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Open Thread 135.25

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1,025 Responses to Open Thread 135.25

  1. Deiseach says:

    Greetings, sports fans! And in today’s thrilling cup action – Dublin versus Kerry for the All-Ireland Gaelic Football Final will have a special guest 🙂

    Now, his reaction videos are exaggerated to garner the most responses, but that’s how you do it on Youtube, so fair enough. More importantly, he got it right for Tipp versus Kilkenny and I’ve seen elsewhere that he’s calling it for the Dubs today. Given that they’re currently leading 1-9 to Kerry’s 0-9, this man may have a future as a Sunday Game pundit 😀

  2. johan_larson says:

    A person you have just met claims to be a US Navy SEAL. Given the context of the meeting, this could be true, or maybe not. You have the opportunity to ask him three questions to determine whether he is telling the truth. What questions would you ask, and what answers would you be looking for?

    Ditto, but for US Navy SEAL substitute graduate of the University of Oxford.

    Ditto, but for US Navy SEAL substitute early employee of Facebook.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Further assumptions are needed about how well they might have prepared if they are a liar and how you want to trade off false positives vs negatives. I can imagine there being lots of questions that pretty much no liar could answer correctly, but many truth-tellers would also only be able answer with “um, I don’t remember”.

    • metacelsus says:

      For Oxford:

      1) Which college?
      (This should be extremely easy to answer if he’s actually a graduate, but a liar who did some research could also answer correctly.)

      2) Is that because you weren’t admitted to Cambridge?
      (This is a trick question. In the UK, students can only apply to one of Oxford or Cambridge.)

      3) Did you ever do research at the Ashmolean Library?
      (This is also a trick question. The Ashmolean is a museum.)

      • Lambert says:

        2) He’s an organist, and now you’ve pissed him right off.

        There’s so few applicants and slots for organ scholarships that they’re allowed to apply to both.

        Do we have any oxford students/allumni here? I get the impression that there’s so many esoteric traditions at oxbridge it would be pretty trivial for them to recognise one of their own.

        • metacelsus says:

          Hmm. I’m a University of Cambridge grad (AMA) and I didn’t know that about the organists. Probably because there are so few of them, as you mentioned.

          For esoteric traditions, many of them are college-specific so asking about them isn’t a reliable way to determine if someone is a graduate. Of course, if you know the traditions of the particular college the person claimed to be in, then you can ask.

          For example, a tradition at Churchill College is for the students to give a toast “To Sir Winston! To the Queen!” at formal halls.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            There’s also, of course, the chance that somebody will either name a college at the wrong university or mispronounce the name of the college.

            Another potential question to ask once they’ve named a college is to ask for what the title of the head of the college was. There are 7 different titles used, and even if you guess the most common (Principal) you have only a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right. This is in contrast to Cambridge, where you have better than 50-50 odds if you guess Master.

      • Deiseach says:

        Ditto, but for US Navy SEAL substitute graduate of the University of Oxford.

        Ask him which of these three are great universities.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        2) Is that because you weren’t admitted to Cambridge?
        (This is a trick question. In the UK, students can only apply to one of Oxford or Cambridge.)

        Unless you’re applying to be an organ scholar, as Lambert says, or you’re applying to do a postgraduate degree.

      • Coldinia says:

        For Oxford, ask him about supervisions, the one hour a week of one-on-one (or in my experience generally three-on-one) tutelage from one of the professors you get in every subject. It’s touted as one of the big advantages of Oxbridge (and in fairness is pretty cool)

        They’re very specifically called tutorials in Oxford and supervisions in Cambridge, so if you’ve been reading up on the system you’ll have seen both words used but most students from either will find it incredibly unnatural to use the other word, and will always fall back on the word used at their institution, in my experience. So if they dont’ switch to calling them tutorials, they’ve not been there

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Or you could ask him how he got on with his Bedders (the Cambridge word for the people who clean students’ bedrooms; in Oxford they’re called Scouts).

    • b_jonas says:

      For an Oxford graduate, I’d ask for a photo id and the serial number of his diploma. You can probably ask the university that a person has graduated from them with that name, date of birth, and diploma number, and you can use the photo id to check if that person has that name and birth of date. There is probably an equivalent for the US Navy, but I’m not familiar with how it works to know the details.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      A person you have just met claims to be a US Navy SEAL. Given the context of the meeting, this could be true, or maybe not. You have the opportunity to ask him three questions to determine whether he is telling the truth. What questions would you ask, and what answers would you be looking for?

      Ditto, but for US Navy SEAL substitute graduate of the University of Oxford.

      Ditto, but for US Navy SEAL who graduated from the University of Oxford and had to overcome a liberal Muslim homosexual professor.

    • Deiseach says:

      A person you have just met claims to be a US Navy SEAL. Given the context of the meeting, this could be true, or maybe not.

      Does he look like this?

    • S_J says:

      Navy SEAL: ask him who his “swim buddy” was in Basic-Underwater-Demolition/SEAL training.

      Also ask which “class” he was in.

      (I had the chance, once, to talk with a man who took BUD/S training. Like a number of people who enter that training, he washed out before completion; so he never joined the SEALS. He could tell me who his swim buddy was, and a handful of details about BUD/S training, and the year/class-number of BUD/S that he entered. I’m enough of a armed-services geek that I knew to ask about the swim buddy, and he kept talking about the ups and downs of BUD/S after that point. )

    • Lillian says:

      Ask him what’s the colour of the boathouse at Coronado.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Are you asking this because you actually want to impersonate one in the future?

  3. aremi_mande says:

    Hi guys. I’ve been reading chimpanzee politics by de waal and I am curious. This is a hypothetical so…just OK…?If it was possible to fence in something like 300 acres of jungle say you were a modern version of mobutu and you did that. Then you got the bili apes and put a clan of them in there. You structure this as a park with rivers and mounds and trees a glade etc you get the picture. A tiny simulacrum of nature. Except for one thing. Every so often biomass in form small antelopes, grass, compost etc are brought in by a team of drones and rangers. You try to make sure there’s minimal external interference. If you could maintain this over three hundred years could you induce speciation? In freakeconomics I read on the experiment where they gave cappucins tokens and trained them to value them as money as they could be exchanged for fruit. If you used this as an evolutionary drive and suspended the others by providing a perfect habitat where could this lead to?

    • Viliam says:

      If you would select a population of chimpanzees and isolate them from other chimpanzees for long enough, they would become a different species. But three hundred years is not enough; you have to add about three zeroes to the number, I think.

      As an example of how long these things take, dogs can still interbreed with wolves. Not sure if that technically makes them the same species; the exact criteria are a bit more complex. But it illustrates how slowly evolution works with mammals. (For insects, that would be a different story; 300 years might be enough. But it would be more difficult to teach them to use money.)

    • Chalid says:

      I think chimpanzees are not great for this because they take so long to reach reproductive age (10+ for females, 16+ for males, according to google) and they only have one baby at a time – so you have a long time between generations, and there’s not necessarily that much variety within a generation. You want a short-lived creature that has lots of babies, which you can then selectively cull.

      I’ve sometimes imagined what you could do by breeding octopuses – just a couple year lifespan, and tens of thousands of eggs at a time. They are already quite smart and it’s easy to imagine with some focused effort, a couple billion dollars, and a couple decades of selecting the top ~0.1% from each generation, that you could make octopuses that were smarter than humans.

    • Deiseach says:

      In freakeconomics I read on the experiment where they gave cappucins tokens and trained them to value them as money as they could be exchanged for fruit.

      No, they didn’t train them to value them as money. They trained them that if they gave the shiny thing to the big creature, they got delicious nom-noms in return. They could equally have trained them to do handsprings in return for fruit, does that mean the capuchins now have a dexterity-based economy? Do you believe chimpanzees own and operate a furniture removal company? This is what drives me mad about so much talk about primate intelligence; we’re a species that has learned how to train other animals into performing tricks and then we dump all our own preconceptions and expectations onto them as “this shows that X is innate” or whatever.

      If you don’t believe that Clever Hans actually was a mathematical genius (for a horse) then you shouldn’t believe that “training animals to do tricks for rewards” proves that “capitalism is innate” or whatever.

      • Lambert says:

        Handsprings are not a limited resource.
        If the capuchin gives a shiny thing to one big creature, it now has a smaller supply of coins that it can use for future trades.

        The tokens can be used to buy either apple slices or grapes. The monkeys seem to understand that there’s a tradeoff between apples and grapes. When the relative ‘price’ of apples is dropped, the monkeys buy more apples than they did at the earlier price.

        Edit: The papers can be found here: https://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty_pages/keith.chen/datafilm.htm

  4. proyas says:

    Here’s a detailed summary of Michio Kaku’s future predictions from his book Physics of the Future:

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/physics-of-the-future-summary/

    • Radu Floricica says:

      A state of “perfect capitalism” will arise, in which firms have perfect information about the needs and preferences of customers, and customers have perfect information about the prices and quality of goods and services offered by firms. People will see fewer ads that don’t appeal to them, and prices and profit margins for everything will be lower.

      Let’s follow this a bit. At first glance it looks like generalized Uber. You wake up in the morning and want to work for money – so you log in and look for stuff to do. The System gives you options already filtered and sorted, you pick one (or continue what you already work on), finish it and get paid. There is infinitely more freedom than being employed, but it also looks a lot like… being employed, except your company is The System.

      Profit margins go WAY down, because that’s what happens when you have perfect competition. This is a good thing, because while it pushes wages down it’ll still keep them up enough to ensure the work is worth doing – and on the other hand we all benefit from the huge increase in productivity. You make not-a-lot of money uber driving, but when you take an uber it is also pretty cheap because if it were more expensive more people would hop into their cars and become uber drivers (and the overheads and profit margins would also be low).

      Except… I sense e big black fly in the ointment. Rent seeking. Perfect capitalism is a very efficient system that makes people quite rich (in the sense of affording to trade work for a lot of wealth). But perfect capitalism + ways to drain wealth from it is basically slavery. Be that taxes, regulations, zoning laws, monopolies… whatever sticking point you have where you can leverage money out of the system artificially, the very efficiency of the system means you can leverage A LOT of money out of it. And while the uber drivers, uber cooks, uber waiters and uber programmers will work on razor thin margins, those that have an Archimedean fixed point will be able to move huge quantities into their pockets.

      • eric23 says:

        In a real state of perfect capitalism, there wouldn’t be *any* ads.

        Ads can only have two purposes: to give consumers information they didn’t already have, or to tempt them to make an irrational choice. But in perfect capitalism, everyone is fully informed and chooses rationally.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          But *HOW* are they fully informed? Ads could be part of the mechanism.

          Also we don’t have to be too hang up on “perfect”. For practical purposes we can use something like “within 1% of perfect capitalism prices”

    • eric23 says:

      I didn’t read this through, but the first bit I did read seems wildly optimistic

  5. Well... says:

    Update to my food processor post:

    One set of neighbors gave me various kinds of hot chili peppers from their garden and another neighbor gave me tomatoes from hers. I combined these in the food processor with a quarter of a good-sized white onion, about a dozen sprigs of cilantro, the juice of one small lime (not a key lime, the normal kind, just small), and about half a teaspoon of salt. It’s delicious. Hummus is next, I just need to buy more olive oil.

  6. AlexOfUrals says:

    A question about animal rights that has been puzzling me for a long time and I’ve never seen it mentioned in EA adjacent discussions (though I can guess why).

    [Disclaimer: don’t know much about biology, ethics or farming]

    Afaiu the moral value of an animal’s life is more or less proportional to its intelligence and neurological complexity (however measured), and the negative value of it being farmed for meat is proportional to how much it suffers. I.e. all else being equal – which is of course not the case – cow > chicken > fish > clam in terms of moral value. There’s many suggestion about how to migrate from more complex to less complex animals as the source of protein.

    But what about the opposite approach – to artificially reduce neurological complexity and capability to suffering of the animals we’re already farming? To my non-expert view it seems that developing a way to hinder brain development of, lets say, chicken, who as far as I understand don’t need any of its brains functions beyond basic reflexes under the factory-farming conditions, and/or remove their capability to suffer, would be much easier than developing vat-grown meat. Either do it by genetic modifications, or surgery, or maaaaybe chemicals (well you obviously don’t want any neurotoxic chemicals in your food, but if they can be applied only once to embrio or a very young animal and we’re super sure they will be all gone by the time it’s eaten then maybe it can work).

    I’m pretty sure this approach isn’t politically viable today, because most people will see it as torturing the animals or something. Although I wonder if in the long-term it can be more realistic than convincing everyone to become a vegan, but vat grown meat and some analogue for poultry is probably more realistic than either. So my two questions about this approach are:

    1) Can it work technically? My intuition says that it’s much easier to break than to build so finding a way to disable whatever structures in the brain are responsible for suffering and/or most of the brain at all should be comparatively easy, but perhaps I’m wrong?

    2) Is it acceptable ethically? Assuming this can be done, what the reasonable part of the animal rights proponents – by which I probably mean mostly EA-folks who work on the topic – would say about it? Am I missing some important aspect of what constitutes the moral value of animal’s life?

    Of course if the topic actually was discussed and I just missed it, links are welcome and apologies for wasting your time.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Very interesting idea. My feeling is that minor changes would not be worth doing/lead to bad incentives and major changes to remove capacity for suffering aren’t feasible (otherwise the situation with pain relief for humans would look different).

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        But in humans you usually do care about keeping the high-level functions intact, and you also do care about keeping the capacity for suffering in principal, you just want to temporarily suspend it. I was thinking something akin to ultra-lobotomy or bilateral hemispherectomy – although admittedly I don’t know how sure we’re that actual lobotomy removes the capability to suffering as opposed to removing the capability to react to it, and hemispherectomy is likely far too complex. But then again, there’s genetic modifications which is not an option for humans, and for chickens it’s apparently possible in principal to perform a similar operation with an axe, so at the very least I can say I don’t know enough to dismiss the idea right away (from the technical standpoint).

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          I don’t know anything about the technical side of things either, but my gut feeling is that if we could remove capacity for suffering while keeping the basic stuff necessary for life then that would imply an understanding of the mechanism of suffering that would allow more sophisticated pain management approaches than “throw opiates at it” etc..

    • quanta413 says:

      This is a fascinating question. Axe away enough nervous system and other stuff, and you’re basically creating lab grown meat but with the opposite approach of what people have worked on before which involves starting with muscle cells or whatever and adding structure. Instead you start with the full structure and gradually remove the structure you don’t want. That’s an interesting approach.

      Is the end-goal an animal that tastes like a chicken, but is roughly as complex as a clam?

      I don’t see how you reach the goal without a lot of suffering along the way, but I doubt it’s more suffering than chickens currently suffer from being farmed and eaten.

      If you want a really good imitation of chicken meat, I think you may be right that it is easier than trying to build upwards towards lab grown chicken. Ethically, I can’t see why doing the experiment is worse than eating chicken.

      So naively (since I am not an expert on this either), I support your idea. Hell, a lot worthwhile could probably learned just by trying to remove higher function from a chicken. Practically speaking, it seems really unlikely because it’s going to set off “mad scientist” alarms in most humans. Because it kind of is, although in the best way possible.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Interesting idea! No idea on the feasibility, though.

      2) Is it acceptable ethically? Assuming this can be done, what the reasonable part of the animal rights proponents – by which I probably mean mostly EA-folks who work on the topic – would say about it? Am I missing some important aspect of what constitutes the moral value of animal’s life?

      What you’re missing I think is the parallel to humans. To say that the moral worth of brain damaged/developmentally disabled cow is less than that of a healthy one suggests the existence of a similar moral dynamic in humans, which is generally considered repugnant.

      One could argue that humans are a special case with different moral rules, but much of animal rights is based on the notion that humans aren’t really a special case. We evolved from the same processes that produced every other animal on the planet and should be judged by moral rules which, while not identical, are informed by the same principles. Once you introduce the principle that the suffering of a less intelligent being is morally worth less than a more intelligent being of the same species, that takes you to ugly places.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        To say that the moral worth of brain damaged/developmentally disabled cow is less than that of a healthy one suggests the existence of a similar moral dynamic in humans, which is generally considered repugnant.

        That’s an interesting perspective and I really haven’t thought of it this way. But, I have two objections. First:

        Once you introduce the principle that the suffering of a less intelligent being is morally worth less than a more intelligent being of the same species, that takes you to ugly places.

        I don’t think anyone really thinks otherwise, except maaaaybe some really devoted never-kill-a-living-thing type of Buddhists or Hinduists but even then I’m very skeptical. Do you really thing anyone honestly feels the same guilt after killing a mosquito as if they’ve just shot someone (except for psychos, that is)? Even if such people exist, they are a tiny minority and none of the existing legal systems supports this view. You can say that the boundary is between species, like – every species member life is equally valuable but there’s a difference between different species – in this case I’d say that this should apply only to humans but I can see the argument against. Also even in that case, if you go the GMO way, you don’t really create a very stupid chicken, you create a new organism with body of a chicken and intelligence (and capability to suffering) of a guppy fish.

        Second, humans are in fact the special case in that it’s generally (though not unanimously) accepted that an existing human life is morally better than non-existing, (provided that life is healthy etc). It’s not the case for animals from most perspectives – most people don’t feel that it’s morally good to breed say pigeons for the sake of breeding – even if you can provide decent living conditions for all of them. So if, given a chicken that suffers, we remove the higher functions of its brain, we don’t do anything morally repugnant per se and we do decrease the total amount of suffering (at least that’s my understanding). Also, pretty much every moral and legal system I’m aware of will be much more OK with you killing an adult chimpanzee than a similarly or less intelligent human infant. Are you saying that devoted vegan activists claim all this is wrong and we really do need to apply literally the same moral values to lives of animals and humans? And how can such rules be compatible with civilization at all?

        • rubberduck says:

          The key words are “of the same species”. The relevant comparison is not human vs. mosquito, it’s human vs. profoundly intellectually disabled human. Debating what level of brain damage makes killing someone morally justified can indeed lead to ugly places.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            But why is being speciesist justified, if intellectual differences between individual members is not the reason? If there was a magical chicken with a human level intellect would you say it had the moral worth of a regular chicken?

          • quanta413 says:

            We already finish off people brain damaged enough so their organs can be donated. Currently that point is brain death. Which is a pretty extreme level of brain damage, but still somewhat arbitrary.

            The article even claims brain death was partly defined in order to justify organ donations.

            In the UK, activity on an EEG of the brain is not considered proof that you aren’t brain dead. Only the stem has to be nonfunctioning. So you could have functioning cerebrum left.

            So it may be an ugly conversation, but I hope people have it and try to hash out reasonable rules rather than every doctor just making their own call without having reference to past conversations about it.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Everything people above said, and as I said we can create new species nowadays, if this border is somehow unique.
            But also, I don’t quite understand, how does this work with respect to suffering? Assuming the same number of chickens ends up living in the same horrible conditions, are you saying it is equally bad whether they are fully aware or mostly brain-dead? For me the latter seems vastly morally better because there’s essentially none there to suffer. And for a Schelling fence on the road to ugly places we can just use the rule “Every member of our own human species is equally valuable, but that’s not so for all other species”. After all putting an old a sick pet to sleep is commonly accepted practice already, while for a healthy dog much less so.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        which is generally considered repugnant

        I’m not sure this is true. Yes, people talk big about “all lives are sacred” and such, but my intuition is that for a “which would you save?” thought experiment most people would value more developed humans (possibly with an exception for infants).

      • Jaskologist says:

        Vegetarians do need to bite that bullet, though (and there are lots here who do). It may be a repugnant conclusion, but it’s the logical one given their other claims.

    • drunkfish says:

      Zach Weinersmith has suggested the opposite approach https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/fish-don39t-feel-pain

    • a definitive maybe says:

      I’m really surprised I haven’t heard this suggested before. I would definitely be inclined to say it solves the moral issues, and I think it would be easier technically than good lab-grown meat. Chickens in particular would probably require very little work to develop something like this, seeing as how they can seemingly live indefinitely with their head chopped off if done carefully.

      I suspect the optics of it would be pretty bad though, so anyone trying to actually do this would be facing an uphill battle.

    • Kestrellius says:

      I actually looked into this very topic a little bit a while back. It’s possible I saw it brought up by somebody else, but I think what happened is I was reading a discussion on animal ethics on here and the notion of “brainless chickens” popped into my head (and stuck, because “brainless chickens” is precisely the sort of surreal-horror word salad that I adore; cf. “boneless pizza”.)

      Anyway, I looked it up at the time, and apparently it has indeed been proposed! By one person in particular: an architecture student named Andre Ford. This was back around 2012.

      Here’s a shotgun blast of Google results.

    • aleksanderpwnz says:

      These guys did something like this to pigs:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMDJ0h401kw

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.ted.com/talks/andres_ruzo_the_mythical_boiling_river_of_the_amazon?language=en

    There’s a stretch of river in the Amazon basin which ranges from very hot to close to boiling. It was known to local people, but only brought to the attention of scientists fairly recently.

    Warning: small animals which fall into it die horribly, and this is described in some detail.

    The heat isn’t the result of volcanic activity– no volcanoes anywhere nearby. It’s plausibly a result of contact with the deep heat of the earth, but it’s still being investigated.

    The water isn’t sulfurous, and the locals use it for making tea.

    https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-boiling-river-of-the-amazon-puerto-inca-peru

    Not much in the way of general principles to be derived– perhaps the existence of things which are plausible but rare.

    • Lambert says:

      There was an absurd parody of Dickens on Radio 4 once. A series by the name of Bleak Expectations.
      In it, there was once some tangent narrated by the narrator, Pip Bin†, about how the river Severn used to boil, and the locals would throw in a giant teabag.

      It seems that even when neither art nor life immitates the other, they sometimes converge on the same thing.

      †Inventor of the rubbish bin.

    • Dogeared says:

      Extraordinary. Guess there are still plenty of secrets and mysteries out there to be found.

  8. Plumber says:

    I first saw this broadcast on television in the ’80’s (and as far as I know it hasn’t been since), but I found it again, from the 1933 musical film Footlight Parade 11 minutes and 32 seconds of the end song “Shanghai Lil” as performed by James Cagney, Ruby Keeler & Chorus, and you can play cultural historian and spot references – gunboat diplomacy, the National Recovery Act (“We Do Our Part”), multi-“multiculturalism”, opium addiction, and so much more (“our industry”), or just marvel at how glorious it is and how unlikely anything like it could be made now, please watch all of it and comment.

    • jgr314 says:

      please watch all of it and comment.

      Because you asked…

      TIL that (a) Cagney & Lacey had nothing to do with James Cagney, (b) James Cagney looked a bit goofy (not a value judgment, an inelegant way of expressing that he doesn’t fit my image of a Hollywood leading man from any time period). I guess I have long been aware that James Cagney existed as a leading actor, but I didn’t actually know anything about him.

      The clip itself? Impressive singing, dancing (tap, small group, large group formation), totally incoherent plot. The opium den seemed entirely gratuitous. I guess we could use the clip as a jumping off point for various CW battles, but what’s the point?

      As to whether something like that could be produced now, aren’t there similarities to the Coen brothers’ Hail Caesar, like the No Dames scene? I don’t watch this genre, but I feel like Hollywood has a nostalgic streak that could be tapped for more like this.

      • Plumber says:

        @jgr314 says:

        “…I guess I have long been aware that James Cagney existed as a leading actor, but I didn’t actually know anything about him…”

        Oh!

        That means you’ve never seen the 1961 cold war Berlin comedy (because what’s funnier than that?) One, Two, Three!

        It’s great, here’s: the trailer.

        • Deiseach says:

          I guess I have long been aware that James Cagney existed as a leading actor, but I didn’t actually know anything about him.

          Ah, the children these days, they didn’t grow up watching black-and-white Sunday matinee films on the telly! 🙂

          I always thought Cagney made his start as a vaudeville hoofer, but the truth is more roundabout than that, according to Wikipedia; he danced amongst other things, and got his first acting job as a stand-in for an amateur dramatic production, then this led to other bits and pieces of work alongside his day job. This is probably why he doesn’t fit the image you would expect for a Hollywood leading man, he never started off intending to be an actor and he got into show business via dance/musicals (and probably also why he got cast as gangsters, not having conventional leading man good looks):

          While working at Wanamaker’s Department Store in 1919, Cagney learned, from a colleague who had seen him dance, of a role in the upcoming production, Every Sailor. A wartime play in which the chorus was made up of servicemen dressed as women, it was originally titled Every Woman. Cagney auditioned for the role of a chorus girl, despite considering it a waste of time; he knew only one dance step, the complicated Peabody, but he knew it perfectly. This was enough to convince the producers that he could dance, and he copied the other dancers’ moves while waiting to go on. He did not find it odd to play a woman, nor was he embarrassed. He later recalled how he was able to shed his own natural shy persona when he stepped onto the stage: “For there I am not myself. I am not that fellow, Jim Cagney, at all. I certainly lost all consciousness of him when I put on skirts, wig, paint, powder, feathers and spangles.”

          It was after this taste of getting paid regularly for performing that he went into vaudeville and from there the movies.

          And here’s his famous Yankee Doodle Dandy which should get anyone’s patriotic fervour going 🙂 (I can’t help thinking that being Irish-American gave him an extra impetus for this song and dance about the Yankees wiping the English eyes).

          And modern film makers and actors think they’re doing something new with the Joker? Ha, Cagney made it to the top of the world decades before!

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Good find. Wonder how much history we lost because of the Code. Not to mention art.

      Anyways, what hit me most was “the industry” – because it wasn’t prostitution, the way it’s practiced these days (pay for a sexual act or for an hour’s company). Oh, it was probably mixed in, of course, but if anything it looks a lot like today’s sugar dating. Which makes me wonder if it survived somewhere all this time (and where?), until it got reborn online.

  9. gettin_schwifty says:

    This is an intimidating place to comment. I consider myself intelligent, and yet I find myself deleting my comments halfway through because I feel like everything I say is stupid and insufficiently fleshed out. I’m not sure what kind of response I want, but I’ve seen it said that it’s difficult to de-lurk here, so I figure I’ll at least give that a +1.

    This comment was longer, but it started to seem stupid and insufficiently fleshed out…

    • The great thing about blog comments is that you can say something stupid and not only will there be no reprisals, but most people will probably forget it. The only way to get over it is to comment enough that it won’t bug you anymore.

      • Well... says:

        The great thing about blog comments is that you can say something stupid and not only will there be no reprisals, but most people will probably forget it.

        Yup. I think that’s the main reason I’m still tolerated here!

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        I’m more worried about making a worthless comment than being seen as stupid. You already know I’m stupid, I couldn’t think of a better username than a pop culture reference.

        Related to the above: I’m not sure how to make it clear when I’m joking without overt cues 😉

    • quanta413 says:

      I think it’s more intimidating to try to start a new top level thread. I never seem to think of anything.

      So I think you’ve just done the harder task. Responding to a top level post isn’t as hard.

    • CarlosRamirez says:

      It’s just a comment on a blog. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks you’re stupid, if your comment is interesting enough, at least one person is bound to consider it stupid, for the best comments are polarizing.

    • jgr314 says:

      I delete or avoid drafting 95% of the comments that I’m tempted to post so, without endorsing your feeling that “everything [you] say is stupid and insufficiently fleshed out,” I think your instincts are right to self-filter almost all comments.

      If you’ve got expertise or have done research on a topic, by all means contribute. If you have a sincere question that you can’t get answered elsewhere, go ahead.

      Otherwise, why be another person on the internet shooting from the hip?

    • Erusian says:

      My general rule: if I’m not emotionally ready to engage or admit I’m wrong, I don’t make the comment. If I’m merely worried my comment is false or ignorant, I make it with the caveat that I’m willing to accept I’m wrong. But I do make it.

      Perhaps you are the sophomore, the wise fool, smart enough to see how stupid you are. But I’ve met only four people like that my entire life. Most of the time the people who know how little they know do know enough to contribute. And they impoverish the dialogue by failing to comment (or, alternatively, other people impoverish the dialogue by responding with rage or scorn).

      I’m probably not a particularly impressive person for this blog, but for what my opinion is worth: I run across people all the time who are I think are wrong about something or have missed something or haven’t fleshed out their ideas. I enjoy engaging with them. It’s more enjoyable, in fact, than dealing with someone who has a fully fleshed out idea I completely agree with. The only thing I really want from you is that you engage and do so in good faith.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’m going to be contrarian and say “good”. When I started posting here it took me months to get rid of the defensive/confrontational comment style that’s standard on reddit or lately even facebook. Biggest ones were learning to apply the charity principle, and resisting to respond to every reply I disagreed with – if it was obviously wrong somebody else will correct it, and anyways I trust the people reading the thread have brains. I don’t have to press the point and make it obvious I’m right.

      So I think it’s a good thing if commenting here feels like a learning experience, because it is. Once getting used to it I found myself using the same style in other places as well. That at least is a clear plus for society 🙂

      And yes, I still keep wondering if my commenting is a net positive value for the forum. Since I don’t really have an outside view for this, I just have to take it on faith. But I’m guessing the wondering itself is a good sign.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I still feel the same way. Not only are most commenters intelligent, many have decades of experience, which makes them really knowledgeable. Specifically about the kinds of things I’d be interested in. So while I probably know more about nuclear weapons than 90% of the population, there are people here that know more than 95% of the population. That’s a big gap.

      Also, a lot of the unique contributions I might know involve information that could easily identify me personally.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      If it makes you feel better, I’m borderline retarded. Pseudonyms take away the anxiety. People either like the ideas or don’t.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      One thing to keep in mind is that while a lot of people here are highly intelligent, for the most part the commenters here have only been modestly successful. Unless Thiel or Cummings de-lurk, the wealth and fame of people here tops out around the level of 1%er finance or tech workers and people who are well-known only in a particular field or industry. And there’s a good number of us with no meaningful accomplishments to our names (yet, hopefully).

      “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?” sounds like a schoolyard taunt but it’s actually an important question that we need to ask ourselves. Intelligence is helpful, but it isn’t the be-all end-all. Geniuses die unremembered with nothing to their names every single day, while people with merely above average intelligence are succeeding at their goals and living good lives.

      • Lancelot says:

        Keep in mind that there is more downside than upside to disclosing one’s identity here, especially for extraordinarily successful people. Thiel or Cummings or whoever else might be already posting here under a pseudonym.

      • Eponymous says:

        The correlation between IQ and income isn’t all that high. I’ve seen claims of up to 0.5, but most estimates are closer to 0.3. So IQ explains ~9% of income (in a statistical predictive sense — no claim about causality here!). If you’re 3 sd’s above average in IQ (~145), that means your expected income should be around the 82nd percentile. Not too impressive.

        This might overstate things though — just what do we mean by “success”? Money isn’t everything, and maybe smart people aren’t just aiming at money.

        Now things get tricky. If you ask about some concept of “contribution to society”, you have to consider that whereas plenty of smart people don’t contribute much, the really big contributions (especially in science and technology) disproportionately come from very smart people. In math and physics, *very* smart people. So while the median (very) smart person may not contribute a tremendous amount, the average contribution is quite high.

        Okay, but are people really optimizing for social impact? What about happiness? What about raising a family?

        High education and income, which correlate with each other and with IQ, both predict fewer kids, especially for women. They also predict later marriage and age at first child, again especially for women. You can argue about whether that’s good or bad.

        What about the stereotype of the lonely, unhappy, socially maladjusted nerd? I’m sure we all know many examples. The data doesn’t seem to support this stereotype though, at least for most smart people. Maybe at the higher end it does. I think so, at least in some respects.

        Now there’s one area where smart people really do much better than everyone else: education. School is basically the most g-loaded thing most people do — various measures of educational attainment correlated with IQ closer to 0.7 or so. (I’ve sometimes wondered whether society’s IQ fixation has something to do with our spending most of our earlier formative years in school.) And this correlation seems to hold up to high levels — super high IQ people have shockingly high rates of lifetime PhD attainment. I believe measures of things like general knowledge show similarly high correlations — smart people are generally lifetime learners.

        And of course, knowing a lot makes one better at SSC commenting. And hanging out at SSC helps one learn more. In fact, given reported IQ scores around here (which actually matches up with SSC readership in my social circle), SSC reading/commenting is one of the most g-loaded things there is.

        In conclusion, while high IQ people may not be as successful as one might think at many things, SSC commenting might be one of the biggest exceptions out there. How much is that worth? That depends on your utility function…

        • eric23 says:

          High IQ may not be correlated with income, but it’s certainly correlated with Nobel prizes, academic papers and books, scientific or engineering advances, and other things that would mark you as “accomplished” on this blog…

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I’m not rich because I made poor life decisions and poor career decisions. Also, I don’t work super hard. It’s Saturday and I’m watching a Ken Burns documentary instead of working.

        On the other hand, being super smart compensates for a lot of that.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?” sounds like a schoolyard taunt but it’s actually an important question that we need to ask ourselves.

        +1. One of the things I’m very proud is that I passed Scott’s bitcoin test – I made a little over $100k. Brains _can_ and _should_ be applied to finances.

        This being said, “getting rich” is a life choice. By far the easiest way to make a lot of money is climbing the corporate ladder and living below your means. I deliberately chose to go for a shitload of money, and that is a completely different experience. It takes a lot of time – on average, entrepreneurs have their first successful business around 40. It takes a lot of managing probabilities and decoupling “doing the right thing” from “succeeding this time” – probably why I like Taleb so much. And it also means earning a lot less than you would otherwise for most of your life – with a very good likelyhood that that’s all you get from it – no big payout at the end of the tunnel.

