actually declines with age, as everyone does?

      But as a hospital does not gain income for curing you its questionable that the best doctor makes the hospital more income. Socialized medicine(that keeps in mind you still need to pay competitive wages) is uh…obviously a good decision with that in mind.

      https://www.reddit.com/r/medicine/comments/3wpokc/do_residency_programs_make_money_for_hospitals/

      Relevant comment

      “The Institutes of Medicine report on Graduate Medical Education funding and reform released last year says pretty much the same things you are saying. Indirect funding is grossly unaccounted for and seems to be more than enough to cover any of the costs incurred by having a physician-in-training, considering that there is just about a universal desire for the government to increase GME slots.

      I recently attended a talk on this topic by the representative of a state-wide Hospital Association. He made the claim using some figures that seem to have no transparent origin that hospitals actually lose a considerable amount of money for each resident they train. In an interesting article aimed at administrators in the hospital industry, they’re very clear about the fact that nobody knows because nobody with access to the proprietary hospital accounting data has ever bothered to ask.”

      • Cliff says:

        Yes it’s AMAZING how doctors can’t survive without subsidized training, but every other profession somehow manages to make do. How can I lobby for government rules that every lawyer needs on-the-job training for every law specialty, and also every law firm gets $100k/yr to subsidize us for training new lawyers.

      • MissingNo says:

        Note:
        Not actually implying the newest of all residents are the best decision makers. Of course not. That thought really had no baring on the post.

        What does it even mean to make a hospital more money? Doesn’t something seem off with that statement?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        “Who is norming the accuracy of diagnosis of residents vs doctors on the job for a few years?”

        It’s known that hospital deaths go up a bit on July 1st, the beginning of the residency “school year”, as new inexperienced residents take over tasks they’re not used to.

        But another study showed that heart attack deaths went down during the week of the national cardiology conference, when all the senior cardiologists were away and their residents were covering for them (presumably they have the most senior resident lead the coverage).

        I think this fits a model where new residents are worse than longtime doctors, but senior residents may be as good or better.

        • MissingNo says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_effect

          Eeks! Ah, I found that and meant to edit my comment as just how talented the doctor is at diagnosing has not obvious effect one way or another at total income(besides lowered reputation). Which type of error(1 or 2) does it tend with age, how profitable the possible treatment can be. Its definitely my mistake for putting that in there in the first place.

          I think the model where the total newbies(who are obviously bad at the job) and those at the age near retirement are the worst with this type of skillset usuallyy peaking at around 35 works.

          But i’m just guesstimating based off of the fluid/crystalized level curves and what my (perhaps inaccurate) map of where they flow go.

    • aristides says:

      Residents are definitely an accounting loss for the hospital, but they have one major benefit that can’t easily be put into monetary terms. Residents present a strong potential pool to recruit future doctors. The hospital gets to see them in practice, teach them their practices, and often keep the best and the brightest. A hospital would much rather higher their best resident than a doctor from another hospital that has a good recommendation, since you can’t always trust the recommendations from outside your hospital. This makes hiring residents a net benefit for hospitals that have residency programs.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Another topic is whether residents want to stay in town. Scott recently said on reddit that undesirable locations don’t want to fund residencies because the doctors will just leave. But then an AR senator said that he believes that they will stay. (Not enough that he wants his state to pay for them, but it’s still something.) See also WWAMI, where the states do subsidize medical school (not residencies) because the doctors do stay.

    • MissingNo says:

      A bit more investigation

      https://thedo.osteopathic.org/2018/07/what-residents-are-getting-paid-in-2018/

      “The average medical resident is earning $61,200 annually, according to Medscape’s Residents Salary and Debt Report 2019, an increase of 3% from the $59,300 they earned in 2018.”

      https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/how-medicare-subsidizes-doctor-training/

      “Medicare subsidies for graduate medical education total about $10.1 billion annually, an average of $112,642 per resident. There is a lot of variation between hospitals because of the way the formula works, though, and the way the slots were allocated when their number was capped in 1997. This recent Health Affairs paper (by Dr. Mullan, Candice Chen and Erika Steinmetz) found that the Northeast is the biggest beneficiary of this legacy funding system.”

      112642 -61200 = 51442 net profit per resident.

      I’m sure the hidden costs somehow manage to add up to more than 52,000 dollars.(Yes yes I know about the other costs of employment like insurance. That’s not 52,000 worth of money. Health insurance bought in a mass group costs ~2500~ per person last time I checked.)

      Somehow everyone ends up rich while always losing money.

      So what’s going on?

      https://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150719/NEWS/307199999/hospitals-say-they-subsidize-graduate-medical-education-but-cost-benefit-unknown

      “administrative expenses adding another $25,000 to $50,000 per resident”

      Ah ok. Why does it cost so much? I don’t know. That’s a magic amount. 50,000 of administration expenses to add a sort/search on the computer and double-check if someone filled in their “I showed up to work” slot ok.

      • MissingNo says:

        https://www.aamc.org/download/493114/data/2018stipendsurveyreportfinal.pdf

        “A revised AAMC Survey of Residents/Fellow Stipends and Benefits Report, 2018-2019 has been posted
        to the AAMC website. You can access this revised report below:

        Health Insurance~~~2500 per year

        Plus meals~~~another average 1500 per year(assuming a degree of cost-minimization in food sourcing)

        Random 1000 thrown about just around magically on average( can’t actually find many more legitimate costs whatever)

        5000 total in benefits above salary. net profit per resident ~~~45,000

      • CatCube says:

        I can’t seem to get that first website to open at work (it happens a lot) but it sounds like it’s talking about salary, not compensation. The resident might care about the salary, but it’s not important to the hospital; they care about how much money is going out the door per body, which is typically quite a bit more than the salary. @A Definite Beta Guy elsewhere in the thread points out that in his industry for every dollar of salary, there is another 67¢ on top of that that the payroll has to cover.

        That makes the compensation for that $61,200: 1.67*$61,200=$102,204. That’s a much more reasonable number for the cost of a person to an organization (Using myself as an example: I make $38.09 per hour base pay, but there’s an additional 65¢/$ of that for compensation, plus an additional 75¢/($ of compensation) for “indirect costs” and “general overhead”, so my fully burdened rate to a project is $110.09–significantly higher than looking at my salary alone would indicate)

        Given that, it’s easy to see that if they are making money on a resident, they’re not making much. It’s pretty easy for me to believe that a resident will cost more than about $10,000 per year in handholding.

        Edit: You have another website indicating that they only spend $5,000 above salary. I skimmed really quickly (at work, so obviously not going to spend too much time) but that seems very, very, far outside a typical burden above salary. Which tables had those numbers?

        • MissingNo says:

          Oh I know that Salary != to how much it costs to employ you. Health insurance is a big one(2000-6000 per year). Cost of food at where you work is one if its offered(500 to 3000). Parking and various expenses (100-1000). All that. Stock/401k or 403b

          It looks like money is being made per resident as adding all the largest identifiable known* components doesn’t add up to more than 10g. I’m wondering where the magic money is going. It just keeps happening in the field of medicine and university costs.

          *Unknowns in mind.

          • CatCube says:

            You’re forgetting vacation/paternity leave/sick leave. Again, using myself as an example (because the 0.65 multiplier is pretty close to the 0.67 mentioned elsewhere and I have the numbers literally posted on my cube wall), 0.11×base rate for Annual Leave (6 hr/2 wk pay period)–vacation–and 0.11×base rate for other leave recovery, which would be sick leave and paternity leave.

            They’re probably not getting much in the way of vacation, but according to your tables at most places (Something like 100/180 IIRC) they’re getting at least sick leave and paternity/maternity leave, and you do have to account for that. That alone would be probably close to 10% of salary.

            [ETA: Plus the “employer” half of SS & Medicare, or another 7.65%]

            Where I’m going with this is not in your wildest, drunkest dreams can you expect to pay somebody $65,000 a year and only pay another $5,000 on top of that for other compensation. Even $10,000 is not a reasonable number. If I have to pull a number ex ano, it’s going to be at least 50% of base pay, and barring better numbers I’d be much more inclined to use 67%, since I’ve usually seen that number thrown around for those calculations before.

          • MissingNo says:

            Sure those are in there. Those are days off that are built into the structure of the system(assuming the system is managed properly so half the staff doesn’t take the same week off).

            Its really hard to convert that to gained/lost income. Sure gained/lost hours. You can sorrrrtof include them in the final financial calculations but everything ends up really questionable.

            If a system is built to function adequately *without* a resident/intern in the first place(or without many)…then none of the calculations of “workers takes X days off means X product lost” that applies in the case of a steel miner really obviously work.

            You end up really thinking less about the total income gained/lost and more about if X workers take days off at a time is there a catastrophic failure/not enough time per patient/some patients turned away to another place/waiting time increase.

            Thinking in terms of money with all of that in just ends up…strange and just feels off the ball in anything but the simplest of cases where you have a manual labor guy.

            So while *sure* if you triple the amount of days off a hospital might have to turn away patients/customers(what?). But even thinking in terms of income feels off or convoluted and its absolutely in the financial interest of a profit-maximizing organization to turn every conceivable accounting trick into something that sounds like “Oh we need more money to run this place”

            So i’m still suspicious. This smells of accounting tricks to net a profit of at least ~35,000 per resident.

            What’s it mean if a CEO who *really* just needs to look at something once a week, takes a decision, and then sits on his ass the rest of the week watching hentai. Does he really need to be there 6 days out of the week? IDK. Does he lose the company money if he takes days off? Idk. Its just an extreme example.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            If the system is built to function perfectly without residents/interns, residents/interns are a complete waste of money. The system works without them: as the Bobs from Consulting say, what would you say…you do here?

            We actually have that a lot in manufacturing, it’s when a machine is designed to have 2 people running it, and Billy Bob invites his cousin Randy Mandy to come in for a weekend OT shift and now you have 3 people at a machine for 2. So one person is totally useless.

            I think your biggest issue is that training is a huge time sink, and double-checking someone else’s work is a huge time sink. It massively increases the workload of the other people responsible for training you/auditing you, which is very expensive.

          • acymetric says:

            We actually have that a lot in manufacturing, it’s when a machine is designed to have 2 people running it, and Billy Bob invites his cousin Randy Mandy to come in for a weekend OT shift and now you have 3 people at a machine for 2.

            Uh, maybe you specifically have that issue. There are definitely ways to prevent that.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The ways to prevent that involve management having the correct tools to identify the issue and the correct mindset to hold people accountable. Otherwise that behavior will continue unabated.

            It’s really tough to correct if you don’t have good a system like Kronos to manage your time, or if your supervisors/managers refuse to ever challenge crewing requirements, or hold anyone accountable.

          • CatCube says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            It’s worth considering that just because the machine was designed for two people doesn’t mean that it can actually be run efficiently by two people. The engineer might have made a mistake, or the salesman sweet-talked your purchasing agent with a little song-and-dance using some very optimistic assessments of his machine’s efficiency.

            I don’t know where you fit in with your shop. Are you able to go observe the machine operating for a shift or two and conclude that the third person is unnecessary, or are you just trusting what your computer is telling you? I’ve been out to jobsites plenty of times and seen that what made sense in my head when sitting in my office is unworkable in the field.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            We can and sometimes do. I spent some yesterday for this reason because production increased headcount by one on a machine (without telling me, and then complaining when they showed an unfavorable variance). However, you’d need really need to do a time-study and possibly a line rebalancing to relocate labor. It’s a hurdle, but the hurdle is there so the increase is actually cost-justified. That’s what your fresh-out-of-college Industrial Operations Engineers are for.

            Me just standing there and making a gut-check isn’t actually super-scientific, though it can work well enough if we only have time for gut-checks.

        • acymetric says:

          That only means they are not making money on the residents if the residents are providing literally nothing of value to hospitals. Having some doctors in the family and knowing what they did/how hard they worked while in residency I find that borderline impossible. I could buy that hospitals lost money on residents without the stipend, but with it? Sounds like an accounting trick. Like how none of the major sports programs in the NCAA are making money (*wink*).

          • CatCube says:

            Fair enough. However, we should be using numbers that should be closer to the truth before trying to dig in to the details.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I have a hard time believing they lose money with the stipend when one hospital sold these slots for money to another hospital. If you’re losing money, why are you paying good money for it?

            There are instances where this could be the case, but I’m still suspicious.

          • CatCube says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy

            That’s a really good point.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      I believe residency equivalents are also the bottleneck in the UK, so either the cartels have the same strategy in both countries or it’s a natural thing.

  20. Lambert says:

    Hong Kong:
    What’s going on there?
    What’s China’s likely reaction?
    Is there anything I can meaningfully do to help the people there in their fight for freedom?

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Epistemic status: American who reads western media sources (Economist, Reuters, etc.)

      1. What began as protests over a bill allowing for Honk Kong citizens to be extradited to China proper has expanded into a general expression of distrust and dissatisfaction with Chinese guarantees of Hong Kong’s special privileges generally. The inciting bill itself has been withdrawn, but Chinese responses to the protests have fueled more protests in a typical vicious cycle. Disruption of the airport for the last several days have heightened tensions further, as this represents pretty concrete economic damage. Military vehicles have been spotted massed near the Hong Kong border.

      2. If China is at all image-conscious, they will employ heavy police violence without the use of the military proper. While difference on the ground may be negligible (live ammo is live ammo), the imagery of police riot suppression will allow the CCP to retain the claim of suppressing internal dissent (with recent CCP language assigning at least partial blame to outside forces for fueling the protests. The extent to which this is meaningfully true or relevant is left to the individual reader, I claim no special knowledge of what governments aid what foreign protests when, beyond educated guesses). CCP can combat imagery of on-the-ground brutality with similar scenes from Western riot suppression in the last few decades (scope insensitivity will likely be in full force). Use of explicitly military-branded materiel would not only be in-and-of-itself more hostile-seeming to international audiences, but would feed the narrative of Hong Kong as a distinct polity, requiring military (foreign) rather than police (domestic) force types.

      3. I too would be very interested in an answer.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        As another American reading Western news sources, this jibes with what I’ve read. The attempt to put Hong Kong under mainland Chinese law (which the extradition bill would effectively do) was a wild overreach. General dissatisfaction with Chinese rule exploded into generalized protests. The people of Hong Kong want democracy, or at the very least a reaffirmation of the rights they have as a holdover from when they were a British colony.
        I have no idea how this ends without basically a military occupation unless Beijing capitulates. They might! Hong Kong has special legal status and they bring in a ton of money to China as a whole. Replacing Carrie Lam (Hong Kong’s chief executive) would help, letting her be elected by the people of Hong Kong in a honest-to-God free and fair election – with open candidacy, not candidates hand-picked by Beijing like it normally is – would be a huge step. I have no idea how plausible any of these are, but at this point Beijing must be pretty eager to put an end to this whole thing.
        Maybe call your representatives in Congress and tell them you support the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong? I have no idea what anyone outside of China can do to put pressure on Beijing, but I’m hoping my Senators might think of something.
        Hot take: the Hong Kongese are basically fighting a guerilla war against the Beijijng backed forces, but without actually hurting anybody.

        • MorningGaul says:

          Hong Kong has special legal status and they bring in a ton of money to China as a whole.

          According to a quick search, when Hong Kong was let go in 97, it’s GDP was 18% of China’s, and only 2.8% today. It used to bring “a ton of money” to China, hence it’s special privileges. Today, not so much.

          • zzzzort says:

            And given that a lot of Hong Kong’s value was as a financial center and connection to the west, the fact that the shanghai stock exchange is now bigger makes their situation even worse.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        To the extent they rely on local police, tey leave it open that the protesters can just outlast and exaust them.

        The Yellow Vests managed to achieve this, officers who where working regular hours during the week had to do back to back weekends with notable declines in moral, energy and an increase in sick days. Also when officers work overtime you have to pay them for that overtime making extended stretch of protesting a budgeting nightmare.

        France overcame this by bringing officers in from the country side and deploying the gendarmerie (blend of military and police whose distinct function i still don’t quite understand) which seems purpose designed for such events (because of course: France).

        But if what you say is true then in Hong Kong the government has no such options, there are no other police forces and bringing in police or the army from the mainland would be an international incident.

        Interestingly we’re seeing the same tactical evolution on the part of the protesters in hong Kong as we saw with the yellow vests. Hong kong protesters are hiding their faces, using respirators, drilled movements, and even lasers (to blind caneras).

        Simply put the age of the professional vetran rioter as skilled as the cops is here.

        • MorningGaul says:

          Regarding the yellow vest: The gendarmerie is not specialised in crowd-control, (probably even less than the regular cops of the Police Nationale, since they’re mostly working on rural areas). The units you seem to refer to, the CRS (or “Republican Security Companies”), are part of the Police Nationale, not of the Gendarmerie.

          Also, if anyone got outlasted and exhausted, it’s the yellow jacket. From 300 000 at the start, less than 10 000 kept protesting in the end, while I havent heard of any significant drop in police readiness.

    • sentientbeings says:

      There’s already some evidence that police are infiltrating the protesters and possibly instigating violence. Violence among protesters will provide ample opportunity for the authorities to escalate their use of force in a “justified” way. Beyond that escalation, I have no idea what to expect from China.

    • BBA says:

      I expect that very soon the protests will end, or rather, be ended. I can only pray there will be minimal bloodshed. Hong Kong will be ruled as part of mainland China, de facto if not de jure, before the year is out.

      There is nothing that America or any other country can do about it. Hell, China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs as we speak, and nobody is lifting a finger. And why would we? We all need China more than China needs us. (No, unilateral tariffs aren’t the answer. That’s just shooting ourselves in the foot after the horse has left the stable, to mix a metaphor.)

      Please let me be wrong about this.

      • Enkidum says:

        Hong Kong will be ruled as part of mainland China, de facto if not de jure, before the year is out.

