Open Thread 135.25

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1,025 Responses to Open Thread 135.25

  1. Epistemic_Ian says:

    I want to start a meetup group in Merced, CA, if there are any other readers in Merced. If you read SSC/LW and live in Merced, please let me know. If there is a better way for me to find readers in Merced than posting here, I would appreciate any advice.

  2. Plumber says:

    @Deiseach

    I just noticed that Foil Arms and Hog posted a Brexit Weather Forecast skit days ago, yet I haven’t seen a link of it posted by you.

    I’m depending on you for this stuff!

    • Deiseach says:

      Thanks for this, Plumber. I’ve been too busy myself going “What the hell is Boris up to now?” and getting annoyed at the usual suspects online blethering that this is a genius move and will force the EU to stop pretending they care about Ireland and cave in to the Brits.

      Why anyone thinks that in a game of chicken where it’s a Mini Cooper versus an articulated lorry that the Mini is the one going to come out on top is more than I can make out, but some bright sparks apparently think this is what is going to happen.

  3. Randy M says:

    Any advice or experience with running an intervention for a family member?

    • Elementaldex says:

      Other than that they usually go poorly?

      Having the whole family on board beforehand can help.

      A lot has to do with the specific intervention.

      • Randy M says:

        Other than that they usually go poorly?

        That’s definitely my expectation.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I’ve never done one, but I’ve considered it for my brother, who is selling Amway and sinking hundreds of hours into a “business” that pays substantially less than minimum wage.

  4. DragonMilk says:

    How do you get flavor inside a thick cut of meat, like chicken breast or pork loin?

    And I don’t mean just marination which seems to barely penetrate the surface. I’m not expecting the inside to taste like the surface by any means, but a bit of saltiness and hints of flavor seem to be able to seep through in various dishes I consume not of my own making.

    • FLWAB says:

      Well, you could try brining or just salting in general: if I’m cooking a roast I usually liberally salt it the night before and leave it overnight. Supposedly the salt will soak into the meat, but I don’t know if that’s real or just hogwash. But then again, that’s true of most of the things I do when cooking. You read somewhere to do that thing, and you do it, and maybe it made a difference and maybe it did nothing.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      A big thing is using high quality meat in the first place.

      Salting meat absolutely has effects. In the case of chicken, a dry brine (particularly an alkalized one) will have a noticeable effect on flavor and texture. In America Pork is so lean and so brutally overcooked that I’ve met people who can’t stomach when it has any flavor/moisture left. But a brine of some kind is almost necessary to revive the poor pallid pig.

      If you want to spring for a kitchen gadget, an immersion circulator can get white meats to a level of succulence that’s hard to match by other methods, and you can even incorporate some aromatics in the bag, but you sacrifice the texture that comes from dry heat applications.

      But if what you want is your meat to taste like garlic or something else you’ve marinated it in, the best way is to not only marinate it before hand but to reintroduce the marinade (fresh marinade, not contaminated) to the meat after cooking. Cooked meat takes flavor from marinades better than raw. But this can be deleterious to texture.

      All of this can be superseded by just saucing the thing in what you want it to taste like.

    • gbdub says:

      Brining and smoking (or other low and slow cooking) seem to be the way to go. You can also inject marinade.

      But beyond that and you’re really talking about “curing” rather than seasoning/cooking.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The reason “jerked” chicken is called that is the action of perforating the chicken with a stick to let the flavor penetrate. So that’s one method — score or puncture the meat to let the marinade or seasoning penetrate. This should work with chicken or pork but would probably make beef tough.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The only real option is brining, and that will be limited in the flavor profile you’ll get “deep” into meat. Most items you eat will have a strong surface flavor, coupled with a sauce that delivers a solid punch.

      You will ultimately taste meat when you eat meat, so you should get high-quality meat. Or, you should pound the hell out of it, marinade for an hour, and fry it up. Nothing wrong with that.

    • broblawsky says:

      Only small molecules/ions can penetrate deep into thick muscle tissue. Usually, that means salt and acid. Large aromatic molecules like those that give garlic or herbs their flavor can’t penetrate. Additionally, temperature will strongly control how fast these molecules penetrate the meat.

      Usually, when cooking a steak, I salt it heavily, let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour per inch of thickness, then wash the salt off. You can do something analogous for chicken or pork loin, but you won’t be able to leave them out at RT, so you’ll usually need to give it an extra 3 hours per inch of thickness to fully penetrate.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Do you just go with salt and water and leave the rest of flavorings for surface since only salt will probably penetrate?

        • broblawsky says:

          Yes. I salt the steak, wash off the salt thoroughly, then pat the steak surface dry with paper towels and add other, non-salt flavors. For a steak, that’s usually just garlic powder and black pepper.

  5. souleater says:

    Does anyone have any tips for an inexpensive wedding?
    We are talking about doing all the catering ourselves
    Skipping the photographer
    Using a DJ
    Wedding is immediate family only
    Limiting reception to close friends and family

    edit:
    I think it’s important to add that we can actually afford an more expensive wedding, we would just prefer to keep the costs low. Our budget is 5-8k

    • SteveReilly says:

      Depending on the venue, couldn’t you just get Spotify on your phone and hook it up to a speaker?

      • souleater says:

        I was considering it, but I think we want to have a Master of Ceremonies. My fiance’ wants to do a first dance, daddy/daughter dance etc.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          We set up a laptop in the corner anyone could queue up a song on. Worked okay.

        • dodrian says:

          I had my brother (best man) create a couple of CDs (our venue recommended we use their CD player for best results), one with the special songs, and other general music for dancing or whatever. He also wrote out a quick script beforehand to MC with.

    • FLWAB says:

      We had a very inexpensive wedding (compared to most modern weddings: while we were planning my wife’s grandfather complained that in his day you would have the reception at somebody’s house and someone would make a sheet cake). For us the biggest source of savings was that we managed to get the venue for free. We were both about to graduate from our university, but there was a rule that students could request the use of the school chapel and and event room for free as long as there was no previous scheduling conflicts. So we got married the day after graduation, as we were technically still students as the school year had yet to pass. Of course we went to a very small school and that probably wouldn’t be free at larger places, but the point is to try and be creative about finding a free or cheap venue.

      Other than that it sounds like you’re doing everything we did. Doing your own catering can definitely save you a lot of money.

    • Matt M says:

      One of my friends actually had a potluck style meal. If you’re comfortable asking people to bring food, my understanding is that it saved them a fortune.

      Also the venue they selected was basically an obscure out of the way public park where they could rent a large sheltered area. Very cheap.

    • souleater says:

      We are still trying to figure out how to do our own catering. We aren’t professional chefs, and we are both vegetarians. She is thinking we can do a vegetarian buffet (tofu, falafel, salad, fruit, cheese, bread) but I think people might get annoyed if we don’t provide meat or fish. I’m inclined to try to offer something for the omnivores, but I’m not really sure what.. or how.

      Any ideas on how to do self-catering for 50 people?

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Strongly suggest you go with a potluck or a catering place. A pro kitchen becomes very necessary when cooking for more than ~10 people IME, barring particular circumstances like a clambake (where you effectively cook in a single restaurant-sized pot and on multiple grills).

        E: You should, however, be able to order the food in aluminum pans and serve it yourselves. Catering doesn’t necessarily imply catering service, if you get my meaning.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          Depends on skill and interest. I’ve cooked for 12-14 over a fire in a pit in the ground (albeit with about two people helping, one with cooking and one tending the fire). We regularly feed 15-25 for meetups and I’d be happy feeding twice as many, if they stuck around to dinnertime. (OK, for 50 I would have to break out the big pots, but it’d be fun.) But cooking for lots of people has been a family hobby since before I was born, so I’m probably biased.

          10 still seems awfully low, though – how fancy are you thinking? If you have a 4-burner stove and an oven, IME number of people available to wash/chop/stir things becomes a limitation way before kitchen space does.

      • FLWAB says:

        I was a bit busy with other concerns at the time, but I know we didn’t hire a caterer. We didn’t have a lot of guests, maybe 25 or so, and if I recall correctly we just got cheap platters from Costco or the like: you know, those wrap or croissant platters they do, a nice big cheese platter, a fruit platter, a veggie platter, and some sheet cakes to supplement the nice wedding cake.

        Probably a lot harder to do that if you are vegetarian but don’t stress it too much. If you start worrying about looking cheap then you’ll end up spending a lot of money despite your intentions. Nothing wrong with affordable food, as long as there is enough for everyone.

      • broblawsky says:

        Buy a lot of charcuterie and smoked salmon. If you can get decent bagels or baguettes wherever you live, you’re most of the way to satisfying any carnivores in the audience.

      • Drew says:

        I agree with @Hoopyfreud . You really, really shouldn’t do self-catering. You’ll be busy with other things.

        Instead, call around to some of your favorite Thai or Indian places and ask if they’ll sell you catering-trays worth of food. Random Googling says that an entree that feeds 15-20 will cost you about $150.

        So, you could spend $1000 and have everyone absurdly well fed.

        And doing vegetarian-only Thai food or Indian food won’t be that weird or boring for the meat eaters.

      • Rebecca Friedman says:

        Do you enjoy cooking?

        If you want to make the actual food yourselves, I strongly suggest something that can be made well in advance and then heated/set out by someone who is not you. Everyone keeps telling me the bride and groom have very little time both during the wedding and in the days leading up to it, and I suspect they’re right on this one. That said…

        Humus is easy (and very cheap) to make in advance and keeps. There are a lot of cookies that keep for weeks to months and are better made in advance – our leckerli shouldn’t be touched until it’s been at least two weeks, and four is better. Pie crusts can be made in advance and frozen without significant quality loss; so can many curries (and some will be better once the flavors have had a few days to settle), though they’re probably too messy. I still recommend having someone else who can prep/set out the food on the day (at minimum as a solid backup). It’s really easy to overestimate how much time you’ll have at an event in advance of it (or at least, I do it all the time). Veggie platters can be bought; if you have a good dip recipe that keeps (or a friend with a good dip recipe who’d be willing to do you a favor), setting your veggies out with a homemade dip could add something nice without having much effect on your budget.

        If you’ve got significant help and want it handmade in advance but not by you: humus is great, veggie trays are easy to make (or add veggies to) if you want more variety/volume, we have a great recipe for an eggplant dip that everyone always asks “what’s the meat?” about (there isn’t any) though it has raw onion so won’t keep forever so this is only recommended if you don’t have to make it yourself, buying fruit can also be good – a box of strawberries or blueberries from the grocery store can be dumped into a colander, rinsed, and put in a bowl with no further effort. For omnivores if you’re OK with providing meat, having salami/ham/whatever along with the cheese can do a lot. Otherwise rely on the cheese; it’s pretty solid, and a lot of people who aren’t thrilled with “vegetarian” are OK with cheese. I like deviled eggs, and you can definitely do great vegetarian ones (mine are) and do them a day or two in advance with no problems as long as they stay refrigerated, but they’re incredibly time-consuming so I don’t recommend them unless you have someone else who wants to make them. Classy, though. I don’t know how hard it is to buy good vegetarian deviled eggs, but you might want to look into it, especially if time is a crunch point for you – practically anything’s got to be cheaper than catering. And a lot of people will happily eat deviled eggs.

        (I don’t know your omnivores; a lot of people who aren’t vegetarian will be fine with vegetarian cooking as long as it’s reasonably filling and not too experimental [ie veggie platter and nothing else = bad, Indian curries or tomato/basil/cheese sandwiches or similar = fine], while a lot of people who aren’t vegetarian won’t be fine with that. I live in California and am not sure I know any of the latter, but uh… I live in California, so maybe discount that a bit? Anyway, if you can politely try to figure out which yours are, that might be helpful.)

        It sounds as if part of your buffet idea is make-your-own-sandwiches. If so consider having basil and fresh mozzarella – caprese is great, and basil makes a nice accent in some other sandwiches. You can get fresh mozzarella pre-sliced at Costco, and probably some other places; it’s best the first time you open it (after that it starts tasting like regular mozzarella), so I usually avoid it, but for this kind of one-off event that shouldn’t be a problem, and pre-sliced will save you time. Humus and cucumber can also be a good sandwich combination. Don’t rely on falafel too hard; it often seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it food. Ditto tofu, at least the “lots of people dislike it” part. What are you planning to do with it? IMO it can be great or awful depending on how it’s cooked.

        Also remember to be aware of refrigerator space for anything that needs to be refrigerated – a buffet for 50 people is a whole lot more stuff than I’m guessing you’re used to storing. Keep in mind the levels of refrigeration different kinds of food need – some things commonly kept in the refrigerator (onions, garlic, carrots) will be A-OK for a day or two at room temperature (longer in many cases), while others (cheese, meat, probably basil unfortunately) that would be a very bad idea. And remember to have a clear idea of how you’re transporting your stuff to the site, and (if you’re doing it yourself) allow time for loading/unloading. Remember that when you scale up a recipe, cooking time does not increase linearly, but chopping time does; try to avoid recipes that require chopping, or similarly linearly-scaling things, unless you can reduce them to “throw in a food processor” and thus cut the time down to something you don’t mind doubling or quadrupling. (It does not take much more time to measure two cups of chickpeas than it does one cup, ditto soaking; opening cans does scale linearly, but it’s small enough not to be a major problem. Cutting hardboiled eggs open and scooping out the yolk, on the other hand…)

        If you’re really interested in this (though do not let me convince you to go too overboard, despite all my excitement pre-buying a bunch of stuff and maybe making 1-2 things in advance is probably the sensible option unless you really like cooking) a possibly useful resource may be To Make A Feast, an article in the Miscellany (page 150, http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Misc10/Misc10.pdf). It’s aimed at a somewhat different context (a medieval feast in the Society for Creative Anachronism), but it has a lot of good advice that may be relevant to the problem of feeding 50 people yourselves.

        … Hope that was useful! As um, might be obvious, I find this general topic really interesting, so feel free to ask if there are any specific questions I might be able to answer/if you want recipe recommendations for specific types of dishes or anything?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Venue, venue, venue.

      Some places “in the wedding business” will mandate you use their DJ/band/catering service/photographer. State park pavilions are an easy alternative, and can run you as little as $100 for the full day. Combining the wedding and reception can also help, but may be impractical based on your ceremonial requirements.

      • albatross11 says:

        But you’d better have a plan for rain if your wedding or reception is outdoors….

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          But you’d better have a plan for rain if your wedding or reception is outdoors….

          Alanis Morisette.

    • Randy M says:

      5 k should be doable. Is there a church you or a family member is a member of that you can hold the wedding at? I believe ours was held at my mother-in-laws church for a <$100 fee.
      Other services you may be able to get as gifts. We got the cake, decorations, catering, and invitations this way. Ask around for what skills your friends have.
      Depending on the time of day–say, 1:00–I think you can get away with not having a formal meal, although you'll definitely want some food.

    • broblawsky says:

      What are your religious requirements? If you don’t need a church, you might want to look into seeing how much would it cost to rent out a local restaurant for a night. That sounds like it should be inside your budget.

    • John Schilling says:

      Consider all of the good advice you’ve seen so far. And then read up on the Fyre Festival, or watch one of the highly-regarded documentaries. Not just because you’ll enjoy vicariously watching a bunch of idiots get their comeuppance, but because you’ll get a solid appreciation for the importance of logistics and the consequences of underestimating same. You absolutely can run your own wedding on the cheap. You absolutely cannot manage the sort of wedding the professionals could arrange for you. You’ll almost certainly wind up with a weighted average of the two, but if that’s not weighted very heavily towards small and realistic, it’s going to be a disaster. Little things like inadequate parking or rest rooms, or a kitchen that was supposed to feed your guests but instead turned into more of their social space, can become the ingredients of nightmare.

        • John Schilling says:

          Oh, good Lord. Seventy-five people in a back yard and “all we have to do is get some chairs and everything will work out”? Yep, that’s an impeding 15 milliFyres.

      • bean says:

        I’ll second this, and add that on the day of, you’ll be more stressed and more busy than you think you will be. You need to make sure it’s as sorted as possible beforehand, and then have someone around who knows enough about what’s going on to be able to take care of it. Yes, your friends and family will be asking what they can do, and you should make use of that. But you’ll have to figure out what to ask them to do and often explain how to do it.

        Source: Got married 3 weeks ago. We hired professionals for a lot of it, including the venue. I definitely don’t regret not having to worry about things like catering. On the other hand, the wedding industry seems to have no concept of customer service. Lord Nelson has more stories than I do, but with the exception of the photographer, we had issues with almost everyone. Most notable was the flower guys, who managed to give her a bouquet she was allergic to.

      • Matt M says:

        Eh, a small backyard wedding is basically the same as hosting a large party for friends and family.

        Which, yes, if you’ve never actually done it, is a somewhat complicated task with a lot of logistics that can get messy pretty quick if you’ve never really prepared for them before.

        On the other hand, there are a decent amount of people who regularly do host such parties, and can easily replicate it. If that’s not you, find one of your friends and family who it is, and enlist them as your semi-formal wedding planner.

        Like, I had some neighbors who pretty regularly hosted some pretty large parties. When it came time for their daughters wedding, it was… basically just like one of their regular parties. No real sweat for them at all – they’d done it before (all the complicated logistics at least, the only stuff they hadn’t done before was like the dress and the cake and the wedding-specific stuff).

    • Scumbarge says:

      My wife and I were broke as hell, and had a SUPER cheap wedding.
      Venue was a shady park with an amphitheater that they used for local band performances in the summer, and cost $350 for the day with an alcohol license.
      Guest list was <40, close friends and family.
      Catering was my mother and mother-in-law making side dishes, and a guy from my mom's church who had a smoker and provided some incredible barbeque for $3 a guest.
      DJ was a spotify playlist.
      Photographer…well, he was pretty terrible. We paid him a hundred bucks and he never actually sent us the originals that he took that day, only a smattering of hackjob edits that didn't include most of our favorites. Personally, I recommend the crowdsourced method: just tell everyone present to send you their photos afterwards.
      All told, I think it was under 2 grand out of pocket.

    • SamChevre says:

      My wife and I got married 13 years ago, spent about $2000 on the wedding (another $2000 on rings and plane tickets for family members). We had about 200 people at our wedding.

      Key things:
      Space is expensive, and in many cases space costs drive other costs like catering. We got married at her church, had the reception in the social hall at mine, and so spent very little on space.
      Catering is expensive: I’m a good large-quantity cook, so we had a very simple buffet menu and my family and I cooked the day before. Bread, turkey salad, fruit, lentils, coffee.
      If you have capable friends, ask them to help as a wedding present. One of our friends made and served coffee, one printed the invitations and programs, and one made a cake.

      Think of the reception as a party for your friends. If you are both vegetarian, go with vegetarian food–if you were having 6 friends over to your house the meal would be vegetarian–so there’s no reason to change just because it’s 50 people.

    • dick says:

      1) Buy all the plates, glasses, flatware, tablecloths, etc off craigslist, use them, wash them, then sell them on craigslist

      2) Have the main course catered from a restaurant, potluck for stuff like salad and sides and drinks

      3) If you like cheap-to-perform music like jazz or bluegrass, you can probably find a decent band that has done weddings before and will help MC stuff for you

      4) Making your own decorations is fun and rewarding if you start many months ahead of time, and the opposite if you’re doing it at the last minute

      5) Brew some beer for it. And drink some about half an hour before the I Do, really helped with the nerves in my case.

      Grats!

    • RDNinja says:

      My wife and I got married for under $5000 (although the dress, cake, and rehearsal dinner were provided by others).

      -Our venue for the ceremony was the outdoor amphitheatre of a local park, which we could reserve for free. Our reception venue was the local farmers’ market pavilion, which only cost $150 for 8 hours and included tables and chairs. Check out local parks and municipal spaces for cheap venues like that.
      -Don’t skimp on the photographer. You’ll forget about the food and the music after a few years, but you can show off the pictures 50 years from now.
      -If the wedding and reception is that small, do you even need a DJ? Can you borrow a sound system and put together your own playlist?
      –I would not want the added stress of managing the food, on top of other wedding stuff. You can get cheaper catering; we used Barberitos, and since they shared a parking lot with the venue, they threw in drinks for free. Also, a potluck in lieu of gifts would be appropriate, depending on how much you can trust people to accommodate your vegetarianism.

    • Chalid says:

      I’ve been at a couple weddings in state parks, where they just hired some of their favorite food trucks to park by the venue and provide food to the guests. It worked pretty well.

    • EchoChaos says:

      We had a very inexpensive wedding. Free venue (our home church), free photographer (friend of my father-in-law).

      My wife loves cooking, so she cooked everything for the wedding. We ended up getting married on about $1000. It was stressful for her at the time, but she is really proud and happy in retrospect.

    • oldman says:

      I’ve seen people agree with a close group of family and friends that they all spend 30 mins with a camera taking photos – saved money and people really enjoyed it.
      I’ve also seen instead of a DJ all guests pick a song – then they get added to a spotify list. IMO – better than a DJ.

    • JonathanD says:

      I want to recommend that you don’t skip the photographer. Get a photographer willing to give you your originals and skip buying the book, but get someone who knows light and composition to do your photos. You never look as good in your friends’ cellphone shots as you do in your photographer’s pictures. This advice doesn’t apply if you can’t afford it, but if you can, don’t save too much money here.

      OTOH, diy books are easy and fun. Skip the album, it’s a ripoff.

    • eric23 says:

      A good photographer is perhaps the one thing you really should spend on, because it’s the one thing that stays with you.

    • Eternaltraveler says:

      My wedding had about 50 people and a similar budget and went very well. We rented a mansion in a redwood forest which also slept about 20 of the guests, and had the ceremony outside. We had a seafood food truck park in the driveway and guests ordered whatever they wanted. For the cake I bought 4 cakes from whole foods and stacked them (the first whole foods learned it was for a wedding and then wouldn’t let me have the cakes I ordered because apparently they sell wedding cakes for 10x, so I drove to another one and bought the same 4 cakes). Bought a bunch of wine and liquor from Costco. A friend of ours who is a good photographer documented the event as a gift to us. My dog was the ring bearer. My best friend who is a great orator performed an excellent ceremony dressed as the pope.

      I highly recommend that kind of approach. It was far cheaper and far more in line with the kind of event we wanted.

    • beleester says:

      Flowers can be expensive if you go for big bouquets and centerpieces. We limited it to just some corsages and boutonnieres and used artificial flowers for centerpieces, plus some paper decorations that fit our theme. You can definitely save money here, though it’s not the biggest item.

      Doing all the catering yourself is a tall order – cooking on an industrial scale is very different from cooking on a family scale. I would echo everyone else’s suggestions of hiring a catering company but doing things buffet-style to save on service costs.

      Limiting guest count will mainly have an impact on the catering costs, because that scales by number of guests. Photography and DJ, by contrast, go hourly. You could consider only hiring the photographer for ceremony and formal photos and encouraging the guests to take lots of photos at the reception.

      You don’t need a full-service planner, but I would recommend hiring a day-of coordinator. You need someone with a big checklist of what’s supposed to happen and the responsibility of executing it, who isn’t going to be busy with things like “getting married” on the big day.

    • Cliff says:

      Our wedding was within your budget and we had 90 guests and a fully catered river cruise with all the normal stuff- DJ, cake, catered meal, etc. Also in an expensive area of the country. I really think all it requires is looking at different options and picking ones that are relatively lower cost.

  6. SteveReilly says:

    (Whoops, meant to reply to souleater)

  7. Milo Minderbinder says:

    In OT135, I posted a comment regarding the (American) schedule for child support payments. This is definitely a more culture-war-y topic than I had assumed, so it seems this is the appropriate place to discuss it.

    As the law stands now, non-custodial (or at least, non-primary guardian) parents pay a percentage of their income. The legal rationale behind this is supposedly a doctrine of “what is best for the child” (thanks to hls2003 for some helpful explanations).

    To me, this seems unjust in the case of babies or very young children, in the sense that beyond a specific regional “cost of childcare” the excess payment implies that the child inherently has claim on a non-custodial parents “status,” as defined by material wealth. In the case of older children, the disruption of their lives by a divorce could (in theory) be somewhat ameliorated by the maintenance of their existing lifestyle, but I don’t see how that holds for very young children.

    Full disclosure: I support a higher level of redistributive welfare in general and much higher estate taxes in particular, so that may be where my distaste for the percentile schedule comes from.

    Discussion appreciated.

    • ana53294 says:

      If a man divorces, the children stay in the custody of the mother, and the man remarries and has more children, the children he lives with will share his standard of living.

      Now, if his previous wife gets only enough child support to survive, and (for reasons) she can’t earn enough money on her own to raise her family’s living standard that much above federal poverty guidelines, there will be great differences in how the same person’s children are treated.