        I’m not at the end of the tunnel yet btw, but I do smell fresh air, and I’m one month shy of 40. And I’m making a lot less than a developer with 20 years of experience should make. So far all is according to schedule 🙂

      • The ultra successful are rare by definition and this blog is relatively(compared to social media) small so I’m not sure why it would be surprising that the average commenter isn’t one of them. It would be a lot more damning if we were all NEETs.

        • eric23 says:

          Also, I think most of the ultra successful are obsessed with their career (the converse is not true, though) which does not leave them much time to hang out on blogs.

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    SSCers, what toys did you play with growing up? Do you/would you buy your children the contemporary equivalent?

    • Nick says:

      Legos, and hell yes.

    • acymetric says:

      Legos, Hot Wheels, various action figures/miniatures. Various sports balls/items (basketballs, frisbees, etc). Pool toys (diving sticks, foam noodles, etc). Various trading cards both (sports, Pokemon, Star Wars, and very briefly Magic the Gathering until my very religious parents put the hard kibosh on that for satanist reasons). Does a GameBoy count?

      In any case, absolutely yes to all of those (and luckily I think almost all of that stuff or at least the best ones live on in one of my parents’ closets except, unfortunately, the GameBoy).

      Edit: Oh! Erector sets.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Capsela. And in the counterfactual of my having children: only if they’ve fixed the issue with the crappy connector pieces.

    • Randy M says:

      GIJoes. Which I still have (actually most of the ones I have now were probably collected shortly after college, but never mind) and would share with my daughters if they cared about shooting things. I’m unsurprisingly fine that they don’t, but I do sometimes wish for a son to share them with (among other son things). But I’ve got nephews in the case I can’t wait for grandsons.
      Also board games and bikes, which we do together..

    • John Schilling says:

      Never underestimate the power of plain wooden blocks, still unchanged since I was a kid and still used and appreciated when I buy them for various nieces and nephews.

      • acymetric says:

        Oooh. Not quite plain wooden blocks, but Lincoln Logs were pretty sweet.

        Also those giant cardboard “bricks” they would sometimes have at daycares or whatever.

      • Three Year Lurker says:

        I too played with plain wooden blocks. Building towers and domino lines through hallways and rooms for hours.

        I also frequently played with playing cards. Not to any normal card game, but to imagine the face cards as characters adventuring through some landscape built from face down cards. Frequently with parts of the landscape moving as the party moved.

        My other entertainment was playing Talisman with my older brother. It is a game of memorizing many rules and finding oppurtunities to exploit them.

        This was all before I turned 7 and was taught how to read.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I too played with plain wooden blocks. Building towers and domino lines through hallways and rooms for hours.

          You know, I don’t think I ever had wooden building blocks. I know that perhaps my very first toy other than stuffed animals was wooden or plastic alphabet blocks, because my mother told me that I knew how to assemble them into words when I was only 3 years old.

    • Plumber says:

      “…what toys…”

      My Dad got lots of cast off toys with his truck and a Classified Fea Market ad (the 1970’s print equivalent to Craig’s list) hauling gigs, I had a lot of rusty toy trucks, at when time I had four somewhat broken big wheels (I’d like to say I built a good one out of them, but I just wasn’t that handy), I even had a rusty swing set!

      For a while my parents kept ducks, geese, and rabbits which were my pets (and later meals).

      After the divorce my Mom built a platform on a tree in her backyard, and she made puppets (which she sold on Telegraph Avenue).

      At my Mom’s parents they were 1950’s Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs, back home they were Legos, and I remember playing with tools a lot.

      As for my son’s they have much the same from yard sales, but no swing (there’s a nearby park for that), and no pets/livestock).

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Polydrons. Followed by the make-polyhedra-out-of-paper books that you could buy at that age (nowadays we have software for that sort of thing). I may not have grown up to be actually good at maths, but I enjoyed the aesthetic products of maths.

      Also Lego (which is a non-countable noun as far as I’m concerned; you would no more play with a box of Legos than you would eat a bowl of rices – is this maybe an American thing?), particularly Lego Technic. Luckily for my hypothetical children, all of those seem to still exist.

    • Eponymous says:

      Sort of a negative example — as a kid I had many toy guns and other weapons, plus many military-themed toys (gi joes, toy soldiers, knights, etc). While we haven’t really crossed this bridge (Rubicon?) yet with my son, my wife has expressed strong opposition to these kinds of toys. This has prompted some internal anguish in me, though I also see her point. Has anyone had to navigate these sort of issues, and where did you come down?

      • Lillian says:

        Okay so this is a bit unusual, but i’ve always been one of those girls that liked boys toys and my family largely rolled with it, possibly because there were are no actual boys in my entire generation on either side of the family. There was only one hard rule my mother had about toys and that was no guns. You can give little Lillian a He-Man sword and shield set if you want, but not guns of any kind. (Why not the She-Ra set? i don’t know, i think giving me boys toys eventually acquired its own inertia. It was cool though, lit up and everything.)

        Then someone did gift me a gun, and not just any gun. No, it was camo-painted toy submachinegun that had a spring loaded thing in it such that you could cock back the bolt and then pulled the trigger, it would make *ratatatatatata* sounds like an actual machinegun. So of course i loved the thing and immediately started running around the house pretending to shoot things, and my mother didn’t have the heart to take it from me. From that point on the no guns rule didn’t really survive, so i got a bunch of other toy guns over time. Another fun one was a battery-powered minigun with rotating barrels, lights, and gunfire sounds.

        However my absolute favourite toy gun was a pair of sparkly silver metal revolvers with small paper gunpowder charges that gave a real bang, flash, and smoke every time you pulled the trigger. They looked a lot like real guns too, sure they were glitter painted and had obviously fake cylinders, but a distance you’d have a hard time noticing. This almost caused an incident once when we were approaching a military checkpoint and i put one of them against the window because, “I want to show the soldiers I have a gun too!” There was a lot of panicked screaming from every adult in the car and i fortunately hid the toy before we arrived, but it could have made things unpleasant.

        On the whole, i’d say giving kids toy guns isn’t a big deal, they’re just toys like any other. When my father got around to teaching me gun safety and presented me with a real gun, i immediately treated it with proper respect. Just don’t give them a toy that looks like a real gun. Your kid will still think of it as a toy and will treat it like one, which can cause serious problems with third parties who might mistake it for the real thing.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Haha, this sounds so familiar!
          I must sadly add that I never asked for Legos growing up, because they were so much more expensive than other toys. I had some Barbie-brand fashion dolls with a pink car and a no-brand dollhouse, and built up a sizeable collection of GI Joes from the first half of the ’90s. $3 action figures were a very economical thing to keep me entertained with. (Also rather conveniently, Hasbro remade the doll-size GI Joes in the mid-’90s.)

    • b_jonas says:

      I have one more year to contemplate this question at full difficulty. I don’t have children, and my niece is less than two years old. I am much more limited in the choice of toys for such a small child. But yes, I’ve already bought her a few things.

      But I agree with Nick: once the child is old enough, buy Legos, starting with the large Duplo blocks. My niece will inherit at least the small collection that I and my brother had. Also painted and unpainted wooden building blocks; Brio trains with wooden chasis and plastic wheels that run on assemblable wooden blocks with the tracks engraved into them, of which you can now buy compatible cheap knockoffs from Ikea; stuffed animal toys; lots of books; toy cars and construction work vehicles; waddling pool for sitting in; plastic toy bucket and spade for playing in the sand; jumprope (may require supervision); paper, water paint, crayons, felt tip pens, pencils, pens, colored paper, sideboard chalk; playing cards, especially Black Peter, other pair matching games, car or truck cards, but none of the boring modern educational stuff; glass marbles, a collection of nice looking stones and crystals (doesn’t need to be anything valuable); a small set of simple assembly and permutation puzzles; magnifying glass; party balloons; water pistols and water bombs (small balloons that you fill with water to play outdoors). Don’t forget a small desk and chair with height appropriate for the child that he can use for those drawing implements, and lots of boxes of various sizes and shelves where the parents will put away the toys.

    • I played with toy soldiers a lot, even cast some by melting down lead pipe in the fireplace of our summer home. I would buy them for my kids if they asked for them, and I’m pretty sure my younger son had some, although I don’t think nearly as many as I did.

      I don’t know if they count as “toys,” but I spent a lost of time with Avalon Hill war games, and at this moment my (adult) younger son is downstairs running a game day. What he and his friends are playing are not war games, but he spends a lot of time on his computer with Hearts of Iron and other historical games of that sort.

  11. Deiseach says:

    Well by God, somebody has done it. Somebody has figured out how to make money out of racism.

    Oh, but it’s the good kind of racism. The “everyone’s a little bit racist” kind of racism. The “I’m a white liberal and a racist, but since I’m a white liberal I’m not like those real racists, the Trump voting kind, the bad kind” racism. “Here’s my piece on how I’m a racist but three-quarters of it is Trump this, Trump that and Trump the other, while the rest is setting up my background as a kid so you can tell I’m the good kind of racist and then I do some head-patting of how brave, bold and beautiful Coates/Obama/other Black figures are” kind of racism.

    And naturally he’s selling a book on the back of it. White liberals, learn to embrace your racism! (And enjoy the delicious sensation of simultaneously condemning and exculpating yourself just as I do). Here’s the article. Congratulations, Mr. Scanlon, you’re managed to find a new angle to work in the market of white liberal guilt and turn it to profitability. People like Sarah Jeong are hampered by not actually being White liberals so they are stuck on the outside, but someone like yourself coming from within the same circles is comfortably reassuring (it’s one thing to be religiously reading and quoting Ta-Nehisi Coates, but since he’s black there is still that uncomfortable ‘us and them’ thing going on, that sliver of genuine blame sticking in the finger; a white guy just like yourself, on the other hand, is like a warm bath to indulge in).

    • DeWitt says:

      So clever he got you to signal boost it on this blog with an angry post. Bravo.

    • Well... says:

      I think the earliest directors/employees of university diversity & inclusion departments might have beat him to the punch.

      • Nick says:

        Or the experts paid to travel around giving talks on how to eliminate racism in the workplace—a later but probably clearer example.

      • Deiseach says:

        No, Grievance Studies aren’t the same thing – yes it’s making money out of it, but it’s generally not (so far as I know) the professors saying “I’m a racist/sexist/homophobe/misognynist”, since they’re black/women/queer themselves often. This guy is bringing his hustle to the masses (well, the kinds of masses that read Medium and will buy his book to display on their coffee table before the NYT rave reviews it, and they can boast they read his work before it was cool).

        It’s the secular/progressive version of a conversion story in religious circles – I was a miserable sinner until bell hooks saved me! And some people milk such stories for all they’re worth in religious context, and I imagine the same here.

        • Well... says:

          I’m not talking about the ___ Studies departments, I’m talking about the bureaucratic diversity offices that you find in schools and large companies. They spend a lot of time running workshops in which everyone’s supposed to get together to make/hear the white/male/straight/etc. people say essentially that.

          • Deiseach says:

            No, but they don’t stand there going “Hello, I’m Whosis and I’m a racist!”, they present themselves as the experts and trained consultants who will make everything whoop-de-doodly diverse and excellent.

            The new angle I’m talking about is this guy going “Hey, I’m a racist, and that’s bad y’know, and I admit it”. (Of course he segues into demonstrating how he’s not really a racist, at least not one of the bad ones, and it’s all Trump’s fault anyway). It’s a twist to sell his book, and it’s original in that it’s not one of the “I used to be a skinhead/deep within the alt-right/fully paid up member of the KKK, then I got educated and now repent my sins” usual version of how this goes, it’s “I was raised to be a white liberal just like you, brothers and sisters, yet even I fell into the snares of Satan and was a racist from an early age, and I mean really, yes, a racist (except not the bad kind). Let me tell you how you can all come to acknowledge your fallenness then come to the altar and get saved”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s much easier to build a narrative when you aren’t hampered by the truth.

      CNN anchor Victor Blackwell pointed out that Trump’s pattern of using the word “infested” was reserved for black and brown people.

      Oh, I’m sure he “pointed that out”. But it isn’t true. Here’s Trump calling 90+% white New Hampshire “drug-infested”.

      During the Great Migration, former slaves and their descendants found themselves in deeply segregated communities from Chicago to Boston, largely due to redlining.

      This is a lie also, though perhaps less egregious. The segregation preceded the redlining, though other policies (such as restrictive covenants and outright laws against black residency) were factors.

      white people left cities for the suburbs to escape their incoming black counterparts

      I can’t imagine why they would flee.

      But it’s true because of the way those schools are funded, with property taxes from the area surrounding them which have been segregated for decades, the result of the reasons I cited above.

      Nope, we’ve done this experiment, funding poorer schools with state tax money to greater levels, per-student, than schools in wealthier areas. The poor schools are still terrible and the wealthy area schools are still good. At this point, repeating this canard is a lie.

      • quanta413 says:

        This is a lie also, though perhaps less egregious. The segregation preceded the redlining, though other policies (such as restrictive covenants and outright laws against black residency) were factors.

        It may have been a lie when they learned it (or not), but I don’t think they’re lying. I think they’re just confused about the historical order of events. That’s a pretty common thing.

        A lot of things spread around may have been kicked off by lying, but now are mostly said out of sheer ignorance.

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach says:

      “Well by God, somebody has done it. Somebody has figured out how to make money out of racism.

      Oh, but it’s the good kind of racism. The “everyone’s a little bit racist” kind of racism….”

      Sadly I found the essay you linked as too boring to bear reading much of and so I missed learning the money making opportunity, and all I got from the first few paragraphs was that the author grew up in an overwhelmingly white area, and all I got from the last paragraphs was he thought Obama was cool, I was just too bored to read the middle.

      As a fellow “white liberal” (I guess) but who grew up in what were then majority black (previously majority Portuguese) neighborhoods, I’ll also cop to “being a little bit racist” (maybe more, is there a convenient and not tedious quiz I can take?), as well as my being gluttonous, lazy, lustful, wrathful, and probably some other sins I can’t remember what they’re called off the top of my head and am too lazy to look up.

      And on that note, for the very little it’s worth, since discovering making-up heuristics stereotypes about different ethnic groups based on completely un-scientific observations is a hobby of mine, and since I’ve seen enough others post similar (but shorter) observations (and/or passing on general stereotypes) I will (probably unwisely) list some here:

      1) Non-whites of any kind in my area are far more likely to be church-going than whites, especially younger whites, at at least two if not ten times the rate (this is a stereotype I’m very confident in), Filipinos, Hispanics, and Vietnamese tending to be Catholic, other non-whites Protestant, or Buddhist, with Catholics tending to have bigger families (but you knew that already), and blacks tending to have slightly bigger families than other non Catholics.

      2) Hispanics, even third generation, are less likely to be college graduates than average, as are blacks, after the fourth generation Hispanics are about average, blacks are sort of like third generation Hispanics, but if I think of the south as a foreign nation, and that most are only third generation Californians, that sort of matches. 

      3) Second and third generation Asians are far more likely to be college graduates than average, by the fourth generation that’s less true, Filipinos a bit less college bound, Vietnamese a bit more than other Asians. 

      4) Black women are warmer to me and especially to my son’s than average. 

      5) Black women are colder to my wife than average. 

      6) White male new hire co-workers are far more likely to ask to “borrow money for lunch” and then “forget” to pay me back than average, at over four times the rate, It’s pretty damn annoying and often enough that I feel relieved when new hires aren’t white men, those that last the year long probation period tend to be those who didn’t “borrow” money and whatever their complexion are usually fine, usually within the first month I can tell who will wash out, my guess is that more non foul-up whites have better opportunities on average and don’t look for jobs where I’m working. 

      7) A random black stranger who walks uo to me is more likely to be a beggar, white beggars usually stay still and hold signs at traffic medians instead. Hispanics are seldom beggars, and Asians only seem to be beggars in San Francisco, no where else, and when they do beg it’s usually for trash to take to the scrap yard. 

      8) The black inmates in the jail I do repairs in are a bit more likely to still seem sane, the white ones are almost all batshit crazy, many with tattoos on their faces, the Hispanics largely don’t speak English so I can’t tell, and very few Asians are in the jail at all, and those that are tend to be old and silent. 

      9) Asian, Hispanic, and white temporary new hires work quality tends to correlate more with their eventual score on their civil service tests than the black ones, the black guys tend to do badly with their test scores but really good in on-the-job performance, which unfortunately doesn’t count as much for getting a permanent job as the written tests.

      10) In terms of knowing and liking the same books, music, and movies that I know (after accounting for age) the most likely to are whites, followed by second generation and up Asians, then blacks, with Hispanics the least likely to share my cultural favorites, in terms of who is most likely to help jump start my car the order is almost the reverse of that, with Asians slightly less likely to do a jump start than whites, blacks more likely to, and Hispanics even willing to push start a strangers car!

      With all that in mind I’m not sure which group I hold the most negative stereotypes about, each seems almost even just with different positives and negatives in my mind.

      • albatross11 says:

        Interesting observations. I suspect many of them are very much a product of where you live and work, but the observations about the black inmates seeming more sane than the white ones and the black coworkers doing worse on the tests but better on the job both make me wonder if there’s some interesting explanation out there for these phenomena.

        • Anthony says:

          The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) is like lots of other tests, though it has 10 subtests. Nine of the subtests correlate fairly well with IQ. The one that doesn’t is for mechanical aptitude.

          It would be really unfortunate if the City uses a written basically-an-IQ-test for people whose jobs really don’t require a lot of intelligence, but do require other skills which another government agency has figured out how to test for. (Maybe. Does a good score on the mechanical aptitude part of the ASVAB actually correlate to mechanical aptitude?)

      • Deiseach says:

        He’s flogging a book, so the Medium piece is one long advert for it. You didn’t miss much by skipping the essay, and I venture that you wouldn’t miss much by avoiding the book either.

        I just found the brazenness breath-taking for its naked “this is all a put-on to sell product”, though I presume the wrapping of “aren’t Black people so wonderful?” may serve to fool those who want to be fooled. It’s a bit patronising to use stereotypes like “Black people have natural rhythm” in his panegyric to Obama singing “Amazing Grace” there at the end, but then it seems the kind of white liberals who like to flagellate themselves about their sins of privilege also like to use such imagery without any sign of self-awareness about what they’re doing (that kind of exotic tourism).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Cue arguments between claims that he shouldn’t be doing this because he’s taking attention away from poc and probably getting things wrong (is that usually included, or is it all about who receives attention?) vs. claims that poc shouldn’t have to do the work of explaining their experiences to white people.

  12. ayegill says:

    I’m wondering if anyone can advise me:

    I’m looking to start investing my savings. I know all the standard arguments about investing in low-cost passively managed funds, but I’m unsure of how to do this.

    – Do I just call my bank and say “please start investing my money in whatever low-cost index fund you see fit”? It’s not clear to me that the bank’s incentives align with mine, or that this is worth whatever money they would charge for this type of service. And how do I figure out which bank is the best for this?
    – Should I just look up a few dozen reasonable-looking funds and invest in the cheapest ones?
    – I have heard people say that when investing, you trade off risk vs expected return. What’s a reasonable way to make this tradeoff, and how do I translate an abstract risk tolerance into concrete investment decisions?
    – Do I need to learn about a bunch of complicated tax rules to make sure I’m paying the right taxes? How concerned should I be about messing this up?

    It’s kind of a long shot, but if any Danish readers have particular knowledge about good banks for this in Denmark, I’d also be extremely grateful for information.

    • ana53294 says:

      You don’t need* a Danish service to invest. Unless you want to open a tax exempt savings/pensions account, in which case you do need to open it in Denmark, probably (at least that’s the case in Spain and the UK; pension plans need to be in local authorised firms).

      You don’t need to invest in a fund; I find that Exchange Traded Funds have a lot of the conveniences of the funds without the inconveniences of the funds. The only disadvantage of ETFs vs funds, at least in Spain, is tax treatment. When you sell and reinvest an investment fund, you don’t have to pay capital gains tax in the process, only in the end. They’ve been promising to reclassify ETFs as funds instead of shares for a while and they haven’t done it yet. I’ve got no idea how it works in Denmark, YMMV.

      But if you want to buy&hold, so you don’t care about capital gains, you can get an ETFs. Most funds require a minimum investment, and it may take a couple of days to get your money out of the fund. With an ETF, the minimum investment is the price of the ETF share, and you can sell it as long as your market is open.

      The broker DeGiro is a Dutch broker that has the cheapest prices in Spain, and it may also be quite good in Denmark. They allow you to buy or sell, once per month, a position in one of the ETFs in this list, for no trading fees. If you stick to buying ETFs, and don’t do more than one transaction per month per fund, their prices are really cheap.

      Don’t invest with a bank; they have outrageous fees.

      *With a non-Danish service, you need to inform your tax agency, because a non-Danish service won’t report to them.

    • ana53294 says:

      For the tax things; I don’t know Danish law, IANAL, all of that.

      Things you should look out for:

      Do you want dividends? If you want to re-invest dividends instead of keeping them, it’s better to get an accumulating rather than distributing ETF. What is higher, capital gains tax or dividend tax?

      What is the threshold for reporting foreign assets in Denmark? In Spain, it’s 50,000 euro. Even if you have completely unproductive assets (so no tax due), if you don’t inform the government about their existence within a year, you will get truly confiscative fines. Check how that works in Denmark if you opt for a non-Danish service.

      Usually, with a few exceptions, most countries only tax realized capital gains. You should still check how it works in Denmark.

      Can you offset capital losses with gains? with dividends? How many years can you carry losses to? How long is the period to lock your losses/gains? In Spain, for example, the period to lock losses is three months; you should not trade that stock for three months before or after you realize your loss. In the UK, it’s a month.

      Vanguard and Fidelity offer the cheapest index funds. The bigger, broader funds actually have lower fees than the more niche or specialized ones.

    • Drew says:

      The goal for the “Index Fund Investing” strategy is to buy a fund that will do about-as-well as the market as a whole is doing. So, step 1 is picking an index.

      I’d start by asking if you want to tie your savings to the US economy, the European economy, or the Danish economy. My guess is that Denmark will be more volatile than the US (if only because it’s smaller), so I’d lean towards either an EU or US index.

      From there, google, “Major stock indices for Europe / the US”. You want one that has a bunch of companies in it, and isn’t tied to a specific sector of the economy. Reasonable options might be: “S&P 500”, “S&P Global 1200”, “Dow Jones Industrial Average” or “The Global Dow”.

      Once you have that, you need a brokerage account to buy & sell stock. In the US ‘Charles Schwab’ is a reasonable choice. I wouldn’t worry too much about this choice. Just go for somewhere big and reasonably famous that has an office in Denmark.

      From there, you transfer money and buy your fund. When you buy something (eg. ‘S&P 500’) you’re buying a mutual fund, managed by some company, that holds the same stocks that the Standard & Poors uses to calculate that metric.

      Google will find some options. They’ll have names like, “Fidelity S&P 500” or “Vanguard S&P 500”. These will all be basically the same. So the choice won’t matter too much.

      From there, you get the mutual fund’s ticker / name, and enter it into the “Buy Stock” window of your brokerage account. At that point, you’re done.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Once you have that, you need a brokerage account to buy & sell stock. In the US ‘Charles Schwab’ is a reasonable choice. I wouldn’t worry too much about this choice. Just go for somewhere big and reasonably famous that has an office in Denmark.

        At least in the US this is not true. I buy my index funds directly from Vanguard and Fidelity. Going through a broker just increases your fees. My guess is you can buy directly from Vanguard or Fidelity anywhere in the world, but I don’t know for sure.

        • ana53294 says:

          No, you can’t.

          In Spain, it was introduced for a while by Vanguard, for those that had investments above 100,000 USD. Then they dropped it, and only kept for those who were grandfathered in.

          Fidelity never had direct investment in Spain.

          They do offer direct investment in the UK, but not anywhere else in Europe as far as I’m aware. And in the UK, it’s within pensions and ISAs, not available to non-UK residents.

          That’s why I recommend ETFs of Vanguard and Fidelity; they have similar low costs, and can be bought through a brokerage easily.

    • mfm32 says:

      Three principles for investing:
      (1) Almost anything is better than nothing. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
      (2) Simple is better than complicated. This is true in very deep ways and also for the fundamental reason that simple things are easier and therefore more likely to get done (see principle 1).
      (3) You don’t need professional help or advice to do this right (see principle 2), but if it makes you feel comfortable enough to do something, go ahead and talk to someone (see principle 1).

      Want to keep it super simple? Just buy the “stock” with ticker symbol VTI (on the NYSEARCA exchange, in the unlikely event your broker asks). It is a very low-cost way to invest in the entire stock market indiscriminately. It turns out that modern financial theory says that’s exactly what you want. Any strategy more complicated is an optimization well down the path of diminishing marginal returns.

      If you were in the US, I would have complete confidence in the correctness of this response. But I don’t know anything about Denmark and can’t productively Google this topic because of the stupid Greenland thing. So you may want to ask someone if there’s something special about Denmark tax law that makes this hard (I doubt it…).

      • ana53294 says:

        The issue with buying from the New York stock exchange is that the US retains 15% of dividends (if you submit a form; otherwise they retain a whopping 30%). Buying from Amsterdam or London may be more advantageous, because claiming the tax reduction in your country may be a bit of a hassle.

        • mfm32 says:

          Fair — this is the sort of thing I wouldn’t have any idea about. If there are similar total market ETFs on European exchanges, those are probably preferable, even though their expense ratios will be higher.

          • ana53294 says:

            Vanguard and Fidelity sell ETFs in some European stock exchanges, yes. In general, most big companies are listed in London, or Amsterdam after NY.

            You can also get around the dividend tax by getting an accumulating fund or ETF.

      • Nornagest says:

        One thing that’s been concerning me recently is that going with the dead simple index fund approach might, in conjunction with my employment, overexpose me to risk in certain sectors. VFINX is 24% tech stocks, almost all of which are in large public companies. I work for a large public tech company. Any big shakeup in that sector is going to endanger my employment at the same time as it wreaks havoc on my portfolio, so with an eye towards reducing correlated risk I’m wondering if it might make sense to weight my stock holdings towards value stocks, small- and medium-cap equities, or similar.

        I suppose 24% isn’t that high, though, and this seems like the kind of plan that’d have a high potential to sneak in some risk that I’m not adequately accounting for.

        • Matt M says:

          I work for a large public tech company. Any big shakeup in that sector is going to endanger my employment at the same time as it wreaks havoc on my portfolio, so with an eye towards reducing correlated risk I’m wondering if it might make sense to weight my stock holdings towards value stocks, small- and medium-cap equities, or similar.

          Yes, yes, YES! This is absolutely the right way to be thinking about it. Probably a lot more than you already have. Here’s a thought – do some quick high level math and estimate the present value of your lifetime earnings at your current employer/industry (if you aren’t familiar with present value, find an online calculator that can do it for you).

          Now compare that figure to the amount of money currently in your retirement fund. If you’re young, it will be larger. Much larger. Perhaps by at least an order of magnitude. If you count “present value of future earnings” alongside your already banked investments, it’s possible that up to 90% of your current investment may be in one particular industry, or even worse, company (this is what really wiped out of a lot of Enron employees – they didn’t just lose their jobs… a lot of them had 100% of their retirement funds invested in Enron stock!!!

          You shouldn’t just be looking for small cap stocks. You should avoid tech entirely. Anything that takes down Facebook or Google or whatever is likely taking down the vast majority of small tech stocks as well. Put most of your portfolio in energy or consumer staples or health care, or whatever you want that is completely uncorrelated with your current career.

    • cassander says:

      I believe that Fidelity has European branches, I’d use them. I’ve always gotten good customer service from them, their website works well, and you can talk to their financial advisers for free. You can sign up online, but I’d suggest calling your local branch and just telling them you want to set up an investment account and would like to talk to one of their financial advisers. they’ll ask some basic questions about your finances and goals.
      You tell him you’re planning on saving X per year and that you need to know what tax advantaged options you have. They will run you through them. They might also try to sell you some annuities or something, but I’d stick to whatever Denmark’s 401k/IRA equivalent is until you make enough money that you can max them out and still have money left over. They’ll also provide the forms you need to pay your taxes.

  13. Reasoner says:

    So Adobe is removing support for Flash at the end of 2020. There is a project to preserve Flash games, and I’ve been checking their list for all my favorites and requesting any that are missing. However, the project says multiplayer Flash games are too difficult to archive. (Probably because there’s no easy way to access backend code that runs on the server.) So within the next few years, we will see some popular multiplayer Flash games get ported to Unity. But others will disappear forever. Which multiplayer Flash games should I be sure to try before they disappear?

    • Machine Interface says:

      The human urge to “preserve” stuff is fascinating (not in a sarcastic way). What is it that makes us suddenly care much more about something if we know it’s about to disappear/has recently disappeared, even when it was basically never on our mind otherwise?

      • Matt M says:

        Seems like basic supply and demand, to me.

        Right now, flash games would basically be considered… not even as scarce goods, really. They are available in approximately infinite supply, for free, from a wide variety of sources.

        But now, there’s a threat that they will become scarce, and that great effort will be required to access them in the future. Having a particular good go from non-scarce to scarce is quite a jarring prospect.

        • acymetric says:

          There is is also a great deal of nostalgia involved for people who grew up in the heyday of flash games.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            That reminds me: it weirds me out how short the generation gaps in nostalgia are. I was playing Civilization II & Master of Orion II on PC and fighting games on the Playstation in 1996, and I have a cousin 5.5 years my junior who’s in the Flash game nostalgia demographic.

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe I fall somewhere in between, because I have a great deal of nostalgia for both (not those two games specifically, but that generation of gaming and even the one preceding it generally). I wasn’t heavily into playing flash games, but I do have fond memories of playing a few of them.

            Also, TI-83+ games, although since they’ve been using the same calculator model (somehow at the same price point) for about 100 years that might be universal.

          • Nick says:

            It’s not just nostalgia. A lot of creepypasta depends on experiences at a young age with contemporary, obsolete technology, like a certain console or video game.

          • Randy M says:

            Also, TI-83+ games, although since they’ve been using the same calculator model (somehow at the same price point) for about 100 years that might be universal.

            That’s some nostalgia, my first claim to fame was passing around TI-82 games in HS. And once, a program to do math a little easier.

      • Reasoner says:

        Well for me, I’d say it’s a combination of:

        * I made a deal with myself to work hard while I’m young and save computer games for when I’m old and decrepit. Helping to preserve Flash games signals to my fun-loving self that his end of the deal is getting upheld.

        * I’m a longevity enthusiast and hoping to live a long, long time (through cryonics, the singularity, or just diet+exercise now and use of longevity therapies as they become available). I enjoy watching old movies and old computer games now, so I expect that will continue in the future.

        * If a multiplayer Flash game is on the verge of disappearing, getting addicted to it is not as harmful, because my addiction will come to an end when the game disappears.

    • Peffern says:

      Looks like most of Nitrome is already on the list. Good to know.

    • Nick says:

      3,377 Escape the Room games. Holy shit.

    • beleester says:

      There actually aren’t that many online multiplayer Flash games that I remember. There’s AdventureQuest (simple but decently funny RPG) and its spinoffs (Mechquest, Dragon Fable, etc), but they weren’t really lasting entertainment.

      I also recall enjoying Stick Arena – it was simple and fast-paced but had enough depth to keep me entertained.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I used to have a huge Flash gaming kick for years, fueled by Kongregate. I remember a few quality games:

        Amorphous+ was an early game, in which you played a dude with a huge sword attacked by various types of blobs. They started as simple greenies you could kill in one slash, to some that shot back, purples that would split into smaller ones, faster blobs that rolled in curves, some that hunkered down when you got near, and eventually some pretty badass silly ones. Great simple fun.

        A fellow named Kupo made one quality game after another, in what they called the Epic Fantasy Battle series. Beautiful, fun art assets, set into RPGs and bullet heaven games.

        The Road of the Dead series had you driving a car as far as you could while beset by zombies. It was the only drive-or-die game I remember that was first-person.

        Flipline Studios had a huge number of platformers that I enjoyed. They also had the Papa’s “Fooderia” line, which I found… less fun. But still, Flipline platformers. Those were good.

        I made a point of favoriting enough games that I could fill an entire effort post with Flash games I think SSCers would enjoy.

  14. Atlas says:

    I saw a graph on Twitter recently (that I can’t find) showing something like the average amount of time parents spend parenting has doubled (or something) since the 1990s. In lieu of that, but on the same subject, here’s an article on how much more demanding parenting has become over the past few decades.

    My question is: what’s been the payoff from this massive increase in parental investment? Steve Sailer joked that the good performance of the US’ women’s soccer team finally validated all the millions of hours that moms have spent ferrying their kids to sports practice. Me and my sister grew up after/during this parental investment explosion, and I don’t think we and our peers had much more satisfying childhoods than our parents or grandparents did. I’d rather have had less parental investment and more siblings instead. (This is the equivalent of the perceptive question Scott has asked in his essay on cost disease about whether you’d prefer today’s education and health care, or their 70s equivalents+saving all the additional money you have to spend on them now.)