        I think this might be overstating it, but this is likely wishful thinking on my part. +1 to your post in general, though.

      • ana53294 says:

        We all need China more than China needs us.

        While I agree with the rest of the statement (sadly), I think you underestimate the degree to which China depends on external commerce. Especially considering that most countries are America’s bitch and big corporations will thus obey all sanctions America imposes. They did do so with Iran, didn’t they?

        I think that the reason we don’t do anything about the Uyghurs is because nobody with actual power cares enough about the Uyghurs, partly because, with the media’s complicity, few people know about the Uyghurs.

        • John Schilling says:

          China is one of the few economic powers that could take on the United States in a trade or monetary war and plausibly “win”. It would at least be interesting to watch from a safe distance. But there’s also the bit where China needs Hong Kong (and the Uighur) to be subservient far more than we need them to be free, so the roughly evenly-matched trade war isn’t going to happen. At least, not over those issues.

          • ana53294 says:

            The US would not be willing to go on a full scale trade war with China by going full Cuba on China over Hong Kong, no. Trump, for all his antipathy to China, seems to consider it an internal matter.

            But I do think that the US (and the EU) could do a lot more than they are doing if they cared. They don’t and they won’t, but that doesn’t mean they can’t.

            I don’t think China could win over a united US-EU trade war.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There is functionally no chance that China could win a trade war with the US (most likely outcome is both lose), their economy is large but in terms of GDP per capita it is modest, and much of their growth is in infrastructure to handle future expected growth. A major blow to their economy could look like the GD in the US with little flexibility and lots of suddenly on the edge people making dramatic changes to their spending/work/investing habits.

          • LadyJane says:

            most likely outcome is both lose

            To policymakers who have a zero-sum view of the world and see the world in terms of relative rather than absolute wealth, this outcome may very well seem like a victory.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To policymakers who have a zero-sum view of the world and see the world in terms of relative rather than absolute wealth, this outcome may very well seem like a victory.

            Only if they remain in power.

          • Laukhi says:

            At the moment, it does not seem as if China is doing particularly well, correct? My impression is that growth is slowing strongly, and I have heard of multiple bank runs in recent times.

        • BBA says:

          I see it as a collective action problem. The US alone doesn’t have enough clout to influence China, either on silly feel-good issues like human rights or on important stuff like industrial policy. If we could form some kind of trade alliance with the EU, or one with similarly minded countries in the Asia-Pacific region – a trans-Pacific partnership, you might say – that could be a real counter-balance to Chinese influence. Unfortunately our trade negotiators are stuck in the ’90s and the actual Trans-Pacific Partnership we got was a steaming turd, full of the same lousy policies that got us here in the first place.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        No, unilateral tariffs aren’t the answer.

        I have it on good authority that tariffs are the answer to all problems political or economic.

      • EchoChaos says:

        My understanding is also that mainlanders are particularly upset now because of the televised violence against mainlanders.

        This might allow a crackdown to be a bit harsher than otherwise.

    • Tibor says:

      My two cents:

      I visited HK 5 years ago (pretty much exactly) when the umbrella protests were starting. I met an acquaintance from HK who told me with a lot of resentment, as the very first thing when we met there, that half of the people in the streets (Hong Kong Island, forgot the MTR station but it was either Admiralty or Central) were Chinese. The way she said “Chinese” gave no doubts about her feelings towards the mainlanders.

      A few days into my visit the protests broke out fully, Admiralty and several other stations were blocked completely. The protests were big (although nothing compared to the currents ones) but over the course of the following months they gradually died down. The people, initially mostly supportive, gradually grew tired of all the traffic blocades and the numbers of protesters dwindled. Eventually, there were too few of them and too many people were annoyed by them for a more direct police action to bother anyone.

      However, I doubt this scenario will repeat itself. First – clearly more is at stake this time and more people realize this. I haven’t been to HK since but the estimates I read speak about some 2 million people taking part in the protests, that’s more than a fourth of the total population of HK (including the New Territories) and so it is massive, more akin to a revolution.

      Because of this, it is unlikely these protests will die out the way they did 5 years ago and so Bejing will be forced to react. They can either go Tiananmen on Hong Kong but I doubt they will do that even if they are amassing tanks at the HK border (I think that is mostly a way for them to scare HK into submission and a bluff). The international backlash would be too big in this case. The economic outlooks aren’t so great for China as it is and this would have real consequences. HK has a special status not only within China but also towards the outside world. HK has very low to no tariffs and similarly, very little trade restrictions are imposed against it – this is helpful as a backdoor to the PRC. So even if HK is not as important to the Chinese economy as it used to be, in practice it is still very significant. If this status were revoked it could very well have a serious impact on the PRC economy. And of course, suppressing democratic protests in a quasi-foreign country (where everyone has a – still – unrestricted internet connection and a camera in their phone) with tanks would be a horrible PR, the backlash would probably resemble the sanctions against Russia after their invasion of Crimea.

      On the other hand, Hong Kong is an island of freedom in an oppressive totalitarian regime (special economic zones like Shanghai or Shenzhen notwithstanding – even those are not anywhere close to the level of freedom the west is used to and the rest of the country is even worse). If you’re Xi Jinping, that’s a big thorn in your side, despite all the propaganda, mainland Chinese do go to HK and they see a very clear alternative to the way China is run. Hong Kong is the Chinese West Berlin and if Bejing shows weakness and allows the protesters to reach their goals, pro-freedom activists in China will take notice and be encouraged by that. Combine that with less than stellar economic outlooks in the PRC and this could create a springboard for serious unrest within the PRC itself.

      So I think it’s hard to say what will happen. I’d like to support the protesters somehow myself. I guess the best one can do is to support them financially but it is not quite obvious who to send the money to.

      I don’t think “we need China more than China needs us” is really true. I’m not sure how stable China really is. While a recession can be bad, it is not likely to lead to a regime change in the west nowadays. But in the PRC it very well might. I think the whole reason the communist party is still in power in the PRC is that they have maintained a sustained economic growth all the way since (shortly before) Tiananmen. Interesting things could happen once this is no longer true.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Thesis: the setting of The Lord of the Rings is only barely pre-Christian.

    1. The Latinized Danish name Frodo (Old Norse: Frōði; Anglo-Saxon: Frōda) is the name of several mythic Danish kings, the first of whom primary sources say was a contemporary of Caesar Augustus. This isn’t a false friend of the hobbit name Frodo, as hobbits are meant to be identified as Old English commoners.
    2. Rohan is also an Anglo-Saxon or more broadly Germanic tribal country.
    3. There is no evidence of Germanic-speakers outside of Scandinavia and extreme north Germany, aprox. Holstein to Rostock, before the Jastorf B culture (6th century BC). This rules out the “thousands of years BC” Tolkien claimed in letters.
    4. When the character Aragorn openly fights the character Sauron with an army, his name changes to Elessar. El is of course a Hebrew theonym, the work of a Christian redactor identifying him as God’s essarCaesar? He is anxious to distinguish this monarch from the evil spirit king (Es)sauron, due to the shared root. The evil one is attempting to conquer these Germanic areas northwest of the strategic fortress city of Gondor with an army of orcs from the volcano-rich country of Mordor (Italy?), evil men from the East and evil men from the South… exactly as you’d expect Germanic-speakers to villify a multicultural Roman army.

    Therefore, it seems that this is a story of the late 1st century BC or early 1st AD about Germanic tribes uniting to fight Caesar Augustus/the divine Caesar, which has been edited with a happier ending by a Christian redactor (the divine ghost of Caesar, who it’s better to die than worship, is utterly destroyed and all positive feelings Christians have toward the name Caesar are transferred to the Germanic hero).

    • LHN says:

      In the appendices, Tolkien explains that all the Anglo-Saxon, Gothic etc. names are rough translations of the “real” Westron names with the same sense. So Samwise Gamgee was really Banazîr Galpsi (with the first name having the same sense of “half wise”.) So the apparent linguistic similarities are misleading.

      (One place that runs into issues is the name of Orthanc, which has a dual meaning in Elvish and actual Anglo-Saxon that’s referenced in the text. Maybe by sheer coincidence “orthanc” means “cunning mind” in both Rohirric and the eytmologically unrelated Old English.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        In the appendices, Tolkien explains that all the Anglo-Saxon, Gothic etc. names are rough translations of the “real” Westron names with the same sense. So Samwise Gamgee was really Banazîr Galpsi (with the first name having the same sense of “half wise”.) So the apparent linguistic similarities are misleading.

        Aw man, you’re right.
        (“Sam was really ‘Banazir Galpsi'” is an impressive level of background work.)

      • JPNunez says:

        IIRC Elessar is his actual name, tho.

        I think that only the hobbits and regular men and english-sounding things are affected by Tolkien “translating” their Westron names; the elvish is supposed to be literal so when Aragorn is named Aragorn Elessar, that’s what he was really called.

        May be wrong on Aragorn, Elessar was an elven, thus literal, word.

        Of course, if I was trying to link Aragorn and Christianism I’d go with Elijah over Caesar.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      That’s an awesome pattern match. I always liked the view that it was a revanchist Byzantine fantasy, wherein assistance from Pontic steppe tribes relieves a besieged Constantinople (Minas Tirith with its legendarily impregnable fortifications, bordered by Mordor as the Sultanate of Rum/Ottomans, take your pick), then the true Christian Caesar (as you say, but here representing the supremacy of the Greek church) reunites the Eastern/Western empires.

    • Deiseach says:

      El is of course a Hebrew theonym, the work of a Christian redactor identifying him as God’s essar… Caesar?

      No, it means “Elf-stone” and it’s one of a long list of titles and names that Aragorn accumulates, both from things he himself does and as part of his heritage and ancestry.

      If Tolkien wanted “el” to make us think of “God”, he would have said so; he invented his languages purposefully and he was blue in the face telling people “No, this is not an allegory; no, the Ring is not the atomic bomb, etc.”

      Sauron is very much not “(Es)sauron”, please don’t mess with Tolkien’s carefully worked out etymologies unless you want his wrathful corpse to arise from its grave and smite you. He has a whole letter (No. 297 in the Carpenter collection) about people who think they know what he really meant better than he did:

      It is therefore idle to compare chance-similarities between names made from ‘Elvish tongues’ and words in exterior ‘real’ languages, especially if this is supposed to have any bearing on the meaning or ideas in my story. To take a frequent case: there is no linguistic connexion, and therefore no connexion in significance, between Sauron a contemporary form of an older *θaurond- derivative of an adjectival *θaurā (from a base √THAW) ‘detestable’, and the Greek σαύρα ‘a lizard’.

      Investigators, indeed, seem mostly confused in mind between (a) the meaning of names within, and appropriate to, my story and belonging to a fictional ‘historic’ construction, and (b) the origins or sources in my mind, exterior to the story, of the forms of these names. As to (a) they are of course given sufficient information, though they often neglect what is provided. I regret it, but there is no substitute for me, while I am alive.

    • zzzzort says:

      But how did all the germans get to ethiopia?

  22. SkyBlu says:

    I’m going to be at PAX west Friday through Sunday, and hopefully PAX dev earlier in the week. I’d love to meet up and chat if anyone else is going!

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I will probably blow through PAX west, mostly to watch the kid play a raid of XIV and get her t-shirt, and then do one lap through the dealers, one lap through the artists, and then do one slow pass through the indy games section (my favorite section).

      I used to be able to three days of a con, but those days are in the past.

  23. proyas says:

    Does anyone know of any free software programs that I could use to make a family tree? I have a lot of unorganized data about my extended family and ancestors that I’m currently keeping in a messy-looking, ad hoc family tree in Google Sheets.

    • Randy M says:

      Not offline. But I’ve used the one at familysearch.org and it seems nice.

    • FLWAB says:

      Though it’s not software, I have found WikiTree to be a very useful site. It’s non-profit, the tools are pretty intuitive and get the job done, and its best feature is that while your family tree is only publicly viewable if you want it to be, if WikiTree finds that a person you have put in your tree matches a person someone else has (name, birth date, birth place, death date, etc) then it will send you each a message and if you both agree that it’s the same person then you can connect your family trees. Which often means discovering a lot of new and useful information! My wife recently got hooked up with her grandfather’s brother thanks to the site, which was amazing news because her grandfather was adopted and nobody on our side knew where his brother had ended up or much of anything about his parents.

    • eigenmoon says:

      $ apt search genealogy

      GeneWeb
      Gramps

    • AG says:

      Microsoft Powerpoint has SmartArt, including tree diagrams. They’re called Organization Charts, under the “Hierarchy” category of SmartArt.

    • S_J says:

      I’ll second the mention of Gramps.

      However, I’ll warn you that Gramps isn’t a family-tree-making tool. Instead, it is a genealogy-database tool that can also build family trees. It can generate “ancestor tree”, “descendant trees”, a timeline chart, and several other kinds of charts/reports.

      One confusing detail is that some of the trees it generates are only readable if you tell it to spread them across multiple pages. But Gramps doesn’t have a good preview-tool for doing that. But the trees only only hard-to-read if you have lots of branches, or several centuries of genealogy…so I don’t know if you’re dealing with that problem.

      There is a database format called GED that is intended to be interchangeable between most genealogy-database tools. Gramps can definitely import and export GED files.

      I suspect that FamilyTreeMaker and GeneWeb can do that also. If you find yourself wanting to try out several programs, you may want to input all the data into one program, then use GED import/export to put the data into other programs.

      • noyann says:

        Gramps can definitely import and export GED files.

        It adds own data on the supported format. Gramps export, then import again can result in data loss. Read the docs, and have backups in gramps own format.

  24. Atlas says:

    What are some classics of prison and/or exile fiction (in any media)? Stuff like Ben-Hur, Papillon, etc.

    • hls2003 says:

      The Count of Monte Cristo

    • Urstoff says:

      Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Lots of other Solzhenitsyn as well, but that’s his first and most compact work on the theme.

    • Elephant says:

      Movies: Papillon, Le Trou, The Great Escape, A Man Escaped, Cool Hand Luke — all great films about prisons and escapes.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The Great Escape, and The Wooden Horse.

      Clarke’s short story, “‘If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth…'”.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Exodus
      The Trial of Socrates
      Boethius
      Marco Polo’s travelogue is not exactly about exile, but he wrote it while in prison.
      Dante wrote in exile a story about a prison.
      Exodus (Uris)
      The Bell Jar
      Down by Law

    • If you don’t insist on fiction, Casanova’s description of his escape from under the leads in Venice, in the Memoirs. Possibly the inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo.

    • James says:

      Not fiction, but you might consider Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol.

    • ksdale says:

      Not exactly a “classic,” but Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy features exile prominently.

    • noyann says:

      Stross’ Glasshouse has some imaginative (kind of) prison-cum-exile, but it’s still in pre-classic ((C)2006).

    • Paper Rat says:

      F. Dostoevsky “Notes from a Dead House”.
      edit: S. Dovlatov “The Zone: A Prison Camp Guard’s Story”

      Both based on personal experience of the author.

      editedit: V. Nabokov “Invitation to a Beheading”

    • Machine Interface says:

      Seconding above recommendation from Elephant for Le Trou/The Hole (1960) and A Man Escaped (1956); both are French movies based on real stories (the latter particularly faithfully). The former is your classic prison break film with a bunch of criminals trying to escape, but the latter is set during the Nazi occupation of France, with the would-be escapee a Resistance fighter.

    • zoozoc says:

      I enjoyed “The house of the dead” by Dostoevsky. But I do enjoy reading any of his works.

    • gdanning says:

      The Birdman of Alcatraz.

    • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

      Hey Billy. You ever been to Turkish Prison?

      Midnight express

    • Well... says:

      Guys, come on. “Life” starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence.

      • j1000000 says:

        A true classic.

        A couple years ago, I was reading an article about Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics — he said his favorite movie was “Life” and the article specified that he must be a sci-fi fan if he enjoyed that 2017 Jake Gyllenhaal movie. I’m guessing that wasn’t the “Life” he was referring to.

        • acymetric says:

          Well…pro sports is kind of in a weird new place where nerdiness is somewhat in fashion. It could go either way there. I actually think it is a bit more likely that he was referring to the 2017 film than that he was referring to an Eddie Murphy comedy that was released when he was 1 year old.

          Especially since if the interview was a couple of years ago (2017) it would have been a movie he had recently watched. Plus a sci-fi horror flick isn’t even exactly a nerdy kind of deal. Aliens wasn’t for nerds.

          • j1000000 says:

            He was talking about Life w/Martin Lawrence — here’s the original interview. He mentions Bernie Mac.

          • acymetric says:

            Ha, well that settles that then!

          • Well... says:

            Well…pro sports is kind of in a weird new place where nerdiness is somewhat in fashion. […something about it being more likely he was seeing the film more recently released…]

            Can’t tell if you were addressing me here (haha) but at least the last time I was around a TV with control over the remote for a day or more, which was maybe 6 months ago, the Eddie Murphy movie was constantly being shown on one channel or another. This is also something I remember happening back when I owned and watched TV (from 2005 through 2012).

          • acymetric says:

            My comment was in response to j1000000’s comment about Jayson Tatum (an NBA player).

          • Well... says:

            I know. My point was that just because the 2017 movie was more recenty released doesn’t mean it’s necessarily likely to be more recently watched, particularly because the Eddie Murphy movie is quite regularly shown on TV.

          • MorningGaul says:

            Plus a sci-fi horror flick isn’t even exactly a nerdy kind of deal. Aliens wasn’t for nerds.

            Yeah, but Aliens wasnt sci-i horror. You’re thinking of Alien, which I dont know the intended target audience, but is definitely a nerd movie nowadays.

  25. hash872 says:

    There was a brief discussion about negotiating down healthcare provider bills I think last week. Does anyone want to share any tips or best practices? Do you just call the billing department of a hospital chain and say ‘hey I don’t have the money, want to negotiate or get nothing’? I have a four figure bill from an MRI with contrast dye injection that I’d like to whittle down- especially as I had the exact same procedure twice last year (at different hospitals), and it cost $500 and $1000 respectively (after insurance).