      Treating all your children equally is a standard most parents aspire to, and it is something of a modern moral rule not to play favorites. Favoritism is greatly harmful, and children who see their half-siblings living a much nicer life, and spending a lot more time with their other parent, may grow up resentful and scarred, even if their life was basically decent.

      No judge can force a father or a mother to treat all their kids equally, and, say, attend all the sport events of their non-custodial children the same way they do with their custodial children. Instead, social pressure is applied towards this goal. But a judge can and does force non-custodial parents to provide the same economic benefits as their other children, or even their theoretical potential custodial children.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        That makes sense. I certainly think that, to the extent a non-primary guardian is/wants to be involved in the life of their child, resources above and beyond the minimum would be provided freely by that individual, unless there were serious doubts that the primary guardian would apply them to the child’s benefit (unless you’re furtively handing your kid a sack of Krugerrands, I suspect the guardian would be spending it in most cases).

        • ana53294 says:

          There are many, many cases when parents, especially fathers, walk away and, when they can get away with it, provide no care or artificially reduce their income to reduce payments. I don’t believe that how decent a man a father is should matter for his children’s quality of life.

          There is also the issue of disabled kids. It may not happen in America, but in Russia, many marriages with a disabled kid end in divorce, with the man completely removing himself from the child’s life. Many of these men, despicable as they are, don’t consider disabled children worthy of support.

          That is why I see child support should be an enforced contract.

          • “artificially reduce their income to reduce payments.”

            Whether you can call this “artificial” is a matter of opinion. Some would call it “natural” that when people face a much higher effective tax-rate, they work less.

          • ana53294 says:

            I agree that a man should have the right to reduce hours, or change jobs, and not be forced to do the higher paid job. As long as the income he declares is the income he gets, reducing child support income is reasonable.

            I don’t know if this happens in the US; it may not happen because the IRS is more powerful there. But in Russia, it is quite common to get a “grey” salary, where part of it is paid in white, meaning legally, and part is paid in black, in cash.

            What I meant by artificially reduce income, unlike a real reduction in income, is to reduce you taxed income while keeping your income the same, by getting an illegal income.

            And yes, higher taxes also push people towards more tax evasion; does that make it reasonable? So if the state is unable to prove, to a criminal court standard, that a person is commiting tax fraud, but there is reasonable suspicion that a person actually earns a higher income than they state, child support should be paid on the actually suspected income.

          • DeWitt says:

            So if the state is unable to prove, to a criminal court standard, that a person is commiting tax fraud, but there is reasonable suspicion that a person actually earns a higher income than they state, child support should be paid on the actually suspected income.

            I’m sympathetic to your cause, I really, genuinely am, but I’m also convinced that enshrining such a thing into law will end up in a thousand innocents being HEAVILY SUSPECTED of actually making bank for every shyster earning more than he’s owning up to off the books paying his due.

          • ana53294 says:

            @DeWitt:

            Maybe I am unclear.

            Let’s say there’s an electrician who, after all expenses, earns 100,000 $/year. He’s got two kids, and has to pay 20%, or 20,000$/year.

            He then, whithin a year, suddenly starts earning 50,000$/year, but somehow manages to keep the same car, house, and style of living as before. He’s quite probably just doing a lot of dark jobs on the side and not declaring them, and being paid in cash. In Spain, it’s quite common to have two private parties agree to a “no bill/VAT” job, where everybody is paid in cash, for a discount (not having to pay the 20% VAT is a very big discount).

            Do you think such cases are frequent enough, bar a recession, that honest people would get caught?

          • DeWitt says:

            No, I think that unpopular, unfortunate, powerless, marginalised, uneducated, terrified, and unfortunate people are going to see a raise in their child support raise ‘because we suspect you are earning more than you let on’ and have no way to do anything about this because the burden of proof is on the wrong side of the equation.

          • ana53294 says:

            @DeWitt

            How do you get sudden steep decreases in income, in a field with many options of getting dark income, without a recession and in a booming job market, for legitimate reasons? I just don’t understand the mechanism, could you explain it?

          • DeWitt says:

            Your employer moved to a cheaper country and had to fire you. Your boss and you had a fight over something dumb and he fired you for what nominally are good reasons. You drink a lot and your employer got really sick of it so he fired you. Your employer was bought up by hedge fund cowboys and the reorganisation cost you your job.

            People have to switch jobs all the time. Some or even many of them aren’t at all sympathetic. Giving the state opportunity to take people already down on their luck and impose immense amounts of taxes on them under the mere suspicion that they might have additional income is a case of some very, very, very, very perverse incentives.

          • Protagoras says:

            Let’s say there’s an electrician who, after all expenses, earns 100,000 $/year. He’s got two kids, and has to pay 20%, or 20,000$/year.

            He then, whithin a year, suddenly starts earning 50,000$/year, but somehow manages to keep the same car, house, and style of living as before. He’s quite probably just doing a lot of dark jobs on the side and not declaring them, and being paid in cash. In Spain, it’s quite common to have two private parties agree to a “no bill/VAT” job, where everybody is paid in cash, for a discount (not having to pay the 20% VAT is a very big discount).

            Do you think such cases are frequent enough, bar a recession, that honest people would get caught?

            Sounds like a case where there’s enough evidence to start an investigation for tax evasion. But if somehow miraculously the investigation for tax evasion turns up no evidence of wrongdoing, sure, that may be evidence that the investigators are incompetent, but it may also be evidence that you’ve misinterpreted some part of the situation. And in any event I for one am not in favor of punishing people because we suspect they’re probably guilty but the police are too incompetent to catch them; there seems to me to be just slightly more potential for abuse in that approach than I’m willing to put up with.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            How do you get sudden steep decreases in income, in a field with many options of getting dark income, without a recession and in a booming job market, for legitimate reasons? I just don’t understand the mechanism, could you explain it?

            Maybe you got depression due to being forced to pay a large portion of your income to the woman who just kicked you out of the house and stopped you seeing your children, so you can’t work as much as you used to.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            Your proposal is suspicious because as Protagoras notes, such cases can already be prosecuted as tax evasion. After a conviction of tax evasion, the real salary would be known to family court and could be used to increase child support, for both the future and retroactively.

            So either your proposed policy is meaningless posturing, or it is a reduction of the burden of proof where evidence that is considered insufficient for a tax evasion conviction is considered sufficient for increasing child support.

    • Plumber says:

      @Milo Minderbinder,
      I think the system is trying to balance two ideas:

      1) The more money that goes to supporting a child the better off the child will be.

      and

      2) Placing a limit on how much the non-custodial parent has to pay.

      Your beef is that all children don’t receive the same level of support, but that’s true whether there’s court ordered child support payments or not, and you just can’t much change that without massive re-distribution.

      You could get closer to children receiving more financial support be more progressive taxation, and income subsidies, higher minimum wages, more jobs paying similar wages via unions, or direct government employment that pays close to the median, etc cetera.

      I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting as we as a society have been mostly moving away from stuff like that for over 40 years.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        I’d say my specific beef is that the law promotes heritable inequality in a way that seems particularly un-meritocratic. I understand that realistically children from different socioeconomic backgrounds will receive varying qualities of life. But yeah, I guess my main issue is that it’s enshrined inequality of opportunity, rather than inequality resulting from free actions.

        • Plumber says:

          @Milo Minderbinder,

          I suspect that I’m far less confident than you are that “equality of opportunity”, where inequality is solely only due to an individuals actions is even possible, but I think what is called “meritocracy” is at least half luck anyway.

          A little more fairness than is currently the status quo sounds like a fine idea to me, but eventually incentives to work disappear with enough “equality of results”, but were no where near there now, as to making it so everyone has the same “starting position”, but where they end up is solely based on their individual efforts?

          I don’t think that’s remotely possibly.

          • Milo Minderbinder says:

            Oh, I concur entirely. As you say, a true leveling of initial opportunity is unfeasible, and radical attempts to induce it would destroy far more value than any gained by the more meritocratic system. My complaint is just the narrow observation that the law, as written now, appears to actively promote, rather than passively allow, outsize benefit to accrue to someone (the child, and realistically, the guardian spending the money) solely on the basis of parental/sexual partner status.

      • brad says:

        1) The more money that goes to supporting a child the better off the child will be.

        But why is maximizing a particular child’s well being in the government’s interest? There’s a cost to courts and enforcement–shouldn’t those marginal dollars go to the least well off children instead of going to make sure that the comparatively well off children are even more well off?

        Once a threshold is reached it seems to me that government’s interest in the matter is at least strongly attenuated.

        • Plumber says:

          @brad,

          Well, until a recent reform that extended support after the age of 18, nearly half of all the kids in the California foster care system (where the State paid the caretakers to support the kids) became homeless upon reaching adulthood, so I judge what is currently considered the “minimum” as not enough (yes it would be nice if the kids getting a raw deal had it better, also ponies. I still wouldn’t hold my breath).

          • brad says:

            Meanwhile our tax dollars are going to make sure an orthopedic surgeon pays his ex-wife–who got millions in the divorce to begin with–$15,000 a month in child support. Wouldn’t those dollars we are paying judges and cops and so on to chase after the surgeon be better spent on foster kids? Why do we care if child support is paid in that case?

          • Plumber says:

            @brad,
            I presume because the number of voters who are ex-wives and children of first marriages exceeds the number of ex-foster care kids.

          • brad says:

            That the ‘is’, I thought we were discussing the ought.

      • Cliff says:

        1) The more money that goes to supporting a child the better off the child will be.

        That seems very questionable to me. Once you get to a basic level I doubt that more money matters much at all and might even be negative. Also the custodial parent will probably just spend it on themselves.

        the law promotes heritable inequality in a way that seems particularly un-meritocratic. I understand that realistically children from different socioeconomic backgrounds will receive varying qualities of life. But yeah, I guess my main issue is that it’s enshrined inequality of opportunity, rather than inequality resulting from free actions.

        I don’t really understand this argument. Your preferred policy is that everyone gets the same amount of child support payments? (by the way that’s not practical). And that would improve inequality of opportunity because children of rich divorced men would not get an advantage over children of divorced poor men? That seems like an argument for giant income/wealth taxes or something, it’s oddly specific to focus on child support if that’s your concern.

        Also maybe this is a huge blind spot, but what opportunities are denied to people because they are poor? Other than the “unpaid internship at Vogue” unicorn, what opportunities are available to the rich and not the poor? Good K-12 schools? Is there evidence that better K-12 results in better student outcomes? Or higher SES in general (controlling for genetics)? I will admit I have my kids in good schools but it’s not really for academic reasons but quality of life.

        Personally I think child support should be a percentage until it reaches a reasonable amount, and then it should be capped. Parents would be free to provide additional funds but there is no reason to force them to do so. Just like many high-income people live well below their means and no one finds this objectionable.

        I also think that it’s worth considering that if a parent wants the children and they are awarded to the other parent, that parent should have no child support obligation- or, it should be proportionate to their visitation rights. Ability to provide materially should be a strong consideration when determining custody.

        By the way, women initiate 2/3 of divorce proceedings.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      beyond a specific regional “cost of childcare” the excess payment implies that the child inherently has claim on a non-custodial parents “status,” as defined by material wealth

      This makes sense if you grant that the counterfactual is that the parents stay together. The intent of the policy is to preserve, as much as possible, the standard of living the child would otherwise have, not simply to maintain the standard they do (minimize disruption).

      Brad is correct that the nonexistence of the duty to support in other circumstances makes the justification tenuous, and hls and aapje are correct that the steady-state assumption of earning potential and the impossibility of exploring the counterfactual make this policy pretty bad and totalitarian. I think there are good and convincing arguments against imputed income when it comes to support, and good and unconvincing ones about the structure of the schedule.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Good point, these policies were almost certainly started when that counterfactual was much more obvious/salient.

      • hls2003 says:

        Perhaps I’m missing a step, but I’m not sure what you mean when you say there is a “nonexistence of the duty to support in other circumstances.” I thought part of the pushback that was waiting for “culture war thread” is that there is a duty of support, more often than not placed on the father, whether there is a marriage or simply non-marital child support.

        Do you just mean that the father is not required to maximize his income in situations outside court ordered support? That a surgeon in a happy family can pursue his dream of being a Starbucks barista, while the surgeon in a custody dispute is enslaved to his high-earning job? If so, then I guess you are technically correct (the best kind of correct) but I’m not sure how much it means. Part of marriage (and procreation, including non-marital) seems to be bound up with the idea of doing what’s best for your family – that’s one of the rationales, supposedly, for civil marriage anyway; partners and parents taking care of their families to make society better and ease burdens on the state. Once the divorce comes along, the state takes on some of that “doing what’s best for your family” role because the emotions are such that it’s more tenuous to expect it of the family members, and the state uses various default rules to figure out “what’s best.” Monetary support levels are crude but legible, to borrow the phrase.

        In the divorce context, you’re always dealing with a pre-existing baseline, and you voluntarily took on civil marriage obligations, and it doesn’t strike me as obviously irrational for the default rule to be that deviation from the baseline in terms of support should be suspect. Judges have discretion on this stuff; if they see a lawyer legit get laid off, or there are affidavits from the employer that the surgery center is being shut down, or whatever, they won’t throw a person in jail on a whim.

        • Do you just mean that the father is not required to maximize his income in situations outside court ordered support? That a surgeon in a happy family can pursue his dream of being a Starbucks barista, while the surgeon in a custody dispute is enslaved to his high-earning job?

          Or maybe he had previously been happy working 50-hour workweeks or working a dirty and dangerous but high-paying job, and isn’t thereafter, if he isn’t seeing any money from those efforts.

          Part of marriage (and procreation, including non-marital) seems to be bound up with the idea of doing what’s best for your family – that’s one of the rationales, supposedly, for civil marriage anyway; partners and parents taking care of their families to make society better and ease burdens on the state. Once the divorce comes along, the state takes on some of that “doing what’s best for your family” role because the emotions are such that it’s more tenuous to expect it of the family members, and the state uses various default rules to figure out “what’s best.” Monetary support levels are crude but legible, to borrow the phrase.

          I’m having a bit of trouble with the “once the divorce comes along” part, as it treats divorce as something that just falls from the sky and strikes certain people for no reason.

          In the divorce context, you’re always dealing with a pre-existing baseline, and you voluntarily took on civil marriage obligations, and it doesn’t strike me as obviously irrational for the default rule to be that deviation from the baseline in terms of support should be suspect.

          It’s true that the marriage contract was voluntarily entered into, but after a divorce, it is considered dissolved. You wouldn’t sign a contract with CenturyLink, stop paying your bill, and continue to expect all your services.

          • DeWitt says:

            It’s true that the marriage contract was voluntarily entered into, but after a divorce, it is considered dissolved.

            I don’t think that follows. Demanding child support after finding out your spouse has been cheating for a decade seems a lot more reasonable than demanding child support after divorcing them for thinking you could do better.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DeWitt

            This used to be the reason for “no fault” versus “at fault” divorce. Someone who breaks a contract should be more liable than someone who voluntarily dissolves it.

            But since that difference doesn’t exist in our law, we should legislate for the most common occurence, which is no-fault,.

          • DeWitt says:

            That’s fair, but even in situations of no fault divorce, child support is an institution I want to remain in some fashion. The current incarnation is a very bad one, but I’m not sure how to get from here to something better, whereas I could see things get worse much more easily.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s fair, but even in situations of no fault divorce, child support is an institution I want to remain in some fashion. The current incarnation is a very bad one, but I’m not sure how to get from here to something better, whereas I could see things get worse much more easily.

            Maybe have a low base rate the non-custodial spouse has to pay in any events, and then increase it depending on the amount of blame they bear for the break-up of the marriage? That might also have the effect of discouraging frivolous divorces, and would also mitigate the main problem with modern divorce law, viz. that it puts all the power in a relationship in the hands of whoever is least committed to making it work.

          • DeWitt says:

            Maybe have a low base rate the non-custodial spouse has to pay in any events, and then increase it depending on the amount of blame they bear for the break-up of the marriage?

            I want you to go look at divorce court proceedings – anyone can do it – and consider if this is still going to be something you believe in. If attending court isn’t your style, pick up a tabloid mag or google about for stories. Determining gradations of blame sounds to me like the exact kind of thing that’ll make an already dysfunctional system worse.

          • Aapje says:

            One possible solution is not just to judge the breadwinner’s earning potential, but also that of the non-breadwinner. For example, a fairly typical modern scenario is that the woman works until a child is born and then reduces her working hours or stops working.

            Then if after a divorce, the man asks for shared custody, family court could assume that the woman could return to that job or increase her working hours. Then based on cost of child care and an assessment of how many hours she can work, her expected contribution to the child/children’s costs can be set.

            Furthermore, I think that the breadwinner’s earning potential should be discounted if the breadwinner will take on more caring tasks.

            So if we have:
            – Bob who works 60 hours a week and earns $120,000 a year
            – Mary who used to work 32 hours a week for $50,000 a year before having little Timmy
            – Mary stopped working after having Timmy
            – Bob desires to roughly share custody (having the child for two weekdays and one weekend day), work 32 hours to facilitate this, where the same employer is willing to offer $60,000 a year. He plans to have one weekday off and to put the child in day care for the other day at a cost of $2,400 a year.
            – Mary desires to have the child full time, working 24 hours for $35,000 and putting the child in day care for 3 days.

            Then courts that favor gender equality by default, can order that Bob gets Timmy for 3 days (2 weekdays, one weekend day) and Mary for 4 days. They can assume that Bob and Mary can work 32 hours, at a salary of $60k and 50k, respectively. With the extra weekday, Mary then has to pay for one more day of day care, food costs, etc. Bob then would have to pay $2,400/2 = $1200 for half of that day care day, plus whatever seems reasonable for the other costs of that day. The $10k gap in incomes can then result in a certain child support payment, based on a formula.

            An issue here may be that career interruptions can be expected to have a negative impact on salaries, so Mary may not in fact be able to earn $50k for 32 work hours anymore. Presumably, the average impact could be calculated from data on returning mothers, although that average may not be valid for the individual. Of course, such issues already exist under the current system and are an inherent problem of judging earning potential.

            Another issue/feature is that this solution is going to reduce the total income and thus the money available for the child more than forcing the man to be a breadwinner, as men tend to have higher-earning jobs. However, this is caused by gender inequality/’patriarchy,’ as well as a reality where high salaries tend to require long hours. So this can only be preserved by demanding that those who chose gender inequality during their marriage or even just in their choice of jobs, preserve gender equality after marriage…

            This is part of what I was referring to in my comment in the open thread, where I argued that the current system is anachronistic. We live in a culture where policy/law tries to push people towards gender equality, so demanding inequality by law is inconsistent.

          • Randy M says:

            @DeWitt
            I think the acrimony of divorce proceedings are due to two–make that three–things.
            The high stakes. High fractions of income for decades, loss of access to children.
            The fact that most of the extenuating or blameworthy act happen in private.
            And, well, the already present acrimony just spilling out into public.

            An unchecked accumulation of petty offenses coupled with a high stakes contest that judges truth in part of how convincing you can be about he said/she said situations.

          • hls2003 says:

            Or maybe he had previously been happy working 50-hour workweeks or working a dirty and dangerous but high-paying job, and isn’t thereafter, if he isn’t seeing any money from those efforts.

            Divorce generally destroys wealth and makes everyone worse off financially. This is one of the many reasons why it is A Bad Thing. But being “happy” about it doesn’t come into the level of support at all. The court is thinking of the child, and if this fellow isn’t “happy” supporting his child because he’s not “seeing any money” then tough – it’s your kid. I’m not saying this is optimal, but I would put the problem not in the support level but in the payment mechanism. If our hypothetical dude objects (as Nabil points out below) because child support is being paid to his rapacious ex, who spends a pittance on the child but gets massages every day, sure I totally understand why the guy hates it. But if it is actually going for his kid, and everyone is “seeing less money” except hopefully the kid, then I have little sympathy for him being less happy about it. That he might have been better off before the divorce doesn’t come into it; everyone is better off (financially) before 99% of divorces.

            it treats divorce as something that just falls from the sky and strikes certain people for no reason

            Oh no, I think it’s exactly the opposite. Divorces very clearly strike certain people for very good reasons. It may be that they are to blame; it may be that their poor judgment in marrying their horrible ex-partner are to blame; but I think the state is making a pretty clear implicit judgment against divorcing people because they have failed at the task they took on from the state – to create a self-supporting and functional family unit. Before your marriage has failed, the state gives you a lot of latitude about how to run things. After your marriage has failed to produce the hoped-for functional family unit, the state steps in and keeps a much stricter rein on things. I’m not saying this to blame each individual divorcing person, but in general the state is making the assumption that it can’t trust these people as much to make good choices on family stuff, due to track record and also to the emotional fallout. That doesn’t strike me as crazy.

            It’s true that the marriage contract was voluntarily entered into, but after a divorce, it is considered dissolved. You wouldn’t sign a contract with CenturyLink, stop paying your bill, and continue to expect all your services.

            To the extent the metaphor works, it’s actually the reverse. When a contract is broken, expectation damages apply – the measure is putting the person in the same position they would have been in had the contract been fulfilled. That is in many ways what the Court is trying to do for the child (who after all was not voluntarily part of the contract to begin with).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            if this fellow isn’t “happy” supporting his child because he’s not “seeing any money” then tough – it’s your kid.

            But why do we only care in the event of divorce? For married parents the standard is “not literal abuse”.

            Should we have the state step in and say “you know, you could afford an 9/10 school district but for some reason you’re slumming it at a 7/10. Move or we’re going to take your money and put it in a trust for your kid”

          • hls2003 says:

            But why do we only care in the event of divorce? For married parents the standard is “not literal abuse”.

            Right, because determining that information is tremendously difficult, and for married parents the state gives them the benefit of the doubt. Once the marital unit proves itself dysfunctional by divorce, and asks the state to intervene, the state says “OK, I guess you don’t get deference anymore, let’s take a hard look and make sure the kid is doing what we the state thinks best instead of what you think is best.” I think I get into that a bit in my second paragraph above.

            It kind of reminds me of when the Scots petitioned Edward I to arbitrate their succession dispute because they couldn’t stop squabbling on their own. He came in and ruled that he was rightful lord of Scotland. I mean, on the one hand, it may not be right; but on the other hand, when you invite him in to decide your disputes, you can’t be surprised when he judges by what he thinks rather than what you think.

          • Randy M says:

            It kind of reminds me of when the Scots petitioned Edward I to arbitrate their succession dispute because they couldn’t stop squabbling on their own. He came in and ruled that he was rightful lord of Scotland.

            That is such a good analogy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ hls2003:

            Oh no, I think it’s exactly the opposite. Divorces very clearly strike certain people for very good reasons. It may be that they are to blame; it may be that their poor judgment in marrying their horrible ex-partner are to blame; but I think the state is making a pretty clear implicit judgment against divorcing people because they have failed at the task they took on from the state – to create a self-supporting and functional family unit. Before your marriage has failed, the state gives you a lot of latitude about how to run things. After your marriage has failed to produce the hoped-for functional family unit, the state steps in and keeps a much stricter rein on things. I’m not saying this to blame each individual divorcing person, but in general the state is making the assumption that it can’t trust these people as much to make good choices on family stuff, due to track record and also to the emotional fallout. That doesn’t strike me as crazy.

            There’s a problem with your argument here, I think. (Actually I think there are two problems, since marriage as an institution predates the state, and hence people who get married can’t be “taking on” a task from the state, but discussing that would take us too far from the main topic.) The whole point of no-fault divorce is that there is, well, no fault (allegedly) — that is, the divorce court refrains from taking sides or assigning blame. That’s not really compatible with the idea that ” the state is making a pretty clear implicit judgment against divorcing people because they have failed at the task”.

            Related, if we are going to start making judgements against divorcing people for having failed at their task, it seems that we ought to abolish no-fault divorce and go back to at-fault instead. If a wife divorces her husband because she discovered that he was visiting prostitutes every night after work, it makes sense to say that you can’t trust him to make good choices and have to employ more coercion; if a wife divorces her husband because she wanted to shack up with someone sexier, there’s nothing really in the husband’s “track record” to suggest that you can’t trust him, but the law will treat him just the same as the first husband. In fact, the law will likely reward the wife with custody and a share of her ex-husband’s income, even though her “track record” of breaking up her marriage to live with someone else is surely worse than her husband’s.

          • hls2003 says:

            The whole point of no-fault divorce is that there is, well, no fault (allegedly) — that is, the divorce court refrains from taking sides or assigning blame. That’s not really compatible with the idea that ” the state is making a pretty clear implicit judgment against divorcing people because they have failed at the task”.

            That’s not what no-fault divorce means. It just means you don’t need to show specific grounds to get a divorce; it doesn’t mean that the state doesn’t recognize that the marriage has failed. I can be a failure at something without being blameworthy. Even under fault divorce, something like sterility was at one time a recognized basis; presumably people didn’t think that was “blameworthy” either in the sense that the sterile partner was misbehaving.

            Related, if we are going to start making judgements against divorcing people for having failed at their task, it seems that we ought to abolish no-fault divorce and go back to at-fault instead.

            Maybe we should, though that comes with its own problems, and there is zero chance of it happening as far as I can see.

            I think you’re misinterpreting me when I talk about “judging failure.” It’s the family unit that’s a failure. Inside that failure, there may or may not be blame between the individuals, as you note. But as a unit, and particularly a child-bearing unit, the application to divorce court signals a clear failure that triggers the state to say “OK, we let intact units mostly govern themselves, and this divorce filing clearly says you’re not an intact unit, so instead we will apply the sledgehammer (not scalpel) of a divorce court judgment.”

            The unit has still failed even if the fault lies all with one party.

            Edit: I might also add, that the discussion reminds me a bit of actuarial practice with auto insurance. If you have an accident, generally your rates will go up. This is often true even if you were rear-ended sitting at a stop light and had zero fault in the matter. The reason is that people who have an accident, even one clearly not their fault, are more likely to have a future accident. I think something like this may also be true with divorce, except with “questionable judgment” in place of “accident prone”.

          • Randy M says:

            The whole point of no-fault divorce is that there is, well, no fault (allegedly) — that is, the divorce court refrains from taking sides or assigning blame.

            Maybe we should call it “both-fault” divorce.

            But I get your argument. There’s a push to normalize divorce, to not see it as a failure of a family, but as people simply deciding they’d prefer to be apart. That’s in conflict with the theory that hls2003 articulates that a divorce is a sign of a failed family needing to go to an outside authority to direct their affairs. (edit: posted after hls2003; he seems like he’d disagree with this assessment)

            But maybe the synthesis is that divorces in front of a family court judge are failures, and those who part with a civil mediation are more competent to resolve such matters. (Or am I mangling the actual law here?)

            Related, if we are going to start making judgements against divorcing people for having failed at their task, it seems that we ought to abolish no-fault divorce and go back to at-fault instead.

            I’m on your side here. There was another thread in this discussion about the difficulty in proving fault, and divorce proceedings getting nasty as people attempt to dredge up past petty behavior to pin blame on the other.
            I suspect, especially in this age, we can have a high standard for proving fault and still determine it. I’m thinking of a woman whose husband is sending her video of him with another woman, while they are working on the divorce proceedings.

            But there’s going to be messy edge cases no matter what.

          • Cliff says:

            The focus on marriage and divorce seems like a red herring. Child support has nothing to do with marriage. Children are not part of the marital contract. Many child support orders are for parents who never wed.

        • brad says:

          It’s not just a matter of not maximizing financial returns–though there are people that drop out absent bitter divorces–it’s also about spending on children. There are some families that spend less on children relative to their means than other families. If there was a duty of support, adult children of intact families could sue their parents to pay for college just as adult children of divorced parents can. That’s not the case in any jurisdiction I’m aware.

          It’s just not explanatory to say this duty exists but is unnecessary for courts to enforce in every other circumstance when we see that every other circumstance doesn’t match up with what we would expect if this duty existed and was so widely observed that court enforcement would be superfluous.

          • ana53294 says:

            If there was a duty of support, adult children of intact families could sue their parents to pay for college just as adult children of divorced parents can. That’s not the case in any jurisdiction I’m aware.

            It is in Spain. It’s very rare for married parents, because there is such an expectation that if they can afford it, they will support, that usually only parents who can’t afford it don’t support. But absolutely, kids can sue their parents so they pay for university. The government bases scholarships on parent’s income; if parents have no obligation, then is it fair to kids of rich families who get kicked out?

            I’ve heard it’s also the case in Germany, although I wasn’t able to find anything in English.

            P.S. I couldn’t find any case that is like this that’s about a normal kid, usually it’s about some jobless 30 year old who sues his parents and gets child support. Because most decent kids don’t sue their parents, even if they disagree with it. A child support lawsuit means burning a lot of bridges, and it’s not something you do unless you are utterly convinced you are OK with being cut off from your parents. But yes, an 18 year old going to university/professional school can sue their parents in Spain and make them pay for their maintenance.

          • brad says:

            Thanks for that info. I suppose I’d have to say that “duty of the parent” is a plausible explanation for the Spanish (and German) child support percentage based systems. But it is not at an adequate explanation in the Anglo-Saxon systems.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            If there was a duty of support, adult children of intact families could sue their parents to pay for college just as adult children of divorced parents can. That’s not the case in any jurisdiction I’m aware.

            In addition to Germany and Spain it is also the case in Czechia, which makes me suspect that it is the standard in Europe.

          • Aapje says:

            This is also true in The Netherlands, until the age of 21, although the law allows for an exception if the child doesn’t put effort into their studies or is gravely misbehaving. The law recognizes a difference between young adults (18-21) and adults (21+), where the duty to financially support the child typically ends at 21.

            However, there is an exception for 21+, in that parents are expected to help their child finish his/her studies.

            Also, there is an exception when the child is so handicapped that they can’t take care of themselves & is ‘needy.’ However, welfare & such is typically considered sufficient to alleviate neediness.

          • Randy M says:

            The duty to support for those who have not entered into family courts is definitely much lower than for those that have–or at least the non-custodial parent.
            And if custody is in dispute, there’s a variety of small regulations–or perhaps just the discretion of the social worker–that the parent has to meet. Number of beds and so forth. Though since these aren’t calculated according to some fraction of income, they are fairer, but it does mean that a now single parent can’t just get a studio apartment if he wants partial custody. (That’s my second hand impression, though correct me if I’m wrong.)

            I don’t know how much duty to care can be enforced on intact families that have drawn the eye of social workers.

          • hls2003 says:

            Upon reflection, I think you’re clearly wrong that there is no duty of support. If you have a happily married couple who stop working and live in a tent under a bridge, let their kid get scabies, refuse medical care, live amongst rats, etc., there comes a point where the state will take your kids away. There is a duty to support them to some minimum standard. However, I’ll grant that it’s much lower than the standard the Court applies in many divorces. Why?

            I think you’re close to the mark by your comment focusing on when enforcement is necessary. There is a duty of support to keep your kids above at least bare minimum standards; DCFS makes that clear. But for functional family units, the state mostly gives a lot of discretion and keeps enforcement to a minimum. The default rule for functional families seems to be that the state will let you decide if you want your kids to grow up non-materialistic, or trade more time with your kids for less money, or teach them the virtue of sacrificial giving, or avoiding the rat-race, or whatever. When the family is functional, the state assumes (above the bare floor) that the parents are acting in the best interest of the children’s well-being.

            When the family becomes non-functional, exemplified in this case by divorce, the state’s default rule changes. Divorce signals that the family unit has failed, and as a practical matter there is often acrimony and emotional fallout. The state is being asked to step in and adjudicate matters that it previously left up to the family. Its default rule then becomes “I can calculate money, let’s make sure the child gets money.” It applies much stricter scrutiny and more skepticism to claims like “it’s best for my whole family to [insert thing that results in reduced financial support to children].” Granted the state is hewing to a pretty rough justice, but it doesn’t seem irrational or unprincipled for them to treat functional families with more deference than non-functional families asking the state to intervene.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Divorce signals that the family unit has failed, and as a practical matter there is often acrimony and emotional fallout. The state is being asked to step in and adjudicate matters that it previously left up to the family. Its default rule then becomes “I can calculate money, let’s make sure the child gets money.”

            Does family court already take into account cases where “marriage failed due to strain of living beyond your means” or is dad on the hook for maintaining the beyond-means lifestyle?

          • hls2003 says:

            Does family court already take into account cases where “marriage failed due to strain of living beyond your means” or is dad on the hook for maintaining the beyond-means lifestyle?

            In theory, the Court should take that into account. In practice, I don’t know. I’m sure judges do sometimes; I doubt they do all the time.

          • acymetric says:

            If the child support is based on a percentage of income I’m not sure that really matters does it?

          • hls2003 says:

            @acymetric:

            In most states I’m aware of – which I’ll concede is only a few by direct observation – the law will allow the judge final discretion on the final order. There may be a presumption in favor of the percentage, but if it were literally as mechanical as multiplying a number by a number, there’d be less point to having a real person sitting as judge.

          • brad says:

            I don’t think you get use a principle of deference to get from only-if-they-are-starving-and-have-scabbies to required-to-pay-for-tennis-lessons.

        • Plumber says:

          “…..in general the state is making the assumption that it can’t trust these people as much to make good choices on family stuff, due to track record and also to the emotional fallout. That doesn’t strike me as crazy.”

          +1

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Brad is correct that the nonexistence of the duty to support in other circumstances makes the justification tenuous, and hls and aapje are correct that the steady-state assumption of earning potential and the impossibility of exploring the counterfactual make this policy pretty bad and totalitarian.

        This is the problem for me: courts are subjecting men (it’s de jure blind to sex, but let’s be real here) to literal wage slavery. I the all-powerful judge, backed with men with guns, order you to sell your labor to the highest bidder, and if you refuse, the men with guns will throw you in jail to be anally raped, or in extremis, kill you for resisting arrest.
        All subordination to authority rests on fear of the executioner.
        If I support this relationship between men’s employers and the men authorized to use deadly force, what scruple prevents me from supporting Italian Fascism?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Well, all laws are violently enforced, and for me at least the details of the *enforcement mechanism* are less important then how said enforcement stacks up against what is being enforced. The selective service isn’t different in principle from child support, and I’m not in principle against conscription or making a divorcee pay child support. But there’s a world of difference between say, swiss citizenship and the swiss military vs. a soviet penal batallion.

          • Aapje says:

            True, but (potentially) forcing people to work for a single employer, with no freedom to choose a lower paying employer with different work conditions, forces a person to accept those work conditions, eliminating their freedom to respond to displeasing working conditions by leaving.

            The logical consequence is then that the state which forces people to work for that employer becomes responsible for judging what work conditions people should accept in which situations, where those situations include personal circumstances and convictions.

            This greatly complicates things, requiring decisions that go far beyond generic work condition laws. For example, workers as a class are treated fair if, as flight attendants, they are not allowed to carry knives during work. Yet a Sikh’s religion demands that they carry a knife. So if a flight attendant gets a divorce and also converts to the Sikh religion, can they refuse to do the job, even if that means that they can’t pay as much in child support?

            If the government/judiciary can force people to do a job, yet that job results in a demand/burden that a individual worker sees as a major violation of their rights, the government/judiciary automatically becomes burdened with the decision of what objections the government/judiciary will recognize as valid.

            This is illiberal, in that it removes individual freedom for people to act on their values. It also tends to result in bureaucracy, as experts get called upon to help judge the situation.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Aapje

            I believe a conscript is in a similar position in that he most likely has some superior officer looking at his physical and mental qualities and deciding what military role he would best serve.

            The state can in either case have just or unjust cause to conscript the person and reasonable or unreasonable expectations of what they should be made to do.

        • Matt M says:

          I remember seeing Dave Foley (formerly of Kids In The Hall and News Radio) do some random radio interview where he basically said he was a permanent exile in the United States, because he owes so much back child support in Canada that if he ever returns, they’ll throw him in jail.

          The problem was that they calculated his payments basically at the height of his fame/success, which quickly dropped off, and all his appeals of “hey guys I now only make about 1/100th of what I used to, so maybe we can reduce the payments” were denied – on the basis that they figured he could be just as successful as he formerly was, and that he just wasn’t trying hard enough.

          • Aapje says:

            Income seems to be increasingly volatile, which creates issues for systems designed around fixed contracts and long careers at a single employer (and having an employer).

        • hls2003 says:

          This proves too much. Children subject men (and/or women, but as you note statistically it’s men) to literal wage slavery. There are a zillion problems with the divorce system in America, but it’s having the children that creates the obligation. I recently had children. Previously, I had much more freedom to dink around and take unpaid time off. Now I don’t, because my kids need my income. The state is getting involved here at the request of the parents. That they take the kids’ side over the parents is not surprising. I’m not saying it’s fair in every case to every person, or that it’s well-run, but I don’t have a conceptual problem with men (or women) being obligated to work for the support of their own children.

          • Plumber says:

            +1

            Well said.

            I don’t remember seeing your posts before this thread @his2003, but I’ll definitely look for them now.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This proves too much. Children subject men (and/or women, but as you note statistically it’s men) to literal wage slavery.

            I mean, sort of. As long as you stay married, this is between you and your children. If we had only at-fault divorce for stuff like physical abuse, men could Follow Their Bliss and decide that they want to drop out of a stressful high-wage job and be in a band, tending bar when they don’t have a gig to make ends meet for their kids (when I was of age while a student at the University of Oregon, I’d go to a bar where members of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies made ends meet). A totalitarian state could look at this and declare, with its monopoly on violence “Hey! Go back to the highest-paying job you’ve ever had!” But we lived in a liberal state where you had to do something really egregious like become homeless for the State to turn its violence-backed eye on you in the best interests of the children. No-fault divorce means the lower earner can control the higher earner’s life under threat of being treated like a criminal by the eye of the State… except come on, if I Le Maistre Chatte am the higher earner in my family we know there’s no way Monsieur Chat could get away with that, because certain gender roles are a de facto part of the law.

          • hls2003 says:

            As long as you stay married, this is between you and your children.

            Mostly, yes. As I noted here, I think this is a rational response by the system as long as the family unit is functional, and reasonable to become more intrusive once failure occurs.

            As a moral matter, I don’t particularly approve of men (or women) who “follow their bliss” to the detriment of their children. As Paul said, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” There’s play in the joints; more money is not always best, and mostly we trust intact families to make those decisions.

            I should also point out that being literally ordered to keep your highest-salaried job is not common. The cases I’ve seen reported are pretty egregious, like a surgeon becoming a barista type of thing. That’s a tiny fraction of overall cases; and even then the obligated party can change jobs as long as they can manage the payments somehow.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This proves too much. Children subject men (and/or women, but as you note statistically it’s men) to literal wage slavery. There are a zillion problems with the divorce system in America, but it’s having the children that creates the obligation.

            You could offer your kids up for adoption and get out from under any such obligation, which would dramatically undercut such claims to wage slavery.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @his2003:

            As a moral matter, I don’t particularly approve of men (or women) who “follow their bliss” to the detriment of their children. As Paul said, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” There’s play in the joints; more money is not always best, and mostly we trust intact families to make those decisions.

            I’m a traditional Christian who agrees with you, but then we really need to have more intact families. We changed the law such that an otherwise-defensible system is acting totalitarian toward the fathers of non-intact families while simultaneously incentivizing women to create same.

          • hls2003 says:

            You could offer your kids up for adoption and get out from under any such obligation

            I’m not sure this is correct. You can do a termination of parental rights (TPR), but I don’t think that unilateral TPR obviates the support obligation unless the custodial parent agrees. If there is an adoption, that would do it (e.g. the new step-spouse adopts your kids).

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not sure this is correct. You can do a termination of parental rights (TPR), but I don’t think that unilateral TPR obviates the support obligation unless the custodial parent agrees. If there is an adoption, that would do it (e.g. the new step-spouse adopts your kids).

            I’m disputing the argument that having kids is what creates the wage slavery portion.

          • hls2003 says:

            I’m a traditional Christian who agrees with you, but then we really need to have more intact families.

            Couldn’t agree more!

            We changed the law such that an otherwise-defensible system is acting totalitarian toward the fathers of non-intact families while simultaneously incentivizing women to create same.

            If you’re referring to no-fault divorce, I generally agree that it’s been detrimental (in conjunction with other sexual revolution items) to intact family formation. But the prior system had its own problems, too. I think the bigger issue is a writ-small paraphrase of John Adams: “Our [system] was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the [clean administration] of any other.” Law and culture intertwine and affect one another, but I don’t think there’s any plausible means to re-create the cultural ecosystem that preceded the sexual revolution, even warts and all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            it’s having the children that creates the obligation

            Thing is, if a woman cheats on her husband, has a child with the other guy, he finds out and divorces her… he’s still on the hook for child support because “the best interests of the child” don’t change just because the kid’s not his. At which point you might as well just assign every child support from Bill Gates or something.

          • hls2003 says:

            I’m disputing the argument that having kids is what creates the wage slavery portion.

            Perhaps I’m not understanding then. Let’s say Adam knocks up Becky. Whether they get married or not, if Becky has the child, then Adam is responsible to support the child financially. That is true whether Adam executes a TPR or not, I think. Heck, I seem to recall there have been some rare cases in the news where a woman will do a “self-insemination” with a high-profile guy’s seed and there is still a support obligation. I’ll concede that using the word “literally” wage slavery is literally imprecise, but I was quoting from LMC.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Perhaps I’m not understanding then. Let’s say Adam knocks up Becky. Whether they get married or not, if Becky has the child, then Adam is responsible to support the child financially. That is true whether Adam executes a TPR or not, I think. Heck, I seem to recall there have been some rare cases in the news where a woman will do a “self-insemination” with a high-profile guy’s seed and there is still a support obligation. I’ll concede that using the word “literally” wage slavery is literally imprecise, but I was quoting from LMC.

            Lets say a woman gets pregnant, has the kid and then puts it up for adoption. Where is the wage slavery here?

            My point is that it isn’t the creation of the child that creates the wage slavery, it is the legal process. Most people agree with the woman’s right to give up the baby for adoption with some caveats about the father’s permission/being able to take custody if he wants, but basically none argue that the man should be able to renounce his financial responsibilities in a similar manner.

          • hls2003 says:

            Lets say a woman gets pregnant, has the kid and then puts it up for adoption. Where is the wage slavery here?

            If both parents agree to TPR, then yes, that will work. Although (and here I’m speculating) it’s possible that there has to be an adoption completed in order for it to work. If the state is burdened with the cost of the child and there’s no adoptive framework, I think the state can still collect support from the parents. Maybe not, that’s not my area of knowledge.

            My point is that it isn’t the creation of the child that creates the wage slavery, it is the legal process.

            Sure, although since pretty much every enforceable obligation requires a legal process in our system, I’m not sure where that gets us.

            Most people agree with the woman’s right to give up the baby for adoption with some caveats about the father’s permission/being able to take custody if he wants, but basically none argue that the man should be able to renounce his financial responsibilities in a similar manner.

            I concede that you are probably correctly describing the median attitude / opinion of the public on the matter, and I further agree that it is mostly viewed unequally. I am not certain that it is correct as a legal matter though; see above. I’m also not sure whether we’re really disagreeing; if you’re saying it’s really hard to get out from under support as a father, absent adoption, I agree with you entirely and that’s kind of my point to LMC.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat says:

            "This proves too much. Children subject men (and/or women, but as you note statistically it’s men) to literal wage slavery"

            "I mean, sort of. As long as you stay married, this is between you and your children. If we had only at-fault divorce for stuff like physical abuse, men could Follow Their Bliss and decide that they want to drop out of a stressful high-wage job and be in a band, tending bar when they don’t have a gig to make ends meet for their kids (when I was of age while a student at the University of Oregon, I’d go to a bar where members of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies made ends meet). A totalitarian state could look at this and declare, with its monopoly on violence “Hey! Go back to the highest-paying job you’ve ever had!” But we lived in a liberal state where you had to do something really egregious like become homeless for the State to turn its violence-backed eye on you in the best interests of the children. No-fault divorce means the lower earner can control the higher earner’s life under threat of being treated like a criminal by the eye of the State… except come on, if I Le Maistre Chatte am the higher earner in my family we know there’s no way Monsieur Chat could get away with that, because certain gender roles are a de facto part of the law"

            Mostly, but not always, I have a co-worker who got custody of his eight kids (from five different women) and at least one of the mothers paid child support to him (it helps to work in a courthouse and be charming, and also be effectively the “neighborhood Dad” to many of the fatherless other kids in the area, and known for it, in a place where many of the biological Dads are in jail or have criminal records, and the judge says “I wish more fathers cared for their children like you”)

          • John Schilling says:

            The state is getting involved here at the request of the parents.

            Nit: It is very often the case that the state is getting involved at the request of one parent, de facto if not de jure. And it is sometimes the case that the parent asking for intervention is asking for the “freedom to dink around and take unpaid time off” and custody of a well-provided-for child, at the expense of the other parent.

            That they take the kids’ side over the parents is not surprising.

            Another nit: The easiest way to at least believe you’ve taken “the kid’s side”, is to also take one of the parent’s’ side when that parent says “I have the kid’s best interests at heart and all I need is some money that Other Selfish Bad Parent could easily spare”. This may not be true, but if you squint and tilt your head just right it is often easy to believe it is true. And judges are human.

          • DinoNerd says:

            +1 Also related, IMO, would be discussions of other ways that having children have a differential impact by gender. (This comes up frequently on SSC in discussions of abortion, and in discussions of increasing the birthrate, both of which tend to create more restrictions on mothers and potential mothers.)

          • DinoNerd says:

            The Nybbler:

            Thing is, if a woman cheats on her husband, has a child with the other guy, he finds out and divorces her… he’s still on the hook for child support because “the best interests of the child” don’t change just because the kid’s not his.

            Are you discussing a hypothetical, or are you making a claim about rulings of this sort being common and/or legally mandated? If so, in which jurisdiction(s), and based on what evidence?

            IANAL, but I vaguely recall a discussion of inheritance where the legal parentage of such a child (product of adultery by a married woman), depended on jurisdiction, differing even from state to state within the US. The mother’s husband (at the time) may or may not be considered the legal father depending on relevant legal jurisdiction – and I can’t see how he’d be liable for child support in the latter case.

            This might get messier if it was one of those 23-and-me cases (parentage unsuspected for many years; child knows the husband as “Daddy” etc.). But even then I imagine it would be a complex legal case, with an unpredictable outcome.

        • neciampater says:

          In Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, he touches on the if women are allowed to abort, then men should be able to financially abort argument.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Chris Rock has an older (NSFW) bit on alimony that’s also relevant to the current discussion.

          • JulieK says:

            Back in the old days, they could, at least in the case of children born out of wedlock. If the kid was lucky, the father would provide basic support, though not the same standard his gave his legitimate family. If the kid was unlucky, the father provided nothing. See: Les Miserables.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      One key thing that you’re missing is that child support isn’t paid to the children, it’s paid to the custodial parent. And there is no requirement that the custodial parent actually spend any of that money on or for the children as long as it doesn’t rise to the standard of outright neglect. That is to say that child support is really just ex-wife support.

      When you understand that, it makes a lot more sense. It’s essentially a second larger form of alimony that applies even with unmarried couples. So the fact that it functions the same way, transferring money from the man to the woman relative to their earning potential at the time of their relationship, shouldn’t be a surprise.

      • ana53294 says:

        Let’s say there is a child, who needs 24 h care, due to a severe disease. The mother quits her job, and cannot reasonably get a job that would pay for full time care, even if you add child support payments.

        She uses child support payments to buy food for herself and the kid, buy medicines, and healthcare for her whole family. Is it not reasonable then for the man to pay for her full support, even if some of the money is not spent on the kid?

        I find the idea that money towards child support does not go to the children quite absurd. Sure, there may be mothers who don’t provide for their children adequately, despite being able to do so; but most of them don’t, and the fact that some of the money is spent on the mother doesn’t mean the money does not benefit the child.

        Isn’t it better if the mother reduces her workload to be able to pick up the kid from the kindergarden instead of hiring a nanny? But in one case, the money is going to compensate the mother so she can still maintain a decent standard of living, whereas in the other the money goes to hire the nanny (which is OK, but do we want to encourage that instead of more parent-child time by putting so many strings on child support money?).

        • Gobbobobble says:

          You have a stronger case when the separation is voluntary. But there’s also cases where it’s the court saying “you’re not allowed to see your kids except on weekends AND you get to pay through the nose”. Mommy dearest can get bored and find new a beau, and then the court will give her the house and kids and send Poppa the bill

          • ana53294 says:

            The arguments for why child support is reasonable are completely separate from how custody should be divided.

            I agree that courts should mandate fathers who want it more time with their children, and actually enforce it. From what I’ve heard, mothers can get away with basically ignoring visitation rights.

            But child support payments should not be used to punish or enforce visitation rights, because they are for the kids. A stronger legal protection for fathers, such as making it an administrative offence subject to monetary compensation for disobeying a child visitation order is however reasonable.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ana: And why can’t fathers be the custodial parent? It’s the revealed preference of judges that the children of divorce belong with their mothers, but why? Is it an unjust social construct, or are they recognizing a biological reality?

          • albatross11 says:

            One additional issue here is that fathering children is relatively easy to do, so it’s possible to (and some men do) have enough kids that they’re incapable of making enough money to support them. This is particularly likely when the multiple-baby-daddy is a high-school dropout with a prison GED and a drug habit–there’s nothing legal he can do worth enough money to support all his kids.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            I am not sure how much of it is social and how much is biological, but it is a fact that it’s mostly women who cut hours to spend more time with their kids, and it’s women who spend more hours with their kids.

            It seems perfectly natural to me to give custody to the parent who spends more time with the kid, has a closer relationship with the kid and knows how to take care of the kid. If that’s the father, the father should get the custody, absolutely.

            That’s why, in the cases of older children, children get a say about who they want to stay with. I think children should get a lot more agency in deciding custody, and children should be asked as soon as they are able to talk.

            When it comes to infants/babies, biological mothers frequently breastfeed the kids, and this usually means that mothers spend more time with the kids. So, the mother is the parent who knows how to take care of the kid, which is why she gets custody.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @ana:

            When it comes to infants/babies, biological mothers frequently breastfeed the kids, and this usually means that mothers spend more time with the kids. So, the mother is the parent who knows how to take care of the kid, which is why she gets custody.

            This part is absolutely true. It’s when the children are old enough to talk and weaned and the divorcing parents’s Lord and Master the judge doesn’t ask what a child wants when ruling in the Best Interests of the Children(TM) that it gets sketchy.

          • ana53294 says:

            @albatross

            That’s why child support is usually calculated as a percentage of income (and there’s usually a floor income below which money is not taken).

            It sucks for the kid, but in this case, there’s no financial difference whether the father stays married with the kids or not. His kids would not be adequately provided for anyway. Although there may be other advantages of having a father present. And the disadvantages of living with a criminal, so I’m not sure what’s better in this case.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Children should be asked, and their decision should count 80% towards the decision.

            The only cases where I see not listening to the children as better is in cases with provable evidence of co-dependency for addicts, which messes many people’s perception of reality greatly. So if a parent is an addict, and the other isn’t, absent criminal negligence of the non-addict parent, the child is better off with the non-adict, even if it says it wants to stay with the addict parent.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @LMC

            The case of fathers and child custody has pretty strong parallels to the case of women and tech. The principal problem appears to be that fathers do not take a primary childcare provisioning role prior to the divorce (and don’t usually seek custody), and this results in the formation of social attitudes about fathers that are offensive and unwarranted, becoming more unfair to them on the margin. In order to balance the outcomes, you have to start way earlier than the point at which they become apparent or encourage people to consciously reexamine their biases on an ongoing basis.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoopyfreud:

            The case of fathers and child custody has pretty strong parallels to the case of women and tech.

            Heh, interesting angle!

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @LMC

            It’s actually not even that interesting of an angle. “Men are discriminated against too” is a very standard response to complaints about discrimination against women. That equivalence doesn’t become a hot take when reversed, because both problems actually do matter.

          • DeWitt says:

            Why is it a given custody should really only be awarded to one person? Joint custody seems like the better option for most cases. The current law is a mess, I know, but is there something I’m missing for why joint custody shouldn’t be the rule more often?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ DeWitt:

            The most obvious difficulty I can think of is that, depending on where the parents live, joint custody might be difficult or impractical (e.g., if mum lives in the same town as the child’s school and dad lives an hour away, it would make sense to have the child live with mum during the week, which would unfortunately limit stay round dad’s to the weekends).

          • DeWitt says:

            How different is that from any other joint custody arrangement? A weekend’s worth of time with your kids is much better than no time with your kids.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            How different is that from any other joint custody arrangement? A weekend’s worth of time with your kids is much better than no time with your kids.

            I was under the impression that courts usually tried to get the child to spend at least *some* time with both parents (assuming they aren’t abusive, don’t live hundreds of miles away, etc.), and that when you talked about joint custody, you were therefore talking about getting the children to spend an approximately equal time with each parent. Though I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with the ins-and-outs of divorce law, and it’s entirely possible that the US and UK differ in this respect.

          • DeWitt says:

            Though I’ll admit I’m not very familiar with the ins-and-outs of divorce law

            Likewise, so my posts are genuine questions wrt whether or not joint custody is preferable.

            There’s the other matter of some fathers apparently not getting their visitation rights honored and enforced, but that’s so uncontroversially bad of a thing that it’s less of a legal and more of an institutional problem.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s the other matter of some fathers apparently not getting their visitation rights honored and enforced, but that’s so uncontroversially bad of a thing that it’s less of a legal and more of an institutional problem.

            In theory, maybe, although I’d be surprised if you can get enough people to agree on an actual solution to do anything about it.

          • DeWitt says:

            Agreed.

          • Aapje says:

            Laws have been proposed that make joint custody the default, even if one parent was the primary caretaker during the marriage, but AFAIK this has only been passed in Kentucky.

            The objections seems to come from feminists (NOW) & domestic violence activists, mostly based on the idea that it would result in abusive parents being granted joint custody.

            It seems to me that this is based on the stereotypical and false belief that fathers abuse children more often than mothers, while the statistics seem to show the opposite.

          • Cliff says:

            It seems perfectly natural to me to give custody to the parent who spends more time with the kid, has a closer relationship with the kid and knows how to take care of the kid. If that’s the father, the father should get the custody, absolutely.

            I think it’s absurd and offensive to suggest that the child has a closer relationship to the mother because she spends more time with them, or that it means only the mother “knows how to take care of the kid”. Any idiot can take care of a kid. The default assumption should be that both parents are loved equally and are equally entitled to custody.

            Now, I have heard that men are awarded custody equally as often when they ask for it, but I don’t know if that’s true, and even if so there may be a selection problem where men agree not to ask for it if they think they’re not likely to get it, in exchange for something else from the mother.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Quoting Le Maistre Chat:

            And why can’t fathers be the custodial parent? It’s the revealed preference of judges that the children of divorce belong with their mothers, but why? Is it an unjust social construct, or are they recognizing a biological reality?

            It’s worth mentioning that there have been times and places where courts automatically ruled in favour of the fathers in these cases.

            So my money is with “social construct,” that sometimes/often has unjust results – in both versions.

        • albatross11 says:

          The world is a big place. There are custodial parents who DGAF about providing for their kids, and are mainly concerned with getting their supply of cigarettes/alcohol/drugs and having a good time with dirtbag of the month. There are non-custodial parents who DGAF about providing for their kids, and are fine with knowing their abandoned kid is hungry so long as they get to have nice things themselves. The family court system has to deal with all of that, often with two dirtbag parents (water seeks its own level) who neither one are anyone you’d voluntarily leave a kid with, and usually with extremely hostile parents who are trying to portray one another as dirtbag DGAF types even if they’re loving parents doing their best to do the right thing. It’s a wonder the system works as well as it does–and it works really poorly.

          • hls2003 says:

            +1. One thing I don’t know if people realize is just how hard it is to run any kind of a decent dispute resolution system when so many people are acting in bad faith. Divorce is terrible, it does terrible things to people (some of whom may have been terrible before), it convinces people to do terrible things to each other, and it leads to terrible difficulty administering justice and making fair decisions. It’s already hard in normal litigation, but at least the adversarial process is colored in by some ethical obligations and professional norms (often ignored, it’s true) that try to keep a lid on bad faith claims and behavior. Divorce theoretically operates in that space, but in the bad ones – and the bad ones are the ones generating headlines and reported cases, though only fair to note that there are many relatively polite and amicable splits also – everything is subject to layer upon layer of lies to self, lies to lawyers, lies to the Court, motivated reasoning, spiteful behavior even to the point of cutting off one’s own nose to spite the ex’s face… I’m amazed that in the modern divorce regime anything like fairness can be approached.

          • Clutzy says:

            Indeed, a large problem with American law is how it seeks to be so universal in such a distinctly diverse place. Universality, justice, and diversity are like the quick, cheap, and good problem with services.

        • blipnickels says:

          @ana

          Let’s say there is a child, who needs 24 h care, due to a severe disease. The mother quits her job, and cannot reasonably get a job that would pay for full time care, even if you add child support payments.

          This dodges the OP’s question. Why is child support tied to the father’s income, rather than the child’s need?

          To take your example of a child with a severe disease who requires 24 hour care, how does the need to the child relate to the father’s income. Say full time superivsion for the child costs/is worth $40,000 a year. That’s what is needed, regardless if the father can pay $2,000 a year in child support or $50,000 a year in child support. If the father can pay $2,000, the state is/should step in. If the father can pay $50,000, what’s the point of the extra $10,000?

          The child may need money, the mother may want money, the mother may even be justified in wanting that money, but what inherent reason is there to assume the child’s needs are in any way related to the father’s income?

          • DeWitt says:

            what inherent reason is there to assume the child’s needs are in any way related to the father’s income?

            We generally consider parents to be more responsible for their children than the state is. If I walk into a department store and leave with some baby clothes, asking what my child’s needs have to do with my income won’t get me away with theft either.

          • brad says:

            We generally consider parents to be more responsible for their children than the state is

            Right, so up until the point where a child stops being eligible for means-tested government assistance the government has a concrete interest in getting parents to pay up. But that interest disappears as soon as the welfare eligibility falls away.

          • blipnickels says:

            We generally consider parents to be more responsible for their children than the state is.

            Ok, let me try to clarify. Let’s say a child has a rare heart disease and the treatment costs $20,000. The mother/custodial has $5000.

            If the father is a millionaire, is there any reason for him to pay $30,000? That’s far more proportional to his income but one does wonder what that extra money is for.

            The same applies to a child with a debilitating illness, or any other factor. How are a child’s needs in anyway proportional to his father’s income? Many poor kids need a lot, many rich kids need little (and frankly could do with less than they have). What matters is that the child’s needs are met, not the number of zeros on the father’s paycheck.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          You can contrive any absurd hypothetical scenario you want to justify it, but I don’t have any patience for them because I grew up under the system as it actually exists.

          If you want to protect poor sick kids with mothers who can’t find a job, put the child support money into a trust in the child’s name or calculate it from need rather than as a fraction of the difference in the parents income. But if you insist on structuring it as a redistribution from ex-husbands to ex-wives, I’m going to call it what it is rather than pretending that it’s some valiant effort to protect terminally ill children from deadbeat dads.

          • hls2003 says:

            put the child support money into a trust in the child’s name or calculate it from need

            I don’t disagree in theory, but the practice is so cruelly complicated that I think it amounts to a spherical cow. Who is going to administer the trust? The court can’t appoint trustees for every divorced couple with kids; there are millions of them. First off there’s no personnel, second there’s no money to pay the trustees, third it’s basically a massive expansion of an already overburdened child welfare system where the state tells you what your kid needs. You can’t have either parent as the trustee because it either replicates the current problems or else requires consensus and cooperation that obviously can’t exist or else they wouldn’t be in divorce court fighting about it. The Court can’t administer it directly, they’re already miles deep in the muck of contested custody orders, motions, sanctions petitions, requests for modification of support orders, etc. I’m sympathetic to the thought – it’s hard to swallow when your money goes to the person you (many times) hate the most of all, and you think they’re screwing you and screwing your kids up, and you’d be OK with the kids getting stuff but not that jerk (although many parents end up resenting the kids too; I’m reminded of Alec Baldwin getting caught leaving a nasty voicemail to his teen daughter some years ago).

            It’s not good, but I don’t know that there’s a way to make it much better. Money is legible, it can be calculated and a rough sort of affordability reached. Day-to-day trustee decision-making isn’t a thousandth as amenable to state intervention.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I’m not married (har har) to the idea of putting money into a trust. In the comment you’re responding to I also point out that you could base child support on need: this isn’t exactly out of the government’s wheelhouse, since we already have a massive welfare state much of which is means-tested. Or hell, leave the system as-is but require that the custodial parent actually spend the money on or save it for the kids and let their lawyers sort through the receipts.

            The point is that out of all the myriad possible ways that child support could be organized, it just so happens to be organized as a massive transfer payment from fathers to mothers. What a convenient coincidence…

          • hls2003 says:

            Or hell, leave the system as-is but require that the custodial parent actually spend the money on or save it for the kids and let their lawyers sort through the receipts.

            As I understand it – I’m not a direct practitioner – this is actually the process when things get really acrimonious. You come in, move for a modification of the support order, based on mismanagement of existing funds, and then the lawyers bill thousands to sort through receipts (and hide receipts, and move for sanctions for hidden receipts, and….)

          • Aapje says:

            An issue is that if the legal system believes that the child has a right to a certain standard of living, this is usually going to be inseparable from the standard of living of the custodial parent, either practically or socially.

            For example, if the child is considered to have a right to continue to live in the mansion the she lived in during the marriage, and the non-custodial parent is expected to pay for this, the custodial parent will also get to live in that mansion.

            If the child is used to caviar for lunch, but the custodial parent is very poor, then realistically and logically, a payment to the custodial parent that allows him to afford caviar just for the kid’s lunch, is actually going to be spent by the custodial parent on himself as well, resulting in a lower standard of living for the child than the courts intended and a higher standard of living for the custodial parent. That custodial parent is not going to eat dry bread, while giving caviar to the child. It’s probably very unhealthy for the relationship between parent and child, if the parent would do that.

          • Cliff says:

            Clearly no child and no person deserves to be given a mansion to live in or caviar to eat, no matter how wealthy their parents are. I think it’s quite likely you are hurting the child by giving them that.

          • Aapje says:

            @Cliff

            It doesn’t seem to be clear to the courts, who do try to maintain the child’s lifestyle, even if that included a mansion and caviar, pre-divorce.

    • drunkfish says:

      An important point that I think is similar to what Plumber said:

      I think it’s impossible to set a dollar value that simultaneously is high enough for a decent life and low enough not to bankrupt some people.

      If child support is set at $50k/year, I think most people would agree that the child could have a decent life, but it would also starve a huge fraction of child support payers. If it’s set at $500/year, essentially all people paying child support could probably scrounge it together, but it won’t meaningfully help the life of a child of a non-working parent. Presumably you’d set your fixed value somewhere in between, but I don’t think there’s any number that works well. $5,000/year will probably starve some people, and will realistically be nowhere near enough for others.

      A percentage of income guarantees that it mostly avoids making anybody destitute, but still helps the children involved.

      The only real way I could see making it a flat payment and solving these issues would be something like: everyone paying child support pays a fraction of their income (maybe on a progressive scale) into a communal pot, and that pot is split evenly between recipients of child support. But at that point it’s just another tax, and unless you specifically think people getting divorced should be penalized for their divorce, it seems strange (and likely incredibly regressive) to only charge it to noncustodial parents.

      • “But at that point it’s just another tax, and unless you specifically think people getting divorced should be penalized for their divorce, it seems strange (and likely incredibly regressive) to only charge it to noncustodial parents.”

        I’m not seeing the difference between that and the current child support system. People who are non-custodial parents pay, and people who aren’t, don’t.

        • drunkfish says:

          Yeah sorry that wasn’t clear. In the current system, a parent pays for their child. In the alternate system I described, “the child they produced” is decoupled from their payment. I don’t actually think that system is necessarily worse than the current system, but I don’t picture it working politically at all. Once you’ve decoupled parenthood from child support to that degree, I think it’s hard to defend against “so it’s just a tax directed at people you consider morally wrong?”

          I think that’s an equally valid criticism of the current system, but I think “parent paying for their child” is so viscerally distinct from “paying into a government fund that supports children” that it doesn’t feel like a tax and that criticism doesn’t show up.

          My comment was trying to make two pretty separate points. Everything except the last paragraph was just defending this system as better than “all noncustodial parents pay the same amount”, and the last paragraph was meant to explain why I think a pretty obvious fix to the current system wouldn’t work.

      • Randy M says:

        I think it’s impossible to set a dollar value that simultaneously is high enough for a decent life and low enough not to bankrupt some people.

        There’s a reason for this. Marriage takes advantage of economies of scale, most significantly of house/apartment costs. It won’t be more efficient, in monetary terms, for a family to have two residences than one. So when a family splits and the parents/courts have to figure out where the extra expenses come from–some one is going to be much worse off.

        Current law seems to be that you have to make sure that it isn’t the child, and that the custodial parent gets to be the one in control of the spending money on behalf of the child. This can’t but come out of the other parent’s pocket, excepting a joint custody situation where the economic loss is shared equally.

        • Aapje says:

          Current law seems to be that you have to make sure that it isn’t the child

          This seems utterly unrealistic, though, if the economies of scale enabled a certain standard of living in the first place.

          For example, housing is generally very expensive. In many cases, the level of payments that would allow the custodial parent and child to live in the same house, would be so high that the non-custodial parent will have to go to a far smaller house, if not living out of a car.

          Also, it makes getting sole custody into an enormous benefit, since it means that you keep your standard of living way more than the other parent. So it strongly discourages coming to a compromise and provides a strong incentive to make the divorce non-amicable.

          With joint custody, it becomes even more of an issue. If the child will spend part of the time at the house of one parent and part of the time at the house of the other parent, keeping the same standard of living means that both parents will need to separate supply a pre-divorce standard of living…which is far more costly than two parents supplying that together.

          Of course you can try to force both parents to work more to make up for this, but quality of life is not just about money. The kid’s quality of life may quite plausibly decline much more due to their parents working so much, than if less money was spent on the kid.

    • John Schilling says:

      As the law stands now, non-custodial (or at least, non-primary guardian) parents pay a percentage of their income. The legal rationale behind this is supposedly a doctrine of “what is best for the child”

      Yes, and that’s a formulation that is almost guaranteed to lead to perverse outcomes if you think about it very much. But it’s also a formulation that is going to be enthusiastically adopted without much thought in just about any democracy, so at best we can hope to tinker around the edges.

      Taken at face value, how is “what is best for the child”, not always “moar moneyz”? The standard isn’t “what is good enough for the child”, nor what will ensure the child is not impoverished or given a standard middle-class upbringing or any other such thing, but what is best. Best, by conventional standards, is private tutors until free tuition at Harvard or Yale. Under what circumstances would transferring a marginal dollar from the absent parent to the child(*) not be best?

      1. If the child is already in “spoiled rotten” territory, where more money would make them grow up into someone likely to be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

      2. If the cost is that their non-custodial but not wholly absent parent now hates them

      2a. If the cost is that their non-custodial parent rationally hires an assassin to eliminate the money sink

      3. If the cost is that the non-custodial parent disappears into the black or grey economy and the money stops altogether

      4. If the cost is that non-custodial parents collectively become sufficiently sympathetic “oppressed victims” that they can lobby effectively to tear down the system that is otherwise protecting the best interests of children generally.

      1 is a rare edge case that is not going to drive law, particularly insofar as the parents in question are almost guaranteed to be less sympathetic than their spoiled children

      2-4 all scale with parental income. The legal standard basically demands squeezing until it hurts, and stopping just before it hurts enough to do anything about it. And the implementation will be more likely to overshoot than undershoot.

      * More precisely, to the child’s custodial parent, but we’re already presuming the court has decided that in the child’s best interest.

      • hls2003 says:

        I think the key, and correct, point is that the system kludges along well enough for almost everyone except the least sympathetic cases. If you tell me a poor guy is going to really struggle with his child support, sure he is, he’s poor; but most calculations already do include a basic exemption for living expenses (in non-marital support cases it’s often calculated explicitly as exemptions from a wage deduction order). If you tell me a middle class guy is going to have a worse life, sure he is, divorce destroys wealth and makes lives worse, but as long as his ex is legitimately taking care of the kids with the money, then he’s got to do it and the kid probably isn’t doing anything real extravagant (and if the money is being squandered, you can go back in for a modification, courts do allow that). The only place you really end up with an issue is pretty rich guys (or girls) who want to either (1) have more disposable money, or (2) self-sabotage their earnings out of spite or depression or whatever. That doesn’t write a real catchy campaign commercial – “Support reform, make a rich guy’s kid poorer so he can jetski more or loaf on the couch!”

        • Randy M says:

          I think there’s a sympathetic case to be made for the middle class family if we assume that the kids need to stay in the nice school district–which means the mother gets to live in the nice house in the nice neighborhood–and therefore the father can barely pay for an apartment across town and sleeps out of his car time to time, can’t get visitation because his living conditions aren’t up to par, doesn’t want to move because he won’t be able to see his kids, etc.
          How much sympathy depends on the reason for the divorce, which you are never going to get an objective answer on, and regardless, the children will always be more sympathetic.
          I don’t know how common this is, though, it’s perceived common enough to be a stereotype in, eg, The Simpsons & Mrs. Doubtfire.

          • hls2003 says:

            I think you’re right, but a lot of that is just part of the general wealth-destruction of divorce. I do think judges should do a better job of assessing custody arrangements; but I also think that these genuinely sympathetic scenarios are a minority. I have heard of cases where the judge will order the sale of a house even with kids, though I think that’s rare also. It might fall into the scenario someone postulated above (or below?) about families who were living outside their means already, and could barely keep their heads above water, and now are sunk. Theoretically most times judges have (or should have) discretion to take all that into account. The math should add up.

          • Randy M says:

            I think you’re right, but a lot of that is just part of the general wealth-destruction of divorce.

            Yes. Divorce is just inevitably less economically efficient than marriage.

            I have heard of cases where the judge will order the sale of a house even with kids, though I think that’s rare also.

            This is what my parents did, although I don’t know if it was forced on them by a judge or not.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The only place you really end up with an issue is pretty rich guys (or girls) who want to either (1) have more disposable money, or (2) self-sabotage their earnings out of spite or depression or whatever.

          Or (3) guys who lose their job at some point after the divorce and have a hard time getting another one which pays a comparable salary. I guess maybe you could define that as “self-sabotage” if you’re feeling particularly heartless, but it’s not exactly the central example of the term.

          This isn’t hypothetical. My father came within a missed payment of being thrown into jail because employers didn’t want to pay him the same wage he had been getting with 25 years of seniority at a union shop. In the end he managed to make it work by pulling 20+ hours of overtime a week and living in an illegal apartment converted from a garage for a few years. But it was a necessary sacrifice, otherwise there’s no way my mother could have continued living beyond her means after kicking him out.

          Believe it or not their divorce wasn’t unusually bad: if anything, it was less acrimonious than many. It’s hard to express just how twisted and evil the family court system without having first-hand experience of it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            +1

            I saw this happen to a young lawyer dad I knew. The divorce was fairly amicable, but then his firm went under and unsurprisingly, he wasn’t able to immediately get another partnership. He went bankrupt and had horrible legal issues for a decade because of this.

          • Randy M says:

            How easy is it, assuming good will on both parties parts, for the ex in such a situation to relieve some of the obligation for CS in cases of demonstrable hardship?
            Not to be personal, but could Nabil’s mother have over-looked a skipped payment while his father was looking for a new job, or would the courts have enforced the payment regardless?

          • hls2003 says:

            I believe it. I’m not sure how I kind of got roped into the position of “defender of the divorce court system” in this thread, but I think it’s a terrible, terrible place that produces suboptimal outcomes as far as the eye can see. I just think it’s dealing with such a crummy situation to begin with that it’s hard to imagine a nice, clean, efficient version of family law where everyone gets along and acts reasonably and the judge makes optimal decisions. These judges are imperfect humans, with limited time, partial information, and some are even really bad at their jobs (which you’d sort of expect because judges hate being assigned to divorce court and most usually will transfer out when seniority allows).

            In theory, that support order should have been modified; and I am aware of some situations where employment changes have resulted in modifications or at least suspensions of payments pending the job search. Obviously it wasn’t in this case, and one spouse wasn’t willing to be reasonable about expenses; I’m sorry to hear it, and I’m not surprised. I am just skeptical that any large-scale intervention or overhaul is going to eliminate all such bad results. It’s kind of like the free market; it may produce bad results but you have to consider the alternatives.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Randy M,

            To her credit, when my dad was literally in between jobs she tried to get him a temporary break on the payments. The problem is that it’s not like fathers are sending a literal check in the mail to the mother, the money is garnished from wages and goes through a state agency. Modifying that means going to court and having the judge change the amount and it takes a while to get a court date.

            This set-up also means that if the state agency loses track of how many payments they’ve taken from you, you can be “behind” on child support without having ever missed a single payment. And in a total inversion of how the courts normally work, you have to prove that they made a mistake rather than the other way around.

          • acymetric says:

            @Nabil

            I wonder if that varies by state? My dad paid child support, but I’m fairly certain he just cut a check to my mom. My understanding of child support was that they only start taking it directly out of your check via garnishment if you are behind (just like the IRS or any other creditor might due with a court order).

          • Randy M says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            To her credit, when my dad was literally in between jobs she tried to get him a temporary break on the payments

            Thanks, that answers the question, at least for your state. That is to her credit, and against the system’s. Hopefully now losing track of payments is rare; on-line banking is pretty reliable, after all.

            But having to schedule time before the court in some capacity any time you want to negotiate a change is a large hurdle for making the system have any kind of grace.

            Also, I believe I heard that some portion of that money can go to funding the family courts, but I can’t find back up at the moment. This is a similar story about how states/feds can reduce the payment to cover the cost of welfare collected. Not sure how to feel about that, since, as we’ve said, there’s losses in divorce.

    • brad says:

      It’s my opinion, which couldn’t really be elaborated in the last thread, that this area of law is an unholy alliance of principled traditionalists and unprincipled feminists. It is the embodiment in law of all the old, sexist stereotypes about gender and sex (in the sense of sexual relations). It’s as if we still had the crime of seduction on the books, but everyone pretends otherwise.

      Before any traditionalists object, I know that abolishing no-fault divorce would be even more preferred, but I don’t think you can deny that, short of outright fraud and maybe even then, the traditional view is that having sex obligates a man to provide decently for his offspring and that’s was judged by the means of the man in question.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I am a traditionalist and I completely agree.

        Child support should be set to a specific “minimum care” standard generally applicable, with the ability to forfeit any relation to the child by refusing to pay. If a custodial parent wishes to get more, it should be voluntary.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        There’s a certain kind of thoughtless conservative who really likes the alimony and child support regime for exactly the reasons you lay out.

        The problem is that it doesn’t work. The legal and financial penalty for divorce or out-of-wedlock births on the husband and/or father becomes a reward for the wife and/or mother. Which means that since women are the ones who initiate divorce in a supermajority of cases and are the ones who decide if a pregnancy is carried to term, it actually serves as an incentive for divorce and out-of-wedlock births rather than a disincentive.

        The crude biological fact is that punishing only men for sexual impropriety is a futile game of whack-a-mole. Even if you pulled 90% of men out of the sexual marketplace, the remaining 10% are more than enough for the women still in the market. If anything it will only stoke competition. If you’re serious about sexual ethics, women need to be punished at least as severely since they’re ultimately the limiting factor.

        • brad says:

          I’m not saying you are wrong but the whole worldview you are espousing, right down to the “sexual marketplace” wording, is not traditionalist. Maybe we can call it neo you know what, but it isn’t plain old traditionalist.

          The “thoughtless conservatives” far outweigh any other kind (and ditto for other ideologies).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not saying you are wrong but the whole worldview you are espousing, right down to the “sexual marketplace” wording, is not traditionalist. Maybe we can call it neo you know what, but it isn’t plain old traditionalist.

            Not necessarily — one could think that traditional social arrangements are the best, whilst also thinking that, as a matter of fact, modern arrangements function like a sexual marketplace.

          • Randy M says:

            But the question is, how widespread is that view on the right?
            Mr. X describes Dalrock and a few other Christian bloggers who are, when noticed, generally not endorsed by more mainstream church leaders.

        • ana53294 says:

          the remaining 10% are more than enough for the women still in the market.

          The 90% who pull out will be mostly rich, the leftover 10% will be mostly poor (because poor people have poorer impulse control).

          If the women’s motivation is financial, wouldn’t removing most smart rich men remove their motivation to get pregnant?

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            The 90% who pull out will be mostly rich, the leftover 10% will be mostly poor

            Criminals don’t have incentive to pull out, because they have more actual income than ‘official’ income. So this system makes criminals more attractive partners for women (and in turn also makes a life of crime more attractive), which is presumably not very desirable.

            If the women’s motivation is financial, wouldn’t removing most smart rich men remove their motivation to get pregnant?

            Isn’t that exactly what we are seeing? Very many women postpone having children until an age where declining fertility becomes an issue, in many cases seemingly because they think the men that are available are not good enough.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Before any traditionalists object, I know that abolishing no-fault divorce would be even more preferred, but I don’t think you can deny that, short of outright fraud and maybe even then, the traditional view is that having sex obligates a man to provide decently for his offspring and that’s was judged by the means of the man in question.

        … not going to object to that. The problem is that kicking that one pillar out from under the traditional system destroys everything. Fminists are gleefully enjoying the extra income and power women get upon divorce, and yes, traditionalists aren’t up in arms to change things more. The fact remains, though, that one change destroyed everything.
        As I alluded to elsethread, the judge and police pretty much default to treating the non-custodial parent (read “father”) as a criminal to be subjected to forced labor. That’s unjustly bonkers for no-fault divorce.
        … as a woman, I had many scrupulous feelings about gold-digging and divorce before getting married.

        Meanwhile our tax dollars are going to make sure an orthopedic surgeon pays his ex-wife–who got millions in the divorce to begin with–$15,000 a month in child support. Wouldn’t those dollars we are paying judges and cops and so on to chase after the surgeon be better spent on foster kids?

        Yes. I agree that the rule behind this “chasing” is a broken traditional one.

      • hls2003 says:

        this area of law is an unholy alliance of principled traditionalists and unprincipled feminists

        I don’t disagree. Nobody is going to get anywhere in reforming anything when the argument is “give kids less so the richer spouse gets more.” Traditionalists think that the richer spouse (presumed to be a man) not supporting his family is a degenerate; feminists recognize that the poorer spouse is statistically usually female and so support it on identity self-interest grounds.

        • brad says:

          Principled feminism isn’t just support whatever is in a woman’s narrow interest. See for example RBG’s work at the ACLU.

          • hls2003 says:

            Yes, but didn’t you say “unprincipled feminists”?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Principled feminism isn’t just support whatever is in a woman’s narrow interest. See for example RBG’s work at the ACLU.

            Brad, I gotta say, the idea of principled feminism really confuses me. You’re citing an example of a now-elderly woman using her equality of opportunity for high-powered work to apply principled liberalism. The feminism I was familiarized with in college involves what looks externally like a sacrifice of Millenial women’s self-interest to another IdPol group, and not admitting this is a trade-off because something something intersectionality.
            Which is the principled feminism?

          • brad says:

            @hls
            Think I skimmed too fast and missed that you were agreeing. Sorry.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Traditionalists think that the richer spouse (presumed to be a man) not supporting his family is a degenerate; feminists recognize that the poorer spouse is statistically usually female and so support it on identity self-interest grounds.

          Redpillers, MGTOWs and other manospherers however would be fully on board with that proposal. How big is the political clout of these groups? Hard to tell exactly, but somehow double divorcee Donald “grab-them-by-the-pu**y” Trump got elected, and I doubt he was the traditionalists preferred candidate.

    • blipnickels says:

      The purpose of the percentage child support is to extract as much money from lower-middle class fathers as possible without putting them in prison. Status isn’t an issue because poor fathers can’t provide their children with sufficient funds for the basics, much less bonus status.

      The reality for the lower middle class and the poor is that the divorced father can almost never pay as much as the child needs. Tying it to the father’s income is just practical. If the child legitimately needs $1,000 a month and the father works at McDonalds, then the father will pay $200 a month and the state will cover the rest. This doesn’t always happen, because reality, but it’s the most rational solution to a bad scenario the government has.

      This breaks down a little for the upper-middle class and above but in general they can afford the child support without a dramatic loss in their standard of living so no one forces a legal change. Maybe a doctor can’t fly first class anymore but no one’s rioting over this.

      Things really breakdown at the middle class, which is where the culture war comes from. A middle class father can support the child but not without a dramatic loss in his standard of living. If you’re making $60,000 a year, you can afford $12,000 a year for your kid but it’s a big hit to your after-tax income. This lasted awhile because it insulated mothers from most of the loss of living standard and kept the kid off welfare/government support. As far as I can tell, this continued until men got the message and started hiring lawyers to fight for custody in every case. Whichever parent had the kid got to keep middle class status, which made divorces super-brutal, and now everyone’s trying to wind this down.

      But yeah, divorce became easier, so divorce increased. Divorce is really expensive and suddenly lots of families are wondering how they can support their kids. No one sat down and made rational rules, they just came up with best solution they could at the time using whatever justification/precedent would allow it because the alternative was millions of broken/homeless children.

      I think you’re mistaken by framing this as a wealth issue. The law really is built to care for children that were comfortably cared for in $60,000 two-income households but can’t be cared for in two $30,000 single parent households. The laws were made by state assembleymembers inundated with desperate mothers pleading for help and who saw spiraling welfare costs. It’s enforced by judges sitting in thankless jobs trying to find a way out of a genuinely horrific stream of human misery. That’s the crisis, that’s what people responded to.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        As far as I can tell, this continued until men got the message and started hiring lawyers to fight for custody in every case. Whichever parent had the kid got to keep middle class status, which made divorces super-brutal, and now everyone’s trying to wind this down.

        This is empirically untrue. I’m on my phone so I can’t link, but the rates of litigated custody agreements are out there and tell a different story. It’s also implausible prima facie, since caring for a child is, for most people, a significantly bigger impact to their lives than losing <~1/4 of their after-tax income.

        • I’d think child custody cases would be like any other field of law, where lawyers advise clients not to litigate if they think they’ll lose. It doesn’t mean they are jumping-up-and down happy about whatever agreement they do sign.

          • Clutzy says:

            You’d be wrong. Family law is a cesspool of angry clients, which has lead to self selection of almost exclusively scumbag lawyers who milk the anger till both sides are bankrupt and then the case magically settles.

        • blipnickels says:

          I’d love to see any data you have. I’ve heard things have gotten significantly better for men in custody cases, but I haven’t seen a big social movement and MRAs are still low status so I assumed legal action.

          As for the impact, the average median income is ~$30,000 or $2500/month.
          When I go to California’s Child Support Calculator, I enter two children, each parent earning $2,500 a month, these are the results I get:
          The Dad/non-custodial gets $2,092 after taxes in net disposable income, pays $534 in child support, and ends with $1,558 a month to spend.
          The Mom/custodial gets $2810 (the difference is Monthly Federal Tax Liability), plus $534 in child support, ending with $3344 a month to spend.
          So Mom/custodial gets 2x+ what Dad/non-custodial gets. That seems sufficient incentive, unless I’m calculating something wrong.

          • hls2003 says:

            It’s not whether your calculations are wrong, it’s that they’re incomplete. The mother/custodial parent gets more to spend, but actually has to support the child. And your model assumes that she’s working, for example, which means daycare for sure. Plus she is literally doing the work of two people, while the husband is relieved of the primary time-suck of childcare. And sShe probably needs a larger house to keep the kids, where dad needs only a small place for himself.

            I’m not saying dad should be ecstatic about this. Maybe he loved taking care of the kids and it didn’t feel like work. It may well not have been his fault. But saying “she gets twice as much” while ignoring that she also has all the kid costs is not right.

          • Randy M says:

            while the husband is relieved of the primary time-suck of childcare.

            Not sure you should be accounting in his credit something many fathers fight desperately against.

          • hls2003 says:

            I’m not saying the “time sucks” in the colloquial sense of being not enjoyable; but it’s clearly the case that if each parent starts with about 16 waking hours in the day, pretty much by definition the custodial parent has fewer to spend on non-childcare.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I’m not saying dad should be ecstatic about this. Maybe he loved taking care of the kids and it didn’t feel like work. It may well not have been his fault. But saying “she gets twice as much” while ignoring that she also has all the kid costs is not right.

            Did she fight for custody? If so then saying she gets twice as much sounds right.

          • hls2003 says:

            People do irrational stuff all the time, and I’d guess about 10x more during a divorce. They posture for themselves (“I’m the one who loves the kids more”), they posture for each other (“I’ll get custody ’cause I’ll be damned if one dollar more goes to that whore of yours”), they posture for the Court.

            Regardless, we can agree that even if we postulate she’s some better off, an accounting which literally leaves off the costs of childcare when calculating “twice” the disposable income for a custodial parent is incomplete. Right?

          • Randy M says:

            but it’s clearly the case that if each parent starts with about 16 waking hours in the day, pretty much by definition the custodial parent has fewer to spend on non-childcare

            Like bacon said. If you are arguing to have more custody, then we don’t count that as a sacrifice on your part but a benefit to you. Call it a leisure opportunity that the other spouse doesn’t have access to, or an old age investment the other spouse doesn’t have access to, or an opportunity to fulfill your values of spitting the ex that you value more than the leisure.

            edit: (I was objecting to the “time sink” part, if you mean “money sink” only that’s somewhat different and fair for CS to account for)

          • acymetric says:

            What if you are fighting for custody not for your own benefit but for the benefit of the kids (i.e. imagine a scenario where someone truly believes their former partner is unfit to be a parent).

          • hls2003 says:

            @RandyM:

            I mean, “time is money.” And it can only be spent once. In a still-going marriage, one spouse may spend time to care for the kids, while the other takes time at a job to provide the money. Or they may both spend time working and use the money to pay for child care. Etc. Once they’re divorced, they still have the same limitations on time. It can either be spent on earning or on childcare but not on both simultaneously. So if one parent is custodial, that parent’s monetary earning potential is more limited than the non-custodial parent.

            Also I think a lot of divorcing people don’t think clearly about how hard things will be as the custodial parent; nor the converse, how hard it will be on the non-custodial parent (or if they do think about that part it’s with satisfaction).

          • baconbits9 says:

            Regardless, we can agree that even if we postulate she’s some better off, an accounting which literally leaves off the costs of childcare when calculating “twice” the disposable income for a custodial parent is incomplete. Right?

            It is leaving off the costs of child care, but it is also leaving off the benefits of having children. Considering that one party has twice demonstrated that they really want kids (1 having kids, 2 arguing for custody) the benefits are obviously expected to be greater than the costs, and it is more accurate to look at it this way than to count the costs of child care but ignore the benefits of custody.

          • baconbits9 says:

            An example: A couple with their home payed off gets a divorce. One party gets the house, do they get to say ‘hey, the house comes with taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, so I need help covering these costs as well?

          • hls2003 says:

            It is leaving off the costs of child care, but it is also leaving off the benefits of having children.

            It also leaves off the non-monetary burdens of having children. I’ll grant that the benefits presumably outweigh the burdens, but the original calculation was about dollars, not feels. If we’re doing a complete accounting, it would be [monetary income + non-monetary benefits] – [monetary costs + non-monetary burdens], for each ex-spouse. I don’t know who comes out exactly where, but I know that you have to do the same equation for each one to make it comparable.

          • acymetric says:

            @baconbits9

            An example: A couple with their home payed off gets a divorce. One party gets the house, do they get to say ‘hey, the house comes with taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, so I need help covering these costs as well?

            Bad example, because the value of the house offsets that, and the state/court has no interest in the well-being of the house.

          • hls2003 says:

            A couple with their home payed off gets a divorce. One party gets the house, do they get to say ‘hey, the house comes with taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, so I need help covering these costs as well?

            I don’t know for sure on the “is” – I think so, but I can’t promise it – but for the “ought” I’d say that if the issue is with child support (not maintenance or alimony) then those costs are legit to look at, as long as the non-custodial spouse’s living costs are also taken into account. Particularly if, as RandyM notes somewhere else, an expensive home is retained to avoid disruption to the children’s schooling. You should be figuring out what it takes to keep the kids in a successful living situation given the respective incomes of both parents; and that includes how much per month everybody has to shell out for living, thus how much is available in the total pie. That’s how I think it’s supposed to work, but I’m sure it doesn’t always in practice.

            Edit: Acymetric makes a good point, because the division of marital assets is generally done in conjunction with the child support. All the dollars get worked through.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Bad example, because the value of the house offsets that, and the state/court has no interest in the well-being of the house.

            Correct, it takes the value of owning the house into consideration, however when it comes to custody you get the child + the costs of up keeping the child without any consideration of the value of custody. You don’t get to include the costs of a house without including the benefits, why is it different for custody?

          • Randy M says:

            What if you are fighting for custody not for your own benefit but for the benefit of the kids (i.e. imagine a scenario where someone truly believes their former partner is unfit to be a parent)

            Two possibilities:
            1) She can convince a judge of this. Then the judge will award her the custody, and they don’t have to use it as a bargaining chip in the dispute. She doesn’t have to say “I’m willing to give up X to have custody,” because there is no way the judge will grant custody to the person she has shown to be unfit.

            2) A probably much more common scenario, she believes it but without convincing evidence. In which case presumption of innocence means the judge should not hold her biases against her husband. Now if she wants custody, she has to give something up in exchange for it; “Fine, you have have the house, but I get the kids full time.” This is a shame that a really skilled abuser will be able to use the ex’s altruism against her, but our court system is biased against meting out punishment to the innocent, and to do otherwise in this case incentives baseless allegations of abuse, which is also a very bad failure mode.

            This is why, of course, you should not make babies with bad people.

            edit:

            Also I think a lot of divorcing people don’t think clearly about how hard things will be as the custodial parent; nor the converse, how hard it will be on the non-custodial parent

            I’m quite certain this is true. Suddenly the contributions of the spouse who “never helps around the house”/”just sits around and spends my money” is brought into sharp display.

          • acymetric says:

            What are the financial benefits of custody (before taking child support into account)?

          • baconbits9 says:

            What are the financial benefits of custody (before taking child support into account)?

            What are the financial benefits of owning a flashy car?

          • Randy M says:

            @acymetric
            I bet we could find correlative data to support that having kids in a household increases it’s earnings.

            Obviously that’s out of necessity, not that they actually make earning any easier. But the point is that there is a revealed preference for children, and for specifically living with your own children, that seems to be a worthwhile good. Heck, most of divorce proceedings is about dividing up goods that the couple had previously demonstrated that they value more than money.

          • blipnickels says:

            @hls2003

            For the record, this was not intended to give a complete accounting of the financial consequences of divorce/child support, merely as evidence to @Hoopyfreud that it wasn’t prima facie rediculous.

            Having said that, the cost analysis part of this is valid and it lead to some strange conclusions.

            Note, all these figures are just my best guesses on a very difficult problem, if you have better numbers I’d appreciate it.

            Bottom line, the USDA ran an annual report on the cost of raising a child. They find an average married middle-income family ($59,200-107,400) spends $12,980 per child or $233,610 from age 0 to 18.
            So, the Mom/custodial gets ($3,344-$1,558)*12 or $21,432 more than the Dad/non-custodial a year.
            The Mom/custodial also loses ($12,980*2) or $25,960 in additional childcare expenses
            So the Mom/custodial’s “real” disposable income is $4,528 less a year, or ~$377/month less.
            The complication is that the primary cost in the USDA study is housing, which is 29% of the increased cost, which is worth $7,528.4 or $627/month. And there’s a lot of value/status in living in a house rather than living in a apartment.
            Or, basically, whether the Mom/custodial is better off than the Dad/non-custodial depends how much they value owning/living in a house; if they don’t care, then the Mom/Custodial is worse off by ~$370/month, if they do care, the Dad/non-custodial is worse off by ~$250/month.

            In light of this, I’m not sure how to rephrase this:

            Whichever parent had the kid got to keep middle class status, which made divorces super-brutal

            Because in reality, the Mom/custodial doesn’t get to keep middle class status but she does get to keep the trappings/appearance of it without the actual income to support it. After childcare/housing/etc she’s genuinely poor but she still has a house and Dad/non-custodial doesn’t and that matters. I’m unsure how to properly phrase this.

            As for the non cost parts,

            Plus she is literally doing the work of two people, while the husband is relieved of the primary time-suck of childcare

            I don’t think this should be included with financial costs, childcare is difficult work but also highly rewarding work, probably the most personally rewarding work people do in their lives. The time/emotional cost of childcare cannot and should not be divorced from the profound personal and emotional rewards of childcare and neither of these can be well represented in a financial cost analysis. Let’s try to keep these separate.

          • baconbits9 says:

            childcare is difficult work but also highly rewarding work

            I have to strongly disagree here, childcare is not difficult work at all. If you look at who people hire to baby sit you can see that it heavily skews towards teenagers and senior citizens. Average daycare salaries are $10-15 an hour, and kids head to school at 6 taking 30-45 hours a week off a parents plate. I live this life at home with 3 kids, two weeks ago I watched another kid for 9 hours twice in a weeks without even discussing compensation (the family ended up watching our 3 kids for 4 hours last Saturday).

          • acymetric says:

            You can’t look at pay when determining whether something is hard work. Tons of things that are hard work also pay poorly and are performed by people with little to know skill or qualification.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You can’t look at pay when determining whether something is hard work. Tons of things that are hard work also pay poorly and are performed by people with little to know skill or qualification.

            I didn’t just look at pay, I also looked at who actually does the work, including teenagers and senior citizens.

          • Randy M says:

            Age of child is a hugely relevant factor.
            I wouldn’t trust an infant of mine to just about anybody.
            My ten year old is probably fine being ‘watched’ by a neighbor who is in another house doing their own thing for days on end.

          • baconbits9 says:

            To each their own, but we had our regular babysitter who was 18 watching a 6 and 4 year old plus a 9 month old, and putting them to bed. Now she had been our babysitter for almost 4 years at that point, and when the baby was younger we had Grandma put her down and the two older ones with the babysitter when we went out nights, but I have not qualms about putting someone I trust with kids under 2.

          • Cliff says:

            Bottom line, the USDA ran an annual report on the cost of raising a child. They find an average married middle-income family ($59,200-107,400) spends $12,980 per child or $233,610 from age 0 to 18.

            The cost of raising children is not linear. The cost goes down significantly with each additional child, and is heavily weighted towards years involving paid child care.

          • Randy M says:

            To each their own

            I don’t think we’re that far apart. 9 months isn’t an infant, and Grandma isn’t just anybody.
            But in terms of effort and skills, younger require more and it very quickly drops off.

            A lot of childcare discussions seem to be thinking of young children that require near constant attention whereas in the typical case an older child isn’t actually a lot of work unless they try to be.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It’s also implausible prima facie, since caring for a child is, for most people, a significantly bigger impact to their lives than losing <~1/4 of their after-tax income.

          Except that having a kid has both positives and negatives, while losing 25% of income is pure loss

    • ana53294 says:

      While there could be a cap on child support payments, for a certain amount above which there are no improvements in actual child welfare, that threshold is quite high.

      Living in a decent school district, with a non-stabby school and neighbours is expensive. Healthcare is expensive. Childcare is expensive.

      It could be that the number needed for the child to have a decent, but not excessively spoiled life, would be somewhere between 30,000 – 50,000 $/year. But for 30-50k to be 20% of your income, you have to receive at least 150-200k.

      I don’t think there is that much political will or desire to reduce the financial obligation of non-custodial parents, especiall when they are the top 1%, and they are perceived by many as assholes who don’t want to provide for their child, and on the other side you have the custodial parents with the kids. No politician, on either side of the aisle, will spend any political capital on this, because there’s a certain tendency to want to punish rich people.

      While I agree that children probably don’t need anything above 50,000$/year (or much less, but that seems like a reasonable upper cap for non-disabled kids), it won’t happen.

      • Randy M says:

        Living in a decent school district, with a non-stabby school and neighbours is expensive.

        You can’t enforce everyone having enough to live in a good school district. Part of what makes it good is exclusivity, so there is literally no upper bound to the price there, just like higher education subsidies.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      This is the case where moral intuition differ. I, for one, think that child does have a moral claim on some of parent´s material wealth. It is a good way to organize society.

      This of course should apply also in reverse – children shouldn´t be allowed to let their parents live in poverty if they themselves are wealthy. As a non-American I would be mildly surprised if US law wouldn´t contain such obligation.

      • Cliff says:

        As a non-American I would be mildly surprised if US law wouldn´t contain such obligation.

        It doesn’t.

        Why do you think it’s a good way to organize society?

        • AlesZiegler says:

          There are just about three possibilities how society could organize child rearing. Responsibility for it could be assigned a) to the families, b) to the government, or c) to nobody, leaving it to voluntary private charity. There are of course other theoretical options, like assigning childcare to random persons chosen by lottery, but they are silly of at least very unorthodox.

          I think that option a) is preferable to option b) which is still preferable to option c).

          Empirically, childcare organized by the government is subpar compared to what is provided by families, except for worst cases of bad parenting. At least this is the case in my country, and Plumber in this thread says that in California, 50 % of kids from foster care end up homeless, which makes me think that US isn´t much better. Government provided child rearing also has to be funded somehow, which brings with it usual economic costs of taxation. So it imho should used only as a stop gap measure and normal situation should be that chidldcare is provided by families.

          This in practice means that parents should have legal duty to materially provide for their children until their adulthood, and this duty should be interminable except for cases of adoption. Which means that parents should have (and do have, since this is evidently legal standard in many countries) responsibilities toward their children that go way beyond responsibilities toward other random people.

          • John Schilling says:

            This in practice means that parents should have legal duty to materially provide for their children until their adulthood, and this duty should be interminable except for cases of adoption.

            So far, so good.

            Which means that parents should have (and do have, since this is evidently legal standard in many countries) responsibilities toward their children that go way beyond responsibilities toward other random people.

            It means no such thing unless you insist on symmetry. In which case you run into the problem that there is a fundamental asymmetry in the entire situation: The parents chose to have children, and to accept the consequent obligations. The children did not chose to have parents, or to exist, and so did not accept any obligation.

            Also, even if you do impose an obligation on the basis of symmetry, you run into a huge problem when it comes to enforcement: Some parents do a really bad job of raising their children, so even by symmetry some children would not be obligated to do more than e.g. throw their parents into the worst, cheapest nursing home they can find and forget about them. And you’ll have no way of figuring out which children those are when it matters, forty or so years later.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @John Schilling

            I don´t understand the objection. If parents have a legal duty to provide for their children, that by definition means that they have legal duties toward their children that go way above and beyond their legal duties toward other random people, since in our shared legal system you most definitely do not have a legal obligation to provide resources for strangers out of your own pocket to the same extent as toward your children.

    • March says:

      It may be un-meritocratic that kids with rich parents get a better standard of living.

      But percentages are the best idea to me. The amount of money set aside for the kid then scales with the parents’ income, like it would naturally do if the parents were together.

      If you set the child support as a high $ amount, that would devastate poor noncustodial parents. (And that’s not good for the kid.) It might also be a perverse incentive for the person most likely to GET custody to walk away from the marriage.

      If you set the child support as a low $ amount, that would have adverse effects on the child and custodial parent, even if the custodial parent has a good job themselves. It would be neutral if your rich noncustodial parent actually cared about you – they’d make sure you were taken care of regardless. And it would be a perverse incentive for rich noncustodial parents who don’t care about you to abandon you and use their wealth just for themselves/their new family.

      An interest in meritocracy wouldn’t necessarily lead to ‘let’s make life better for rich, deadbeat noncustodial parents in particular.’

      I think ‘this child is yours, you’re responsible for it to a reasonable standard unless you get another adult to relieve you of that responsibility’ isn’t a bad standard to go by. And a percentage is a flexible way to make that happen without giving anyone with a dubious conscience a sweet deal.

      (If your rich noncustodial parent wants to drop out of the workforce and be poor instead, I would dislike any forces that would make that impossible. Sure, it sucks for the custodial parent and the kid, but c’est la vie. As long as nobody’s lying about their income.)

      • Gobbobobble says:

        If you set it at a floating percentage, that’d be fair. But what often happens is that it gets set as a % of income-at-time-of-divorce – unless you lawyer up to relitigate later on – so the non-custodial parent is on the hook for whatever they’re making at the time and is not allowed to downsize their job. If they catch a big break then the custodial parent has a big incentive to lawyer up to get their the kid’s piece of it. But if they get downsized they have to lawyer up to get told by a judge “get back to work you filthy deadbeat”

    • Murphy says:

      It does seem somewhat crazy that there’s no cap at all.

      Picking a random state with that calculator:

      If bill gates had a fling with someone earning almost nothing and she got pregnant in Delaware….

      Gates monthly income is about 314 million.

      If he had one child with an unemployed woman he would owe her **59 million per month.**

      By the time the child hits age 18 the mother would have netted 12.7 **billion** dollars making her about the 35th richest person in america.

      Bill Gates has gone on record saying that each of his three children will inherit $10 million.

      So under this system the mother of one child born out of wedlock would get 5x as much per month as his other children stand to inherit.

      it seems like a cap would be a good idea just because beyond a certain point it’s orders of magnitude cheaper to hire the worlds best hitman to stage the perfect accident.

      • hls2003 says:

        In practice most states allow the judge discretion, I believe. You simply don’t see these numbers, even in very wealthy divorces. You see large settlements where a big chunk of wealth flows to the spouse and then that also resolves child support etc. Even very wealthy parents aren’t paying tens of millions in child support.

        In practice I think the very wealthy are less affected by this than well-off UMC professionals.

    • Garrett says:

      The easier solution would be to take income into account when assigning custody. You don’t have to worry about child support payments, paperwork, garnishment and whatnot if the kids are living with the parent who’s earning the money.

      • Matt M says:

        This seems like a poor idea in the context of the division of labor.

        Being able to actually care for a child requires both time and money. But the best ways to make money leave one with very little time. It’s far more economically efficient to have one parent be the breadwinner and the other be the caregiver.

        That may be way society was structured that way for basically all of modern history until a few decades ago…

        • baconbits9 says:

          Division of labor only works with free exchange, which doesn’t exist here. The effect of looking at this through division of labor is to strip many/all of the benefits of parenting from the breadwinner while keeping the large majority of the costs. The largest problem with the system is that it generates bitterness and resentment by binding two people who don’t want to be bound together indefinitely. This is a perverted system that is a major cause, and probably the major cause, of acrimonious divorce and long term acrimony at that. Basic solutions

          1. Alimony ought to be designed to get the person on the receiving end through a transition period where they go from not working, or not working enough to support themselves, to working. Probably something like a maximum of 2 years, maybe less, of living expenses.

          2. Claims of custody are claims that you are going to be responsible for the child which includes fiscal responsibility. The current set up is about arguing for one portion of responsibility while exempting oneself from another. This has predictably bad results.

        • Cliff says:

          It’s far more economically efficient to have one parent be the breadwinner and the other be the caregiver.

          Actually, it’s far more economically efficient to have a daycare provider be the caregiver for many children while both parents work. If you don’t agree with this, it is not for reasons of economic efficiency.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Actually, it’s far more economically efficient to have a daycare provider be the caregiver for many children while both parents work. If you don’t agree with this, it is not for reasons of economic efficiency.

            I don’t agree with it for reasons of economic efficiency. The costs of a daycare provider proving they are competent and moral enough to care for children often completely wipes out (and then some) the efficiency in the United states.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      As others have noted, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent public interest justifying government action to make sure that the child of a rich man has higher socioeconomic status than the child of a working class or unemployed man.

      My take is that the “what is best for the child” doctrine is actually a smokescreen and child support payments are in fact a stealth alimony paid by the non-custodial parent a.k.a the father, to the custodial parent a.k.a. the mother. Note there is no legal requirement on the mother to actually use child support payments in the interest of the child, she can use them as her own disposable income.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Considering the child abuse statistics for mom’s boyfriends, it would be in the best interests of the child to criminalize divorced mothers using any child support money to go on dates.
        The problem of separating earned income from child support payments when it all goes into the same bank account is left as an exercise for the reader.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I wouldn’t necessarily single out dates, but I would mandate a requirement that the funds are spent in the interest of the child. If this requires keeping receipts and filling reports, so be it.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m skeptical that this would actually lead to better outcomes for the kids in question, and also suspect this requirement would be pretty onerous for the subset of single moms/divorced moms who dropped out of high school because it was too hard.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            If basic account is too hard for you, but the father is competent enough that he can pay a non-trivial amount of money as child support, then maybe you shouldn’t be the custodial parent.

          • Plumber says:

            @viVI_IViv says: "If basic account is too hard for you, but the father is competent enough that he can pay a non-trivial amount of money as child support, then maybe you shouldn’t be the custodial parent"

            I completely fail to see how being a good at accounting correlates with being a good caretaker.

            Maybe in teaching accounting?

            It seems to me that the children could stay with the mother when they’re younger (and women do tend to be more attentive to young children and also better at multi-tasking which parenting often demands), and then stay with the father when they’re (in the hypothetical example where the Dad is a much better accountent) to learn job skills, or oh..
            …I don’t know, maybe they should just stay together, each contribute their strengths and do what’s best for their children!

            At gunpoint if necessary.

          • Aapje says:

            @Plumber

            Very basic accounting skills are necessary for those with a limited budget compared to their desired spending (just about everyone), to not be left with a bit of the month, after they run out of their monthly income.

            Running out of money typically means being poor at caring for yourself and those you care for, as caring typically requires the spending of money.

          • Randy M says:

            At gunpoint if necessary.

            I’ve heard of shotgun weddings. Shotgun marriage counseling may be worth a shot, but it’s probably a though sell.

          • albatross11 says:

            viVI_IViv:

            Welcome to the left tail of the bell curve, where most of the nation’s social problems largely reside.

          • quanta413 says:

            I’ve heard of shotgun weddings. Shotgun marriage counseling may be worth a shot, but it’s probably a though sell.

            I’m sold on at least taking a crack at it. The U.S already tries lots of crazy ideas. I see no reason not to try this one on a small scale. One or two cities say.

            Sure it probably won’t work, but you’ve got to try different things if you want to get different results. Not keep trying the same stuff that didn’t work.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The problem isn’t going on dates, the problem is bringing the boyfriend home.

  8. Hamish Todd says:

    I wonder from time to time whether republican vs democrat (“culture war”) will lead to a civil war in the US. Are there any good articles discussing this possibility / comparing US with countries that have had civil wars? I know little about civil war and I don’t live in the states, it just seems like a predictable endpoint for “polarization”. And I know the US has had republicans and democrats for a long time without civil war, but we know empirically that polarization is increasing.

    • eigenmoon says:

      BJ Campbell: one, two.

      Anything about the Spanish Civil War.

      • John V says:

        I don’t really buy the examples given. Egypt had the same president for 30 years that was then overthrown by a popular uprising. And we are supposed to act like its a shock that there’s more unrest in the year or two after that?

        Thailand has coups literally all the time. Apparently there have been 30 coup attempts since 1912 and Thailand spends most of its time ruled by a military leader. In 2014, there had been a coup as recently as 2006. So, again, not exactly out of the blue.

        Same thing with Spain before the Spanish Civil War. There were 12 successful coups in the 19th century. Then there was a military coup in 1923 followed by a resignation and an establishment of a republic.

        I feel like none of these were very surprising civil wars or regime changes, and they don’t look much at all like the state of the US today.

    • MrApophenia says:

      There is a pretty good podcast about it called It Could Happen Here. (From a left-leaning perspective, if that is likely to bother you.) But well made, I thought.

    • bullseye says:

      As an American, I don’t see it happening. Worst case scenario we see a lot of terrorism from both sides. The military is going to support the establishment, and the establishment are really their own tribe even though they include leaders of both tribes.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        The military is going to support the establishment

        What makes you certain about this?

        • EchoChaos says:

          The US military always has, so history.

          Note that active military have even supported the establishment over retired military, as with the Bonus Army.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            The Roman military has been loyal to the establishment longer than the US have been in existence. Using the legions against their own government was still considered totally unthinkable in Sulla’s time (all of his officers except one resigned when he announced his intentions).

            Are there stronger reasons than the lack of historic precedent?

    • hash872 says:

      but we know empirically that polarization is increasing

      538 had an article last year- too lazy to find, sorry- that basically said that partisanship had increased a great deal, but that actual polarization had not. That is, that Americans basically always had a range of political or social views they felt extremely strongly about it- it just wasn’t always about political party. I think the drumbeat of ‘polarization is increasing!’ definitely comes a lot from social media, where we’re exposed to lots of people saying mean things to each other- but not, like, actual physical violence in the streets.

      But yeah, we do have some pretty established playbooks for what Societies Falling Apart looks like. I think a step back to the late 60s/70s levels of polarization & political violence would be the next logical step- that is, small disorganized militant groups carry out assassinations of politicians or public figures, small-scale kinda incompetent bombings, stuff like that. (Bombmaking in particular seems to be quite a skilled endeavor, and anyways there are not a lot of places to train it, much less get supplies). It would certainly seem like a step up in the polarization scale, but really it’d just be a step back to our parents’ generation.

      I think right-wing militant groups in the US could certainly step up to the Next Level Of Polarization though. This is not to excuse the left- it’s just that the leftist groups are fairly incompetent, and anyways virtually all of the military training is on the right side. The US has all of the ingredients for a low-level insurgency in red states! Extremely high numbers of small arms, widespread military backgrounds among the population, those backgrounds would be with the absolute most competent/best military on Earth, lots of recent combat experience, lots of very low density rural land to hide out in, lots of sympathetic locals to help hide, a few hundred year culture of defiance to Remote Authority (the country was founded on it!) Small militia groups could definitely harass, carry out targeted assassinations, bombing campaigns, etc. I’d personally put gun control as the spark that starts the conflagration here.

      And then we move up to the Final Step of Polarization- if not an actual coup, then widespread disobedience by military/police units. Remember, the bulk of the enlisted men- especially the infantry- absolutely come from a small number of red states. I can see a low-level insurgency starting, followed by sympathy by Oath Keeper-types among law enforcement & active military, followed by…..? I think a coup would be a lot more likely than an actual split of the country.

      Again, none of this is to excuse the spasmodic violence of some leftist groups, but I just don’t see the military background/competence to join an organized group and carry out operations. I think brawling in the streets and maybe the occasional random pipe bomb is about the extent of what they can competently carry out

      • DeWitt says:

        Again, none of this is to excuse the spasmodic violence of some leftist groups, but I just don’t see the military background/competence to join an organized group and carry out operations. I think brawling in the streets and maybe the occasional random pipe bomb is about the extent of what they can competently carry out.

        This is one reason why the Spanish civil war ended the way it did; the pen isn’t, not really, mightier than the sword.

      • meh says:

        the bulk of the enlisted men- especially the infantry- absolutely come from a small number of red states

        Could you link to your source of this information? I didn’t find infantry only, or many years of information, but I did find 2016:

        the top five states for recruitment in 2016 were California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New York

        I admit I have no idea if 2016 was representative or anomalous, so would be interested to see your source.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Those are approximately just the top 5 states by total population in the country. The exception being Georgia, which is quite red. CA and NY and FL have pretty sizable red zones as well.

          Would need per capita recruitment or county-level data, ideally both.

          • meh says:

            Why would you need per capita recruitment to determine if

            the bulk of the enlisted men- especially the infantry- absolutely come from a small number of red states

            ???

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ok fair enough I glossed over the “small number” part, which is a legit nit to pick. Brain refilled in as a more general “bulk of enlisted men are red tribe”

            And you still have large red hinterlands in those states

      • Aftagley says:

        This is not to excuse the left- it’s just that the leftist groups are fairly incompetent, and anyways virtually all of the military training is on the right side.

        This is incorrect. The military leans right, but is in no way a monolithic block. Recent Pew polling puts support for the right vs. left among veterans at around 60/40. This matches my personal experience.

        3 in 5 is a far cry from “virtually all military training.”

        • acymetric says:

          I would be interested in whether there is a difference between polling veterans and polling people who are actively enlisted.

          • Matt M says:

            It might also be worth not comparing “left vs right” but “far left vs far right” and taking everyone else out of the equation as approximately neutral.

            I know plenty of veterans who are Democrats, insofar as they would prefer Joe Biden to Trump. But that doesn’t mean they’re onboard with AOC. I also know a handful who are definitely in the “right-wing militia candidate” category. I don’t know any who are radical communists, or are likely to be marching with Antifa anytime soon…

          • Aftagley says:

            I don’t know any who are radical communists, or are likely to be marching with Antifa anytime soon…

            Well then let me introduce you to Comrade Cadet!

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M says: "It might also be worth not comparing “left vs right” but “far left vs far right” and taking everyone else out of the equation as approximately neutral.

            I know plenty of veterans who are Democrats, insofar as they would prefer Joe Biden to Trump. But that doesn’t mean they’re onboard with AOC. I also know a handful who are definitely in the “right-wing militia candidate” category. I don’t know any who are radical communists, or are likely to be marching with Antifa anytime soon…

            For what little it’s worth, out of my immediate co-workers that are U.S. military veterans (all union members and government employees which skew the results), four are ex-Navy, one is an ex-Marine, two are Biden Democrats, one was a Cruz Republican (he may just not vote in 2020), one a Trump Republican, and one was very anti-gay marriage, but otherwise pretty vocally further Left (and has left the City to be an ILWU stevedore, so I can’t ask anymore), I also have ex-Soviet military co-workers, and the only one who’s vocal about U.S. politics is vocally Republican.

            Among my less immediate co-workers, the cops, and deputies are mostly veterans, and mostly Republicans, with women and non-white guys who live in or near the City a bit more likely to be Democrats, the DA’s political leanings are much the same as the cops and deputies but they’re usually not veterans, the Public Defenders display pictures of Che Guevara and Malcolm X, and tend to be young, so I assume they’re further Left, Public Works tradesmen tend to be Biden Democrats, with supervisors, and those with suburban houses leaning more Republican.

            My wife’s friends (according to her) are mostly Warren Democrats, all college graduates, and none a veteran.

            That leaves a couple dozen old friends from when I was a teenager who I found after joining Facebook last month, of them (judging by the stuff they post) five seem pro Antifa, and two I suspect are Antifa (and I have no plans to ask and confirm my suspicions as that is a conversation I very much don’t want to have), otherwise most of my new/old Facebook friends are either silent politically, mainstream Democrats (with two pro Harris), and one guy who’s mostly politically silent except for his being anti-Harris, and he also posts a lot of medieval and renaissance religious art so I suspect a Republican which I have no plans to find out for sure.

            IIRC my Mom and step-dad vote for those who are relatively conservative for local offices, and relatively liberal for national office, and my brother and his wife (who live in a different State) are some flavor of Democrat, my extended family are about evenly split and they lean Democrat or Republican pretty much matching what neighborhood they live in, with military veterans more likely to be Republicans, but since they live in Republican areas I can’t tell which is cause or effect, and that’s true of most of the people I know, their politics largely match their neighbors, with only two exceptions that I can think of.

            If I was head of the Democratic Party, I’d encourage more housing in the urban core, and if I was head of the Republican Party I’d encourage building more far suburban houses, since as far as I can tell people’s political leanings strongly correlate with their neighbors.

        • meh says:

          The pop media gives this impression I think; combined somehow with a subconscious shift from ‘high per capita from here’, to ‘all from here’

    • I see it as unlikely at the moment because the Red Tribe leaders, as they used to say about the Left, are people who won’t take their own side in a fight. If they aren’t fighting with the perfectly legal means available, why should anyone think they’d take up a fight with illegal means?

      • Matt M says:

        Agreed. Even someone as far right as a Gavin McInnes basically curled up into the fetal position and loudly and publicly disavowed his own group the second the media started suggesting (AFAIK, out of nowhere, they literally just made it up) that the FBI might consider looking into whether they might count as a terrorist organization…

    • brad says:

      I think it’s pretty unlikely. It becomes more likely if we continue to have more and more presidential and congressional elections where the popular vote and outcome are increasingly divergent. The system relies on at least rough democracy as a pressure release valve.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Wait a sec, where are congresscritters elected without a popular vote majority?

        • Aftagley says:

          In a bunch of states. Have you never heard of gerrymandering before?

          • EchoChaos says:

            Which state does not require a popular vote plurality to win a Congressional Seat? This is entirely false.

            Gerrymandering is shaping the district, but that doesn’t change the rules at all.

          • acymetric says:

            Individual seats, yes. Looking at overall representation, you definitely have states where the makeup of the representatives does not reflect the overall popular vote. Say (made up numbers loosely based on a real example) a state where aggregate House/Senate votes were 50/50 Democrat/Republican but 9/12 seats end up Republican.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            There is no “overall vote” for Congressional seats. In a First Past the Post system such a thing doesn’t even make sense because the vote is about the specific merits of the people in question.

            There are lots of places that vote for conservative Democrats locally and Republicans nationally, for example.

          • acymetric says:

            Take a state where 100 votes are cast, and 20 congresspeople are elected.

            If 50 votes are cast for Democratic candidates, and 50 votes are cast for Republican candidates, and you end up with 16 Republican congresspeople and 4 Demcrat congresspeople, that is potentially an outcome worth discussing. That is what is being talked about here. We are all aware of how elections work.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “Overall popular vote” is meaningless in a system where you vote for individuals instead of party slates.

            Though, granted, the country does seem to be de facto trending that direction.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            I agree that gerrymandering exists. That’s not my contention. My contention is that the concept of a “popular vote for Congress” doesn’t exist because the candidates vary too much.

            Ilhan Omar wins her district handily, but would get killed in a national popular vote. Same with Steve King on the other side. On the other hand, conservative Democrats can win Pennsylvania districts where Clinton got killed.

          • acymetric says:

            The original post was pretty clearly a reference to gerrymandering and the electoral college, so why are you even arguing these points?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The original post was pretty clearly a reference to gerrymandering and the electoral college, so why are you even arguing these points?

            It was phrased confusingly and then got a condescending response when asking for clarification?

          • Dan L says:

            “Overall popular vote” is meaningless in a system where you vote for individuals instead of party slates.

            This is a thread about the plausibility of civil war. If there is a distinction to be drawn between the legal source of political power and the actual popular will, it is an extremely important metric. Depending on which branch in the US you’re looking at, that delta is currently running between a couple percentage points and a couple dozen.

            There are lots of places that vote for conservative Democrats locally and Republicans nationally, for example.

            Local politics is a non sequitur, we’re talking federal.

            My contention is that the concept of a “popular vote for Congress” doesn’t exist because the candidates vary too much.

            This is the part where you would need to show that individual variation makes a difference in national policy once party whip counts are run. I think I actually can make that argument, but the effect size is small enough that as far as pressure relief goes it’s a feeble substitute.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Dan L

            I am talking about electing conservative Democrat Congressmen (a Federal position) while voting for Republicans for President. Or vice versa. It occurs regularly in both directions.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Local politics is a non sequitur, we’re talking federal.

            What? Why? Civil War I was highly irregular in its… regularity. Civil wars look more like Syria or the Balkans, where the conflict regions are highly granular.

            A Civil War II along party/tribal lines would have the urban areas starve, the rural areas reduced to eking out 3rd-world subsistence, and the suburbs turned into vicious, bombed-out hellholes.

          • salvorhardin says:

            The state legislatures are better examples here, e.g. in North Carolina and Wisconsin you can make a good case that gerrymandering makes the political makeup of the legislature very substantially diverge from the aggregate political preferences of those states’ voters.

          • acymetric says:

            Actually, at least in NC, the US House is a better example (the state HOR has been slowly correcting itself).

            Republican candidates received right about 50% of total votes (Democrats received about 48% of votes), but ~77% of total seats (2 of which are now vacant, one due to illegal election stuff and one due to the death of the man who was elected).

          • meh says:

            I think it is pretty clear what @acymetric is talking about. Why are we pretending he has just made up a concept, and we have no idea what he means by it?

          • Dan L says:

            @EchoChaos:

            I am talking about electing conservative Democrat Congressmen (a Federal position) while voting for Republicans for President. Or vice versa. It occurs regularly in both directions.

            Gotcha. I draw a bright line between local elections for locally-empowered offices, and local elections for federal office. I’m a big fan of partisan heterodoxy in the former! I think I’ve remarked in the past on how it’s not a coincidence that some of the most popular politicians in the US defy their electorate’s typical partisan lean. (And I’ll argue that a decent chunk of CA’s problems come from a D party unchecked by an R unable to adapt to state politics, but that’s a tangent.)

            But to a first approximation, crossing the aisle in the latter *doesn’t happen* anymore. To pull a unitary metric, 538’s Trump Score has every single Republican scoring higher than every single Democrat. That’s some four hundred thousand comparisons, and not a single one breaks the trend, despite Manchin & Collins’ best efforts. It’s entirely appropriate to abstract individual congresscritters into a pair of blocs – a more nuanced analysis does buy you something, but very little. I’ll pointedly decline to answer whether or not that means they’re doing their job in representing their constituents.

            (As a bonus, guess which Democratic Rep has the highest Trump Score. The answer is a great test of one’s political awareness.)

            @Gobbobobble:

            What? Why? Civil War I was highly irregular in its… regularity. Civil wars look more like Syria or the Balkans, where the conflict regions are highly granular.

            There is a long and winding road between this point and the one I’m interested in (brad’s, roughly), but the short version is that the US Civil War was irregular for a reason, and I strongly suspect that the types of political developments that could conceivably led to Civil War II Electric Boogaloo would require/result in geographic faults stronger than tribal ones.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Dan L

            But local heterodoxy is exactly what prevents gerrymandering from having a significant long-term effect. Republicans heavily gerrymandered Pennsylvania when they had a trifecta, but they won’t for the next redistricting (Pennsylvania now has a Democrat governor), so it will be substantially less gerrymandered even had there not been judicial intervention. North Carolina the same.

            Maryland likewise, to use one Democrats heavily gerrymandered, now has a Republican governor.

            And note that the massive Democrat trifecta in California has only existed for eight years since the governorship of Schwarzenegger, which isn’t that much time to adjust. Another Republican will get elected at some point relatively soon.

            Yes, if you have a big year in a redistricting year, as Republicans did in 2010, you can have a pretty good decade, but all such gains are ephemeral, especially when the demography on the ground shifts (nobody in 2010 predicted the dramatic shift of white suburban women to Democrat).

            The strengthening of whips and party leaders in Congress is certainly something I’m no fan of, but that will even itself out quickly. If a conservative Democrat votes for an Assault Weapons Ban on their whips’ orders, we’ll have the same thing that happened in 1994 when they did that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Dan L,
            you seem to have restricted to the 116th Congress. This filter does not appear in the URL, so your links do not match what you said, which is confusing.

            To pull a unitary metric, 538’s Trump Score has every single Republican scoring higher than every single Democrat.

            That’s true in the incomplete 116th Congress. In the default view of averaging together both Congresses, there are a couple of crossovers. We should probably throw out Brenda Jones (D-MI) because she only had a 2 month term, but Collin Peterson (D-MN) had a higher Trump score than Walter Jones (R-NC). The default averaging view is probably bad because not everyone had the same terms. If we restrict to just the 115th Congress, we get 11 D with higher Trump scores than Walter. 8 of them with higher Trump scores even than Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Justin Amash (R-MI), although the last ultimately left the party. No crossover in the Senate in either Congress.

            (As a bonus, guess which Democratic Rep has the highest Trump Score. The answer is a great test of one’s political awareness.)

            You are, again, restricting to the 116th Congress, where the highest Trump score among D is 16%. In the 115th Congress, there is a wide spread of D scores, up to 69% (R down to 49%, Walter Jones)

          • Dan L says:

            @EchoChaos:

            all such gains are ephemeral

            Sure, and that’s the biggest reason I ultimately don’t think it’s currently anything like an existential threat to the nation. The delta in presidential elections is around the level that noise would introduce anyway – this isn’t good, but not a huge deal. The delta in the Senate is, like, thirty points… but that’s what the Senate is for. The House is a problem being in the high single digits, but while that’s a nasty distortion in the democratic process it’s not catastrophic. But while it may be a cyclic political problem (grumble grumble Rucho grumble), it does cause some amount of damage in the abstract sense of government consistently failing to represent the governed, and is worth worrying about.

            @Douglas Knight:

            you seem to have restricted to the 116th Congress. This filter does not appear in the URL, so your links do not match what you said, which is confusing.

            The scripting that 538 uses does not appear to allow for direct linking filtered data in the URL – I did look into it, but could not find a way to do so and so trusted the political wonks of SSC to figure it out. If you’ve had better luck wrangling the syntax, I’d be grateful to hear about it.

            That’s true in the incomplete 116th Congress. In the default view of averaging together both Congresses,

            The 115/116th Congress is not a thing that exists, or ever has existed. It is useful to be able to look at the TrumpScore of every individual legislator who has been in a position to vote on such a measure, but the gestalt body doesn’t even rise to the level of being a coherent abstract. It is entirely inappropriate to look at such a measure if you’re studying the composition of legislatures.

            The 116th Congress is not “incomplete”. It is a thing that does exist.

            If we restrict to just the 115th Congress

            I will fully acknowledge that the 115th (is that “incomplete”?) showed more bipartisanship than the 116th for a variety of reasons driven by the presidential cycle, but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant to legislative policy. Congress qua Congress is better represented by midterm elections, for better or for worse.

            We should probably throw out Brenda Jones (D-MI) because she only had a 2 month term, but Collin Peterson (D-MN) had a higher Trump score than Walter Jones (R-NC).

            Walter is dead. Would you be willing to wager on his replacement’s TrumpScore, should such a thing become a valid measure?

            8 of them with higher Trump scores even than Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Justin Amash (R-MI), although the last ultimately left the party.

            Massie is still in Congress, and what might have been a claim for centrism has not aged terribly well. Amash will not be in the 117th Congress. You discounted Jones, but it is worth noting that she was successfully primaried by Tlaib. Compare to the background rate of incumbency – these are not coincidences.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I agree that the mixed view is problematic, but it’s the default, endorsed by 538. Complain to them. Pay attention to your links.
            If you make sweeping statements, you shouldn’t cherry pick metrics. And by saying 400k comparisons, it sure sounded like you were making a statement about both Congresses. Where did this number come from?

            Why is the 116th different from the 115th? Is it because of the presidential cycle? Could be, but I thought that the whole point of picking a metric was so that I didn’t have to take your word for it. Also, saying that bipartisanship is permanently over is the opposite of saying that it only happens every other Congress.

            Another difference between the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress is that the 115th is over (“complete”). Whereas the 116th will have more votes and the metric will change. If the votes follow a pattern over the course of a Congressional electoral cycle, then the two Congresses might not end up so different. Even if it’s just random variation, the 115th has a lot more samples, more opportunities to learn about the politicians. The 116th Congress (R and D separately) is substantially less Trumpist than the 115. Is that a real pattern, or does that just reflect the kind of bills that happen to be chosen?

            Tlaib did not primary Jones. The two primaries were held on the same day, long before Jones went to Washington.

          • quanta413 says:

            As a bonus, guess which Democratic Rep has the highest Trump Score. The answer is a great test of one’s political awareness.

            Is there a subtle point here about poorly defined metrics? As far as I can tell, over half the measured “agreement” is due to something like “agreeing to brinksmanship” from opposite sides of the aisle.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Douglas Knight:

            I don’t think you’d be terribly surprised to hear that I strongly object to large swathes of your comment, including a few things that ought to be straightforward questions of fact. But let’s short-circuit any reflexive contrarianism, and get back to the point – are you actually disputing the claim that federal legislators are reaching extreme levels of partisan polarization? Do you think this isn’t coming at the expense of more nuanced representation of local interests?

            @ quanta413:

            Is there a subtle point here about poorly defined metrics?

            But that’s the thing – it’s not a “metric”, it’s a direct measure of a particular type of political action. Insofar as it defies fitting into a conventional narrative, so much worse for the narrative.

            As far as I can tell, over half the measured “agreement” is due to something like “agreeing to brinksmanship” from opposite sides of the aisle.

            Quite possibly, but it’s a kind of pluralistic brinksmanship that IMO doesn’t cleanly match up to a conventional horseshoe theory. Makes predictions of future votes interesting.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            No, really, I am surprised to hear that you object to nailing down facts. If I have made any errors of facts, I am very interested in hearing them.

          • Dan L says:

            Reflexive contrarianism it is then, gotcha. Try again next exchange.

        • Aftagley says:

          A Civil War II along party/tribal lines would have the urban areas starve,

          Nah, most major cities are located on or near major ports. Unless our totally unlikely and hypothetical civil war was sufficient to knock us out of the global trade network, the cities could import food. Prices would definitely go up, but the heartland isn’t the only place on earth to buy wheat. Places like Denver would likely be screwed though.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Nah, most major cities are located on or near major ports. Unless our totally unlikely and hypothetical civil war was sufficient to knock us out of the global trade network, the cities could import food.

            Seconding this. They’re called San Francisco Bay and Portland for reasons.
            Los Angeles and San Diego are on the coast. Seattle has a funky coastline that almost looks like a fjord. New York City is part islands, rather famously so.
            It looks like the largest city that doesn’t have a sea port is Houston, Texas, and we could expect Texas to be at the center of any Second ACW for other reasons. Sucks to be Austin.

          • Lillian says:

            Do you mean Dallas, Texas? Because Houston absolutely has a port. Also aside from Dallas the US does have a large number of metro areas with over a million people that have no sea port (counting the Great Lakes as seas): Atlanta, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Denver, St. Louis, Orlando, Charlotte, San Antonio, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Austin, Kansas City, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, Memphis, Louisville, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Tuscon.

        • brad says:

          Sorry if this was confusing I meant the situation where the partisan preferences of the all the voters as a whole is highly divergent from how Congress end up being split. I’m aware that that the system was not designed to ensure that property held but I’d argue that nonetheless it needs to be at least mostly true, most of the time for people to consider the system legitimate. A cohesive and substantial majority isn’t going to accept being regularly disenfranchised regardless of what kind of “actually we a republic not a democracy” spin you put on it.

          • Matt M says:

            A cohesive and substantial majority

            The majorities in the two most recent elections where the popular vote winner did not win the EC were hardly cohesive or substantial, though.

            And while I’m not an expert, my understanding is that gerrymandering is typically used to make the majority-supported party more dominant than it should be, rather than to allow a minority-supported party to obtain a majority (after all, it’s the party in power who draws the lines, isn’t it?)

            In general, I think you’re right in theory – that if that sort of thing did happen we could see conflict over it. I just don’t think we’re anywhere close to that sort of thing happening. I’m not even sure it’s technically possible within anything that looks even remotely similar to our current population distribution and political alignment.

          • brad says:

            I agree we aren’t there. That’s why I said things like “increasingly divergent”. I do think it is possible within the current system though.

          • Matt M says:

            brad,

            What would have to happen for us to get a result where, say, the blue candidate wins the popular vote by over 10 percentage points, but loses the EC?

            The answer has to be something like “blue tribe continues to gain massive ground among the electorate in heavily blue states and wins them by staggering margins, while red tribe barely holds ground and wins only a slight majority pretty much everywhere else.”

            But of course, that assumes that blue tribe is still motivated to come out and vote in those blue-heavy states, even though they are even less “up for grabs” than they are today. And as the state becomes more blue, the down-ballot races and ballot measures or whatever will also, presumably, become less contentious, so that motivation will be gone as well.

            This is exactly why I consider the “popular vote,” to be essentially meaningless. The EC system has built in methods by which it discourages certain types of voters in ways that have very little to do with the quality of candidates or the voters commitment to a particular candidate/ideology/whatever.

          • brad says:

            Matt M,

            That’s a good point. However I think that dynamic has the possibility to create runaway delegitimization even without the banner of 10% gap. Though admittedly it’d be more likely with it.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Coup: I’ve been told that US military leadership (anyone above the rank of major) does not differ substantially in the political outlook to other areas of the US Government, even if the military as a whole is seen as a red-tribe institution. So even if the red-tribe might be relieved a bit at the prospect of the military taking over, there’s no reason to think that the military isn’t content with the status quo.

      Civil War:
      Two ways this could happen would be if the current president doesn’t accept a negative outcome in the election enough of his supporters take this seriously. Except his supporters aren’t concentrated anywhere important to actually do anything meaningful or effective.

      Another possibility is red states seceeding when it becomes clear that the federal government has no capacity or desire to fix the demographic situation that is dooming the republican party. There’s still a substantial contingent of red politicians who are either looking at this issue from the chamber of commerce perspective [measuring political capital in donations and not broad constituencies] or are convinced in some form of outreach changing their fortunes, so again who is going to lead the charge for such an action?

      All of these have unrealistic elements to them.

    • Urstoff says:

      I would really doubt it. Americans seem more risk- and violence- averse than ever.

      • EchoChaos says:

        That doesn’t seem valid to me. Military recruitment is going fine even in an economic boom time, which is generally when the military has the most trouble recruiting. Combat sports are at an all-time high in participation (MMA/Boxing/etc).

        I will agree that Americans are more rule-abiding than they ever have been, though.

        • Urstoff says:

          That might be more accurate, then; averse to chaos, I guess, which includes some types of violence, but not necessarily the more organized kinds (military, contact sports).

        • Matt M says:

          Do we track what percentage of military recruits actually see combat?

          I’m incredibly risk/violence averse, but I enlisted at 18. In the Navy. In the FTS program (most jobs stateside). As a Yeoman (secretary). I stayed in for nine years as an office drone. The most combat I ever saw was when we tried to play pickup basketball against the Marines exactly one time.

          • JPNunez says:

            Was this just good luck or did you decide you were gonna stay in the jobs that weren’t gonna see combat -or deployment?- and were allowed to do so?

          • Matt M says:

            I scored the maximum on the ASVAB so I got to pick any job I wanted, basically. It took a long time to work them from the first few jobs they started showing me, “Hey! You can be a nuclear technician! Look at the bonus!” to where I ended up, which is a job that typically they stick people in who are unqualified to do anything else. But they did allow it.

            The Navy specifically doesn’t have many “combat” roles. You pretty much have to really want one. And FTS duty, because of its heavy shore rotation, is typically seen as low prestige and is often considered harder to promote in (except that remember, I’m now the big intellectual fish in a very small pond, so promotion was also trivially easy for the first few years).

            I think I may have had the easiest job in the entire US armed forces. It worked out a lot better than I expected it to, actually.

          • JPNunez says:

            That’s cool.

        • Aftagley says:

          Military recruitment is going fine even in an economic boom time, which is generally when the military has the most trouble recruiting.

          Not true. This article from last year is a good overview of the issues the military is having. Raw numbers aren’t falling as fast as they could be, but from what I’ve seen, that’s largely an artifact of reducing standards. The last few years the required ASVABs have fallen and recruiters have been much more aggressive about getting people in shape who would previously been rejected out of hand.

          • EchoChaos says:

            That article is unconvincing to me. He is arguing for a draft, so he is in that boat already. The first year that the Army missed since 2005 was 2018, which is 12 years of constant hitting targets during a rising economy.

            In addition, ASVABs were increased dramatically during that time, so they are falling towards were they were in 2005.

            The increase in obesity is another serious issue, which argues against it being “Americans are less willing to do violence”, but rather that Americans are just unhealthier.

    • neciampater says:

      Someone linked to this a few months ago: https://brilliantmaps.com/did-not-vote/

      I thought this map gave me comfort that most people were decent, but seeing a 55.3% voter turnout actually scares me.

    • proyas says:

      I strongly doubt the U.S. will have another true civil war, and for several reasons:

      1) There is an inverse relationship between how much and how loudly an American whines about their extremist politics and how willing they actually are to take a bullet for their beliefs. If you read the writings of leaders and average men who fought in the Civil War, you will find them to be unusually thoughtful and principled. Not so with the idiots today who want another civil war.
      2) The American people are the oldest (38 is the median age) and fattest (40% of adults are obese) they’ve ever been, meaning the fraction of the population that is actually fit for combat is tiny.
      3) America’s law enforcement and military forces are overwhelmingly powerful and have very comprehensive and advanced surveillance systems that they could turn on the domestic populace during an emergency.
      4) In general, the partisan divide has been exaggerated by the media to get headline clicks and social media shares.
      5) I also believe that the morbid fascination with the prospect of another U.S. civil war is driven by the same things as the fascination with the zombie apocalypse genre: It lets average people fantasize about a more interesting and adventurous lifestyle where the old order of things would be upended, and they would have a chance to be a hero, to experience more camaraderie than today’s postindustrial world provides them, and to distinguish themselves in some way. And yes, another commonality is the lust for guilt-free killing of other people who are different from you.

      If the partisan polarization gets so bad that violence breaks out, I think the fighting will be confined to members of extreme right- and left-wing groups and to lone wolf mass shooters. It would probably be a lot like the domestic terrorism wave of the 1970s, though the media will magnify every event so badly out of proportion that it will seem like the Apocalypse is going on (e.g. – the other 99.9999% of Americans will survive).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        This is an honest question. I’m not sure how much difference older and fatter makes, partly because I’m feeling uncertain about the sort of warfare. How much walking vs. motorized transport are we talking about?

        Fat makes a difference to athleticism, but not as much at moderate levels of fatness.

        I have a vague impression that we’re seeing violent crime at later ages than we used to, but that might be a few dramatic cases. I do think people get a decade or more of healthy life more than they did fifty years ago.

        My major argument against a civil war in the US is that we’re more geographically mixed than we were– there isn’t a whole region with serious local military capacity that’s likely to want to break away.

        My nightmare is significant small-scale insurgency– that seems entirely feasible, and fat people can set bombs as well as anyone else.

        Have some science fiction: I’ve been strongly in favor of exoskeletons as a means of improving quality of life, but they’d also make civil war easier.

  9. Is it possible to describe the predicted behavior of a magnetic monopole, even in the most approximate way, without referring to Maxwell’s equations? I read the Wikipedia article and learned nothing.

    • John Schilling says:

      The expected behavior of a magnetic monopole is pretty much exactly the expected behavior of e.g. a proton, except that it responds to (and generates) magnetic fields the way a proton responds to and generates electric fields, and vice versa. Oh, and it may not weigh exactly as much.

      If you’ve got many monopoles, of both polarities, you can probably form them into “magnetic atoms” that act rather like the ordinary kind among their own kin, including the bit where they really really don’t want to maintain net bulk charge (but are willing to support a net electric dipole field). It’s going to get really interesting and possibly make my brain explode trying to figure out how bulk-neutral magnetic matter and “ordinary” matter interact with each other. I haven’t a clue whether a lump of monopolar coal would rest comfortably at the toe of an ordinary wool sock or fall ethereally through the sock, floor, bedrock, etc, to the center of the Earth.

      (Note that we do not observe e.g. monopolar cosmic-ray particles, which would be exempt from such implied segregation and so a monopolar terrestrial core is not the way to bet. Probably)

      • broblawsky says:

        Would magnetic monopole “electrons” behave identically to normal matter electrons? The only reason why electrons form “shells” around nuclei – giving rise to solid matter as we know it – is due to their low mass relative to protons, AFAIK. There’s no reason to assume that a monopole “electron” wouldn’t have similar mass to a monopole “proton”, in which case monopolar “atoms” would be much smaller, and much more vulnerable to nuclear reactions, a la muon-catalyzed fusion.

      • I haven’t a clue whether a lump of monopolar coal would rest comfortably at the toe of an ordinary wool sock or fall ethereally through the sock, floor, bedrock, etc, to the center of the Earth.

        If I ask Santa Claus for a monopolar pony and then arrange to have myself put on the Naughty List, perhaps we could find out.

    • Anatid says:

      If you have a magnet, its north pole will attract “south” magnetic monopoles and its south pole will attract “north” magnetic monopoles.

      North and south magnetic monopoles will attract each other, while north monopoles will repel other north monopoles, and south monopoles will repel each other. [These attractions and repulsions will obey an inverse square law, like the attractions and repulsions of electric charges].

      A magnetic monopole will set up a magnetic field around itself that looks just like the electric field around an electric charge.

      A moving magnetic monopole that passes through an electric field will have its trajectory bent around the electric field lines, just like electric charges bend around magnetic field lines.

      An oscillating magnetic monopole will send out electromagnetic waves at the oscillation frequency, just like oscillating electric charges send out electromagnetic waves.

      An electric charge and a magnetic monopole will not exert any force on each other (if both are stationary).

  10. eigenmoon says:

    This is a weird proposal of a cross between Adversarial Collaboration and Street Epistemology.

    Street Epistemology (SE) is similar to the questions-only conversation technique of Socrates. It was designed by atheists to mess with believers without triggering their defense mechanisms: for example. The point is that a SEist may not argue with beliefs directly, but argues about the methods used to acquire and support the beliefs.

    There are some good criticisms of SE as currently practiced. The whole SE is pretty much one big isolated demand for rigor. The SEists seem to resent relativity (the idea that reality may be described by different equally valid perspectives) so much that it looks like they’d veto even the Einstein’s theory of relativity. And look at Eliezer bulldozing the “modest” epistemology that SEists push using their “Outsider Test of Faith”.

    That said, I think that SEists are onto a Good Thing. Looks like Russian LessWrongers have adopted using SE on each other for all sorts of beliefs; it’d be interesting to hear how that’s been working for them.

    I’ve been thinking on how SE could be combined with Adversarial Collaboration (AC) and came up with the following: instead of a blanket ban on counterarguments (which is really boring) exactly one counterargument is allowed. To be clear, I’m not proposing replacing AC; this is just a lightweight flavor.

    So, here are the proposed rules of AC/SE:

    1) Two partners have asymmetric roles: there’s a proponent and an opponent.

    2) The end result is an article in three parts: the exposition (by the proponent), the thrust (by the opponent) and the retort (by the proponent).

    3) The AC starts with working on the exposition. This is primarily a text by the proponent, but it’s expected to develop as the opponent does SE. Maybe it just grows with clarifications and confidence intervals, maybe it grows a Q&A section. Note that unlike a normal AC article, the exposition might be personal (“I believe this with 80% confidence because I believe that with 90% confidence”).

    4) Exactly once per AC, the opponent formally submits a counterargument, the “thrust”. Once this happens, the exposition is frozen (within sanity limits).

    5) The thrust may be updated with clarifications if requested but cannot be changed to something completely different.

    6) The proponent writes a counter-counterargument, the “retort”, which may develop as the opponent does SE again, although there may be no need to.

    How does that sound?

    • Scumbarge says:

      I like the sound of it, and have been thinking about something similar.

      Mind you, I haven’t gotten overly far–basically just a repeated thought of “I wish something like this existed”, so I like the fact that you’re laying down the groundwork.

      When I have a minute, I’ll try and dig back through my journals to see if any of my prior ideas hold water, but for the time being I figured I’d say that this strikes me as a good and necessary thing.

      (In thinking vaguely about this problem of adversarial sensemaking, I’ve toyed with the idea of incorporating teams–like, a live debate would be so much better if a given speaker for a side could tag in and out, and have a bunch of people fact-checking and looking up counterarguments and sources in the background. Taking advantage for the abilities we have to create a hive consciousness for better bandwidth threading)

      • eigenmoon says:

        Thank you.

        I don’t know any way of making team debate work. SE becomes much more difficult with more than 1 on 1.

    • fion says:

      I like the sound of it too.

      (Don’t have anything more useful to add. Sorry!)

    • Randy M says:

      It sounds like a standard debate format with a bit more charity.
      (That’s collegiate debate, not presidential)

    • dick says:

      Did not know this was a thing. I’m dubious that trying to make a stranger question their faith is an unambiguously moral thing to do. I’m an atheist, and my best friend is very religious, and I would definitely not want to change that.

  11. Well... says:

    I really like hummus, and Aldi had a decent-looking food processor on sale for like $12 several months ago so I bought one. It’s been sitting on my counter doing nothing since then.

    What are some good recipes that require the use of a food processor?

    • DeWitt says:

      Wait, what happened to the hummus?

    • baconbits9 says:

      I like making pie crust in food processors, the trick is to add half of your shortening cold and the other half frozen (but both chopped up a bit before hand).

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Any particular reason you use a food processor as opposed to a standing mixer?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Stand mixers don’t do well with frozen materials, they just get spun around in my experience.

        • twocents says:

          A stand mixer mixes too thoroughly and adds too much heat for pie crust. Pie crust gets its flaky texture from bits of unblended cold fat that melt in the oven, forming layers in the flour mixture. You only need about a minute of pulsing in the food processor to get the right consistency, which looks like coarse sand, then add a bit of liquid and bring it together gently with your hands without mixing too much. A stand mixture would tend to warm the butter and mix everything too homogeneously, leading to a tough crust instead of a light and flaky one.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Numerous baked goods.

      Homemade Nutella and other nut butters.

      The grater blade makes quick work of large quantities of cheese for my holiday tradition of Aligot.

      Pesto when the basil starts to overrun the balcony.

      Dukkah.

      Mine definitely gets used mostly for bagels and pizza dough.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Well, my hummus does!

      (3/4-1 c dried chickpeas, juice from 2 lemons [how big? Depends how much you like lemon – I do medium to large, and like the result], 1/2 cup tahini, as much garlic as you like which for me is about half a small head or 8-12 cloves, 1/2 t salt. Soak chickpeas overnight, boil them for about an hour or until soft, then run them through the food processor along with the lemon juice and a little water; add the tahini, then add more water as needed to get the texture you want and add other ingredients, being sure the garlic cloves get properly blended in. Top with olive oil mixed with a little paprika to dye it red (the original was 1 T olive oil with 1 t paprika, but that’s too spicy for me) and chopped parsley. Adapted from Claudia Roden’s.)

      I also use it pretty heavily for things that require a lot of dicing, like my spinach tart (it’s kind of like a quiche, but with more greens – you need to shred 1/3rd lb of spinach and 3/4 lb of cheese, among other things – Miscellany [http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Misc10/Misc10.pdf] page 41 if you want the recipe, though the food processor is not technically required), for making ground almonds out of whole ones, for reducing graham crackers to crumbs for cheesecake-crust, and for cutting butter into flour for piecrust or scones. The trick there is to run it really briefly – I do about 2-3 seconds, then check and if the butter isn’t in the right size pieces, add maybe half a second, check… I’d theoretically run it again if it still wasn’t the right size after the check, but it usually is.

      Good luck!

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I use mine for salsa and some kinds of sauces/pastes. For instance, for chili, I toast actual dried chiles. Once toasted, these get thrown into the food processor with a bunch of other things to form a paste that gets tossed back into the chili to stew.

    • J.R. says:

      Pesto is best made in a food processor. I’ll edit reply and add my recipe later – I’m at work now.

      ETA: edit window will be closed by then.

    • 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].

        • Creutzer says:

          How is this supposed to be possible? You said explicitly less expensive at point of sale, not less expensive to produce… What on earth prevented the producers from raising prices if it was highly-sought-after?

          • EchoChaos says:

            How is this supposed to be possible?

            Because point of sale was in Texas and most shipping was done from the East Coast.

            You said explicitly less expensive at point of sale, not less expensive to produce… What on earth prevented the producers from raising prices if it was highly-sought-after?

            Lower quantity available further from important markets.

        • Aftagley 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.

          Do you have a source on this? Texas had plenty of slaves, basic research reveals they were involved in the cotton industry. Nothing I’ve read thus far indicates that the market valued free cotton more than slave cotton.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The Cotton Kingdom, by Frederic Olmsted.

            German immigrants made the majority of Texas cotton farmers, although there were of course black slaves in Texas as well.

          • Aftagley says:

            Interesting. For those who care, a link to the book is here and the relevant argument is from around page 260 or so onwards.

            Reading it, the author’s point seems to be that slave-owners in the south absolutely refused to modernize, at the cost of potential output. These primitive farming practices meant that on a per acre basis, slave labor would get out-competed by free labor which used better techniques.

            In terms of EC’s point about cost, it looks like that’s a result of really poor quality control: since the slaves don’t see any profit from the cotton, they’ve got no incentive to keep it clean before it gets to the gin. The overseers were paid by weight/volume, so they don’t need to keep it clean either. Free farmers, on the other hand, actually cared about their product and therefore took more interest in keeping it clean, thus merchants valued it higher.

            This contradicts your initial point that it was cheaper at point of sale, in fact it was more expensive for merchants to buy, but also more profitable for them since they didn’t have to waste time/effort cleaning the cotton. Relevant quote:

            I was informed by a merchant that the cotton picked by the free labour of the Germans was worth from one to two cents a pound more than that picked by slaves in the same township, by reason of its greater cleanliness

            I think your point about there being more germans farming in Texas than slaves might be incorrect, however. I haven’t read the whole book yet. He seems to be referring more to german farmers in Texas as the exception, rather than the norm. I admit, however, I’m not totally confident in this assessment.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Thanks for the deep dive, it’s been a bit since I read it and I’m at work.

            Still, it supports my assessment that “the benefit of cotton came from slaves” is nonsense economically.

          • Aftagley says:

            Still, it supports my assessment that “the benefit of cotton came from slaves” is nonsense economically.

            Correct, if Olmsted is to be believed (which I see no reason not to). In fact, it seems like the prevalence of slavery actually decreased the potential profits derived from cotton. The author, in fact, cites that very argument as an example of plantation owner propaganda.

            This raises the question though, how did slavery prevail if it was economically less efficient? Olmsted himself wonders about this and his answer pretty much boils down to “the whites throughout the south are too lazy and dumb, so they wouldn’t do any better.” Direct quote:

            The same influences which condemn the majority of free labourers in Alabama to hand-looms [a representative example of outdated technology, homespun [clothes, also outdated and perceived by northerners as being a sign you’re a bumpkin] and three hundred pounds of wheat to the acre [a really small harvest by modern northern methods] as the limit of production, also condemn them to isolated labour, poor soil, poor tools, bad management, “bad luck,” small crops and small profits in cotton culture.

            I need to read the rest of this book to see what his answer to this question is.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Probably the same reason that lots of economically unviable stuff exists. The power of law and the elites were behind it. Sure, slavery keeps technology and the average worker down, but it’s awesome for the elites, who get to have literal slaves to abuse.

            Remember, the South WASN’T economically competitive with the North at all. Slavery held us back.

          • Matt M says:

            Slavery held us back.

            Which, of note, is precisely why it was abolished voluntarily, without war, in virtually every other country on Earth (I believe the US and Haiti are the only exceptions, but don’t claim to be an expert on this)

          • Aftagley says:

            Which, of note, is precisely why it was abolished voluntarily, without war, in virtually every other country on Earth (I believe the US and Haiti are the only exceptions, but don’t claim to be an expert on this)

            Right, but that begs the question, why not here? What was the special condition that made slavery unpalatable/uneconomical everywhere else and yet so needed here that half the country was willing to secede over it?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Right, but that begs the question, why not here? What was the special condition that made slavery unpalatable/uneconomical everywhere else and yet so needed here that half the country was willing to secede over it?

            An accident of history. If we’d lost the Revolutionary War, the southern colonials would have given up their slaves without a fight, just like the Caribbean plantation owners.
            I don’t think there’s any way whatsoever it could have been otherwise, because the British Crown abolished the slave trade decades before criminalizing owning people who were already slaves. Plantations in the colonies that became these United States were less dependent on the slave trade than the island sugar plantations, because the slave population was growing by natural increase while slaves on the sugar islands were worked to death. Yet the rich white Englishmen who owned island plantations gave up without a fight at both stages (criminalizing purchase and total abolition). If Southerners had still been Englishmen in 1833, it would have been exactly the same.

          • acymetric says:

            That seems like an abuse of the term “accident of history”. Why did winning the revolutionary war make the South unwilling to get rid of slavery? I don’t think you can just “accident of history” handwave that away. I also think you are taking a lot for granted in assuming the Colonial South would have behaved exactly the same as the Caribbean.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, you can object to the term, but I think the point stands: there’s absolutely no way that the Englishmen who owned sugar plantations where the slaves were worked to death would give up the slave trade and then slavery altogether while cotton-planting Englishmen would fight a war over it.
            (13 of) the continental colonies fought a war to keep the central gov’t from meddling in their local affairs. When the new central government tried to make the Southern plantation owners catch up with the rest of the Anglosphere (and almost all Christendom – I think only Brazil excepted?), they fought another war to keep the central gov’t from meddling in their local affairs. If we hadn’t established that precedent/National Mythology, there’d have been no Civil War.

          • Randy M says:

            OK, you can object to the term, but I think the point stands: there’s absolutely no way that the Englishmen who owned sugar plantations where the slaves were worked to death would give up the slave trade and then slavery altogether while cotton-planting Englishmen would fight a war over it.

            What if they were different sorts of Englishmen (see Albion’s seed) and in a much better position to win a war (after all, they did win a war against England!)?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            The elites weren’t a different sort, they were Cavaliers, who were mostly the same English Gentry as back in England and in the Caribbean.

            The Scots-Irish did the fighting and dying, but they were mostly not terribly into slavery (see West Virginia). If you also deal with the fact that the North is willing to fight for independence but not for slavery, a revolution over freeing slaves is not really in the cards.

            Note that I agree with Matt M and believe that had the South been let go peaceably, they would’ve abolished slavery just as did Brazil, England, etc in time.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. None of us can know what happens in the counter-factual world where the South is allowed to secede and no war is fought.

            But the baseline assumption should be something like “they end up handling slavery in roughly the same way as every other nation did.”

            Which is “dissolve it peacefully and voluntarily well before the end of the 19th century.”

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems plausible to me, but not guaranteed, because slavery was kind-of baked into the founding of the CSA, so they might have kept it longer than other societies. I think a more likely outcome would have been ending formal slavery while passing laws to keep blacks unambiguously on the bottom–basically Jim Crow/apartheid.

            I think there was a fundamental issue after the civil war–there were regions and at least one state (SC) where blacks outnumbered whites. It’s not clear how that would have ultimately worked out, but it would have made the issue of figuring out how to live with blacks pretty fraught, especially as you could easily imagine local uprisings.

            One possible path would have been that the border between the countries was mostly closed, and so blacks didn’t migrate north in huge numbers. That might have led to a lot more pushback from blacks in the South, because the safety valve of leaving and going north would have been blocked. Probably this would have led to more conflict and harsher repression, but perhaps it would have led to some kind of political accomodation that was reasonable for CSA blacks.

            Another path would have been some kind of massive push from the Southern elites to get rid of most of the blacks after slavery–encouraging most of them to either head north (assuming that was available) or head to Liberia, or maybe head to Confederate possessions in the Caribbean (Cuba, maybe?)

            You could also imagine the CSA setting up black enclaves inside the CSA (like South Africa did), with substantial self-government but no voice in national-level politics. Indeed, that’s one way you could imagine an accomodation being reached between local black majorities and nationwide white majorities with lots of hostility between them. Within each state of the CSA there are two or three reservations carved out for blacks, with black governors and policemen and almost no whites living there. Liberal reformers in the CSA would be pushing to spend more on schools and services in the black reservations. You can imagine the CSA congress even having a few members from the black reservations.

            If that world looked at all like ours, the blacks inclined to protest/uprising would either be primarily organized along religious lines or along Marxist lines. (Or maybe I’ve read too much Turtledove.).

          • ana53294 says:

            Would the South have been OK with being let go, though?

            In the counterfactual world where the South is allowed to secede, the North would not have done anything to stop the underground railroad (it would in fact end in the North), nobody would return escaped slaves, and there would be many abolitionists fomenting revolution in the South. The South may have started the war over this instead of the North declaring the war.

          • @ana53294

            What exactly could the South have done about it? The primary reason the Civil War lasted as long as it did was that the CSA had the advantage of fighting defensively. The South invading and conquering the North was not ever a realistic possibility.

          • DeWitt says:

            That seems like an abuse of the term “accident of history”. Why did winning the revolutionary war make the South unwilling to get rid of slavery?

            Because after the revolutionary war, slaveowners owned approximately half of their country. Had they lost a war and remained part of Great Britain, their power would be much lesser instead.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Acymetric:

            That seems like an abuse of the term “accident of history”. Why did winning the revolutionary war make the South unwilling to get rid of slavery

            They thought that they could beat the North, but the chances of them thinking they could beat the British Empire would be lower.

          • John Schilling says:

            That seems like an abuse of the term “accident of history”. Why did winning the revolutionary war make the South unwilling to get rid of slavery?

            The South was always “willing” to give up slavery in the sense that if an overwhelmingly powerful army showed up and said “we’re going to kill you all if you don’t give up your slaves”, they weren’t actually going to die over the issue. We know this, because 1865.

            Winning the American Revolution meant that from 1781-1865, meant that they only had to fear the relatively weak United States Army trying to do that, and then only if they couldn’t fight the issue to a stalemate in the political battleground of the US Capitol – where they could count on a near-plurality of legislators plus gridlock on their side.

            Losing the American Revolution meant that any Southern gentleman who wasn’t a complete idiot knew that slavery was going away at about the same time and for the same reason that slavery went away in the British Empire’s Caribbean possessions. London would be calling the shots, and not all the slaveowners in the Anglosphere would have added up to even 10% of the British electorate.

          • neciampater says:

            @EchoChaos

            See not only West Virginia but all the mountainous, Borderer areas. We North Carolinians sent the most men to the war-effort and died the most at Gettysburg. We were the first to declare independence from Great Britain.

            Did the wealthy, coastal Cavaliers want to pick a fight over slavery? Maybe. But I think the mountain people just wanted indepedence from the North in the same vein as 100 years earlier.

            A counterpoint: The excuse for Maryland and Kentucky were military occupation, but, from a recent conversation with some Tennesseans, apparently they weren’t too thrilled with the war and participation shows.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @neciampater

            As a descendant of Cavaliers, yeah, the war was totally our fault. Some Borderers were sold on it, but where there was a strong Borderer majority, they really weren’t that interested. West Virginia left Virginia to stay Union, Tennessee had large pro-union areas, etc.

            But once a war shows up, Borderers gonna fight in that war.

          • bullseye says:

            Did the wealthy, coastal Cavaliers want to pick a fight over slavery? Maybe. But I think the mountain people just wanted indepedence from the North in the same vein as 100 years earlier.

            My North Carolina mountain ancestors didn’t even want independence from the North. They were true conservatives and the status quo was the Union.

          • neciampater says:

            @Bullseye @echochoas

            Just did a terse look thru these stats: 40k/120k NC infantry came from west of Greensboro. A third.

            Related: Revolutionary War in-fighting between loyalists and colonialists. Most of the battles down here were in-fighting until Cornwallis came down and didn’t find as many loyalists as hoped.

          • acymetric says:

            You need to be a couple hours further west to be talking about the NC “mountain folk”. Pretty sure Charlotte doesn’t count.

          • Aftagley says:

            But the baseline assumption should be something like “they end up handling slavery in roughly the same way as every other nation did.”

            Which is “dissolve it peacefully and voluntarily well before the end of the 19th century.”

            Pushing back on this point: the majority of the first half of the 19th century saw Slave owners aggressively pushing for the expansion of Slavery throughout the US. In the 1860s the south went to war to protect their ability to own slaves. I don’t see it as a natural progression of events that one generation later, this group of people would be supporters of manumission, regardless of what was going on in the rest of the world.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            Brazil was far more pro-slavery, the slave-owners had even more political power and they even imported many of the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who had just fought to preserve slavery (Confederados).

            Twenty-three years later, slavery no longer existed in Brazil, and the Confederados were actually part of the reason.

            Counterfactuals are inherently hard, but the idea that before 1900 the Confederate States would be slave-free is not a huge stretch.

          • bullseye says:

            Just did a terse look thru these stats: 40k/120k NC infantry came from west of Greensboro. A third.

            Any idea what fraction of the total white population lived west of Greensboro?

          • DeWitt says:

            .. And then the slave holding classes went and toppled the regime in favor of their own by force, proving that wrong entirely? There wasn’t a war involved, but only because the deposed king was a fading old man who chose to go into exile rather than fight back.

          • abystander says:

            @echochaos

            In late 1864 a war started between Brazil and Paraguay. Brazil granted freedom to slaves if they would fight in the war. In contrast early in 1864 a proposal by General Cleburne to emancipate slaves and let them fight was buried, even though the CSA was in serious trouble. So I don’t see Brazil as providing an example of how the CSA would likely later free slaves.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        While I´m no expert on slavery, that hypothesis seems apriori pretty implausible. Production of iron for military purposes was an obvious source of demand for industrialization already in 18th century.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        “Early industrialization” usually means the mechanization of textiles in the second half of the 18th century, dependent on cotton from India. Eli Whitney didn’t invent his gin until 1793 and it took decades more to shift America to cotton.

    • Well... says:

      My understanding is it was the slave trade, rather than slave labor, that tended to enrich slaveowners. Sort of like how you are more likely to get rich(er) by selling thoroughbreeds than by riding them.

      • albatross11 says:

        That doesn’t really make sense economically, unless there’s a financial payoff for having slaves. Otherwise, they’re just human tulip bulbs in some gigantic bubble.

        • Well... says:

          While I tend to believe claims that slaves were less net productive as paid labor, I’m not claiming they were a net cost to slave owners either.

          One financial payoff to having slaves would be that they have kids, thus producing more slaves, who can be (and frequently were!) sold. Slaves counted as part of an estate, so I imagine a slave owner could borrow against them too. For all I know there might have been speculation markets for slavery as well.

          I don’t know much about the economic side of the slave trade, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it had its share of bubbles and turbulence.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            One financial payoff to having slaves would be that they have kids, thus producing more slaves, who can be (and frequently were!) sold. Slaves counted as part of an estate, so I imagine a slave owner could borrow against them too. For all I know there might have been speculation markets for slavery as well.

            As albatross notes, however, that still has to ground out in something valuable that isn’t slaves. Those slaves have to be producing cotton, or corn, or leather, or anything other than just more tulips. And slave trading seemed nowhere near sophisticated enough to have a sense of “thoroughbreds”. I get the sense it was mostly a snake oil game.

            Slave trading could still be lucrative, to be fair. Slave demand was a huge issue for the Whigs around the time of John Tyler. There were slaveowners opposing the annexation of Texas as a slave state, knowing it would drive up the price of slaves when they were already hard to afford. (While driving down the price of land, meaning slaveowners also couldn’t afford to sell their plantations and get out, even if they wanted to.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Neither of the articles address the idea that slavery contributed to the rise of America because a high proportion of income from exports was from slave-grown products.

      I’m not sure that’s a good argument, but I’d like to see it addressed.

      • Matt M says:

        That argument takes for granted the assumption that such products either wouldn’t be produced, or would be produced less efficiently, by free labor.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s super weird to me that the NYT of all people seem to be arguing that “slavery makes society richer.”

      Part of me wonders if the twist ending is something like “Now that we’ve proven to you that a command economy, where central authorities forcibly direct the labor of others, is what maximizes economic growth, allow us to recommend socialism! Which gives us all the economic benefits of experts bossing everybody around, without any of the nasty and evil racism inherent in literal chattel slavery!”

      • albatross11 says:

        This is an empirical question that can’t possibly be answered in moral or tribal terms. Most people are responding to it in those terms, but that will never tell you whether slavery actually made the US wealthier, funded the industrial revolution, etc.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The twist is ‘US wealth is from slavery, therefore redistribution, which makes us like Europe that got rich without slavery so there will be no economic malaise from such a plan’.

        • Matt M says:

          But if you explicitly state that Europe got rich without slavery, doesn’t that call into question the notion that America (which consisted almost entirely of European people) needed slavery to be rich?

          • baconbits9 says:

            No, it just claims there are different routes to getting rich

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I get that.

            But my understanding is that the NYT is suggesting that in the counterfactual history, where America doesn’t have slavery, it ends up being a lot poorer.

            But maybe not? Maybe we just become like Europe, right?

            If their point is something closer to “Slavery was both bad AND economically unnecessary – we could have been just as rich without it,” then uh, I don’t think that’s especially controversial or new at all.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think their end position is going to be: Slavery was bad and what made the country rich. Therefore we need redistribution morally to redress the issues caused by slavery and that rich people now have no real claim to their wealth because it is all an artifact of slavery.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think their end position is going to be: Slavery was bad and what made the country rich.

            Can we go with “the Press is bad and what made the country rich” instead, making journalists feel so guilty about existing that they consent to being eliminated for the benefit of the working class?

          • quanta413 says:

            The response will probably be “No because colonialism”.

            Of course, this leaves a mystery as to how European countries took control of all those colonies across multiple continents and doesn’t answer questions like “Why was Germany so successful then if it didn’t have nearly as many colonies for nearly as long?”

            I’ve never found the strong form of the idea plausible. It seems to me that slavery and colonialism were very profitable for some people, but that slavery is probably the opposite of beneficial even to a slaveowning society in the long run. And most colonies where the natives weren’t wiped out by disease transmission probably weren’t worth it to the colonizer. There are exceptions and maybe the net benefit was worth it for some countries. But judged by effects on the whole populace of the colonizer rather than on the benefits to elites extracting rents, a lot of it looks like not as great an investment.

            Not even counting whoever was on the colonized side of the ledger. Which definitely dragged many places downward compared some sort of counterfactual where post-colonization happened sooner. On the other hand, does it suck more to be ruled by the Mughals or the British? I’ve never seen a convincing way for how to account for these things. A lot of colonies seem like they went from a bad (but uncolonized situation) to a bad (but colonized situation).

          • Randy M says:

            @LMC, you’re welcom to try, but that’s apt to fail for all the reasons that is deserves to succeed.

          • albatross11 says:

            Switzerland didn’t have colonies, an empire, etc., and yet is one of the most properous nations on Earth.

            My guess is that slaves doing grunt work on a plantation are a good source of wealth in a pre-industrial world, but not a very good source of wealth in a world where people are building trains and streamships and factories. This assumes it’s not actually all that workable to get good factory work done at whip point, which seems plausible but may or may not be correct.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        This was the position of George Fitzhugh, a 19th century Virginian anti-abolitionist who distinguished himself by advocating for the enslavement of whites as well as blacks. From Wikipedia:

        He argued that free labor and free markets enriched the strong while crushing the weak, and that society needed slavery, not just for blacks, but for whites as well.

        “Slavery is a form, and the very best form, of socialism…Socialism proposes to do away with free competition; to afford protection and support at all times to the laboring class; to bring about, at least, a qualified community of property, and to associate labor. All these purposes, slavery fully and perfectly attains. … Socialism is already slavery in all save the master … Our only quarrel with Socialism is, that it will not honestly admit that it owes its recent revival to the failure of universal liberty, and is seeking to bring about slavery again in some form.”

        Fitzhugh explicitly argued that freedom is indeed slavery, believing that the slaves in the South were, in fact, more free than the wage slaves of the North who were trapped by capitalist exploitation. He also wrote two lengthy books on the subject, Sociology of the South and Cannibals All!, in case anyone wants to read his positions in more detail.

        So this certainly wouldn’t be a new position for the NYT to take, though they probably wouldn’t like the company they’re keeping with it.

        • Matt M says:

          “Canniballs All!” is a great title for a political screed, and I am supremely jealous that I did not think of it and that it has already been taken 🙁

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sounds more like a metal album whose cover is of barely-clad musclemen grabbing Frazetta-esque women to eat.
            Is a metal album a valid format for a political screed?

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat says: "....Is a metal album a valid format for a political screed?"

            Yes.

            (The Dark Lord is amused).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Wow. If you hadn’t given context for that FitzHugh quote, I’d have assumed it was anti-socialism satire.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t believe the NYT is thinking that far ahead. I think the idea is that America’s wealth is the result of slavery, and therefore it’s morally required to redistribute it to those who were hurt by slavery.

        It would just be too sad though possibly somewhat true to say that much of the wealth created by slavery is gone.

        • Randy M says:

          I think it’s true to say that slavery created wealth; I think it’s false to say that slavery created more wealth than free enterprise with completely voluntary labor would have.
          And therefore we can say that the prosperity of the US is due in part (relatively small part, all in all) to the labor of slaves, but not that a counterfactual US without slavery would be poorer or worse off.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It would just be too sad though possibly somewhat true to say that much of the wealth created by slavery is gone.

          Given that the part of the country that had wealth created by slavery was pretty much entirely devastated, this seems substantially more plausible.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Germany owed reparations for the Holocaust even though the Holocaust and WW2 made Germany worse off.

          However, “slavery is the foundation of American wealth” is making a different argument.

        • salvorhardin says:

          Specifically I think the claim they want to make is that white Americans are richer because of (the legacy of) slavery.

          Which as far as I can tell is true in a relative sense, but unlikely to be true for most white Americans in an absolute sense. So it relies on a kind of conflation of the relative and the absolute that is unfortunately extremely common. The analogy I like to use is: suppose someone shoots you in the foot and your neighbor in the chest. They have clearly made you much better off relative to your neighbor. But it would be very strange to claim that you are now better off in any sense that should matter to you! Moreover, it is also hard to claim that you are now obliged to your neighbor in a “reparations” sort of sense, though since you are less badly off you may, on some moral views, be obliged to them in a “mandatory Samaritan” sense, as in Singer’s drowning child parable.

          On the related topic of the US vs Europe, there is a very good book by Olaf Gersemann called “Cowboy Capitalism” which discusses the impact of racial breakdowns on the various human development statistics typically adduced to claim that European welfare states are better than the US’s. Basically if you compare white Americans to white Europeans, the US looks much better than if you compare all Americans to all Europeans. This very likely *is* due to the legacy of slavery, but the point is that the victims of European oppression mostly aren’t citizens of the relevant countries anymore whereas the victims of American oppression mostly are. To take an extreme case, imagine what Belgium’s human development statistics would look like if they included the Congolese.

          • Cliff says:

            Do you think it’s accurate to say that African Americans are the victims of American oppression?

    • 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.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        People with pet snakes should supervise things if they give the snake a live rodent– the rodent can injure the snake.

  12. 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).

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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

    • albatross11 says:

      Megan McArdle often quotes or retweets nasty comments sent to her, with a sarcastic commentary or two.

      • Matt M says:

        This sort of reaction is actually fairly common on Twitter. A lot of right-wing Twitter personalities do it as well (Jesse Kelly comes to mind).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The old advice of “just ignore them” doesn’t work these days. I’m not sure whether it ever worked, but it works at least less well when the trolls are supplying emotional support for each other.

  16. 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.

      • Deiseach says:

        football is universally popular

        There is the perception (true or not) that with the success of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch in the 90s it became respectable or acceptable to like football amongst the middle-class, with the usual downstream effects – see Roy Keane’s tirade about the prawn sandwich brigade and David “Call Me Dave” Cameron pretending he followed West Villa – or was it Aston Ham?

    • 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.

  17. 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.

      • Rob K says:

        Idunno, I have a guess that rhymes with “muckloads of trikedelic sushrooms” that seems fairly plausible.

    • 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…

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

        • Skivverus says:

          This does suggest that a more accurate measure would be “pope serving time relative to life expectancy at the time”.

      • 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