    Is there a way, on the individual or societal level, to push back against this trend? (I’m naturally somewhat skeptical of “swimming against the tide” ideologies; if there was an obvious better way to do things, I assume that most people would have figured that out and be doing it already. So to me this question is a little more complicated than just “spend less time helicoptering your kids around;” if it was that simple, wouldn’t people have never started doing it in the first place?)

    • “My question is: what’s been the payoff from this massive increase in parental investment?”

      Nothing? Whenever I hear the word “investment” used for something that’s not an actual financial asset, I mentally replace it with the word “spending.”

      “if there was an obvious better way to do things, I assume that most people would have figured that out and be doing it already. So to me this question is a little more complicated than just “spend less time helicoptering your kids around;” if it was that simple, wouldn’t people have never started doing it in the first place?”

      People don’t swim against the tide because of social pressure. You might know that the child-abduction fear is irrational as even the ordinarily clueless NYT admits, but good luck explaining it to normies.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I don’t see it being a net positive. In my mind it’s a collective action problem that simply makes parenting more taxing.

      The culture is more risk averse and more litigious, people who engage in passive parenting put themselves in social, and potentially legal, risk.

      If it benefits anyone, it benefits whichever children would have otherwise found themselves in dangerous situations or whoever benefited in relative terms from the rat race of extra-curricular.

    • Well... says:

      So to me this question is a little more complicated than just “spend less time helicoptering your kids around;” if it was that simple, wouldn’t people have never started doing it in the first place?)

      Not necessarily. When I take my kids (combined age: 7) to a playground, I notice a lot of the other parents hover. I sit on the bench. Seems simple to me. I figure the other parents are just lonely or something.

    • blipnickels says:

      Do you have any better evidence of this occuring?

      You’re referencing an unseen Twitter thread and a NYT article with no data save a graph where we can’t see the underlying data. Are there any other figures or stats on this you could provide?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Part of this is the dramatic decline in the number of children per household. If you look at the examples given in articles like these they are almost always 1 child households, or 2 children with a large age gap between them. If you are at home with a kid and no one else is around you are going to have to spend more time entertaining them than if there was another kid there.

      • Viliam says:

        In some ways, having 2 kids is easier than having 1. One child will require your attention all the time. Two kids will have moments when they play together and don’t need you… or even actively avoid you. The older child will also teach the younger child some stuff, so you don’t have to.

        With increasing number of kids, I can imagine some extra problems, such as: how to fit them all into a car, when going somewhere. But I believe that “attention per child” would decrease… first, because it has to, your day only has 24 hours total… but afterwards you would see that the kids actually turn out to be okay.

        City is a worse place for having little kids than a village. In a village, I can let the baby play in the garden. In a city — ten steps in the wrong direction, get hit by a car, game over — I can’t simply open the door and then go check the kids once every 10 minutes. I need to go with them to the playground. Though I usually read some book on a screen there. (My only opportunity to read books these days.)

        Another thing where I believe some people make mistakes: Don’t just take the kids out to the playground. Take them also with you to go shopping, to the post office, etc. The kids may in fact enjoy the change, and you get something useful done. (For a bribe of a cookie, my kids go shopping with me anytime.)

        • baconbits9 says:

          In some ways, having 2 kids is easier than having 1. One child will require your attention all the time. Two kids will have moments when they play together and don’t need you… or even actively avoid you. The older child will also teach the younger child some stuff, so you don’t have to.

          The big issues for more kids are

          1. When the age gap is material. Having a 9 month old who needs a nap and a 6 year old who doesn’t means you are actually working to figure things out.

          2. When kids get sick. This week I lost 3 nights of sleep when our 9 month old got sick, on day 3 as the baby is getting better the 4 and 6 year old are sick and then on day 5 I am sick. When the stomach flue goes through a multi kid family it is the worst.

          Having more kids is slightly more chore wise, more dishes, more laundry etc, and the worst weeks are worse, but the easiest/best weeks are easier/better.

          • Viliam says:

            Yeah, the greater the age gap, the more time it takes until the kids have enough in common. For example, there is 3 years gap between my kids; they started meaningfully interacting when the older was 1 or 1.5 years old. (That means, it gets worse before it gets better.)

            With dishes and laundry I usually don’t see a big difference between 1 or 2 children (the second child only increases the total number of people by 33%), but yes there are moments of “holy ****, we just had a lunch, why is there suddenly one million dirty dishes on the table?!”. The very-long-term solution is to have kids do the dishes sometimes.

          • eric23 says:

            The answer to the dish problem, and (anecdotally) an answer to the disease problem, is to get a dishwasher.

            Dishwashers use hotter water and clean more thoroughly than a person. My mother tells me that when her family got a dishwasher, suddenly diseases stopped spreading between all the various family members. When I grew up we had a dishwasher the whole time, and very rarely had an issue of one family member infecting another.

          • baconbits9 says:

            We have a dishwasher, and use it plenty, it doesn’t seem to have an impact on illness (our 3 kids share a room so they are just swapping any air borne germs all night). The increase in extra dishes itself isn’t an issue*, but the little bit more work for dishes, plus laundry*, the extra few spills a week that need to be cleaned up, the extra time in the bath do add on more work.

            Our kids are on the edge of being net useful, they can unload and load the dishwasher but still need supervision/encouragement to actually get through it which takes about as much time/effort as an adult emptying it.

            *It currently is as bottles/breast pump cleaning takes up an extra 10 mins a night, 5 nights a week.

            *Likewise cloth diapers means a lot more laundry until potty training is done.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      FYI Bryan Caplan wrote a book more-or-less about this. I haven’t read it, but the gist seems to be that all the extra investment is pointless and you can and should opt out.

      • quanta413 says:

        It’s a great book, and everyone at SSC should read it and follow its advice.

        Give it to friends and family too. Except maybe not the worst ones.

        • bja009 says:

          I too found the book useful, and it actually shifted my position in the direction of ‘more kids’ by enough that my wife and I are now having a third child.

          • Nick says:

            Congratulations!

          • quanta413 says:

            Two thumbs up. If I could make a party emoji, I would.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            While I have no children of my own, I was instrumental in causing two friends to meet each other who I’m highly confident would not have met otherwise, so now that they are married there are now a couple of kids for whose existence I can plausibly claim some credit, but I suspect Caplan is going to massively outscore me on that one 🙂

          • EchoChaos says:

            @bja009

            Great news!

    • Randy M says:

      baconbits9 and RalMirrorAd have some good explanations.
      Growing up, after about third grade, I spent most of my time with friends I made who lived on my block, often playing out in the yard. If I’d wanted time with my mother, she was busy with the younger kids or chores.
      I don’t know if neighborhoods have changed more generally; I don’t see many kids outside around my block. My girls do have each other to play with. They’re homeschooled, so they get a lot of parent time, too though. But we really can’t be said to be pushing back against an overparenting trend since that’s the case. I’d certainly like a culture that allowed for encouraging independence, though, and people these days can sometimes freak out if they see a young un outside alone.

      There’s a couple different categories of investment. The chauffeuring is something a lot of parents complain about. Some of this may be trying to prepare for college applications or otherwise make sure the child is well rounded. Some of it may just be trying to find friends for your children, or help them explore a passion. There’s value there, but no need to overdo it.

      Then there’s actually spending time in activities with your child yourself. Playing a board game, reading a book, playing catch. Individually or all together. Provided these are relatively harmonious interactions, regular instances of these activities are, ime, going to make for a more satisfying childhood; positive memories, socialization. I don’t know if you can over do it here, probably; but there’s definitely diminishing marginal returns if you have something else to fit in to your free time.

    • Matt M says:

      My pet theory on this is that, for whatever reason, the media has spent the last few decades strongly stressing that “time spent parenting” is, essentially, the objective criteria by which we can measure how much a parent really loves their child.

      The “bad dad” in every family movie is inevitably pictured as some high-achieving CEO who is “too busy” with work to attend Junior’s little league games. The implication being that Dad’s work is just something he is selfishly doing for his own prestige and status, whereas going to the little league game is a selfless expression of pure love for his child.

      These messages are aimed at both parents and kids. So parents internalize “being a good parent means spending as much time actively parenting as possible” while kids internalize “how much time they spend parenting me is a direct reflection of how much they love me.”

      The fact that we now see results like this should be unsurprising.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Sounds like families would have better outcomes by throwing out their TV by the time their first child is 3-4 years old. 🙂

      • Viliam says:

        Maybe it’s a combination of:

        1. When unchecked, child care tends to expand until it fills all available time. Saying “no”, when you actually do have a bit of free time, feels bad. In the past, people had more kids and more work at home, so they were more free to say “no”, and the kids got used to it.

        2. The television has no incentive to teach you healthy habits, and has an incentive to teach you the wrong ones. The main goal is to make you buy expensive toys; making you feel guilty for not doing enough is a way to nudge you to overcompensate by buying the toys. Another reason is that families who spend too much time watching TV are on average the worse ones, and the TV tries to attract them by reflecting their lifestyle.

        In my opinion, a parent should take care of their own mental hygiene. If you need a certain amount of time for yourself, communicate it with your partner. Kids don’t really need both parents at the same time, make it e.g. that Saturday is Mom’s day off, and Sunday is Dad’s day off.

        Teach your child a hobby. It is an investment that will pay off. The child will later do the hobby, and will give you time to do something else.

    • b_jonas says:

      Perhaps it’s partly because parents are older now.

  15. Atlas says:

    An interesting article from the NYT on the NYPD’s creation of a genetic database:

    The city’s DNA database has grown by nearly 29 percent over the last two years, and now has 82,473 genetic profiles, becoming a potentially potent tool for law enforcement but one that operates with little if any oversight.

    The New York Police Department has taken DNA samples from people convicted of crimes, as well as from people who are only arrested or sometimes simply questioned. The practice has exposed the Police Department to scrutiny over how the genetic material is collected and whether privacy rights are being violated, civil liberties lawyers said.

    What do folks think about this? One major difference between this and, say, the NSA’s mass surveillance programs is that the NYPD can point to many instances of this data being used to identify the perpetrators of violent crimes.

    • Lillian says:

      Vast numbers of things that shouldn’t be illegal are illegal. What’s more the number of things that are illegal is so utterly vast that it’s impossible for any individual citizen to be aware of them all, thus making all of us into unknowing criminals. As long as this is true, my reaction to any increase in law enforcement capabilities is abject terror, because it represents an increase in the ability of law enforcement to arrest, imprison, and convict anyone whenever and wherever they like.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yes, but the kind of crimes where DNA database is relevant are physical – much more likely to be violent. It’s ok to be much less worried about this than about e-databases, I think.

      • JPNunez says:

        Yeaah but also there are vast tracts of law that are basically impossible for you to break anyway. I don’t care about all the ways I could break the law by putting asbestos, lead, or cyanide into food because … I just don’t sell food.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Isn’t this the genetic panopticon Scalia warned us about 6 years ago?

    • S_J says:

      What is the source of the DNA?

      (1) Is this analogous to the NYPD keeping a copy of the fingerprint of every person who ever visits an NYPD precinct office for any reason?

      (2) Is it analogous to the NYPD keeping a copy of the fingerprint of every person who has ever been interrogated in a precinct office as a suspect in a criminal investigation?

      (3) Is it analogous to the NYPD keeping a copy of every fingerprint of every person convicted of a crime inside their jurisdiction?

      The quote implies case (3), but it might be covering for some scenarios in which case (2) happened, and the officers in charge of the database kept the information anyway.

      In comparing this information to fingerprints, I’m thinking that this is not very different, in privacy terms, from the current practices of taking and keeping fingerprints.

      But fingerprints and DNA are different in a major way: if a known-criminal has DNA reference in the database, and a relative (up to third or fourth cousin, I suspect) of that criminal commits a crime and leaves DNA evidence, the DNA database might lead to that relative in a way that a fingerprint database would not.

  16. BBA says:

    My city’s esteemed mayor is proposing to eliminate “gifted and talented” programs from the NYC public schools, in the name of desegregation. In the decades since Brown v. Board was handed down, desegregation has proven a nearly intractable problem, with some methods (like school choice) proving totally ineffective, while others (like forced busing) are so unpopular they could never be implemented. But I think deBlasio has hit the sweet spot with killing gifted programs: it’s both ineffective and unpopular, a win-win!

    I’ll also note that this is similar to former mayor Bloomberg’s failed soda ban, and not just because they’re absurd ideas from lame ducks. Both mayors had more sensible policies (for Bloomberg, a soda tax; for deBlasio, having the “specialized” high schools use criteria besides test scores for admission) that required changes to state law, and for both of them the legislature said no. So the mayor naturally looks to his “pen and phone” powers to see what he can do without going through Albany, and winds up with these garbage ideas.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The “more sensible” policy would also be ineffective and/or unpopular. In fact, messing with the admissions to the specialized high schools is already unpopular. There isn’t going to be a policy that both preserves admission by academic merit and gets you the racial distribution de Blasio wants. Any policies that get the racial distribution are going to look suspiciously like quotas.

    • Lillian says:

      So here’s a question, what public good is being obtained from having more integrated schools? It’s pretty obvious from decades of failed school integration efforts that people don’t actually derive any value from integrated schools. To the extent that some schools are shit and parents want to send their children to better schools, i feel like school vouchers accomplishes this goal, but to the extent parents and students still choose to go to schools that are predominantly their race… so what? It’s their choice, i say let them have it.

      • Cliff says:

        When all disparities must be a result of “systemic racism”, you get solutions like these.

      • BBA says:

        Some of us actually still believe that old nonsense about separate being inherently unequal.

        • Plumber says:

          In AN AMAZING COINCIDENCE when U.S. schools were the most intergrated (the late 1980’s) was also when the black-white academic achievement gap was narrowest.

        • gbdub says:

          But whether your integration method raises up the bottom or brings down the top ought to matter.

        • baconbits9 says:

          That was a legally enforced separation, not a ‘any difference means inequality’ separation.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          But there is no enforced separation.

          In any meritocratic equal opportunities system that selects for cognitive ability, you will get an overrepresentation of Ashkenazim and East Asians and an underrepresentation of Hispanics and Blacks, because of reasons.

          In order to achieve proportional representation you have to enforce some kind of racial quotas, which means that some less talented individuals will be preferred to more talented individuals, on the basis of their race. What public good is achieved by such policy? It’s not indvidually fair and it’s inefficient as it lowers the average talent.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            What public good is achieved by such policy?

            The same as every policy coming out the DoE or the like, to increase the social standing of the bureaucrats in charge.

          • Matt M says:

            In any meritocratic equal opportunities system that selects for cognitive ability, you will get an overrepresentation of Ashkenazim and East Asians and an underrepresentation of Hispanics and Blacks, because of reasons.

            The problem is that the people in charge of all major decisions in New York (and many other places) do not believe this. They never will. No matter how much evidence you provide.

            Any under-representation must be due to human behavior, and therefore, policy changes can “fix” the “problem.”

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Sure, but I wasn’t responding to the DoE or New York politicians.

            I was responding to @BBA , who was arguing in favor of an affirmative action (quotas) system.

            Politicians ultimately respond to their constituencies, which implies that as long as a majority of people like BBA support such policies, politicians will enact them. I was challenging the reasonale behind these policies.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            I think de Blasio does believe that. That’s why his proposals run from “switch to less meritocratic means” to “blow it all up” rather than tinkering around the edges. Of course he can’t say so in so many words.

        • albatross11 says:

          BBA:

          So if someone wants to impose racial segregation for some public schools, I’ll be with you 100% in opposing that. But it seems like what we’re talking about here is having selective schools that admit based on test scores and grades. Those schools seem to do a passable job of getting the most capable students and giving them a better (or at least harder) education than the default for public schools. The only issue is that different racial groups don’t all do the same on the entrance exams. Nobody says “no blacks allowed in the magnet school,” but a lot fewer blacks make it into those schools than their fraction of the population. (And way more Asians make it in than *their* fraction of the population.)

          This seems like a really different situation than “separate but equal” in Southern schools many decades ago when that was still legal.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think BBA is partly right. The way public school districts work in a lot of states causes some separation by economic class. Kids should be allowed to go to any public school they like in a much larger radius than is currently true in cities. If rich people want to flee from poor people, they can pay for private school or home school. Or they can move 50 miles away. But the government shouldn’t be aiding them with a poorly thought out structure.

          On the other hand, I don’t expect the change to make much difference in most people’s life outcomes so I think I probably disagree with BBA on that point. I expect it would benefit a few kids and hurt almost none, so it’s still not a bad idea.

          • Randy M says:

            Kids should be allowed to go to any public school they like in a much larger radius than is currently true in cities.

            I think you’ve just reinvented busing.
            1-Some school has some advantage over the others in its radius for whatever reason.
            2-Every parent with a vehicle tries to enroll in that school.
            3-Open slots in that school are given out on the basis of a lottery or corruption.
            Outcome–integration and equality. At what point the new schools perform depends on how much you thought comes from teachers and how much from peers and how much from the pupil themselves. Also, the rich probably do now move 50 miles away.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            This sword cuts both ways. Freedom to put your child *in* a school means freedom to take your child out of it. My *guess* is that the white-flighters will show more initiative (and take more advantage) of being able to send their kids far away then POC will show in trying to chase down those same racist white [and asian] parents.

          • brad says:

            If the bigots want to self exile, let ‘em. It’ll mean cheaper rent for the rest of us.

          • albatross11 says:

            brad:

            How did that work out for the cities and the country last time it happened?

          • albatross11 says:

            quanta:

            You have to solve the allocation problem somehow. If there are 100 seats in Top Tier High and 100 seats in Gangland High, you will probably have 150 applicants for Top Tier High and 50 kids whose parents don’t know what’s going on or don’t care or are too caught up in their own problems to think about getting their kids into a better school.

            Vouchers seem like a pretty decent mechanism for dealing with this in the medium-to-long-term–if there’s money to be made providing a better education (in the eyes of the parents), then there will be more private schools formed to provide such an education. This will end up with lousy schools losing most of their students, which is either a bug or a feature depending on your point of view. Also, this requires giving up on deciding from on high what kids shall go to what schools to accomplish social goals (integration, mixing of social classes, making sure the wealthy can buy their kids a good public school that comes with granite countertops). Again, this is either a bug or a feature, depending on your point of view.

            Now, I suspect the real issue here has to do with willingness to enforce behavioral standards and track kids by ability/flunk kids who can’t work at grade level. Ideally, public schools would be allowed to do those things. Since that seems politically impossible, and since there’s a lot of annoying propaganda type stuff done by public schools that would be nice to avoid, I think vouchers + substantial freedom in how to run voucher-funded schools would be a reasonable workaround.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think BBA is partly right. The way public school districts work in a lot of states causes some separation by economic class. Kids should be allowed to go to any public school they like in a much larger radius than is currently true in cities. If rich people want to flee from poor people, they can pay for private school or home school. Or they can move 50 miles away. But the government shouldn’t be aiding them with a poorly thought out structure.

            The results of rich people moving 50 miles away is far, far worse than the results of having good schools next to not so good schools.

          • Anthony says:

            There are two kinds of “bad” schools. Those which have low test scores because there are a lot of low-achieving students, and those that have low test scores because the environment is so chaotic (and crime-ridden) that learning is almost impossible, even for bright, motivated students.

            A problem is that these two kinds are both found in low-income, high-minority-population neighborhoods.

            My kids’ elementary school is somewhat of the first type. (Test scores aren’t that low, except in comparison to others in my fairly wealthy town.) I don’t have a problem with my kids going there, because the environment isn’t chaotic or dangerous. I’m more worried about particular teachers being retired-in-classroom that the demographics of the school.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Randy M

            I think you’ve just reinvented busing.

            The difference is I don’t want to mandate anyone get bused anywhere in particular in order to even out racial numbers. Yes, the lottery may lead to some shuffling. But I highly doubt that nearly as much shuffling will be needed as when you attempt to force all schools to achieve racial balance.

            The more desired schools can also be gradually expanded over time.

            @everyone else

            The number of actually dangerous schools is small. Especially if we’re talking elementary school where I’d bet the number is approximately 0. So it’s mostly about rich people not wanting their kids to be next to poor (or brown) people because they’re afraid poverty is contagious or something. It’s not, so it’ll be fine.

            I don’t expect most rich (say top 10% or so by income or wealth) people to actually move away. My parents sent me to private school for elementary and middle and sent me to public school for high school so I saw some of both. And it wasn’t a fancy rich public school in a fancy rich person district either. It was majority minority. It was safe and as far as I can tell, my education was roughly equivalent to the fancy rich people private schools.

            Granted, I wasn’t in a large city. But I think Brad’s basically right

            If the bigots want to self exile, let ‘em. It’ll mean cheaper rent for the rest of us.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Brad:

            If the bigots want to self exile, let ‘em. It’ll mean cheaper rent for the rest of us.

            Self-exile of the kind I describe involves parents in high % POC areas to move their children to other school districts without having to move where they live. What you describe is closer to conventional historical white flight.

            Whereas what the OP describes would allow a POC to have plenty of white neighbors but his child’s school almost wholly bereft of those all-important white students.

            I also am sort of with Albatross that you’re kind of cheering something on that happened historically and was generally not considered to be a net positive for POC.

          • cassander says:

            @randy M

            I think you’ve just reinvented busing.

            He re-invented vouchers, not busing. Of course, the left considers that solution anathema.

            3-Open slots in that school are given out on the basis of a lottery or corruption.

            What’s wrong with a lottery?

          • quanta413 says:

            @cassander

            Did I even reinvent vouchers? I left out the state possibly paying private schools where parents want to send their kids.

            Not that I’m against vouchers. I think it’s probably a minor improvement over only spending state money on kids going to whatever public school. Although maybe there should be some restrictions in that the state will only pay voucher money to schools that have the same admissions policies as state schools.

          • brad says:

            White parents of school aged children started coming back to cities last, still tentatively, and are certainly not what has been driving the urban revival in the last two decades.

          • eric23 says:

            There are two kinds of “bad” schools. Those which have low test scores because there are a lot of low-achieving students, and those that have low test scores because the environment is so chaotic (and crime-ridden) that learning is almost impossible, even for bright, motivated students.

            These are the same in practice. A demographic which produces lots of low-achieving students also produces lots of misbehaving students.

          • cassander says:

            @quanta413 says:

            Did I even reinvent vouchers? I left out the state possibly paying private schools where parents want to send their kids.

            Well, vouchers or charters. But they amount to much the same thing, you fund students on per pupil basis and they go to whatever school they want to and take their funding with them. But charters are almost as anathema to the left as vouchers, they run too contrary to their basic instincts and the self interest of the education bureaucracy.

          • brad says:

            But charters are almost as anathema to the left as vouchers, they run too contrary to their basic instincts and the self interest of the education bureaucracy

            I love coming to SSC so right wingers can tell me what me and everyone I interact with thinks, wants, and does. How would I ever know otherwise?

          • quanta413 says:

            Brad is right. Your comment is too broad and uncharitable cassander.

            Lots of left wing politicians tried charters or school reform. Granted, many of them failed, weren’t reelected, or quit due to others to their left fighting them.

            But they didn’t all fail. Charters survive in some form in many Democrat-dominated cities.

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            I love coming to SSC so right wingers can tell me what me and everyone I interact with thinks, wants, and does. How would I ever know otherwise?

            I don’t see how stating the fact that one of the two political coalitions is opposed to something is telling you how to think. are you disputing that the left, in general, is not enthusiastic about vouchers and charters?

            @quanta413 says:

            Brad is right. Your comment is too broad and uncharitable cassander.

            I don’t think it is. I think the claims “the education bureaucracy is not interested in making itself more accountable” and “vouchers and charters run contra to left wing instincts” are both beyond dispute. What’s uncharitable is brad reading my comment as “everyone to the left of me is an unthinking robot.”

            Lots of left wing politicians tried charters or school reform.

            School reform is not charters, and most proposals for school reform that come from the left amount to spending more money through the current structure.

            Charters and vouchers are fundamentally different proposals in that, if taken to their logical conclusion, would radically change the way schools are funded and operated. I’m sure that you can find some democrats somewhere that have actually championed charters/vouchers, but their very rarity (and the vehement denunciations they tend to attract from the other left) demonstrates my point that this is not a plan that the broader left is likely to support.

            But they didn’t all fail. Charters survive in some form in many Democrat-dominated cities.

            “A was not able to utterly utterly extirpate B from existence, therefore you can’t really say A was opposed to B.”

            Yes, some relatively small voucher/charter systems have managed to survive, but the only place that saw a wholesale adoption of a voucher based system was new orleans in the aftermath of katrina, which was substantially repealed a few years ago despite showing a serious uptick in test scores even after accounting for the population change. Under normal circumstances, proposals to allow or expand charters/vouchers can be expected to be vehemently opposed by teachers unions and their democratic allies.

          • brad says:

            What exactly is supposed to be the point of your assertion? Either it’s completely obvious to everyone, in which case why bother, or it isn’t in which case where’s your evidence?

            There’s zero *good* reason for someone that’s hostile to a particular, vaguely defined, group to make unsupported assertions about what they believe. It cannot possibly contribute usefully to a conversation. As your typical example of the genre demonstrates.

            It doesn’t inform. It isn’t an argument. It’s not witty.

          • quanta413 says:

            “A was not able to utterly utterly extirpate B from existence, therefore you can’t really say A was opposed to B.”

            A was actually made of a mixture of B and ~B, and although the B’s usually win, the ~B’s hold or gain ground a significant fraction of the time.

            There are limits to when it is sensible to aggregate over an entire group. I’d say Agreement should usually be >75% (but in that case the 25% better almost always lose), ideally more like 90%. But KIPP is distinctly not dead and actually a decent size, and I’d wager agreement is more like 60%. Teacher’s unions have status quo bias on their side and more at stake than charters or reformers, so it’s not surprising that they usually win. They could probably win more than half the time even if Democratic voters were weakly in favor of charters on net. But it doesn’t make sense to conflate them with the entire left. For years, Obama’s secretary of education was Arne Duncan who was hardly popular with teacher’s unions

          • ana53294 says:

            If rich people want to flee from poor people, they can pay for private school or home school.

            And yet, when rich people go towards poor people, this is also problematic.

            Why not take rich people at their word, that is, that they just want good, non-stabby schools for their kids with high graduation rates and high college acceptance rates?

            If poor zones had better schools than rich zones, rich parents would try to send their kids to poor zones, even if their little snowflake was going with black and Latino poor people. And then everybody would complain how rich people are raising prices in the good school’s catchment area, thus pushing poor people out.

          • brad says:

            And yet, when rich people go towards poor people, this is also problematic.

            Did Conor Williams post in this thread? No? Then what point were you trying to make exactly?

            And then everybody would complain how rich people are raising prices in the good school’s catchment area, thus pushing poor people out.

            So what’s the stock market going to do in the next year?

          • quanta413 says:

            And yet, when rich people go towards poor people, this is also problematic.

            Like Brad, said I’m not Conor Williams. I approve of gentrification. Not sure what I think of bilingual public school, but I’m leaning towards “Don’t care”.

            I’m embracing a normative position. I know it’s unlikely to pan out in reality because of parental opposition.

            Why not take rich people at their word, that is, that they just want good, non-stabby schools for their kids with high graduation rates and high college acceptance rates?

            If poor zones had better schools than rich zones, rich parents would try to send their kids to poor zones, even if their little snowflake was going with black and Latino poor people. And then everybody would complain how rich people are raising prices in the good school’s catchment area, thus pushing poor people out

            Like I said above in my reply to everyone else, my parents sent me to a majority minority public high school that was probably lower-middle class on average with a lot of poor students. My family was in the top 10% or so. There are plenty of non-stabby perfectly good schools that are lower to lower-middle class on average. The stabby problem is overrated on average. Plenty of rich kids go to perfectly average schools.

            The problem is with people who think that some sort of magic is going to be worked by avoiding poor people. It’s mostly luck or genetics so they’re wasting their time. Maybe they are horrified by the rare media report of a rare stabbing in some school, and what they need is either to learn statistics or learn Buddhism or Stoicism or something so they can let go. For almost every school, worrying about your kid being stabbed is like worrying about them being killed by a mass shooting or a terrorist attack. Possible but extremely unlikely and not worth worrying about.

            It’s not like I’m advocating busing. I’m advocating letting people send their children to any public school they want. The rich people will still be more likely to go to school with other rich people. The poor people will still be more likely to go to school with other poor people. Because that’s where they live now, and most people are either happy with their current school or don’t care enough to ship their kids around. NYC has been a very safe city for a couple decades now. Most rich people afraid of poor people (which may not be the majority of rich people) are irrationally worried, and we shouldn’t encourage that.

            And if the rich people move into poor people neighborhoods, once again, that’s good overall. Socioeconomic mixing is good, and prices will drop somewhere else anyways. Although why that would happen after my plan to uncouple the neighborhood from the school I don’t know.

            The solution to the price problem is to build more houses. Not turf fight until a caste system forms in your city.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You don’t get socioeconomic mixing most times, because one side drives out the other.

          • Brad writes:

            If the bigots want to self exile, let ‘em.

            I’m curious about what defines a bigot for Brad. The obvious explanation of the pattern being discussed is that people want to send their children to a good school, one with low levels of violence, high quality of teaching. Richer people are more able than poorer people to achieve that by where they live, so tend to move away from areas with poor schools, which tend to be poor areas.

            Does that make them bigots?

            A more defensible interpretation of his comment is that well off whites expect schools with a lot of black students to be poor schools only because they are racially bigoted. But that requires that inner city schools are not really worse educational environments than suburban schools. Is that his view?

          • quanta413 says:

            You don’t get socioeconomic mixing most times, because one side drives out the other.

            Temporary mixing over short periods of time when some part of the economy shifts is still is better than no mixing.

            If people don’t mix for long enough there won’t be mixing through marriage. Give that enough generations and you’ve got a caste system.

            I’m curious about what defines a bigot for Brad. The obvious explanation of the pattern being discussed is that people want to send their children to a good school, one with low levels of violence, high quality of teaching. Richer people are more able than poorer people to achieve that by where they live, so tend to move away from areas with poor schools, which tend to be poor areas.

            Does that make them bigots?

            Brad is talking about distances of mere city blocks that sometimes separate the rich people schools from the poor people schools in NYC. Obviously, the poor people are not that dangerous. NYC has been safe for decades. He’s not talking about working class people fleeing to the suburbs from a city crumbling under constant racial strife and occasional riots.

            Supposed stabbiness of these schools should proven, not assumed. The homicide rate in NYC is ~3.5 per 100,000. The homicide rate of Chicago is about 6x higher. Baltimore is about 20x higher. Homicides are no doubt concentrated in NYC just like anywhere else, but it’s much, much safer than almost any other city.

            If you exert all your political power to carefully draw or keep boundaries around a couple city blocks to keep some people out in a city as safe as New York is right now, you’re skirting the line of bigotry. Especially for elementary school.

          • ana53294 says:

            In the medium term (10-15 years), increasing the boundaries of public school catchment areas will mean that the prices/rents of that block that previously was in another zone will rise.

            If anybody can go to any public schools, the area within 30 or so minutes from that school will also become expensive. Sure, poor kids will still be able to attend them, if they’re willing to spend an hour on train (which they do to go to Stuyvesant, but will they for more ordinary schools?). For elementary school, poor parents will have to spend an extra hour or two dropping the kids at school.

          • brad says:

            @DF

            The obvious explanation of the pattern being discussed is that people want to send their children to a good school, one with low levels of violence, high quality of teaching.

            No one is being stabbed in PS 191, and the teachers there come from the exact same pool as PS 199 a few blocks away. Some significant fraction of people use “good schools” to mean “with children from families like ours”. They aren’t super shy about it either in my experience.

            @ana
            Never heard of projects? Or rent control?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Brad is talking about distances of mere city blocks that sometimes separate the rich people schools from the poor people schools in NYC. Obviously, the poor people are not that dangerous. NYC has been safe for decades. He’s not talking about working class people fleeing to the suburbs from a city crumbling under constant racial strife and occasional riots.

            New York is not some magical city that has never had high levels of violence or racial strife where we can just assume that no matter what happens it will continue to be non violent. It took years and lots of resources to get the city to the point where you can make these claims, so maybe we should leave any fences up without excellent reasons to start taking them down.

            No one is being stabbed in PS 191, and the teachers there come from the exact same pool as PS 199 a few blocks away. Some significant fraction of people use “good schools” to mean “with children from families like ours”. They aren’t super shy about it either in my experience.

            So there is no difference in violence, no difference in teachers, little difference in per student spending. Why are some schools good and some bad then?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you exert all your political power to carefully draw or keep boundaries around a couple city blocks to keep some people out in a city as safe as New York is right now, you’re skirting the line of bigotry. Especially for elementary school.

            It appears you’re just using accusations of bigotry as a reason people should’t push policies they prefer for other reasons. That works a lot of times, but it typically fails miserably for schools.

            One fight in NYC was about rezoning students in a mostly-white school with an 86% pass rate on statewide tests to a nearby mostly-black school with a pass rate of 16%. Claims that objections to this are just bigotry aren’t credible. One may wonder why some black parents objected too; apparently one reason is they thought bringing in wealthier families would lose them Federal funding

          • quanta413 says:

            So there is no difference in violence, no difference in teachers, little difference in per student spending. Why are some schools good and some bad then?

            People keep forgetting that I am not some bleeding heart.