    I actually do have the money to pay the bill, and I am in no way poor- so if they ask to see my tax return from last year or something (like, ‘oh we have a low income plan’ or something), I will be out of luck. I’m self-employed and have a high deductible Obamacare plan. I just feel….. punchy enough to want to get a better deal (I spent 5 figures on healthcare last year!), and I have absolutely zero compunctions about lying about my financial status, making ultimatums, making threats that I won’t pay and will disappear to Outer Mongolia, etc.

    What has worked for everyone else?

    • Randy M says:

      Yeah, my daughter fell off a horse a month back, and we’re looking at about $600 for a single X-ray, after insurance. That’s not exactly a horror story, but since it’s for a simple procedure it seems very high. I’m glad we held off on the CT scan or whatever else it was that was recommended when they first saw her.

      Sorry, though, I don’t have any advice. I’m bad at negotiating and will probably just pay it.
      Next time we’re going to the chiropractor and letting him X-ray it in a similar situation, though.

    • ksdale says:

      Just FYI, in our experience at a couple different hospitals, the “low income plans” give discounts up to a much higher income than most people would think of as “low,” especially if you have kids. It’s probably worth asking about, just in case.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      This works less well for actual emergency emergency medicine, and pays off the most when you are doing something “out of network”, such as if you walking into prompt service clinic:

      1) BEFORE seeing the provider
      2) when they ask for your insurance information
      3) do not give it to them
      4) ask them for the low-income out-the-door cash rate
      5) pay it (with your credit card)

      now you can see the nurse, doctor, etc

      6) keep ALL the paperwork. Stop at the desk on the way out and ask for the complete and final billing statement.

      7) later, but soon, within the week if possible, go to your insurance company’s web site
      8) search for “direct claim reimbursement” or similar. It will be buried deep in the site.
      9) fill out the forms. They may be online web forms, they may be non-form PDFs.
      10) if they do online form submission, do that, but still keep hardcopies of all of their forms. Otherwise they will ask for postal mail. Send them copies, keep all the originals.
      11) if a check does not show up within 8 weeks,
      12) set up an efax account or have an actual fax machine ready, loaded with ALL the paperwork
      14) call them, get to operators as fast as you can. you will have to do this several times. You are trying to reach a “claims payment agent”. If you are really lucky, you will reach someone who wants to be Robert Parr.
      13) Once you are on the phone with them “do you have my claim and the information?”
      14) “Yes? When can I expect the check? What is the confirmation code?”
      15) “No? What is the fax number were you are right now? Ok, I just faxed it all to you. When can I expect the check? What is the confirmation code?”

      • hash872 says:

        Thanks for the effortpost man! I doubt that option’s available to me as I’m in-network and they already have my insurance info. I think I’m just going to call them, spin a tale about being ultra-poor and having the lowest credit score known to humanity, and threaten to pay them nothing if I don’t get a substantial discount. If successful I’ll leave an effortpost detailing my triumphs

        • berk says:

          I would echo ksdale’s sentiment that low-income may not be as low as you think. Sutter Health hospitals here in Berzerkeley consider you in need of discounts if you make below 4X the federal poverty level (FPL). Depending on your household size, this can be quite a decent income. While they do use previous year’s tax filings to determine income, you are self employed so maybe you can spin a tale of recent financial woes. I am curious to see if the threat to go to small claims court works, and would be VERY interested to know the conclusion to your saga, so please update us!

      • Theodoric says:

        Some insurance won’t cover anything out of network. Are those provisions usually negotiable, or will this strategy not work with those insurances?

        • Mark Atwood says:

          If you are absolutely sure that your insurance won’t cover it, stop at step 6. You still come out ahead, because otherwise the provider will bill your insurance, your insurance will refuse to pay, and then the provider will send you a bill for more than what you would have negotiated at step 4.

    • FLWAB says:

      I can’t say that this works all the time, but as a general rule of thumb if you billed insurance for it then its much harder to get the number reduced after the fact: a lot of providers have contracts with insurers that stipulate that they can’t bill insurance for a high price and then reduce the price after the fact when insurance doesn’t pay. It varies from place to place though. You have the most wiggle room if you went to someone out of network, as they almost certainly don’t have a contract with your insurer or they would be in-network.

      Generally what I do is I call them up, ask to talk to billing (it might be a different company entirely that does the billing) and then I say “Nobody quoted me that price before going in, and I’m not going to pay it. I’m willing to pay something, since the doc did provide a service, but I never agreed to that price. I think $X is a fair price, will you take it?” It helps if you can look up what Medicare will pay for the procedure, and then offer a bit over that: if you theoretically went to court then what Medicare pays will be considered a good schelling point for what the procedure is worth. Be willing to haggle, but feel free to tell them that if they think what you’re offering is not fair then we could go to small claims court and see what a judge thinks is fair. Most billers don’t want to bother with that.

      Of course this only works if you really weren’t quoted a price beforehand: some places make you sign a form stating how much things cost and that you agree to pay that amount. In that case you should probably just try to appeal to their sense of charity.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Nobody quoted me that price before going in, and I’m not going to pay it.

        Man. I’m glad I’m not a doctor.

        • FLWAB says:

          Are you must a Phd then, Dr. Mist? 🙂

          I do billing for a doctor (technically a psychologist but what the hey) and most doctors have bigger problems to worry about. If you work for a hospital or clinic then you don’t worry about whether clients pay their bills, you just get your huge salary and go home. If you run a private practice then you have to be more involved, but in my experience doctors who run their own businesses are pretty savvy: they’ll make the prices for their services clear in the paperwork and have you sign off on it before seeing you.

          The simple fact is that in this day and age somewhere north of 80% of all of a private practice’s revenue comes from insurance companies. Just about everybody has insurance, and if they don’t then they don’t come in (of course its different if you run a clinic aimed at poor clients). In this business you’re very lucky if you bring in even 70% of what you bill to clients: many clients just never pay, and it’s rarely worth it to chase them down and take them to court. So generally a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: if a client calls up and says they’ll pay some of their bill, that’s better than having to write off the whole thing. Especially since the insured clients are bringing in plenty of money. Most practices could write off 100% of client bills and still do just fine money wise thanks to insurance payouts. I mean they’d be crazy to do that, but most could. As a biller, is my time better spent hunting down the guy we saw three months ago and never paid his bill, or is it better spent wrangling with insurance companies who owe us ten times as much? It’s almost always wrangling.

  26. fr8train_ssc says:

    Interesting take on class/culture presentation at Yale, which reminded me of a sort of inverted version of Right Is The New Left from five years ago.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think she veers towards getting the reason why what is happening at Yale is happening, but then moves off from it again:

      In effect, a large fraction of the administrators form a revolutionary class within the rest of the university structure. They use both their existing power and new ideological mandates to expand their own domain at the expense of other players. The purpose of the administrators is to shape, tear down, and rebuild the university on the institutional level, which lets them act on ideological goals in a way students and faculty generally cannot. The people filling these expanded roles often come from the student body itself, having served in student government or activist student organizations before transitioning into their bureaucratic roles after graduation. This is the human institutional structure behind the ideological phenomenon.

      She can see it in the institution but she fails to see it amongst her student peers (probably also for the same reason she hadn’t a clue her ‘dear friend Marcus’ could buy and sell her, or how he sees their ‘friendship’ – she may go to visit him, but does he ever go to visit her? she’s his token “but really, I did know an Actual Poor at university” story to share with his peers to show off his bona fides): Natalia, the students are not abdicating power because they’re not sure they want to have it, they’re uncomfortable with being the elite, and so on: this is power, this is the New Power, they’re the children of the elite and they recognise when power is changing form and hands; by morphing into the woke Champagne Socialists, they are ensuring that their hands are the ones that New Power is running through, just as their forebears had their hands on the traditional levers of power.

      Noblesse oblige and stepping up to take on the sober adult mantle of responsibility is how power was transferred yesterday, but today power is wokeness and protest and allyship. The elite children are doing what the elite always do: chameleon colouration. The children of billionaires with their own private penthouses and bodyguards while attending Yale? Playing at povery, slumming it? This is how they will survive the transition. The billionaires will be philanthropists as they always were; the Good Causes will merely change from “saving fallen women” to “sex positivity and removing the stigma of sex work”, but the social credit and protection engendered will remain, so instead of calling for the rope and the lamp post there will be earnest pieces about how no, really, honest it’s much better if Joff Zuckates gets billions after tax and then donates a slice of that to Good Causes rather than the people uprising and dragging Joff off in a tumbril.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Good comment. A small point:

        The elite children are doing what the elite always do: chameleon colouration.

        Probably selection at work, more than anything else. The ones that will manage to inherit the elite status are the ones that have the luck/insight to ride the right wave. Probably more luck than insight.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This looks pretty culture-warry.

      • quanta413 says:

        I agree with The Nybbler. Repost next fractional open thread please. I thought it was a decent article. Very well written at least.

    • Peffern says:

      I just want to say that, as an Ivy League college student right now, this might be the most hard hitting thing I’ve read recently. It’s extremely, painfully accurate. Give it a read if you care about what happens on campus.

    • haroldedmurray says:

      Can anyone sum up the article? I really can’t stand long form journalism!

      • acymetric says:

        For me, long form journalism is fine. I can’t stand turning everything into video/audio content (I don’t mind making that available as a supplement). Let me read what there is to be said at the pace I can read, don’t make it take 10 times longer by making me listen to you actually say it.

        • haroldedmurray says:

          I don’t agree, but I can understand that some people might feel that way about audio (also I liberally use the speed feature of audiobooks. Increasing up to 1.3 speed is still very understandable, and much faster).

          For me, long-form journalism always sounds so pretentious, like they’re trying to make it sound like they’re saying something deep and profound. It also sounds like they’re trying to pad the content with descriptions and accounts that aren’t really necessary, and ultimately just make me have to skim through more stuff. Just get to the point already! I wish they at least included a TLDR section.

          For the record, I love Scott’s writing and don’t think it’s long-form journalism, because it’s really long but isn’t stretching. It’s long because it’s exhaustive in covering all edge-cases and hypotheses, and has something to say.

          • gettin_schwifty says:

            I’m partway through and it’s closer to Scott than fluff, although the intro had me worried.

            The interesting part to me is that it’s clearly not egalitarian. “Elites have power” and “the middle class is powerless” are baseline assumptions. No democracy here.

      • Deiseach says:

        Can anyone sum up the article?

        Bare bones of it: author went to Yale on a scholarship as actual middle-class not loaded person. Many of her classmates and others there were slumming it but she thought they were genuinely as penniless as herself and she had a bit of a rude awakening about that.

        The rest of it is “why are these children of billionaires and millionaires pretending they can’t afford to go out to lunch on Sunday while they’re at eye-wateringly expensive universities?” and “how come all the protesting and agitating on behalf of the underprivileged and poor is being done by scions of the loaded, plus somehow real poor people never seem to get any of the fruits of all this protesting?” and she thinks it’s because the new generation are uncomfortable with their position of privilege, don’t really want the responsibility that goes along with power, and are adopting wokeness as a means of social and psychic defence: if they can convince themselves they’re not privileged/are fighting The Man, they can ignore the cognitive dissonance that they are being groomed to be The Man and that their social and familial circle is The Man.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s not unheard of (or a bad parenting technique) for parents with money to let their kids go to college without a lot of spending money, so they learn they can live in a dorm and eat cafeteria food (or live in a crappy student apartment and eat what they cook themselves), and it won’t kill them. Being able to afford nice things is great; thinking you can’t live without nice things is making your servant into your master.

          • zzzzort says:

            But still you’ll never get it right,
            ‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night,
            Watching roaches climb the wall,
            If you called your Dad he could stop it all.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I would say that the take is mostly formed on the biases of the writer, and it shows a fair amount of naivete.

      1. She meets someone who has an eating disorder and is plausibly abusing alcohol and likely self medicating with cigarettes. Bayesnian proirs, this guy is just a hard core cos player or he has a mental disorder that he has found an acceptable social cover for? This guy lies with every part of his being down to his physical health, Bayesian prior is that he is 100% hones with his words when he talks to you or also likely to lie about what he does, is and why?

      I had attended a summer program at the Center for Talented Youth at Princeton and befriended a well-spoken boy of 17 from Hartford. The other students mocked him—not for being poor, but for being too rich. They would elevate their voices into a high-pitched taunt to mock his prestigious prep-school. I was angry, but didn’t know what to say at the time. I had no idea that these students were themselves from Harvard-Westlake, a prestigious and prohibitively expensive private school in Beverly Hills. I had no idea that these kids were even richer than the boy they were mocking. The only difference was that my friend showed the tells of his class.

      If they were even richer than he was then the only difference is not your friend showed tells of his class, it was that they were from different strata of the upper class. She uncritically things that rich people are, or ought to be, generally the same, which is/was generally a knock against the rich when they assumed homogeneity across the poor.

      Her insights generally get clouded by this naive world view and makes me pretty suspicious of her conclusions.

      • Deiseach says:

        If they were even richer than he was then the only difference is not your friend showed tells of his class, it was that they were from different strata of the upper class.

        I think you’re correct there; it’s the same as pupils of particular public schools mocking kids who went to slightly lower in the pecking order public schools in the UK (which apparently extends even into so-called adult life); see this excerpt from a Guardian article of 2014 on the struggle to succeed to the leadership of the Conservative Party from David Cameron, with two camps around Michael Gove and George Osborne on one side and Boris Johnson on the other:

        Even Mr Gove’s most newsworthy observation this weekend is best seen in the context of the efforts to prevent Mr Johnson from becoming leader. There are too many Old Etonians in the Prime Minister’s inner circle, the Education Secretary said yesterday in an interview in the Financial Times. This was interpreted as an attack on Mr Cameron, and it is certainly true that the Tory leader does not like seeing his old school traduced.

        Yet Mr Gove and Mr Cameron are close friends, and the education reforms they have introduced in government are aimed in large part at kick-starting social mobility and reversing the trend of recent decades in which top private schools have reasserted their dominance in public life.

        Rather than attacking Mr Cameron, it seems more likely that in mentioning Eton, Mr Gove was seeking to make another point. A Tory MP said yesterday: “Who else went to Eton? Boris. Gove is saying don’t pick another Old Etonian as leader after Cameron. George went to St Paul’s.”

        Indeed, Mr Osborne was nicknamed “oiky Osborne” by some of his associates at Oxford, on account of him having attended St Paul’s School in London. While it is one of the top schools in Britain, it is more traditionally one for children of the ambitious west London middle classes, whereas Eton is regarded as being socially more elevated. On such small and ludicrous differences – irrelevant to most voters – are Tory feuds built.

        It sounds much more like the Harvard-Westlake kids were mocking the “oiky” Hartford boy, but because she wasn’t from those circles, she had (and has) no idea that was what was going on.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I think there may be some real and valuable insights in this article. But it makes me uncomfortable because I think the author would see my behavior and lump it in with the dynamic she is describing, but I can see my motives from the inside and they’re not about posturing at all. I am a graduate student right now at an Ivy League institution. When my friends go out to lunch, I stay in and eat stuff I brought from home. If they ask why, I might say “I can’t afford it.” On the other hand, mostly due to my grandmother’s generosity, I have five figures of wealth I could call on if necessity demanded. Am I a hypocrite, pretending to be poor when I actually am part of the upper class?

      I don’t think so. What’s happening is that I am keeping a budget. My parents taught me the importance of living within your means, and saving money for later, and the power of compound interest. I have enough wealth to fall back on, but not enough wealth to squander. So I and my wife are living on my graduate student stipend, still trying to squirrel away money for later, and that is a tight, lower-middle class budget. And I’d suspect that this behavior is typical of much of the upper-class: not, perhaps, the catastrophically rich sort that Scott Alexander has been writing about recently, but the “have several million dollars in the bank and make six figures” upper class. A hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money and you can do a lot with it, but you still have to set boundaries for yourself, and you want to set them tightly enough that you’ll still be okay if something extremely bad happens.

      • Randy M says:

        Just like “I deserve it”, “I can’t afford it” doesn’t say as much about someone’s situation as it does about the person speaking, because everyone’s standards are different.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Yes, but even more than this rich people who are refusing to consume with good amounts of savings are not acting poor, they are acting rich. Rich people have much higher savings rates, which is one of the reasons they can become and stay rich.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, this, exactly.

            If you really want to act like a poor person, the correct way to do it is “spend every available dime you have on consumption goods, then borrow as much as lenders are willing to give you in order to consume even more.”

          • Randy M says:

            That’s true. But one person saying “I can’t afford it” means their credit cards are maxed and if they try to purchase it they’ll get tossed from the store.

            Another person means that if they take this expense then they have to go back and move some numbers around in the budget in order to meet their savings targets for the month.

          • Nornagest says:

            This isn’t entirely a class thing, there’s a personality element too. Class has its fingers on the scales, but there are savers and there are spenders; I’ve only once in my adult life had less than a couple months of expenses in the bank, for example, while my sister, with exactly the same class background, has lived paycheck to paycheck for most of hers. And she was a better student than I was in school, so putting it all down to conscientiousness doesn’t quite work either.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt M

            Interestingly, a serious problem with ex-poor sports stars. I want to say that something like 60% of NBA players go bankrupt within five years of leaving the league.

          • Matt M says:

            Broke: Don’t go to fancy brunch because it’s too expensive and you’re too poor to afford it
            Woke: Don’t go to fancy brunch because it’s kind of expensive and you want to signal that you’re not a rich elite
            Expanding brain: Find the money to go to fancy brunch because you’re poor but you want to fit in with the rich kids
            Galaxy brain: Going to fancy brunch with the rich kids is properly classified as an investment since you’re networking with the future elite

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I mean—I agree that budgeting is a thing that keeps rich people rich (more generally, it preserves or increases personal wealth), and that this is an important part of what keeps the wealthy from becoming poor. But importantly, it isn’t a rich person behavior because of signaling, it is rooted in direct economic sense (at least as long as money does a decent job of holding its value).

          • If you really want to act like a poor person, the correct way to do it is “spend every available dime you have on consumption goods, then borrow as much as lenders are willing to give you in order to consume even more.”

            That isn’t the category of poor person the author of the essay is thinking of. She is “poor” in the sense of being from the bottom quintile of the income distribution. Her parents are, I think, Russian immigrants.

            So upwardly mobile immigrant poor, not welfare class poor.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That isn’t the category of poor person the author of the essay is thinking of. She is “poor” in the sense of being from the bottom quintile of the income distribution. Her parents are, I think, Russian immigrants.

            That would be her family, but no necessarily the families of everyone else in the neighborhoods she lived in.

      • Deiseach says:

        Am I a hypocrite, pretending to be poor when I actually am part of the upper class?

        No, but there is a great difference between “I can’t afford it because all my grant stipend has gone on paying necessary bills and I only have enough for a tin of beans until three months from now when I get the next payment” and “I can’t afford it because I am frugally living on a budget, but if I really needed to, there is plenty of money at home to support me”.

        So long as everyone, including yourself, is aware that you are being frugal and not trying to pass yourself off as “you took the subway? luxury! I always walk because that’s all I can afford” in order to rack up wokeness points over somebody else, then you’re not being a hypocrite.

        But this is what is at the heart of the Pulp song “Common People”:

        Rent a flat above a shop,
        Cut your hair and get a job.
        Smoke some fags and play some pool,
        Pretend you never went to school.
        But still you’ll never get it right,
        ‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night,
        Watching roaches climb the wall,
        If you called your Dad he could stop it all.

        There’s the “frugal can’t afford it” who, if they needed to, could call a family member to bail them out, and there’s the “really can’t afford it” whose family members can only offer sympathy but don’t have any slack themselves to bail them out.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          There’s the “frugal can’t afford it” who, if they needed to, could call a family member to bail them out, and there’s the “really can’t afford it” whose family members can only offer sympathy but don’t have any slack themselves to bail them out.

          Even then there are shades – my family couldn’t spare anything to help me out if I asked for it, but barring a problem that costs me my job, I’m able to afford most things. I’d simply be unwise to spend on them. My back’s a few inches from the wall, but I still wouldn’t call myself broke or poor.

          • SamChevre says:

            And don’t forget the “I could always go home, and have enough to eat and a roof at least, but eating rice with eggs and corn oil is better.”

            That was me.

            (A 10-pound bag of rice, 2 dozen eggs, and a bottle of corn oil and you have 2 weeks of food for about $15.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There’s a level worse off than “family can only offer sympathy”– “family is tapping you for money”. For purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter whether the family is careful with money but has very little income or the family just spends everything that comes in.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But the guy in the article she’s describing has nine figures of wealth.

      • haroldedmurray says:

        I agree a little. I also would say “I’m broke” because I didn’t want to go out to eat, or it didn’t fit into my budget. But I also was made to feel shame for being more well off, and felt like I should (and one time I did) publicly apologize for being more privileged than someone. It’s possible that all the anti-well-off sentiment bubbling underneath the surface of all my interactions made me more likely to say “I’m broke” as a way of making myself feel less shame for my well-off(ish) upbringing.

    • Shion Arita says:

      I read the whole article earlier today and marinated on it a bit before replying. Upon reflection, a lot of the claims made sense, but they were the ones that I’ve heard elsewhere and already agree with (like the wokeness thing is largely a signaling game in general, and rarely helps anyone it’s supposedly there to help. Also it is kind of a basilisk in that it increases in power by threatening to target you unless you come on board too). But a lot of things really didn’t make sense, and I’m in a position where I have experience with similar things myself.

      A lot of the claims of rich people pretending to be poor and/or hiding they’re rich really didn’t jibe with my experiences. Now, I went to a high-tier private school (though not Yale specifically), and I graduated in the early 2010s rather than the late 2010s. So it is possible that Yale is different than my school (which I’d rate as kind of unlikely) and it’s also possible that things have substantially changed over time (which seems more likely to me but I’m still skeptical.) However, by my estimations, this whole Wokeness thing really took off in 2014, by which time I was no longer an undergraduate. I did go to graduate school at a similarly-ranked university, but I did not interact with the undergraduate students in a way that I would be able to really get the scoop on what was going on with them. I did notice more social justice stuff happening on campus in general, like protests or whatever, but that also extended to the graduate student groups and stuff like that as well, so maybe it is just a sign of the times.

      So what was my experience with the wealthy at my school? They certainly were there; most students were ‘upper-middle class’, with a decent number of ‘upper class’ ones as well. The upper class ones didn’t really try to hide their status, but didn’t flaunt it either. Like we would know ‘oh so and so is the son of [whoever]’, and people would know that, and know they had a lot of money, but people also wouldn’t talk about it that much because it really wasn’t that interesting. Also sometimes people would say things like “my roommate is really wealthy and his parents got him a really expensive condo, and I’m living there rent free.” and also some people you could kind of tell they were aristocratic Chinese or Indian or whatever, but again, this was usually just kind of background information that you had but didn’t really pay that much attention to. There also were some people who came from poorer backgrounds, and again sometimes they would talk about it but it didn’t really mean much. To be honest, they way it came up most for me was shocking people with stories about all the shit that went down at my inner-city high school. But that was kind of just an urban/suburban thing essentially.

      Basically, I guess what I’m getting at was that I did see a good number of wealthy people, and saw no people who tried to hide their economic status, nor tried to particularly signal about it at all one way or the other. To be honest, I think that this is because in college your family’s wealth doesn’t really factor that much into your status in those social circles, so it’s just not a point of focus at all. I think this is kind of unique to college specifically, because as a college student you don’t really have any personal wealth yourself and you’re essentially socially independent of your parents.

      In my experience, the whole wokeness thing is largely pushed by middle class/upper middle class people, and the wealthy only sign on to some extent and mostly just to avoid being targeted.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        This is a good comment. I would only add that many of these upper-middle class kids, or lower-upper, or whatever, don’t think of themselves as wealthy, because like everyone else, they see wealthier kids and think those are the rich people. Most kids in their high school were just as wealthy as them. It’s the same conversation we’ve had around here a dozen times.

  27. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to a special bonus installment of my effortpost series! The next installment, Luke-Acts, is probably going to be a little longer in the proofreading stage than expected. However, I decided to pull out and present separately, now, one thing I was planning to include.

    Both Luke and Acts (overwhelmingly thought, both by Christian tradition and by secular scholarship, to have the same author) begin with a foreword of sorts, addressed to a “Theophilus”. The name “Theophilus” means, in Greek, “lover of God” or “beloved of God” – it was not an uncommon name in the Greek-speaking world of the period. This person isn’t identified, and one question is obvious: Who is this? This mini-installment addresses a few of the scholarly attempts to answer that question, and looks at one of the issues it raises.

    The simplest explanation is a fairly obvious one, namely, that Theophilus was a patron or otherwise important person, for whom the author wrote. This person is now unknown to us. Another theory is that “Theophilus” is an idealized reader, or a metaphor for a community of believers, or of all believers, in the same way as an author might address a reader as “friend” or “dear reader”.

    There’s another scholarly theory which is a bit more interesting. Theophilus is addressed in Luke by the same mode – “most excellent” in English – as is used a few times in Acts to refer to Roman governors. This indicates, they posit, that the Gospel of Luke and Acts were written for a Roman official.

    Why? One explanation is that Luke and Acts were intended to show that Jesus’ life and the new religion weren’t against or a threat to the Roman status quo. Supposed evidence is offered for this from Luke: Pontius Pilate arguably looks better than in the other synoptics, and while Mark and Matthew have the centurion comment, after Jesus’ death, that he was the son of God, in Luke, the centurion actually says that Jesus was innocent. Meanwhile, in Acts, while Paul gets in trouble with the authorities, it is not because he has done anything wrong – it is because others agitate against him and cause trouble.

    There are counteraguments to this. One is that writing so much addressed to someone who is not already a favourable audience doesn’t seem especially believable. Another is that the Roman authorities aren’t presented in a uniformly positive way – neither Pilate, nor the authorities that go after Paul; while the centurion notes that Jesus is innocent, the Roman soldiery still abuse him. However, it raises an interesting point – even if Luke and Acts are written for a Christian individual or community, the books might have an apologetic purpose. Christians might face the charge that their religion is antisocial and a threat to the established order – perhaps the intent is to equip them with arguments against that?

    In any case, that’s a little taste of the scholarship surrounding the question of who, exactly, Luke and Acts are addressed to. Next up, I’ll do Luke and Acts more generally.

    • Randy M says:

      There’s another scholarly theory which is a bit more interesting. Theophilus is addressed in Luke by the same mode – “most excellent” in English

      I was surprised, I think pleasantly, that this post didn’t end up being a “Bill and Ted” joke.

    • eigenmoon says:

      Some questions from the top of my head, so I might not be able to provide you with references for them:

      1. What’s the relationship with Luke and Marcion’s Gospel? Despite the church claiming that Marcion’s version is shortened Luke, it also suspiciously could be expanded Mark. What’s the chance that Luke is expanded Marcion?
      2. Why there are two versions of Acts, the longer and the shorter one?
      3. Why the Apostolic Council’s prohibition to eat blood is in every manuscript of the Acts but not in any quote by Christian writers?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Let me look at my books when I’ve got a moment. I know one talks a bunch about the longer/shorter Acts manuscript stuff, which is the opposite of the usual pattern.

      • dndnrsn says:

        1. Scholars seem to mostly back the idea that it’s a cut-down Luke. I don’t really know enough about it to have an informed opinion.
        2. I’ll talk a bit about this in my next installment.
        3. My understanding is that it’s largely a reinforcing of the Noahide rules, so maybe considered as a given? I’ll poke around a bit more – I’m not firing on all cylinders right now.

    • S_J says:

      I’ve seen thought-pieces claiming that the Gospel of Luke and/or Acts of the Apostles were drafted to aid in the legal defense of Apostle Paul, when he appealed to Ceasar.

      It fits some of the evidence about how the Roman authorities are presented in the book, and may even fit the honorific “Most Excellent”…if there was a Roman official who was friendly to Paul, and who would be willing to accept the book as something to use in aiding in the defense of Paul.

      That also fits as an explanation for why the book of Acts ends where it does, instead of continuing with Paul’s trial and its end-result.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I suppose analyzing this would require knowledge of how Roman courts and so on worked – which I don’t have. Would a legal defence have looked like Luke-Acts? I don’t know.

  28. Concavenator says:

    Economy-related question from someone who knows absolutely nothing about economy:

    What would be the flaws and benefits of an energy-backed currency? Say, something like a 100-kilojoule bill that can purchase any good or service that takes 100 kilojoules to produce or perform.
    One obvious flaw is that while I imagine energy-cost would model supply decently, it wouldn’t follow demand very well, as a vial of CancerCure™ and a sufficiently large pile of dirt would have the same price even though everybody would want the former and nobody the latter. This page proposes a system where the price of electricity (and presumably other forms of energy) varies according to the market, but the government adds or withdraws money to keep the $/kWh ratio within a preset range and under a guaranteed price. How workable/useful would that be?
    This post claims that it would prevent fractional-reserve banking, which I heard is important for economic investment (but wouldn’t that also be true of gold-standard currency?)
    It would make for a fixed exchange rate in international commerce, but unlike the gold standard it wouldn’t privilege countries with deposits of a specific resource, since energy comes in many sources and forms that can be objectively measured and compared. It would also assure that everyone has at least some amount of money by virtue of being alive.
    (Great advances in information-capturing technology would cause inflation, but I couldn’t tell how frequent or severe it would be.)

    • Anthony says:

      Any commodity-backed currency fixes the nominal price of that commodity, but nothing else. Having an energy-backed currency will not automatically result in the price of anything else being at, or even near, the energy required to produce it.

      The first big result will be to shut down production of what are now high-priced sources of energy, since printing dollars at a cost of $1.05 isn’t a business worth being in.

      However, as energy is a big input into almost all products, the price of any product or service in a competitive market will tend to approach the energy required for its production, because energy is required for all inputs, including secondary, tertiary, etc. inputs.

      By the way, that vial of cancer cure will have a really high energy cost because it has to pay off all the R&D that went into its creation as well as the manufacturing. But so will the pile of dirt – dirt weighs a lot, and lifting it out of the ground takes a lot of energy. (For a reasonable small pile, you’ve taken dirt that was an average of 3 feet below ground and moved it to an average of 2 feet above ground. A cubic foot of dirt weighs 120 pounds. So that’s 600 foot-pounds per cubic foot, or not quite 30 kJ/m^3.

    • MartMart says:

      I’m not sure how big of a problem this would be in practice, but at least in theory its interesting
      Energy demand fluctuates thru the day (for electricity) or on different days of the week and year (for gasoline)
      If we nominally lock the price of electricity, that means that other prices will fluctuate in relation to it in a cyclical pattern. Prices for normal goods will fall in the afternoons and weekends. A hot memorial day would be the ideal time to buy expensive goods.

    • eigenmoon says:

      There are already cryptocurrencies backed by data storage (Siacoin, Storj, MaidSafeCoin) and by computing power (Golem). But who’s using them?

      Suppose scientists finally nail fusion. What will happen? I guess roughly the same thing that happened when Spanish galleons brought lots of gold from the New World back to Europe. (It wasn’t pretty.)

      • Suppose scientists finally nail fusion. What will happen? I guess roughly the same thing that happened when Spanish galleons brought lots of gold from the New World back to Europe. (It wasn’t pretty.)

        Incidentally, what happens to the electronics industry in 21xx when spaceships bring lots of rare earths back from asteroids to Earth?

        • Anthony says:

          Not a whole lot – the rare earths aren’t the most expensive inputs into microelectronics. Capital equipment is. So chips will get cheaper because one input has dropped in price. But the price won’t collapse, because those multi-billion-dollar machines will still cost multiple billions of dollars

    • broblawsky says:

      The biggest risk is that Nwabudike Morgan might buy the planet.

      And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called “The Power Company”; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning.

      • Matt M says:

        “Resources exist to be consumed, and consumed they will be! If not by this generation than by some future.”

        Sorry, that’s all I can remember off the top of my head.

        • sentientbeings says:

          I plan to live forever, of course. Barring that, I’d settle for
          couple thousand years. Even five hundred would be pretty nice.

          From the Longevity Vaccine secret project video, I think?

      • Concavenator says:

        Life is merely an orderly decay of energy states, and survival requires the continual discovery of new energy to pump into the system. He who controls the sources of energy controls the means of survival.

        … Not gonna lie, this is exactly why I was thinking about energy-backed currency in the first place. In fact, I’ll quote:

        In context, SMAC posits that in the future, currency is represented as energy credits… So, presumably, an energy credit is the right to some number of Joules derived from one of those sources… Wealth, for [Morgan], is energy; the latent power to shape the universe to his will. And there’s no opting out of the game. If you fail to come up with enough energy, you die… Wealth and profit, as properly measured by net energy produced, are necessarily good. In fact, Morgan would argue that it’s the only coherent idea of what “doing good” could possibly mean, for humans embedded in physics. Profitable trade is therefore good because it is positive sum. When denominated in energy credits, it is tautologically true that more overall energy is captured from the environment because of the exchange than would have been available otherwise, or the two parties would not have made the deal.

    • Nicholas says:

      This is basically a technocratic update to labor theory of value, with all of the accompanying theoretical problems. For instance: how can you tell, looking at a pile of widgets which were produced efficiently and which weren’t? Or, a perfectly cooked cake becomes actually cheaper than a dry, burnt one that was left in the oven too long (using more energy). Same with day old doughnuts, which had to be moved more times than fresh ones…

      Since value is actually subjective, pricing schemes based on inputs always leads to the “mud pie problem”.

      • sentientbeings says:

        This is basically a technocratic update to labor theory of value, with all of the accompanying theoretical problems.

        That is not at all what it is. Rather, it is similar to other commodity-backed currencies, but uses a commodity guaranteed to always have non-negligible value because of its use as an input to literally every production process – everything that humans want requires it. Even under scenarios in which energy becomes extremely cheap, it is essentially impossible for it to fall into the “too expensive to track” range of abundance. There are a lot of interesting points of analysis in terms of pros/cons, but they basically fall into the normal categories of analysis for what makes a good or bad money.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          The version described at your link is somewhat similar to other commodity-backed currencies, though if I’m understanding it correctly it would require a given amount of energy delivered in one form (say, a liter of gasoline) to trade at par with the same amount of energy delivered in any other form, which would raise some serious Gresham’s Law issues.

          But I’m not seeing, at the link, the additional requirement which you appear to have added:

          a 100-kilojoule bill that can purchase any good or service that takes 100 kilojoules to produce or perform.

          This would only be analogous to commodity money if, for example, a gold standard required that every item bought or sold be priced, somehow, in proportion to the amount of gold it contains. (Or perhaps you meant this as a prediction rather than a requirement? If so, it’s pretty obviously a false one.)

          • Concavenator says:

            It wasn’t there; the link was just an example of one proposal of energy-backed currency, a milder and more practical one, certainly. The kilojoule bill would be part of a more “extreme” implementation.

          • sentientbeings says:

            I think there was a mix-up in order of replies, but your comment made me realize I should clarify something about my response to Nicholas. I was discussing a general concept of energy-as-monetary-backing, which is similar to other commodities, but interesting for some of the same reasons as data-storage- and computing-power-backed monies, mentioned by eigenmoon.