            The schools aren’t much different in a way that matters. The students are; it doesn’t really matter why the students are because it’s not going to change in the next decade or two. To an excellent approximation, the ability or lack thereof of a student isn’t contagious. Sitting next to people less good at math than you are will not make you worse at math. And sitting next to people better at math than you are will not make you better at math. There are maybe some weak second-order effects, but I think they wash out by early adulthood.

            And thus there is no need to bother carefully segregating schools by neighborhood block. Just ask people where they want to go, and lottery off spots for schools with too many applicants. Or use a matching algorithm of top few choices like they do for matching residents with hospitals. In a dense metro, schools should be specialized by things like how they teach, what they teach, level of discipline, student ability, or whatever etc. Carving out little isolated neighborhood schools is throwing away the benefit of a crowded environment and randomly shafting people too poor to move to get their kid into a school they like.

            If any school is more violent (and kindergarten and elementary schools aren’t), the proper application of discipline can solve the problem. Since I’m making policy recommendations and not describing what is, I’m free to recommend that (A) school choice is good and (B) I don’t care if fairly applied discipline leads to statistically disparities.

            Test scores and outcomes of any given student will largely be the same regardless of where they go to school. But parents should be free to send their kids to whatever public school they like.

            It appears you’re just using accusations of bigotry as a reason people should’t push policies they prefer for other reasons. That works a lot of times, but it typically fails miserably for schools.

            One fight in NYC was about rezoning students in a mostly-white school with an 86% pass rate on statewide tests to a nearby mostly-black school with a pass rate of 16%. Claims that objections to this are just bigotry aren’t credible. One may wonder why some black parents objected too; apparently one reason is they thought bringing in wealthier families would lose them Federal funding

            It’s a good thing I advocate making zoning largely irrelevant by letting people pick where their kids go to school. If everyone want to stay where they are that’s fine. But a significant minority of parents often would like to put their kids in a different school.

            Also, yes, my plan won’t work because parents are irrationally afraid of… what exactly from 5 years olds at PS 307? That test scores are contagious? That kindergarten is such a deeply formative experience that it will change the course of their child’s life and they can only get into a good college if they go to the right kindergarten? Those beliefs would be stupid, and I’m hard pressed to think of a reason they could have that wouldn’t be either stupid or racist.

            Well, I guess a few black parents might have a reason in losing funding, but one school is ridiculously overcrowded and the other is shrinking. Sanity must prevail and rather than building new schools, the fiscally prudent choice is some kids must be moved from one to the other. I’d prefer by lottery, but under the current rules obviously that’s not how it works.

            The worried parents are wrong. No one is going to get dumber or smarter by changing schools. There is no point in chaining neighborhood value to school. Use a matching algorithm, lottery off spots, whatever. But the current way things work in NYC is bad.

          • John Schilling says:

            To an excellent approximation, the ability or lack thereof of a student isn’t contagious. Sitting next to people less good at math than you are will not make you worse at math.

            If you are sitting nets to a person significantly less good at math than you are, in a math class, then one of two things are almost certainly true. Either the math class is being taught at their level, in which case it will not impart the sort of mathematical knowledege that would most benefit you. Or they are bored and frustrated by a class that is well over their head, and will likely act out in a manner that disrupts the attempt to teach you useful math. Both of these things make you worse at math, at least relative to the baseline where you continued to get better at math through proper education. And neither of them are “weak second-order effects”.

            In a dense metro, schools should be specialized by things like how they teach, what they teach, level of discipline, student ability, or whatever etc.

            Great. But we mostly aren’t doing that, because when you say this school will be specialized for undisciplined or low-ability students you get a political shitstorm leading to cancellation. At least, we aren’t officially doing that. Unofficially, geographic segregation is a crude proxy for proper tracking and specialization, but it’s better than nothing. Parents are, rightfully, going to take a dim view of your taking that away with only a hopeful “we should…” for an alternative.

          • quanta413 says:

            If you are sitting nets to a person significantly less good at math than you are, in a math class, then one of two things are almost certainly true. Either the math class is being taught at their level, in which case it will not impart the sort of mathematical knowledege that would most benefit you. Or they are bored and frustrated by a class that is well over their head, and will likely act out in a manner that disrupts the attempt to teach you useful math. Both of these things make you worse at math, at least relative to the baseline where you continued to get better at math through proper education. And neither of them are “weak second-order effects”.

            I was that bored kid. It turned out fine. I have known lots of such people, and also many people who went to fancy private schools instead. They all turned out fine, and you’d have been hard-pressed to figure out who went where from their ability.

            Also, within schools it’s pretty normal to have internal tracking. It’s not some rare unicorn that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t take much demand for such a track to form. I think around 10% of students at my schools took AP classes.

            Great. But we mostly aren’t doing that, because when you say this school will be specialized for undisciplined or low-ability students you get a political shitstorm leading to cancellation. At least, we aren’t officially doing that. Unofficially, geographic segregation is a crude proxy for proper tracking and specialization, but it’s better than nothing. Parents are, rightfully, going to take a dim view of your taking that away with only a hopeful “we should…” for an alternative.

            Segregation is an incredibly weak proxy given that the standard deviation of IQ of white Americans is as large or larger than the difference in the mean between any two groups of Americans. Segregation also has other deleterious effects that wipe out the lame excuse of “actually, we secretly fight to keep the poor people out because we want to track children by academic ability”.

            The alternative already exists and is not nothing. The alternative is what exists in such blighted places as Southern California where you just track students within schools except you call it honors or AP or whatever. This alternative isn’t necessarily the best alternative but is still a superior alternative and already exists.

            And on top of that, NY already has gifted schools at the citywide level. This is unusual. That the current mayor had bad plans for these and would have made them worse needn’t prevent me endorsing a superior alternative to both the status quo and his plan.

            From some of the apoplectic responses here, you’d think I was advocating busing students an hour away in a scheme to carefully achieve racial balance across an enormous 100 mile radius rather than endorsing what was once a bog standard right wing proposal of school choice. God forbid I point out it also has positives from the perspective of weakening socioeconomic and racial segregation. Suddenly some libertarians align with the AFT.

          • John Schilling says:

            Segregation is an incredibly weak proxy given that the standard deviation of IQ of white Americans is as large or larger than the difference in the mean between any two groups of Americans.

            We aren’t talking about racial segregation, we’re talking about economic segregation. It’s been what, a couple of generations since the upper-middle-class neighborhoods had even informal “no darkies allowed” policies. So how does the standard deviation of IQ within upper-middle-class Americans (including the black ones) compare to the difference between UMC and poor Americans? This has nothing to do with “white Americans”, and you poison the debate by needlessly introducing race.

            Segregating schools by economic class has many of the down sides you correctly note for other sorts of segregation. It would be nice if we could avoid that. But it does have the advantage, unlike racial segregation, of actually crudely working as a means of segregating by academic ability. Which is something we do need and that academically-minded parents will insist on.

            And on top of that, NY already has gifted schools at the citywide level. This is unusual. That the current mayor had bad plans for these and would have made them worse needn’t prevent me endorsing a superior alternative to both the status quo and his plan.

            Except, he’s the Mayor of New York City and you’re some anonymous dude on the internet. His plan will be implemented; yours won’t. Meanwhile, parents and local school boards have kludged together something that kind of sort of works, and is actually being implemented. You are suggesting that we should tear down something that actually is working, albeit poorly, and ignore the guy who is going to make it worse (but not tear it down entirely, at least this time), because you’ve got a better proposal that you have no power to implement.

            Nor is this about “the current mayor of New York”. Almost all of us here live in not-NYC. We’re discussing this because Bill DeBlasio isn’t a unique and freakish example. We’re discussing this because what you describe as “not necessarily the best alternative but is still a superior alternative and already exists”, is under attack pretty much everywhere and by people who, while mostly less powerful than Bill DeBlasio, are more powerful than you and seem likely to degrade the AP/honors/G&T programs in big urban school districts faster than people like you can shore them up.

            So if there’s another alternative that already exists, even an inferior one, lots of people are going to want to keep that around as a backstop until you and yours can actually stop the DeBlasios rather than just talk about your better ideas.

          • quanta413 says:

            We aren’t talking about racial segregation, we’re talking about economic segregation. It’s been what, a couple of generations since the upper-middle-class neighborhoods had even informal “no darkies allowed” policies. So how does the standard deviation of IQ within upper-middle-class Americans (including the black ones) compare to the difference between UMC and poor Americans? This has nothing to do with “white Americans”, and you poison the debate by needlessly introducing race.

            Obviously, it’s about race as well as socioeconomic class and to pretend otherwise is a disservice. Where are all the white people fleeing from poor white people?

            On top of that, “It’s really a proxy for rigorous academics and those poor parents are doing the best they can” is highly unlikely considering how many UMC white Americans flee from school districts with high test scores and a large concentration of Asians. If it was all about academic rigor, you wouldn’t see that. If was partly about race on the other hand, then it makes sense.

            You are suggesting that we should tear down something that actually is working, albeit poorly, and ignore the guy who is going to make it worse (but not tear it down entirely, at least this time), because you’ve got a better proposal that you have no power to implement.

            No. I’m endorsing my plan, not his plan.

            You’re giving a fully general counterargument against pretty much any change in that there is always someone powerful angling for a worse change, and thus advocating good changes instead is also bad because…. well I don’t know.

            Nor is this about “the current mayor of New York”. Almost all of us here live in not-NYC. We’re discussing this because Bill DeBlasio isn’t a unique and freakish example. We’re discussing this because what you describe as “not necessarily the best alternative but is still a superior alternative and already exists”, is under attack pretty much everywhere and by people who, while mostly less powerful than Bill DeBlasio, are more powerful than you and seem likely to degrade the AP/honors/G&T programs in big urban school districts faster than people like you can shore them up.

            So if there’s another alternative that already exists, even an inferior one, lots of people are going to want to keep that around as a backstop until you and yours can actually stop the DeBlasios rather than just talk about your better ideas.

            People have been attacking AP or honors for decades and yet it still exists. Shoring it up works perfectly fine and is better than segregation. By what logic is shoring it up politically impossible and yet barricades can be kept up against forces conspiring to destroy any differences in education anywhere? You don’t give any examples of where someone succeeded at that much less evidence that they’re more likely to succeed at that then they are at shattering the stealth plan to maintain academic rigor by carefully drawing school district boundaries. Clearly the DeBlasio cohort caught on to the stealth plan in New York City after utterly failing to shatter the gifted school program at the city level.

            Not only that, there is no horrible decrease in test scores among any ethnic group in the U.S. in the past few decades. I’d bet the same is true by income group. It’s just not true that anything terrible will happen and there’s little proof of anything bad having happened.

            You’d think the school districts around the city where I grew up didn’t exist from the many descriptions above of the dire consequences of allowing school choice or that tons of students were being horribly held back by having to go to the same school as people of a different socioeconomic class. In practice, the differences between the education at the most elite prep schools in the entire metro area and the AP classes at my mostly lower-to-middle-class school were hardly worth noticing. The students were different, but mostly not in ways that matter for education. They didn’t cover much more material or in much more depth. Generously, they probably had slight improvements for a couple classes although I have no evidence for this. And that was for a prep school that could be much more exclusionary than even a fancy New York neighborhood public school. At that was high school, not elementary school where the differences are considerably less relevant.

            Regression to the mean ensures that smart people’s kids tend to be significantly more average than they are, and it’s not like rich people are even all two-sigma smart. A lot of them are less.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @quanta413

            Also, within schools it’s pretty normal to have internal tracking. It’s not some rare unicorn that doesn’t exist.

            Internal tracking has been attacked within this very thread.

            Segregation is an incredibly weak proxy

            Nope. Neighborhood is sometimes an incredibly STRONG proxy for academic achievement. As you can see in the article I posted before about P.S.8 and P.S.307.

          • quanta413 says:

            Internal tracking has been attacked within this very thread.

            Are you just messing with me? When I’m discussing how attacks against it previously have resulted in little change, how does adding that change anything? People who don’t like tracking are already included in the attack-tracking group that has failed so much before.

            Nope. Neighborhood is sometimes an incredibly STRONG proxy for academic achievement. As you can see in the article I posted before about P.S.8 and P.S.307.

            Sometimes it works out that way. But generally? You need to show more than a couple neighborhoods. A system that occasionally accidentally looks sort of like academic tracking, yet still is going to have a significant fraction of average students due to regression to the mean of children compared to their parents is not really a system that’s a good replacement for tracking.

            Which already exists in most places. Because lots of parents like honors or AP and are not politically powerless and can maintain them in the face of occasional opposition. Only the rare ideologue actually cares enough to try to do more than just sort of mutter they don’t like it. Whereas the most dedicated parents involved with their school and paying attention to local politics probably have an unusually large number of kids in those programs.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sitting next to people less good at math than you are will not make you worse at math

            To take this position you basically have to have teaching at zero value, as having worse math students sitting next to you is going to mean more attention by the teachers to the struggling students in most cases. There are lots of other potential second order effects, but it is suffice to say that peer effects are generally considered a thing and there is a reasonable amount of evidence that they are a thing.

            However, even continuing down that tenuous path you still have to account for why we should give two shits about school segregation if there are no real effects. Its a suspect position to claim that everything would be the same for the better school districts if they were merged with the worse school districts, and that it wouldn’t effect the students moving from the worse to the better, but that we should spend a bunch of resources on it anyway.

            And thus there is no need to bother carefully segregating schools by neighborhood block. Just ask people where they want to go, and lottery off spots for schools with too many applicants

            How about the fact that busing is expensive, and the more choice individuals have the more expensive it becomes?

          • The Nybbler says:

            People who don’t like tracking are already included in the attack-tracking group that has failed so much before.

            Detracking has succeeded before too.

            Sometimes it works out that way. But generally? You need to show more than a couple neighborhoods.

            The state of New Jersey is full of such situations. So are other suburban areas I’ve lived in. The parents know it, too, and that’s why they behave the way they do. Just closing your eyes and then demanding evidence you can see doesn’t make it go away.

          • albatross11 says:

            baconbits:

            So there is no difference in violence, no difference in teachers, little difference in per student spending. Why are some schools good and some bad then?

            There’s likely some difference in violence (not at the level of stabbings or gang fights, but at the level of fistfights) and a lot of difference in prevailing culture and available friend group.

            But the main thing that makes a school academically good is the students. A poorly-funded school with old buildings that’s full of smart, motivated kids will be a good school; a well-funded school with sparkling new buildings that’s full of dumb, unmotivated kids will be a lousy school.

          • Randy M says:

            Yup. And shuffling those students around the district makes sense if you think good students bring up poor performing students, and not if you think the opposite effect is stronger.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But the main thing that makes a school academically good is the students. A poorly-funded school with old buildings that’s full of smart, motivated kids will be a good school; a well-funded school with sparkling new buildings that’s full of dumb, unmotivated kids will be a lousy school.

            So basically there is no argument for desegragation then, and at best an argument for achievement tested spots in better schools for (potentially) high achieving kids in worse schools.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        The idea behind desegregating schools is that it shields black students from local government malice.
        The south was systematically starving black schools of all resources out of racism.

        Integrating the schools was supposed to make it impossible to do that without wrecking the education of white students also, the idea being that people would care enough about the future of their own kids to not persist in their project of keeping the melanin-endowed ignorant.

        This did not work out as well as one might have hoped because internal tracking within schools was used to the same end. – Starve the non-gifted track, be racist as fuck about who gets into the gifted track, and if this wrecks the future of the white students outside the gifted track, well, the ruling class of the south never had much use for “White trash” anyway.

        Is any of this relevant to New York? Uhm. Fuck if I know.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Integrating the schools was supposed to make it impossible to do that without wrecking the education of white students also

          This was not, in fact, the justification in Brown v. Board of Education. The court explicitly concluded that the government was making the schools “separate but equal”

          Here, unlike Sweatt v. Painter, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors.”

          So no, the reason for desegregation was not to prevent local governments from starving black schools of resources.

          This did not work out as well as one might have hoped because internal tracking within schools was used to the same end.

          Do you have any evidence that internal tracking was applied in a racist manner, as opposed to a race-neutral manner with a non-neutral effect?

          • BBA says:

            I propose that once one is aware that one’s “race-neutral” policies have a non-neutral effect, the failure to change those policies then becomes an act of racism.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Proposal is equivalent to “equality of outcome” and hence rejected. If there is a real difference in a characteristic, both “equality of treatment” and “equality of outcome” cannot be simultaneously achieved while considering that characteristic. When that results in the inability to consider ability to learn in education, it is absurd.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nybbler:

            Proposal is equivalent to “equality of outcome” and hence rejected. If there is a real difference in a characteristic, both “equality of treatment” and “equality of outcome” cannot be simultaneously achieved while considering that characteristic.

            This, with the power of a thousand suns.
            I’d love for every Afro-American child to succeed academically*, but that’s going to require multi-generational cultural changes and praying that You-Know-Who are wrong about genetic differences.
            Sabotaging education for more academically-inclined demographics until their outcomes deteriorate to equality of outcome, because anything but equality of outcome would make us feel racist and therefore Pure Evil, is absolutely not acceptable.

            *modulo cases of Down Syndrome and such

          • quanta413 says:

            propose that once one is aware that one’s “race-neutral” policies have a non-neutral effect, the failure to change those policies then becomes an act of racism.

            This is clearly way too strong of a criteria. The NBA isn’t racist against white people, Asians, or Latinos just because NBA players are ~75% Black and Asians and Latinos are <2% each. There just aren't as many tall Asians and Latinos (among other traits that are useful for being an NBA player which I don’t know how those traits vary across populations. But likely those traits also vary).

            A similar defense applies to most hiring practices. The differences may be caused by previous environment or racism (during childhood for example), but that doesn't obligate someone later to adjust their policy to reach representation proportional to local demographics. Having people be good at their jobs is often important. Sometimes life critical.

          • CharlesP says:

            It seems that this conversation cannot continue without an object-level discussion of average racial difference in performance on academic tasks, since BBA is positing precisely identical characteristics of African-American, European-American, and Asian-American groups that live in NYC.

            Unless by “I propose that once one is aware that one’s “race-neutral” policies have a non-neutral effect, the failure to change those policies then becomes an act of racism,” he was advocating a form of state-enforced racial leveling. I’ve never actually seen someone advocate this, so I’d be fascinated to hear what he has to say about other issues.

            I suppose such a discussion of actual object-level differences – which, if present, would explain the total failure of policymakers to legislate equality of outcomes – would be considered too CW and out of respect for the platform should be avoided.

            However, what I would like to know why BBA considers eliminating the gifted and talented programs a ‘garbage idea.’ Wouldn’t you support them, since they, as you put it, are “an act of racism,” since they don’t result in equality of outcomes?

            Please let me know if I have misunderstood your position. If so, I apologize.

          • BBA says:

            Christ, people. I’m talking about the specific effects of the supposedly race-neutral policies, not overall educational outcomes. If separate is inherently unequal, then it doesn’t matter whether it was a deliberate policy of racial segregation or the natural result of assigning children to schools geographically. De facto segregation is just as bad as de jure segregation.

            My mockery of the abolition of “gifted and talented” as a desegregation measure is that it will do almost nothing to desegregate. Aside from this proposal leaving the state-mandated citywide programs in place, there are still charters and private schools and the suburbs. If I were dictator I’d get rid of all of those too, but I would need to be dictator to do it.

          • CharlesP says:

            “I’m talking about the specific effects of the supposedly race-neutral policies, not overall educational outcomes.”
            The effects of supposedly race-neutral policies have profound implications for overall education outcomes, though. Since racial parity of educational outcomes is something we never see, then you’re basically instituting a blanket ban on any form of specialized education, be it providing additional support to children with intellectual disability or learning disabilities, or for gifted and talented children. That’s a consistent position to take, but let’s face it – it pretty much rules out any policy solution other than direct, top-down federal control of all school districts and a complete lack of freedom for any parents to decide what, where, and how their kids learn. If you have convincing arguments for why that’s a good idea I’d be happy to hear it, but that’s something a very large percentage of Americans, I suspect including non-Whites, will absolutely not accept.

            “De facto segregation is just as bad as de jure segregation.”
            That’s fine, but you’re basically going to have to institute South African-style apartheid type policies to control freedom of movement in order to eliminate de facto segregation. That is, unless you mean that de facto segregation is ONLY bad in terms of schooling but not in any other way.

            “Aside from this proposal leaving the state-mandated citywide programs in place, there are still charters and private schools and the suburbs. If I were dictator I’d get rid of all of those too, but I would need to be dictator to do it.”
            I must say I appreciate your frank honesty. 🙂

            Are you sure that “it will do almost nothing to desegregate”?
            It will do quite a few things to ‘desegregate’ (for the sake of argument, I’ll use your non-conventional definition):
            (1) It will send a message to the Asian and White parents of New York that there is no escape, and it will normalize the idea of demographically engineering schools to suit the fancies of the city government.
            (2) It will establish a precedent for going after charter schools – basically, using the same argument. That would require another set of policies, but it will be effectively a stepping stone.

            Of course, this is why I oppose such a policy and consider it so dangerous, but from your point of view, it could be seen as a positive step for a gradualist reformer.

          • Christ, people. I’m talking about the specific effects of the supposedly race-neutral policies, not overall educational outcomes.

            What you wrote, however, was:

            once one is aware that one’s “race-neutral” policies have a non-neutral effect, the failure to change those policies then becomes an act of racism.

            That implies that if a race neutral policy has a non-neutral effect because of differences between the distribution of characteristics in different racial groups, then maintaining those policies is “an act of racism.”

            Is that what you meant, or were you engaged in hyperbole? If it was, then the only policy you can consider non-racist is one that produces identical outcomes by racial group. Is that your position?

            Alternatively, is your view that no racial differences in distributions of characteristics relevant to educational outcomes exist, hence a non-neutral outcome proves that the policy is non-neutral? If so, why do you believe that?

        • EchoChaos says:

          This is just mean-spirited outgroup bashing. And as a bonus, as The Nybbler points out, false.

          Less of this, please.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The outgroup being segregationists? Personally I think it’s OK to bash them, even in a mean-spirited way!

          • Protagoras says:

            Sure, thisheavenlyconjugation, but make any group a permitted target, and more and more other targets that people just want to bash will be claimed to be equivalent to the permitted target, and you’re on a slippery slope to chaos.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Sure, that’s what outgroup means. If I think it’s okay to bash socialists or Muslims because they’re my outgroup, I doubt anyone here would be so flippant.

            Secondly, note that Southerners are being lumped together here: Things like “the ruling class of the south never had much use for “White trash” anyway.” are both false and mean-spirited.

            His comment is neither true nor kind. You seem to think it’s necessary, but I certainly don’t.

          • brad says:

            Less of this, please.

            You are really bad at this and should stop.

          • CharlesP says:

            “The outgroup being segregationists? Personally I think it’s OK to bash them, even in a mean-spirited way!”

            The outgroup being the outgroup? Personally I think it’s OK to bash the outgroup, even in a mean-spirited way. After all, I can tolerate anything except the outgroup 😉

            Also, joking aside, thisheavenlyconjugation is using ‘segregationists’ in a non-central manner. The vast majority of people who would buy into thisheavenlyconjugation’s emotional baiting by using the word ‘segregationists’ to un-person his enemies DO NOT use segregation to mean ‘someone who advocates gifted and talented education.’

            This is akin to an alt-righter said “why of course it’s okay to kill communists!” and then slyly saying, “why of course anyone who believes in any taxation is a communist!”

            Both are examples of the Worst Argument In The World.

            Please, thisheavenlyconjugation, let me know if I’ve mischaracterized your argument or who you were referring to by ‘segregationists.’

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Protagoras
            Do you think it is likely that allowing the bashing of segregationists may lead this comments section down a slippery slope towards the bashing of e.g. mainstream Republicans? I think that is laughable, especially since we’ve clearly slid all the way down the slope and are deep into the pool at the bottom with respect to other groups (the comments about “white liberals” elsewhere on this page are not exactly charitable dispassionate analysis).

            @Echochaos
            The difference is that segregationists are really bad and your outgroups are not. And no-one actually uses “kind/necessary/true” anyway.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Charles P
            You have enormously mischaracterised my argument. Reread Thomas Jorgensen’s comment, which is clearly talking about actual segregation.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @brad

            Thanks, that means a lot to me.

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            By death count, both of those groups are mind-bogglingly worse than segregationists. Each one has multiple single leaders who have killed more people than all segregationists combined.

            Segregation may be bad policy, but those who advocate for it are mostly not mustache-twisting evil people. Some are good, just as some Muslims and socialists are good despite other holders of their ideology being horrifyingly “piles of skulls” evil.

            And again, I’m not even a segregationist. I objected to the conflation of “segregationist” and “all the South”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation: I really hope you’re not making the truth claim that all white people who statistically segregate themselves are really bad and no socialists (even the apparachiks of the USSR) or Muslims (even those who uphold all the sharia death penalties) are.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think that is laughable, especially since we’ve clearly slid all the way down the slope and are deep into the pool at the bottom with respect to other groups (the comments about “white liberals” elsewhere on this page are not exactly charitable dispassionate analysis).

            I ctrl-F’d and that’s 95% Deiseach. The optimal thing to do is ignore her when she’s like that. The idea that you shit-talking in the opposite direction is going to improve things is wrong.

            The difference is that segregationists are really bad and your outgroups are not. And no-one actually uses “kind/necessary/true” anyway.

            If you’re going to openly justify defecting with “no one even tries”, please reconsider what you’re saying.

            Success at ideals is preferable to hypocrisy, but occasional hypocrisy is vastly preferable to open defection. The best any group of many people ever really achieves is hypocrisy.

            @ Le Maistre Chat

            Pretty sure thisheavenlyconjugation is talking about the actual central example of segregationists. I don’t think you’re helping by interpreting the comment as being about people like those who live in Park Slope (or where/whoever BBA was criticizing earlier for segregating themselves statistically while nominally being against segregation).

          • The Nybbler says:

            You have enormously mischaracterised my argument. Reread Thomas Jorgensen’s comment, which is clearly talking about actual segregation.

            Looks to me like he starts by talking about segregation, then slides into talking about ability tracking as if it is the same thing. He’s bashing (wrongly, in the relevant case) segregationists for starving black schools of resources, then bashing the implementors of ability tracking for being segregationists who then starve the “non-gifted” (minority) track.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @EchoChaos

            And again, I’m not even a segregationist.

            If that’s the bar you’re going to set for yourself, I’m not interested in engaging with you.

            @Le Maistre Chat
            You’re either wilfully misreading my comments, or simply not reading them at all.

            @quanta413

            I ctrl-F’d and that’s 95% Deiseach. The optimal thing to do is ignore her when she’s like that. The idea that you shit-talking in the opposite direction is going to improve things is wrong.

            Not sure what shit-talking you’re referring to. If you mean my comment referencing it, I agree that it’s undesirable to refer to specific pieces of bad content like that but it was necessary to illustrate my argument. If you mean Thomas’ comment, I think that’s vastly more substantive than hers. If you mean the myriad people replying to Deiseach with calls to stop her “mean-spirited outgroup bashing” — wait a minute, there aren’t any! Which I happen to agree is a good thing.

            If you’re going to openly justify defecting with “no one even tries”, please reconsider what you’re saying.

            I think it’s definitely good to try to say true, charitable, relevant etc. things. I don’t think true/kind/necessary is a useful way to measure that, nor the rule used in practice to ban people.

            @The Nybbler
            Thomas Jorgensen talking about segregationists in the 60s enacting segregation, then segregationists in the 60s enacting other policies once they weren’t able to do that. He is not referring to “someone who advocates gifted and talented education” as Charles P suggests.

            On the actual issue, your objection doesn’t make sense. It’s true that the specific legal justification in Brown didn’t rely on unequal facilities. But facilities were in general drastically unequal (and honestly how could you possibly think otherwise unless you’re denying that segregationists were either racist or capable of acting in their racist interests), as acknowledged by all four subcases of Brown except for Brown itself.

          • CharlesP says:

            “Do you think it is likely that allowing the bashing of segregationists may lead this comments section down a slippery slope towards the bashing of e.g. mainstream Republicans? I think that is laughable, especially since we’ve clearly slid all the way down the slope and are deep into the pool at the bottom with respect to other groups (the comments about “white liberals” elsewhere on this page are not exactly charitable dispassionate analysis).”

            Not to be repetitive, but the comment that inspired this literally equates schools which practice race-blind internal tracking with segregationists.

            That means that lots of countries other than the US, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, and Russia are already in the pool with good ol’ Bull Connor and Governor George Wallace, partying it up. It must be a pretty crowded pool.

          • CharlesP says:

            “@The Nybbler
            Thomas Jorgensen talking about segregationists in the 60s enacting segregation, then segregationists in the 60s enacting other policies once they weren’t able to do that. He is not referring to “someone who advocates gifted and talented education” as Charles P suggests.”

            Oh sure, I don’t doubt there were initially tracking policies enacted by governments staffed mostly by the same people who enacted segregation. But the transition away from this was probably very gradual. When does tracking stop being racist? If tracking under the ex-segregationist regime was racist due to its racial disproportionalities, when does this stop being true of other schools or districts?

            “But facilities were in general drastically unequal (and honestly how could you possibly think otherwise unless you’re denying that segregationists were either racist or capable of acting in their racist interests), as acknowledged by all four subcases of Brown except for Brown itself.”
            I’m not sure this question is so conclusively answered, and I don’t know that it can be answered obviously. How would it be “in their racist interests” to deliberately keep Black schools worse, thus garnering the attention of their hated, much more racially homogenous Yankee rivals? Wouldn’t it be in their best interest, assuming their goal was to maintain Blacks and Whites living separately in peace, to just let Black schools do whatever they want in their own communities so the federal government would leave them alone? Perhaps they failed to do this for various reasons. Or perhaps they really did just want to do everything they could to ‘keep blacks down,’ just to show ’em who’s boss. I’m just saying that I don’t think we have obvious, indisputable answers to these questions.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @CharlesP

            Not to be repetitive, but the comment that inspired this literally equates schools which practice race-blind internal tracking with segregationists.

            That comment literally ends with “Is any of this relevant to New York? Uhm. Fuck if I know.”. Are you interpreting that as ironic (I think that is unfair)? Or did you not read it?

            When does tracking stop being racist?

            When the people in charge stop being racist.

            How would it be “in their racist interests” to deliberately keep Black schools worse, thus garnering the attention of their hated, much more racially homogenous Yankee rivals?

            Public schools are funded from a finite pool of resources. If that pool is controlled by a group of white people who put white interests, why would you be surprised that they prefer to overallocate resources to white schools?

            I’m just saying that I don’t think we have obvious, indisputable answers to these questions.

            But we do though. Read pretty much any case on the issue other than Brown, they are all based on unequal facilities.

          • CharlesP says:

            “That comment literally ends with “Is any of this relevant to New York? Uhm. Fuck if I know.”. Are you interpreting that as ironic (I think that is unfair)? Or did you not read it?”

            I’m not interpreting it as ironic, though there is a clear implication to the ‘slippery slope’ issue. We were assured that ‘segregationists’ are in a segregated pool all by themselves, but then we heard that school tracking was the same thing. Gifted and talented education, which produces the same hated racial disparities as tracking, is clearly not far away.

            “When the people in charge stop being racist.”
            So, in other words, it stops being racist when it stops being racist. How do we verify that? If you’re using a metric other than “racial parity of outcomes,” I’d love to hear it. That certainly seems to be what BBA is arguing. I apologize if I have conflated your arguments.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Read pretty much any case on the issue other than Brown, they are all based on unequal facilities.

            Brown, however, is the relevant case, the one which overruled Plessy and found that segregation was unconstitutional. And in Brown, the Court found specifically that unequal facilities were not at issue. In Brown, we literally have the court itself contrasting the case before it with another case which did not outlaw segregation and where unequal facilities were at issue.

            Certainly the court could have decided “Hey, look we keep getting these unequal facilities cases and it’s obvious you bozos are incapable of doing separate but equal, so you’ll have to integrate”. But they did not. They decided that separate was inherently unequal even in the case of equal facilities.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @CharlesP
            I don’t know about anyone else (my impression is that BBA often has rather unusual opinions) but I’m fully in favour of tracking and G&T programmes in modern schools, because I don’t think the people in charge of those programmes nowadays are racist. However, I do think the people in charge in 60s Kansas were racist, which makes their programmes dubious.

            @The Nybbler
            I’m fully aware of what Brown was. My point is that the legal justification for the decision does not tell us about e.g. why the NAACP pushed these cases in the first place. In other words, this:

            They decided that separate was inherently unequal even in the case of equal facilities.

            does not imply that facilities were equal, which other cases tell us was not generally true. I’m pretty sure things would’ve happened very differently had schools actually been “separate but equal”.

          • CharlesP says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation
            “I’m fully in favour of tracking and G&T programmes in modern schools, because I don’t think the people in charge of those programmes nowadays are racist.”
            I appreciate your clarification. The temptation to conflate all of those with different views together must be constantly guarded against.

            “However, I do think the people in charge in 60s Kansas were racist, which makes their programmes dubious.”
            Fair enough – it certainly seems reasonable to think that when a group whose stated goal is separate groups who is banned from doing so then reaches the same outcome by other means that they could be up to some trickery.
            I think the concern that I have is that MANY left-leaning social engineers out there would argue that, sure, the people in 1960s Kansas were overtly racist, but that today virtually all white people including liberals are implicitly racist – and even blacks suffer from ‘internalized racism’ whenever that’s convenient, such as when black cops shoot black suspects at similar rates as white cops. As a result, they argue, any policy which happens to product disparate outcomes is assumed to be a result of racism, since we know that racism permeates society as a whole. This is why getting left-wingers, who are radicalizing faster than any other political demographic especially on the issue of race and racial outcomes, to accept tracking or other social policies which have associated disparate outcomes is not likely to happen.

            “They decided that separate was inherently unequal even in the case of equal facilities.”
            Well, I don’t think anyone disputes there were cases of serious inequality. But the argument, as I recall, was that black students had the right to access white schools – NOT the same level of resources support – because black students at white schools had on average better outcomes.

            “does not imply that facilities were equal, which other cases tell us was not generally true. I’m pretty sure things would’ve happened very differently had schools actually been “separate but equal”.
            Interesting – my suspicion is that this basically describes what we have now.

          • brad says:

            I think the concern that I have is that MANY left-leaning social engineers out there would argue that, sure, the people in 1960s Kansas were overtly racist, but that today virtually all white people including liberals are implicitly racist – and even blacks suffer from ‘internalized racism’ whenever that’s convenient,

            If there are so MANY of them and you are so fired up to explain to them how very wrong they are, why post in one of the, presumably few, places they aren’t?

            Preaching to the choir is unlikely to garner any converts.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Segregationists” in this context means, not white Southerners marching in Klan robes, but rather well-off white and Asian parents trying to get their kids into better schools even when it messes up the racial numbers.

            For some inexplicable reason, parents care more about their kids’ quality of education, friend group, and environment than they do about abstract social goals. They may (probably do) make some dumb decisions in pursuit of a better education for their kids, but they (we) aren’t going to stop caring more about their (our) kids, even if some jackass on the internet calls them (us) bigots for it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @CharlesP

            I think the concern…

            As brad says, your concern is not pertinent; none of these left-wingers appear to be present.

            Well, I don’t think anyone disputes there were cases of serious inequality. But the argument, as I recall, was that black students had the right to access white schools – NOT the same level of resources support – because black students at white schools had on average better outcomes.

            You recall wrongly, and furthermore it should be obvious that that argument would make no sense. The whole issue was that there weren’t any “black students at white schools”!

            @albatross11

            “Segregationists” in this context means, not white Southerners marching in Klan robes, but rather well-off white and Asian parents trying to get their kids into better schools even when it messes up the racial numbers.

            Did you post this in the wrong place?

          • albatross11 says:

            We were originally talking about parents in NYC who don’t want their kids sent to school with mostly-poor, mostly-nonwhite classmates. Referring to them as “segregationists” and then importing the image and emotional valence of Southern segregationists in the 50s is good rhetoric, but bad logic.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @albatross11

            Referring to them as “segregationists”

            And who is doing that here?

    • Etoile says:

      G&T programs, AP classes and the like in actual disadvantaged schools – even if they’re crowded with the wealthier kids and/or kids of the non-desired ethnicity – are the only way a disadvantaged kids can access actual advanced material; strict standards; the necessity to do actual work – all things that have been gutted so thoroughly from the baseline curriculum it’s amazing those kids can still learn anything by the end of school. The driven and/or wealthy kids will find their way regardless, be it through YouTube, private tutors, private schools, or moving to Rich Suburb.

      (By the way, I don’t trust any finding or “debunking” of educational theories. If your students can barely multiply and you’re trying to teach them the quadratic formula – it doesn’t matter how good your educational methodology is, and how well-controlled the experiments testing them were…. if they can’t multiply, they won’t be able to master the material. And vice versa. If you’re working with smart kids and teaching them tosh, they’ll all master it.)

    • brad says:

      You should dig deeper. Citywide G&T, which is theoretically aimed at the 97th percentile and practically at the 99th percentile would continue to exist. It’s district G&T that would go away. And I don’t see why we need district G&T, what’s wrong with plain old tracking for kids at the 95th percentile?

      NYC school segregation is especially despicable because the excuses are so weak. We aren’t talking about long bus rides, but a few extra blocks. Nor is there the patchwork of municipalities as an excuse for separate schools—its all one city. The fights over school lines in the UWS and DUMBO remind of the old “Love me, I’m a Liberal” song.

      • Theodoric says:

        And I don’t see why we need district G&T, what’s wrong with plain old tracking for kids at the 95th percentile?

        The racial numbers would come out wrong for tracking. Likewise, there would probably be less resistance to redrawing school boundaries if schools were allowed to discipline (including expel) disruptive students without having to worry about “disparate impact” suits, and without having to protect themselves from disparate impact suits with “zero tolerance” policies that, eg, treat bringing in a spent shotgun shell from the hunting trip you took with your dad for show and tell with the same severity has having a bunch of 9mm rounds in your locker.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think Theodoric is right that tracking would be under more pressure to collapse or let in weaker students than the district G&T program which partially separates children by school and not just within school. Kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

          A more politically palatable solution might be to expand the city G&T program until it covers the percentiles of the district G&T program. But that depends a lot on the district G&T program works.

          I’m not sure how the district G&T program works, but if the cutoffs vary by school district then representation could get more uneven by folding the district G&T into the citywide G&T program. Which would be the opposite of what De Blasio wants.

        • brad says:

          This is nyc. No one is going hunting.

          Anyway, it’s pretty clear that you aren’t in the group I’m criticizing. The most annoying part about Upper West Side segregationists is their utter hypocrisy.

        • brad says:

          @quanta

          I don’t if tracking would be more or less politically palatable but it’s more reasonable. Completely separate schools are fine for the true outliers with special needs, but the district G&T system is “about” segregation. They don’t even use different curricula.

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, but are the district G&T test cutoffs set by district or citywide?

            Because if they are set by district, then they have the bizzarro effect of leveraging segregation to put more underrepresented minorities in the G&T program.

            That’s what ends up (used to? Not sure if they still do) happening with California’s admissions to the UC’s. If you’re in some top % of your graduating class, you’re guaranteed admission to a UC. Which means going to a school where students do worse on average (which are more often majority minority) makes you more likely to get into a UC.

            I can see reasons for splitting students by school across the distribution more instead of tracking and vice versa, but doing the first means abandoning having any dependence on district limits. Otherwise, like you say it’s pretty much “about” segregation.

          • brad says:

            There’s a floor (90th percentile) set across the city, but the cutoff within each district is a function of applicants and seats. The part I’m not sure of is how the number of seats per district work.

            Anecdotally there is a higher cutoff where you’d expect there to be.

      • albatross11 says:

        brad:

        I don’t know whether the super-selective schools are a good investment of public education money or not, and I’d be open to evidence either way. But it sure seems like the rhetoric surrounding getting rid of them is based on the racial numbers not coming out right. And there is simply no way to get the racial numbers to come out right while also keeping merit-based admissions, which is why this same issue comes up over and over, all over the country, at every level of education.

        The consequence here seems to mostly be to take a bunch of kids (proportionally mostly Asian, but with some white, hispanic, and black kids included) who are now getting an education that’s probably better than elite private schools provide, and shove them back into normal public schools. Most of those schools will range from okay to lousy, and a few will be horrible.

        I expect that if this happens, a lot of parents of smart children in NYC will either move out of the city or send their kids to private schools. But at least a few super-smart kids will get stuck sitting in slow-moving classes bored out of their skulls, or in classrooms where the teacher has lost control and no learning can possibly happen. How does this make the world a better place, again?

        • brad says:

          As far as super selective schools go, I agree with you. That’s the citywide G&T program. I don’t think that should go anywhere. The district G&T programs are not for super smart kids. They have a cut off of 90th percentile and are mostly 95th to <99th.

          These aren’t kids that need different techniques or materials because they are far outliers. I don’t see why they should be in separate schools. The private and suburban schools you mention will certainly have students below that cutoff.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            There is a substantial difference between median kids and kids at the 90th percentile. Tracking may theoretically be sufficient to eliminate this gap, but tracking itself is also under heavy assault: my friend just eliminated it in his Math Department because it was producing politically incorrect results disadvantaging certain kids.

            You don’t have to go far to find criticism, I find an Atlantic Article describing tracking as modern-day segregation in the first page of Google results.

            I think you’ll find you’ll rue the day you mocked the bigots “self-exiling” when you end up with Detroit. But we’ll take them in Illinois! We need the tax money.

      • BBA says:

        I agree wholeheartedly that G&T is pure horseshit. It’s just that there are so many other forms of segregation that getting rid of this one isn’t going to affect anything, but it will piss off the Park Slope moms because their little darlings aren’t deemed “exceptional” anymore… which is also a good thing, now that I type it out, but probably not worth the political shitstorm.

  17. Jan_Rzymkowski says:

    Has anyone noticed? that apparently Dominic Cummings, special political advisor to Boris Johnson and allegedly one of the main strategists of Brexit, writes a blog filled with really long posts about AI, AI safety, cognitive enhancements, progress of technology, genomics and basically a lot of stuff that would easily find its place on SSC.

    https://dominiccummings.com/

    He frequently cites this blog and his blogroll includes Scott Aaronson, SSC, MIRI, Overcoming Bias, Yudkovsky.

    https://dominiccummings.com/an-index-of-blogs-articles-papers/

    • sentientbeings says:

      And now we wait with bated breath for the three-letter reply to your comment: “AMA”

    • Lambert says:

      This has been noticed before.
      I’ve still not decided what I think of him.

      He’s spent most of the time complaining about those in power, which is distinctly easier than making good calls while in power.

      I saw something about a new programme of research into how ML can be used by the NHS. I don’t doubt that Mr Cummigs was behind that.

      • Viliam says:

        From my perspective, Brexit seems like a comedy show, so I am perplexed why being a strategist of Brexit is considered cool in rationalist circles. (Perhaps achieving anything in politics, even a complete stupidity, is still awesome because most people have zero impact on politics?) I mean, my simplistic view of Brexit is like this:

        Britain: “EU sucks! We want to leave this tyrannic oppressive regime!”

        EU: “Feel free to go. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

        Britain: “Hey, wait! We don’t want to leave completely, you know. We would prefer to partially stay, and partially leave.”

        EU: “As you wish. There are already a few countries that are ‘partially in, partially out’. Point your finger at any of them, an you can get the same deal.”

        Britain: “But we want a better deal than any of them. Like, all the advantages, and none of the disadvantages. For example, we would like to produce stuff that does not follow your standards, and then we would like to sell it freely on your markets. Also, we would like to walk freely anywhere within EU, but we don’t want people from EU, especially the recently immigrated ones, to enter our country.”

        EU: “Well, if you have a specific proposal that is more reasonable than ‘all privileges, no duties’, feel free to write it up and we will consider it.”

        Britain: “We will change our government every week, until someone is able to write a proposal. How much time do we have?”

        EU: “Take as much time as you want; it’s not like anyone really cares.”

        Britain: “…oh shit. We just realized we actually have no idea what to do about Northern Ireland…”

        It’s fun watching this; I just don’t understand what exactly is so strategically awesome about it.

        • broblawsky says:

          I’ve heard several people claim that Cummings is an anarcho-capitalist Accelerationist, and that Brexit is a deliberate attempt to shrink the size of the UK government by essentially blowing it up. I don’t have any direct evidence of any of these beliefs, so take those claims with a grain of salt, but he’s acting pretty much the same way you would if you were trying to do exactly that.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            My understanding is that he would like to see two things happen: the civil service reborn as a ruthless meritocracy, savvy with advanced quantitative decision making; and the UK as a whole to become the centre of the world in the most important scientific problems of our time (AI, personalised medicine, neuroscience…)

            His most common complaints about the EU are that 1) the civil service objects to many policy suggestions with a vague “can’t do that, EU law something something”, even when there is not a real legal problem; and 2) the Clinical Trials Directive being a precedent for many more excruciatingly slow and badly thought out directives on fundamental science, which will hold back the speed of progress. So step one in the plan is Get Out.

            I don’t know how he responds to the obvious objection that rational-techo-utopia seems an pretty unlikely outcome of Brexit, since most politicians couldn’t even begin to make sense of his values and won’t hire him or people like him to run the show (Boris the surprising exception, though we’ll see how long that lasts, depending on whether he hired Cummings the enforcer or Cummings the thinker).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            the Clinical Trials Directive being a precedent for many more excruciatingly slow and badly thought out directives on fundamental science, which will hold back the speed of scientific progress.

            He anathematizes the EU for rejecting the Less Wrong creedal statement “I believe in too slow science”?

          • DeWitt says:

            1) the civil service objects to many policy suggestions with a vague “can’t do that, EU law something something”

            I’ve seen this happen in real time right here where I live: a municipal councilman went into the local newspaper and lied to no end about EU regulation when some people complained that he’d cut down some trees. Tragicomically hilarious. I sometimes wonder what politicians might do if they didn’t have the big bad EU to blame for.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @DeWitt
            The traditional answers seem to be: “Foreigners”, “Kids these day’s” and “the Opposition”. For muncipal officials there is also the option of “central goverment”.

          • DeWitt says:

            Kids these days definitely happens here too, yeah, but then old people vote even more disproportionately often than is already the case. With how many voting booths are set up in retirement homes, I can kinda see why that is.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            @DeWitt Politicians using EU law as an excuse to the public is a different issue. The complaint is that the civil service itself objects to developing policy proposals by ministers on the grounds that they will conflict with EU law. Sometimes this is true, which is annoying because there is little national government can do about it. But I think Cummings objects even more to a sort of general attitude of defeat created in the service by years of dealing with reams of EU regulations.

            I don’t endorse any of this, just my understanding of his opinions.

          • DeWitt says:

            There’s a very real irony in complaining about the EU because other complain about it, in any event. Where even can we find out what these statements of his have been?

          • gdepasamonte says:

            The best brief statement of some of his views is in the interview with The Economist. Since that might be paywalled for you, some excerpts:

            DOMINIC CUMMINGS: In no order of priority… there is an obvious problem with democratic legitimacy…It is extraordinarily opaque, extraordinarily slow, extraordinarily bureaucratic, extraordinarily wasteful.

            A rule brought in under the Single Market a decade or so ago was the Clinical Trials Directive. This regulates how the testing of drugs, including cancer drugs, operates in this country. There is no rationale whatsoever why…how a country organises the testing of cancer drugs should be an issue for supranational regulation…what it has done is, as Nobel scientists and all sorts of people have said, massively slow down the process of testing and people have died unnecessarily as a result. …It’s not just that the rule is stupid…it’s that the process of changing it is almost impossible.

            …If you look back on the long sweep of history, one of the big arguments about post-renaissance China and post-renaissance Europe concerns regulatory harmonisation. Post-renaissance China essentially harmonised the entire empire…In Europe we had a completely different system. We had regulatory competition so when, for example, the central Chinese government said “we’re not going to have any explorers, we’re going to get rid of our fleet”, that’s what happened. In Europe when explorers were told “we’re not going to fund you to go out and do that”, they went to another country and got funding from someone else.

            BAGEHOT: You have said that being in the EU gets in the way of Britain having a coherent national strategy. Why is that the case?

            DOMINIC CUMMINGS: The EU has narrowed…everyone’s horizons in Whitehall so they’re not thinking about the big things in the world. They are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the lawyers in meeting after meeting all day, how to avoid getting poleaxed at the next meeting in Brussels. The EU prevents serious government…with the Foreign Office just telling ministers day after day, ad infinitum: “there’s no point opposing this because we’ll lose influence on the next vote”.

            BAGEHOT: …you argue that the country should seek to be the best place in the world to do science and technology. How might leaving the EU contribute to that.

            DOMINIC CUMMINGS: Point one: we can actually sort out Whitehall and do what we used to do which is be a model of good governance for countries around the world. We will also then be in a position to build the kind of networks you need between basic science, venture capital, universities etc which are impossible to organise now with modern Whitehall….And point three: not being bound by all the ludicrous rules of the EU, you can make yourself a centre where the people who want to lead technological revolutions come to work, because we’ve got huge assets there….

            BAGEHOT: So leaving the EU is a first step in that direction?

            DOMINIC CUMMINGS: It is not sufficient but it is necessary.

            …One of the things I found most depressing in government was seeing how the EU process is corrupting that and making it extremely hard for people to stay honest. Ministers constantly have to lie about what the origins of things are. They constantly have to invent Potemkin processes. And civil servants say: “as good civil servants, we have to tell you that our advice is that this may be illegal.” And because it’s Britain and not Greece the ministers don’t just say “screw that, who cares if it’s legal?”; they have to take that seriously.

            Overall we need far more international co-operation….The problem with the EU is not that it’s about co-operation, but that it’s so rubbish at it. If we vote to leave it will force not just Europe but countries around the world to think more intelligently about the new institutions we need to cope with things like gene drives, lethal autonomous robotics, you name it.

            …part of the reason why I think the sooner Britain gets out of it the better is precisely so that we can begin the process of building alternative structures now that the EU can morph into.

            The other good thing to read if you have the patience is his account of working in the Department for Education (Part II on is the important bit). This is about the problems of the civil service generally, not just EU-related. For fair warning, his writing makes Scott’s seem like a model of haiku-like distillation.

          • DeWitt says:

            Thank you, that is a very good link. I appreciate it. I have extremely little faith in Britain being able to live up to what Cummings is envisioning here, but his line of thinking falls squarely in the not-even-wrong line of thinking, I guess.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            You’re welcome – and that is my own view as well.

            Despite not liking Boris Johnson too much, I was pretty excited that Cummings had the ear of power, and I thought with a few years he might do something really good. I still think his Brexit optimism makes him a better person to be setting the agenda than anyone else, but I’m very unhappy about the tactics the government is now using, almost certainly under his initiative (and the even more extreme ones they have seriously considered), and I’m also concerned that Boris will just dump him after a re-election anyway.

          • ana53294 says:

            Whitehall dysfunctionality described by Cummings is appaling – but does the EU force the government to constantly shuffle officials between departments, so as to avoid responsibility? Does the EU force Whitehall not to fire incompetent beaurocrats who can’t even spell right?

            The description of dysfunctionality makes me even more convinced that Brexit will be a shambles – because the same dysfunctional, no responsibility taken people will be managing it.

            Why don’t they fix all those issues first – and then do Brexit, and fix the EU related issues afterwards?

          • Aftagley says:

            For fair warning, his writing makes Scott’s seem like a model of haiku-like distillation.

            Holy crap you weren’t kidding. This is the man for whom the word bloviate was created.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            @ana53294 I think the logic is that tremendous political will is required to reform the civil service, which is never going to appear unless the government’s hand is forced. Leaving the EU will cause enough disruption in the civil service that the other problems you mention can be fixed as well. I have no idea how the details of this argument work though.

            Edit: the difference with Brexit is that Dominic Cummings is in charge of managing it, and whatever his faults, he is a proven effective manager.

          • Deiseach says:

            My understanding is that he would like to see two things happen: the civil service reborn as a ruthless meritocracy, savvy with advanced quantitative decision making; and the UK as a whole to become the centre of the world in the most important scientific problems of our time (AI, personalised medicine, neuroscience…)

            Which is why I’d like to know what happened when he resigned/was given the boot to go advise on free schools. I can’t find anything one way or the other how that worked out; only Wikipedia gives me any information, and none as to how successful those were (though, given the information on his previous efforts – airline in Russia closed down, think-tank closed down after only two years, won local political campaign and then went home to daddy’s farm – I imagine this movement, too, wasn’t as brilliantly disruptive and successful as touted):

            In 2014, Cummings left his job as a Spad and noted that he might have a go at opening a free school.He had previously worked for the New Schools Network charity that advises free schools, as a volunteer from June 2009 and then as a paid freelancer from July to December 2010.

            What did he do between 2014 and 2015 when he got involved with Vote Leave? No idea, and both he and Gove seem to have moved on from reforming the education system along technocratic lines and magnet/free schools (and while magnet schools and academies keep being set up – some people apparently see them as a ‘magic money tree’ profit source – they equally tend to close down in failure and waste of funds just as much, with a few noticeable successes but many more ignominous closures. I think the most that can be said is that results have been mixed).

            On the face of it, he likes to come in, turn things upside down, and break them, but I don’t see so much about what he puts in place to replace them working, if he puts anything in at all, and given he’s pushing Brexit which is going to have a large effect on my country as well as his own, I’d rather like to see evidence he ever did anything that was an improvement over what was there before.

          • gdepasamonte says:

            I don’t know what he did then either. To be fair, he started the Russian airline straight out of university, which is extremely impressive in itself – ought we not allow people a glorious failure or two in their early twenties?

            As for creating rather than destroying, I suppose the education department is going to be his best claim for that. Whether you think what they did was overall an improvement or not is probably a culture war issue. The least controversial part is I suppose the exam and curriculum reform – removing modules and retakes, more maths in the science subjects, language learning in primary schools etc etc. This is all pretty popular stuff even if it just reverses decline rather than being bold new ideas. Still, no-one had dared do it for 20 or so years.

            (Also fixing some screwy incentives like the “A-C” metric, which in practice meant that a huge amount of teaching energy was spent on the D-C boundary.)

            The other strand of reform, around school autonomy, I am not really certain how or when to judge. It certainly sounds good and is the sort of thing I support in the abstract, but I would like to read a fair and comprehensive assessment of its effects so far, and I haven’t found one.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            My impression is that the education reforms haven’t had much of an effect in either direction.

        • Lambert says:

          I’m a remainer, but I think it’s unfair to judge the actions of the government as if it was an individual. Disagreements along and across the Commons are just as important as those with Brussels.

          What’s actually going on is that both the ‘none of the downsides of the EU’ and ‘all the benefits of the EU’ factions would happily crucify May, leaving her with no option but to try and make some kind of impossible compromise.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          From my perspective, Brexit seems like a comedy show, so I am perplexed why being a strategist of Brexit is considered cool in rationalist circles.

          He managed to deliver a referendum victory when basically the entire establishment was against him and everybody expected the Remain side to win.

          Also, what @Lambert said. “Britain” doesn’t want mutually-exclusive things, rather there are different political factions within the UK that want mutually-exclusive things, and none of them is currently strong enough to over-ride the others. Countries aren’t individual agents, and it doesn’t work to model them as such in situations like Brexit (or at least, it doesn’t work if your goal is to actually understand what’s going on; if your goal is simply to sneer at the outgroup, it works fine, as you’ve evidently already discovered).

        • blipnickels says:

          Kinda fair, but not really Cumming’s fault.

          His version is that, following the referendum, the different Brexit factions succumbed to infighting and May was able to take the top spot.

          May really wanted a deal. At the time, this could have worked, but it’s pretty obvious the EU won’t offer the British a deal, ie the EU isn’t willing to offer Britain anything at a price they’d accept.

          In Cummings mind, and I think it’s fair, if Boris/Farange/Gove etc had been in charge, there would have been a hard Brexit years ago:

          Britain: “EU sucks! We want to leave this tyrannic oppressive regime!”

          EU: “Feel free to go. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

          Britain: “Bye!”

          The EU looks good now because May dragged this out for 3 years trying to get a deal that the EU was never interested in. I can’t imagine Boris doing the same if he’s sidelining parliament to get Hard Brexit now.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Britain: “EU sucks! We want to leave this tyrannic oppressive regime!”
            EU: “Feel free to go. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
            Britain: “Bye!”

            Which might actually ended up with Britain having a decent deal after all. Being willing to walk away from the table without a deal is important in negotiations, as otherwise the other side can just attach any conditions they want and you have to accept it. Which is why I found it so infuriating that Remain MPs kept trying to pass bills saying that Britain would never leave the EU without a deal. Either such people had no idea of even basic negotiation skills, or they were deliberately trying to sabotage the negotiations, and I’m not sure which is worse.

          • DeWitt says:

            In Cummings mind, and I think it’s fair, if Boris/Farange/Gove etc had been in charge, there would have been a hard Brexit years ago

            Which is all very well and good, but over in the real world they weren’t in charge, they’re very tenuously in charge even today, and one of these men is in the process of some shady political ploys to keep anyone from interfering with his project.

            In the counterfactual world where no-deal Brexit were more popular, it may have happened. As it stands, the decision to leave was won on a hair’s breadth majority vote, a substantial part of which consists of people preferring to leave with a deal. If your position is that things only go wrong because people have the temerity to disagree with you, it speaks very ill of your capability as a politician in general.

          • blipnickels says:

            @Dewitt

            In the counterfactual world where no-deal Brexit were more popular

            I don’t think this is true. Brexit might be unpopular, it might not, but if Boris or Gove had been prime minister instead of May, I’m not sure what the opposition could have done to stop them. Even if it turned out to be unpopular, it certainly can’t be worse than the current situation.

            Boris/Gove/Farange didn’t fail because of external opposition, they failed because they butchered each other reaching for the throne in 2016. That’s a different problem, and not exactly under Cummings’s control.

          • DeWitt says:

            if Boris or Gove had been prime minister instead of May, I’m not sure what the opposition could have done to stop them

            The exact same thing they might do now, have a vote of no confidence and call for an election. Even barring such a thing, Britain is headed for a hard Brexit now because they agreed to leave no matter what by a certain date. This was not yet the case in 2016, so how you go from Johnson or Gove being prime minister to them somehow forcing the issue then is very much beyond me.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The exact same thing they might do now, have a vote of no confidence and call for an election.

            The government had an actual majority back in 2016, before Theresa May threw it away. So any vote of no confidence would have required support from at least some Tory MPs, and I can’t think of any precedent for a non-negligible number of MPs voting no confidence against their own party.

            Even barring such a thing, Britain is headed for a hard Brexit now because they agreed to leave no matter what by a certain date. This was not yet the case in 2016, so how you go from Johnson or Gove being prime minister to them somehow forcing the issue then is very much beyond me.

            By doing what actually happened: activate Article 50, then either negotiate a deal or, if no acceptable offer is forthcoming, leave the EU without a deal.

          • DeWitt says:

            By doing what actually happened: activate Article 50

            The non-May prime minister wouldn’t get to activate it by themselves. May didn’t, either. Parliament passed a law which gave her the power to do so, and passing a law that will give your hard brexiteer prime minister the power to do what they want is a dubious proposition when even your own party isn’t all about hard Brexit.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The non-May prime minister wouldn’t get to activate it by themselves. May didn’t, either. Parliament passed a law which gave her the power to do so, and passing a law that will give your hard brexiteer prime minister the power to do what they want is a dubious proposition when even your own party isn’t all about hard Brexit.

            First of all, this was before the courts got involved and ruled that the government had to get Parliamentary approval to activate Article 50. Since this ruling arguably went against constitutional precedent (negotiations with foreign powers don’t usually require Parliament’s approval to get going), it’s not surprising that Cummings or anyone else should have failed to take it into account.

            Secondly, yes, Parliament could theoretically have refused to let the government activate Article 50. But doing so would create a massive political sh*t-storm and possibly a full-blown constitutional crisis, and everybody knew this. Most MPs were and are Remainers anyway, and consequently didn’t want any kind of Brexit, but they voted for Article 50 anyway.

            Thirdly, Theresa May was talking at the time about how “Brexit means Brexit”, “No deal is better than a bad deal”, etc. Whilst in hindsight we know that her deal ended up being as soft as a proverbially soft thing, at the time there was good reason to think that a hard Brexit was a reasonable possibility under Theresa May, and Parliament voted to activate Article 50 anyway.

          • DeWitt says:

            Sure. That’s not even wrong. In a world where not only did May not become PM, but also you don’t have any courts or a vast majority of people and representatives against hard Brexit to deal with, you can force through your hard Brexit.

            I hear it’s the same kind of world where the sky is green and the tooth fairy exists.

          • Deiseach says:

            Kinda fair, but not really Cumming’s fault.

            He wants the credit for the success of the campaign, he can take the blame for the downsides. He doesn’t get to pick and choose which bits burnish his CV and which bits were bad. You are making plans and running a campaign to change national affairs, it’s your job to consider what could go wrong and plan to handle it, you don’t get to say “but it wasn’t my fault, how could I possibly know, even though I’m such a galaxy-brain!”

            In Cummings mind, and I think it’s fair, if Boris/Farange/Gove etc had been in charge, there would have been a hard Brexit years ago.

            They were in charge, but his former boss, Gove, decided to backstab his ally Johnson in the back on the very faint hope of grabbing the top job himself, and failed miserably. They did it to themselves, and revealed that they were a treacherous band of buffoons whom nobody should trust or believe. Nobody (except perhaps his ambitious Lady Macbeth-style wife) forced Gove to break his pledge and do something stupid that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, he did it all himself and blew up the chances of the pro-Brexit side for the past three years.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sure. That’s not even wrong. In a world where not only did May not become PM, but also you don’t have any courts or a vast majority of people and representatives against hard Brexit to deal with, you can force through your hard Brexit.

            Huh? As I said, Theresa May’s softness only became clear subsequently. When Parliament actually voted to activate Article 50, it seemed like she was quite ready to oversee a hard Brexit if she didn’t get an acceptable deal. So I’m not sure why you think it would be “not even wrong” to suppose that Parliament would vote to activate Article 50 if Johnson or Gove were in charge.

            Also, I don’t see where you’re getting the idea from that “the vast majority of people” are against a hard Brexit, given that a majority voted to leave the EU in the first place, and soft Brexit is mostly associated with Remainers who are trying to make sure that as little as possible changes in the aftermath.

          • DeWitt says:

            Theresa May’s softness only became clear subsequently

            Doubtful. May was never in the Farage/Gove/Johnson camp; her hard credentials were minimal at best. She went along with the triggering of Article 50 just fine, only to find out that she’d been given an impossible task; witness the way every single one of her plans fell flat when brought up for consideration because parliament couldn’t approve just one.

            And no, invoking Article 50 right before unilaterally leaving wasn’t an option, because parliamentarians are observant folk and know to vote very firmly against your man if they have eve the faintest suspicion that he’ll try barreling through a hard Brexit.

            The math behind hard vs soft Brexit doesn’t seem hard to do: the margin by which leave won was extremely small, and many leave voters are in favor of a soft Brexit just fine. If even 10% of leave voters are in favor of soft Brexit, which seems like an extreme lowball guess, you tack them onto the people who vote remain and have a larger camp in favor of soft than of hard Brexit.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Doubtful. May was never in the Farage/Gove/Johnson camp; her hard credentials were minimal at best. She went along with the triggering of Article 50 just fine, only to find out that she’d been given an impossible task; witness the way every single one of her plans fell flat when brought up for consideration because parliament couldn’t approve just one.

            Yeah, but she was playing up her credentials as much as possible at the time. Maybe MPs were secretly thinking “Well, she says ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but I think that’s just a ruse to keep the plebs from getting uppity,” but it would have been quite a risk to take.

            And no, invoking Article 50 right before unilaterally leaving wasn’t an option, because parliamentarians are observant folk and know to vote very firmly against your man if they have eve the faintest suspicion that he’ll try barreling through a hard Brexit.

            I don’t think anybody was talking about leaving *right after* Article 50 was invoked; as far as I can recall, nobody was seriously talking about leaving before the two-year deadline was up.

            And whilst Parliamentarians are observant people, they’re also people who want to win elections, and they’re smart enough to know that “Sure, you voted for me on a manifesto which included holding an EU referendum, but I decided to prevent the government from actually implementing the result of that referendum” is likely to be a tough sell to the electorate.

            The math behind hard vs soft Brexit doesn’t seem hard to do: the margin by which leave won was extremely small, and many leave voters are in favor of a soft Brexit just fine. If even 10% of leave voters are in favor of soft Brexit, which seems like an extreme lowball guess, you tack them onto the people who vote remain and have a larger camp in favor of soft than of hard Brexit.

            If even 10% of Leave voters are in favour of a soft Brexit, that would put the percentage of the country opposed to a hard Brexit at 55%, which doesn’t really qualify as “a vast majority”.

            Also, “in favour of a soft Brexit” is a bit vague. If somebody’s preferences are Soft Brexit > Hard Brexit > No Brexit, then they’d be “in favour of a soft Brexit”, but they’d be unlikely to appreciate Parliament refusing to ratify Article 50 for whatever reason.

          • blipnickels says:

            @Deiseach

            They were in charge, but his former boss, Gove, decided to backstab his ally Johnson in the back on the very faint hope of grabbing the top job himself, and failed miserably.

            Concur, and everyone, including Cummings, deplores this. It was super-bad for everyone in Europe.

            He wants the credit for the success of the campaign, he can take the blame for the downsides.

            We don’t typically blame people for things beyond their control/responsibility. A general is responsible for how well he conducts a war, not the decision to go to war. Cummings was responsible for the campaign, but I don’t see how he was reasonably supposed to control Boris/Gove/et al.

            Or, maybe this will clarify. Let’s presume widespread agreement that the last three years of Brexit have been bad/dumb/suboptimal.
            If you think Brexit is intrinsically dumb, then yes, Cummings is dumb.
            If you don’t think Brexit is intrinsically dumb, just horrifically mismanaged, it’s hard to fault Cummings for being unable to control his political superiors.

            I’m not trying to litigate Brexit, I’m just trying to explain why some people like Cummings. His strengths have been listed above and while his great achievement, Brexit, has been marred by it’s execution, that failure is Gove et al’s.

            @all
            I’m not sure “you may not lead/embark on a political campaign unless you have control over every member of your coalition, including your political superiors.” is a fair standard.

          • Aftagley says:

            Also, “in favour of a soft Brexit” is a bit vague. If somebody’s preferences are Soft Brexit > Hard Brexit > No Brexit, then they’d be “in favour of a soft Brexit”, but they’d be unlikely to appreciate Parliament refusing to ratify Article 50 for whatever reason.

            Is this how the preferences run? From what I’ve read most of the Soft Brexiters seem to go Soft Brexit > No Brexit >>>>>>> Hard Brexit.

            If this is the case, then delaying the departure, even indefinitely is still in line with the will of the electorate as long as the only other option is a hard brexit.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is this how the preferences run? From what I’ve read most of the Soft Brexiters seem to go Soft Brexit > No Brexit >>>>>>> Hard Brexit.

            I guess there are all sorts of preference orders out there. (Inc. the Soft Brexiteers who voted Remain, and support a Soft Brexit as the next best thing to No Brexit.) But using our subjective impressions of what we’ve read as a basis for ignoring the actual vote that was held on the matter seems… odd.

        • Lillian says:

          I want the Brits to solve the Northern Ireland issue by publicly throwing the Good Friday Agreement into the trash can, emptying a can of petrol into it, and throwing a match in. Then they can start putting up checkpoints on every border crossing while blasting The British Grenadiers from giant truck mounted speakers, as the Prime Minister delivers n televised speech addressed directly at the IRA to the effect of, “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”

          • John Schilling says:

            You understand that if they do that, a fair number of Irishmen (and women) will take them up on it on general principles and out of contempt for the contemptuous attitude you would have London offer, and B: they’ll have safe haven in the Republic of Ireland which C: the UK won’t be able to touch because it will be under EU protection. That’s a really ugly place to be if you’re facing an insurgency, particularly one composed of people who look and sound like you.

            Yes, with a closed border the British police will be able to arrest some of the IRA terrorists before they can kill Englishmen, and some more before they can flee to safety in Ireland. But only some. And “some” wasn’t good enough in 1969-1998, even though the English had far more domestic support, global support, and even Irish support than they would in the scenario where they are seen as having unilaterally scuppered the deal that has kept the peace for twenty years.

            What’s your dog in this fight, that you’re so eager to submit England and Ireland both to a bloody war?

          • Cliff says:

            I don’t understand why the UK needs a border with Ireland at all. If the EU want a border, let them enforce it. Yeah, there would be some smuggling. So what?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you enjoy chaos that’s a great idea, but otherwise it seems pretty foolish. Failing to secure the border and letting the EU pressure Ireland into doing so seems like a much better idea. If Polish workers start sneaking into the UK via Ireland, bust them for working without appropriate papers when you find them. Busting people for not having papers seems to me to be the second or maybe third most English thing in the world to do anyway, after queuing and maybe drinking tea.

          • Lillian says:

            What’s your dog in this fight, that you’re so eager to submit England and Ireland both to a bloody war?

            Mostly i was thinking that it would be pretty metal for that to happen. Then i failed my self-control roll against making inane posts about every damned thought that crosses my mind. It would be really metal, though.

          • uau says:

            @Cliff

            You have it backwards. It’s the UK that wants to close its borders, including the one in Ireland, in the name of national sovereignty (Europeans no longer allowed to come in as they please). While the EU wants to ensure there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (and erecting such a border carries a risk of restarting the violence and terrorism there).

            The problem is that if there’s free passage from Ireland to Northern Ireland, and from Northern Ireland to the rest of UK, then there’s a free route from EU to London, which UK wants to avoid.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Lillian

            That attitude would make more sense if you were a 32 county republican.

            I’ve known Basques who perceive other Basques as too politically passive, and want the Spaniards to start a scorched earth strategy, because then being Spanish will start to be inconvenient.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @ana53294
            Just like some communists think, things have to get worse so we can have a nice bloody revolution.
            I think those people have to been held as far from positions of power as physically possible.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @uau

            The EU wants the NI/I border open only in as much as it wants the UK to stay in the EU. If the UK does indeed leave the EU without a deal, they want a hard border there, to prevent violation of EU migration and trade policies.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            If the UK does indeed leave the EU without a deal, they want a hard border there, to prevent violation of EU migration and trade policies.

            Not really. Keep in mind that Ireland is not in the Schengen Area. There is freedom of movement between Ireland and the Schengen Area, but there are passport checks at the ports of entry. This means that the Schengen Area would be able to catch any Brit trying to sneak in though Ireland.

            Interestingly, this doesn’t work in the opposite direction: a Polish citizen could legally enter Ireland by showing his passport at the port of entry and then sneak into the UK though the porous border with Northern Ireland. The UK would then have to catch and deport him after the fact. Good luck with that.

          • Aftagley says:

            . If the UK does indeed leave the EU without a deal, they want a hard border there, to prevent violation of EU migration and trade policies.

            You are 100% incorrect. The EU and Ireland’s position is that there can be no hard border. That’s been the genesis of Brussels’s repeated calls for an Irish backstop.

          • Deiseach says:

            So Lillian wants the British to demonstrate to the world that, if they sign a binding treaty with you, they have no intention of keeping it and you should count the silverware any time they step into your house.

            Well, now I know that if ever anyone is making an agreement with Lillian, she will fully intend to break it and never mean a word she says. Thanks for that sidelight on your character!

          • Lillian says:

            @Daiseach

            I’m afraid your logic does not follow. What you actually know is that if you ever make an agreement with a third party, Lillian may encourage you to give in to your darker nature and break it in the most bombastic and self-destructive way possible, because “It will be awesome man, just do it be a legend!” This does not necessarily mean she is untrustworthy about her own agreements. Perhaps she is like a noble demon, who will honestly keep her bargains without trickery or deceit, but will nonetheless regularly try to tempt you to sin.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            It’s perfectly normal for agreements to be provisional, where one or both negotiating parties has to get majority support from their constituency and/or superiors.

            For treaties, this seems necessary to have governmental separation of powers, because otherwise the executive will not just execute law, but also make it. If a UK treaty would become binding without an ex post evaluation by Parliament, the treaty would become binding without ever being judged by Parliament and thus would not be decided upon by the direct representatives of the British people.

            Note that the moment when Hitler got the Enabling Act of 1933 passed, which gave him the power to make law without involvement of parliament, is typically seen as the moment where Hitler’s dictatorship was established.

            Provisional agreements are not limited to treaties or government in general. In my country it is also normal for collective labor agreements to be voted on by union members, with the agreement being rejected if the members vote against.

            Merger and acquisition agreements are also typically conditional on agreement by a majority of the shareholders, as well as agreement by antitrust authorities.

            Of course, if representatives too often make agreements that get rejected, they typically lose their status as representatives in the eyes of both their constituency, as well as those who might seek an agreement with that constituency.

            Your outrage seems a bit weird/dangerous, as well as unwarranted, since the Good Friday Agreement was similarly provisional and its finalization depended on a positive outcome of two referendums, in Ireland and Northern Ireland. You frequently seem to rage at how Brits organize things, but seemingly ignore how your own country organizes things similarly.

          • Deiseach says:

            Mostly i was thinking that it would be pretty metal for that to happen.

            Listen to Gordon Wilson describing his daughter’s death in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing, then tell me how fucking metal a civil war is, you stupid woman.

          • Lillian says:

            Your outrage seems a bit weird/dangerous, as well as unwarranted, since the Good Friday Agreement was similarly provisional and its finalization depended on a positive outcome of two referendums, in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

            Some bint who is safely on the other side of the Atlantic just wished war on her back yard, pretty sure it’s normal to be outraged at that.

          • uau says:

            @Aapje

            I wonder if there’s a misunderstanding between your and Deiseach’s posts. Your “provisionality” seems like you’re talking about May’s Brexit deal not being accepted by the parliament. But Lillian was talking about “throwing the Good Friday Agreement into the trash can” and intentionally setting up a very hard border. Breaking that agreement is what Deiseach was responding to. The Good Friday agreement is not “provisional” like the Brexit deal.

          • Aapje says:

            Closing the border doesn’t violate the Good Friday Agreement.

            It pretty interesting that we see people on both sides perpetuating this falsehood. In itself that is a win for the anti-Brexit people, in particular the (Northern) Irish variant.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            It doesn’t matter whether a hard border would violate the agreement, only whether it would cause the IRA to start up again.

          • uau says:

            @Aapje

            The relevant post literally advocated “throwing the Good Friday Agreement into the trash can”. At that point it seems really disingenuous to claim that technically some specific act might not violate anything explicitly spelled out in the agreement.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If it’s necessary to have regulatory alignment between the two countries, maybe we could have a Southern Irish backstop, there the Republic agrees to adopt British regulatory standards.

            Really, though, there’s no reason to think that Brexit necessitates having a hard border: the UK and Ireland didn’t have a hard border before the two countries joined the EU, and (e.g.) Switzerland maintains soft borders with its EU neighbours without itself being part of the EU. The Northern Irish question only became an “insoluble problem” once the EU realised it could use it to screw up Brexit.

            The relevant post literally advocated “throwing the Good Friday Agreement into the trash can”. At that point it seems really disingenuous to claim that technically some specific act might not violate anything explicitly spelled out in the agreement.

            The relevant post was obviously trolling, and the author of the post said as much, so I see no reason to treat it with any degree of seriousness whatsoever.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It doesn’t matter whether a hard border would violate the agreement, only whether it would cause the IRA to start up again.

            It does if you’re trying to argue that Perfidious Albion only looks out for itself, has no sense of honour, and generally throws its treaty obligations away like used toilet paper once they’ve served their purpose. It also matters if you’re one of those people who believes both that (a) countries shouldn’t break treaty obligations, and (b) countries shouldn’t let terrorist organisations direct their constitution and foreign policy.

          • uau says:

            The relevant post was obviously trolling, and the author of the post said as much, so I see no reason to treat it with any degree of seriousness whatsoever.

            Still relevant to the following discussion. The posts went like this:

            1. Lillian says she wants the British to intentionally break the Good Friday agreement and intentionally provoke everyone as hard as they can.

            2. Deiseach says breaking agreements like that is not a good idea.

            3. Aapje apparently misunderstands which agreement is being talked about, and talks about how the Brexit agreement is provisional.

            4. I point out that the agreement in question is the Good Friday agreement, which is not provisional.

            5. Aapje posts about how the Good Friday agreement does not directly and explicitly say how open the border must be.

            6. The post you were responding to, where I say that’s not very relevant when the breaking of the agreement was the literal explicit intent, with the post describing how the border would be closed in a deliberately provocative manner.

          • Aapje says:

            @uau

            Until very, very recently, I thought that the Good Friday Agreement required an open border. A lot of powerful people are saying this, with the media doing their typical form of bias, providing quotes of people saying falsehoods and mostly not noting that this is false, where they far, far more diligently point out falsehoods by their ideological opponents.

            For example, this is also the BBC, quoting the Irish Prime Minister as saying: “Regardless of Brexit, the British government will always have responsibilities as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure that, even in a no deal, there will not be a return to a border.”

            Nowhere in that story is it noted that this is a false claim.

            Anyway, I did misread Deiseach as responding to someone/thing else, but the fact remains that none of Lilian’s statements about what the British should do, actually violates the Good Friday Agreement.

            Note that one way to get your way is to convince enough people that a right that does exist, doesn’t. The US has plenty of experience with that, like black people having the right to vote, but not really.

            When a whole lot of people believe a falsehood, it can become de facto true, even if it is de jure false.

            However, even then I object to people treating it as de jure.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @The original Mr. X

            The Northern Irish question only became an “insoluble problem” once the EU realised it could use it to screw up Breadstick.

            If you have a solution you should really tell the government so they can implement it and stop mumbling about Making Deals and Technological Approaches.

            It does if you’re trying to argue that Perfidious Albion only looks out for itself, has no sense of honour, and generally throws its treaty obligations away like used toilet paper once they’ve served their purpose. It also matters if you’re one of those people who believes both that (a) countries shouldn’t break treaty obligations, and (b) countries shouldn’t let terrorist organisations direct their constitution and foreign policy.

            Sure, it matters in that people should not make false claims about what the letter of the agreement implies. But it’s still not the relevant thing in terms of making policy, unless you think the original agreement fell under the category of letting terrorists dictate what you do.

        • Aftagley says:

          Kind of a side question, but can anyone explain Boris Johnson’s strategy here?

          Before he choose to dissolve parliament, my impression of Johnson, one that I’d gotten from piratically every biography of him I’ve read, is that he is just ruthlessly ambitious and his support for Brexit was his way of getting to be PM.

          Proroguing Parliament like this and the other options in this report seem like they will be enormously unpopular, even among a substantial percentage of the leave camp. Basically he’s alienating Conservatives and Institutionalists to double down on the No-Deal camp. This will almost certainly trigger a vote of no confidence that he’ll probably lose.

          So, what’s his current reasoning? Does he think he’d lose the no-confidence vote anyway, and this is just his way of delaying it? Does he actually care that much about Brexit that he’s willing to sacrifice his career over it?

          • DeWitt says:

            This will almost certainly trigger a vote of no confidence that he’ll probably lose.

            Not unlikely, but the Tories somehow, I don’t know how, I don’t know why, are polling high enough that the ensuing election wouldn’t hurt his chances very much.

          • John Schilling says:

            It seems to me that if no-deal happens, or even if it becomes inevitable, nobody is going to want to take Boris’s place in the hot seat in the near term. Everyone else is going to want to wait for the chance to be the PM who fixed England after Boris Johnson broke it. If Boris thinks he can lead England to a quick recovery (or even that no-deal will prove to be a good thing in the short term), then his winning strategy is probably to make sure no one can no-confidence him while the UK is still in the EU.

          • broblawsky says:

            Brexit is his legacy. I think he believes it’s better to be remembered for blowing up the UK than for putting on a three-and-a-half-year clown show and staying in the EU anyway.

          • Deiseach says:

            This will almost certainly trigger a vote of no confidence that he’ll probably lose.

            That only brings about a General Election which most people have been thinking Johnson wants anyway. Given the Fixed Term Act, this may be one possible way of getting around it. Johnson seems to be gambling that there is enough support for the Tories to win, and win with enough of a margin that they can shake free of the DUP and have a majority. He’s betting that nobody wants Corbyn as Prime Minister, and that there is enough intra-party animus within Labour and opposition from other parties/voters to having him as PM that Labour can’t win with Corbyn as leader, and if they run a leadership election now they will be unable to run an effective election campaign, thus permitting the Tories a path to power. He’s doing a lot of the “we’re hardline on Brexit” work for domestic reasons and to gain support at home, not on how it looks to the EU – the British government to date have seemed to try “we say A to the EU, then go home and say B to the public, then when the EU see this on television, we tell them C – that we really mean A, honest, but we have to say B to keep the rabble quiet”. Then they’re surprised when the EU doesn’t trust them when they go on to say D, E and F.

            A new election and new Parliament might also mean the need for a further extension from the EU over Brexit, and that having a majority government backing him, Johnson can use those two things to make a sweeter deal with the EU (the game of chicken everyone is talking about). I don’t personally think he’ll win that gamble, but he seems to think he would.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Proroguing Parliament like this and the other options in this report seem like they will be enormously unpopular

            I think you are mistaken on this. In a popularity contest, Johnson beats Parliament any day of the week. That’s not to say that many people don’t loathe him, or even that he might not have significant net negative approval, but there are also many people who actively like him. The same cannot be said for the legislature. He’s not trying to get 50% of the vote in a two candidate presidential election. He’s trying to get 35-40% of the vote in an election against a six-way shambles. That may very well be possible.

          • spkaca says:

            “Does he actually care that much about Brexit that he’s willing to sacrifice his career over it?”
            He calculates rather that at this point he needs to deliver Brexit in order to have any chance of a career (or indeed to have any chance of saving the Conservative party). The May Euro-elections made that very clear.
            “From what I’ve read most of the Soft Brexiters seem to go Soft Brexit > No Brexit >>>>>>> Hard Brexit.”
            FWIW I’m a data point to the contrary. I voted Leave in the hope of the softest possible Brexit (my hope was for the EFTA/EEA option). But I prefer any form of Brexit to Remain. The point that keeps getting forgotten is that Remain lost the referendum, but so long as we stay in the EU Remain wins by default. That is not democratically acceptable when we were promised that the result would be implemented.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            He wants to force hard brexit. Which he has. There are no periods of time long enough either before, or after, the suspension to actually pass any bills.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Catholics, how would we know if Pope Francis or a more progressive successor was a heretic?
    I get the sense that the terms are defined such that it’s impossible for a pope to be a heretic: he’d be an antipope*, and a papal claimant can’t be an antipope unless there’s a rival claimant significant enough to make it into the history books.
    I suppose I should draw a distinction between the Pope confusing the faithful with non-Christian behavior, like Alexander VI, and declaring a heresy ex cathedra?

    *Though an antipope isn’t by definition a heretic: it can just be a schism.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I ran the math on pope and antipopes a while back, mostly with an eye towards encountering any false popes at all.

      Pope Francis is the 266th pope. There have been 37 false popes.

      Therefore, 37/(266+37) = 12.2% of papal claimants are antipopes.

      The average Pope serves for 7.3 years (John Paul II, it turns out, had the second longest reign in history).

      Now, the average US life expectancy is 79.8.

      Therefore, on average, an American will see ceiling(79.8/7.3) = ceiling(10.93) = 11 popes in their lifetime.

      So, given an antipope rate of 12.2% and 11 popes in a lifetime, what are the odds that you will see an antipope in your life?

      The power of Apostolic Succession and the great Tradition of the Catholic Church assures you of a lifetime of legitimate spiritual leadership 1 time out of every 4.

      In other words 76.1% percent of us will live under an antipope (and very likely more).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Wow, impressive.

      • Deiseach says:

        11 seems a lot; I’m on my fifth one now with Francis and I started with Paul VI.

        There’s been a lot of controversy about Francis; some of it is down to bad translation/the media going for the splashy headlines and not going into the fine details/he does have a tendency to talk first and think later, which means that while he may be within the bounds of the theology, it can sound as if he’s stepping over the line.

        Some of his decisions have been – well, not to my taste (Benedict was so my pope). But until and unless he starts denying the divinity of Christ, the existence of God, and the necessity of salvation, I think sticking to grumbling but obedient is the way to go. (Sedevacantism is the easy way out and who wants to take the easy way?)

        Anti-popes are tricky to judge, there have been previous ones now considered legit and ones formerly legit now considered dodgy. Leave it up to the Holy Spirit.

      • edmundgennings says:

        Improved bureaucracy may have sucked the fun out of a lot of things(when was the last time competing groups of canons, not cannons settled their disputes with crosbow?) but has really slowed down the rate of anti-popes. When was the last anti-pope to have any serious following?(at a minimum two real dioceses following him)
        Last one wikipedia lists is Felix V in 1449 when the Catholic Church was far less centralized.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Wouldn’t a Poisson model be the best way to look at this (especially on a Friday!)?

      • b_jonas says:

        > Pope Francis is the 266th pope.

        Wow. So popes are usually in office only for a few years, I just never thought of this because there were only three popes during my life so far.

    • Nick says:

      Well, let’s first distinguish between private and public heresy. It’s possible for the pope to be a private heretic, and may have even happened. Public heresy is a tougher case.

      Whether it’s possible is a point of dispute. On one theory, it’s supposed to be completely impossible to have a pope who is a public heretic, so if we did, Catholicism is simply proven false. On another (and afaict sounder) theory, if the pope is a public heretic, then ipso facto he can’t be the pope. Of course, there’s no higher earthly authority which can judge that the pope must be removed from office, but a council could at least make a declaratory sentence recognizing that the purported pope is a heretic and can’t therefore be holding the office. See Ed Peters for a discussion of the latter.

      • Randy M says:

        Of course, there’s no higher earthly authority which can judge that the pope must be removed from office

        In the board game Stratego, the lowest ranking piece, the spy can take out the highest ranking piece, the Marshall, I think.
        I propose amending the Catholic constitution so that the Vatican janitor can at any time declare the Pope a heretic and call for a do over.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Amendment amendment: Vatican carpenter

        • Nick says:

          Sounds fine to me, with one caveat: the lowest ranking person in the Vatican is clearly the pope emeritus.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I believe the traditional solution was for the Holy Roman Emperor to take his army to Italy and “persuade” the incumbent to step down in favour of a more worthy successor.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sorry Merlin; there is no Emperor.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Bring him back, duh. Edward von Hapsburg even has his own Twitter account, so it should be easy to contact him.

          • Protagoras says:

            Surely what you’d actually have to do is gather the electors; I suppose you’d want the bishops of Mainz and Trier and the archbishop of Cologne, plus the most senior surviving heir of each of the other four if you could locate them. Then have them elect an emperor (perhaps Edward von Hapsburg, as Mr. X suggests; it would be traditional to elect the head of the Hapsburgs), and have the emperor raise an army, and you’d have the desired check on papal authority.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Protagoras: There are known surviving heirs of three of the four Electoral families (the fourth, Saxony, is in dispute), but for this purpose there may be the slight issue that two of those three are Protestant…

      • The original Mr. X says:

        A Pope can (arguably) be a public heretic, just as long as he doesn’t bind the Church to believe his heresy.* Pope Honorius accepted as legitimate a heretical doctrinal statement from Constantinople; this was a public act (he was acting in his capacity as Pope, not just as some guy with an opinion), but he didn’t make adherence to the heresy in question (Monothelitism, IIRC) mandatory for anybody.

        * I’ve seen conflicting claims about whether a Pope who tried to bind the Church to heresy would ipso facto cease to be Pope, or whether the Holy Spirit would miraculously intervene to stop him (by making him have a heart attack or whatever).

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          A Pope can (arguably) be a public heretic, just as long as he doesn’t bind the Church to believe his heresy.* Pope Honorius accepted as legitimate a heretical doctrinal statement from Constantinople; this was a public act (he was acting in his capacity as Pope, not just as some guy with an opinion), but he didn’t make adherence to the heresy in question (Monothelitism, IIRC) mandatory for anybody.

          Interesting edge case.
          We have a few distinct classes of “bad popes”: those who legitimize heretical doctrinal statements in their capacity as Pope, those who acted properly for princes vis-a-vis the Papal States and thus made themselves morally scandalous vis-a-vis their duty to set a higher moral example (Alexander VI, Julius II, etc.), and those who just embarrassed the Faith by acting coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, like Pope Stephen VI.

          • Deiseach says:

            I believe the traditional solution was for the Holy Roman Emperor to take his army to Italy and “persuade” the incumbent to step down in favour of a more worthy successor.

            There has been the rather cheering case of the opposite happening; in the 6th century Empress Theodora was a Monophysite and, since the popes of the time wouldn’t back down and do as she asked on this, she got General Belisarius to engineer the removal of Pope Silverius. They then had her hand-picked selection, Vigilius, elected as pope and he was accepted (though not without complaint).

            She thought that this would settle matters on her side of the theological argument as prior to this Vigilius had come to an agreement with her as to what he would do once he got the papacy, but Vigilius showed unexpected backbone and denied her wishes. This was brave, considering the example of his immediate predecessor and Theodora’s well-earned reputation for holding grudges, not backing down, and taking vigorous action. So it’s held as an example of the Holy Spirit protecting the Church from public heresy by a Pope.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: To make things more complicated, Empress Theodora is a recognized Eastern Orthodox saint, and the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t consider EO a heresy.

          • Lambert says:

            Is that Empress ‘the thing with the geese’ Theodora?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t consider EO a heresy.

            I mean, there’s that whole denying-papal-authority thing…

          • Matt M says:

            How is that even possible? Isn’t everything that claims to be Christian, but isn’t in keeping with Catholic doctrine, technically heresy?

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            Yes, but the modern Catholic church distinguishes between material heresy and formal heresy. The latter consists of those who accept Catholicism, but then willfully and persistently adhere to an error in matters of faith. This is a crime and a sin, unlike material heresy.

            So non-Christians and Protestants are also heretics, but of the acceptable kind.

            Note that this seems to have changed over time though. Protestants were considered formal heretics from 1545 to the mid-20th century.

        • Nick says:

          Right; the (im)possibility of binding the Church to heresy is one of the cases Peters immediately dispensed with, but I probably should have mentioned it, too.

      • b_jonas says:

        I was at one point considering the case when there are two contenders for the papal office, and they are planning to excummunicate each other. Suppose that the the first popes pays a shaman to do sorcery to shield him from the other pope’s excommunication spell. The second pope’s spell fails or rebounds due to the shaman’s protective magic. Now the second pope is excommunicated from the catholic church and so can’t be a pope anymore, but the first pope becomes a heretic by making a pact with the shaman. Which one is the true pope? Or does there have to be a new election?

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Honorius I was anathematized by an ecumenical council after his death. IIUC, the council wanted to formally condemn him for teaching heresy, but the then reigning pope Leo II altered the condemnation to just allowing others to teach heresy without taking a hard stance against it.

  19. RalMirrorAd says:

    The recent death of [one of?] the koch brothers got me thinking about incarceration/prison/justice reform that they’re [not so well] known for.

    Suppose I was the dictator of the united states and a bunch of billionaire philanthropists told me that they thought that people were being unjustly incarcerated or rehabilitation was insufficient or sentences were too long.

    Would it be possible for me, the dictator, to use some kind of insurance scheme on a shortened or commuted prison sentence to actually resolve this problem objectively?

    So for example someone has a 10 year sentence commuted and gets some kind of probation. The billionaire philanthropist thinks the individual is innocent or at least won’t re-offend. To secure that person’s release the billionaire sells a catastrophe bond to the government wherein:

    1. If the person re-offends, a pro-rata share of the face value of the bond is used to provide restitution to the victims. I imagine it being pro-rata since re-offending immediately upon release is far more damning then re-offending shortly before one would have been released.
    2. Every year the person doesn’t offend the government pays coupons to the philanthropist, after 10 years the principle is returned. (Since that’s when the person would have been released anyway)

    If the justice reformer is on point about convicts then they can use charity funds to make good bets and secure freedom for individuals. If they’re wrong, they lose some of their principle.

    Obviously i have to make some assumptions about reasonable coupon payments and the restitution or liability system being neither excessive nor inadequate.

    Am I crazy?

    • souleater says:

      2 quibbles, Your proposed strategy would
      a) Incentivise a billionaire to hire lawyers for “his” convict (I’m not sure why this feels wrong to me, but it does)
      b) Could a hypothetical Jeffrey Epstein buy insurance for himself? As long as he doesn’t recommit his crime he is scott free?

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        This system’s not intended for instances of white collar crime or criminal conspiracies. And ‘justice reform’ isn’t really thought of in terms of protecting people who already have the resources to mount their own legal defenses.

        A Jeffrey Epstein’s not really a first offender if it’s a case of ‘the first time you’re arrested it’s for a string of crimes you committed repeatedly over the course of your life’

        Very good points though.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          This system’s not intended for instances of white collar crime or criminal conspiracies.

          Proving criminal conspiracies is hard.

          Let’s say that a gang drug dealer is caught and a philanthropist (actually, a proxy for the gang treasurer) pays for his release. In theory it’s a criminal conspiracy, in practice how are you going to prove it if the money has been laundered properly?

    • Aftagley says:

      One concern with this plan: A significant percentage of crimes don’t have clear victims that it would make sense to provide restitution to. At least from what I’ve seen, a bunch of the crimes that people out on bond, parole or suspended sentences get popped for is along the lines of drug possession, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, etc.

      In case of crimes like this, who would the money go to? The most obvious answer is “the city/county the person is arrested in” which means there would now be a bounty on arresting these former felons – I don’t like the incentive structure that creates. Police would know that if they can find this guy doing something illegal their city will get a payout, so they’ll focus their attention on him.

      You could maybe create a set of rules that would prevent this, but I see this as a major stumbling block.

      • Matt M says:

        One concern with this plan: A significant percentage of crimes don’t have clear victims that it would make sense to provide restitution to.

        youdontsay.gif

        Anything that draws increased attention to this specific fact is a net win, IMO.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Well unless you’re one of those broken windows 4d chess people that argues that drug offenses are designed to mostly pad the sentence times of people who are often behind bars for other reasons.

        • Aftagley says:

          I’m not sure I follow. Is your position that unless something clearly causes harm to a specific individual, it shouldn’t be illegal? That seems like it would fail in a bunch of ways that would make your society not so great to live in.

          I mean, here’s five crimes off the top of my head I think most people want to stay illegal, even if the victim is kind of hard to point out:
          1. Possession with intent to distribute
          2. Driving while intoxicated
          3. Tax fraud
          4. Hunting without a permit on federal land
          5. Counterfeiting

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t really want to go through all of it, but there are strong libertarian arguments that all five of those things should be “legal” (or, more specifically, that in a sufficiently libertarian society, they would not be problems requiring violence to solve)

          • mdet says:

            Can someone explain how counterfeiting would be handled if it weren’t illegal / was not addressed using violence? I assume that people would pick their preferred currency with “difficult to counterfeit” as a criteria, but once you’ve caught a counterfeiter, then what?

          • Matt M says:

            Counterfeiting isn’t really any different from any of form of theft or simple fraud.

            You are not paying what you agreed to pay. So you pay appropriate restitution accordingly.

          • mdet says:

            Ok, so the act of counterfeiting is still prohibited, it just doesn’t need its own law.

            I was trying to imagine how society would function if it was totally legal to turn your basement into a mini US Mint. I don’t know how fiat currency would survive that.

          • Aftagley says:

            This:

            You are not paying what you agreed to pay. So you pay appropriate restitution accordingly.

            Does not imply:

            Ok, so the act of counterfeiting is still prohibited, it just doesn’t need its own law.

            You missed a step there. In the reality Matt M seems to be advocating, counterfeiting is fine; his objection only starts when someone tries to use that fake money instead of real money. The problem is, this means that now it’s entirely legal to produce realistic-looking currency as long as you’re not spending it.

            Which means that now, instead of a society where counterfeiting is relatively rare and you can generally be confident that money is real and act accordingly, you’re now in a society where you know that anyone could be printing fake money and there’s no recourse unless you catch them trying to pawn it off on you.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know how fiat currency would survive that.

            Fiat currency is also a form of theft/fraud. It probably shouldn’t survive.

          • Matt M says:

            you’re now in a society where you know that anyone could be printing fake money and there’s no recourse unless you catch them trying to pawn it off on you.

            As opposed to today’s society, where law enforcement engages in proactive measures resulting in the routine arrest of counterfeiters who have printed up a bunch of money and have it sitting in piles in their basement, but haven’t actually bothered to attempt to spend/deposit any of it yet?

            Go to a 7-11 in a rough part of town and try to spend a $100 bill. The clerk is going to either refuse to take it at all, or at least hold it up and look for the hologram or whatever. They aren’t content to just trust that, after all, if you were going to try and pass them counterfeit currency, surely the FBI would have already stopped you well before you got to them…

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m not sure what you mean. This doesn’t happen (as you’re aware?) precisely because of how effective the Secret Service is at identifying fake cash in the system and tracing it back to it’s roots. When you see counterfeit currency these days it’s either legal fake currency someone is trying to pass off as real, poorly made scan and print jobs that don’t fool anyone with half a brain, or high-quality counterfeit made abroad and smuggled in.

            The reason we don’t have high quality counterfeiters in America pumping out product is because it’s illegal. It doesn’t make sense to invest in the machinery and resources you’d need to make proper counterfeit here when you can instead do it in Peru or someplace and have a much smaller chance of getting your operation rolled up. If that changed, and counterfeiting became legal here, you’d see more fake currency created here.

          • Matt M says:

            Who cares where it is created?

            The point is that fake currency does no harm to no one, and is virtually impossible to detect, until it is spent.

            Therefore, if we changed the statues to stop saying “it’s illegal to produce counterfeit currency” and start saying “it’s illegal to attempt to spend counterfeit currency”, the effect would be… nothing. And you don’t even need a specific law against “spending counterfeit currency” because it’s already illegal to commit theft/fraud, and spending counterfeit currency definitely already is that.

          • Aftagley says:

            It matters where/how it’s created because it’s almost never the person making the counterfeit who spends it, especially the high quality stuff. Instead, they sell it for cents on the “dollar” to associates and/or independent contractors who are willing to take on the risk of trying to put it out into the market.

            In your world, I could set up a factory that produces authentic looking currency. I could then sell that currency legally to any number of schmoes who are willing to buy it and try their luck passing it off as real. I haven’t committed fraud since everyone involved in the transaction is aware that the money is fake. Sure, what the guy does with it would be illegal, but how is that my responsibility?

            I could advertise, give away free “money” as a promotion. A competitor could open up and compete with me, driving down the cost of fake money. All of this would dramatically increase the amount of counterfeit entering the system and wouldn’t be addressable in your system.

            Maybe you could dramatically step up the inspection of money and increase the punishments for people who are caught spending fake money, but now you’ve just increased the police state in a way that would be entirely preventable if you just didn’t let me print fake cash.

          • dick says:

            Therefore, if we changed the statues to stop saying “it’s illegal to produce counterfeit currency” and start saying “it’s illegal to attempt to spend counterfeit currency”, the effect would be…

            …making it harder to convict counterfeiters, because now you have to catch them in the act of spending it instead of just raiding their house. What is the upside to this change you’re arguing for?

          • acymetric says:

            Additionally, basing it on catching them has the problem that if they’re not caught when they first spend the counterfeit money that cash is going to be widely dispersed. Successfully spending $1,000 in counterfeit money doesn’t mean you owe one person $1,000 once you’re found out. That guy probably (unknowingly) successfully spent some of it himself. There are now 50 people who are out $20 because it turns out it was fake. You might not even track all of them down, so the guy who did the counterfeiting gets busted for $200 of fraud when they really spent $1,000.

            Worse yet, the third guy removed from the original injection of the counterfeit currency gets caught and nobody believes he didn’t do it on purpose and now he’s on the hook even though he’s innocent.

        • Lambert says:

          The fact that there are no clear individual victims doesn’t mean nobody is harmed.
          A counterfeiter is essentially stealing from everybody who holds the currency being forged.

          Nor is anybody in particular harmed when somebody sets a bomb that fails to go off, or drives under the influence. The point is to stop the person before anybody actually gets hurt.

      • Deiseach says:

        In the case of “possession of a firearm by a convicted felon”, I think it very likely that while there may not be a victim yet, if Mr Felon continues to associate with his old friends and enemies in the same line of career, there will eventually be a victim to go along with that.

        I’m happy enough that if you’re a gangbanger, the cops pull you over, and they find you’re carrying, that will get you into trouble. I prefer that, oppressive police state as it may be, to letting you go on your way which is, in fact, travelling to whack Jonno The Stoolie on behalf of your gang boss, even if the police can’t definitively prove there and then that that is what you are going to do.

        • John Schilling says:

          Well, you could modify RalMirrorAd’s proposal to deal with weapons charges to say that these can be dismissed/commuted/whatever so long as a billionaire puts up an appropriate bond or insurance policy, and if the guy then goes and illegally shoots someone the insurance pays off to the new victim(‘s family). If he never shoots anyone, then you didn’t need for your gun control laws to apply to him in the first place. Win-win, except for the usual perverse incentives and maybe some new ones.

          Really, if you allow for billionaires to promise in advance to do this, and especially if you allow for mercenary billion-dollar corporations to promise in advance to do this, you have invented the functional equivalent of firearms and concealed-carry permits being issued to anyone with the right combination of money, social respectability, and connections. Which is not entirely a new thing; in fact I believe that’s not too far from how the UK’s gun-control laws worked in practice before Dunblane and NYC’s before Heller. Not recommended.

          And really, that doesn’t just apply to gun control laws. One could essentially buy licenses to commit any crime, by paying a billionaire or large mercenary corporation in advance, determined by the specified value of the bond/insurance policy, the probability of your ultimately deciding to commit the crime, the probability of your getting caught, the probability of your getting caught a second time, and the NPV of the refund the billionaire gets if you don’t get caught a second time. Plus a percentage for the billionaire, of course.

          This will start to look real ugly when billionaires are found selling e.g. get-out-of-jail free cards to their own security forces against the possibility that their roughing up those dirty Occupy Billionaire’s Front Yard protesters goes wrong and leads to some telegenic protester being killed.

          • Deiseach says:

            But that’s just legalising assassination: the billionaire buys an insurance policy which is then paid out to the victim’s family.

            We’ve had such systems before. I don’t know if they would work nowadays, some people might accept them (“Billy was a career criminal, it was only a matter of time, we might as well get some benefit from his death”) but others wouldn’t (I mean, I quarrel badly with my brother at times, but I wouldn’t go “Okay, you’ll pay me a million if he gets murdered, fine by me!”)

    • edmundgennings says:

      There has to also be some sort of multiplier for the damage as many crimes go unsolved. So if 1/8 of all robberies are solved, then the billionaire must pay 8 times the damage if one of his felons robs someone. However, more competent criminals are presumable less likely to get caught and yet one in most cases wants particularly to keep them behind bars.

    • JulieK says:

      We’ve discussed in the past algorithms that decide on parole based on the likelihood that the person will re-offend.
      I’m concerned that there are relevant factors that are correlated with that likelihood, but are not the prisoner’s fault, like having a criminal parent, or having been abused. We will end up locking up these people (semi-)pre-emptively for the offense of having had a rotten childhood.

      It would be more fair to look only at the criminal’s actions (e.g., while in jail, did he complete his diploma?), not his background – but that would be a less valid way for rating the “insurance.”

      • Incurian says:

        Nothing is anyone’s fault; whether those data points have predictive power is the relevant question.

        • albatross11 says:

          This seems like the kind of stuff Ilya Shipster does research on–trying to untangle which of the things a predictive model uses to make decisions are things we don’t want to use (proxies for race, for example). I wonder if he’s also looked at other not-under-your-control stuff.

          One issue here is that by excluding information that makes your predictions more accurate, you’re making a tradeoff–more fairness for less good predictions of which parolees will re-offend. I don’t know what the right tradeoff is, but it’s not obvious that pushing the slider bar toward maximal fairness is always the right thing.

          For example, when considering admissions to demanding schools, a major driver for what makes you eligible to those schools is high native intelligence. As best anyone can tell, this is largely down to genetics and early childhood environment, neither of which you had any control over. It’s unfair that we only let people with really high intelligence into MIT or medical school, given that high intelligence is mostly the result of stuff outside their control. And yet, ignoring intelligence would make things work a lot less well.

          In the same way, you could imagine a lot of stuff that drives tendency to reoffend after being released that’s not really your fault–genes, childhood lead exposure, nasty childhood environment, etc. And yet, we really don’t want to let people back on the streets who are just going to go kill someone else.

      • Deiseach says:

        Perhaps there should be a “every dog gets one bite” rule – the first time someone comes up for parole for a crime sufficiently serious that it qualifies for parole (so your first serious crime), the algorithm says “Bob likely to re-offend” but Bob gets parole anyway, just with a note about the algorithm’s decision on his record (so do-gooders can’t complain Bob is being treated unfairly).

        Now, if Bob re-offends while out on parole, then that is evidence towards the algorithm getting it right, and the second time he’s in jail and up for parole, you run the algorith again, and if it says “This time definitely Bob will get in trouble”, then no parole for Bob. If he’s stupid enough/criminal enough/desperate enough to muck up his first “get out of jail” chance, then he has no room to complain about “the deck was stacked against me, this is unfair”.

        If Bob needs help to stay out of jail, I think Bob should get all that help. He may want to go straight but be in desperate circumstances, and only re-offend out of necessity. It’s worth it to society to help Bob keep out of jail. But if Bob gets that help and the first free chance and does it again, sorry Bob, back to jail with you and no parole this time round.

  20. proyas says:

    How would you create a profitable “near-copy” of the Burning Man festival given the following constraints and considerations?
    1) Your festival must also be in the desert Southwest of the U.S., but it can’t be at the same site as Burning Man.
    2) You can’t be affiliated with the actual Burning Man festival.
    3) It will be obvious to everyone that you’re trying to profit by copying man aspects of Burning Man. This stigma is something you will have to struggle against.
    4) You’ll probably have to take pains to differentiate your festival from Burning Man in some way to avoid getting sued, but not so much that the Burning Man clientele won’t want to come to your festival.

    Edit: It would probably be useful to think about the things people no longer like about Burning Man today. For instance, I’ve heard about tycoons and celebrities taking over and long lines of cars at the entrance.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Make it just like Burning Man except 100% free and happening at a different time of the year. Since the actual Burning Man costs about $400 a head, you should be able to poach most of the attendees for your essentially-identical festival even if they see it as an inferior knock-off.

      The way that you make it profitable is that you make people take a bus from the parking area out to the festival grounds deep in the desert where there isn’t any cellphone reception, then leave them out there with ample food water and drugs. All of the people in their lives who get a break from having to deal with the stranded burners will gladly open their pocketbooks to cover the costs.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why does it have to be in that particular location, may I ask? I’m sure there are plenty of well-off people who like to think they’re counter-cultural in other places who would be happy to spend time and money travelling to a boutique ‘happening’ catering to their sense of being wild and free and creative unlike the mass of drones (but they can do it while glamping and with all mod cons laid on so they don’t have to suffer any inconvenience while they get high and indulge their vanity).

    • John Schilling says:

      You’re basically asking, “how do you predictably make something that is usually a dull and/or very idiosyncratic experience like hanging out in the desert, Really Really Cool?”

      Anybody who knows that, is almost certainly too busy doing Cool Stuff with Cool People to hang out here.

    • tossrock says:

      Existence proof: Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, and to a lesser degree Coachella.

      The mechanics involve advertising musical acts, paying artists to perform / install art, and selling stuff like food or fancy dress.

    • Lambert says:

      1) start a dumb meme about naruto running into Area 51…

  21. Matt M says:

    Are there any other “nerdy sports fans” here?

    The common perception of sports fans is that they’re mostly jocks – masculine alpha types who played sports themselves for as long as they could remain competitive. Blue collar types who like hitting and violence. Meanwhile, the nerdy element of the population dismisses such irrational and meaningless practices with phrases such as “sportsball”, implying the entire endeavor is a waste of time.

    My impression is that this dynamic is changing a lot and is breaking down rapidly. Jocks, increasingly, see watching sports as an inferior action to actually playing them. That time spent watching the NBA is less valuable than time spent actually playing basketball, even in a consequence-free rec league. Meanwhile, nerds are increasingly invading the space and taking up fandom, for various reasons (I’ll discuss my own reasons in a bit).

    Has anyone else noticed this? Or is it all in my head? I’m also interested to hear the non-American perspective on this. Soccer in America has a particularly interesting dynamic in that almost all of its fans are either foreign immigrants or hardcore blue-tribers who seem to like it because it’s a non-American sport. Of course, my perception is that in Europe itself, being a big soccer fan is still considered a blue-collar, low-status thing to be.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      In my experience, the jock / nerd dichotomy doesn’t exist to any meaningful extent in the adult world. Pretty much everyone watches sports even in classically nerdy professions.

      My thesis lab, for example, is obsessed with football to the point of running fantasy leagues for real money and also bet on basketball and soccer tournaments. My friends who work at FAANG companies are obsessed with hockey but also follow pretty much every collegiate sport. I don’t care about sports personally but I’m an outlier in many respects.

      • Matt M says:

        In my experience, the jock / nerd dichotomy doesn’t exist to any meaningful extent in the adult world. Pretty much everyone watches sports even in classically nerdy professions.

        Overall, I think this is basically right.

        I guess my point is that among the non-sports-watchers, it used to be that the majority didn’t watch because “lol sportsball who cares,” but I’m starting to encounter more and more “lol who has time to WATCH sports, I’m out there playing them, like a man!”

        Basically, that the correlation between “watches sports” and “plays (or played in the past) sports” is shrinking dramatically. Non-players are more likely to watch than they used to be, and players are less likely to watch than they used to be.

        • albatross11 says:

          +1

          In my office full of science/math people, there’s a lot of discussion of sports. I generally DGAF about it, and it’s okay not to care, but it seems like there’s a lot of discussion of the latest baseball or football game.

        • Well... says:

          I wish I saw more of that trend, but I don’t.

        • Urstoff says:

          I’ve never encountered the “watching sports is for weaklings” attitude. I live in College Football country and it seems just as popular among every type of person as it ever was. Maybe some data on rec league participants could shine some light on the thesis.

          • acymetric says:

            There is definitely a split of “people who watch sports” vs. “people who don’t” but it doesn’t follow along “nerd/not nerd” lines. Heck, “sports nerd” (or stats geek) has been a stereotype forever.

            I know some very nerdy people who watch sports, and other very nerdy people who do not. I also know very much not nerdy people who don’t watch or care about sports.

            Also, “nerds vs. jocks” excludes a supermajority of the population so I’m not sure how useful it is in this context anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            Heck, “sports nerd” (or stats geek) has been a stereotype forever.

            Yes. Although my point is more that in the past, stats geeks were more likely to actually be former athletes, AND that the percentage of stats geeks relative to sports fans as a whole is rising dramatically, such that they will soon no longer be thought of as weird outliers.

            Also, “nerds vs. jocks” excludes a supermajority of the population so I’m not sure how useful it is in this context anyway.

            For the purposes of this discussion, just map “nerd” to “someone who never played sports at a varsity high school level or higher” and “jock” to “someone who did.” That’s basically what I mean here. And since this is a binary, it includes everyone. Yes, it’s somewhat noisy and lumps a woman who ran cross-country into the “jock” category but I think that’s still closer to what I’m going for here than any other mapping would be.

      • GreatColdDistance says:

        This doesn’t feel correct for my personal experience. At least in my current adult world, there seems to be a meaningful distinction separating my “nerdy” group of friends which tends to feature individuals more interested in politics, technology, fiction, and music, but with minimal interest in sports (with the possible exception of e-sports like Overwatch league).

        There aren’t hard and fast barriers of course, and nobody is rude about it, but I can feel a distinction. I can tell that if somebody cares a lot about football, for example, they are less likely to be the kind of person I really enjoy spending a lot of time with.

      • Clutzy says:

        I’d go even further and say, IMO, it never existed in my generation. I’m in my early 30s, was a 2 sport all conference athlete in HS and dabbled in others before that. Also won the state chemistry competition and was in all honors classes. I wasn’t some massive outlier. My best friend’s older brother was basically the same. AP courses were probably 50% athletes.

        I think the actual difference exists among kids who are neither smart nor athletic. They get sort of ghettoized in high school with few paths towards expanding their social circles.

    • Well... says:

      To me, the division isn’t between playing vs. watching. The people who play sports are the same people who go to the gym or jog or whatever. (Excepting stuff like bowling and golf, where there’s not much clear correlation.)

      Instead, I see a division between people who don’t care about sports or fitness at all (maybe they “get their steps in” by walking their dog or even go jogging, but it’s almost entirely for health rather than enjoyment) and “sports fans” who can talk (or watch others talk) for hours about anything from which sportsball team will win the game tomorrow to whether some particular athlete ought to have tweeted a certain thing. Astonishingly (to me) sports fans will pay more than $20 to attend a sporting event, and will pay extra money for stuff with their favorite team’s logo on them, etc. For them, I get the impression sports is a religion and a standin for tribal warfare, not just something they enjoy watching.

      Personally, I really enjoy watching sports, but I don’t follow any sports. Put a game on and I’m bound to watch it closely, but I won’t know which teams are playing, which team is supposed to be better, who the athletes on the teams are, who won the previous game, who’s likely to win the next game, etc. and I couldn’t care less about any of that. I simply like watching the sport being played, right now, by people who are really good at it. And when the game is over I will completely forget about sports until the next time I’m in a situation where somebody puts a game on. While I enjoy talking about sports theory (e.g. why it’s better to bat left-handed) and sports history sometimes, I can’t understand for the life of me how people can watch hours of sports-talk TV. Five minutes of it is enough to make me want to die or kill someone else.

      As for playing sports, personally, I wish I had time to do that more, and that when I did other people did too — but it basically never works out that way.

    • I do think that nerds are more likely to be in to sports but I’m not convinced that the jocks are giving up watching sports to play it. If anything, my impression is that the percent of the population playing recreational sports is constantly decreasing while more solo activities like working out and hiking increases.

      • silver_swift says:

        If anything, my impression is that the percent of the population playing recreational sports is constantly decreasing while more solo activities like working out and hiking increases.

        My impression on this (based on exactly zero data) is that this is an age thing, rather than a generation thing. That is: children are more likely than adults to be into team sports because team sports are more time-demanding than 1v1 sports or solo activities.

        As you’re getting older, you and the people you hang out with have less and less free time and you see more people transitioning to activities that can be scheduled flexibly.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      My experience is that the sports schism exists more along the line of social vs not social, or something similar? Community vs individuality? Trying to think of the ideal word.

      I’ve always had a long running dialogue in my mind about words like nerd and geek and dork. But a lot of people just use these interchangeably. And that reminds me a lot of the perception of sports.

      We just don’t have distinct enough categories to discuss easily where the break comes from.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M,

      Using my about a dozen of my non-immigrant immediate co-workers as my data pool:

      The one college graduate who wears glasses, likes Star Wars and superhero films is a big sports fan (or at least watches enough to talk a lot about it), the other college graduate stopped wearing glasses, switched from button-down to Ben Davis shirts, and never talks about sports or movies.

      The rest of us are older non-college graduates, most talk sports, not as many but still most talk movies, I’d say I’m the one who talks the least about both sports, and current movies, television, and video games, though I can go at length on pre-90’s nerd and pop culture.

      Small sample size, but from it I’d say liking or not liking spectator sports has little to do with whether one is a ‘nerd’ or not.

      • chrisminor0008 says:

        It’s very confusing to me how anyone can be a fan of the recent slate of Star Wars movies. Some movies are made because the writer and director have a story to tell. Some are made because Disney shareholders demand a dividend every 3 months. The prequel films were not exactly great cinema, but they’re in the first category; George Lucas had story that needed telling. Everything after that is so obviously and clearly the latter category. They’re unwatchable.

        Then again Disney is making multi-billions of dollars with this strategy, and I’m stuck at this desk, so maybe they’re onto something.

        • Plumber says:

          @chrisminor0008 says:

          “…They’re unwatchable…”

          Since I haven’t watched any “Star Wars” films after The Return of the Jedi I’ll have to take your word for that.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mean, sure, George Lucas had a story that he needed to tell. But so did Ed Wood and Tommy Wisseau. The problem is that the story he wanted to tell sucked.

          The Disney Star Wars films, other than Rogue One, have been very mediocre. But even the nadir of their film series was more entertaining than the best of the prequels. Mediocrity isn’t something to aspire to, but it’s a lot better than actually making bad movies.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            But even the nadir of their film series was more entertaining than the best of the prequels.

            It’s fascinating how radically different people’s opinions of things can be from our own.

            Personally, I basically like the prequels. Sure, there’s a bunch of annoying stuff: Portman, Christensen, Jar-Jar even, but overall I find them mostly sound. Plotwise, I think they’re even a bit superior to the original trilogy – if only because there’s a bigger galaxy to explore.

            The Disney stuff, on the other hand… ugh.

            TFA is microwave-reheated ANH whose sole redeeming feature is that I can’t remember any of it. Seriously! I remember most of TPM despite not ever really liking it and not having seen it in a decade or more, while most of TFA remains a blank to me even though I watched it a year or two ago.

            TLJ, on the other hand, I remember all too well for having the world’s longest and most boring chase sequence (a title previously held by Fury Road), cringeworthy politics coming out its ears and once again failing to explain who the fuck these people are and why we should give a damn, two acts in! Out of three!

            No, really, we know how ROTJ ended and you can’t simply do the Lucas handwave of “welp, you missed the previous episodes, so you’re just gonna have to catch up”. We watched the previous episodes and want to know how we got from there to here.

            Although, actually, no I don’t. Star Wars is dead to me.

          • Aftagley says:

            Huh, I just found out that apparently I consider someone saying they enjoy the prequels more than the original trilogy to be WAY less controversial than them saying that Fury Road was boring.

            That movie was amazing. It should win every award, every year.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            People have re-watched the prequels and come to the conclusion that George Lucas had a story to tell but poorly executed, although a lot of what was done in those movies was still impressive by early 2000s standards.

            The sequels can be enjoyed only if you don’t think about it too much because if you do, the shallowness of the plot and character motivations seep out.

          • pontifex says:

            The Star Wars prequels were bad, but they were made by a team that loved Star Wars. The Disney movies… weren’t.

            And Fury Road was boring— a 3 hour long Folsom Street parade recap that barely had enough material for 30 minutes.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And Fury Road was boring— a 3 hour long Folsom Street parade recap

            I was given to understand that Fury Road had shooting and explosions and car chases, whereas the Folsom Street Fair does not.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @Aftagley

            That movie was amazing. It should win every award, every year.

            Ah. I see you’re a denizen of the parallel universe where Fury Road is an excellent movie. I know this universe exists, because I get its version of Rotten Tomatoes.

            I so envy you.

            In my universe Fury Road is a steaming pile of turd that could only be saved by burning everyone and sacking everything burning everything and sacking everyone, and starting from scratch. It’s boring, it’s dumb, the setting makes no sense, Max has all the charisma of a wet kleenex (and could just as well not be in the movie at all, given that he’s a non-entity throughout), Furiosa should probably get her own movie which would be better by far (just ditch the cybernetic arm, ‘coz it’s both ridiculous and pointless), the plot can be summarised in four words “there and back again” (except it worked in the Hobbit) and they’ve got a guitar player on a truck that is cringeworthy AF (though given the rest of the props/costumes… ah, never mind).

            Then again my favourite Mad Max flick is Thunderdome, so what do I know…

    • rlms says:

      Of course, my perception is that in Europe itself, being a big soccer fan is still considered a blue-collar, low-status thing to be.

      I don’t think this is accurate in the UK. Some sports signal class (for instance rugby union/league are upper/lower-class, except in Wales) but football is universally popular.

    • rtypeinhell says:

      I don’t think I’ve noticed anyone passing judgment on whether people play rec sports as adults, but then again I don’t mentally register anyone as a “jock”, so maybe I’m not paying attention.

      It seems kinda like married men are more into sports. Married men also seem to be more into TV shows, so I’m guessing that correlates with useless downtime. It’d be interesting to test. Of course you could also posit the reverse, that liking sports forecasts relationship success.

      Not sure you’re right about soccer being a hardcore blue tribe thing. I’d sooner guess it was a regional/age thing – football isn’t as big on the east coast, and a lot of people my age (30) grew up playing soccer. Admittedly, the coasts also tend to be bluer, but my own experience growing up red is that my dad and uncles don’t give a shit about soccer, while many of my brothers, cousins, and friends play every week (I don’t sport, so I’m not sure I could be selecting for it). But I might be privileging my own experience here.

    • Atlas says:

      I’m not sure about the public at large, but I personally perceive playing team sports as more impressive and valuable than passively watching other people play them on television. (I neither watch nor play team sports.) My own use of the term “sportsball” is to denigrate spectator sports rather than athletic activity involving balls itself. One of the “show, don’t tell” things that I’m really grateful to my dad for is that he never sat on his butt watching countless hours of sports on Sundays; he was always going on bike rides or working on things around the house.

      I furthermore disdain “industrial scale” professional spectator sports above local/communal ones. If you’re rooting for your high school classmates, your coworkers or (best of all) your children, you at least have a genuine and valuable tribal connection to the players on the field. By contrast, professional athletes are rootless mercenaries with no connection or loyalty to the “huge fans” who buy and wear jerseys displaying their names on the fans’ backs.

      Richard Spencer had an insightful essay on this:

      Football fandom also appeals to traditionally “male” activities such as eating greasy food, hanging out with “the boys,” and drinking beer. The purpose of the “man cave,” after all, is to watch sports. And unlike playing video games or watching art films, it doesn’t carry any effeminate connotations. But the manliness of football is precisely why watching it is so insidious. Football offers a substitute manliness, quite literally. [My emphasis.]

      I’ve had similar thoughts about combat sports. There seems to be (in my subjective and anecdotal judgement) this perception that watching other people fight somehow osmotically transfers some of the manliness of fighting to the spectator, that it’s somehow more macho and mature to spend an hour watching an MMA bout instead of playing a video game. I don’t think that this is true (both in the sense that I personally don’t consider it impressive and in the sense that I don’t think most other people find it impressive). It’s very cool and impressive if you, personally, are capable of subduing opponents in a boxing ring; it’s not very cool to be a “huge fan” of Muhammad Ali’s ability to do so.

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t think highly of sports fans, but nor of fans of anything. There’s a bright line between obsessing and appreciating. Enjoying a sports game, concert, video game, ‘cinematic universe’ or whatever is life enhancing, but making that into part of your identity seems somewhat soulless.

        Active hobbies are much more admirable, be it tossing a ball with your friends, joining a choir, or having friends over to play games.

        But ultimately a lot of people do seem to get a source of community from this high level of geeky-ness. And companies are quite happy to encourage devotion from their consumers. And it’s not like modern society has much else to offer people as the meaning of life–find something cool to buy! Like us on Facebook! Congratulations, you are now spiritually fulfilled and a part of something greater.

        • Atlas says:

          I don’t think highly of sports fans, but nor of fans of anything. There’s a bright line between obsessing and appreciating. Enjoying a sports game, concert, video game, ‘cinematic universe’ or whatever is life enhancing, but making that into part of your identity seems somewhat soulless.

          Active hobbies are much more admirable, be it tossing a ball with your friends, joining a choir, or having friends over to play games.

          Yeah, I fully agree.

          But ultimately a lot of people do seem to get a source of community from this high level of geeky-ness. And companies are quite happy to encourage devotion from their consumers. And it’s not like modern society has much else to offer people as the meaning of life–find something cool to buy! Like us on Facebook! Congratulations, you are now spiritually fulfilled and a part of something greater.

          Very true. See Sebastian Junger’s great, short book Tribe for more on part of this.

      • Atlas says:

        Also, I can’t edit my comment for some reason, but I should add, given the context of OP’s question, that I personally am a nerd, for any readers who were not aware of/did not infer this fact.

    • neciampater says:

      I think you might be on to something.

      It may be a pattern you’re noticing of people trying to redeem current sport fanaticism, which is cringe-worthy.

      I am thinking of personal experiences with Champions League, World Cups, NFL, NBA, NHL, NBA where partial, loud, know-it-all, my-team-can-do-no-wrong fans can ruin the sport.

      Whereas my, maybe not nerdy, but local musician friends, with whom I play fantasy football and who are not stereotypical sports fans, are not interested in fanaticism, but enjoying and learning more about sport.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I’ve definitely noticed the “nerdy sports fan” phenomenon. Nate Silver is probably the most prominent example, but SSC-blogroll-member PutANumOnIt also springs to mind: https://putanumonit.com/category/sports/.

      Not sure I’ve noticed jocks turning against sports-watching, but I’m probably the wrong person to ask about trends among jocks.

    • b_jonas says:

      > dismisses such irrational and meaningless practices with phrases such as “sportsball”

      Or “handegg”, for us Europeans who enjoy football, handball and water polo, but look down on the American passtimes of baseball, american football, and rugby.

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A woman sings a beautiful version of the hateful comments she gets.

    A man does analog synth destruction of hateful comments he and other analog synth composers get.

    Both of them are doing great work, but I admit it think the two approaches are hilariously gender stereotypical. I have no idea what a comparable non-binary method would be. Perhaps analog synth is non-binary enough.

    NLP methods for treating hateful voices as something to be manipulated, but without the tech

  23. Urstoff says:

    I’m looking for genuine reasons to be optimistic about the state of the history profession. The response to criticisms of MacLean’s book and, just recently, the parts of the 1619 project that rely on Baptist’s book have been almost completely content-free and purely ad hominem. It might very well be the case that this is just a matter of Twitter making everything awful, while in actual conversation the profession takes criticism from other scholars more seriously, or maybe the anti-intellectualism is just confined to American history. Is the history profession in such a bad state as these events make it seem?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Is there reason to believe Pop History is any more representative of the history profession than Pop Science is of the science profession?

      • Urstoff says:

        I don’t know; Nancy MacLean and Ed Baptist are both academic historians, but both of them as well as many of their colleagues have refused to honestly engage with criticism of their work from other scholars. There is a decent amount of sneering from academic historians at non-academic works of history (“Founders Chic” is a term of derision for the works of people like Joseph Ellis and David McCullough, although, again, actual criticisms are few and far between except for vague complains about the “Great Man Theory of History”).

        • Matt M says:

          Agreed. I am not a historian, but my understanding is that we have been told these people are serious academic historians and that their work, despite being written for popular audiences, deserves to be treated as such.

          Whereas, that sort of thing isn’t typically said about pop-science authors, as far as I know…

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Both

            Hmm, that is distressing then…

          • albatross11 says:

            Depends on the author. Pinker, Kahnemann, and Tetlock have all written good popular science books while still being serious scientists. So has Dawkins (though I think he transitioned to science communications rather than doing science a couple decades ago). Vincent Racceniello does four amazingly good science podcasts (basically journal clubs plus explanations for the non-expert listeners) and is a professor of microbiology at Columbia University with a long publication list.

    • My impression is that while people like Baptist get a lot of pushback from historians, the main problem is that the people at the NYT don’t care because it fits with their agenda. I’m not sure if it’s academic historians that are the problem.

    • DeWitt says:

      Yelling at someone on social media is easy. Formulating a proper response is hard. Given the small amount of time it takes to do the former and the lengthy process that is the latter, I really don’t think this is representative of anything but social media being the devil.

      • sentientbeings says:

        Formulating a proper response, or more to the point, a sound thesis and evidentiary support in the first place, seems like an essential task for someone purporting to be a serious academic. If it’s too hard, the person should try something else. MacLean faced very specific, object-level criticisms from serious academics in multiple relevant disciplines and across political backgrounds. To my knowledge, she offered no response other than ad hominem.

        So I’m not really sure what social media has to do with it, except as a reflection of tribal-affiliate reaction.

    • BBA says:

      Just about everybody here is missing the point of the 1619 project. It’s not about the historical facts, it’s about the narrative we build around those facts. And though all narratives are false, some are useful.

      If you look at the historians who are narrative-builders, and hold them to the rigor of impartial fact-seekers, you’re inevitably going to conclude that the field is a shambles. A screwdriver makes a lousy hammer, too.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This narrative isn’t useful, except to the same ideologues who ruined your self-esteem.

        • BBA says:

          Joke’s on you – I never had any self-esteem to begin with.

          • EchoChaos says:

            If you have a problem with self-esteem, you should not be listening to people who say you should be ashamed for your heritage.

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/06/09/all-debates-are-bravery-debates/

            Please listen to some Jews about how you should be proud of your Jewish heritage.

          • Aftagley says:

            Do people really have their self-esteem affected by discussions of their heritage? I maybe care about what my direct family accomplished going back 2 or maybe 3 generations, but past that I couldn’t care less.

            Why would anyone ascribe any personal value whatsoever to what a bunch of people vaguely related to them did hundreds of yeas ago?

          • DeWitt says:

            Do people really have their self-esteem affected by discussions of their heritage?

            Absolutely.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Aftagley:

            Do people really have their self-esteem affected by discussions of their heritage?

            I mean, if you want to do a research paper attempting to prove that no one experiences white guilt, be my guest.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Yes, people absolutely get massive positive and negative self-esteem effects from their ancestors.

            You are very unusual in not caring.

      • DarkTigger says:

        Yeah, but then the facts they build the narrativ upon are kinda dodgy.

        You remeber the “Accounting was invented at slave manors” discussion we had last week?
        I have no problem with arguing against the mayor consensus narrativ, and finding different narrativs. Building this narrativ on dodgy facts, and then get angry if you are questioned? Looks bad.

      • EchoChaos says:

        If building a narrative requires outright fiction, the narrative is bad and its builders should feel bad.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The obvious and uncharitable point of the 1619 project is to recast the United States as a nation entirely based on the original sin of slavery, so the authors have a reason to tear it down and replace with their own twisted image of a nation based on guilt. If indeed the truth does not matter, I prefer a narrative of a nation based on the ideals Jefferson set down in 1776, even if the nation has rarely (or never) lived up to them.

        All the rest of the discussion has been people trying (IMO unreasonably) to steelman this project.

      • John Schilling says:

        Anyone talking positively about their “narrative”, knows they are lying about the facts and wants to make it unthinkable to speak the truth. This heuristic is more useful to honest people than any narrative ever will be.

      • albatross11 says:

        Okay, but what if I want to know what actually happened in the past?

        There are many different ways to fit together the known facts into a coherent story, but once you get invested in your narrative (particularly a narrative whose purpose is driving current/near-future politics), there’s a pretty strong incentive to disappear inconvenient facts, or to apply different standards to judging whether a fact is true or not depending on whether it supports your narrative.

        The NYT seems to be run by a faction of people who support lying to the public for a good cause. This makes me start out with a fair bit of skepticism about how honest their discussion of history is likely to be.

      • BBA says:

        Excuse me for thinking anyone else would be able to recognize that they’ve been fed a blinkered Eurocentric view of history their whole lives and a blinkered Afrocentric view might offer an antidote to it.

        Sure, it’d be nice to have a non-blinkered view, but people need narratives and, I repeat, all narratives are false.

        • Matt M says:

          they’ve been fed a blinkered Eurocentric view of history their whole lives

          Speak for yourself. I was assigned Howard Zinn in my public school AP US History class, so whatever…

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I was assigned Howard Zinn in my public school AP US History class, so whatever…

            Ouch. I wonder if we could get empirical data on how left-wing US high schools curricula are. My biggest prior is that it varies much more by location than tertiary education.

          • Matt M says:

            Granted, this was a very blue-tribe community. I heard a rumor that our county was ranked dead last in the entire USA in per capita church attendance (never actually looked it up).

            I don’t assume my experience is typical. Although I also doubt that “students are taught the USA is perfect and can do no wrong and everything good about it came from Europe while minorities contributed nothing of value” has been typical at any point in the last 3-4 decades either…

          • BBA says:

            Zinn was plenty Eurocentric. He actually had some sympathy for the white working class, can you imagine?

        • albatross11 says:

          Beware the fallacy of gray. In 1970, the New York Times and Pravda were both producing news that wasn’t always accurate or honest, but that doesn’t mean that there was no difference between them.

        • quanta413 says:

          Like I said in the last discussion, anyone can just go pick up a book by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and gain notably more knowledge about African American history than they would from reading the NYT. If they are feeling ignorant about the topic, they should just go buy one of his books now. And although my memory is rusty, my recollection from reading him is that he writes well and is not crazy.

          The NYT isn’t offering an afrocentric view. It’s offering a white-guilt-centric view. Going this full white-guilt is a caricature of Kipling in reverse. The white man’s burden was wrong when it was about civilizing the savages, and it’s still wrong if it’s about never ending verbal self flagellation.

          The average NYT reader interested in the 1619 series is more likely to need to read a book on the Ottoman empire or the Han Dynasty or some other civilization before the Europeans had their roughly 2 century run of dominance than they are to need to read yet another set of stories about Europe or the U.S.

        • Eponymous says:

          Except the median NYT reader would probably benefit from a more eurocentric view of history, both in accuracy and the good of our country.

          • quanta413 says:

            Hard disagree. The most guilt ridden people (which includes some but I doubt most NYT readers, probably <25%) often have a Eurocentric view; it's just Eurocentric in "European people are responsible for all the evil in the world" rather than "European people are responsible for all the good in the world" sense. This is best cured by reading some history about some other place and time that's sufficiently honest about how often people have been terrible. And how often people have been good too.

            They don't even have to go far from Europe. Just knowing something about the near Middle East under the rein of the Ottoman Empire may give a wider perspective.

  24. Elliot says:

    I don’t eat meat or fish, but I understand eating fish has physical and mental health benefits. Would mussels and clams provide these benefits too? I think my ethical/environemtal reasons against beef don’t apply to mussels and clams.

    • brad says:

      The state of nutrition science is a shambles but at a minimum you can get the protein you need from bivalves. The are also high in omega 3, if that turns out to be a real benefit. They do bioaccumulate though.

      • Elliot says:

        Agreed, it’s miserable.

        My understanding was that the benefits of fish go beyond just getting enough protein though – is that inaccurate? Also, what do you mean by “they do bioaccumulate”?

        • Well... says:

          I think what that means is, because bivalves are bottom feeders, they usually contain small amounts of toxins. Eating lots and lots of bivalves means these toxins accumulate in your system.

    • fion says:

      I take omega 3 supplements. I have no idea if they make a difference, but I don’t think there’s much harm in it.

    • Tarpitz says:

      If you plan to eat a lot of shellfish, beware of gout. Believe me, you do not want it. Stay really, really hydrated.

  25. ana53294 says:

    Videos of unregulated traffic. Now, all of them, except the Swiss one, seem really scary to me, and in the Indian one, everybody’s stuck, and nothing seems to be moving.

    While it does seem like de-regulating traffic a bit in some places may result in a smoother flow and fewer accidents, I doubt it would not affect road safety (except for spurious, revenue-collecting speed limits; it should not be possible for the government to collect money through fines; all fine money should be donated to charity or whatever).

    Then there are also disable people; guide dogs only cross when there’s a clear safe path, and in all those cases, the blind person would just never cross the road.

    Which instances of road safety deregulation would you support?

    • Murphy says:

      Not sure if this is the answer you’re after… but I really wish it was treated as purely an engineering problem rather than most choices being made by random local politicians with no particular backing beyond deciding that the street their niece lives on has drivers going far too fast while the streets they drive through on their own commute are far too slow.

      Let the officials pick from a list of **global** choices of thresholds for safety vs mortality vs cost and then just let the experts set the limits based on road shape and accident history and any other relevant factors.

      And whatever the metrics tracked make sure that it includes life-hours of humans stuck in traffic jams and counts them in some way where they’re considered *quantifiable harm* similar to things expected to shorten lifespan a little because an hour stuck in a traffic jam in the heat does not have 1:1 value vs an hour spent doing anything worthwhile.

    • Well... says:

      If the mass rollout of self-driving cars means stricter regulations on who may drive, then I would support deregulation of that in particular, in order to stop the rollout of self-driving cars.

    • Urstoff says:

      Seems like adding a few large roundabouts in those unregulated intersections would improve things quite a bit. In “regulated” areas, I favor replacing traffic lights with roundabouts wherever possible.

      • Well... says:

        I think both have their pros and cons. Also, roundabouts are for whatever reason really difficult for American drivers who aren’t used to them. It’s something a lot of people apparently kind of have to grow up with to be comfortable with, or else take time to get accustomed to.

        Navigationally, I like to abstract them as linear and nonlinear interfaces. A roundabout is linear: if the signage is good you get a menu up front before you enter the roundabout, but then you are offered your choices one at a time as you enter the intersection, and it’s difficult to see them beforehand. Traffic lights are nonlinear: usually, at any point you can easily see all your choices, and if you know where you want to go you can intuitively position yourself in the correct lane before you get to the intersection. Also, with traffic lights you can navigate without knowing the names of the roads or what direction they lead: “turn left”; whereas in a roundabout you’d need to hear “take the roundabout for Main St. headed south”.

        Roundabouts with multiple lanes are also dangerous because it’s pretty hard to safely merge left or right while going around a curve with lots of cars around you, though I don’t know if they are more or less dangerous than intersections with traffic lights. But intersections with traffic lights could be made less dangerous with design improvements: for example, by surrounding them with lowered speed limits and rumble strips, or by building them slightly elevated so that gravity naturally slows you down as you approach them. Also by enhancing visibility, marking lanes more clearly, and providing timers on stop lights that show you how many seconds until that yellow light turns red.

        If money, space, time, and roadway access were no object we could build every single intersection like a freeway turbine or stack interchange. (Not sure what we’d do for places where more than 4 roads meet…not design them that way, I suppose.)

        • Aftagley says:

          Also, roundabouts are for whatever reason really difficult for American drivers who aren’t used to them

          Is this statement accurate? Honest question – I always hear from people in places where roundabouts are common that us silly Yanks are useless at them, but whenever I see one in the US, everyone seems to be pretty capable of navigating through them.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            They’re just very frustrating.

            You need to slow way down to make sure that you don’t miss your exit, because you don’t have any warning before it comes up. If it’s a multi-lane roundabout then you also need to add changing lanes at the last second to that. Maybe better signage would help but fundamentally it’s just a lot easier to deal with a straight road where you can see things well before they come up.

            I go out of my way to avoid roundabouts whenever possible because they’re so obnoxious.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve seen lots of folks screw up roundabouts, including when I’ve been in the car. There was one right outside the entrance to my university, and even folks who had made that same turn a half-dozen times before would miss it regularly.

          • Jake R says:

            One was recently added to my commute and I see people mess it up about once a month. My mother will go pretty far out of her way to avoid them when she is driving.

          • rtypeinhell says:

            I know at least a few people who go out of their way to avoid them (there’s one on a main road between the highway and my home), and I think it’s absolutely insane, and have tried to talk sense to them. The conversation always seems to end at “it’s not that hard to go around”, which translates to me as “too scary”. I didn’t grow up with them but find them extremely easy and convenient to use, and notice that 95% of drivers seem to use them correctly. Even incorrect usage tends to boil down to misuse of the inner lane and failure to signal, errors that slow traffic but don’t seem to cause danger (basically they cause people not to enter the circle even when they’re clear to).

          • Cliff says:

            If I recall, traffic circles are so effective because they’re annoying. Drivers have to really focus when navigating them, which greatly reduces accidents

          • JPNunez says:

            I think that roundabouts being frustrating is part of the design; people just pay more attention and thus are less prone to accidents. There was this designer, Monderman, who promoted removing signs and just letting people figure things out.

            https://jalopnik.com/why-street-signs-make-traffic-more-dangerous-5533260

            dunno if I completely buy it.

        • baconbits9 says:

          They are difficult the first time through or so, but I was able to handle the Magic Circle in Swindon as a Yank, and by the 3rd or 4th time through it was notably easier.

        • S_J says:

          Also, roundabouts are for whatever reason really difficult for American drivers who aren’t used to them. It’s something a lot of people apparently kind of have to grow up with to be comfortable with, or else take time to get accustomed to.

          Evidence to the contrary:

          I am a resident of the United States. A handful of intersections in my area have been built as roundabouts. Most are one-lane or two-lane roundabouts, with signage indicating which lane to enter, if the driver wishes to turn and/or continue straight.

          Caveat: these are almost all two-lane or one-lane roads. They are typically near the edges of the metro area. (Almost all of the other intersections in the metro area are controlled by stop-lights.)

          Some of these intersections generate a line of slow traffic just before the roundabout. If the roundabout were replaced by a stop-light, that traffic would have surges of stopped/moving status.

          I’ve been told that total number of accidental collisions in an intersection increase during the first six or so months after it is changed into a roundabout. The numbers may remain at that level, or decrease after that point. Same person who told me that claimed that even with the increased number of collisions, there is a decrease in collisions which cause an injury/fatality.

          That’s the kind of detail I’d like to study better.

          My experience is that roundabouts leave traffic going through slow-downs at intersections, but that navigating a round-about is safer than navigating an intersection controlled by a stop-sign or yield-sign. It is a little less risky to approach than a stop-light, as there is less need to pay attention to the state of the light. But there is more reason to pay attention to the movement of the other cars entering/leaving the round-about, and more need to pay attention to what other cars are doing.

        • CatCube says:

          All traffic control devices affect accident rates and types. This is drawing on my memory from traffic class about 15 years ago at this point, but traffic signals increase the gross accident rate at intersections and change the types from T-bone to rear-end accidents, which have a much lower fatality rate. (Compared to stop signs on the minor street and through traffic on the major street.) You still have the occasional T-bone accidents, of course, which is why you see a lot more protected left turns now than you used to even 10 years ago, which cut those types down even further.

          Roundabouts, IIRC, tend to change the accident types to almost totally non-fatal. Basically, sideswipes. They also reduce intersection delay so long as they’re not saturated, though if they do get saturated I think they end up worse on this front than signals. The biggest downside is the amount of space they take up. A roundabout requires immense amounts of land compared to other means of traffic control.

          • John Schilling says:

            They also reduce intersection delay so long as they’re not saturated, though if they do get saturated I think they end up worse on this front than signals.

            I think this is correct, and I think it means most “you’re so stupid, why don’t you do rounabouts like the smart people do” is misplaced. Roundabouts make things a little bit better in places where things never were bad enough for anyone to complain that much about, and in the places where people are already complaining about traffic, roundabouts would make it worse.

            A roundabout requires immense amounts of land compared to other means of traffic control.

            This, also, is correct. So what useful things can we do with the space inside roundabouts?

            OK, nuclear missile silos considered and rejected. What else? Along the missile-silo themes, National Guard armories, other stockpiled emergency (or highway maintenance) supplies, and shelters, would be appropriate on the grounds that they rarely see significant traffic outside of circumstances that would justify shutting down all other traffic. Well, except that they’re probably on major evacuation routes. So we need to think outside the box.

            Ideas?

          • Lambert says:

            In the UK, it’s pretty common for roundabout centres to be filled with some kind of shrubbery or sculptural installation.

          • Well... says:

            It would suck and I’d hate it, but strictly for revenue reasons space inside the centers of roundabouts could be used for billboards.

            Larger roundabouts could include one or more access bridges to the inner circle, which would expand the potential uses.

            If you strategically built roads so they intersected directly beneath freeway overpasses, the piers supporting the overpasses could fill the space in the middle of the roundabouts. This could serve a double purpose, as on- and off-ramps from the freeway could be included among the feeders of the roundabout.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            It would suck and I’d hate it, but strictly for revenue reasons space inside the centers of roundabouts could be used for billboards.

            Larger roundabouts could include one or more access bridges to the inner circle, which would expand the potential uses.

            The first is fairly common in the UK on a small scale- you get the shrubbery or sculpture plus a small sign put there by the local business that paid for it.

            For the second, some larger roundabouts (I’m thinking particularly of the Elizabeth Way/East Road roundabout in Cambridge, UK) have a sunken area in the middle accessed by tunnels under the road. This also serves to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to get around the roundabout without having to cross lanes of traffic.

          • Lambert says:

            The problem with putting big things in the middle of a roundabout is that it blocks line of sight, so you can’t see what all the other cars are doing.

          • Gray Ice says:

            How about climate appropriate food? Preferably short plants (potatoes or carrots, for example), so the view will not be blocked for the average driver.

            The main problems would be:
            – Who is responsible for planting and harvesting?
            – What is done with the harvested crops? (community food pantry?)

          • CatCube says:

            @Gray Ice

            I think the main problem is that you’re either going to pay a lot of money for safe ways for pedestrians to cross the traveled way, or they’re going to get hit by cars. Probably enough that it’d make more sense for the DOT to just buy people carrots.

            As @AlphaGamma said, larger ones might have enough space to accommodate this crossover infrastructure, but that represents a lot of land in a city, where trying to use this space is more important. One of the major changes to the use of roundabouts, versus the old traffic circles that were far more dangerous, is that they’re smaller with relatively tight turns to slow entering traffic and keep speeds lower.

          • Lambert says:

            Were these ‘traffic circles’ common?
            Is the US aversion to roundabouts caused by the country being filled with the crappy beta versions of roundabouts?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Is the US aversion to roundabouts caused by the country being filled with the crappy beta versions of roundabouts?

            No. Roundabout fans say that, but they’re disliked even by people who never saw a traffic circle.

          • ana53294 says:

            Datapoint: I am european but I hate roundabouts.

            I remember that, fifteen years or so ago, we had some roundabouts and they were OK. Then the government and municipalities got the roundabout bug, and would put them in awkward places with low visibility and huge changes in slope. People hated them, and they were generally seen as a good way to bury money.

            If you have a turn right after a big slope upwards, and the person coming needs to stop anyway to see anything anyway, I think it’s better to just have a regulated crossroad. Especially if you don’t have more than three exits (to the right, front, and left).

          • LesHapablap says:

            Roundabouts would be fantastic in the US to replace most (all?) four-way stop signs. Reduced CO2 emissions, faster trip times, and fewer ‘failure to stop’ tickets. Single-lane roundabouts are also very easy to learn.

            Also here in NZ just about everything that would be a stop sign in the US is a yield sign. It is much more pleasant and civilized not having to do a complete stop lest some traffic cop come and give you a lecture.

      • ana53294 says:

        But then many roundabouts are also regulated, with many traffic lights. Is there any difference between an intersection with traffic lights and a roundabout with traffic lights?

      • ana53294 says:

        Roundabouts are also harder on trucks or busses – unless it has a big radius. Inside cities, except for painted roundabouts (so a truck can manoeuvre over the painted bit), a roundabout complicates turning in tight spots.

        I have, on many occasions, made several rounds on those 4 lane roundabouts, because changing lane from the inside, and me having to look at the satnav, made it very hard to figure out when to change lane. It never happens to me with intersections, even complicated ones.

        Turning right on an intersection, is usually the easiest part (many intersections allow to turn right continuosly, as long as you’r careful), then going straight, and turning left is the hardest* part. Whereas roundabouts make everything equally sucky. And sometimes, even though I was in the second lane, I got cars trying to exit from the more inside lane while I was continuing. When there are more than 2 lanes, it becomes a horrible experience.

        * Except for u-turns; the only place where I’ve seen many spots for u-turns is South Korea; it’s full of pockets where you can just turn. I found it made driving in an unfamiliar environment much easier, because I didn’t have to drive for miles before I could turn. Many intersections don’t otherwise allow u-turns.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Not sure if this counts as a deregulation, but I think in a similar spirit: require that jurisdictions pick either traffic cops or ubiquitous speed/red light cameras. Having both is maximizing revenue over safety

      • ana53294 says:

        Or have a rule that traffic cops don’t issue fines for speeding, with egregious exceptions (such as driving 300 km/h on a motorway or something like that).

        In Spain, although the number one reason for accidents continues to be excess velocity, it is decreasing, and the factors that are increasing are drugs other than alcohol and distractions (mobile phones).

        More police work should be used to detect things that can’t be detected automatically, such as phone use, drug tests (at least for pot, which is increasing), maintaining safety distance (drones are useful for that), going in the opposite direction, not giving way when it’s due, etc.

        Basically, do harder things. If they remain hidden in speed traps to catch people, why don’t they also do the same for the other traffic infraction? They could be at a stop sign and check all the people who don’t stop, for example.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          That’s a good refinement. I’m mostly getting at “don’t do things by hand that are also being done by machines because it distorts the legal incentives” but those issues definitely warrant doing – and I don’t think machines are capable of it.

          Sadly the reason they don’t is simple: not enough revenue generated to pay for a cop to sit there all day. Though stop signs in particular are camera-able

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Not explicitly answering your question, but one of my weirder political positions is that most societies should get much more aggressive with road safety. Way too many people are killed in car accidents, and most car accidents are linked to people disregarding the rules of the road.

      Is there a reason we couldn’t just stick speed cameras on every major road and leave them on all the time? Automate sending tickets to basically everyone who ever speeds, same with red light cameras, and if folk complain then change the laws rather than just opting not to enforce them regularly.

      • John Schilling says:

        We’ve already set our speed limits about 20 km/h slower than we really expect or even want people to drive, and we’ve trained drivers to exceed posted limits by about 20 km/h. There’s going to be a generation of extreme disruption, hard feelings, and civil disobedience, if you aren’t very careful about changing that.

        We’ve also trained our politicians to never, ever, ever admit to making mistakes, and that traffic fines are a nifty source of stealth revenue, so setting the new and strictly-enforced limits 20 km/h above the existing ones is probably right out.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        most car accidents are linked to people disregarding the rules of the road.

        While I don’t have data for the US, the British Institute of Advanced Motorists- a road safety charity- published a a few years ago on the causes of traffic accidents in the UK as determined by the police at the scene. “Exceeding Speed Limit” was given as a contributory factor in only 5% of cases. Other examples of disregarding the rules of the road- disobeying Give Way or Stop signs, or running red lights- contributed even less. By far the most common cause of accidents is simply “Failed to Look Properly”.

        I have seen the claim that relying too much on automated enforcement of those road rules that can be enforced automatically (speed limits and red lights) means that other varieties of bad driving which may be more dangerous are ignored.

    • neciampater says:

      Every time the power goes out in a section of town, which is fairly often with rolling summer thunderstorms, I am pleasantly surprised by how large 5-lane, 4-way intersections are in total order.

      I wish all roads were private. I would be very interested in all the indepedent, crowd-sourced traffic solutions.

      • Matt M says:

        I live in the Houston suburbs, and a whole lot of intersections around here go a lot faster when the power goes out and we revert to four-way stops. A lot of the traffic light patterns literally do more harm than good.

        • gudamor says:

          Might it be that there is simply less traffic in the aftermath of whatever brought down the power? Where I live there’s not really brownouts, so most outages are the result of severe weather.

          • Matt M says:

            It might be. But in a lot of cases the lights really are programmed poorly. Like at an intersection where a lot of people turn left, but the left turn is only green for a few seconds, so you end up with a huge line of cars that want to turn left and it backs up eventually into the non-turning lanes as well.

          • Incurian says:

            Or vice versa.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            It’s sort of weird they don’t fix that. The standard criteria for comparing signal timings is average intersection delay. That’s a pretty standard analysis for a traffic engineer, and they have software to help do it. One of the packages from a graduate class would even give you the amount of fuel wasted by cars sitting at the light in gallons/day.

            It’s not like there’s a constituency to fight them over signal timings, the way that, say, physically reconstructing the intersection can turn into contentious public meetings. They can just do the analysis, throw a PE stamp on it, and upload it to the signal controller. Or did they do that dumb thing that a lot of governments did where they fired most of their in-house engineers, so they have to rely on A/Eing out the work and they just have a few people that only have experience in managing engineering contracts?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Perhaps there’s a politically influential constituent which benefits from the traffic light starving the left turn lane (because their people want to go straight in the other direction). Or perhaps they have a manual that specifies the light timings for that sort of intersection, and they’re not going to deviate from it just because the drivers are using it wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            Most traffic lights in my country seem to measure actual demand with magnetic loops.

            Of course, the US is known for not maintaining their roads well, so perhaps the issue is general underinvestment and neglect: not installing advanced systems, not tuning systems, etc.

          • CatCube says:

            @Aapje

            That’s called an actuated signal, and they’re more common than not here as well, but you still need to work out the timing of the various phases to avoid large delays. For example, you generally want to clear out a queue of traffic within one cycle, or you’re likely to have the queue grow without bound (the real rules are more subtle, but I don’t know them; this is just a first “cut” from what I recall).

            It’s not just a matter of there being a loop in the road making everything OK. There’s a class activity that covers some concepts here, though it refers to readings in a text so it’s not complete.

            ETA: There’s an older version of the federal manual for timing signals here, with this chapter discussing the basic concepts. (It links the updated version of the manual, but that’s a huge PDF file that you have to input your e-mail to download, and probably hasn’t changed enough to affect our non-expert discussion)

          • Aapje says:

            A lot of them actually also measure the length of the queue, by using two loops, one just behind the white line and one multiple car lengths back.

            A traffic light near me seems to skip a turn if the queue is small, in favor of giving a more busy direction extra green.

            Then there is also the option to give certain traffic priority with transponders, like emergency services and buses, where the latter can also be given priority only when behind schedule.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A lot of them actually also measure the length of the queue, by using two loops, one just behind the white line and one multiple car lengths back.

            That’s an evil little trick sometimes called 3rd car detection. The idea is to speed traffic on the major/preferred routes by not giving a green to a minor route or turn until multiple cars arrive. Which works fine when the minor route is reasonably heavily trafficked, but with light traffic can leave the hapless motorist facing several full light cycles where he does not get a green in his direction at all. And if he runs the light after waiting through a cycle or two, he risks a police car leaving concealment and ticketing him.

            That the light should have been set up at that time to trigger on one car is not, of course, a defense. And even if it was, you’ve already blown a day in court.

          • Aapje says:

            There is no reason why the system’s logic would have to be:
            – wait until 3 cars arrive
            rather than:
            – give green if 3 cars arrive or a turn was skipped

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            As a driver I have to deal with the system the way it is, not the way it should be. No one cares what I think about how the lights should be timed, not the traffic engineers (who have their manuals and marching orders), not the cop (to whom I’m just a step towards his quota), not the judge (to whom I’m either a dirty scofflaw, a revenue source, or both), and not the mayor, governor, or the legislature (to all of whom I’m nobody).

    • rtypeinhell says:

      Because they’re reproductively successful enough that being hunted by stoats doesn’t exert sufficient selection pressure to do that, even had a beneficial mutation appeared?

      I’m not sure your question comports with my understanding of evolution. I’m basing this on high school education, so correct me if I’m missing something: mutations don’t arise in response to desirability, they arise randomly and influence reproductive success dependent on environment.

      • Each mutation is random, but mutations that change behavior and fight or flight response seem to crop up again and again over the long time periods we are talking about here. It could be that there’s not enough selection pressure, but that seems so weird in itself because even if stoats only kill 1 in every 100 of your children, a mutation that let you only lose in 1 in every 105 should still move to fixation unless it’s balanced out by making you less fertile in other ways to begin with, which probably answers the question literally, though I’m still weirded out by the fact that this (current) balance point makes rabbits suck at fighting back that much. The rabbit doesn’t even have the behavioral response to attack the stoat and try to pin it with its superior weight and try to clamp onto its windpipe.

        There are other cases of large predator/prey weight disparities, such as lions and cape buffalo, but even there lions are usually hunting as a pride, and the buffalo are pretty effective at fighting back and being a danger to the lions.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          a mutation that let you only lose in 1 in every 105 should still move to fixation

          The probability for a mutation that increases fitness by X to move to fixation is of order X. In your example X~5/10000, so the mutation would have to independently occur about 2000 times before it becomes fixed.

        • rtypeinhell says:

          That still strikes me as a grotesque oversimplification, because wouldn’t a stable rabbit population exist at a local maximum where mutations on the way to an effective defense are either useless or damaging and therefore vanish?

          But again, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so thanks for engaging. It’s more enlightening than not.

        • @WarOnReasons

          Thanks for the actual formula for this.

          @rtypeinhell

          rabbit population exist at a local maximum where mutations on the way to an effective defense are either useless or damaging and therefore vanish?

          Of course, but why are mutations that make rabbits better at defense so deleterious compared to other mammals that are actually capable of fighting back? That’s what I’m really interested in.

          @rtypeinhell

          But again, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so thanks for engaging.

          I don’t know what I’m talking about on this subject myself, which is why I’m puzzling this out.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Probably because it’s an evolutionary dead end. The stoat would also react to any change the rabbit makes, and by the point it’s no longer a palatable prey for the stoat it won’t be a rabbit either, with everything that makes rabbits successful.

      Think of it from the point of view of the stoat. I’m evolving to be a fast, efficient meat-eating killer. This means I will successfully fight animals bigger than myself, because they’re optimizing for completely different things. The weight ratio between us is basically how successful I am at optimizing my hunting.

      tl;dr: it would mean becoming part stoat, instead of a better rabbit.

      • The stoat would also react to any change the rabbit makes

        What I’m getting at is that the rabbit must be VERY inefficient at defending itself if it can outweigh the stoat that absurdly and still be easily defeated. It seems like some of that weight could become defenses against the stoat to the point where the stoats would be forced to change by getting bigger themselves, but apparently there is very little pressure for rabbits to not die horribly when stoats grab them.

        • benjdenny says:

          Do the rabbits never, ever get away by running? I would think a lot of their defenses are running, and if that ever works I feel like what you are asking is analogous to “Why, after seatbelts, airbags and a 100 other design features do cars have no safety features at all?”. Put shortly, “when stoats grab them” seems to be after the failure point of all the rabbit’s evolved defenses.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Sorry, that wasn’t a very good comment. What I meant was that the situation is dynamic, and the rabbit can’t make _just_ a small change. The predator would instantly adapt, and probably faster – it’s already built for fight, while the rabbit isn’t really built for defense. So you’re talking about starting an arms race in the direction of attack/defense, which isn’t at all rabbit-like and probably out of its ecological niche.

          You can also think of it as a local maxima – there may be a point where the rabbit would be both a good rabbit and have a strong bite, but it’s far away enough to be difficult to “jump” the distance with the predators already adapted for the hunt.

          Also remember that evolution is about satisficing, not optimizing (gg Herbert Simon). Rabbit as a species is plenty good enough even if some of its slower individuals get caught bv predators. Its key factors of success lay in reasonable defense (running), being good at eating and being great at reproduction. No need to be great at everything – being “just good enough” is the definition of success.

          • So you’re talking about starting an arms race in the direction of attack/defense, which isn’t at all rabbit-like and probably out of its ecological niche.

            Everything you are saying is correct, but I can’t think of any other examples in mammals where this means a 10x difference in predator/prey weight with little ability to fight back. Rabbits appear to be uniquely rubbish compared to other prey. Buffalo are formidable to single lions, for example.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Forward Synthesis

            After spending too much time googling, it seems like stoats are the exception here. I don’t think we should fault the rabbit too much – from its point of view stoats are just one extra predator, and likely not worth the effort to adapt against.

            The only similar examples I found were lions occasionally hunting much larger giraffes, and, with probably the largest size difference, golden eagles dropping goats from cliffs. Also a number of insects eating birds (preying mantises, tarantulas, centipedes).

    • Secretly French says:

      I don’t think weight matters as much at those scales. If you sat 10 times my weight on me I’d die. If you sat 10 times the weight of a stoat on it, I think it would scurry away unharmed.

      • bullseye says:

        I don’t think it’s about weight per se; animals don’t fight by sitting on each other. I think fights are won by, among other things, physical strength, and strength is limited by size. A rabbit-sized animal that’s built to fight could beat a smaller animal, but rabbits are optimized for running away.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Presumably, there’s some reason why boxing and wrestling have weight classes, and it’s not just that weight is easy to measure. Weight has something to do with how much force a fighter can apply.

          • Aapje says:

            A proper punch actually mainly gets its power from using muscles and mass of much of the body, including the legs; not just from the arms.

            Bruce Lee famously* performed a one inch punch during demonstrations, where his hand would be extremely close to the person to be hit in the chest. He could punch the person off his feet while moving his arm only about an inch (although that requires a somewhat cooperative or untrained adversary, as even normal punches don’t knock over a trained and anticipating adversary when hit in the chest).

            Anyway, the effect of mass on hitting power can be seen in the statistics of weight classes. The higher the weight classes, the more knockouts happen.

            * Although it is a very traditional training technique from South China.

          • bullseye says:

            I don’t think any of this contradicts my point. A bigger version of Bruce Lee would be stronger than Lee and therefore hit even harder and could beat him. Lee didn’t use skill *instead of* strength; he used skill to make the best use of the strength he had.

            I don’t claim the strength is the only advantage that size provides, but I believe it’s a major one.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Because rabbits have many predators, so their response is generalized which leaves niche opportunities to exploit that generalization.

      • Randy M says:

        I think this is the best answer. Presumably if you found some Galapagos like islands and and dropped in a bunch of rabbits and stoats you see more specifically tailored changes.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I notice that the other rabbits are sitting frozen– I wonder whether rabbits could mount a successful group defense if it occurred to them.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Very few species are social, percentage-wise. Guns Germs and Steel makes this point – there are a lot of large mammals all over the globe, but 90% of the large, social species are in Eurasia – and you can only domesticate social animals. That’s why you don’t see people riding giraffes. They can be tamed, of course, on an individual basis, but to breed tameness in them (aka domestication) requires a social base. That (plus domesticable cereals) is part of why Europe colonized America and not the other way around.

        So it must be quite an evolutionary pressure against being too social, which rabbit genes don’t find valuable enough to cross.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          you can only domesticate social animals

          Aren’t cats a counterexample to this? Of course, the argument can be made that cats domesticated humans (who are social animals)…

          And wild rabbits are social.

          • bullseye says:

            Housecats are social. Stray cats left to their own devices will hunt alone but live in groups and bring home extra food for companions who can’t hunt (due to illness or whatever).

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The wild cat which is the ancestor of the house cat is social – a solitary hunter, but a cooperative child-rearer. They form loose groupings where they bring food to the cat watching the kittens (and the kittens) This is the dynamic people fit into. You feed them, therefore you are a part of the hunting cooperative.

          • John Schilling says:

            As Thomas Jorgensen hints, humans didn’t need to really “domesticate” cats because A: they didn’t compete with or threaten us in any significant way and B: we didn’t want or need them to do much of anything they weren’t doing already. Our civilization, once we got around to building it, came with a bunch of roughly wildcat-shaped niches for them to move in to as is.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It seems reasonable to me that a group of rabbits could drive a stoat away– they don’t need a victory, they just need to be difficult to kill, and the stoat needs an uninterrupted opportunity to get on the rabbit’s back.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Maybe because rabbit’s survival strategy is something like “run away from anything that’s approaching you and not a rabbit as fast as you can”? Changing that to “see what’s approaching you, if that’s a fox or a snake run away, if that’s a stoat much smaller than yourself stand and fight” would require bigger brains and more importantly longer reaction time and shorter distances, which can be advantageous against a stoat but disadvantageous against almost any other predator. It also creates greater potential for a mistake.

      Alternatively (or complementary) increasing rabbit’s ability to fight will require some, even if very small, amount of resources. Perhaps a rabbit is better off spending those marginal resources on its ability to run, or procreate, or something else useful generally, not just against stoats.

    • Matt C says:

      Are you sure that rabbits never fight back?

      I don’t really know about rabbits, but just guessing, I’d bet they will fight if cornered.

      I didn’t watch the whole video, but the narrator says at the beginning “it’s too dangerous [for the stoat] to rush straight in”. So a rabbit full of energy is dangerous to a stoat.

      I agree with others that a rabbit is programmed to run as a first response to perceived danger, and that’s usually the right answer for a rabbit.

    • Watchman says:

      Rabbits don’t need to evolve to fight back, because they already can. Considering the strength of a rabbit’s bite (I’ve seen one go through a finger to the bone) and kick, I’d guess either could be fatal to a stoke (weirdly the ever-helpful internet had no easily-found figures for how strong a rabbits kick is).

      I’ve seen a stoat being chased by a rabbit (that was a double take moment), and most rabbits attack the much-larger-than-stoats cats on sight: we had a baby Netherlands dwarf that charged our large dominant tom cat as soon as he met it despite being much smaller (resultingin a confused cat peering off a chair at this tiny ball of fur that had just streaked across the room at him). An angry rabbit is quite dangerous if you’re a similar size, especially since they can kick forwards if they need to. So if a stoat fails to get a kill it is potentially in trouble.

      This is hardly an unusual situation for predators. Lions are in danger from wildebeest, wolves from elks. The evolutionary compromise here is probably not the prey not becoming more aggressive (this would likely reduce numbers through internal competition) but predators not becoming larger to be safer.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I think the argument employed to effectively owe the entire modern world to the work of a handful of slaves is that early industrialization was concentrated in textiles in which the British were dependent upon cheap cotton from north america. So while most industrialization had nothing to do with owning slaves, the initial industrialization did.

      I’m not a believer in this hypothesis necessarily but i also can’t tell from the abstract if it is address specifically.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Free-picked Cotton was cleaner and less expensive at point of sale than slave-picked. We know this because Texas had plenty of free-picked cotton, which was more highly valued.

        The advantage of plantations was solely to the ultra-wealthy.

        • Matt says:

          Free-picked Cotton was… less expensive at point of sale

          free-picked cotton… was more highly valued

          ???

          • EchoChaos says:

            Highly valued as in sought after. It was less expensive. My phrasing was unclear.

          • Lillian says:

            Still doesn’t make any sense, if buyers prefer free-picked cotton over slave-picked cotton then at the bare minimum the sellers will charge the same price for it, because they don’t have to compete on price, and very likely will charge a premium because they are competing on quality.

          • Watchman says:

            Lillian,

            [Edit: better explanation of what is going on here down thread by Agtagley].