            There might be certain problems related to Concavenator’s idea or at his links (which I haven’t yet read) that run into the problem Nicholas mentioned (or others).

        • Nicholas says:

          “Say, something like a 100-kilojoule bill that can purchase any good or service that takes 100 kilojoules to produce or perform.”

          You seem to be proposing bean-counting joules during production, then setting the consumer price equal to their sum. This is an input-derived value scheme plain and simple.

          An energy-backed currency might be a futures product redeemable for 100 kilojoules at some date, or a pure commodity exchange could be actually paying in energy stored on batteries: instead of swiping a card, plug your wallet in and let the store drain a few joules out. But crucially in either of these cases, prices float based on subjective value regardless of their energy inputs to produce.

      • sentientbeings says:

        As a further explanation, consider the difference between doing useful work and just expelling heat from a system. Igniting fuel in an internal combustion engine is valuable because people want to move about; setting that fuel on fire in a trash can in the middle of a desert is the mud pie analogue.

        Energy as a commodity is the stored ability to do useful work; LTV equivalent would be including waste heat as valuable. They’re basically physically opposite propositions.

    • Phigment says:

      What does “Energy backed” mean, in this case?

      Traditionally, when a currency is backed by something, it means you can literally trade that currency for a quantity of that thing.

      I.e., if your currency is backed by silver, a person can (un theory) take a dollar bill, walk in to the Federal Reserve Bank HQ or whatever, and trade it for a slug of silver.

      So, imagine your energy-backed currency. Where are you going to take your dollar bill, hand it to the teller, and get a few kilowatt-hours of energy? How is it going to be delivered, how are you going to transport it, how are you going to store it? How are you going to resell it?

      If you’re using a commodity to back currency, you want to use a commodity that has stable value, and a reasonably long shelf life. That’s why precious medals are historically a very useful currency backing, and grain or timber are OK, and fresh fish are pretty bad.

      Energy strikes me as closer to acting like fish than it does to acting like gold. You usually want exactly the amount of energy you’re going to use right now, it doesn’t store well, and it doesn’t transport easily without lots of infrastructure.

      That’s setting aside all the questions about the merits and demerits of a backed currency vs. a fiat currency.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Not really sure what you are attempting to accomplish. The post Bretton Woods system has worked decently well. Nations not responsible enough to run their own currency tend to dollarize.

      On the specific question of fixing exchange rates between nations, that’s not really desirable. Monetary freedom, free capital flow, fixed prices: pick two. Why should I pick Fixed Prices over Monetary Freedom? I think Monetary Freedom is important to deal with economic slowdowns.

    • John Schilling says:

      What would be the flaws and benefits of an energy-backed currency? Say, something like a 100-kilojoule bill that can purchase any good or service that takes 100 kilojoules to produce or perform.

      No good or service takes just 100 kJ to produce or perform. Any good or service of real value requires some quantity of energy, plus labor, capital, and non-energy raw materials to perform. That being the case, your proposal seems to require that all goods and services be sold below cost, and drives all productivity to raw energy creation. Someone who otherwise would have e.g. produced a taco to sell to someone who wants to eat a taco, will instead focus on the part of the process where they amass a taco-producing quantity of energy and then reason “now I can skip the rest of the process, like buying expensive taco ingredients, and just turn this energy into kJ banknotes and demand someone sell me a taco (to consume or resell) with no further effort on my part”. No tacos will actually be made, everyone will starve. Or deal on the black market, because I think you may have introduced a literally infinitely deflationary currency.

      If you skip the part where the 100 kJ note can purchase any good or service that takes 100 kilojoules to produce or perform, you just have a commodity-based currency with all the flaws and benefits thereof. We’ve already shown that commodities can work tolerably well as the foundation of a currency, particularly if you keep them deeply buried the way foundations are supposed to be and live your daily economic life several layers of abstraction above the foundation. See e.g. the gold standard.

      But, commodity-based currencies tend to distort the market for that commodity, which we would probably rather do with something marginal like gold rather than something central like energy. You’re going to have to define a particular form of energy for actual currency use, e.g. 480V three-phase AC electricity, because unlike gold, energy comes in many non-interchangeable forms at greatly varying costs. And while it is possible to use perishable commodities as the basis for a currency, that does magnify the instabilities inherent in such. Energy is particularly perishable, in that I don’t think we don’t have a good way to even store energy a single day without the storage reservoir costing more than its energy content. That’s going to be a problem for the store-of-value function of money.

      Not recommended, I should think.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      A masterpiece painting by a famous artist and a crappy amateur painting of similar size made with a similar technique require about the same amount of energy to be produced. Are you going to price them the same?

    • Concavenator says:

      Thank you all for your answers. It seems the main problem with the strong form of the system is indeed that it ignores demand.

  29. Elliot says:

    Has anyone tried a ketogenic diet for >1 month? If so, did you notice any cognitive changes?

    The cognitive benefits seem to have weak scientific but strong anecdotal support. I have a friend with fibromyalgia who reckons it greatly improves her tiredness and brain fog. I don’t have any diseases like that, but I am tired and brain foggy a lot. I’ve tried sleep and exercise interventions, with some success, but I decided to try keto. It’s supposed to take a month for your metabolism to adjust, and after about 3 or 4 weeks I had a 2 week period where I felt extremely high energy and happy, and did the best work of my PhD.

    I then fell out of keto by making a few mistakes, and the effect went away. I travelled a lot shortly after, so didn’t try to maintain it, but now I’m going to try it again to see if it was coincidence or not.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I had a solid 4 month run of picture perfect Keto, followed by a month and a half of increasingly bad keto unto failure. The physical effects by the second month were pretty clear. My breath tasted revolting and gastrointestinal attitudes changed, and I was losing weight. To me the most distinct “cognitive” effect was a complete and total lack of blood sugar spikes. This has a stabilizing effect on my mood. But I’m already sort of stoic to a fault so it felt like almost overly neutral.

      It made the anhedonic episode I was having at the time less miserable, but really took away a lot of the joy of food and eating. I feel it was a success for a bit of weight loss and really keying me into what exactly blood sugar feels like (it’s a constant background noise that I thought I knew from binging on snacks and the subsequent crash but there’s a whole spectrum of more subtle effects that I’d never have attributed to blood sugar).

      Brain fog it decidedly did not help. Exercise was the thing I needed there. I’m of the opinion that keto is just not that sustainable (god forbid you want to meet friends for drinks or dinner), but it’s worth a try.

      • acymetric says:

        My (lay) understanding is that keto really isn’t a sustainable, healthy diet for otherwise healthy people (not is it intended to be). It is intended to treat/reduce symptoms of certain conditions that are worse than the effects of keto.

        I could believe that a sort of…keto-based or keto-lite type diet could be beneficial, but full on keto is a medical treatment, not a healthy way to live.

        • j1000000 says:

          “full on keto is a medical treatment, not a healthy way to live.”

          This may be the standard advice of doctors, but it is not what the keto evangelicals on the Internet believe.

          • acymetric says:

            Correct.

          • Nicholas says:

            The Swedish government apparently officially recommends a low-carb, moderate to high fat diet rather than the ‘standard western’ low fat, high carb diet. So maybe it depends on where your sample of ‘standard doctors’ live (and perhaps how much agro business lobbies there) ?

          • acymetric says:

            There is a huge difference between “low-carb, high fat” and a full-on keto diet.

    • chaosmage says:

      I guess I could report somewhat better homeostasis. Less distraction by background feelings of appetite and elation that I now know were caused by blood sugar. But to be fair the effect is so subtle I’m not confident I could distinguish it from placebo.

      For me the most pronounced effect is a reduced need for sleep. I think that counts as a cognitive benefit because it gives me more hours of cognition per day. Many, but not all keto eaters report having this effect, and I seem to have gotten more of it than most. I’ve gone from feeling great with eight hours of sleep and okay with six to feeling great with six and a half and okay with five.

    • Nicholas says:

      My wife and I were keto for about 2 years, with the exception that we never kept keto when traveling internationally (why go to Italy if you’re not going to eat the pasta?). I didn’t see large cognitive effects, but I did notice a lack of blood sugar related mood effects (e.g., “hangry”). My wife felt this effect to a more extreme extent, and is actually the reason we ended up leaving keto; she felt her mood was over-regulated, curbing her high end as well as her low end.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Has anyone tried a ketogenic diet for >1 month? If so, did you notice any cognitive changes?

      Yes, and yes (and they were positive changes). The strength of the effect is confounded in my experience by the fact that I’ve typically stuck to a rigorous strength training regimen while following a ketogenic diet. Exercise has cognitive effects as well.

  30. Tenacious D says:

    Does anyone have advice about bats? I’ve woken up in the middle of the night a couple of times recently to one flying in circles around my bedroom. I’m not sure how it got there; my best guess is crawling through a three-quarter inch gap under the door, but that still leaves the question of how it’s getting into the house. Each time I trapped it in a bucket the next day while it was sleeping. The first time I released it outside but this time I’m less inclined to do so.

    • broblawsky says:

      Where do you live? Because if it’s somewhere where rabies is endemic, this is a serious rabies risk.

        • Eltargrim says:

          Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have all had confirmed cases of rabies in bats in the last five years, Ontario and Quebec this year as well. If you have no obvious bites, consider consulting your family doctor or an urgent care clinic as to whether you should be vaccinated. If you have obviously been bitten or scratched, seek the vaccine immediately.

          • broblawsky says:

            Just to reinforce this: rabies is very treatable via vaccination before symptoms show up, which can take months. Once symptoms show up, AFAIK, the only treatment is induced coma, which only has a ~50% survival rate and can lead to brain damage even if it succeeds.

          • Lancelot says:

            Once symptoms show up, AFAIK, the only treatment is induced coma, which only has a ~50% survival rate and can lead to brain damage even if it succeeds.

            The survival rate for the induced coma procedure is less than 10%.

    • herbert herberson says:

      They’re entering your living space from the attic, probably via a chimney gap or by getting in the walls and following them down through an unfinished basement. The only surefire way to handle them is to exclude them from your attic by hiring a guy to go over the exterior and either cover their entry-exit points or install one-way doors on them (you don’t want to trap them inside the attic, for reasons that range from regulatory, to humaneness, to practical)

    • metacelsus says:

      As broblawsky said, this is a serious rabies risk. If you can, try to capture/kill the bat and take it to your local animal control center for testing (they need its brain in order to test, so if you kill it yourself, make sure to leave that intact). If you can’t, I would get the rabies shots just to be safe. Bat teeth are small enough that they can bite you without you noticing it.

      When I was young, a bat hid in my brother’s shoe and bit him when he put it on. We brought it in for testing, and thankfully it didn’t have rabies.

    • Enkidum says:

      Very unlikely they’re getting in from the door. As others have said, the attic is the most likely. It can be a real pain in the ass to seal off properly, but once it’s done, you never have to do it again.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for the advice everyone. I’ve arranged to get the bat tested tomorrow and I’m looking into getting the vaccine (no obvious bite or scratch marks, but it sounds like a case where it’s best to err on the side of caution).

    • Well... says:

      Does anyone have advice about bats? I’ve woken up in the middle of the night a couple of times recently to one flying in circles around my bedroom.

      I think of myself as someone who like bats but Jesus Fucking Christ.

      Also: a 3/4″ gap under your door?!?! Do you live in the bathroom facility at a public campground or something??

      • acymetric says:

        I don’t think that is all that unusual for internal doors. He’s talking about the bedroom door, not the front door.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I think that you may be confusing 3/4 inches (3/4″) for 3/4 foot (3/4′ or 9″). A 3/4′ gap under a door would be insane, but a 3/4″ gap is pretty normal.

        • Aapje says:

          That’s almost 2 centimeters, which is a very large gap. Then again, American building standards seem poor, so perhaps it is normal where you live.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s probably the result of flooring changes. Some of the doors in my house have about a 3/4″ gap under them, but the floors used to be hardwood or tile with a raised threshold at the doorway. Now some are continuous tile (same floor from foyer to powder room), and others are joined wall-to-wall carpet with no threshold. The main bathrooms (which are tile-to-carpet) retain a threshold, and have a smaller gap. I believe 1/4″ above the finished floor (or threshold) is more typical.

            Apparently in some new houses they rely on the gaps under the doors for HVAC return (to save money on ducting), and then the gaps have to be enormous. I would hope that’s only in very low-end houses, because that would look horrible.

          • Randy M says:

            Legacy of shag carpet?

          • Cliff says:

            Apparently in some new houses they rely on the gaps under the doors for HVAC return (to save money on ducting), and then the gaps have to be enormous. I would hope that’s only in very low-end houses, because that would look horrible.

            I have a high-end house that I built and yes the gaps are about 1″ for HVAC efficiency and it looks completely normal.

        • Well... says:

          No, I meant a 3/4 INCH gap, which is huge — but I assumed he meant an exterior door, not an interior one.

          • acymetric says:

            Just to make sure, you’re reading that as “0.75 inches” and not “three to four inches” right?

            That would definitely be really weird for an outside door but I would guess is pretty common for interior doors where being a tight seal not only isn’t necessary but may actually be undesirable.

          • Well... says:

            Hah, yes. 0.75 inches.

            Yes, I agree with your second paragraph.

      • Tenacious D says:

        To clarify about the door, it is indeed an interior door. The floors are hardwood, but I think at some previous point in the life of the house (before I owned it) there was carpet on top. In addition , the house was built in the 1930s, so some things have shifted and settled enough over the years that tight clearances would be prone to bind.

      • Beck says:

        Nybbler’s right; doors are sometimes undercut up to around 1″ to provide return air ventilation in rooms with closed doors. I’m not sure how well it works.

    • Polycarp says:

      I had a bat in the bedroom one night. I closed the door to the rest of the house to keep it contained. It flew in circles and one of my cats knocked it to the floor a couple of times and tussled with it. I eventually caught the bat and brought it to a vet the next day to be tested. It was rabid. (The cat had had her shots and got a booster. No problem there.)

      I don’t think it bit me, but the county health department convinced me to get the series of shots. First day: a dose of human rabies immune globulin and the first of three rabies vaccine shots. The other two vaccine shots were spaced out over the next two or three works. (It’s been a few years.) The shots were not a big deal, but they were expensive (and covered by insurance).

  31. Bobobob says:

    Not sure if it’s been discussed in this forum before, but Cerebus the Aardvark seems like it would appeal to a lot of people here (and for all I know, Dave Sim is a regular SSC visitor). I only made it about halfway through the run, in perfect-bound book form, but I’ve been thinking lately about the two volumes of “Church and State,” which wormed their way into my subconscious 25 years ago. Any other Cerebus fans/critics?

    • J Mann says:

      I got about halfway through and then read the rest of the plot on Wikipedia. Funny in parts, touching in parts, and the jailhouse essay to liberty still gets me in the feels.

      Also, I’ve always wondered whether “His play ended not so much with a grand finale as with a grand ‘finally.'” is original Oscar Wilde or Dave Sim writing on Wilde’s voice.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Is there a link for the jailhouse essay to liberty?

      • J Mann says:

        I can’t find it anywhere. It’s the end of the “High Society” arc, which you can read in the graphic novel of the same name. There are a couple pages linking to scans of the page, like here and here, but it looks like the page hosting the scans is down.

        The arc involves the main character finding himself at the head of a brief-lived democratic revolution, with a lot of the narration excepted from a history written by one of the characters, Suetonius (sp?) Po and published much later. Cerebus ultimately loses everything, getting set back to square one, and the arc ends with his aide, Po, in prison, writing his history/manifesto on his prison wall. You can't read most of it, but the end is lifted directly from JFK:

        … we shall pay any price, bear any burden meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty

        At the time, I hadn’t heard the JFK quote, and it stuck with me ever sense.

    • Enkidum says:

      I’ve read it all, though the last 50 issues or so are a real slog.

      Some parts of it are, frankly, among the best artistic creations I’ve ever encountered. Other parts of it… less so.

      The fact that Sim went batshit insane about 1/2 the way through makes it extra interesting. Even by the standards of most of the commenters here, I suspect his anti-feminism is over the top. He sincerely believes that female-ness is the primal nullifying destructive force of the universe, that ruin all that is holy and worthwhile. This is not, so far as I can tell, a metaphor or way of expressing a complicated truth – women are just inherently evil, and that’s the way it is.

      Of course this only comes out after he’s written 100 or so issues featuring some of the most fully-realized female characters I’ve ever read written by a man. If you read the letter pages, there are some hints as to what was going on in his life (he had at least one schizophrenic episode, and broke up with his longtime girlfriend, among other things), and after this point all women are only written as ultimately evil and/or worthless (though frequently they are very well written examples of such characters). By the end, he’s become a kind of fundamentalist Christian/Muslim in a church of one, writing screeds about how the success of the Iraq War (ha. ha. ha.) is proof that God supports Bush Jr. The last few dozen issues are essentially him proselytizing, and contain such highlights as Cerebus copying out large segments of holy texts in order to better educate us. It’s… an interesting change from the first couple of hundred issues, to say the least.

      Church and State is one of the high points, but there’s plenty of others. I thought Jaka’s Story was one of the best presentations I’ve seen of the frustrations associated with being a sheltered girl (this was pre-shit-publicly-hitting-the-fan, and presumably before his opinions changed). Guys is written long after everything went weird, but is still one of the funniest things I’ve read, it is a perfect encapsulation of what it is like to hang out with a bunch of, well, guys, and get drunk.

      He’s a superb writer, Neil Gaiman once said that other than Jeff Smith (Bone), Sim is the best pacer of jokes he’s ever read. He’s also a wonderful draftsman, and there are almost perfect panels long after the words became something I could no longer pay much attention to.

      So, yeah. Mixed feelings. Definitely worth it.

      • Randy M says:

        Even by the standards of most of the commenters here, I suspect his anti-feminism is over the top.

        Try me.

        He sincerely believes that female-ness is the primal nullifying destructive force of the universe, that ruin all that is holy and worthwhile.

        Well okay then. I’ll give you that one.

        So, yeah. Mixed feelings. Definitely worth it.

        Come for the jokes stay for the trainwreck? Oddly tempting.

        • Enkidum says:

          Come for the jokes stay for the trainwreck? Oddly tempting.

          Definitely come for the jokes. His take on Groucho Marx is also one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and his versions of The Beatles and Rolling Stones are pretty great (including Mick n Keef snorting up driveway gravel when they run out of drugs). And that doesn’t even get into the spoofs of other comics, which occupies probably 10% of the first 2/3 of the series.

          I can think of multiple panels off the top of my head and start giggling instantly, and I haven’t read it in a few years.

          It should be tempting to read. It’s really one of the unique artistic creations out there, as Sim was fond of pointing out, a similar kind of sustained effort on his part as Proust put into A La Recherche Des Temps Perdu, but a lot more jokes.

          As for the anti-woman stuff – yeah, one reeeeally wants to read it as some kind of rhetorical over-exaggeration or something like that. But you read the letter pages, where people write to him saying things like “Hey, my wife and I are both fans of your stuff, and I just wanted to let you know that not all women are they way you write them, ” and his response is simply to double down, with no detectable trace of irony. It’s… really quite something. I’m no psychiatrist, but there’s clearly some kind of psychosis involved (although he’s been very angry about people saying stuff like that, but honestly he’s lost any right to complain at this point).

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I sort this under “Jung is a hell of a drug.” It’s work I find at times compelling and at times insightful, but never both at once.

      It gets points for experimentality, and the artwork reaches some sublime highs. I would be impressed if I saw it on someone’s shelf, and I’d hope to god “yin and yang” wouldn’t come up in any subsequent conversations.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve only read some of the earlier sections and the last two volumes (skipping the anti-woman material). On the last two volumes, there was something about the cross-hatching which seemed to be good for my soul, and I was pleased to find out that Sim didn’t do the inking.

      One thing that sticks with me was his description of realizing he could draw *anything* he wanted, instead of the rather uninspired Conan parody. The first thing was a harlequin-patterned gargoyle. I don’t know whether this has been reprinted.

      After a while, I got tired of the wordiness of the Groucho Marx and Foghorn Leghorn parodies, but the wordless issue of a giant picking Cerebus up and throwing him sticks in memory, and so does the one of Cerebus (a very dangerous dictator by then) standing in a painful position because that’s what the sculptor making a statue of him wants.

      One of the last volumes has an interesting essay about the three stooges having impeccable timing they developed in vaudeville.

  32. Jeremiah says:

    As part of the fortnightly dive into the SSC archives. We have recently turned not one, but two(!) old posts into audio versions on the podcast.

    Against Bravery Debates (Original here)
    All Debates are Bravery Debates (Original here)

    Also I have gone back and added a [Classic] label in the title to all episodes that are pulled from the archives. If anyone is just getting in to SSC that’s a great way to catch up on the top posts.

    • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

      Love the podcast. Thanks for doing it!

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

      Those titles make a nice syllogism.

      Scott is against bravery debates.
      All debates are bravery debates.
      ∴ Scott is against debates.

      • Nick says:

        I’m disappointed “In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization” doesn’t include an ad for Civ V.

        • Randy M says:

          That would make a good motto for a Civ forum.

          • Nick says:

            Just so you know, Randy, I am reading your serial. Just haven’t commented yet. Sorry about that!

            I did notice it’s kinda first draft. Do you want typos pointed out, or would you prefer criticism be about substantive things?

          • Randy M says:

            Be merciless, but mostly I want to know if it is interesting enough to continue or is it boring exposition that needs conflict? Characters believable and/or memorable? Are there blatant any errors in depictions of different cultures or technology?

            And I’m coming to believe everything is kind of a first draft until a second or third pair of eyes has looked at it to point out the the mistakes. (But I know how to spend my lunch break ;))

      • Jeremiah says:

        Indeed! If only it had been intentional…

  33. Machine Interface says:

    The soundtrack of the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger was composed by Basil Poledouris, with an orchestral, almost operatic score that earned a lot of praises, to the point of being later transcribed and covered by various orchestras and musicians, as a self-standing piece.

    However, there is one piece of music in the movie, heard when Conan and his party are sneaking into the Tower of Set in an attempt to steal valuables, that differs markedly from the rest of the soundtrack (and in fact it is heard nowhere else in the movie and doesn’t appear on most official soundtrack albums), consisting only of a couple of bowed instruments with an ethereal voice and a few quiet percussions, delineating a strange and complex evolving melody with middle-eastern or central-asian echoes. It fits the scene, and it fits the movie’s vision of this fantasy world as a mixture of early-medieval Europe and central-Asian steppes, but it so different from the rest of the soundtrack that I began researching it.

    As it turns out, not only it’s not an original composition by Poledouris, but apart from the addition of voices, the version heard in the movie is not even an original performance! Rather, what can be heard in the movie is a 1976 instrumental recording of the cantiga 166 from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a 13th century collection of sacred Portuguese-Gallician songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gETv_c9U9zA

    It’s always interesting to hear how “oriental” medieval iberian music sounds (albeit for obvious reasons), although since the original music notation is often pretty minimal, it’s hard to tell how much of this represents a genuine tradition and how much is modern performers interpreting it that way.

    • Ouroborobot says:

      Wow, cool catch. Conan is one of my all-time favorites precisely because of its perfect marriage of music and film, but Poledouris did shamelessly lift from other composers. The one that’s always been most obvious to me is “The Orgy”, which almost directly duplicates large sections of Holst’s Jupiter. I believe the main title theme also borrows a section from the same.

    • That’s pretty cool. It’s hard to tell sure, but I’d lean towards most of its sound being interpretational, however. I bet if you went back in a time machine you’d be surprised in all sorts of ways.

      This film has an absolutely ace soundtrack either way. It elevates it a lot. Battle of the Mounds from this movie is one of my favorite musical pieces in a film but… for some reason in the Blu Ray they deliberately change the sequence where you hear the voices that sound like“HARPY!” in the original. The result is way less epic and impactful. It sounds like there’s a hole in the music. No idea why they made that choice. I feel like I’m the only person in the world that’s noticed this.

      • Machine Interface says:

        I had not seen the bluray version yet. That is indeed weird. Especially since the chorus eventually does kick in so it’s not like they just forgot a track while remixing the music or something.

      • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

        Also various versions of it seem to be missing one of the tracks at the very climax of “Mounds” when the chaos comes in, the highest singer on the note of Haught HEE” gives this unbelievably high wail in the background and one or two of the singers are missing/inaudible on some versions.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thanks very much– Conan the Barbarian has one of my favorite soundtracks.

      What’s more, I posted cantiga 166 on facebook and asked about other music that sounded like it, and got a spectacular version of the thing I was trying to remember. Lamento di Tristano – La rotta If you just want the fast and passionate part, skip the slow and lovely bits and go to 4:30.

  34. Pulsifer says:

    A lot of people complain about advertisements, and a lot of people use ad-blockers, but a lot less work has gone into helping websites make money without advertisements.

    On the technical side, The Direct Monetization Network has been working on an open protocol for websites to accept anonymous micro-payments while offloading the payment-processing work to a third party.

    On the qualitative side, they’re running a consumer survey to validate their assumptions about how people use ad-blockers, pay-walls, etc. Taking it would really help them (us) out!

    • DinoNerd says:

      Interesting survey. I’m sorry it didn’t include mention of the malware problem – I’m intransigent about adblockers for that reason, as well as the obvious. And one of their hurdles may be convincing people that their infrastructure/protocol won’t create security issues of its own.

      Also relevant to the “Would I pay for this” problem – click bait. If I have to pay to find out if the article is really about what it claims to be about, I won’t be a customer for long 🙁

      Personally, I’d prefer a subscription model, with the ability to sample a few before paying, for news etc. – and a way to permanently purchase any other media – again, with the ability to read a few pages, hear a few bars, etc. before buying.

      • Pulsifer says:

        I haven’t been able to figure out a trustably-anonymous “first x pages free” mechanism. Certainly open to ideas.

        Segregating some content as free and some as paid (or tip-jar) is certainly possible and likely, but has it’s own problems.
        Regarding “permanent” purchases: would you rather save the media to your own computer, or for the provider to promise you that it would always be available?

        • dweezle says:

          I would like to ask anyone who prefers the latter method of accessing “permanent” purchases to explain why. It seems to me like the quotation marks are only really necessary because you are putting cloud storage and local storage in the same category of permanence, when they just really aren’t.

          There are several cases i can remember of services dissolving, rendering a product completely defunct due to DRM. As a low hanging example, people who bought juicero cant even use their stupid money wasting machine even if they wanted to since the company evaporated. A more fitting example might be when Microsoft shut down its MSN music store/streaming service https://www.giantbomb.com/forums/xbox-one-8450/ms-drm-shutdown-they-did-it-once-they-can-do-it-ag-1441298/

          Worth noting that Microsoft offered a grace period for, i assume, people to download their stuff and gtfo, but thats really no better than just letting customers store locally from day one. (unless you want to inject ads into the stream)

          I don’t know of any products/online libraries that have deactivated DRM after things went bad, in a way that would make someone concerned about this type of thing happy. though i would love an example.

          • Pulsifer says:

            Straight face: I included the quotation marks because we’re all going to die someday.

          • dweezle says:

            you know, when i was typing the first few lines of my reply i briefly considered that you were making that point/joke, but that got in the way of my burning rage for advertisements and seeping further and further into my media.

            real talk i hope your research is fruitful, because god knows the endless ads vs adblock wars must be tiring for most involved.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Pulsifer – I have a fair number of books I inherited from my parents, and some CDs inherited from a deceased aunt.

        • dweezle says:

          i wanna point out that i tried to get people to take this surevey offsite and people were absolutely disgusted when they saw the title screen, dunno if thats your doing or the site you are on but people that have opinions dont like sites that tell them “lets help marketing get stronger”

          maybe obfuscate this stuff a bit. literally the opening screen is saying “do you wanna help advertizers” which is similar to saying “do you wanna help the people that annoy you”

        • DinoNerd says:

          I want it saved on my own storage. The provider is likely to go out of business, or fail to adequately provision their server. And I’m likely to intermittently have a poor internet connection, or none at all. (And yes, I do routine backups – automated so I don’t forget.)

          Also relevant: a paper book won’t last forever – I have some already yellowing – but it’ll last better than any e-media has done so far.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the only real answer to this is something of a charity/patreon sort of model. Media is trivially easy to pirate. Paywalls are trivially easy to work around. The way to get people to pay for your stuff is to make them want to pay for it. Even when they know they don’t have to.

      Create content so good that people feel a moral compulsion to throw money at you. Does that mean that a whole lot of modern media would disappear and go out of business? Yes. Because it turns out that a whole lot of modern media is truly mediocre. Not terrible necessarily, but “replacement level,” to borrow a concept from sports.

      • Pulsifer says:

        I don’t think pirates are the deciding factor between paywalls and tip-jars. Anyone who was going to leave a tip is unlikely to pirate, and visa-versa.

        (In a pay-per-click situation, plagiarism is a concern, but it’s not a new concern.)

        Part of what I’m trying to accomplish is to make the marketplaces of “stuff online” slightly less winner-take-all. There’s a limit to how cut-throat we’d want the industry to be. Strictly as a thought experiment, think of the market-places like a evoltionary optimizer. If we were trying to find a single persistent maxima, then we’d “anneal” the search process (make the market more cut-throat). But that’s not what we want; we want to find lots of maxima, and we assume they’ll move, fall, and rise over time. So we want to keep lots of room for “good enough” players to survive.

      • dodrian says:

        There are a number of content creators I would love to support with a few bucks a month, and I probably would have joined Patreon a while ago if I considered them trustworthy. Mainly they had a few data breaches a while back which they handled poorly. Partly because more recently they’ve been throwing their weight around in political spheres in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think the makers of Brave had some proposed scheme to pay websites without showing you ads. I haven’t looked into it, though.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        I started playing around with Brave a few weeks ago. The idea is that it’s essentially overriding the ad system: it ships with an adblocker by default, so you’re not seeing the stuff the sites want you to see.

        Instead, the Brave Rewards feature is something you can turn on where it injects its own ads, at a configurable level. Brave is going to curate that stuff itself, presumably more effectively than existing ad networks. It then takes a cut of that ad revenue for itself, and lets you distribute the rest of the revenue to the sites you’ve visited. It defaults to just splitting it up by your usage time, but you can adjust that or cut a site out of the revenue entirely (useful for clickbait sites you don’t want to reward). They’re using an Ethereum-backed system, which I guess website owners will need to set up to receive.

        I like the idea, but unfortunately it’s not live yet: the existing system is just Brave popping up desktop notifications at configurable intervals to generate this currency, which I found tremendously annoying and turned off about 2 days in.

    • helloo says:

      Isn’t the user donations (first with paypal, then towards crowdfunding and now mostly (afaik) shifted to Patreon and the like) similar to what you’re mentioning?

      Also can be seen with the rise and fall of Youtube monetization and the various sponsored videos, donation backed creators.

      • Pulsifer says:

        Yeah, a lot of those parties have offered solutions of one kind or another to the same fundamental problems I’m trying to tackle.

    • AG says:

      Ad-blockers weren’t inevitable. I resisted using one for a long time.

      What changed is that Web 2.0 design got fucking unbearable. Resource hogs, malware delivering, redirecting the screen, invasive sound, things that actively reduced the quality of the content. In comparison, TV ads are outright benign. Also, TV ads tend to be somewhat interesting and don’t repeat the same ad every single commercial break or even within the same break.

      But yeah, I think that direct monetization is a superior option. Rooster Teeth got started with selling merch (T-shirts, to be specific), and have consistently grown off of direct support from their fans.

      The technical side of online ads is what has gotten rotten, not the presence of any ads.

      • Matt M says:

        Indeed.

        Scott has ads here. And he also has a Patreon. What’s somewhat atypical is that he has no middle-ground “pay to remove the ads” option, specifically because why would anyone bother, because his ads are so incredibly un-obtrusive that even the people who intrinsically hate advertising don’t seem to be bothered by them.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, I would not have bothered with an ad blocker in a world where ads weren’t so intrusive and nasty and so often malware vectors.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I was a very early adopter of adblocking technology, and did so before I (or many non-specialists) had any idea of online ads as malware vectors, let alone as denial-of-service attacks in themselves.

        Once upon a time, there was a computer game. It was an early play-in-your-browser MMORPG. Like many such games it was free to play to a certain level, with a subscription model for additional content. Unlike many, the level you could get to was quite high. But there was a catch – it had ads unless/until you subscribed. And the ads were distracting enough to impair one’s play – so the person who introduced me to the game also introduced me to adblock.

        I eventually bought a subscription, and later moved on to other games. But adblock was all or nothing – I didn’t see ads on any web site. So on the one hand, I got spoiled – I got used to the non-distracting experience of adblocked web sites, and the adaptations I’d made mentally to ignore ads in e.g. magazines kind of atrophied. And on the other, I didn’t experience later “enhancements” to the ad experience – instead of being a slowly boiled frog, I was shocked and distressed on the rare occassions I used browsers without adblocking.

        Now I’m adamantly and angrily opposed to ads, which I regard as externalities imposed on me to steal my time, attention, and concentration – not even in any real hope of selling whatever the ads are peddling, but because the site makes money off misdirecting my time and attention. Malware risks are the largest rational part of this. But mostly it’s the arms race – I don’t mind ads on the side of busses, or most billboards – but I also don’t generally notice them, unless I’m very bored. But those online ads “improve” faster than I can train myself not to notice them, as well as consuming very real resources (bandwidth, cpu cycles, memory) that I’m paying for.

        There’s also the legal environment, which appears to be “advertisers can do no wrong” and/or “business can do no wrong”. I regularly receive phone calls, interrupting me for the purpose of telling me – using a recording, not a person – that someone has something I would not have sought out on my own, that they hope I’ll buy and/or contribute to if only they interrupt me often enough. My paper mailbox is full of rubbish, some from companies I otherwise do business with (grr!) and some from companies that carefully package their ad spam in envelopes that don’t reveal the source. This teaches me that advertisers as a class believe they have a right to consume my time and attention, even without providing me anything in return. (Not the case of a web site with real content I might actually want.) This context overflows into my attitude to any advertiser – even if Brand X only advertises in ways involving a real exchange of value, I haven’t got the time, attention or motivation to distinguish them, leaving them all in a race to the bottom, with no incentive to stop.

        Some of this behaviour was illegal in my home country, at least when I last lived there, and the laws were actually enforced. And that’s perhaps the real reason I arrived in the US without my current extreme aversion to advertisements and advertisers.

    • gwern says:

      You might be interested in the surveys I’ve already run asking about adblockers & ad preferences: https://www.gwern.net/Ads#they-just-dont-know

  35. Ryan says:

    There seems to be a bit of hunger for decent longform podcasts.

    To this end I run one called The Good Timeline which has featured some people well known in the community, including Robin Hanson, Daniel Ingram, Aella, Andres Gomez Emilsson (Qualia Computing)

    We have a vague rationalist/transhumanist lens and cover topics such as Consciousness Research, Psychology, Economics, Interstellar Space Travel, Ibogaine/Psychedelics, Meme Theory, Music, Sexuality and Rationalist Buddhism.

    Feel free to have a peruse here

  36. silver_swift says:

    I’ve been thinking about systems for medicine patents a bit recently and I was wondering: Has any country ever tried a system where anyone can sell patented medicine, but (for the duration of the patent) the customer is charged a mandatory extra X% on top of the normal price and that money goes to the patent holder. For high enough values of X this still gives an effective monopoly to the patent holder, but if the patent holder gets too greedy their competitors can start undercutting them.

    It seems like an effective way to let drug research companies recoup the cost of R&D, while still putting some upper bound on the prices they can ask, yet I’ve never heard of anyone proposing something along these lines, so what am I missing?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      R&D can be a few orders of magnitude higher than production costs. If you need to price a pill at $10 for 5 years to recoup R&D, it doesn’t really help you if somebody comes and manufactures it for 10 cents, sells it for 20 cents, and gives you a percentage of that.

      • silver_swift says:

        To be clear, I don’t mind X being some mindbogglingly high number (10000% in this case), but I suppose the more general issue that there isn’t a fixed ratio between development costs and production costs is a problem. 10000% works if the drug costs 10 cents to produce, but is ridiculously high if it costs $1 and way to low if it costs 1 cent.

        It sounds like that problem should be fixable, but I can’t think of any good fixes that don’t immediately introduce even worse problems, so maybe that’s just my mind having trouble letting go of a clever idea.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          so maybe that’s just my mind having trouble letting go of a clever idea.

          Older I get, more likely it is to use it as a prior 🙂

          Anyways, to move the conversation a bit, I don’t think the problem in general with government is finding good ideas, but with the process of 1. verifying they’re good ideas and 2. gathering the political will to implement said ideas.

          I’d be very happy with an inefficient process as long as it’s trackable and makes sure it implements at least the obviously decent ideas. As it stands, we have a mash of electorally palatable with profitable to lobby, which is only accidentally good for society.

    • Murphy says:

      >charged a mandatory extra X% on top

      How is X chosen?

      If it’s the same across the board then you push companies to look for drugs that require lots of doses.

      If it’s varied by drug then you’re creating a negotiation stage very very roughly equivalent to a public health authority negotiating prices…. except where the negotiating body then doesn’t see that price come out of their own budget which is going to have bad effects.

      If it’s flat across the board…

      Imagine 2 different drugs.

      One ,acne-ine, slightly reduces acne when 3 doses are taken per day.

      The other AIDS-ine cures AIDS with a single dose.

      With a flat X% on top you reward the discoverer of the former and give squat to the discoverer of the latter with an associated effect on where R&D funding is shifted.

    • Steven J says:

      Yes, this has been tried by several developing countries.
      Not for all medicines, but on a drug-by-drug basis.
      The system is called “compulsory licensing”, if you want to Google it.
      Developing countries are allowed to do this under WTO rules, and some of them have used the threat of compulsory licensing to improve their position when negotiating with pharmaceutical companies.
      Here’s a paper that gives an overview of the relevant issues.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893582/
      Since the compulsory rates tend to be quite low, R&D incentives would be severely imacted if the use of compulsory licensing were expanded.

    • helloo says:

      Generally such discussions for such systems deal with compulsory licensing, which is pretty much is what you are asking for.

      That is, the patent holder cannot hold monopoly power but is forced to license the patent to be used by third parties through a license.

      One issue with your specific version is that it is tied to the sells price, which might reward manufacturing effectiveness a bit too much. (Ie. should reducing 50% on the cost also reduce 50% on the license fees? Or should it be something more fixed?)
      Another issue is regards to medicine patenting is that of the FDA which often holds the true monopoly power for these drugs. It is often from the procedures and policies of the FDA that you hear the horror stories of a life-saving drug suddenly increasing in price 100x despite being out of patent. Not like we haven’t had controversy from the other end, such as when it was revealed a new-ish hepatitis c vaccine costing 20000.

  37. tailcalled says:

    I’m curious why the second post was so much more successful at encouraging signups than the first. Was it the rule that only people with A-M names could propose? The rule that nobody could post non-proposal comments in the comments section? Or did people just need more time?

    In my case, I just needed more time. I got several collaborators for the first post, but I needed time to pick someone to work with.

  38. Aapje says:

    I wrote a comment in the Links thread about how the seats are distributed in the Dutch elections, according to the proportional system. However, since that thread is mostly dead and it may interest people, I’m reproducing it here as well:

    The way it works in my country is that before the election each party registers an ordered list like this:

    Example Party
    1. Bob
    2. Mary
    3. Jack
    4. Anna

    After the election, the electoral council first calculates the electoral quota: the number of votes required for a seat. This is done by dividing the number of votes by the number of seats, so 1000 votes and 100 seats = 10 votes per seat.

    So if the Example Party gets 30 votes, they get 30/10 = 3 seats. When the votes for a party are not an exact multiple of the electoral quota, these votes are distributed to the parties that are closest to a full vote, unless parties agree to share votes (which politically aligned parties can choose to do, to keep seats away from parties they oppose (more)).

    Once it’s determined how many seats each party gets, the representatives are selected. First, the preferential quota is calculated. Any candidate who meets the preferential quota gets a seat and the remaining seats get chosen by ranking. The preferential quota is a percentage of the electoral quota that is set by law. For the House of Representatives, this is 25%. For European Parliament, it is 10%.

    So for our example, 10% of 10 votes would be an preferential quota of 1 vote. So if these are the votes for the Example Party:

    1. Bob 20 votes
    2. Mary 0 votes
    3. Jack 0 votes
    4. Anna 10 votes

    Then Bob and Anna meet the preferential quota of 1 vote and get a seat. The party has 1 seat left. This goes to Mary, because she is ranked higher on the list than Jack.

    Note that this is just one possible model. Also note that European Parliament elections use national election systems* to assign the seats, so a vote in France is counted differently than a vote in The Netherlands.

    * Although there are some minimum requirements, including using a proportional system.

    • ayegill says:

      What if the votes for the Example Party are

      1. Bob 17 votes
      2. Mary 1 vote
      3. Jack 2 votes
      4. Anna 10 votes

      ? In this situation, the number of candidates meeting the preferential quota is greater than the number of seats assigned to the party. How are they assigned? Do Bob, Mary and Jack get the three seats, because they are highest on the party’s list, or do Bob, Jack and Anna get the three seats, because they got the most votes?

      • Aapje says:

        In that case, the seats go to Bob, Anna and Jack. Mary is out of luck since she got the fewest preferential votes, even though she is above the threshold.

        In practice this never tends to happen because voters tend to heavily favor the top two spots (the leader for obvious reasons and the second spot is often a woman due to feminist reasons*, so she tends to get votes from those who wants more women in politics**). There may be a couple of very popular people lower on the list that get enough preferential votes, but never enough to fill all seats with preferentially voted candidates.

        * Some parties interleave the seats, with a man, woman, man, woman, etc.

        ** Although some feminist activists realized that voting for the women in the 2nd spot is merely symbolic and they started a campaign to vote in women too low on the list to get voted in by rank on the list, to push out a man in favor of (any) woman.

    • JPNunez says:

      Yeah we do something similar to this in Chile now. Main problem is that people really hate the “dragging” of unvoted people into the parliament (Mary), so there is a discussion to move to simply assigning X amount of seats per district, and just assign them to the candidates with more votes, no dragging whatsoever.

      I like the system, regardless of dragging.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Is the resentment from the specifically undemocratic nature of the “dragged” MPs, or are those dragged generally of poorer quality? It intuitively seems the former, but politicians finding a way to use this as some kind of patronage system would be extremely unsurprising.

        • JPNunez says:

          I think it’s the undemocratic part; the dragged representants seem to be better at their job in assistance, law projects started, and a few other metrics, from what I remember a newspaper study on the issue (maybe biased?), probably overcompensating for the undemocratic part.

          @Aapje

          Ah, didn’t think it wouldn’t be a problem in other places.

          People here haven’t made much of representants leaving to fill posts in ministeries or other government posts, but there is a fight brewing over whether this is constitutional at all, since some people say that representants aren’t allowed to quit (which imho it’s ridiculous), but it hasn’t made it to the courts yet, and maybe it won’t ever make it there.

          The hate for the dragged representants very probably comes because we evolved this system from one that was exactly the same … except each list could have only 2 candidates.

          That made the dragged candidates extremely undemocratic; once the lists became longer, the system became a lot more representative as a whole.

      • Aapje says:

        @JPNunez

        There is no significant sentiment of that sort in The Netherlands. A bigger issue is when people leave shortly after an election, letting their seat be filled by someone way lower on the list. This regularly happens when a party was hoping to govern and put people with government ambitions on the list, who don’t want to ‘just’ be a representative. So they regularly leave for a private sector manager job or a job in international politics if the party doesn’t get to govern.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      When the votes for a party are not an exact multiple of the electoral quota, these votes are distributed to the parties that are closest to a full vote, unless parties agree to share votes (which politically aligned parties can choose to do, to keep seats away from parties they oppose (more)).

      Are these agreements publicly announced before the voting or hashed out in a backroom during the counting?

      • Aapje says:

        Hmm, it seems that this possibility was removed from Dutch electoral law in 2017. Missed that one, although, in my defense, the government forgot to update its website with information about the elections, to remove this feature, so they missed it too.

        Anyway, it had to registered before the elections and would be printed on the ballot as “(combined with list Other Party)”

        In general, all information has to be registered in advance, before a certain date. Then you have a short period where parties can appeal. After the appeal period ends, nothing can be changed. We had an election where the leader of a populist party was murdered just before the election, but he was still on the ballots, because the murder was after the cut off date.

        Note that sharing votes seems to benefit smaller parties.

  39. bzik says:

    I gave up on reading Worm for the second time, after roughly a year-long break. Apparently, my patience runs out after 10 arcs or so.

    I’ve seen it referred as something to read if one liked HPMoR, UNSONG and such. But why? Behind the scenes plotline is quite fascinating (and is the reason I went back to it) but everything else is so underwhelming. The best parts were always the interludes for me, but the rest of the plot, characters and their development, and above all the writing style are just depressing.

    I’d love to hear what others’ impressions from it were like. I’ve got to arc 22 in case you don’t want to spoil the contents.

    • Falacer says:

      I really enjoy it, and getting to read the new chapters (of Ward now) is a highlight of my week. There’s something about the sort of grounded internal view of the characters and their understanding of the world that really drew me in, along with the slow persistent worldbuilding. I especially like how the interludes highlight that basically everyone in this setting feels frustrating to fight against, that it’s all balanced just-right so that the viewpoint character always feels on the back foot. This further helps the way in which every character feels like a viable protagonist, with rich inner thoughts and development arc. I’m also apparently in the minority here, but I really like the fight scenes. I like seeing a character’s skills and powers operate on a second-by-second basis.

      That said, I’ve had almost no engagement with the fanbase at all, and whenever I have I found that they focus on totally different parts and seem to be getting something entirely different out of the story, so I couldn’t really tell you why other people like it. It’s really nothing like other “rationalist fiction” though, and I suspect it gets included mostly because the systematic attempts to wring the most effectiveness out of powers makes it look rational compared to a lot of other cape media.

      • Murphy says:

        though, and I suspect it gets included mostly because the systematic attempts to wring the most effectiveness out of powers makes it look rational compared to a lot of other cape media.

        Definitely.

        It has a real feel of the characters having their own goals and how they use their powers is a lot more like how someone who’d sat down and thought about it would.

        There’s definitely a lot of wankery in some of the “rationalist fiction” where characters just spout exerts from rationalist blogs…. but the better stories seem to sum up as “because if you were [character] then you would [thing they actually do in the story]”

        Compared to most stories where every character forgets their abilities any time it would be inconvenient to the plot.

    • Murphy says:

      I felt like there was a section after skitter had to switch to butterflies that felt much weaker than the rest. Like both the stakes and the threats had suddenly been downgraded and everything became a bit less coherent.

      If worm ever gets turned into a proper book I could imagine the section getting a shears taken to it.

      Looks like around about where you stopped.

      I think part of the love for it is that the actual ending is possible one of the most satisfying I’ve encountered in any story. Which makes people forget/forgive the weaker section before it.

      • bzik says:

        Correct, this is pretty much where I quit again. Because I felt I couldn’t handle another high octane action sequence of “the guy in *brightly colored clothing item* and *another clothing item* was shooting *projectiles* out of his *body part and/or orifice” to surprisingly little effect”.

        I get a weird impression as if this whole thing is a written down campaign of some tabletop game. Where players are often covered in layers of plot armor to the point of being nigh immortal. Where they try to minmax but often miss the crucial details, and plot has to take bizarre turns to accommodate them, including enemies and NPC’s having sudden attacks of impassable stupidity. With plot hooks left hanging in the air because the party just forgot about them.
        While it can be interesting to participate, it doesn’t make for a compelling narrative.

      • JPNunez says:

        Yeah, that’s around the part where the story starts to drag. I still like it enough to keep reading, thankfully soon after that comes the Behemoth fight, which is the best fight in the series.

        Worm is weird cause Skitter spends A LONG TIME fighting Coil. When you finish the series and start remembering it, Coil seems like such a tiny part, but when actually reading it, Coil is the main villain for what…half the series?

      • AG says:

        Another co-sign on how the Weaver section got bloated. Anything to do with the Las Vegas or Irregulars capes could not hold my attention.

        The key to reading the back half of Worm is to recognize when the prose is getting bogged down in second-by-second details, and skimming those sections until the next actual relevant character moment.
        I’d know from the chapter count that a certain segment wasn’t going to be all that significant in the grand scheme of things, so I’d deliberately skim read with low text engagement. Like, if during a single fight there’s stages A B C D, then B and C are kind of filler with a general “constantly in danger and kind of feeling hopeless!” theme, while A and D have the actual setup, payoff, and turns meat.

    • mwigdahl says:

      I enjoyed Worm a great deal and agree with the other folks that said that the ending was strong and satisfying. The worldbuilding, plotting, character concepts and creativity here are first-rate. Writing quality is generally strong as well.

      The weakest part for me, and the part that eventually exhausted my patience with Ward, was the excessively prim and verbose internal narratives. The Characters Kicking Ass sections of the books always came off feeling much more well-paced and strong than the Characters Dealing with Issues or the Characters Getting Real and Setting Boundaries With Each Other sections. Unfortunately, it feels to me like this aspect of the writing is much more prevalent in Ward than in Worm.

      In Worm there was enough payback that it rewarded the effort of continuing to read through to the end. In Ward, I eventually just felt that the characters were spending too much time rehashing their pain for the amount of progress they were making with their problems, and stopped reading.

    • Jiro says:

      I’m in the Worm fanfiction scene (which is mostly on two sites with insane censorship, but that’s a separate problem).

      The qualities that make a series good fanfiction bait are not the same as the qualities that make it a good story. An inconsistent world, unexplored characters and settings, flaws that need to be corrected, plot holes, etc. in an otherwise popular series are prime fodder for fanfiction, and Worm has that in spades.

  40. eigenmoon says:

    > I’m curious why the second post was so much more successful

    I have counted 58 proposals last year and 56 this year. YMMV.
    There were 12 registrations last year, meaning that the registrations/proposals ratio grew from 21% to 46%. Impressive!

    As for the reason, my guess is the difference between the vibe of keeping up an established tribal tradition vs. the vibe of doing a weird experiment that’s going to end up with nobody knows what. Or one could simply say that the presence of the 4 examples gave everyone a comforting frame of reference.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I meant why the second post this year telling people to make teams went better than the first, but your data are interesting too!

    • silver_swift says:

      Or one could simply say that the presence of the 4 examples gave everyone a comforting frame of reference

      I think this is actually the more likely explanation. It’s much easier to get people to sign up for something if they have a good picture of what is expected.

      People tend to not mind trying weird new things, as long as they aren’t afraid that people will start thinking of them as weird for having tried it (which seems unlikely in this case) and in this community “doing a weird experiment that’s going to end up with nobody knows what” is basically upholding a tribal tradition already.

  41. haroldedmurray says:

    This NYTimes opinion column regarding the reactions to the article in The Cut on Bruce Hay and the “paternity trap” reminded a lot of the sort of things Scott talks about here. Sometimes both sides can admit that a story is factually true, but only one side will think that it’s representative of a meaningful deeper trend while the other side is keen to write it off as non-significant.

    • Clutzy says:

      The only thing I’ve found interesting in this ordeal is the premise of the original NY MAG Subtitle:

      “A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?”

      Yes, he kinda would. Most academics strike me as pretty good marks. Particularly if your skills aren’t all that good against the elderly for some reason.

      A good mark needs money. Elite academics have money. You might say, “but they are smart” most people with money are smart though, and I’m not one who thinks that scamming rich car dealership owners and salesmen is going to be profitable. Those guys are better scammers than you, otherwise you’d be doing it legit. Academics also have a lot of free time compared to a lot of people with money. Doctors and lawyers are notoriously overworked, also both those professions deal with liars everyday. Often your job depends on not falling for lies, or exposing other people’s lies.

      So, maybe I’m naive, but other than old people, athletes, lottery winners, and trust funders, who is better to scam?

      • Tarpitz says:

        Actors.

      • Rob K says:

        The book “The Big Con” reports that one reason the 1920s and 30s were the golden age of con men was that a number of wealthy people of that era had made their fortunes via somewhat shady contracting in the First World War, and were thus well-disposed towards the sort of crooked sure-thing money-making proposition that was used as the bait in confidence games.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’d think the equivalent nowadays would be schemes targeted at “accredited investors”, aimed at fleecing those who did well in the tech boom.

          • Matt M says:

            Nearly every crypto except BTC/BCH and Etherium essentially seem to be giant scams, designed to catch people who either did well in BTC due to luck/chance or people who just missed it but are convinced they can catch the next wave.

      • j1000000 says:

        Judging by the demos that I most often see taken in by MLMs — bored housewives or poor single mothers seem scammable.

        I agree with you that if I were a con man, academics would seem like good marks to me — with the specific exception of law professors. I’d personally assume even a gullible lawyer could make quick work of me once they caught onto what was happening. Yet even this guy can’t seem to stop this.

  42. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I just saw the Rifftrax (final cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 before the Netflix reboot) of a 2017 film called Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. One of the entertainingly bad things to latch onto was that “[they chose] to make a movie entirely from ’90s CD-ROM cut scenes.” As a child of the ’90s who grew up with such things… yeah, that was accurate. Never having heard of this bad movie before seeing it heckled, I did a Google search and found this:
    They needed $22,123 for Kickstarter to pay for the visual effects! Maybe that explains the 1990s computer game look, but just raises further questions! Is that really all the money it costs to add CGI visual effects to a movie? That’s a few months of one programmer/artist’s salary. I can imagine that computers have improved so much in the past 25 years that one guy could do all the effects from, say, Babylon 5 at home in a month or two per episode, but would they actually look like that show’s 25 year old CGI given the relative power of a 2019 desktop and a mid-’90s CGI workstation?
    Just how do inputs and cost in the computer graphics industry work?

    • Bobobob says:

      Not qualified to answer your question, but how does Rifftrax compare to MST3K? Is it worth watching?

      • Urstoff says:

        Depends on how much you liked the interleaved skits. Rifftrax is just the jokes, and it about the same quality as MST3K, with some episodes being better than the others. The live shows are generally pretty good. I, myself, prefer Rifftrax to the new MST3K, although I do enjoy the latter.

        Rifftrax does have a twitch stream where you can watch for free.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This.
          Also, the best of MST3K was better than the best of Rifftrax even if you don’t care about the interleaved skits. They had more comedians watching the movie (far as I can tell, Rifftrax consists entirely of the three riffers, Mike Nelson’s wife Bridget, and Mary Jo Pehl, about half the MST3K Season 8-10 writing team). But the Mike/Kevin/Bill team has much better chemistry than the reboot trio, which is to be expected as they’ve had decades to polish their act and Netflix MST3K has had two seasons.
          There are two main types of Rifftrax: blockbusters and B-movies. If you have Amazon Prime, some of their best B-movies can be watched for free there. Try starting with Birdemic or The Guy From Harlem.

          • Bobobob says:

            I actually really like the MST3K reboot on Netflix–“Yongary” is a classic.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Is that the one with the “every country has a monster” song? Because that felt like when the reboot proved it could deliver the full MST3K formula.
            I also liked the peplum and ’80s barbarian movies, The Loves of Hercules and Ator the Fighting Eagle.

            Shot of guards playing a dice game
            “I’m a 1st level guard.”
            “(crestfallen) Me too.”

          • Bobobob says:

            Yes, that’s the one. Another great episode is Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, which may have my favorite MST3K line ever:

            (Incomprehensible sequence of weird glowing sky gods blasting each other with cheap special-effect superpowers)

            Crow: “And that’s where babies come from!”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I want to like the MST3K reboot more than I do. I think the problem is that the riffing is just way more frenetic than in the original, which at its best walked a fine line between “here is a hilariously bad scene presented without comment” and “here is a funny joke this scene made me think of”. The reboot is almost all the latter, sometimes to such an extent that you can no longer follow the movie, which sabotages the attempts to make fun of it.

            The addition of big sets and production values also removes the illusion that you’re just getting together with some funny guys to laugh at old movies. Kind of like when Garrison Keillor stopped being about the quiet week in Lake Wobegon and started being about current events.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I want to like the MST3K reboot more than I do. I think the problem is that the riffing is just way more frenetic than in the original,

            The common opinion is that this spoiled almost every Season 11 episode (every fan has an exception, usually Yongary or Cry Wilderness) and they improved in Season 12. Like I said, nothing the Netflix trio has done compares to Mike, Kevin & (Trace/Bill) at their most polished, like Space Mutiny or Hobgoblins with Bill.

  43. Odovacer says:

    What would it take for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area in general to stop being such a hotbed of startups?

    I moved to the Bay Area earlier this year to work for a startup in a very interesting and novel field. However, when I think about the long term I become somewhat miserable. Maybe this is just sour grapes on my part, but I’ll most likely never be able to buy a house nearby. I don’t think I can live here long term, because I want more than one child and to be able to afford a decent house

    I don’t know. Maybe if I lowered/changed my standard and lived in a small apartment or in a group home, then it could work, but I really don’t want that.

    On a side note, how does it make sense for VCs to invest so much in Bay Area companies where money doesn’t go as far in terms of salary, rent, etc? Is the local population that much more valuable?

    • The Nybbler says:

      What would it take for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area in general to stop being such a hotbed of startups?

      A prolonged economic downturn. Right now it’s a hotbed of startups because all the ingredients are there — VCs with money to burn, engineers, starry-eyed founders with 99+% dumb ideas, BigTech companies to snap up startups for a relatively quick payoff, and all the rest. And there’s positive feedback bringing more of each in all the time. Basically to stop it you’re going to have to break a bunch of it at once, and the most likely way for that to happen is a general economic downturn. Really bad tax policy could do it too, but given that CA already has the highest income taxes around, it would have to be _really, really bad_. Like New Jersey level bad.

      It’s not the only place there are startups. I work for a former startup in NYC. Which area is (almost unbelievably) significantly cheaper than the Bay Area; my house just over an hour from work is probably worth about $500k. But obviously the Bay Area has the most startups by far.

      • Garrett says:

        Out of curiosity, what makes New Jersey especially bad in terms of tax policy? I’m passingly familiar with the tax policy of a few States, but have no specific knowledge about what makes NJ bad, other than being comparatively high tax rates.

        • The Nybbler says:

          NJ has high property taxes, moderately high income taxes, moderately high sales taxes, and (most relevantly) high business taxes. There’s also a whole raft of various different business taxes that apply in specific circumstances (e.g. a petroleum industry gross receipts tax), so it’s not only confiscatory but byzantine (as is the regulatory environment).

    • nkurz says:

      What would it take for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area in general to stop being such a hotbed of startups?

      I think a severe enough natural disaster might do it. If there was an earthquake that resulted in the entire area being without power for a month, how long would it take it to recover? It would depend on secondary effects (like resulting civil unrest) but I wouldn’t be optimistic.

    • johan_larson says:

      If some of the major players in the tech industry started moving significant numbers of staff out of the area to save money, that would throw some cold water on the hotbed. With fewer engineers around, there would simply be fewer people available to form the next generation of startups. But there’s no sign of that happening yet.

      The New York financial industry eventually realized that it didn’t make sense to have all their back-office staff in the five boroughs, and started moving it to cheaper places. Perhaps one day the Bay Area tech companies will have the same insight. Ruth Porat, the CFO at Google, who used to work for Morgan Stanley, is the sort of person who might drive the transformation.

      The other thing that might do it is for computing to get tapped out. Once computer technology stops making dramatic advances, there will simply be fewer opportunities to strike it rich. There used to be hotbeds of innovation in aviation and automobiles, but those are now mature industries where only incremental progress is possible, so their major centers are nothing like the Bay Area.

      • emiliobumachar says:

        Very good points.
        Only for the sake of pedantry: the electric-car revolution is ongoing.

      • Garrett says:

        The challenge is that though Google is indeed growing its engineering base outside of silicon valley, getting high-level promotions effectively requires being in the Bay Area.

        The real trick would be to do something which chases the CEOs out of the area. Perhaps an annual wealth tax on residents with over 50M assets or something would do it.

        • johan_larson says:

          I guess it depends on what you mean by high level. When I was at the Waterloo office in Canada, several people got to Staff, and I think one person got to Senior Staff while I was there.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Senior staff isn’t really high level. Even low-level or mid-level management isn’t really going to do anything. You basically need VP level or higher.

    • Watchman says:

      Time. Some factor or combination of factors will make San Francisco less attractive than some other place(s), or in fact reduce the need for a single hub. To guess what the factors will be though probably requires an understanding of what factors cause San Francisco to act as a start-up hub in the first place, and whilst I guess this has been studied, has there been any sensible suggestions on this front?

      Alternatively we could suggest it will last till Plumber’s patience with all the in-comers runs out and he chases them out of town?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Maybe he can organize a plumber’s strike and everyone but the homeless will flee to cities with working toilets.

        • noyann says:

          Google would deploy an army of autonomous rat robots to unclog from the sewer side. As a side effect they would analyze the sediments and biofilm strata to get a kind of history of the house; the data will finance the rat army. And when a rat succeeds and sees the light, you will wonder why you are suddenly flooded with hemorrhoid treatment ads on the web.

      • Aapje says:

        @Watchman

        Now I’m imagining a plumber army, wielding plungers* that get used as anal probes.

        * That we call a plopper in Dutch, which is a way better name. Of course, the word is onomatopoeic, referring to the plunging sounds: plop, plop, plop.

    • Lambert says:

      If SV wasn’t a startup hub, somewhere else would be and you’d be complaining about the housing situation there instead of in the Bay Area. Can’t have your cake and eat it.

      Startups tend to concentrate in hubs because there’s a really strong network effect of founders, tech workers, investors and ideas bouncing around.

      • Odovacer says:

        If SV wasn’t a startup hub, somewhere else would be and you’d be complaining about the housing situation there instead of in the Bay Area. Can’t have your cake and eat it.

        Maybe, but hopefully the other hubs wouldn’t have ridiculous COLs and insane housing costs. Seriously, even the fruits, vegetables, and milk at the grocery store are almost double the price of the last place I lived.

        • peterispaikens says:

          No, that’s the whole point – if some other place became the hub, the large influx of people and (most importantly) money would spike the cost of living. The big semiconductor companies built their facilities in what became Silicon Valley because that was an affordable place to do so.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yes, any other place experiencing the Bay area’s success would see rising prices. But things don’t have to be as bad as they are in the Bay Area. The area is really uniquely hostile to growth and build-out. Another place with more flexible rules about development and taxation could simply accommodate demand by letting landowners build up and out. It would still be an expensive place, because the demand is vast, but there is no reason things have to be as expensive as they are in the Bay area.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yeah. Glance at the satellite view of the Bay Area and notice how much woodland there is even ten miles from Google.

            I mean, I really love the woodlands. But I’m not kidding myself about about how much open space is built into my purchase price.

          • and notice how much woodland there is even ten miles from Google.

            The claim I have seen is that between ninety and ninety-five percent of the Bay Area is unavailable for people to live on, due to the combined effects of parks, zoning, building restrictions, et. al.

            I don’t know that the figure is true, but I have seen it (some years back) both from a source that thought more land should be available and from one that thought less should be.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I think you are all are describing Austin (for good and for ill) and Seattle (for ill).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Is there any particular reason you have to live in the Bay Area? It’s not exactly like we are poor in the rest of the nation.

      • EchoChaos says:

        We live in crippling penury and nobody from the Bay Area will ever be happy anywhere else!

        Don’t tell them they can leave, you fool!

      • Odovacer says:

        The nascent industry I’m in is located in the Bay Area. While we’re not an industry full of coders, the fact that it started here probably has to do with the large amount of VC money in the area, as well as people here being more open to “wacky” ideas. Long term, I’m skeptical that it makes sense to be here, both for me and the industry I’m in.

    • badspeler says:

      On a side note, how does it make sense for VCs to invest so much in Bay Area companies where money doesn’t go as far in terms of salary, rent, etc? Is the local population that much more valuable?

      It’s everything- access to capital, talent, infrastructure. If I need something for my startup, I can pick out a company that did the same incubator as me, and talk to them for advice, connections, and huge discounts on their product. The cost of living isn’t that big of a deal if you’re serious about business.

  44. MissingNo says:

    Epstein

    Suicide or murder?

    Place your bets!

    Both are plausible right now.

    • johan_larson says:

      This issue is inflammatory enough that it would be best to defer discussion of it to a CW-permitted thread. OT 134.25 will open on Wednesday.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I think that speculation as to “who?” is the only CW topic. “Why?” is obvious. “Whether?” and “how?” are interesting and controversial but unlikely to make people angry at each other.

        That said, I don’t think we have enough information for any real analysis yet.

    • John Schilling says:

      Suicide.

      A murderous conspiracy would fail the basic argument against conspiracy theories, or it would require the people who want Epstein dead luck into having their small number of agents be in exactly the right place at the right time. There’s no evidence for any of that, and it is a priori highly unlikely.

      Suicide requires that someone who knows he is going to spend the rest of his life in prison with the prison status normally associated with kiddie-rapists, want that life to end quickly, and it requires that prison guards not be unusually vigilant in preserving the life of a known kiddie-rapist. The official report that he committed suicide constitutes evidence, if not proof, of this, and the priors are pretty high.

      • MissingNo says:

        I actually think conspiracies are fairly common.

        Just look at the top level of chiropractors. Its what…a group of tens thousands of people that have been in an organization for 20 years that (mostly) don’t break from it once in public after their level of salary hits a steady 50,000+.

        Medicine has tons of conspiracies! Its often an investigative journalist to break the story that a certain treatment is bunk.

        The food industry has lots of conspiracies with how well the animals are treated. It takes motivated people to investigate it.

        The cigarette company CEO’s told blatant lies for decades.

        MKUltra and everything that happened in it was a several decade conspiracy. That one is tricky because everyone who was a subject involved in the experiments was discredited in public and thus couldn’t go forward with the truth until enough top-people became morally disgusted.

        Most relevant, for some strange reason enemies of Putin keep getting cancer.

        But well then. Those might not count as conspiracies since we know about them….which is a strange argument that conspiracies don’t exist. But it at least shows that groups of thousands of people can just spew nonsense forever. Do they believe it? Some blend of not caring and wanting a dollar and motivated cognition explains a lot.

        But if groups of tens of thousands of people can spew nonsense for a living mostly harming others for a buck, its not impossible that a group of a few millionaires/billionaires with a risk of losing everything decided to off the guy.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Right. We know of enough actual proven real world conspiracies to know that the Basic Argument Against Conspiracies is just incorrect. You can, in fact, run a massive conspiracy with lots of people doing nefarious things and keep it secret for years or decades.

        • Tarpitz says:

          If he was murdered, I think it’s more likely to have been by an intelligence agency of which he was an asset than by one or more of his clients/marks.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Don’t forget Epstein’s own sex parties. That seems like the sort of thing which most people would initially dismiss as a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

        • Murphy says:

          “enemies of Putin keep getting cancer”

          The link has little to do with cancer. That was very much a power play between nations. Making it clear that they could kill a target if they wanted to.

          The problem with anything related to cancer is that people don’t get how high the base rate for cancer is. 1 in 4 of everyone you know will die from cancer. About half will die *with* cancer of some kind.

          Put another way : a full half of all of someone’s enemies can get cancer and have it still mean nothing.

          You may also be mixing delusion with conspiracy.

          Just because I think faith is bollox doesn’t mean that the thousands of senior people in the catholic church are running a conspiracy where they all lie about the whole god and jesus thing. If you select believers you can get a large group of true believers who believe what they’re saying publicly. similarly chiropractors can genuinely believe that they can treat cancer by altering magical energy flows.

          Doctors handing out a drug that turns out to have an efficacy of zero can strongly believe the drug works. Sometimes because patients randomly get better and the ones who do come back while the ones who don’t tend to go find another doctor.

          You also make a big overlap between people not caring and conspiracy.

          If the care standard in an old folks home or a farm is terrible that does not a conspiracy make. It can just be down to a collection of people not doing their jobs very well and nobody caring enough.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Most conspiracies are mostly made up of true believers. They’re the most reliable for a lot of reasons. To use the in the open example of the CIA, they select for true believers in American patriotism and research their background for their clearance to make sure they actually are.

          • MissingNo says:

            I mistyped I swear. Poisoning by radioactive material( that was the link I posted). I put in the word cancer which I suppose was a mental shortcut ~shrugs~

            L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was quoted as saying this

            “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”

            Its a comforting thought that large groups of people can’t just get together because they want a plausible-ly way of gaining a buck and then cover everything up after that.

            It makes you believe that all you have to do is give them your best argument and they will change their ways!

            It just keeps happening that for some unfathomable reason all these nonsensical medical treatments make those who sell it rich. What’s a large group of people who don’t care about XYZ and then cover things up here and there for money and reputation. A conspiracy!

            I’m not chalking up every group that is strange to sole monetary self interest. There is a slew of cognitive biases and research into memes and what gives rise to them that sociologists have pursued. Steven pinker has some interesting material on how if only 5 percent of people in a population will violently enforce an ideology it spreads to the entire community.

          • acymetric says:

            1 in 4 of everyone you know will die from cancer. About half will die *with* cancer of some kind.

            The 1 in 4 stat is scary, but a bit misleading. It is really closer to 1 in 5 (and going down as smoking falls out of fashion). Ok, 1 in 5 still doesn’t sound great.
            Additionally, a lot of those “cancer” deaths are really “died of old age”. It isn’t that 1 in 4 people will have a horrible battle with cancer and die some tragic early death at 32 years old. For most it will be when they are pretty close to EOL to begin with.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Have you adjusted the probability of getting cancer for the age of Putin’s enemies getting cancer?

          • DarkTigger says:

            @acymetric
            That is exactly how I understood Murphy.
            This is why he emphaziesed “with” cancer, as opposed to “from” cancer.

          • acymetric says:

            @DarkTigger

            The “with cancer” stat doesn’t count “died of old age, with cancer”, most of those will be considered “died of cancer”. Died “with” cancer would be someone who, say, had a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, a car accident, or some such (while also having cancer). I was referring to the “1 in 4 will die from cancer” stat not the “1 in 2 will die with cancer” stat.

            The deaths are always attributed to something (there is no “old age” classification in death statistics).

          • acymetric says:

            Have you adjusted the probability of getting cancer for the age of Putin’s enemies getting cancer?

            That would be helpful. The more important piece of information is figuring out how large the sample size of “Putin’s enemies” is. We hear about his enemies who die of cancer, but surely he has some remaining enemies. How many enemies does he have who do not have cancer? That’s what we need to figure out if the rates are in the ballpark of normal.

            Also, cancer seems like only a slightly better way to take down your enemies than lyme disease.

          • Lambert says: