Open Thread 136.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,290 Responses to Open Thread 136.25

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A neural net had a hard time coming up with anything that makes sense to humans from knitting patterns, so the next effort was something easier– crocheted hats. Just the patterns, not the actual crocheting.

    Hilarity ensues. I’m not worried about anyone accidentally programming an AI to take over the world any time soon.

    I don’t know whether it would have been possible to train a neural net on pictures of hats and the patterns which produce them.

    I hope someone with more comic talent than I’ve got takes a crack at an AI trying to talk it’s way out of a box. Writing please a million times and adding badly configured sad puppy faces is much more competence than I’d expect.

    • Aftagley says:

      Hilarity ensues.

      Oh my word yes it does. It’s even better than you describe it – the network used was previously trained on various internet topics, to include fan fiction. Even after training on hats, it still has the capability to produce fan fiction, just now it’s all hat related:

      Prompt: Harry whirled to face Snape, heart beating hard. “Wh–What will you do?”

      Output: Snape’s eyes narrowed slightly and he lowered his wand, then stepped aside. As he approached behind Harry, he knelt down to kiss the front rim of Harry’s green-gloved hat as he pulled her closer. Snape slipped on the silk and reached in carefully, then unbuttoned Harry’s green-gloved hat. He looked Harry in the eyes and stroked her crown lightly before pushing on the seam of the hat to attach it. He finished on the front of Harry’s hat with a snap. With a light flourish he tied an extra strand of fabric, then another twist of silk, then another twist of silk.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I saw the results of those patterns and couldn’t help but think “Are those crocheted tumors?” From the description of what was going wrong, it certainly sounds like it’s the same idea.

      I guess that’s the problem with AI’s limitless possibilities: you really do get everything. Sometimes you get a program that can crush humans at Go, sometimes you get hat cancer.

  2. DragonMilk says:

    Let’s talk Sin. And anger.

    But really, let’s chat about the bans! I preface by saying Scott of course has all rights to moderate his blog and has his guidelines on kind, necessary, truthful. I will start by positing that certain people are convinced that something is true, and snark emerges when that truth is not recognized, and they think it very necessary insofar as they feel it worthwhile to even make a comment at all.

    More on this soon!

    • Corey says:

      I say this as someone who loves to snark and has even ill-advisedly done so on this site…

      I think discouraging snark of any kind, up to and including formally disallowing it entirely, would improve the discussion quality.

      I think this is because the readership is diverse enough that every position one could dismiss as obviously-ridiculous actually has a constituency.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Strong disagree. Snark is the best antidote to pomposity, self-righteousness, and overblown self-assurance, among other things. Also, banning snark just tends to get you people being snarky in deniable ways, which quickly becomes more tiresome to read than regular snark.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m not sure it is the best antidote, but I’ll agree it is a useful one. That said, I think there is plenty of snark (especially as it relates to the bans) that were not in response to any of those things, but simply in response to things people disagreed with. In fact, some of the snark wasn’t responding to anyone at all, it was an attempt at kickstarting a conversation using snark as a jumping off point.

          I agree banning snark would be a bad idea (also probably impossible), but a reminder for people to rein it in a little and choose their spots was probably in order the way the comment section had been going over the last few weeks/months.

          • Dragor says:

            Sincerity seems like a good value to encourage I think.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Sincerity seems like a good value to encourage I think.

            Yes? You interject this as though you are contrasting sincerity to snark, which I’m not sure I follow. Can you elaborate?

          • Dragor says:

            I suppose I understood this as affirmation rather than interjection, but generally when I speak sincerity has an emotional timbre of genuineness and forthrightness that snark [edit: often] does not. It feels as though sincerity is elucidating your opinion as clearly as possible, and snark attempts to remove seriousness from the conversation?

            Honestly, I am not sure. I added the edit above because I have actually heard snark used in a kind manner that retains emotional intimacy with a topic rather than creates emotional distance. In my own usage though, snark tends to have a tiny hint of animus and direct the conversation away from the sincere.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Thanks, that’s a clear and thoughtful answer.

            I would still point out that animus can certainly be sincere.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        I agree that discouraging snark would be very positive, but I worry that a total ban would be too severe and remove both good content and some of the fun of commenting. Some proposed alternative snark allowance policies:

        – One snarky comment per user per top-level thread
        – One snarky comment per user per post
        – One snarky comment per user; if someone snarks at you, search for a previous snarky comment made by them (for fairness, post-dating this policy) and they get banned
        – One snarky comment per post across all users, creating an interesting dynamic (presumably there would be great shame attached to using up the snarky comment with something not sufficiently entertaining)

        • DragonMilk says:

          A snark budget? Would this be earned by a ratio of every 10 non-snarky posts, you get 1 free snarky post that can be directed at an outgroup but not an individual?

        • Nick says:

          This would be impossible to keep track of for Scott.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            A complicated budget would be, but I don’t think any of my (not entirely serious but not entirely joking either) proposals would be. There are two ways they could reasonably be enforced: either when people violate them in a sufficiently annoying way they comment about it, which draws Scott’s attention, or (since comments about comments violating policy are also tedious) Scott occasionally bans people who violate the policy in a way he finds egregious which hopefully encourages people to stick to it.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you want to communicate about ideas or facts, snark makes that harder.

    • Aftagley says:

      I don’t know if it’s fair to settle on the narrative that these were bans due to snark.

      Maybe in Dick’s case – the comments Scott linked reveal a tendency to go meta on the argument and start antagonizing the participants, but Matt and Deiseach both seemed to have a tendency to default to a state of maximum uncharitably.

      Conrad, to me at least, just comes across as deranged, although maybe I just don’t get his sense of humor.

    • jgr314 says:

      Combining this with the AI comment, a modest proposal: someone should train an AI on @Plumber’s comments to generate a style filter. Then, whenever anyone else wants to post, they run their comment through the style filter to get message in the tone that Plumber would write it.

      • Plumber says:

        @jgr314,

        Wow, I think that was one of the most flattering compliments I’ve every received, thanks!

        As to your idea:

        If every tenth comment contains “Well back in the ’80’s” I’ll know the filter is being used.

    • People think that getting a good forum is about good rules but it’s mainly not. It’s mostly about the people and the interactions they build with others on the forum, with light enforcement of rules a more minor role.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s about culture, but moderation policy influences culture to a surprising extent. And often in counterproductive ways: heavy-handed moderation often does more to create an adversarial relationship between the administration and the commentariat (which is cultural poison) than it does to steer the commentariat in whatever direction the administration wants it to go. On the other hand, excessively light moderation tends to allow the culture to spiral into immature nerdwank.

        • It’s all complicated and yes, you need some kind of expectation of moderation but there’s a reason that this place needs way less moderation than the subreddit.

        • Ketil says:

          Some things that make moderation work here, is that a) it’s Scott’s blog, and he produces valuable and respected content we all come here to read and b) the rules are clearly stated, and sensible, and generally agreed-upon. So bans are fairly rare, and discussion mostly decent.

    • ECD says:

      I didn’t entirely agree with it and it’s from a left wing perspective, but this was helpful to my thinking about this and was, in retrospect, at least potentially part of the reason for my increased commenting here: http://dailynous.com/2019/08/30/20-theses-regarding-civility-guest-post-amy-olberding/

  3. Dragor says:

    Hey, can anybody steelman, explore, or otherwise elucidate Jordan Peterson for me? I have run into a few fans of his, and I generally get on with quite enjoy exchanging views with and have a certain broad baseline agreement them except for a certain intensity and extremity of views (generally an intense reaction against other extreme views). I have tried a deep dive on youtube, and I found him much more reasonable and pleasant than I would have expected given I read somewhere that he saw controversy as a means of generating Patreon revenue, but I still got the sense he was mildly untrustworthy. It seemed like he used Motte Bailey a lot; he was a bit loose with terminology, naming stuff in the Po-moid cluster “post modernist”; and he once described protesting of his speech as “pure narcissism at work“, which seemed innappropriate given he is himself a psychologist and knows how that word should be properly used. Also, his fans seem pretty zealous, and I judge people by their fans. Nonetheless, he was fairly articulate, made some good points, and was neither the demon certain of my friends make him out to be nor….someone I would be all that interested in listening to that much. If I wanted his genre of critique I prefer Haidt, but I haven’t been able to make a coherent argument for why. Anyone able to throw some light on this, contribute anything interesting etc? Any stuff I should read, preferably in a written form would be appreciated. I can post some stuff I dug up the last couple times I got into this and have or have not gotten around to reading too if anyone is interested.

    BTW I am presuming this is culture war OK because it is after an Open Thread, but if it’s not please let me know and I will delete this ASAP.

    • Drew says:

      Peterson is a practicing clinical psychologist. That bleeds into his work, which is mostly self-help stuff. The overwhelming majority of self-help books follow the same basic pattern.

      Step 1: Present an idea that people pretty much know.
      Step 2: Tell some positive stories to help people visualize success.
      Step 3: Create space (ie. ramble) so people can ruminate on the idea.

      In Marie Kondo, this looks like: “Own Fewer Things” / Kondo’s stories about clients / The rest of the book.

      In “Win Friends & Influence People”, this looks like: “Actually listen when people talk” / Stories about how some guy got successful / The rest of the book.

      Peterson’s work is basically similar. “Follow your own advice” / Anecdotes about Peterson’s childhood / The rest of the book.

      Each of these books has their super-fans. The advice itself is never that novel. But some stories ‘click’ well enough that people get the energy to change their habits. And the habit change improves their life. That means the book was transformative for them, but not that earth shattering for other people.

      If Peterson’s style of “create space” doesn’t click for you, then it doesn’t click, and I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Similarly, if you’re not in a place where you need his advice, then many of his youtube videos won’t create much value.

      • Dragor says:

        So, basically he shares a lot of Haidt’s worldview, but he’s got a whole self help angle that I don’t get that much from, and the two bleed into each other and share a common fanbase? That makes sense.

        • lvlln says:

          At least in the realm of their professions, i.e. psychology, they do seem to agree with each other substantially. I’d highly recommend checking out their conversation from a couple of years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IBegL_V6AA

          As an aside, I think this sort of setting brings out the best from Peterson, where he’s the person interviewing someone else, rather than the other way around or him just giving a lecture. I don’t know if there’s something to all the thousands of hours of experience he has listening to and conversing with people, or if it’s just him being naturally talented at it, or some combination of both, but he seems to be very good at listening to his interviewees and asking incisive questions that get at the heart of the matters that they’re talking about.

          Whereas when he’s expounding on his own ideas, that can be hit or miss.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            Peterson at his best is a really excellent interviewer. He’s a natural fit for the podcast format–a highbrow conversation that doesn’t have to worry about being too highbrow for a mass audience, several hours long, involving deep conversation about serious stuff.

            As a self-help guru and internet phenomenon, I don’t know how he is–I don’t really feel a great need for a self-help guru and I don’t find those of his speeches I’ve listened to all that engaging, perhaps because I’m not the target market.

          • Dragor says:

            you know…I have had limited success getting into podcasts. All the people who were really in to JP were pretty into podcasts. My “plz give me book or longform article” criteria might be problematically filtering my experience of him.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Thanks for sharing, this was quite interesting.

      • Clutzy says:

        I’d say, generally I agree with this, and would add:

        Plus he is good at framing his opponents to look ridiculous. He makes the slippery slope look steep, slippery, and real. And in that he often has things on his side.

        This plus a hint of simply not denying things that as Drew said, “people pretty much know.” That is what the “controversial” has become, largely. He says things like, “don’t worry about the 50 year old lady shooting you over a parking space,” and that gets pushback.

        • Dragor says:

          Do you view the slope as as steep as he posits it? Reading through these other comments, one theory I have for why he bugs me is that he is alarmist. My discussions with my friends who are fans of his often go along the lines of:
          “XXX happened and it was bad”
          “yeah, ok but it seems like the sort of thing that will return to equilibrium”

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t think all of them are, but many seem to me to be. And those are the ones where people have already quite clearly pointed at a point past what they are advocating for, and said, “that’s the goal.”

            Good examples are things like:

            Gun control: Obvious that a complete ban of all guns is goal.

            LGBT issues: Clear goal is state subsidies of these ideas + government enforced participation by all persons.

            Immigration: Open Borders, at least until a perceived permanent voting majority.

          • albatross11 says:

            LGBT issues: Clear goal is state subsidies of these ideas + government enforced participation by all persons.

            Can you unpack that? I don’t see how anyone is actually pushing for government enforced participation in LGBT activities, but maybe I’m misunderstanding your point….

          • Corey says:

            Immigration: Open Borders, at least until a perceived permanent voting majority.

            Or… the costs of heavy internal immigration policing (including to Latino American citizens, even if we don’t assign moral weight to illegals) aren’t believed to outweigh the benefits.

            But that would be a dangerously charitable reading of the liberal position, so use caution.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Corey

            Or… the costs of heavy internal immigration policing

            That’s why we want a wall, so we don’t need to police internally.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s why we want a wall, so we don’t need to police internally.

            Because once we developed skin, our immune system soon became vestigial.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Randy M

            Don’t need to police as heavily, I should’ve said. Just as skin prevents many of our infections.

          • Randy M says:

            I just remembered where I heard the analogy before.

          • Clutzy says:

            Can you unpack that? I don’t see how anyone is actually pushing for government enforced participation in LGBT activities, but maybe I’m misunderstanding your point….

            Masterpiece Cakeshop was literally a Supreme Court case. There is the instance where a Canadian lost a custody battle where not recognizing the child’s transgenderness was a critical decision point. New York has a pronoun law with fines of up to $250k, etc.

            Or… the costs of heavy internal immigration policing (including to Latino American citizens, even if we don’t assign moral weight to illegals) aren’t believed to outweigh the benefits.

            What? I don’t understand this. Firstly, employer regulations are typically right up the left’s alley, a minimum wage, and most our HR regulations are already an order of magnitude more burdensome than basic workplace checks. And the rest is simply not being willfully blind. When police run paperwork in a normal situation where they would, they are allowed to, you know, run it. If you have a person convicted of a crime, and they are not of legal status, just turn em over to ICE as part of the release. What is the high cost?

          • Plumber says:

            @Clutzy > “…Immigration: Open Borders, at least until a perceived permanent voting majority”

            It doesn’t work like that, there is no “until”.

            For the record I vote for Democrats but I don’t support fully open borders, but the thing is that just as 100 years ago most immigrants who get citizenship and may and choose to vote, vote for Democrats, as do most of their children, but enough of their grandchildren, and especially their great-grandchildren become Republicans that a “permanent” Democratic majority looks unlikely, too many descendents of immigrants become Republicans, and after a certain amount the more immigration there is the more that those born in the U.S.A. will favor a Party advocating restrictions on further immigration.

            I see no signs of a permanent one Party U.S.A. in the works

          • Clutzy says:

            @Plumber

            That has, IMO, historically been more about the parties adjusting than the people. FDR would have lost all 44 states in 1892.

          • Corey says:

            @Clutzy: To give an example, a Louisiana parish sheriff’s department recently detained a Latino American citizen on immigration hold who had a US passport on him, and when newsfolk questioned them about this, they replied that they literally arrest everybody who looks Mexican to check (presumably excluding local residents, numbering about 3%). To be fair, I assume the ACLU is about to chew their clothes off.

            So part of the enforcement cost is Latino Americans having to carry documentation at all times, and even that might not be enough to ward off legal harassment.

            There are other side effects, e.g. the more afraid you make the illegal population of the police, the more you make them targets of criminals. Even if you assign zero moral weight to illegals, keeping criminals in business is probably a net negative. I understand arguments that we should be crueler to discourage immigration, but I don’t think it’ll work – we won’t ever get near the level of cruelty of, say, Honduran gangs.

            employer regulations are typically right up the left’s alley

            I’ve heard proposals for e.g. mandatory E-Verify derided on here as “the left doesn’t want to enforce immigration law except by jailing capitalists”. To be fair, probably not by you personally.

            (Cue the stories of “my lawyer tells me I have to accept birth certificates written in crayon or EEOC will get me, so I can’t screen by eligibility to work”)

          • Corey says:

            Masterpiece Cakeshop was literally a Supreme Court case.

            The problem is that any holy book can be interpreted in any way to justify pretty much anything. People had ready religious justifications for not serving black customers, back in the day. (“Curse of Ham” IIRC)

            I can’t buy alcohol or cars on Sundays, so by this logic I’m forced to participate in Christian activities.

          • Corey says:

            That’s why we want a wall, so we don’t need to police internally.

            I’ve never heard this tradeoff proposed, I know similar albeit leftier ones like wall-for-amnesty have been roundly rejected.

            But that’s because more wall doesn’t do much (unless “wall” unpacks to, say, a militarized no-mans-land and significant slowing of legitimate traffic through ports of entry). Restrictionists would be trading something (reduced internal enforcement) for close to nothing (desert crossings become 5% more forbidding) so it’s no wonder such a thing wouldn’t fly.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Corey

            Wall for amnesty was rejected by the left, not the right. Such a bill was proposed by the Republican Congress in 2017.

            As Randy M points out, there would be some internal policing, but dramatically reduced.

            As a piece of anecdote, a Latino woman who works for me grew up in El Paso in the 80s and 90s and still remembers the night and day change when they started aggressively guarding the border under Clinton rather than focusing on internal enforcement.

            Her father, who looks very dark, used to get regularly stopped and checked on for citizenship status, which would infuriate him because he was a DEA agent. After the border closed, he never got stopped again because internal enforcement was substantially less needed.

            She’s a huge Trump/wall supporter because she thinks it will make the lives of American Latinos like her more peaceful.

          • brad says:

            I’ve heard proposals for e.g. mandatory E-Verify derided on here as “the left doesn’t want to enforce immigration law except by jailing capitalists”. To be fair, probably not by you personally.

            John Schilling has the most persuasive argument against E-Verify I’ve seen. I’m not persuaded, mind you, but it is persuasive.

            I hope I’m doing it justice, but I’d sum it up as if you are going to (de facto) let people come into the country but not work even semi-legally they will turn to outright crime.

          • JonathanD says:

            @EchoChaos,

            Wall for amnesty was rejected by the left, not the right. Such a bill was proposed by the Republican Congress in 2017.

            No, wall for a temporary deferment in enforcement was offered in 2017. This is not the same thing. I believe that Dems offered wall for dreamer amnesty, the Reps offered wall for dreamer temp safety, and the two sides weren’t able to close a deal. Basically because the Reps weren’t willing to offer permanency and the Dems weren’t willing to take anything less.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JonathanD

            That’s incorrect. Grassley’s bill had full and entire incorporation of the BRIDGE act.

            https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-secure-act-protects-daca-recipients-and-provides-needed-reforms

            The Democrats rejected it and demanded a straight vote.

          • JonathanD says:

            @EchoChaos,

            The first three links that google gives me say that the BRIDGE act protections went for three years. I don’t see where that’s contradicted on Grassley’s site (I only spent a couple of minutes, but both the news releases I saw say it’s a bipartisan solution while not referencing a duration.)

          • Dan L says:

            S.2192 Sec. 244A (d):
            Duration Of Provisional Protected Presence And Employment Authorization.—Provisional protected presence and the employment authorization provided under this section shall be effective until the date that is 3 years after the date of the enactment of this section.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Dan L

            Thanks for the correction.

            I will note that I would support Grassley’s law with permanent BRIDGE.

          • JonathanD says:

            @EchoChaos, so would I, and so, I think, would Democrats. But they aren’t willing to sign up to make compromises to protect a set of people they’re simply going to have to make other concessions for down the road. That’s not a deal, it’s rent. And that’s all the Republicans have ever offered. Pay the danegeld now, and we’ll leave them alone, for now.

            @DanL, thanks.

          • Clutzy says:

            Corey

            To give an example, a Louisiana parish sheriff’s department recently detained a Latino American citizen on immigration hold who had a US passport on him, and when newsfolk questioned them about this, they replied that they literally arrest everybody who looks Mexican to check (presumably excluding local residents, numbering about 3%). To be fair, I assume the ACLU is about to chew their clothes off.

            So part of the enforcement cost is Latino Americans having to carry documentation at all times, and even that might not be enough to ward off legal harassment.

            To me these things are both unconstitutional and not very effective. So I would classify people advocating for such a thing as policy as quacks.

            Also, the stories about things like that happen strike me as very anecdotal and likely extremely rare. To the extent they happen at all, it is the fault of open borders advocates and a lack of border security. So Dems complaining about it is also quite disingenuous. It like a kid who eats only candy complaining when his mom locks the pantry.

            There are other side effects, e.g. the more afraid you make the illegal population of the police, the more you make them targets of criminals. Even if you assign zero moral weight to illegals, keeping criminals in business is probably a net negative. I understand arguments that we should be crueler to discourage immigration, but I don’t think it’ll work – we won’t ever get near the level of cruelty of, say, Honduran gangs.

            That sanctuary city rationale has never actually been substantiated numerically, particularly since a “no cops, no snitches” culture exists as much, if not more prominently in black neighborhoods.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      Jordan Peterson spent his careers studying the question of how otherwise normal people were made to participate in the atrocities committed by communists and fascists during the 20th century. He has reached the following conclusion, best summarized by Solzhenitsyn’s famous quote:

      the line dividing good and evil cuts through every human heart

      From this he has argued that we can all improve society by working on ourselves, as opposed to trying to agitate for “change” in various ways. This explains his description of the protesters at his Queens University speech as “pure narcissism at work”, a description I completely agree with. Young fools with their lives in complete disarray performatively agitating against things they do not understand in a way to signal their non-existing virtue (I understand this is a generalization which potentially does not apply in this case, but does in a very large number of such cases.) Peterson says to these protesters, fix your room before you try and fix the world.

      • Dragor says:

        Thanks, this makes a whole lot of sense. Can you parse his whole hierarchy thing for me? He seems to think it is very necessary but has been too undermined. My understanding from The Secret of Our Success is that humans work with prestige and hierarchy both, but I read that book after I tried at least my first JP dive, so that couldn’t have influenced its nonpersuasiveness back then.

        On another topic, you explained why so much of his moral stuff from, say, Scott’s 12 Rules review resonates with me: he believes it behooves every individual to seriously attempt to behave morally, and that pretty much guides my worldview. He’s some sect of Christian and I’m some sect of Buddhist, so we have different methodologies, but it puts us closer together with respect to differing worldviews.

        On a third topic, given a certain definition of narcissism I suppose I agree with you both, but it’s not the definition I would expect from a clinical psychologist; it’s flippant, and that’s not what I expect from public intellectuals. To my mind flippancy is emulated, misunderstood, and generally inferior to sincerity; it is a tendency I am trying to eradicate in myself.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          On hierarchies: they are very ancient and natural. Lobsters share neurological pathways with us that help us manage hierarchies, and although he claims our last common ancestor was 300 million years ago, it’s actually 600 million years ago, at the time of the Cambrian explosion. Hierarchies are not caused by capitalism.

          Hierarchies help us create order in the world. But they also dispossess many people. The tension between maintaining the hierarchy and ensuring that the dispossessed are taken care of is the proper issue that conservatives and liberals should fight over, hopefully without one side succeeding completely.

          I agree that was flippant. But having dedicated his life to trying to prevent the atrocities of the 20th century from repeating themselves, I can understand his exasperation at being continuously called a N*zi by young kids with a year of undergrad under their belt.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’d say that there are a number of ways for individuals to organize themselves, driven by constraints of logic and natural laws and perhaps by fundamental bits of game theory and economics and evolution. Hierarchies are one such way. Most animals have hardware support for many different strategies, and it’s not surprising that hierarchies are in that set.

          • Dragor says:

            Thanks for the explanation. I think some of it might be me correctly perceiving him fighting a war and…not viewing the war as relevant. I’ll feel like an asshole if the war transpires, and if it doesn’t I’ll view him as noisome.

            I think I shoulda clarified the Prestige thing. The Secret of our Success contends that prestige hierarchies are far more significant than dominance hierarchies because humans learn culture by mimicking successful people (and successful people allow those who are convenient to them to hang around them). The author contends that Prestige hierarchies have been far more relevant all the way into pre-human history because ever since tools came around it was possible to ambush and murder any excessively bossy group member. He has a self domestication hypothesis similar to that of Pinker. Peterson seems to be pushing dominance hierarchies rather than prestige hierarchies, correct me if I am wrong.

            Sidebar, weren’t the Nazi’s all about dominance hierarchy and such? Is his view that we need to be honest about it and channel it rather than blindly stop it off until it explodes?

          • FLWAB says:

            Peterson seems to be pushing dominance hierarchies rather than prestige hierarchies, correct me if I am wrong.

            I believe you are wrong. However I have not read The Secret of our Success, so maybe I am misunderstanding the difference. But here is succinctly what Peterson believes about hierarchies:

            1. Animals naturally sort themselves into hierarchies (see lobsters, etc)
            2. Hierarchies of competence are extremely efficient at producing the things we like (wealth, art, etc. A company is more efficient than a single operater, studios can make movies a single person can’t, etc)
            3. Some people are way more competent than others at particular tasks(Pareto distributions, Peter principle, etc).
            4. As such in any well functioning hierarchy (one based on competence) some people will rise to the top while most people will end up in the middle and some will be on the bottom.
            5. Inequality is thus built into the human condition. It is not particular to Western Civilization, or the Patriarchy, or Capitalism or whatever else activists may blame inequality on.
            6. Hierarchies can become corrupt. When they become corrupt they are no longer based on competency but on power (office politics, dominance, violence, etc.).
            7. It is the proper place of the Right Wing to build and defend hierarchies because we need them and we can’t get rid of them regardless, and it is the proper place of the Left Wing to look out for those who end up on the bottom of the hierarchy and to reform hierarchies that become corrupt.

            That’s his basic idea in a nutshell. In short, unless I misunderstand what you mean by a dominance hierarchy and a prestige hierarchy, Peterson believes that hierarchies are inevitable but naturally begin as prestige hierarchies based on competence, and hierarchies that become dominance hierarchies need to be destroyed or reformed.

          • Viliam says:

            @albatross11 — you make it sound as if hierarchies are just one of many things, like something we have no reason to focus on, because it’s just an arbitrary choice among many alternatives.

            To me it seems like hierarchies are wherever you look. High school is a fight for being at the top, and if you lose, you get bullied. People spend a lot of time and energy discussing those who are at the top. (Whatever else you may think about Trump, he is very successful at being one of the topics frequently mentioned at SSC, and he probably doesn’t even know SSC exists.)

            The alternative to hierarchy of dominance is the hierarchy of prestige; but that’s still a hierarchy. Even when you propose something other than hierarchy, for example consensus, it usually ends up being dominated by people at the top of the informal hierarchy. From my perspective, hierarchies are everywhere you look.

            If you agree that hierarchies are all around us, the natural question is “why?”. Some people say, it’s a sinister plan of evil white capitalist males. Other people (among others, Peterson) say it’s an instinct that even many animals share; it’s something we do almost as automatically as breathing.

            @Dragor — hierarchies are a fact of life. They are a tool to achieve coordination. This may be used for good or bad purposes.

            Nazis and Communists coordinated to do bad things efficiently, and they succeeded to kill millions of people. A hierarchical army usually succeeds to kill disorganized people, even when those people greatly outnumber them. But hierarchies are also used to organize production. If you have a company, you want to have a hierarchy of competence, where the most competent people make the critical decisions, and those less competent have to follow them instead of doing their own random thing.

            And by the way, SJWs have their own hierarchies, too. I am not even talking here about the “progressive stack” — which obviously is a hierarchy — but rather about the usual informal hierarchies of power, where everyone knows that some people are dangerous, and if you look at them the wrong way, you are going to regret it, because suddenly you find yourself alone and everyone calls you a Nazi.

          • Enkidum says:

            To me it seems like hierarchies are wherever you look.

            One of the more common thoughtful complaints against social justice advocates I’ve seen (I believe here among other places, thought I can’t really remember when or who said it) is that they reduce everything to power relationships, and this misses much of what is important about life. According to SJW ideology, then, power and dominance are the only important things.

            My response has always been you could just take out the words “the only” from the last sentence, and it would actually be true. Foucault and many others focussed on power relationships, but this doesn’t mean the only thing they think is real or important is power – it just means they think power is real and important and needs to be discussed.

            But then when you say something like

            High school is a fight for being at the top, and if you lose, you get bullied.

            what that means, at least grammatically, is that this is the fundamental nature of high school. So you seem to be advocating the same kind of power-is-at-the-base-of-everything view that others have (in my view mostly incorrectly) ascribed to the modern Left.

            If you’re not saying that about high school, then that’s fine. But if you are, I’d simply like to offer my own anecdata, namely that no one would ever have mistaken me for being at or near the top of any hierarchies, but I also wasn’t bullied much (after middle school at least). Mostly people just let me do my thing.

            I’ve worked most of my adult life in situations where it’s not always clear what the hierarchy is – I mean I suppose I technically have a boss, but what he wants me to do is do stuff that we are both interested in, in the way that I think is most useful. I recognize that this is unusual, and definitely not to everyone’s taste, but it is a meaningful way of existing that quite a few people do enjoy.

            I like @jermo sapiens’ description of the proper roles of conservatives and liberals according to Peterson. I think it’s a good rule of thumb.

          • Dragor says:

            @enkidum

            I think you are sort of speaking to my experience. I have been in social situations where hierarchies more fluid and less explicit. Everyone worked together towards goals, and while there were certain people who more often had effective ideas or who worked harder and thus were admired generally any worthwhile idea or labor was valued, so influence was meritocratic. They were, in a word, collaborative. Don’t get me wrong, hierarchies are useful and I am not unilaterally opposed to them, but when I hear people emphasize the inevitability and essentiality of hierarchies, it seems like they are talking about something else.

            Maybe this is a signal and corrective problem?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Viliam

            @albatross11 — you make it sound as if hierarchies are just one of many things, like something we have no reason to focus on, because it’s just an arbitrary choice among many alternatives.

            To me it seems like hierarchies are wherever you look.

            From my point of view this is your point of view blinding yourself to an objective point of view (we are all blind to this, which is why input from others is so helpful – other people allow us to experience small parts of the world we never would have experienced otherwise).

            Quoting Enkidum:

            I mean I suppose I technically have a boss, but what he wants me to do is do stuff that we are both interested in

            Quite often I ask my immediate supervisor to do something that is part of his job, in order to make my job easier, or in lieu of me doing it so that I have more time to do the rest of my job.

            To me hierarchies are just job classifications. Frequently with self-appointed, and other-approved (because you’re good at it, or no one else wants to do it), job duties.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Peterson seems to be pushing dominance hierarchies rather than prestige hierarchies, correct me if I am wrong.

            I dont have that impression. In fact an example he uses quite often is that when a tyrannical chimp takes over a tribe, eventually a pair of chimps teams up to kill the tyrant, and they start ruling the tribe more cooperatively. I’m not sure that captures the distinction between dominance and prestige hierarchies, but it suggests that using dominance only is an unstable system.

            Another example Peterson uses alot is that when rats play-fight, the stronger rat naturally lets the weaker rat win about 1/3 of the time, otherwise the weaker rat wont play with the stronger rat. It suggests that even nature, greater strength is not all that is required to succeed, and that caring for the weak is beneficial.

          • Enkidum says:

            It bothers me a great deal that this thread makes Peterson sound more reasonable, what am I supposed to ignorantly make fun of now?

          • Dragor says:

            @Enkidum That has been my conclusion ever since my first deep dive with him. I actually rewrote my original post with more eloquent language with the basic structure: Here are some ways Jordan Peterson is reasonable; here are some ways he is unreasonable; the unreasonable is insufficient not to take him seriously; nonetheless, he bugs me. Why does he bug me?

            Unfortunately, the edit wasn’t allowed and I couldn’t retrieve the re-write to delete and repost with.

            Have you read Haidt?

          • Aapje says:

            Peterson believes very strongly in success/competence spirals (and the opposite). This one of the main reasons why he advocates that people work on improving themselves first (“clean up your room”), rather than demand things from others.

            The idea is that if you become valuable for others, they will offer you opportunities/deals that make you even more valuable, which means that you get more opportunities/deals, etc. So then not only does your life gets better, but also the life of those you make deals with.

    • JPNunez says:

      Scott reviewed 12 rules for life, maybe start there?

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/03/26/book-review-twelve-rules-for-life/

      • Dragor says:

        I read it, but it seems like there is a noteworthy divide between the self help and the anti-activist activism…or so an adherent aqaintance of mine tells me.

        Maybe I should read the whole book? I might get more mileage than I got out of attempting to read his bible lectures.

  4. souleater says:

    Are liberals perceived as nicer than conservatives? Why?
    Are liberals actually nicer than conservatives? Why

    Open Thread comment chain

    • Aftagley says:

      Depends on who’s doing the perceiving.

      • souleater says:

        The question could read
        “Does society in general perceive liberals as nicer than conservatives? why?”

        • Aftagley says:

          That’s kind of my point though, I don’t think that society has coalesced perspective of liberals or conservatives.

          One person’s stereotypical conservative is going to be a guy wearing a KKK hood and a MAGA hat, while their go-to liberal is a Dali-lama like figure of infinite love and tolerance. Someone else might have their stereotypical liberal being an Antifa member serving up concrete milkshakes, while the conservative is a small-town grandmother serving up apple pie.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            One person’s stereotypical conservative is going to be a guy wearing a KKK hood and a MAGA hat,

            I’m just trying to form a mental image of this.

          • Aftagley says:

            I was picturing the hood growing out of the cap. Like, a baseball cap with a long pointy top…

            Wait, I’m not creative enough to be the first person to think this up. It has to already be a thing…

            *goes to google*

            Yep!

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Aftagley-

            Your link is broken, so I googled “MAGA hat with KKK hood”.

            Yikes. SMDH.

          • Randy M says:

            All of the hat-hoods there pictured seem to be artists rendition of the merger. Progressive/Democrat artists, that is, making an implicit argument for assertion of their equivalence.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      Are liberals perceived as nicer than conservatives? Why?

      Yes, because liberalism is by nature permissive. Without wanting to be insulting, there is an analogy to be drawn from parenting, which is useful as it is something we are all familiar with. The liberal is like the “cool” parent that lets you play video games all night, and the conservative dad is like the “square” parent that forces you to read an hour everyday, lets you play video games 30 minutes, and then makes you brush your teeth before bed.

      Are liberals actually nicer than conservatives? Why

      No, not as a class. I’m construing the term “nice” more broadly than just “being pleasant/fun”, so that it includes caring about your responsibility towards others, which can often involve being unpleasant in certain situations.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        No, not as a class. I’m construing the term “nice” more broadly than just “being pleasant/fun”, so that it includes caring about your responsibility towards others, which can often involve being unpleasant in certain situations.

        If niceness encompasses necessary unpleasantness, then of course the people you agree with are nicer.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          I dont know if it should encompass necessary unpleasantness. As always, when arguing over something as broad as the word “nice”, we need to define our terms.

          • Corey says:

            We have to tread carefully when tabooing a term, to avoid the appearance of motte-and-bailey (or actually falling prey to it).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            But didn’t you just say it did above?

            I’m construing the term “nice” more broadly than just “being pleasant/fun”, so that it… can often involve being unpleasant in certain situations.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            @Corey: I’m not tabooing a term or calling for it to be tabooed, just saying let’s be careful we all mean the same thing by it.

            @thisheavenlyconjugation: yes, that’s how I’m using it, but I’m mindful others could use it as just a synonym for “pleasant”.

            So yeah, when asking if liberals or conservatives are nicer, the first thing to figure out is, what do you mean by nice?

          • Corey says:

            @jermo sapiens: I was trying to say something similar, it’s an old-school LessWrong-ism. People would suggest not using the squishy word (for that particular argument) but instead replacing it with its unpacking.

            So if we wanted to define nice as, say, “follows the Golden Rule” (I don’t have a good concise unpacking of nice, sorry), people would agree to not use “nice” in the argument and instead use “follows the Golden Rule”.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            OK makes sense.

            I don’t have a good concise unpacking of nice, sorry

            Neither do I.

      • albatross11 says:

        jermo sapiens:

        Substantial numbers of liberals including almost everyone in or close to power in the US favors a lot of buzzkill rules being enforced by the law–for example, laws against using/possessing/selling heroin without the right official permissions, laws against smoking in various public places, laws requiring bicyclists and motorcyclists to wear helmets, laws making school attendance mandatory and making it impossible to drop out of school until age 18, etc. I think you’d find more conservatives than liberals up for getting rid of smoking bans and helmet laws. This seems like a contradiction to your model.

        • Nornagest says:

          Ideologies in a recruiting phase breed reckless hedonists. Ideologies in a consolidating phase breed joyless scolds.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            That rings somewhat true to me. It certainly fits the evolution of the left from 1968-2019, but I do feel there is an embryo of a traditionalist movement forming around the failure of the left to provide meaning to young people, and I dont see them ever courting or appealing to reckless hedonists.

        • broblawsky says:

          Is that actually true? The conventional perspective is that libertarians are otherwise politically conservative, but I’m not actually convinced without statistical evidence. I don’t consider libertarianism to actually be a conservative value in and of itself.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think libertarians don’t actually fit well into a standard US liberal/conservative framework.

          • broblawsky says:

            I agree, but what I’m asking is if a more “conservatives” actively support libertarian ideas such as than “liberals”. At least some libertarian ideas, such as marijuana legalization, are significantly more popular on the left than on the right.

          • At a slight tangent to this, note that the claim that commenters tilt right depends on counting libertarians as right wing.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            At a slight tangent to this, note that the claim that commenters tilt right depends on counting libertarians as right wing.

            In terms of principles, libertarians are part leftwing, part rightwing.

            In terms of where they are in relation to the center, where the center is defined as the median political position on most issues, they are right of the center.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Substantial numbers of liberals including almost everyone in or close to power in the US favors a lot of buzzkill rules

          Yeah you’re right. My model was extremely coarse, and was an attempt to describe people’s perception of left/right instead of describing left/right directly. But, at least based on the examples you provided, if I were to update my model to more accurately describe left/right as they actually are, it appears that the left prefers new prohibitions based on science, while the right prefers old prohibitions based on tradition.

          • broblawsky says:

            That seems fair.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But, at least based on the examples you provided, if I were to update my model to more accurately describe left/right as they actually are, it appears that the left prefers new prohibitions based on science,

            Hard disagree. I think the left prefers new prohibitions based on equality.
            Neither side is pro- or anti-science simpliciter. Postmodernism is part of the left at the same time they try to use climate science to justify restricting people’s lifestyle.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Neither side is pro- or anti-science simpliciter.

            Yeah I agree with that. That was just a first attempt at classifying the types of prohibitions preferred by either side. I think it’s fair to classify smoking and helmet laws as based on science, but pronoun laws, or disparate impact type laws are clearly not.

    • DragonMilk says:

      In churches, there is a grace/truth dichotomy discussed. Liberal churches emphasize love, grace, and acceptance of all. Conservative churches tend to emphasize there’s a way things “ought” to be done because since God is your creator, He knows best, so any deviation is sin.

      So while on a personal basis, it is a challenge to accept someone as they are, but not leave them as they are (encourage/demand change), this completely breaks down when it comes to politics.

      (Socially) liberal people tend to be amoral and agnostic, and have a tyranny of tolerance – they are taken aback that anyone would dare make an absolute truth claim and often don’t recognize that agnosticism is contradictory and essentially an absolute truth claim as well.

      And so when a (socially) conservative person gets mad about what they perceive not to be simply a norm, but “way things ought to be” be challenged, they often react with anger (aside, anger gets a bad rap, there’s a place for it).

      And so intellectual indifference can parade as niceness while self-righteous anger will come across as mean. But those in a forum don’t want to be seen as ragers so instead the anger often comes across as various other tones/snark.

      Given that Trump seems to be more or less supported by people pretty pissed off with the current state of affairs (drain the swamp), it is not surprising that liberals will seem nicer than conservatives today.

      • Corey says:

        (Socially) liberal people tend to be amoral and agnostic

        Interested in learning more about the amorality. Is it because morality doesn’t count as morality without religious backing? Or something more sinister?

        • souleater says:

          I think you’re seeing amoral as immoral.

          A liberal might take the position of
          “If its not hurting anyone, its not wrong”

          Where a conservative could say
          “Some things are just wrong. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t hurt anyone”

          Moral foundations theory talks about this a little.. Where a Liberal is focused on caring and fairness, a conservative is also thinking of ingroup loyalty, respect for tradition, and sanctity.

          • Randy M says:

            A liberal might take the position of
            “If its not hurting anyone, its not wrong”

            The liberal reading this will reply “That’s the correct position, because if it isn’t hurting anyone, it doesn’t have anything to do with morality.”
            Which illustrates SE’s point–less things concern morality for the liberal.

            But, conversely, liberal morality requires you to think more about downstream consequences (in some cases, for some liberals, etc.).

            For example, it’s not enough for you to pay the listed price for your coffee beans and thank the cashier on the way out. You need to verify the cashier it making a fair wage, the growers aren’t coerced into their work, the company packaging it isn’t doing business with people causing harm, and you drove there in a vehicle that only minimally pollutes and used shopping bags that biodegrade the fastest.

            Again, this isn’t to argue that all or any liberals require all these concerns be addressed by everyone all the time, but to point to some specific instances where the trend SE pointed–out and I’m inclined to believe exists–seems contraindicated.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not clear who or what SE is… help me out?

            Well than obviously it was a really poorly chosen shorthand for a certain poster above me in the chain. But I was also conflating your interjection with DragonMilk’s post, so double bad.
            Good counter points. Not sure enough to say anything more now.

          • lvlln says:

            @souleater

            Homosexuality is another example (I’m really taking advantage of this hidden thread huh) last I checked (is this still true?) homosexuality has really poor long term outcomes, sexual minorities tend to be poorer, die younger, have a higher risk of suicide, and open themselves up to hate crimes. Society seems to be celebrating it. It’s “nice” for the individual, in the moment, but why would you want your child to be gay knowing what the statistics show?

            1st of all, I think it’s vanishingly rare for people, liberal or otherwise, to want their child to be gay. IME, except for the fringiest of the fringiest progresssives, liberals tend to be ambivalent to their children’s sexual orientation, having faithful belief that it’s an immutable property that they were born with and weren’t influenced into (or could be influenced out of).

            2nd, I don’t think a causal link has been established in those correlations you pointed out. It’s very possible for the average gay person to have worse life outcomes than an average straight person and for one parent to correctly believe that their child wouldn’t suffer worse life outcomes if that child were gay, versus being straight. Because the child could be very different from the typical gay person.

          • Nick says:

            @lvlln
            I think you mean indifferent. Ambivalent means feeling strong both ways, that is, conflicted.

            Also, are you and Randy seeing a post I’m not? I don’t see a reply from souleater with any of that content. Did he delete the post or did it get reported into nonexistence or something?

          • Aftagley says:

            @lvlln

            I’m not seeing that original statement you’re quoting anywhere else in the thread. Is it from somewhere else?

            Edit: ninja’d by Nick

          • Randy M says:

            Also, are you and Randy seeing a post I’m not?

            Not anymore. I suspect he decided in retrospect he didn’t want to spend the time supporting some claims, and so retracted them with a delete before seeing replies. This is the first step towards the enlightenment that culminates in not even typing the post in the first place. Someday I will be there, but not today, so I understand SoulEater’s actions.

            I think you mean indifferent. Ambivalent means feeling strong both ways, that is, conflicted.

            At the risk of being uncharitable, I think ambivalent holds. They want some of the things that heterosexuality brings instinctively, but also want to be avant garde with their morality. (My phrasing might not survive the turing test, but it’s a fair translation of progressive imo).

          • lvlln says:

            @Nick

            Thank you for correcting my vocabulary. I’d been using that word incorrectly for a very long time, and I’ll have to retrain myself to use “indifferent” from now on.

            And yes, it seems that souleater deleted the post to which I was responding.

          • souleater says:

            I deleted the post. I decided what I said would create more heat than light and I hoped I could delete it before I started any trouble, or ruffled any feathers.

            I was expecting the system to not allow a reply to a deleted post, or prune the branch. Next time I’ll edit the comment to remove the offending material.

            apologise to all involved.

          • At a considerable tangent, do the statistical claims about outcomes for homosexuals apply to homosexuals in general or only to male homosexuals but not to lesbians?

            I would expect the latter for health related claims, and wouldn’t be astonished if it held more generally.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            There also seems to be more violence against gays.

        • DragonMilk says:

          How do you convince Laconico that slavery is immoral?

          Laconico: Might makes right. We are after all but products of evolution, and your norms are not mine. Look at nature, it is brutal, and unfair. Justice is for victors to dispense. My slaves are fed and bred much better than you treat your animals at zoos. I slew their fathers in combat and these are my fair spoils. Your notion of individual freedom is tripe as it’s obvious that our decisions are results of bio-chemical processes and life is on the whole meaningless. There is no liberty, only destiny and fate. Go live at peace trying to build your Utopian reality, but don’t bother trying to moralize to me, as all morals are but social constructs and different for different societies that arose under different circumstances. Enough, it is time that I keep integrating these women into my clan. I’m expecting my fourth child in a month. May fate not have me throw it over a cliff like the blemished third child from that woman.

          • ECD says:

            I don’t.

            He’s constructed a worldview where morality is irrelevant. If I want to convince him to stop enslaving people, then I either need to use force (and it’s remarkable how often ‘might makes right’ means ‘might makes right for me” so this might actually work at shoving us back into moral grounds) or I need to argue that, this is a very risky position he takes and its better to work together with other people who do think slavery is immoral. Or that not enslaving people has advantages, some of which were discussed a few open threads ago, others of which (a partner you don’t enslave is less likely to poison your food, or slit your throat as you sleep, as well as being just more fun).

            In other words, if someone takes a position that they don’t care about morality, I can either attempt to convince them they do, or point out non-moral arguments why what they’re doing is ‘bad’ or an alternative is better (in non-moralistic terms).

            This is quite apart from the question of what I believe is moral, or what other socially liberal people think is moral/immoral/amoral.

            But relatively few people in my experience take this position. A much more common one and one I struggle against myself is:

            This bad thing is necessary.

            Which can sometimes be true (though relatively rarely in modern life in the US), but is subject to transmuting into:

            Only I have the will to walk this hard path.

            Without ever noticing the softer path.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This is actually how people try to (and succeed to an extent) reform sociopaths.

            I really appreciate your final point (expressed in the last 5 sentence) ECD.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think this tension is built into Christianity. Compare “enter through the narrow door” with “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

        • DragonMilk says:

          I don’t see it so much as a tension as admonition – consistent with you are not the judge, God is, leave judgments to God and improve yourself. So the first tells you not to follow the crowd blindly while the latter tells you not to judge others you hypocrite! (generic you, you != albatross11)

          Grace freely given, dearly bought.

      • phi says:

        Slight tangent here. I’d be interested in knowing what you mean by “agnosticism is contradictory”. I’m an atheist not an agnostic myself, so maybe I’m just misunderstanding here, but my impression was that agnostics generally believe something along the lines of: “50% chance of God, 50% chance of no God”. (Well, maybe not exactly 50%, but somewhere between 10% and 90% at least.) There’s nothing inherently self-contradictory in assigning a probability distribution over two possible outcomes. Do you mean that agnosticism contradicts some other idea or principle?

    • Plumber says:

      @souleater,

      In my experience “Liberals” are usually a bit nicer than “Conservatives” but “Leftists” or “Progressives” aren’t, and the difference between ‘typically nice’ and others isn’t Left vs. Right, it’s fiercely partisan vs. ‘just wants to get along’.

      Also, someone mildly “liberal” in a “progressive” neighborhood will usually be nicer than a conservative will be in that neighborhood, and someone mildly “conservative” in a “conservative” area will usually be nicer than someone on the Left will be in that neighborhood.

      Mainstream and moderate tend to be nicer than flame fanners and rebels.

      Basically anyone who talks a lot about how wrong some other people are is less likely to be nice.

      “Good” is a different question than “nice” though, and whether someone is “good but not nice” gets into the whole “freedom fighter or terrorist?” thing.

      • DragonMilk says:

        On your last point, I always picture the Devil as a handsome, charming gentleman.

        • Randy M says:

          “Good” is a different question than “nice” though, and whether someone is “good but not nice” gets into the whole “freedom fighter or terrorist?” thing.

          My daughter is trying out for “Into the Woods” so we just watched this and I’m reminded of the Witch’s song containing the memorable lines that are very applicable here:
          “You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.”
          “I’m not good, I’m not nice, I’m just right.”

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I hope she’s not trying out for a production using the hilarious schools’ edition script, which basically cuts the second act and all the darker things that happen therein, and therefore is an entirely different show.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know, but she’s eleven and it’s hard to find a decent children’s theater in the area, so I’m not going to rule one out for reasons of mere artistic integrity.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Please allow me to introduce myself
          I’m a man of wealth and taste

          (Of course the Devil is a notorious liar, he’s not a man, “wealth” should be meaningless to him, and I picture his “taste” to be somewhat on the Trumpian end of things, though I imagine East German modernism, bronze mirrored windows and all, would also be one of his favorites)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            the Devil is […] not a man, […] I imagine East German modernism, bronze mirrored windows and all, would also be […] favorites

            Are you suggesting my wife is the Devil?

            (Though, to be fair, I believe brutalism is more her thing…)

    • jgr314 says:

      Are liberals perceived as nicer than conservatives?

      My understanding of this question is that it should be answered with polling data or, maybe, concept association studies (btw, do those replicate?)?

      Perhaps someone with free time could cobble together an answer from this Gallup data

      Are liberals actually nicer than conservatives?

      I have trouble imagining what data would help answer this question.

      Why? (x2)

      !

    • The Nybbler says:

      There are formulations of “niceness” by which liberals are perceived as “nicer”. For instance, suggesting “help” is nice whereas suggesting “punishment” is not, in general. But just because something is “nice” by this definition doesn’t mean it’s good. Sure, it’s not nice to suggest e.g. the problem homeless should be confined in mental institutions. But it’s not good to let them defecate all over the streets, and there may be no “nice” solutions to that. It’s not nice to call someone a liar, or to even imply it (and pointing this out is a common power play by liars). But it’s probably not good to allow untruths to go unchallenged in a public forum. It’s not nice to suggest one person means another harm… but it’s not good to pretend that they don’t when they do. It’s a stereotype of people from the American South that they’ll be nice to you even as they are slipping a knife into your back.

      There are many definitions of “nice”, and I would suggest that in general liberals perceive liberals as “nicer” than conservatives, whereas while conservatives would reject liberal definitions of niceness they might not consider themselves “nice” even by their own lights, instead considering less-nice hard-nosed practicality to be a virtue.

      On the flip side there’s the idea that one can have civil discussion about anything, even genocide of one or more of the parties in the discussion. But that’s “polite Hitler”, not “nice Hitler”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        But that’s “polite Hitler”, not “nice Hitler”.

        Hitler: agreed by all to not be a Nice Guy.
        In an odd historical note, Hitler considered it important to his political success to have a public persona of voluntary celibacy. That’s why Eva Braun was his secret mistress and not his wife, until he was ready to commit suicide in the Bunker.

      • There’s the comic I saw where Antifa groups were attacking conservatives and this guy is throwing a Molotov cocktail while saying “love, not hate.” And this was their own pamphlet. It about sums up how this whole “niceness” thing sounds to me.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          +1
          There’s a real niceness to hang community and civilization on. This… isn’t it.

        • Nornagest says:

          Love is a burning thing
          And it makes a fiery ring

        • ECD says:

          Do you happen to have a link?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          they also have this cartoon i’ve seen countless times on social media about how tolerance requires them to not tolerate conservatives because if they did the nazis would take over or something. i know the cartoon depicts an actual nazi but since actual nazis are few and far between, they apply this to Trump supporters.

          while this is all very trite, “democrats are the real racisss” ben shapiro level stuff, it’s still important.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            while this is all very trite, “democrats are the real racisss” ben shapiro level stuff, it’s still important.

            Is it tho? Like, who do you think is going to benefit from you pointing it out here?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Is it tho? Like, who do you think is going to benefit from you pointing it out here?

            I’m not sure. Leftist hypocrisy of this kind has been shown again and again to absolutely no effect. Antifa can still behave like violent fascists and blue checkmarks on twitter will still have their galaxy-brain takes of “if you are against fascism, you are anti-fascist, or antifa for short”. But it’s still logically sound to point out that the people who claim to be in favor of “love not hate” are the ones throwing molotov cocktails and that the ones claiming to be in favor of tolerance want to destroy the lives of everybody who voted for Trump.

          • ECD says:

            This is an interesting cartoon, though it’s not on a site I’d ever seen before, and I’ll point out, that appears to be a Canadian site, operating under Canadian free speech norms, which are quite different from US ones, and not solely against any particular group.

            I’ll also say that the cartoon is quite clear that what it’s referencing is the paradox of tolerance (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance)

            Note that the same page goes on to quote Karl Popper, with a few additions in brackets in the original to draw the parallel they want. I don’t know that I agree, but this is not as obviously false as the cartoon above, read alone, would be:

            “In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion [my emphasis], suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive [fake media?], and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

            “We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

            Now, I don’t have an opinion on this question, having never heard of Karl Popper (that I recall) until right now, but the paradox of tolerance seems like a thing that isn’t obviously false, for all that it may not be morally, or legally acceptable to resolve in this fashion (assuming, without admitting, its existence).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            If you want to show something to antifa members, I suggest you do so somewhere where they are. To my knowledge, this comments section is not such a place.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If you even browse The Open Society and Its EnemiesKarl Popper comes across as a real piece of work. In context, the quoted text asserts the right of the Open Society to suppress religions influenced by Platonism (he soothingly says “this doesn’t apply to all Christian theology.”[1]) He treats Classical Athens as almost never having done wrong (he has another soothing passage papering over the genocide).
            I was doing a read-along with a friend from the internet who likes Popper, and even she said “this feels like he wanted to beat up Hegel for stealing his lunch money.”

            [1]One of his bugbears was that everyone had to believe that the future is unknowable flux, so they’d believe in libertarian free will, so we could have liberalism. He was a correspondent of Einstein’s, who had to put up with Popper unflatteringly calling him “Parmenides” for disagreeing with him.

          • lvlln says:

            In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion [my emphasis], suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive [fake media?], and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

            One issue with Popper’s paragraph here is that none of the justifications he gives for suppressing intolerant philosophies by force have anything to do with their being intolerant. The justifications are that proponents of the philosophy may turn out not to want to use rational argument, but rather using deceptive or violent tactics. But there’s nothing about a philosophy being intolerant that makes it more likely to be irrational/violent/deceptive.

            This argument is orthogonal to the issue of tolerance. It supports the notion that we ought to be intolerant of the irrational/violent/deceptive whether or not their tolerant or intolerant, not to be intolerant of the intolerant. Or more precisely it supports the notion that we ought to be intolerant of those we suspect might be irrational/violent/deceptive, which applies just as much to tolerant philosophies as intolerant ones.

          • ECD says:

            @LMC

            That seems perfectly plausible from the little I read of him (honestly, ‘if you’re tolerant you have to tolerate my intolerance’ sounds an awful lot like something I could have said in my ‘I’m five years old and all rules must be followed, all things are either true or false and everything is either 100%, or 0% phase’ and so building a paradox around it seems excessive to me.

            @Jermo Sapiens

            Sorry, forgot to mention, the page you linked at least (not sure if its’ the source of the cartoon in question) is quite explicitly about Charlottesville and the “Unite the Right” event, it seems uncharitable to turn that into “Trump supporters” and, if done by someone who was on the left should prompt objection that there are three distinct groups involved here. Nazis, referenced in the cartoon. “Unite the Right” protestors, referenced in the article. And “Trump supporters” referenced by you (and potentially the article, though it’s ambiguous and frankly, badly written, enough that it’s hard to tell).

          • jermo sapiens says:

            that appears to be a Canadian site, operating under Canadian free speech norms, which are quite different from US ones, and not solely against any particular group.

            that’s just where Google took me when I searched for “karl popper tolerance cartoon” (or something). I’m in Canada so that may be why, but it’s a widely distributed Cartoon, I’m sure it’s available on plenty of American sites.

            Also, being a Canadian lawyer, I’m quite familiar with Canadian hate speech legislation, and the cartoon itself has nothing to do with that. As a practical matter, you can say hateful things in Canada, as long as it’s against Christians or the like.

            About the paradox of tolerance, Popper has a real point, which I believe I understand, and agree with. That point is much better articulated in the sections you quoted than in the cartoon. The cartoon is little more than a license to be violent towards the outgroup.

            This quote in particular rings obviously true to me.

            “But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive [fake media?], and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.”

            Of course, I believe that all societies have the duty to suppress “if necessary even by force” any kind of threat to it. But that supposes an authority with the proper judgment to determine what is and what isnt a threat to it. Acting against things that are not in reality a threat leads to the type of evil that tolerance is supposed to cure. But not acting against things that are a threat leads to the type of evil that the “paradox of tolerance” is supposed to cure.

            Trying to create a formal procedure like:
            {
            if person->isTolerant() {
            tolerate(person);
            } else {
            suppress(person);
            }

            will never work because it will never capture all the necessary information necessary to make the right decision in a given situation before that situation arises.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Sorry, forgot to mention, the page you linked at least (not sure if its’ the source of the cartoon in question) is quite explicitly about Charlottesville and the “Unite the Right” event, it seems uncharitable to turn that into “Trump supporters”

            Yes. That page was just a spot on the internet where I found the cartoon. This cartoon is a widespread meme and it appears in tons of places, including the page I linked to. Apologies if it seemed that the page was where this cartoon was first published.

            But generally speaking, it’s not hard to find examples of people claiming to be tolerant who feel they have a license to destroy Trump supporters. I invite you to wear a MAGA hat in NYC or SanFran and then walk around with a rainbow flag in Jackson, Mississipi, to see where you find the most tolerance.

          • ECD says:

            @jermo sapiens

            I didn’t realize you were a Canadian attorney, sorry for any accidental condescension. Had too many conversations with Americans (or US residents, depending on sensitivities) who want to talk about the 1st amendment in other countries and not in a moral sense, but in a ‘they can’t do that’ sense.

            But generally speaking, it’s not hard to find examples of people claiming to be tolerant who feel they have a license to destroy Trump supporters.

            I mean, sure. I don’t even need to look at your link. People are hypocrites. Or, less cynically, contain multitudes, so to speak.

            But:

            1) that’s miles away from:

            while this is all very trite, “democrats are the real racisss” ben shapiro level stuff, it’s still important.

            and (2) it doesn’t tell me anything about rates of ‘hypocrisy’. Your proposal might give some minor evidence of differing levels of tolerance, but I’m not going to carry out that experiment, nor would it actually answer the question. I have no idea how you would, though I’m sure someone has done a badly designed, non-replicating study on who is more tolerant, liberals or conservatives.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I’m sure someone has done a badly designed, non-replicating study on who is more tolerant, liberals or conservatives.

            I dont think that’s an important question to be answered. My point was that generally speaking, whenever a political side has adopted a general principle (e.g. tolerance is the most important virtue), that when they have important factions (e.g., antifa, SJWs…) to highlight the hypocrisy strongly and loudly.

            Obviously the same holds true for the right wing, when they claim that human life is sacred and then go on bombing some middle-eastern statelet because the dictator in charge there is more chummy with the Russians than with them.

          • ECD says:

            My point was that generally speaking, whenever a political side has adopted a general principle (e.g. tolerance is the most important virtue), that when they have important factions [which violate this principle] (e.g., antifa, SJWs…) to highlight the hypocrisy strongly and loudly.

            Obviously the same holds true for the right wing, when they claim that human life is sacred and then go on bombing some middle-eastern statelet because the dictator in charge there is more chummy with the Russians than with them.

            People contain multitudes, to be sure. Groups contain multitudes of multitudes, especially when they get into the millions.

            Almost no one has a coherent total political view. Mine sure isn’t. Which leads me back to “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

            Also, are you sure the claim is ‘tolerance is the most important virtue’ and not ‘tolerance is a virtue’? We’ve all always got competing interests and weighting of those interests, which can look like hypocrisy from the outside. Of course, it can also just be hypocrisy.

    • Mustard Tiger says:

      In California at least, the left has cultural dominance. The right is more defensive (a prime characteristic of being conservative — defending/conserving stuff). It’s easier to be powerful & magnanimous than it is to be politely & nicely defensive.

      Edited to add: I wonder if, in the 1950s, conservatives were seen as nicer, with their adherence to religion and apple-pie American norms, while the liberals were the meanies picking on the status quo and/or wanting revolution and radicalism?

    • Viliam says:

      Are liberals actually nicer than conservatives?

      Liberals? Maybe. Progressives? Definitely not.

      “Drinking $outgroup tears… Kill all $outgroup… hey, stop tone policing me!”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Liberals? Maybe. Progressives? Definitely not.

        This is a significant distinction.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          +1

          I feel I can reach a reasonable compromise with Liberals. With Progressives I feel no coexistence is possible.

      • albatross11 says:

        Villiam:

        Are you describing the median progressive, or the subset whose comments you see in articles/tweets/sites that are farming outrage for clicks?

    • Tenacious D says:

      I think you have to separate how they engage politically from how they behave in general. Generally speaking, there are a lot of things conservatives view as more admirable than getting involved in politics: actively contributing to your family, church, and community; building a successful business; and serving in the military (to give examples associated with each pillar of Reagan’s 3-legged stool–and not to imply that liberals don’t value any of these things). Due to being in favour of the status quo and of generally smaller government, there’s less of a drive to prioritize politics. There’s a certain irony in that the most visible conservatives (i.e. career politicians and activists; consider “shy tories” for contrast) are necessarily engaged in a pursuit that’s pretty peripheral to the conservative conception of the good life. Because being politically active isn’t plan A, conservatives who are are probably outliers in some way (e.g. ambition) or have experienced some sort of “you may not be interested in politics but politics is interested in you” scenario that threatens something they value. I haven’t followed it that closely, but I think the French-Ahmari debate fits the latter point, to give a recent example.

  5. Plumber says:

    “@Hoopdawg says:
    September 10, 2019 at 1:33 am

    “It’s more that the left/right divide describes several widely differing things at once.

    Sometimes, it’s liberal vs. conservative, in which case this place leans left, but neither strongly nor decisively.
    Sometimes, it’s Blue vs. Red, in which case this place is, obviously, Grey.
    But often, it means socialism vs. capitalism, and here, this place is pretty much evenly divided between “privatize everything” market fundamentalist libertarians and radical centrist neoliberals, making the usual scope of discussions further right than at any venue currently in the mainstream”

    Quoting this now to remind myself to ask for some working definitions in the next “hidden” fractional Open Thread that doesn’t have the “…please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics…” request”

    Alright, when I see “radical centrist neoliberals”, my guess is that means Tony Blair and Bill Clinton-ish basically accepting most of the Reagan/Thatcher revolutions as mostly fixed in place while tinkering at the edges, and with free trade agreements expanded even further, positions which the Sanderist Left and the Trumpist Right rejects.

    Should I take the definition to mean something else?

    • Hoopdawg says:

      Sorry for not replying earlier. I remembered you wanted to ask me about this, I just didn’t have time/energy to check SSC these last few days.

      It was actually meant to describe our host, Scott. I recall him self-describing as a neoliberal, which I assume to mostly be a statement of belief in market-based solutions to everything, not necessarily a statement of belief in real-world policies the term is used to criticize. I don’t think he ever self-described as a radical centrist, but I’m using it, following some of its proponents, as a statement of commitment to non-ideological “whatever proves to work” policy.

      The description above probably applies to people like Blair and Clinton, at least as they presented to the public. But what I had in mind is the mindset rather than particular people or policies.

  6. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to explain why Europe should or should not be listed as a continent for pedagogic purposes.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m tempted to say that Europe should be described as a continent for geographical purposes because of its historical interconnectedness and isolation from East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and also that geographical Europe should include North Africa, for the same reasons.

      That ought to piss just about everyone off.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’m tempted to say that Europe should be described as a continent for geographical purposes because of its historical interconnectedness and isolation from East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,

        Geophysical India is a tectonic plate and has historical interconnectedness and isolation from East Asia and West Asia, yet it’s degraded to “the subcontinent.”

      • Nick says:

        You might as well declare the Mediterranean a continent.

      • johan_larson says:

        My take is that Europe does not make much sense as a continent if we are doing physical geography. It does make sense as a concept if we are doing cultural or social geography, but then it makes sense to chop up the Eurasian landmass into more than two regions, including at least one (the Middle East) that spans multiple continents.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        That ought to piss just about everyone off.

        I think you forgot to recognize Europe as the fruit of the initial exodus from the African Rift Valley, while refusing to use Europe in a fruit salad.

    • souleater says:

      Should.
      There is no single coherent definition of continents, based on plate tectonics. For example, we don’t consider the caribbean a continent. and different countries combine eurasia, or the americas. The olympics only has 5 continents.

      “The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography” says

      Continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water.

      So it’s really just a matter of convention.

      Looking at history, Europe was separated as a continent by our friend the T and O map
      Looking at culture, Europe as very little cultural similarity with the middle east or especially far east.
      Looking at ethnicity, Europeans are clearly a visually different people than their continental neighbors.

      What possible benefit is there to taking a historically, ethnically, and culturally distinct people group, and lumping them in with their distant cousins. If anything, there is more justification in calling the Middle East an eighth continent.

      • Randy M says:

        What possible benefit is there to taking a historically, ethnically, and culturally distinct people group, and lumping them in with their distant cousins. If anything, there is more justification in calling the Middle East an eighth continent.

        In that case, we’ll the middle east the 7th continent. Antarctica has nothing to do with anything historical, cultural, or ethnic.

        • souleater says:

          A null space is still a space

          edit: To be honest… I’m not sure this is actually true in a linear algebra sense.. But my point is that Antarctica is unique in it’s lack of ethnic, cultural and historic heritage. so I would go ahead and leave it in

      • Eric Rall says:

        Looking at history, Europe was separated as a continent by our friend the T and O map

        I thought it went back earlier than that, with the classical Greeks categorizing places you get to overland or by following the coast as “Europe”, places you get to by sailing East as “Asia”, and places you get to by sailing South as “Africa”.

        Looking at culture, Europe as very little cultural similarity with the middle east or especially far east.

        Agreed. In particular, Europe maps pretty closely to what the High/Late Middle Ages and Renaissance thought of as “Christendom”. I’ve heard that “Europe” became a widely-used label again during the Age of Exploration, to denote the Medieval bounds of Christianity separately from places that had become Christian in modern times via conquest and colonization.

        What possible benefit is there to taking a historically, ethnically, and culturally distinct people group, and lumping them in with their distant cousins. If anything, there is more justification in calling the Middle East an eighth continent.

        In many contexts (especially the eras between Alexander the Great and the Muslim conquests), it’s useful to categorize, the Middle/Near East and North Africa together with Europe as opposed to considering them with Asia and Africa respectively.

        The difficulty with making the Middle/Near East and North Africa a separate continent, as much sense as it makes from a historical and cultural perspective, is that it’s absurd from a geological perspective. “Continent” suffers from overloading here, which is also the main case for considering Europe and Asia a single continent. At least with Europe and Asia, you can rationalize them as separate geological continents on the grounds that the Urals and the Caucasuses are significant tectonic boundaries.

      • I don’t agree that there is a clear visual difference between Europe and their continental neighbours. There’s a gradient. Irishmen and Indians look pretty different. Greeks and Turks, or even Russians and Iranians, much less so.

        I think you can make more of an argument for cultural differences, but there’s still a lot of gradiation there. The most obvious difference is the predominance of Christianity in Europe, and the predominance of Islam in the nearby regions of Asia. But Christianity and Islam are pretty similar religions in comparison to Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, shamanism, etc.

        I definitely agree, though, that the definition of continents is conventional and arguing over exactly what should qualify as a continent is a bit pointless. We have a convention in place, and there is no compelling need to change it.

    • Concavenator says:

      “Continent” shall be defined as a major landmass (say, more than 20% of the largest one) completely surrounded by water, at a depth greater than the continental shelf (which excludes man-made channels).

      Hence, there are exactly three continents: Afroeurasia, America, and Antarctica. Everything else is eithe a subcontinent (e.g. Africa) or an associated island (e.g. Australia).

      • TakatoGuil says:

        Actually, no, that leaves only Antarctica. Afroeurasia and America are not separated at a depth greater than the continental shelf. I guess they would both count together though, in your system? So two. Human-inhabited Earth, and otherwise.

        • Nornagest says:

          Australia is, though. The existence of a deepwater gap between Australia (and some of the nearby islands) and Asia is important to its biogeography — see the Wallace line.

          • TakatoGuil says:

            Actually, we’re all wrong! The reason I didn’t include Australia is that it’s not 20% the size of Afroeurasia — but neither is Antarctica. One continent it is: Afroeurasiamerica.

    • Telemythides says:

      Should not.

      I think a pretty good definition of people’s folk understanding of what a continent is is: “Large land-mass entirely or almost entirely separated from other by water”. Europe obviously fails this, it’s connected to Asia along it’s entire breadth! There’s really only one continent model that makes sense and is used, 6 Continents: North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Antarctica and Australia. 4 Continents: America, Afroeurasia, Antarctica and Australia also makes sense if you don’t allow any land connections, but no one uses that.

    • rahien.din says:

      Should. The alternative is to claim that Bangkok is in the same continent as St. Kilda.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Europe is clearly a subcontinent of Asia, like India. It is geographically isolated from rest of Asia, but still connected to it by large landmass.

      Asia Minor, Levant and Mesopotamia should be considered parts of Europe. Eastern borders of the European subcontinent are, from south to north – Zagros mountains, Caspian sea, and Ural mountains.

      • BBA says:

        There’s an inscription on the LA Public Library that I initially found strange, as a Jew. Why are Moses and Hillel among the “Eastern” figures, when they’re my heritage and I’m obviously a creature of the West? But of course, when you set the boundary between East and West at the Bosporus, where it traditionally was, then they’re obviously from the East. And when that inscription was made, my ancestors were considered alien “Orientals” by the white establishment. The whole concept of a common Judeo-Christian heritage was revisionism, the product of post-WW2 philosemitism.

        It’s all social constructs, is what I’m getting at.

    • Lambert says:

      Europe exists, but it’s bounded in time as well as space.
      It came into existance some time in late antiquity, as the Western Roman Empire collapsed.
      Alcuin of York was one of the first to realise the concept of Europe.

      Defining points include:
      The conversion of Clovis I, solidifying relations between the Latin church, Gallo-Roman society and the Frankish invaders.
      The Islamic conquests, creating a division between Christian Europe and Muslim North Africa/Levant.
      The Carolingian conquests of Saxony and Bavaria, which brought ‘Europe’ beyond the extent of the Roman Empire.

    • bullseye says:

      Pre-modern Far East was more isolated than Europe. European agriculture, writing, and religion are all of Middle Eastern origin. China invented agriculture and writing on its own, and Far Eastern religion is mostly native (they got Buddhism from India, but it was never as pervasive as Christianity is in the West.) Racially, a lot of Arabs and Iranians can pass for white; nobody can pass for racially Far Eastern unless they actually are.

    • bean says:

      Hmm. An interesting question. From a purely physical point of view, it’s obviously different from the other continents, and should be lumped with Asia. But we have a term for that, Eurasia, and use it when doing that kind of purely physical geography. To a large extent, Europe is a separate continent because it was the one making the list, but the fact that they got to make the list is important. The distinction between Europe and not-Europe is historically huge. Sure, if we insist on seeing every continent as homogenous, then this is unfair to the rest of the world, but we could just try not doing that. As far as subunits of Eurasia go, Europe is by far the most influential.

      Also, it makes life easier for cartographers. Asia is hard enough to squeeze onto a map as it is.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        The distinction between Europe and not-Europe is historically huge.

        Which raises a question: why so huge? I can understand the conflict between Rome and Carthage, but why between Germanic principalities and waves of hordes from the east? What was it about the steppes that made them so untameable? Why didn’t Poles and Rus and Macedonians settle their ancestral lands, work out diplomatic protocols, build up massive populations on a strong agricultural and mercantile base, and then just roll over the rest of Asia, instead of the other way around? Is the lesson here just “you should’ve had a horsey culture”?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “you should’ve had a horsey culture”

          If only a horsey ruler would start a school for foreigners to learn horsey culture.

        • bean says:

          Is the lesson here just “you should’ve had a horsey culture”?

          It very well might be. The general theory there is that what “horsey cultures” (more scientifically, herders/nomads) do day-to-day is pretty good preparation for war. What farmers do day-to-day? Not so much. If you can quickly turn farmers into decent soldiers (hello gunpowder) their greater numbers matter a lot. Before that? Not so much, and the horsey cultures often win.

          • bullseye says:

            Once the farmers started building states they did a lot better. Instances of nomads defeating states are noteworthy because of their rarity.

          • bean says:

            Instances of nomads really annoying states are very common. Instances of nomads taking over states are reasonably frequent, and they aren’t more common because states developed techniques like “playing nomads off against each other”.

  7. moonfirestorm says:

    Magic players of SSC, what’s your favorite EDH/Commander deck at the moment?

    Currently, mine is my Freyalise deck. It started with Endless Atlas and the thought “huh, this would be really good in mono-green where you always have spare mana” and ended up as a very strong attempt to run mono-green control. Likely wouldn’t work in a competitive environment, but it fits really well into the semi-casual battlecruiser Magic style that shows up a lot in EDH without being particularly degenerate or exploiting the boundaries of the environment.

    • Aftagley says:

      Krenko. Now and forever Krenko.

      I love the deck because it’s just so infinitely tune-able. Most of the time your wincon will be “make an infinite goblin horde”, but if you’re in a meta where small creatures are hated out, you can make it more of a combo-focused masterpiece and vice versa. It’s top-end is good enough to not be too out of place at competitive tables, but you can also scale it back and make it into a dopey tribal deck for more casual games.

    • Randy M says:

      I took apart all my decks a few weeks ago and made new ones headed by less used commanders of mine. Kess was a lot of fun. Once I had galecaster colossus and docent of perfection on board I had to try hard not to win on the spot.
      My friend managed to do neat things with Sydri, galvanic genious, and Sidisi, brood tyrant had a very strong early position. (Sidisi isn’t really less used, but zombie/graveyard is too fun to pass up)

    • eyeballfrog says:

      My favorite decks are still my Riku of two Reflections decks (appropriately, I have two). One is for the more competitive environment, and is a fairly standard URG “ramp into value town” deck. The other is for more casual and tries to be a Kamigawa theme deck. Spirits, Splice, and handsize mechanics all in there. The original idea was to use Riku’s spell copying to copy spliced spells (which copies everything spliced on), but it kind of morphed into full Kamigawa because it was more fun that way.

  8. rahien.din says:

    About the bans. Consider the situated utility of contempt.

    Contempt can be used like paint thinner to strip the trappings of legend off of an assertation, and expose it to genuine discussion. That’s often good. It is also subject to effect balancing. “True Necessary Kind” is our method of effect balancing.

    Contempt can also be used purely for self-gratification, at the expense of genuine discussion. That’s always bad. It usually happens when people reach the end of their emotional leash and just start pissing on everything. Even if/when we have the right of it, we are not permitted a masturbatory tantrum at our cohabitants’ expense.

    • Well... says:

      Makes sense to me.

      Does contempt for self-gratification really usually happen when people reach the end of their emotional leash? Maybe some people are just used to automatically communicating in that mode, or quickly switching into it, while sitting in front of a computer.

  9. Radu Floricica says:

    The comment I wanted to make last thread but was Really CW:

    – Liberals win in nice-moderated places because their ideas can be more easily expressed as nice (main moral foundation Care, as opposed to a more varied bunch by everybody else).

    – Liberals win as a rule in most places… not sure why, actually, but possibly because it’s easier to frame conversation on nice / not nice coordinates which slides into good / bad. So it reduces to the first case.

    – Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

    It’s been a long time since I’ve found things that would move me back to a more progressive or liberal stance. Most things that changed my mind in the past years (like Brexit) go the opposite way. It could, technically, be just very bad confirmation bias but come on… Even Scott is maintaining a sort-of-neutrality by heavily biasing his inputs – for example his choice of pro-communist literature because he finds himself leaning worryingly to the right and wants to double-check. Which is a good thing btw, and doubly good in his positions of influencer and Bay Area resident. Me, I can just go Occam and say that there is enough evidence that humanity made mistakes a lot worse than this, progressism looks like a mistake, I was naive in my youth and that’s it.

    —————————

    Given that comments written by strangers are very easy to misinterpret – there’s a heavily implied invitations here for left-leaning people to contribute more to the conversation, with good arguments. The goal is always to change one’s mind, otherwise you don’t progress.

    • Nick says:

      Can you be more precise about whom you mean by liberal? Do you mean American progressives, classical liberals, anyone on the left?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Good point. American progressives. Classical liberals are more similar to today’s libertarians, maybe?

        • The “democratic socialism in dilute aqueous solution” people stole the name “liberal” from us, so we had to steal “libertarian” from the left anarchists.

          But that was all right, because it wasn’t their legitimate property, having been stolen by them from the believers in the doctrine of free will.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Just like American land was stolen from the natives?

            Are you arguing for reparations, David? 😉

    • The Nybbler says:

      I don’t think all liberals lose in idea-to-idea conflicts. There’s still plenty of room for reasonable dispute over the harms of pornography, or how strict alcohol regulation should be, for instance. There’s very little room left for dispute about the harms of violent video games — and that one falls to the liberal side. Of course, I’m talking tits-and-beer liberalism here, not SJ progressivism.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        100% agree that there is reasonable dispute on those topics. Let’s call it “multiculturalism” instead of SJ or left, and I think you’ll agree with me a bit more.

    • Corey says:

      Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

      It could also be that people who are good at dispassionately arguing (assuming that’s how quality-of-conversation unpacks) skew conservative.

      My pet theory: it’s a reverse Straw Vulcan effect – empathy is Irrational so let’s avoid it (to tie in the niceness thread).

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      You haven’t considered the obvious-seeming
      – Left-wingers win in general (e.g. in random Facebook arguments) because they’re smarter.

      This also explains why left-wingers lose in places like this where they aren’t smarter on average: they don’t have any practice arguing against smart right-wingers.

      • Viliam says:

        Somewhat similar: universities are mostly liberal, therefore students are mostly exposed to smart (or smart-seeming) left-wing arguments, but don’t have any practice arguing against smart (or smart-seeming) right-wing arguments.

        • albatross11 says:

          If you never encounter someone arguing from some perspective, then you’re unlikely to know how to argue with them sensibly. It’s like someone who has spent years studying boxing and suddenly finds himself in a wrestling match.

          I think a lot of people live in intellectual bubbles where some ideas/perspectives just never come up. And then when they do encounter them, they have no idea how to respond. I suspect this drives a lot of the outrage or snark or ridicule you see people responding with in these situations.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Yes, that’s a special case (possibly the most important one).

        • Clutzy says:

          I’ve said this before with respect to Nazi’s and slavery. Most mainstream secular people lose arguments to slavers and nazis because they don’t have fundamental arguments against them anymore.

          Secular arguments for these positions are hard to make while religious ones are easy, but converting people to your religion is hard. Thus creating a secular population easy to convert to slaverism.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I think atheist and libertarian arguments avoid using a very simple point: “because that’s the world I want to live in”. It’s a trap, because that’s probably the real reason for a lot of things we do. I don’t really mind paying taxes and won’t actively fight against all of them because I want to live in a world where poor sick people don’t die in the streets. That’s a selfish reason, and I accept it as such.

            There is a subtler difference between that, and accepting that there’s a moral imperative to help the poor. The latter I don’t accept and consider a slippery slope.

          • DinoNerd says:

            I don’t get this. Most religious arguments amount to “because deity said so”, except of course it turns out that there’s no evidence that the deity ever said anything.

            But worse than that is that by the time a religion gets large enough to be considered major, and old enough that most adherents were born into it, exponents have managed to take at least 2 – usually far more – contradictory positions on almost any question.

            Unless your religion was founded by a prophet whose major issue was slavery, there will have been prominent leaders who favoured it, prominent leaders who opposed it, and prominent leaders who treated it as simply normal and inevitable, like the weather.

            And even if slavery *was* the key issue for the founder, in a couple of 100 years we’re talking about “indenture” and “serfdom” and “apprenticeship”, and half the people arguing agree they aren’t the same as the “slavery” condemned by the prophet, which no longer exists among the religion’s in group. (The other half say the first half are hypocrites as well as sinners :-()

            Proportions vary, mostly depending on how central the bad behaviour is to culture and economy. (If slavery is uneconomic, more folks will oppose it :-))

            Ditto for whatever else you care to name.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Dinonerd

            I don’t get this. Most religious arguments amount to “because deity said so”, except of course it turns out that there’s no evidence that the deity ever said anything.

            Yes, that’s why they are easy to make. It also turns out they can be convincing even to nonbelievers!

            But worse than that is that by the time a religion gets large enough to be considered major, and old enough that most adherents were born into it, exponents have managed to take at least 2 – usually far more – contradictory positions on almost any question.

            That isn’t even a roadblock to the model! That’s how useful it is.

            Proportions vary, mostly depending on how central the bad behaviour is to culture and economy. (If slavery is uneconomic, more folks will oppose it :-))

            Ditto for whatever else you care to name.

            And I think this is where I think you and I have lost wavelengths. The point I was making is that secular arguments are harder to make, even if in the end they are more effective (if effectively stated) to nonbelievers. At the same time, a lot of secularists have let their blades dull, and thus are shocked when some youtube personality has much better arguments than them and their kids start trying to enslave the neighbors. Well, you can either inoculate with religion, or you can actually hone your arguments. One is easy, one is hard.

    • Randy M says:

      – Liberals win as a rule in most places… not sure why, actually, but possibly because it’s easier to frame conversation on nice / not nice coordinates which slides into good / bad. So it reduces to the first case.

      Because we are in a “thrive” time.

      • Wency says:

        Yeah, I think you’re largely right.

        To pick one example…

        Rightist opinion: Women shouldn’t serve in the military. Or at least not the infantry.
        Leftist opinion: This oppresses their rights. Women can do any job men can do!

        Result: Women serve in the military. Everything in the country seems to remain basically fine. Even when we lose wars, failing to prop up some corrupt government in a backward and remote land, it doesn’t matter, no one really cares. Another leftist win. Time to see who else we can get into the military…

        Presumably the taboo against female soldiers (and further, the idea that the military is a vehicle for winning wars, not a vehicle for advancing civil rights) is founded in some basic principles highly relevant to a “survive time”. But at least in the West, those principles haven’t been tested for a few generations now.

      • Viliam says:

        If your social group is thriving, you are likely to be in a liberal bubble.

        If your social group is surviving, you are likely to be in a conservative bubble.

        Being smart and university-educated puts you in an advantageous position, so your bubble is more likely to be liberal.

        • Randy M says:

          Maybe I don’s ask for enough out of life, but if I have shelter, steady diet, and a lack of violence in my life, I think I’m in thrive time, at least as far as the adaptation strategies described by Scott as Thrive vs Survive are concerned.

          The parts of my social group that are struggling seem to be doing so largely for reasons of their own poor choices and impulses.

          But I am in California, so liberal bubble is isn’t a bad first order description.

        • Wency says:

          To build on Randy M, we are all thriving in that we’re not really being tested by the kinds of forces that promote conservative values.

          No one in the West is really struggling to survive. Our poor are fat and relatively safe — more likely to die of a “disease of affluence” such as heart disease than from violence or pestilence.

          There is only one force promoting a return to survival values, and that’s the low birthrate. We are not thriving in terms of our propensity to reproduce, and nature’s energy is dedicated to resolving this, one way or another.

          • Viliam says:

            No one in the West is really struggling to survive.

            There are dangers other than poverty. Ask the kids from Rotherham. They were sacrificed to the values of people from the striving bubbles.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Viliam:

            There are dangers other than poverty. Ask the kids from Rotherham.

            +1

          • ECD says:

            There are dangers other than poverty. Ask the kids from Rotherham. They were sacrificed to the values of people from the striving bubbles.

            Or the victims of the CRASH unit, or Sheriff Arpaio.

            We are not thriving in terms of our propensity to reproduce, and nature’s energy is dedicated to resolving this, one way or another.

            That is not my understanding of how nature works.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Out of curiosity, on what topics have you moved to more conservative positions? Most of my changes of opinion on this axis went in opposite direction.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Brexit. I was firmly in the “It was a stupid/populist idea”, and now it’s a lot more nuanced and falls pretty much into “it has a good chance of being a positive outcome for everybody, except probably short term for the British”

        Edit: I’m currently reading the posts by Dominic Cummings linked here (long one). Haven’t run into pro-Brexit arguments yet, but they’re definitely worth reading.
        Don’t expect a master writer btw, they could use a bit of editing and probably shortening – they feel more like brain-dumps than anything else. But yeah, good opportunity to learn about the other side :p

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Thank you. On Brexit I think that for Britain it would perhaps be good, or perhaps not, to leave EU if they had large majority of voters behind that decision. But leaving it on the basis of referendum splitting the country almost evenly in half is imho very bad idea.

          Also, cancelling Brexit now would imho be even worse than going through with it. So, they are unfortunately in a terrible conundrum.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            To get into detail, I think EU is turning into a bureaucracy that’s hard to shake, which means it will keep accumulating entropy. So I think Brexit is a good thing for everybody because:

            – long term it lets Britain do its own thing, and historically Britain did ok

            – short term it has to be bad for Britain, because EU can’t afford it to be otherwise. It has to make a bit of an example of it.

            – it will strengthen EU, because having Britain do badly will make members stop thinking of exiting.

            – it’s also a wake-up call and a chance to take hard looks at itself

            – things will probably run more smoothly without Britain being contrarian.

            – for eastern countries like my own Romania that are utterly dependent on EU it will be better because of the points above.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I agree that EU institutions are in many ways dysfunctional.

            But, with regards to Brexit, it would seem logical that EU would try to make an example of Britain, but I don’t see that it is what is happening. Instead we have the spectacle of Britain tearing itself apart over whether it actually wants to leave and how tight relationship after eventual Brexit it wants. EU has been willing to go along with almost whathever Britain wants, with big exception on matters where interests of Ireland are at stake.

            It is actually in stark contrast to EU behavior during Greek financial troubles, where EU bureaucracy negotiated in cold and merciless spirit.

          • Lambert says:

            The EU does not need to be merciless.
            That would just make them look like bullies, and strengthen eurosceptic resolve.

            Instead, they get to look serene and largely magnanimous while Parliament tears itself apart.

            No need to play hardball when the other party just deliberately torpedoed their own BATNA.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            EU seemed to position itself to play hardball… but then it became completely unnecessary. So yeah, at this point it would be kicking someone who’s down.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Radu Floricica

            Yup. After derailing myself, I´d like to add that I´ve also became more sceptical of the EU, not because of Brexit, but earlier due to what I see as its mishandling of a financial crisis. However I never thought about that as me becoming more conservative. Perhaps I should´ve.

          • Aapje says:

            @Radu Floricica

            things will probably run more smoothly without Britain being contrarian.

            If the EU gets to go full steam ahead, that is actually a great threat to the EU, because the policies that those who favor a ‘ever closer union’ favor to unite the EU economically and culturally, create enormous conflict, within and between countries.

            For example, free movement of workers is intended to blur the lines between countries and to spread values, but in reality, causes many pro-EU people to migrate out of the poorer countries, making those more conservative.

            I personally expect that the Eastern European countries will produce more conflict with the EU in the future than Britain ever has, because I think that these countries put up with a lot of things they consider silly, because the economy is growing. A longer period of recession and/or a large reduction in subsidies is going to make them assert themselves way more.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Aapje Immigration has to be a logistic curve, right? At some point people will chose to stay – already incomes for skilled workers (construction etc) here approach western incomes minus rent minus transport. I suspect many chose to leave out of inertia – staying here and trying to raise fees might already be a better option. Doubly so if you consider the cost of your children growing up without you.

            Best paid positions will always be better paid in Netherlands than in Romania, but the overlap is growing. We’ve also started importing more and more workers from countries like Vietnam.

    • Garrett says:

      Liberals win in nice-moderated places because their ideas can be more easily expressed as nice

      IIRC, the same approach ends up seeing conservatives as higher in orderliness.

      This means that an effective political strategy and way for liberals to win the debate is to present their ideas as “kind”, their opponents as “rude” or “mean”, and to raise a fuss about the whole issue. This issue of framing and presentation would be independent of the truth value of the propositions.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yep. And conservatives probably are higher in orderliness (Authority?), but this translates to unpopular and seemingly unkind decisions. From “clean up your room because I say so!” to punishing people for their bad decisions (or just letting them suffer the consequences).

        Of course, this also means supporting the war in Irak because the president said it’s a good idea.

        • Garrett says:

          The psychological phenomenon of orderliness I’m familiar with in this context has less to do with authority or hierarchy. From The Wiki: “Orderliness is associated with other qualities such as cleanliness and diligence, and the desire for order and symmetry.”

          There’s a political desire to associate conservative with authoritarian, which probably has some validity, but was not what I was referencing here, and I suspect is nonetheless a non-central example.

    • Aftagley says:

      – Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

      Please defend this hypothesis, it runs orthogonal to my observations, both on this site and in general.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I was going to offer this site as an example, but if you see it differently… Hmm, maybe the statistic that readers are mostly left but commenters mostly right? It does have alternative explanations, I admit.

        • Aftagley says:

          It does, plenty of things could make a space less inciting to certain cultural groups. I’m also growing increasingly skeptical of the commonly-cited statistic that commenters are overwhelmingly right. I looked back through the survey results, and the only thing definitive I saw on the topic was from the 2017 survey and it’s not particularly conclusive.

          So there is a really interesting tendency for conservatives to comment more often than liberals (maybe because they have more to disagree with?). But numbers in the last three groups were very small: out of the 5335 people for whom I had data, only 54 commented once a week, and only 45 commented many times a week. So they may not be able to bring the average up very much. Since tiers 1 through 4 were liberal (REMEMBER THE MIDPOINT IS 5.5) and only tier 5 was conservative, there’s probably an extremely slight preponderance of liberal comments on the whole.

          AFAIK, this conclusion has never been rigorously investigated in more detail.

          Anyway, I should clarify: I’m not postulating that liberals win on this site. I don’t think that the internet is a place where people actually win or lose arguments; it’s a place where people debate and have their ideas tested. I know that I’ve personally had some of my preconceived beliefs challenged and eventually updated as a result of discussion I’ve had here. Does that mean I lost? I don’t think so, I just said something about minimum wage and then had a pleasant discussion with David Friedman.

          There have been other times where I said something leftie and then enough people dog-piled on that I didn’t judge it to be worth my time to wade back in and just left the thread. Did I lose there? (See ECD’s saga in the last thread for an example of such a pile-on (although they didn’t end up leaving like I would have)).

          IDK, I just see winning and losing as being monumentally unhelpful to having pleasant interactions.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            There have been other times where I said something leftie and then enough people dog-piled on that I didn’t judge it to be worth my time to wade back in and just left the thread.

            See the recent banhammer 🙂

            Proper attitude is to think that losing means winning. You can’t update on evidence when you win – well, you do, but only a little. And dogpiles are the worst because those contributing to them update most in the direction of “I’m right” when actually the other guy just got sick of it and left.

            Losing a _proper_ argument on the other hand means that you can change your mind about something, and that’s a Very Good Thing. That’s why having the kind of conversation that makes it easy to lose is so important.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            See here for more data on that topic.

          • Dan L says:

            Yo.

            (Offer on #3 is still more or less open, btw.)

          • Losing a _proper_ argument on the other hand means that you can change your mind about something, and that’s a Very Good Thing.

            I agree.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            David Friedman,
            I have to say that I, personally, don’t find Berlin’s argument persuasive, because it asks the wrong question. From a practical perspective, the key issue isn’t whether there’s a tiger on the table; the vital question is: if I sit down at the table, will I get eaten by a tiger?

            If the postulate is “yes, there is a tiger, but it cannot be seen, heard, nor affect me in any perceptible way”, I’m quite content to assign it zero epistemic value, that is: consider it a proposition that has no bearing on the predictive power of my model of reality. We can add any number of zero-value propositions to our model without changing it in any way, much like adding 0 to x will always yield x.

            I don’t want to get eaten by tigers and therefore my model succeeds in its predictions if I manage to go through life without getting eaten by one. Any kind of truth-apt (which I here define as being equal to “falsifiable”) “is” statement can be tested in much the same manner – by formulating a prediction (or a set of predictions) and seeing whether we got it right.

            I cannot see the same being possible for “ought” statements, if only because any “ought” statement has an equal and opposite “ought not” statement – the futures reflected in these statements are equally plausible, as truth goes.

            To say that Alice ought not murder Bob is to acknowledge that there exists a possible world where Alice does murder Bob (but we would prefer the possible world where Bob isn’t murdered by Alice). Any predictions we might make as to which of these possible worlds shall be actualized are answers to the question “Will Alice murder Bob?” – which is very different from “Ought she do so?”

        • Snickering Citadel says:

          Lots of left wing people find right wing opinions depressing and so leave forums with lots of right wing opinions.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            The old saying from the times of Slashdot (or before the internet?): you don’t have the right not to be offended.

            Dogpiles, like Aftagley mentioned above, are bad and justifiably a turnoff. But to leave just because you don’t like the topic… It’s possible, but there’s also a good chance it’s uncomfortable because it shakes one’s confirmation bias.

            Edit: albatross11’s comment below makes a good point. Sometimes the distance is just too great to be worth one’s time. I stand corrected.

          • albatross11 says:

            The same happens the other way–plenty of people who aren’t into various progressive/SJW oriented ideology will see a discussion that’s dominated by discussions of structural racism/white privilege/etc., and bail out.

      • Ketil says:

        I have trouble sorting out the labels, and don’t know if I’m considered left (I am in favor of economic redistribution) or right (I prefer small government), liberal (I think the government shouldn’t restrict who gets to marry whom) or conservative (I don’t think people should be forced to bake cakes).

        One thing I often notice, is that many arguers seem to care more about the morals of the arguer than the argument. In the recent trolling of various social science journals, I was surprised to see a large section of Twitter at a loss as to what to think of this – because they couldn’t figure out the political affiliation of the perpetrators. Without knowing if they were progressive or conservative, they were completely unable to decide whether to condemn or applaud the action.

        Or take the discussion whether slavery would have ended without the civil war – some people are not willing to discuss the factual proposition, because the important thing is to condemn slavery. Discussing an aspect of slavery factually is conspicuous in its absence of condemnation, and if you don’t condemn slavery, you are an evil person.

        I don’t think this tactic is unique to the left, and I think most Marxists are a counterexample – but it tends to be the bread-and-butter of progressives and SJWs, and we end up with “arguments” that consists of hunting for “dog whistles”, or guilt by association, and so on. And predictably, this is trolled by the alt-right, like the “OK” symbol being a white nationalist thing, or, if you look at recent Proud Boys vs Antifa clashes, how the former group provokes with slogans like “I like beer”, and “uhuru”.

        Another difference, but connected to the above, is the level of moralism, that is, the tolerance for others having differing views. Other people having different opinions is something you have to live with if you are a minority, so it is perhaps an emergent property more than an innate trait, and it could be the reason why leftist seem to spend more effort on disciplining others into using the right pronouns and other vocabulary. Fifty years ago, maybe church attendance was mandatory? I’m not sure how libertarians [for lack of a better word] would do this, though.

        Finally: collectivism. The idea of arguing about groups and group membership, rather than from individuals. It is very difficult for me to understand why Michelle Obama should receive preferential treatment to an unemployed midwest miner, just because her color and sex makes her a member of groups that on average, can be said to have worse outcomes. Alternatively, should we focus more on black-on-black (increase policing) or blue-on-black violence (restrain policing)? I can see why the argument appeals, and less charitably, how it gives advantages to privileged subgroups by establishing their membership in less privileged supergroups.

        • Aapje says:

          if you look at recent Proud Boys vs Antifa clashes, how the former group provokes with slogans like “I like beer”, and “uhuru”.

          That is really poor trolling, though. Much better trolling is Pepe, “It’s OK to be white” and milk.

        • ECD says:

          Or take the discussion whether slavery would have ended without the civil war – some people are not willing to discuss the factual proposition, because the important thing is to condemn slavery. Discussing an aspect of slavery factually is conspicuous in its absence of condemnation, and if you don’t condemn slavery, you are an evil person.

          If this is a reference to me, then that wasn’t actually what I said. In fact, I explicitly and repeatedly said you were allowed to discuss whatever was of interest to you.

          My point wasn’t that I

          care more about the morals of the arguer than the argument.

          but rather, if you want to draw any conclusion beyond ‘I’ve created a counter-factual I think is interesting, let’s discuss’ like say ‘should we have fought the civil war,’ ‘what was Lincoln’s legacy,’ ‘should the north have let the south go,’ then the morality of slavery is a crucial part of this.

          Alternatively, should we focus more on black-on-black (increase policing) or blue-on-black violence (restrain policing)? I can see why the argument appeals, and less charitably, how it gives advantages to privileged subgroups by establishing their membership in less privileged supergroups.

          And notice how you miss what’s actually being requested. I am not a member of the BLM movement (to choose a group not at random), but they actually are quite clear on what they’re asking for and it’s not that. Maybe starting with the argument actually being made might help? Alternatively, of course, you could just read this, or this.

          • Ketil says:

            If this is a reference to me,

            Sorry, it was kinda a weak reference to that discussion, but more to illustrate the point and certainly not to imply you said something specific, or engage in discussions about slavery or BLM or whatever. I apologize for using vague examples bordering on straw men here, I really should have more used specific and concrete examples.

            Anyway, my point was to highlight what I think are general differences in modes of argument between different groups, which I think are much more significant than many other dichotomies.

          • ECD says:

            @Ketil

            Sorry for biting your head off.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’d argue that liberals (defined by broad, American standards) tend to win arguments online due to three reasons:

      a) Most Americans are liberal, or at least agree with liberal ideas;
      b) Americans using the internet are more likely to be younger than the national average, and ergo to be more liberal;
      c) Ideas intended to motivate liberal voting are easier to defend in mixed-tribe company than ideas intended to motivate conservative voting, as conservative ideas are typically focused around defending their tribe from a threat from another tribe.

      As far as I can tell, online discussion environments that aren’t intended specifically to protect conservative thought or around red-tribe membership tend to see conservatives run out due to a combination of being outnumbered and having to defend hard-to-defend ideas in a mixed-tribe environment.

      • The Nybbler says:

        As far as I can tell, online discussion environments that aren’t intended specifically to protect conservative thought or around red-tribe membership tend to see conservatives run out due to a combination of being outnumbered and having to defend hard-to-defend ideas in a mixed-tribe environment.

        Then why is here different?

        IMO and IME, moderated online discussion environments tend to see conservatives (and libertarians) run out due to extreme moderator bias, to the point where simply disagreeing is sufficient for removal.

      • “Most Americans are liberal, or at least agree with liberal ideas”

        The link includes a series of claims that conservatives not made of straw don’t disagree with (e.g. “72 percent of Americans say it is “extremely” or “very” important, and 23 percent say it is “somewhat important,” to reduce poverty”) which it then presents as proof that most Americans are liberal. I agree that the average American is economically to the Left of the average member of congress, as many of the valid statistics in the article demonstrate. They also tend to value politeness, thus, if asked if racial diversity makes America stronger or weaker, they say the former to avoid unnecessary rudeness to non-Whites, but it doesn’t mean they really believe it.

        • broblawsky says:

          They also tend to value politeness, thus, if asked if racial diversity makes America stronger or weaker, they say the former to avoid unnecessary rudeness to non-Whites, but it doesn’t mean they really believe it.

          If you don’t believe this polling when it tells you most Americans think diversity is America’s strength, why do you believe any of it? That seems like pretty severe cherry-picking.

          • It’s more like picking the rotten cherry and pointing out it’s different from the rest. Poll a family on what flavor of ice cream they like and you’ll get a fairly reliable answer. Poll them on whether one member is not very smart, and you will get a near unanimous “no” even if the individual is indeed not very smart.

        • Plumber says:

          @Alexander Turok >

          “…I agree that the average American is economically to the Left of the average member of congress…”

          I’ve read quite a lot of polls that have well convinced me that the median American voter is “Left” of the Republican Party on economic policy (i.e. wants a higher minimum wage).and “Right” of the Democratic Party on cultural/social issues (i.e. doesn’t want Bakers forced to make cakes for weddings they say they don’t support for religious reasons).

          • Lambert says:

            Shouldn’t ‘The median voter is left of the Republicans and Right of the Democrats’ be kind of the default assumption in politics?

          • Plumber says:

            @Lambert,
            Yes, but not on every individual policy, the median voter is a bit Left for economics, and a bit Right on culture, while only 29% of the 2016 electorate are “economic liberal”/”social conservatives”, when you add in the about 45% of the electorate that are full “Liberals”, and the about 23% who are full “Conservatives” you have a majority aligned with Democrats on economics and a majority aligned with Republicans on cultural/identity/social issues.

    • Enkidum says:

      What I consider the right has, at various times over the past two centuries, been very firmly associated with slavery, numerous moral prohibitions (against premarital sex, drugs, music, homosexual activity, etc), wars of conquest, the refusal to expand the franchise, various forms of racism and prejudice, and in general the maintenance of awful and illegitimate power structures in the face of freedom and clearly better alternatives.

      The left won most of those battles, and now there are comparatively few who support the opposing sides any more, despite several of them having been commonplace only a few years ago. You live in a society which is arguably the best that has ever existed in human history (well, modern Romania might be pushing it), and it is largely because of the freedoms that the left has fought for. Frequently physically, in the streets and battlefields.

      There are certainly left wingers who are annoying, and left wing regimes that have caused unconscionable suffering and death. But of the modern Western world, the countries that most think of as clearly left wing (say, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand) seem to be among the happiest places that have ever existed in human history, as well as superior on a number of more easily-measurable metrics.

      I’m not really sure what the counterpoint to the above is. I agree that the Soviet Union was largely a terrible blot on humanity, and that loud college kids can be annoying, especially on twitter.

      EDIT: Based on responses, I did not make my main point clear – I’m not trying to argue that left wing thought is inherently better, or that left wing regimes are inherently good (what part of “unconscionable suffering and death” and “terrible blot on humanity” wasn’t clear?). All I’m trying to do is give what I think are fairly standard reasons why it seems a little odd to argue that left-wing thought is inherently inferior.

      • cassander says:

        You can’t just tot up the list of left wing victories that have become conventional wisdom and say “look at all the good we’ve done, the right was against all of this!” while ignoring all the things that the left fought for that they didn’t get, were awful, or both. This is especially the case because for most of of the west for most of the last 2 centuries, the normal mode of politics has been the left proposing stuff and the right saying “Eh, I don’t think that idea is so great.”

        Now, is it true that some of the things that the right was against are things everyone now agrees are correct? Absolutely, but the right was also against eugenics, prohibition, and Stalin, much to the consternation of the left of their day. You need to include that include that in your calculus.

        • Enkidum says:

          I don’t really disagree. The claim I was responding to was that left wing thought is inherently inferior and this should be more or less obvious to a thinking person (at least that’s how I read Radu). I was trying to give what I thought was the obvious response.

          • cassander says:

            I see your point, but I would think the right wing riposte is obvious. Left wing thought led to the most monstrous regimes in human history. Why would you trust a system of thought that didn’t just produce Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Tito, etc., it produced them and then celebrated them for decades. Say what you will about the right, you didn’t have large swathes of it claiming for decades that Hitler didn’t actually kill that many jews, or that his regime wasn’t real national socialism.

          • ECD says:

            @cassander

            Do you accept Nazi’s as right wing?

            I guess I’m asking for your definition of right wing and left wing, if we’re going to try to compare “most monstrous regimes in human history”…

            ETA: I make no guarantee I will actually participate in such a discussion, as I think we’re likely to end up in the same place this conversation always ends up, discussing which famines various governments can be held responsible for, but the definition question bears on the broader issue, not just the corpse counting.

            Also:

            Say what you will about the right, you didn’t have large swathes of it claiming for decades that Hitler didn’t actually kill that many jews, or that his regime wasn’t real national socialism.

            The Lost Cause sort of leaps to mind if you accept the confederacy as right wing.

          • Enkidum says:

            Because it also produced the best countries in the world?

            Much of the left was fairly strongly anti Mao, Stalin, etc for all of your and my life (cf minor figures like The Beatles). Similarly, the right has always supported and praised all sorts of awful regimes. I don’t think you’re going to get some kind of superiority of either side here.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            Do you accept Nazi’s as right wing?

            Eh, for the most part. the strasserites were pretty left wing, but they all got purged.

            I guess I’m asking for your definition of right wing and left wing, if we’re going to try to compare “most monstrous regimes in human history”…

            the left is motivated by the leveling impulse and wants to tear down hierarchies. The right is motivated by order and wants to uphold them.

            but the definition question bears on the broader issue, not just the corpse counting.

            If you’re honest in your corpse counting, the answer is overwhelming, and not worth discussing.

            The Lost Cause sort of leaps to mind if you accept the confederacy as right wing.

            the confederacy was definitely right wing by the standard of 1860 america. But the lost cause mythology was “our ancestors were gentlemen who fought nobly and well against an unending horde of Yankees.” not “The Confederacy wasn’t REAL slavery, so when we violently overthrow society and set up slavery again, it will totally work.”

            @Enkidum

            Because it also produced the best countries in the world?

            (A) I would argue that it was capitalism produced the best countries in the world
            (B) the causation could very easily run the other way
            (C) Even if you accept that the causation runs the way you claim, all those countries became the best places in the world back when they were considerably less left wing than they are today.

            Much of the left was fairly strongly anti Mao, Stalin, etc for all of your and my life (cf minor figures like The Beatles).

            I wouldn’t call the beatles minor, but the mere fact that they might get away with being communists in the 60s (can you imagine if they were fascists?) speaks volumes, to say nothing about how arguing that “eventually the left got over their fawning admiration of stalin” is damning with awfully faint praise.

            Similarly, the right has always supported and praised all sorts of awful regimes.

            Really? You really think this is a fair assessment? Do I need to dig up all the tweets of modern leftists praising Hugo Chavez? What awful regimes are is the right supporting and praising today?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            As the resident Southern Patriot, the Lost Cause does have some aspects of that, although it’s generally more “slavery was a step on the road to civilizing blacks”. Lost Causers tend to do stuff like point out that freed Southern blacks fought for the Confederacy (sometimes more fervently than whites) and preferred Confederate government to Union.

            I am not full-on Lost Cause, but modern depictions of the Confederacy also tend to overdo it in the wrong direction. If they are your second-worst example of a right-wing government, right-wingers have won this pretty easily. Saying “slavery wasn’t as bad as it is portrayed in modern media” is a pretty large step behind “well, it wasn’t really Mao’s fault that his policies killed millions of Chinese”.

          • ECD says:

            @cassander

            the left is motivated by the leveling impulse and wants to tear down hierarchies. The right is motivated by order and wants to uphold them.

            And in this model, communism is a leftist ideology?

            Does that fit with the critiques of communism you’ve made?

            Also, under this model, I think the right gets responsibility for everyone killed by every hierarchical government ever? And depending on how far we want to push hierarchy, every female partner killed by their male partner ever? Are you sure you’re winning this count?

            the confederacy was definitely right wing by the standard of 1860 america. But the lost cause mythology was “our ancestors were gentlemen who fought nobly and well against an unending horde of Yankees.” not “The Confederacy wasn’t REAL slavery, so when we violently overthrow society and set up slavery again, it will totally work.”

            The lost cause myth is the south was not fighting over slavery. It is explicitly about denying the core atrocity at the heart of the confederacy was the core atrocity at the heart of the heart of the confederacy. And it very much was about slavery wasn’t a big deal, hence the loyal slave stories (and see Echo Chaos’s comment below)

            @echo chaos

            As the resident Southern Patriot, the Lost Cause does have some aspects of that, although it’s generally more “slavery was a step on the road to civilizing blacks”. Lost Causers tend to do stuff like point out that freed Southern blacks fought for the Confederacy (sometimes more fervently than whites) and preferred Confederate government to Union.

            Okay, one, I’m going to ask for some evidence that “freed Southern blacks fought for the Confederacy (sometimes more fervently than whites) and preferred Confederate government to Union.” Because based on my understanding of the debates over using slave soldiers, or manumitting slaves to fight…I do not believe this to be an accurate statement.

            Two,

            If they are your second-worst example of a right-wing government, right-wingers have won this pretty easily. Saying “slavery wasn’t as bad as it is portrayed in modern media” is a pretty large step behind “well, it wasn’t really Mao’s fault that his policies killed millions of Chinese”.

            They aren’t my second worst, because I’m still trying to figure out what we mean by right and left in this conversation. Just pointing out that there’s plenty of historical revisionism to go around, especially when it comes to our own (for various definitions of “our own”) history. A big one, which might be left, or right wing by the definitions I’m playing with now, would be the treatment of native americans in north and south america.

            ETA: Now, based on the definitions given, it may be that the Left in this model is more inclined to Utopianism, so more guilty of the ‘never been tried, so try again,’ but I don’t actually see how that’s worse than the ‘wasn’t really so bad, let’s try again,’ failure mode.

            ETA: Typo correction

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ECD

            https://www.theroot.com/yes-there-were-black-confederates-here-s-why-1790858546

            Punch quote:

            With the onset of war, their patriotic displays were especially strident. In early 1861 a group of wealthy, light-skinned, free blacks in Charleston expressed common cause with the planter class

            I agree with you that Lost Cause is historical revisionism, which was the focus of my comment.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            And in this model, communism is a leftist ideology?
            Does that fit with the critiques of communism you’ve made?

            Yes, and yes. Communism is obviously an ideology dedicated to leveling. It doesn’t achieve leveling, of course, but that’s evidence it doesn’t work, not evidence that it isn’t leftist.

            Also, under this model, I think the right gets responsibility for everyone killed by every hierarchical government ever? And depending on how far we want to push hierarchy, every female partner killed by their male partner ever? Are you sure you’re winning this count?

            All governments are hierarchical, that’s what governing means. But sure, I’ll give it to you, every person ever killed by anyone trying to uphold legitimate authority is, in some sense, a right wing death….at least to the degree that every person killed in defiance of legitimate authority, including every victim of every petty criminal in history, is a left wing death. What, exactly, do you think this division accomplishes?

            The lost cause myth is the south was not fighting over slavery. It is explicitly about denying the core atrocity at the heart of the confederacy was the core atrocity at the heart of the heart of the confederacy. And it very much was about slavery wasn’t a big deal, hence the loyal slave stories (and see Echo Chaos’s comment below)

            the “core atrocity” you are discussing here was a nearly universal and more or less unquestioned feature of virtually all human societies the world over before about 1750 or so. moreover, while the lost cause narrative certainly downplays the relevance of slavery to the confederate cause, it doesn’t out and out deny that slavery existed, argue that the Yankees were the real slave owners, or insist that slavery will work better when we bring it back next time. The left did do this with communism, repeatedly.

          • ECD says:

            All governments are hierarchical, that’s what governing means. But sure, I’ll give it to you, every person ever killed by anyone trying to uphold legitimate authority is, in some sense, a right wing death….at least to the degree that every person killed in defiance of legitimate authority, including every victim of every petty criminal in history, is a left wing death.

            I think that just shoves us into question of what legitimate authority is.

            What, exactly, do you think this division accomplishes?

            Nothing. You’re the one who appears to think that counting up the bodies affiliated with “left” regimes is an effective argument.

            moreover, while the lost cause narrative certainly downplays the relevance of slavery to the confederate cause, it doesn’t out and out deny that slavery existed, argue that the Yankees were the real slave owners, or insist that slavery will work better when we bring it back next time. The left did do this with communism, repeatedly.

            I mean, holocaust denial sure does. But regardless, if you want to argue that the left, as you’ve defined it is more subject to utopianism and so more subject to taking the view that since we haven’t gotten there, we just haven’t tried hard enough…

            Sure, that follows from a definition of the left as responsible for the leveling impulse. Similarly, I’d expect the right in this model to have a powerful status quo bias, regardless of the harm it does. But I remain unconvinced and I don’t know how I could be convinced, or convince you that one or the other causes more death, or more suffering. I think this just shoves us into attempted utilitarian calculus of oppression vs order, chaos vs freedom and balancing…seems pretty pointless since, I at least, find them boring and unconvincing.

            I think we just end up with the left as chaos and the right as order in the saga of recluce (as I recall the one book I read of that series long ago). And I mean, sure, we need them both (Neutral Good all the way), but I don’t think it says much about policy, or debate.

            ETA: Thought completion.

          • cassander says:

            Nothing. You’re the one who appears to think that counting up the bodies affiliated with “left” regimes is an effective argument.

            I reasonably confined my definition in order to get a number that can actually be counted. You’re trying to do the opposite.

            I mean, holocaust denial sure does.

            And when the number of holocaust deniers hits one hundredth of the number of people who will say “the USSR wasn’t real communism”, I’ll start to worry about it as a movement. I’m not going to hold my breath though.

            But regardless, if you want to argue that the left, as you’ve defined it is more subject to utopianism and so more subject to taking the view that since we haven’t gotten there, we just haven’t tried hard enough…

            But I remain unconvinced and I don’t know how I could be convinced, or convince you that one or the other causes more death, or more suffering.

            You ought to try reading the history of the 20th century then. But if empiricism isn’t your thing, then here’s an argument. Chaos is more dangerous than order. That’s not to say that all order is good, but the consequences of too much order are almost invariably less bad than too little. the left believes the opposite, and they’re wrong, which is why they fail more disastrously when they turn it up to 11.

          • ECD says:

            But I remain unconvinced and I don’t know how I could be convinced, or convince you that one or the other causes more death, or more suffering.

            You ought to try reading the history of the 20th century then. But if empiricism isn’t your thing, then here’s an argument. Chaos is more dangerous than order. That’s not to say that all order is good, but the consequences of too much order are almost invariably less bad than too little. the left believes the opposite, and they’re wrong, which is why they fail more disastrously.

            A lot of people died in the Chinese Civil War (chaos), but it wasn’t until the communist government had brought order that it could enact the purges and “Great Leap Forward”.

            Or, for a different example, the civil war, in this model, seems at least arguably a left wing, chaotic thing. It lasted five years and cost a million lives and half as many wounded (about). Slavery (order) lasted about a century (in the US), rather more than 1.5 million people lived, were tortured, sold, raped, and, if lucky got to see their children brought into the same order, before they died while the property of their masters under for that century.

            I don’t know how to weigh those against each other and from what I understand, neither do you. It’s not a matter of not being an empiricist, it’s a matter of some things not being easily measured, or, frankly, measurable.

            But, for the sake of clarity I am not a Stalinist, or a Maoist, nor do I defend either position. Nor, in my life on the left have I encountered any number of people (exceeding the lizardman quotient) who are, though admittedly, I am notably anti-social.

            ETA: removed “murdered,” which seemed likely to confuse the issue and rephrased.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            A lot of people died in the Chinese Civil War (chaos), but it wasn’t until the communist government had brought order that it could enact the purges and “Great Leap Forward”.

            You’re conflating results with motives. Communism is unquestionably motivated by the leveling impulse, or chaos. That it achieves extremely authoritarian results is evidence that it doesn’t work, not that it’s not motivated by leveling.

            Slavery (order) lasted about a century (in the US), rather more than 1.5 million people lived, were tortured, sold, raped, and, if lucky got to see their children brought into the same order, before they died while the property of their masters under for that century.

            Please point out where I have defended slavery.

            It’s not a matter of not being an empiricist, it’s a matter of some things not being easily measured, or, frankly, measurable.

            some things are not measurable, but others are, and ignoring the stuff you can measure because you can’t measure everything is burying your head in the sand.

            But, for the sake of clarity I am not a Stalinist, or a Maoist, nor do I defend either position. Nor, in my life on the left have I encountered any number of people (exceeding the lizardman quotient) who are, though admittedly, I am notably anti-social.

            I didn’t think you were, but you are anti-social indeed if you have never met anyone who has said the USSR wasn’t real communism.

          • ECD says:

            @cassander

            Please point out where I have defended slavery.

            To be clear, I do not believe you support slavery.

            The problem I’m trying to get at is that the costs of the status quo are often invisible, or uncountable, because it requires a counter-factual. But, of course, on the flipside, you can’t know if you’re getting the American Revolution, or the French Revolution, or the Russian Revolution, in advance…

            But, for the sake of clarity I am not a Stalinist, or a Maoist, nor do I defend either position. Nor, in my life on the left have I encountered any number of people (exceeding the lizardman quotient) who are, though admittedly, I am notably anti-social.

            I didn’t think you were, but you are anti-social indeed if you have never met anyone who has said the USSR wasn’t real communism.

            Oh, that’s a different claim, which I don’t make. I certainly haven’t encountered it in real life, but online, sure, at a rate very slightly above the lizardman quotient.

            More generally, I think a lot of the distinction we’re getting at may be a difference in perspective. Please correct me if I wrong, but you seem to be saying:

            Look how far we’ve come.

            While I’m focusing on:

            Look how far we’ve got to go.

            And, you’re a hundred percent right, I have seen massive progress in the direction I would like us to go over the course of my life. I’ve also seen significant (though I believe less than massive, though that may simply be the result of my own improved comfort/wealth) progress in directions I would like us not to go over the course of my life.

            ETA: This may also explain some of the disagreement about the atmosphere of this place. If I’m understanding you correctly and anyone who pushes for radical change is ‘left’ definitionally, then the vast majority of the libertarians here are going to come across to you as ‘left,’ while to me they’re going to come across as (on most, but certainly not all positions) pushing in the ‘wrong’ direction and therefore on the ‘right.’

            But, again, I may be misunderstanding your position.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @cassander

            I think you are wrong about at least two things.

            Arguing that USSR wasn’t real communism isn’t morally comparable to holocaust denial. Btw. communist themselves claimed that their regime was only step toward communism, which was defined as future utopia. They called USSR socialist, not communist.

            And communist regimes were indeed motivated by levelling impulse, but they were not chaotic. On the contrary, they brutally and basically successfully imposed strict social order. Social levelling and social order are perfectly compatible. Real tradeoff is imho between social order and personal freedom.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Btw. communist themselves claimed that their regime was only step toward communism, which was defined as future utopia. They called USSR socialist, not communist.

            Quoted to signal-boost; to the best of my knowledge/experience, communism was portrayed as an end goal, not as an actual achievement.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            The problem I’m trying to get at is that the costs of the status quo are often invisible, or uncountable, because it requires a counter-factual. But, of course, on the flipside, you can’t know if you’re getting the American Revolution, or the French Revolution, or the Russian Revolution, in advance…

            Yes, you can know, you can look at the number of times that things called “revolutions” went well and the times they went poorly and check the figures. they almost always go badly.

            Oh, that’s a different claim, which I don’t make. I certainly haven’t encountered it in real life, but online, sure, at a rate very slightly above the lizardman quotient.

            Please correct me if I wrong, but you seem to be saying:
            Look how far we’ve come.
            While I’m focusing on:
            Look how far we’ve got to go.

            What I’m saying is you keep saying “look how far we have to go” and complaining when I tell you to stop, while ignoring the many wrong turns you said we should take in the past.

            ETA: This may also explain some of the disagreement about the atmosphere of this place. If I’m understanding you correctly and anyone who pushes for radical change is ‘left’ definitionally,

            Things TEND to be that way, but they don’t have to be. Libertarians are wierd in their embrace of capitalism, which neither the left or right are truly comfortable with, because it simultaneously tears down existing hierarchies while building up new ones.

            AlesZiegler says:

            Arguing that USSR wasn’t real communism isn’t morally comparable to holocaust denial. Btw. communist themselves claimed that their regime was only step toward communism, which was defined as future utopia. They called USSR socialist, not communist.

            A regime dedicated to building communism can fairly be called a communist regime, and that term is useful to distinguish from socialist regimes not so dedicated. And yes, it is on the same moral level as holocaust denial, or at least denial of the idea that Nazism was in any way responsible for the holocaust. Though, let’s not forget, the crimes of communist regimes were all denied for decades. That they are now merely excused is improvement, but barely.

            And communist regimes were indeed motivated by levelling impulse, but they were not chaotic. On the contrary, they brutally and basically successfully imposed strict social order.

            I agree completely, but as I said, political identity is about motive, not results.

          • ECD says:

            @cassander

            What I’m saying is you keep saying “look how far we have to go” and complaining when I tell you to stop, while ignoring the many wrong turns you said we should take in the past.

            Except here’s where we fall out of Left and Right, and into you and me. I have never told you to make wrong turns. And though I don’t want to drag us back to the fight about Enkidum’s comment, the Left has been right about plenty through the years. The Right has been right about plenty too.

            Yes, you can know [what the result of revolutions will be], you can look at the number of times that things called “revolutions” went well and the times they went poorly and check the figures. they almost always go badly.

            Fair point and it’s on me for bringing up revolution as neither I, nor most of the left in this country seek a revolution. But if we limit the Left to revolutions and not include, say, minimum wage, or unions, then we’d need to similarly limit the right to its most violent outpouring, yes, imperial conquest? colonization? I’m not sure what it would be and I’m not sure what the point would be, to be honest.

            I may have lost the thread of what we’re actually talking about at this point.

          • cassander says:

            @ECD says:

            Except here’s where we fall out of Left and Right, and into you and me. I have never told you to make wrong turns.

            If you prefer “the mode of thought you’re inclined to keeps kept saying” I suppose we could use that, but it’s not very elegant phrasing.

            But if we limit the Left to revolutions and not include, say, minimum wage, or unions, then we’d need to similarly limit the right to its most violent outpouring, yes, imperial conquest? colonization?

            I’m all for including minimum wages and unions (though you might not want to include the former). what I’m against is the left’s tendency to forget or explain away their failures. If you want to include unions, you also need to include prohibition.

            I’m not sure what it would be and I’m not sure what the point would be, to be honest.

            The point is to figure out who’s right, so we can learn from the mistakes of the past rather than repeating them.

          • ECD says:

            The point is to figure out who’s right, so we can learn from the mistakes of the past rather than repeating them.

            Then I think we’re doomed to failure, because I think we’re both likely right on different issues, in different ways, and for different terminal goals.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @cassander

            While I agree that people who are denying that regimes run by self-described communists should not be called communist regimes are wrong, this in no way means that they are morally equivalent to Holocaust denialists. They are engaging in “No true Scotsman fallacy”, which is a common failure of human reasoning. Holocaust denialists are lying or at least grossly ignorant about easily verifiable facts and thus legitimizing antisemitism.

      • The Nybbler says:

        What I consider the right has, at various times over the past two centuries, been very firmly associated with slavery, numerous moral prohibitions (against premarital sex, drugs, music, homosexual activity, etc), wars of conquest, the refusal to expand the franchise, various forms of racism and prejudice, and in general the maintenance of awful and illegitimate power structures in the face of freedom and clearly better alternatives.

        This appears to be just drawing a line around things in the past that you don’t like and calling it “the right”.

        But of the modern Western world, the countries that most think of as clearly left wing (say, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand) seem to be among the happiest places that have ever existed in human history

        And then there’s the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as contrasted with the right-ring ROK. Or Bangladash, or Algeria, or Congo-Brazzaville.

        I’m not really sure what the counterpoint to the above is. I agree that the Soviet Union was largely a terrible blot on humanity, and that loud college kids can be annoying, especially on twitter.

        This is where snark would come in very handy. Because it’s really the best way to point out that Communism (to include Stalin’s mass murder, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, and Idi Amin’s massacres, as well as the lesser disaster of the post-Stalin USSR and the various Soviet satellites) is kind of a really BIG bad thing. And earlier we have the Committee of Public Safety with its Reign of Terror.

        As for today, we’re way, way, way past it being just loud college kids on Twitter.

        • Enkidum says:

          This appears to be just drawing a line around things in the past that you don’t like and calling it “the right”.

          I don’t think that’s true? There’s lots of left wing things from the past that I don’t like that I did not include, and if I’m wrong about any of the above having been primarily right-wing concerns, I’d like to know. I think the only one that I might be on somewhat shaky ground with is prohibition of drugs, which arguably started as more of a left-wing concern, but certainly since, say, 1970 it’s been primarily a right wing concern.

          I suppose the “maintenance of awful and illegitimate power structures” is too vague and left wing examples can easily be found. But I was mostly thinking of hereditary monarchy and the Catholic Church’s political dominance over places like Quebec and Ireland. To be fair, I’ll rescind that one.

          Again, I don’t like the Soviet Union (feel free to include the CCP, the DPRK, etc). As I replied to Cassander, I was simply giving what seemed to me a fairly standard defence of left-wing thought as not being inherently inferior.

          • albatross11 says:

            A debate about whether the left must answer for Stalin/Mao/Pol Pot and the right must answer for Hitler/slavery is a huge derail from any current discussion or issue. It’s done because it’s emotionally effective, but its whole purpose is to mindkill you–stop thinking about today’s actual arguments in favor of thinking about how wicked slavers or segregationists were.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 says:

            “A debate about whether the…”

            +1

            You’re quickly becoming a favorite commenter.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I really should go to sleep, but a quick comment: Romania had 40 yeas of communism, and it wasn’t fun. “Family members died in misery after having self-made fortune confiscated” kind of not fun, to mention just one pseudo-random thing.

        There’s more to say here, but tomorrow 🙂 Good night!

      • Wency says:

        When it comes to moral prohibitions, you seem to be defining the left’s preferences in certain matters as good in and of themselves, and then patting yourself on the back for pursuing them. Whether one believes there’s a God or not, I’ve always rejected atheistic moralizing. Unpopular opinion here, but as I see it, either God’s morality is the correct morality, or to discuss morality is a waste of time except as a means of satisfying one’s ego and influencing others.

        A lot of your condemnations might constitute some strain of thinking that was rightist at one time or another but has sense been abandoned for one reason or another. Most of the grossest abuses of human history were not a result of sincere intellectual disputes but pursued for reasons of greed or vanity — sins long condemned.

        Do we truly live in the best time? Morally best? — well, I already addressed that. The happiest? In the U.S. at least, the surveys I recall tend to say no. But it’s a tough question to answer without heavy bias, since a lot of important factors cannot be quantified, and the nostalgic opinions of old-timers not always trusted.

        It is tough to argue though that if we were to pick a happiest time to live, it would be before World War 2, but we could well argue that the advantages of our time are more a matter of technology than social organization.

        • Enkidum says:

          So… I could argue your points. But see my responses to others and the edit I made to my post.

          I definitely disagree quite strongly with most of what you’re saying, but I’m not sure that’s really all that relevant.

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          I mean, as an atheist, if a moral discussion could influence someone to act more in accordance with my (or someone’s) higher ideals, this is good, no? One should always preach with an intent to influence. Also, my parents (mixed-race couple) could not have legally married pre-WW2, so modern social organization seems to have a bit going for it too.

          • Wency says:

            I only mean this to say that ultimately an atheistic moral discussion comes down to no more than preferences, arrived at through some combination of inborn predispositions and social conditioning.

            If an atheist opposes gay marriage for moral reasons, he is ultimately saying “I just don’t like it.” Or, more precisely, “It makes me feel good about myself to pronounce that I don’t like it.”

            If he instead supports it, he is saying “It makes me feel good about myself to say it’s good.”

            All the rest is rhetorical flourishes. Or as Pascal said, the philosophers “talk to pass an hour”. Of course, if you can use these rhetorical flourishes to convince other people to agree with you, that might make you feel even better about yourself.

            But I always hated the rhetorical flourishes, whether I thought myself an atheist or not.

          • Bamboozle says:

            @Wency

            So morals are ultimately useless unless they come from God or some other higher power is what you’re saying? After all, ‘don’t kill people’ is just a preference, and i only believe it because it makes me feel good to say it?

          • Wency says:

            “Morals are ultimately useless”

            @Bamboozle

            Not at all.

            The coherent atheistic view would be that morals are evolved intuitions that, in the ancestral environment, allowed for various mutually beneficial arrangements.

            But I would posit that all atheistic moral argumentation beyond “My intuition is this is wrong” is hot air. Except that our morality is somewhat socially conditioned, so to some degree that hot air will persuade people to imitate each other’s intuitions. But mostly the hot air serves to rationalize our intuitions, to try to convince ourselves that we have good reasons for thinking the things we do.

            Certain people with highly systematizing personalities (mostly utilitarians) aren’t inclined to leave this alone though, and so go on at great lengths about why we should systematize these intuitions and other people should too. But this isn’t very satisfying to most people, whose intuitions elude systematization; they have an inescapable tendency to view certain things as wrong “just because”.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            But I would posit that all atheistic moral argumentation beyond “My intuition is this is wrong” is hot air.

            I would extend that to all moral argumentation. After all, what is religious belief other than “my intuition is that this is true”?

            Luckily, we don’t actually have to employ moral arguments. Instead, we can look at practical arguments of the form:

            “What happens when we decide people ought to act in such and such a manner, given that we can’t actually force them to think or feel a certain way (nor even act a certain way; the best we can do is punish failure to do so)?”

          • Wency says:

            @Faza:

            You can’t extend that argument to religion. To a Christian, pursuit of God’s will, His moral order, is of extraordinary importance, with consequences that extend beyond this life and beyond this plane of existence. Also, Christianity teaches that our moral intuitions are a guide, but we are fallen, so they are a flawed guide. Thus theology is the most important intellectual pursuit of mankind — “Queen of the Sciences” as Aquinas said. Similar arguments could be extended to other faiths.

            But I would agree that certain moral questions can be framed as practical questions. Sometimes this helps us get to a better answer, or at least weigh the tradeoffs better. But a lot of the time, if the issue is a controversial one steeped deeply in morality, it’s tough to have an objective debate. A lot of “practical” arguments of this sort are just rationalizing moral intuitions without speaking them out loud.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think a lot of times, moral reasoning is about trying to extend our moral intuitions into realms where they don’t work very well. A hungry child I see feels more important to feed than ten I don’t see, but it sure seems like there’s some kind of moral error in feeding one hungry child instead of ten.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Wency,

            To a Christian, pursuit of God’s will, His moral order, is of extraordinary importance, with consequences that extend beyond this life and beyond this plane of existence. Also, Christianity teaches that our moral intuitions are a guide, but we are fallen, so they are a flawed guide. Thus theology is the most important intellectual pursuit of mankind — “Queen of the Sciences” as Aquinas said.

            This presumes someone is already a Christian and shall remain so.

            The same approach cannot, however, be used to answer “Ought one be a Christian?” and therefore fails as a moral guide, if you discount intuition as providing the answer.

            To say that your religion offers you a basis for your moral beliefs is to dodge the question, because professing a religion is itself a moral choice – one on which religion itself cannot offer guidance, because once you accept the moral precepts of a religion, you’ve already made your choice.

            In case this isn’t clear, consider that by choosing Christianity you are rejecting any number of competing religions that make much the same claims as Christianity does, including a moral obligation to follow their precepts. This is Diderot’s objection to Pascal’s Wager (“an Imam could reason the same way”).

          • Wency says:

            @Albatross
            A hungry child I see feels more important to feed than ten I don’t see, but it sure seems like there’s some kind of moral error in feeding one hungry child instead of ten.

            Fully agree. Our moral intuitions operate on the visceral, the local, the personal. But utilitarianism and its ilk tend to downplay these as irrelevant personal biases, and the result is generally unsatisfying.

            @Faza:
            There’s a lot that can be said about how one arrives at religion. Beyond the scope of what I’m prepared to get into here. But I would say that intuition is indeed a large part of the answer. Reason alone will not typically get you there.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Wency,

            There’s a lot that can be said about how one arrives at religion. Beyond the scope of what I’m prepared to get into here. But I would say that intuition is indeed a large part of the answer.

            It seems we are in agreement. Capital!

            Just to remind ourselves of what’s under discussion, a quick restatement of the initial claims:

            [A]ll atheistic moral argumentation beyond “My intuition is this is wrong” is hot air.

            I would extend that to all moral argumentation.

            To clarify my position, I see no difference between “my intuition is that Christianity is correct” and “my intuition is that utilitarianism is correct” (just to pick an example of a moral system that doesn’t require divine founding).

      • Erusian says:

        What I consider the right has, at various times over the past two centuries, been very firmly associated with slavery, numerous moral prohibitions (against premarital sex, drugs, music, homosexual activity, etc), wars of conquest, the refusal to expand the franchise, various forms of racism and prejudice, and in general the maintenance of awful and illegitimate power structures in the face of freedom and clearly better alternatives.

        What do you consider as the right?

        • Enkidum says:

          Restricting myself to the West… The Confederacy. Most of the power structures of the Catholic Church, certainly until relatively recently. Most evangelical/fundamentalist strains of Protestantism. Ancien regimes in general. That covers pretty much everything on my list, I think.

          • Erusian says:

            You do know that the Evangelicals were some of the strongest and earliest opponents of slavery and the Confederacy? Meanwhile, Catholics were an oppressed minority for most of their history in the United States. This doesn’t seem like a coherent coalition of ideas or histories. I can’t think of what they have in common.

          • Nornagest says:

            Most evangelical/fundamentalist strains of Protestantism.

            This is a pretty naive take. Fundamentalist Protestantism’s association with the political right is recent and historically anomalous; indeed, fundamentalist Protestant movements often came hand in hand with utopian political schemes. The Puritans for example sought political as well as religious reform for the first two centuries of their history, and existed on a spectrum of religious radicalism that also included proto-socialist movements like the Diggers.

          • Randy M says:

            In Enkidium’s classification, the right seems to be defined as whoever is the enemy of progress, whether acting as such in concert from some motivating ideology or for other reasons.

          • Enkidum says:

            This doesn’t seem like a coherent coalition of ideas or histories.

            I don’t think the right is a coherent coalition (nor the left). There’s no one uniting feature, certainly nothing like an organized movement.

            Catholics were an oppressed minority for most of their history in the United States

            Being an oppressed minority is not inconsistent with being right wing. For what it’s worth, I was mostly thinking of Catholicism in Europe.

            I should have specified modern evangelical/fundamentalist strains of Protestantism.

            the right seems to be defined as whoever is the enemy of progress, whether acting as such in concert from some motivating ideology or for other reasons.

            Pretty close to that. This is roughly William F. Buckley’s (deliberately glib) definition of conservatism, isn’t it?

        • Oscar Sebastian says:

          What do you consider as the right?

          Counter question: Which of these descriptions that have not already been retracted by Enkidum do you think do not actually describe rightwing thought? Do you think the general thrust of their argument is incorrect? The right is commonly understood to be the conservative party of the time, and it seems to me certainly fair to say that conservatives opposed abolitionism, that they supported racists, sexists, homophobes, etc, that they didn’t wish for the franchise to be expanded…

          It feels to me that this whole discussion a great counterpoint to the general assumption that started this argument. Enkidum has made a point. Everyone else has engaged in nitpicking (“You’re clearly talking about conservatism over a large period of time, but I’m going to complain there isn’t a coherent theme!”, whataboutism (“YOU ALREADY MENTIONED THE SOVIETS, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SOVIETS?!”), and worse (“You’re claiming that the happiest countries on Earth being liberal shows liberality doesn’t inherently suck? WHAT ABOUT NORTH KOREA?!?!?!?!”) but seems unable to address the core. The rebuttals seem substantial but are really quite threadbare up against what has been said and needs to be repeated: conservatives said slavery was okay; liberals said it was wrong. So, with that in mind…

          Are you sure conservatives win where quality of conversation is what is selected for? Are you unbiased enough to make that distinction, or are your biases such that you can’t distinguish between rigorous debate and conversations that simply agree with you? It’s a common human condition, after all — I myself have spent time in places that agreed with me utterly and thought I was among the philosopher kings of my age only to realize that they were lunatics, people who had arrived at what I felt were correct conclusions by methods utterly foreign to logic.

          As a small piece of evidence, let me point out that not one single piece of evidence has been put forward for the hypothesis in this conversation. Someone asserted without the slightest bit of proof, “Liberals lose when arguments are about ideas,” and everyone started theorizing as to why this phenomenon might be. Is that quality debate? Surely a conversation that meets the gold standard of quality would do a survey of a wide variety of forums; I would imagine we would need to study popular political blogs, various subreddits, news commentary sections, and probably even the internet’s largest fandom forums’s political sections. We’d have to examine the rules used, and the enforcement mechanisms in place, as well as the ways a person goes from being a standard commentator to a moderator and the checks against moderators to prevent tyranny (or lack thereof!). Quality is difficult to measure, so we will need many measurements.

          If that was beyond the means of the commentators (I’m certainly not going to go through all this bother without some grant money, and I don’t imagine any of you would care to do it for free either), then wouldn’t a place that has high quality conversations dismiss unsubstantiated claims that only allow them to stroke their own egos?

          If not, why not?

          • Erusian says:

            I have no idea why you decided to reply to my fairly innocuous question with such hostility. Unless Enkdum tells me he felt I was being hostile, I’m going to assume this is a you thing.

            Which of these descriptions that have not already been retracted by Enkidum do you think do not actually describe rightwing thought?

            I don’t know which ones have been retracted and which ones haven’t. However, since I didn’t seem to understand his definition of what ‘the right’ was, I asked. He then explained his view of history which does have a coherent view of the right, in a Whiggish or end of history sort of framework.

            Do you think the general thrust of their argument is incorrect?

            Yes.

            The right is commonly understood to be the conservative party of the time, and it seems to me certainly fair to say that conservatives opposed abolitionism, that they supported racists, sexists, homophobes, etc, that they didn’t wish for the franchise to be expanded…

            Then you have an extremely impoverished and partisan view of history. The New Deal and Great Society, for example, both relied on support from Segregationists. The governor of Mississippi who was part of the KKK and intensified Jim Crow and simultaneously raised taxes on the wealthy to fund welfare, education, and infrastructure while restricting the influence of corporations. Is he a conservative or a liberal under your schema? History is complicated and does not easily fit the needs of modern partisans to validate their ideas as objectively correct or their opponents as evil.

            I could list Republicans crimes, by the way. But that would be preaching to the choir.

            It feels to me that this whole discussion a great counterpoint to the general assumption that started this argument. Enkidum has made a point. Everyone else has engaged in nitpicking (“You’re clearly talking about conservatism over a large period of time, but I’m going to complain there isn’t a coherent theme!”, whataboutism (“YOU ALREADY MENTIONED THE SOVIETS, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SOVIETS?!”), and worse (“You’re claiming that the happiest countries on Earth being liberal shows liberality doesn’t inherently suck? WHAT ABOUT NORTH KOREA?!?!?!?!”) but seems unable to address the core.

            What discussion is that particularly? I literally just asked him to define a term of his argument. This might be a valid point for the entire thread but you replied to me. Just me. And I was trying to be inquisitive rather than hostile.

            The rebuttals seem substantial but are really quite threadbare up against what has been said and needs to be repeated: conservatives said slavery was okay; liberals said it was wrong. So, with that in mind…

            Liberal and conservative are serving as weasel words here. Republicans said slavery was wrong. Most of the Democrats disagreed. The Republicans were pro-corporation and full of evangelicals even back then. The Democrats were not fully secular because secularism wasn’t really a thing yet. But they were largely members of churches that have since secularized and tend to be progressives (Jefferson Davis was an Episcopalian, for example). They were explicitly worried about the influence of corporations in politics. In fact, several Jim Crow states banned corporations outright. They explicitly hitched this horse to the trade union movement and its criticisms of factory owners.

            So are you going to argue a bunch of highly religious evangelicals allied to big business and capitalist finance were the liberals? And that the relatively secular racists who supported worker’s rights were conservatives? How about the early feminist who insisted lynchings were a feminist act of female power against rapists?

            Again, history is complicated and resists the need for a simple narrative.

            Are you sure conservatives win where quality of conversation is what is selected for? Are you unbiased enough to make that distinction, or are your biases such that you can’t distinguish between rigorous debate and conversations that simply agree with you? It’s a common human condition, after all — I myself have spent time in places that agreed with me utterly and thought I was among the philosopher kings of my age only to realize that they were lunatics, people who had arrived at what I felt were correct conclusions by methods utterly foreign to logic.

            I suppose ‘sure’ overstates what I feel. But I certainly can say anecdotally, having seen many, many, many political debates that the conservatives tend to acquit themselves better. I don’t believe conservatives have better quality arguments in the sense of being more correct but they seem to make their case better.

            I can’t comment whether I’m unbiased. However, I have spent most of my life as a political moderate living in politically moderate places. I’ve helped get both Democrats and Republicans elected. I am a swing voter in a swing state, which isn’t an argument that I’m unbiased. But it does mean that I get to hear both side’s cases (actually, they won’t shut up).

            Also, perhaps the fact that I don’t believe Republicans have better ideas despite believing they were better debaters might hint that I’m not as biased against liberals as you think.

            As a small piece of evidence, let me point out that not one single piece of evidence has been put forward for the hypothesis in this conversation. Someone asserted without the slightest bit of proof, “Liberals lose when arguments are about ideas,” and everyone started theorizing as to why this phenomenon might be. Is that quality debate? Surely a conversation that meets the gold standard of quality would do a survey of a wide variety of forums; I would imagine we would need to study popular political blogs, various subreddits, news commentary sections, and probably even the internet’s largest fandom forums’s political sections. We’d have to examine the rules used, and the enforcement mechanisms in place, as well as the ways a person goes from being a standard commentator to a moderator and the checks against moderators to prevent tyranny (or lack thereof!). Quality is difficult to measure, so we will need many measurements.

            I’m not going to defend this because it’s not my opinion. I think liberals are, in general, worse debaters than conservatives. I don’t think they have worse ideas, at least not on the whole. The only real data claim I make is that Republican districts tend to be more politically diverse than Democratic ones. I do have data to back that up but it’s not a point the Democrats dispute.

            You are, of course, free to disagree and I don’t have a mountain of empirical evidence. But it is my experience and being from a politically contested area I’ve had a lot of people spend a lot of money to persuade me. That’s an anecdote but I’m not claiming it’s anything more than a theory.

            If that was beyond the means of the commentators (I’m certainly not going to go through all this bother without some grant money, and I don’t imagine any of you would care to do it for free either), then wouldn’t a place that has high quality conversations dismiss unsubstantiated claims that only allow them to stroke their own egos?

            If not, why not?

            I’m not sure how discussing one group I don’t identify with is better at debating than another group I don’t identify with is ego-stroking. You have read into my motives an awful lot in this reply and really the entire worldview relies on knowing my private motivations. Unfortunately, you cannot.

            Perhaps most damningly, I didn’t argue with Enkidum. I asked him to define a term. He gave a definition that allowed me to understand what he meant. And that was the end of it. I made no effort to persuade him he was wrong and I didn’t intend to. I wanted to understand an assertion that seemed out of step with what I knew of history. I understand his point of view better now. I hope the experience was not unduly unpleasant for them.

          • cassander says:

            The rebuttals seem substantial but are really quite threadbare up against what has been said and needs to be repeated: conservatives said slavery was okay; liberals said it was wrong. So, with that in mind…

            Are you really making this argument less than a sentnace after you mocked people for arguing “WHAT ABOUT NORTH KOREA?!?!?!?!”?

            How is “what about slavery!?!?!” any better an argument than “what about north Korea”?

          • mitv150 says:

            Perhaps its just me, but in a conversation about how modern conservative arguments fare against modern liberal arguments in an internet forum, and why, it doesn’t seem terribly germane to haggle over whether support of slavery was or wasn’t inherently “right wing.”

            Can it be stipulated that modern conservatism or right wing thought does not encompass any pro-slavery notions and that modern liberalism or left wing thought does not encompass any pro-Stalinist thought?

          • Nornagest says:

            that modern liberalism or left wing thought does not encompass any pro-Stalinist thought?

            I’ll give that to the mainstream left, but not to modern left-wing thought more broadly — we’ve had no-shit Stalinists here of all places. The impression I get is that it’s about as taboo on the left as Jim Crow-style white supremacy is on the right, i.e. pretty taboo but not so much so that you can’t find adherents if you turn over a big enough rock.

            (On the other hand, I’ve never met a slavery supporter.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            The right is commonly understood to be the conservative party of the time, and it seems to me certainly fair to say that conservatives opposed abolitionism, that they supported racists, sexists, homophobes, etc, that they didn’t wish for the franchise to be expanded…

            This is certainly not always true. For example, in the early 20th Century, the Democrats were definitely the left-wing party, pushing expansion of the franchise, increased labor rights and social security.

            They were also by far the most racist party, the party that supported eugenics and forced sterilization.

          • ECD says:

            Perhaps its just me, but in a conversation about how modern conservative arguments fare against modern liberal arguments in an internet forum, and why, it doesn’t seem terribly germane to haggle over whether support of slavery was or wasn’t inherently “right wing.”

            Well, then neither does Stalinism? I mean, we’re deep in the historical weeds here. I think we’ve also shifted from a discussion of who wins debates, into whose ideas are/were better (or have the least blood attached, depending on where in the thread you are).

            Personally, I think if we’re going to compare ideas, we might as well just pull up party platforms and compare. Might be a fun exercise in an open thread at some point.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m trying to figure out how many of the posts in this discussion could reasonably be replaced with “I believe my tribe should rise in status relative to your tribe.” 50%? More?

            The way it looks to me:

            Some ideas win out in a fair debate because they’re clearly right. They’re the equivalent of experiments or observations of an effect so clear that you don’t need statistical methods to tease it out.

            Some ideas win out in a fair debate because there’s an easy-to-reach argument for them and a much harder-to-reach argument against them, and that happens even when the idea is wrong. What ideas are easy-to-reach depends on background knowledge and assumptions in the community[1].

            Some ideas win out in most debates because the arguments for them are emotionally compelling, even when the actual logical arguments or evidence go the other way. And again, different moral premises lead to different ideas having the more emotionally compelling arguments for/against them. (“If it saves one child….”)

            Some ideas win out in most debates because most people in the discussion hate the consequences of the idea not being true. (Think AGW or racial differences in IQ.).

            As best I can tell, the ideas with these advantages are scattered across the right/left spectrum in the US, though which ideas seem more compelling seem like they’re driven partly by different premises. (For example, if you see abortion as more-or-less equivalent to infanticide, a different set of arguments will seem compelling than if you see it as more-or-less equivalent to appendectomy.)

            [1] Arguing about the theory of evolution with someone who doesn’t know much about biology is a good example–it seems incredible that stuff as complex as the human eye or the organization of an anthill or the vertebrate immune system could be the result of unthinking processes, but as you accumulate more knowledge, you see more and more evidence for this idea (fossil records, embryonic stages, shared genetic mechanisms all through a lineage, genetic damage/errors and endogenous retroviruses that got stuck into a lineage at some point and gets carried by all the later species in that line, etc.)

            [2]

      • LesHapablap says:

        Is New Zealand really that left leaning? Living here on the south island it seems just moderate, with none of the red tribe vs. blue tribe that the US has. The vast majority here look at Trump as a clown and also find progressive politics totally bonkers.

        It is supposed to have low regulation for business, and the ‘right’ party here is pro-immigration while the Labour party is anti-immigrant.

        • Ketil says:

          Or Scandinavia? Economically, these countries aren’t all that different from other modern, western countries.

          Are we certain the alleged happiness doesn’t stem from other factors, like ethnic homogeneity, national pride, low unemployment, high gender equality, easy access to abortions, wealth, economic equality, secularism, or thinly spread populations?

      • I’m not really sure what the counterpoint to the above is.

        That your left/right category doesn’t correspond to current political divisions.

        As I commented on above, libertarians are the modern version of classical liberals. As such, they can claim most of the credit for ending slavery, for free trade, for ending legal support for restrictions on who could practice what profession, on a whole bundle of changes that created modern capitalist states. Also, along with the Catholic church, practically the only serious opponents of early 20th century eugenics.

        Modern progressives are the intellectual heirs of early 20th century progressives, the people responsible for creating regulatory regimes that cartelized the transport industry, supporting eugenics, pushing imperialism. Also, at slightly greater remove, the heirs, at least cousins, of 19th and early 20th century socialists, whose ideas led many of them to support of some of the most oppressive regimes in human history. For evidence, read Orwell on the attitudes of his fellow socialists towards Stalin.

        Defending non-libertarian conservatives I will leave to any of them who wish to undertake the project.

      • But of the modern Western world, the countries that most think of as clearly left wing (say, Canada, the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand)

        Possibly left of the U.S., although even that isn’t entirely clear–the Scandinavian countries have more redistribution than the U.S., less government interference with the market. And Sweden went from a relatively poor country to a relatively rich one at a time when it was one of the more liberal (classical sense, hence right wing by modern terminology) countries in Europe.

        But none of those three is left in terms of 20th century political theory—they are capitalist societies with more intervention than libertarians approve of and more redistribution than libertarians or conservatives approve of. Compare to India, which has been officially socialist ever since it became independent (although decreasingly so in recent years). Or compare any of the capitalist/socialist pairs of the 20th century–East Germany West Germany, Taiwan/China, North Korea/South Korea.

        While, at least by the late 20th century,the American left did not generally approve of the political system of the communist countries, it continued to mostly support their economic system. India had five year plans not only because the USSR did but because leftist American advisors told them that was the way to develop. Paul Samuelson’s econ text continued for multiple editions to claim that the USSR was catching up to the U.S., despite having, edition after edition, to put the point when they would be caught up further ahead.

      • “Canada, the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand) seem to be among the happiest places that have ever existed in human history, as well as superior on a number of more easily-measurable metrics.”

        It’s a scissor type issue whether this is true: the Leftists believe Scandanavia is superior to America and thinks that “everyone” believes this; non-Leftists ask for evidence that this is true. There are certainly a lot of metrics that place these places near the top, but often they are simply measures of social liberalism, citing them to support higher levels of social liberalism is circular, like citing the index of economic freedom to support the obvious superiority of neoliberal economic policies.

        • ECD says:

          the Leftists believe Scandanavia is superior to America and thinks that “everyone” believes this

          To make a brief statement, as a temporarily resident Leftist. No. I neither believe this, nor do I believe that everyone believes this. I believe Scandinavia is probably a very nice place to live and has done many things right, but that’s not the same thing. And from my own experience, the way this most often comes up in my observation:

          1) Conservative: You’re trying to push a radical agenda which will make us more like Europe/Sweden/France.
          2) Liberal: Yes, on those things where they’re right.

          ETA: Left out a qualifier, fixed.

      • Enkidum says:

        I did not steer this conversation in a useful direction. So for the time being (tonight, probably), I’ll bow out. A few quick points:

        – I’m really not interested in a pissing match about whether left wing cause X is better than right wing cause Y or whatever. I was merely bringing up what I believed (and still believed) were a number of examples ranging from several hundred years ago to less than a decade ago, where I think the left wing side had a clearly superior take than the right.

        – I believe there are many cases where the right had a superior take than the left.

        – History is complicated. Even defining what right and left are is complicated. Y’all can argue about all this stuff as much as you like. I am fairly consistently left wing, but that does not mean I support everything that has ever been done in the name of the left, today or throughout history.

        – But I was responding to what I thought was (and I am being incredibly generous here) a grossly oversimplified, extremely silly, and fundamentally wrong post by Radu, that seemed to be getting something like unanimous acceptance from other commenters. I tried to keep the response simple and clear, perhaps I failed.

        – I do think Oscar Sebastian gave a reasonable response to the thread as a whole (though as Eurasian pointed out, it might not be a great reply to them specifically). If this is an example of how poor left wing debate comes across in the face of inherent right wing superiority…. I can assure you that a lot of the people reading this thread will have a very different take. ECD’s discussion of why he doesn’t post much in the previous thread seems pertinent here.

        – Not that it matters that much, but I brought up the Beatles as an example of anti-communist left wingers. The song Revolution is pretty clear, even directly condemning people for supporting Mao.

        – I really do think Mao and Stalin and all the others were bad people who did bad things. Really, really bad things, as bad as humanity has gotten.

        • Erusian says:

          – I’m really not interested in a pissing match about whether left wing cause X is better than right wing cause Y or whatever. I was merely bringing up what I believed (and still believed) were a number of examples ranging from several hundred years ago to less than a decade ago, where I think the left wing side had a clearly superior take than the right.

          – I believe there are many cases where the right had a superior take than the left.

          – History is complicated. Even defining what right and left are is complicated. Y’all can argue about all this stuff as much as you like.

          – But I was responding to what I thought was (and I am being incredibly generous here) a grossly oversimplified, extremely silly, and fundamentally wrong post by Radu, that seemed to be getting something like unanimous acceptance from other commenters. I tried to keep the response simple and clear, perhaps I failed.

          – I do think Oscar Sebastian gave a reasonable response to the thread as a whole (though as Eurasian pointed out, it might not be a great reply to them specifically). If this is an example of how poor left wing debate comes across in the face of inherent right wing superiority…. I can assure you that a lot of the people reading this thread will have a very different take. ECD’s discussion of why he doesn’t post much in the previous thread seems pertinent here.

          – I really do think Mao and Stalin and all the others were bad people who did bad things. Really, really bad things, as bad as humanity has gotten.

          My name is Erusian, and I endorse all these messages.

          I’d like to point out my response, while perhaps not the clearest, was meant as a defense of the left. Arguing they are not as good at expressing themselves but asserting they have completely valid and reasonable opinions. (At least the moderates: I don’t like Stalinists or Nazis.) I don’t believe that right-wingers have a monopoly on thoughtful policy.

          To be honest, I am sympathetic to Oscar Sebastian in a general sense. His response makes sense as a response to the totality of what was going on. Enkidum was getting dogpiled from the right and (while I don’t think he stated it particularly well) Oscar Sebastian was at least gesturing towards valid points. That said, he chose to respond to me and accuse me specifically. I don’t think that’s fair and I felt compelled to defend myself. Not because I’m some god-king of rationality but because I don’t think I was engaging in the dogpile or hostile action. (Again, Enkidum can correct me if they feel I was.)

          I’m not going to defend the entire thread or the initial thesis. I don’t agree with it, as I’ve said. I will maintain my belief that the Left is not as good at debating their beliefs as the Right until someone challenges successfully. But I also stand firm in asserting this is no reflection on the quality of the ideas or policies. I think the Democrats are correct on several issues. If anything, I wish they were better at debating. Even on issues I disagree with, it would raise the quality of the discourse.

          • Enkidum says:

            Erusian != Eurasian, sorry about that…

            I didn’t think you were being rude, though I initially read you as more aggressive than you intended – this was likely just because it was coming in a thread of a half dozen disagreements. Reading between the lines, I think that’s why Oscar responded to you the way he did – it wasn’t really aimed directly at you.

            Also, lest I sound more irritated than I am, I’d like to say no harm no foul to all involved, I’m a big boy and while I do sometimes let my emotions run wild on these boards I’m not having a hissy fit or anything, I’m just really tired and don’t see much of a useful contribution I can make to the original conversation any longer. Y’all are good people, even the evil right wingers. Well, some of them.

            Also if @David Friedman is reading this, this is the second time you’ve argued that I’m neglecting the contributions of libertarians to the causes I value, and I just wanted to say that you’re probably right about that, and it’s just not something I’ve thought very much about. I don’t have a useful response beyond that, will have to think and read more.

          • Erusian says:

            Erusian != Eurasian, sorry about that…

            Just to be clear, I was making a joke based on politicians. (“My name is X and I approve these messages.” type deals).

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yup. You know, when I logged out last night I actually thought something like “Man, that’s going to be chaos in that thread. Maybe I should have said something?”. I regret I didn’t. This would have been a damn good opportunity to practice discussing CW topics in a productive way.

          Also wanted to thank you for giving an actual answer to my post. But it did take reading your first reply before I got the point 🙂

          Speaking of, in the first draft of my post I had the word “stupid” instead of “naive”. I was referring to myself as a youth, but had I not corrected it it would have been a completely different comment, and probably worthy of a warning. It pays to re-read your comments for “artistic impression”.

    • Erusian says:

      – Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

      I agree this is usually true in practice. But my theory has always been that’s because if you are a liberal, you’re significantly less likely to have to defend your ideas.

      Imagine someone born in San Francisco, who then goes to Columbia, and then goes to work for the LA Times. How likely is it they’ve never actually heard a good conservative argument? Never really had to defend the common pieties of the Democratic Party? How likely is it they can just shut down any conservative voices they run into (and probably be rewarded for it)? Especially considering the media, social media, and education are all liberal dominated.

      Some version of this experience is what the majority of Democrats have. Democratic support is basically urban centers plus New England. Republican districts tend to be significantly more politically diverse. This is not an opinion: it’s a statistical reality.

      This is not a good background for debaters. You end up with people who don’t know the other side’s arguments and don’t even really know their own. There are plenty of intellectually strong arguments for left-wing positions. Especially moderate ones (here defined as ‘the Democratic Party Platform’ and not ‘AOC’s twitter’). This is true on the right as well: extremists tend to be intellectually less than rigorous. I almost never hear these arguments and when I repeat them back to Democrats they sometimes go the equivalent of, “Oh, that’s very clever, I’ll have to remember that.”

      At a minimum wage debate, Ben Shapiro gets to say, “Why don’t you set the minimum wage to $100 then? What’s the limiting principle? If you can just arbitrarily set wages why not set them to infinite?” He says this to a stage full of left-wing intellectuals and none of them answer him. One goes into a non-sequitur and the other says his $100 proposal is ridiculous and she has a study showing empirically it’s good. And then Ben Shapiro gets to ride off into the sunset because no one addressed his point.

      The answer is because minimum wage is not meant to magically create higher wages. It’s meant to ameliorate the unequal bargaining power between workers and management. Wages are a negotiation between you and your employer. The job you do produces a certain amount of value and you are negotiating to capture a percentage of that value. Minimum wages makes sure that you get a minimum amount of that value, effectively prenegotiating a minimum rate and eliminating work that isn’t productive enough to justify that wage (usually with the argument such work is menial and degrading).

      To see an example, imagine a toy economy with ten workers doing ten jobs for $1 each. Each job produces $1 value than the next, so $1, $2… $10, for a total of $55. Those ten workers collectively make $10. A minimum wage is set at $2. One worker is now unemployed because the employer cannot profitably pay that amount. The remaining nine workers now make $18. This creates a net loss to the economy of $1 (from the lost job), so the total economy is $54 instead of $55. It also creates 10% unemployment. However, the working class having those extra $8 might be worth it for moral reasons or because it creates some additional economy value. And that additional value can be pretty modest for the cost: $1 is about a 2% increase. Perhaps it will even create a new job that can pay $2 to the unemployed worker. But even if it doesn’t, it’s likely they’ll move into the non-working population. At that point, they’re living off their spouse’s income or some such. And their spouse is likely to be working class and benefiting from the increase in income.

      You don’t set the minimum wage to $100 because it would create too much unemployment, shrinking the overall economy more than the transfer could grow it and probably creating a net decrease in income for the working class.

      You can disagree with this. But you need more than a single sentence going, “Why not $100 then? Huh?” (That argument does work for an argument like, “They just deserve to be paid more! It’s necessary for basic human dignity!”)

      • albatross11 says:

        More to the point: If you are planning to debate the minimum wage with someone, it seems like this is one of the obvious points you’d need to raise. I’d expect someone in a liberal bubble to have heard/considered this argument, but perhaps not one based on people whose intellectual gifts make them unemployable at a higher wage.

    • DragonMilk says:

      I don’t think this is useful framing. Coalitions are self contradictory – in the US, Democrats embrace feminists and Muslims, while Republicans are pro-business and court Christians.

      What works as a political coalition doesn’t often result in a coherent and consistent ideology. I’d rather not generalize in this manner, seems like an -ism but applied to coalitions.

    • ECD says:

      – Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

      Besides this forum, what other places are you thinking of to support this claim?

      • You might look at the discussions at the end of the Free to Choose videos.

        I should add that I think the reason is not primarily the superiority of my father’s views, although that may have helped. It was that he had encountered the arguments against his positions over and over again, while most of the critics of those positions had never seriously considered the arguments for them.

        As per my own experience in 1964, which I described recently.

        • ECD says:

          That looks like a very interesting series and it looks like the wikipedia page has nice streaming links. Thanks, I’ll take a look, even though I tend to hate long form television I actually have to pay attention to.

          However, I will say two initial things. One, I actually find in-person real time debate to be a shockingly bad method of figuring out anything but who is better at live debate. Two, it tickles me pink that your example is public television.

          Please note, this last is not intended in a mean way, or to suggest anything inappropriate.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @ECD

            I happen to agree, for the most part, about real-time debate, despite the fun that it can sometimes be. This case has two good things going for it, though.

            First, Milton Friedman was really damn good at oral exposition even as the one taking the rhetorically unsympathetic position. Second, you could just buy this book.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Don’t agree with the statements. Liberals are more than capable of being giant jerks, for one. Half of them seem to think they are Jon Stewart, and an increasing number of Bleeding Edge Twitterati think anything right of Beto O’Rourke needs to be expelled from polite society.

      They are also often correct, especially against more extreme right-wing claims, like “tax cuts will pay for themselves” or whatever.

      IME on other forums, liberals just dogpile conservatives, because liberals greatly outnumber conservatives online. Moderators are also biased: I have received warnings in the past just for mentioning the existence of pro-life beliefs (and I am not even pro-life!) Liberal commentators feel entitled to throw massive invective at even politely phrased Conservative comments. This is pretty much bog-standard on the Internet.

      I do agree that there are practically no well-spoken conservative arguments IRL, but there are rarely liberal ones either. People just don’t do a good job of eloquently stating their beliefs.

    • Bamboozle says:

      To be honest as someone not from the US, seeing right and left, liberal and conservative, progressive, SJ, libertarian, and the hundred other sub-categories makes me want to tear my eyeballs out.

      How can people honestly argue in good faith assuming these categories are anything but entirely unhomogeneous and useless?

      Surely @Radu you need to define what exactly you mean by Liberal ideas and prove that they lose unequivocally rather than just asserting it as fact and then asking why this is?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        That’s a very good point, and especially since “left” and “liberal” mean different things in US and in Europe. We’re mostly using the US terminology here, because… well… they kinda invented the internet.

        I’ve said earlier that I mostly mean multicultural left in US.

    • Corey says:

      Liberals lose (and this is the CW point) in places moderated on the quality of the conversation because in a pure idea-to-idea conflict they just lose, and usually badly.

      Another potential explanation (assuming arguendo the statement is true), inspired by a contentious part of the replies to this:

      Internet arguments end not with consensus, but when one side gives up and leaves. Perhaps conservatives are just more persistent, except where they can be shouted down or kicked out. (Or have more energy or conscientiousness, if you wanted to phrase this positively).

      I know I typically give up early because it feels pointless. Anecdotally it seems like Internet libertarians are more likely to engage common criticisms like “who will build the roads?” where after the 1000th time an atheist gets “what use is half an eye?” or Pascal’s Wager (this takes about a day) they just eyeroll and block.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Anecdotally it seems like Internet libertarians are more likely to engage common criticisms like “who will build the roads?” where after the 1000th time an atheist gets “what use is half an eye?” or Pascal’s Wager (this takes about a day) they just eyeroll and block.

        They don’t roll quarter circle forward, throw a fireball, and block the jumping counterattack?
        Maybe that’s Shintoists.

      • ECD says:

        Perhaps conservatives are just more persistent, except where they can be shouted down or kicked out. (Or have more energy or conscientiousness, if you wanted to phrase this positively).

        Or, assuming (without accepting) that claims of liberal dominance in most other areas are correct, perhaps we simply have more places to go when they get pissed.

  10. JohnNV says:

    I came across Adam Neely’s “Seven Levels of Jazz Harmony” video the other day and have been thinking about it a lot, especially the higher levels he describes. I’ve been a (casual) jazz musician for 20 years and love jazz, but I can’t get any enjoyment out of level 6 and might be able to appreciate a level 5 chord once per song. I recognize the innovation there, but it’s just not enjoyable to listen to. (And I really have no idea what to think about level 7 – I actually can’t tell whether it’s enjoyable or not). Does anybody actually like the sounds of “liberated dissonance”? Is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes where nobody actually likes listening to this stuff, but they do it to appear sophisticated?

    • acymetric says:

      My impression is that it isn’t exactly enjoyable the way a simple pop melody is enjoyable. It is more enjoyable the way an extremely complex physics problem is enjoyable…which is to say enjoyable for people capable of complex physics but not much good for anyone else. If you understand what people are doing with that music and the concepts behind it, I can see listening to it being interesting and enjoyable (in more of an intellectual sense than aesthetic).

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Yes, I aesthetically appreciate dissonance (including stuff like Nancarrow which is more out there than anything in that video, since all the examples there still have the very consonant melody). It’s just a taste, like modern art (or at least, I assume it is, I can’t aesthetically appreciate that).

    • Viliam says:

      Is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes where nobody actually likes listening to this stuff, but they do it to appear sophisticated?

      What if it’s something in between? Like, someone proposes a constraint that mostly results in horrible stuff, and then people try to find a solution that satisfies the constraint but is less horrible than the competing solutions.

      That requires some real skill — an average solution that satisfies the constraint would simply be horrible, — and at the same time, the constraint is intentionally chosen for making things worse, not better, because that makes a better competition. No one actually enjoys having the constraint; but after listening to the competing solutions, hearing the best solution for given constraint is almost enjoyable. But you can appreciate that only if you understand the rules of the game, and especially if you tried to design your own solution.

    • Well... says:

      I haven’t watched the video yet, but for now I’ll say I have a general heuristic about music that seems to work well: the music I like best usually contains big contrasts. Very complex, dissonant chords/harmonies might be great when interspersed with cleaner simpler sounds. Not sure I’d want to listen to 15 or even 3 minutes of sheer dissonance. (Though that reminds me of the ending of this story.)

    • Dino says:

      It’s not just jazz – similar thing in “classical” music with 12-tone & atonal music. I’ve also wondered if people pretend to like this alleged music in order to appear sophisticated. Matters of taste I can understand – I don’t like rap or grand opera but I can understand how someone else might. But I have a hard time imagining how anyone could like something that’s trying to sound ugly.

      • Lambert says:

        Free jazz and 20th c classical were somewhat aware of each other.
        IITC, Don Cherry and Arvo Paert did some collaborative work.

      • Well... says:

        I’ve also wondered if people pretend to like this alleged music in order to appear sophisticated.

        I’ve wondered that before, but friends (and a few Youtuber types such as Rick Beato) have convinced me that Gossage Vardebedian’s thesis above is probably most often what’s happening: people are introduced to it gradually (usually from an initial semi-accessible piece that gets them interested/opens their eyes to it, or someone like Beato walking them through it) and then acquiring a taste for it.

        There was a time when I hated all rap music. Then a friend in high school showed me Blackalicious. Now I like really hood trap music and consider Blackalicious far too woke/tame for my tastes, though I still appreciate them. So, Blackalicious was the key that opened the door. I suspect Bartok’s music from The Shining or Ligeti’s music from 2001 were the keys that opened the door for many people to dissonant classical music.

      • Corey says:

        On the Youtube channel “12tone”, the host explicitly says he enjoys doing 12-tone composition because of the challenge involved in trying to make something sort-of listenable given the severe constraints imposed by the format.

        (Only a couple videos are about 12-tone composition, it’s general music theory, and entertaining)

        • Lambert says:

          IIRC, Ben Levin once made a pretty listenable serialist piece.
          It’s a matter of bridging everything with the correct harmonies.

    • phi says:

      I also saw that video, and if I recall correctly, my opinion was similar to yours: I liked levels 1,2 the best, 3 still sounded fairly decent, and I would probably only enjoy 4,5 as small pieces of a larger song. That said, I definitely found level 7 enjoyable. Level 7 trades off having less simultaneous dissonance with having more dissonance in the transitions between chords. So maybe I care less about harmonious transitions?

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      To me, the innovation in level 7 “reads” as a timbre, not harmony. (It seems like it’s taking the story of frequency ratios too literally.) It sounds like Neely might feel the same way given his description of it as “cassette tape-y” and lo-fi.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Most people know that the Nazi Party wasn’t purely democratic, as it used street violence as part of its electoral strategy.
    Historically literate people know that there was already a Red Front using political violence in Germany.
    But how often do you hear that the Weimar Republic was so full of atomized veterans looking to belong that even the most moderate Parties had a paramilitary wing?

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve said this before, but you know your politics is fucked when your moderates have a paramilitary wing.

      (I was talking about the Iron Front, though — which means there were two of them.)

    • broblawsky says:

      I suspect this is a symptom of pre-WWII Germany’s fanatical militarism. As a military-first state, maybe creating a paramilitary wing was something every German political party needed to do in order to achieve public credibility. The Bismarck-era German Empire had political parties; did they have paramilitary wings?

      • albatross11 says:

        Once it’s a standard part of politics for your political rallies to be broken up by the other side’s thugs, there’s a pretty strong incentive for every political party to get their own gang of thugs together.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        The Bismarck-era German Empire had political parties; did they have paramilitary wings?

        Not as far as I know. Armed political parties in Germany were a result of postwar anarchy, which also featured famous hyperinflation.

        German militarism pre WWI is imho somewhat exaggerated. European countries of that era were extremely militaristic by modern standards, and Germany wasn’t that exceptional.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Seconding “Germany was a typical European state until they lost.”
          The Emperor had more power than his Grandma Victoria in the UK, the Gold Standard for “constitutional monarchy”, but politics were as civil as the UK, France, etc. and there was less imperialism – which famously caused bruised egos.
          Post-1918, the huge number of veterans dealt with PTSD and atomization by seeking political comraderie, which took on at least a Boy Scout level of paramilitarism, which led to full-blooded paramilitary action because you had to defend your buddies from violence by the Red Front/Steel Helmets/Nazis/Iron Front/Reichsbanner… in the countries that won, you could stay in the Army if you felt like it (Germany had a treaty obligation to have fewer than 100,000 men in the military) or go home to your family of winners and try to recover through Art Therapy or something (looking at you, Hemingway).

          • cassander says:

            The way I like to describe it is that in 1913, the UK was one of the most republican (in the sense of republican vs. monarchist) countries in europe. By 1945 they were one of the least, despite their constitutional arrangements changing less than any other country in europe.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @cassander

            Is that true? 1945 had a huge increase in Communist countries, which would shoot them ahead of a bunch of places that were far more nominally republican prior to the war (e.g. Romania).

            I don’t know the strict numbers, but my understanding was that 1918 created a huge number of new republics, many of which subsequently collapsed into totalitarianism.

          • cassander says:

            @EchoChaos

            I was counting the communist states as extremely republican on this scale.

        • bean says:

          European countries of that era were extremely militaristic by modern standards, and Germany wasn’t that exceptional.

          Disagree. Germany was a country born in war a generation prior. Every other great power could be found in recognizable form on a map in 1714. Germany was the result of Prussia, famously “an army with a country attached” taking over the other German states in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. This kind of showed in their approach to international diplomacy, which ultimately set them against the rest of Europe and drove Europe to war.

          On a slightly different tack, nowhere else would the King have been allowed to build the world’s second-biggest navy just because he wanted some toys to play with. The US, an economic power of comparable size and with a lot more need for a Navy, couldn’t manage to match Germany on that front. And this is with an Army that was probably the best in Europe.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I do not disagree with you on historical facts. This is a question of degree of militarism and of what is popular perception. Certainly Germany was among most militaristic countries of that time. But also its military exceptionalism was exaggerated by both Nazi and Allied propaganda, which imho still influences conventional wisdom, especially in English speaking countries.

            For example WWI was started by Austria-Hungary, albeit with heavy German encouragement, and yet my understanding is that Habsburg monarchy is remembered in English speaking word as a bening country of Viennese waltz and liberal government torn apart by nationalists. Actually it was quite conservative and militaristic society, although the quality of its military in 1914 was of course inferior to German and even Serbian army.

          • bean says:

            My take is that the decision for war was made in Berlin, not Vienna. Austria-Hungary had every right to be furious with Serbia, and they would have been able to take a lot of different actions without sparking a wider war. The problem is that Germany gave them a blank check to do anything they wanted, which gave them the confidence to make demands of Serbia that Serbia couldn’t possibly meet. Yes, there were those in Vienna who wanted war for reasons very similar to Berlin (unifying the country behind the current, conservative government) but they wouldn’t have done anything without Germany’s backing.

          • DarkTigger says:

            On a slightly different tack, nowhere else would the King have been allowed to build the world’s second-biggest navy just because he wanted some toys to play with.

            The fact that the UK threatned to blockade Germany, should they support the Boers might have had to do something with it as well.

      • Protagoras says:

        The general attitudes contributed, but I don’t think anyone did it for credibility. Rather, the weak government was unable to keep the communists from making trouble, the judiciary was soft on the far right (perhaps in some cases because they thought someone should counter-balance the communists), encouraging the far right to grow and become more violent, and as albatross11 says those in between ended up feeling they had to defend themselves.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I endorse this, subject to updating with more knowledge of the period.
          The Constitution was liberal, the near-left was seen as too weak to deal with the Communists (which could well have been more structural than political sympathy),[1] and this was checked by a bias in the judiciary. Once there was both, er, Fa and Antifa? made up of Army veterans, men in moderate Parties, who were probably longing for esprit de corps over atomization anyway, had to step up for defense or there wouldn’t be moderate Party campaigning.

          [1]Hindenberg was an I-wouldn’t-even-be-a-Republican-but-for-my-oath near-rightist, and I don’t know that his government helped at all here.

    • Well... says:

      In 75 years, will historians consider Antifa a paramilitary wing of the Democrats, and the Proud Boys (or whatever is a better right-wing analog for Antifa) the paramilitary wing of the Republicans? (I strongly suspect the answer is “Obviously not” but I ask the question to suggest a line of inquiry and I’m not sure of a better way to phrase it.)

      • JonathanD says:

        Unless things change markedly for the worse, only specialists will even know about them. Among said specialists, the answer will be obviously not, except for a handful trying to make a name for themselves with controversial theories.

      • Lambert says:

        They’re both just mobs.
        A paramilitary needs a proper command heirarchy. Otherwise you’re a rabble with delusions of grandeur.

        • albatross11 says:

          More to the point: if you have clashing gangs of thugs, the one with better organization and discipline is probably going to win, even if it’s numerically inferior. There’s a Darwinian process that’s going to select for paramilitary organization. And of course, if your gangs of thugs are mostly ex-soldiers, it’s not going to be hard for them to work out how to put together a workable hierarchy for organized violence.

        • Well... says:

          Does “moderate party kinda looks the other way or at least doesn’t condemn their side’s thugs” start to sorta look like an embryonic command hierarchy?

          • Lambert says:

            I’m not talking about the relationship between party and mob.
            I’m talking about the (lack of) internal chain of command within the mob.

            The IRA, for example, was organised into brigades and batallions. It had quartermasters and a GHQ.
            Superiors gave orders and subordinates carried them out.

            Untill everyone in the Proud Boys and Antifa knows who their commanding officer is, they’re not really a paramilitary.

      • Plumber says:

        @Well… says:

        In 75 years, will historians consider…”

        Sweet Lord that’s a terrifying thought!

        In terms of U.S. paramilitary groups, radical organizations in the 1930’s acted in support of labor strikes and as strikebreakers and contemporary accounts often spoke of their “military precision”, especially regarding the Minneapolis and San Francisco general strikes, I’ve read of one U.S. Marine general who watched through binoculars stevedores and allied strikers defend a hill against San Francisco Police that so impressed him he later asked Harry Bridges “Where did your men get their military training?”, but for large scale partisan violence the 19th century pre-Civil War “Bloody Kansas” period is probably the closest U.S. equivalent to inter-war Germany in U.S. history.

    • Lurker says:

      [who knew]that even the most moderate Parties had a paramilitary wing?

      well, I went through the German school system and I never paid much attention in history so I’d say anybody who went through the school system here would know that fact and very few would know much beyond that.
      I’m one of those who don’t know much beyond that, so this is an interesting discussion. Thanks for bringing it up!
      (If I just answered a rhetorical question, then sorry)

  12. Dino says:

    I’m new here, and still adjusting to the lingo – nobody I know talks about outgroups or priors, but I think I figured out that OP means Original Poster – yes? There seems to be an underlying idea that rationality is better than instinct or emotion for guiding one’s actions – something I agree with. Does anyone go further and claim it is not just better, but best of all? I ask because my mental model is: 1 instinct, 2 emotion, 3 rationality, 4 creativity/artistic. I put creativity above rationality in my hierarchy because I’m a musician – I don’t have a rational reason handy. I suppose I could come up with one if I worked at it. (A rationalization?) Maybe someone else has a good one. But I’m curious to see a contrary viewpoint.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Hi Dino,

      This is an area which is occasionally disputed, but a relevant and generally accepted saying on the topic is, “Rationalists should Win”. Here is an essay about that:

      https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/4ARtkT3EYox3THYjF/rationality-is-systematized-winning

      If creativity produces better outcomes, then the “rational” thing to do is use creativity. But you should also be prepared to change systems when something else starts to work better.

    • Randy M says:

      rationality is better than instinct or emotion for guiding one’s actions

      I think that verges into “straw vulcan” territory. You don’t want to be eliminating or constantly denying your emotions. Your instincts may tell you something that you are consciously over looking. Ideally you want them all to inform each other.

      Say I have a desire for chocolate ice cream. I think about why I might have this desire, what could happen if I satisfied it fully, and decide that it is the result of urges not well adapted to modern life. But I do still have it, so I will buy a small container on occasion, and fully embrace the sensual pleasure of it when I consume it. Substitute in a more weighty example.

      4 creativity/artistic.

      I’m not quite sure what this means in terms of informing actions. It seems more like a style or a toolset than a mode of deciding. Can you give an example?

      • Dino says:

        1 I love music and I’m good at coding – should I go for a career in software or be a starving musician?
        2 I have a block of free time – should I post on SSC or practice for the gig Saturday?

        Maybe my wording “better … guiding one’s actions” is sub-optimal. Having a hierarchy implies “better than” or “superior to”, but better for what? “Superior” is pretty vague. Maybe what I mean is “has higher value”.

        Thanks for the straw vulcan reference. Learned something new today.

        • 1 I love music and I’m good at coding – should I go for a career in software or be a starving musician?

          Thinking that rationality is the best way of making decisions does not answer that question. The rational thing to do is to look at the tradeoffs in terms of their value to you. If you are a musician, how likely are you to be able to make a living at it–unlikely, I think, unless you are very talented. If not very talented, would you rather put your passion and energy into music while working some boring job to pay for food and housing or put your passion and energy mostly into a coding job, which will pay much better, and do the music on the side?

          So the answer depends on how good you are at either alternative and how much you enjoy either. If coding is almost as much fun as music, you should be a coder unless you are a super talented musician. If coding is boring and unsatisfactory and music wonderful, you should probably be a musician, and expect to be poor and working relatively low level jobs.

          My wife loves music, is not super talented, and chose to be a geologist–and play music for renaissance dance (in the context of the SCA, a historical recreation group). One of her best friends loves music, is very talented, and when we knew her—she and her husband rented our third floor in Chicago—was making some money by performing but mostly, so far as I could tell, by working not very demanding sorts of jobs.

          I expect each of them was making the rational decision.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Though I have nowhere near enough information to guess at the final answer for your case, one of the things you should be sure to take into account is the great satisfaction that comes from knowing you’re really good at whatever you’re doing.

          • Dino says:

            Sorry for the confusion – I’m new at this. I was hoping to spark a discussion of the merits of rationality vs creativity. The 2 numbered items were answering Randy M’s request for examples, and not actual questions that I had.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Oh, we’ve gone full circle here and came to “tradition is best”. Happened last month, I think.

      Joke aside (but seriously. that actually happened), rationality has pitfalls. Some we’ll probably learn to avoid, of course, and we’ll just call it “better rationality”. It mostly has to do with applying it to the right problem, and also with overconfidence. But in some ways it can never beat tradition, because tradition has the advantage of evolution-selection cycles of thousands of years.

      So we’re embracing wider principles, like Chesterton’s fence, that avoid having to use reason to solve every problem. Again, you can just call this proper Rationality – which is why Yudkowsky actually advised against overusing the term. After a while “rational” just becomes a synonym for “right”.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m not exactly a rationalist, but I’m interested in thinking clearly, and I think that requires understanding the likely failure modes of human thinking, and understanding both logic and its Bayesian probability theory extension at least in passing.

        In some sense, I’m trying to learn to simulate something smarter and more rational than I am. I’ll never be able to do a perfect simulation, but I can at least try to trap exceptions where I’m about to make some error that a smarter more rational version of me wouldn’t make, and then try to run an exception handler labeled “steelmanning” or “shut up and multiply” or “Chesterton’s fence” or something.

      • Dino says:

        Oh, we’ve gone full circle here and came to “tradition is best”. Happened last month, I think.

        Guess I’m too new to get this reference. I do not agree that “tradition is best” – I’m more of radical.

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Continued from 136. Discussing the “Planet of Hats” trope, bullseye said:

    We see some more Toydarians in the Clone Wars, and none of them have Watto’s personality. I think the more recent material (including Clone Wars) is better thought out and doesn’t run into the issue [LMC] was talking about as often.

    George Lucas personally involved himself in the Clone Wars cartoon, and he wasn’t guilty of this.
    IIRC, Twi’leks had been established as a whole planet of slave girls whose males sell them (because Jabba had one as a slave girl and a free male worked for him) by the time he got around to the prequels, which had a female Twi’lek Jedi.
    So you get stuff like Toydarians who aren’t Watto clones, and when they visit Mandalore a pacifist class controls the government, the only Boba Fett lookalikes being conservative terrorists from a lower class.

    • Aftagley says:

      Were the other Toydarian’s immune to Jedi trickery?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        IIRC we never see another Jedi or Sith try it despite their cartoon appearances being all about Force-using agents trying to force them to pick a side, but they don’t explicitly say “I won’t try diplomacy by mind control, because Toydarian racial power!”

        when war came to the nearby planet Ryloth (home of the Twi’lek people) King Katuunko was asked by Senator Bail Organa and Representative Binks to help provide relief to the suffering Twi’leks. … Later during the war, around 21 BBY, Katuunko was sought out by Count Dooku, who wanted to force the Toydarian monarch to join the Separatist Alliance through the use of his new apprentice, Savage Opress.

        (Star Wars names, man…)

  14. ECD says:

    I’ve got an upper endoscopy coming up in a couple of weeks. Anyone have any experience with how fast you’re back to 100%? The doc claimed next day I was fine to go back to work, but I’m a paranoid wimp.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      You’re probably fine the same day, and mine was a bad one (ate more/later than I should have). Had a sore throat for a couple of days tho, not sure if it’s standard.

    • JonathanD says:

      For my wife’s, they knocked her all the way out, and she spent the rest of the day at home (with me) per the nurses’ recommendation.

    • hls2003 says:

      Based on my recent experience and understanding, you’ll be given anesthesia (mine was intravenous) and it’s being knocked out that causes them to tell you not to drive or go back to work. I had no sore throat or anything afterward from the endoscopy, but I was very tired that afternoon. But mine was also paired with a colonoscopy, so I was hungry and had, uh, missed some sleep the night before. I was completely fine the next day.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’ve had this done three times, and I was okay the next day in all three cases. You’d be okay to go back to work an hour later, except that they drug you up for the procedure and you’re not quite with-it enough to make good decisions until the drugs wear off. (You definitely wouldn’t want to drive immediately afterward, at least if you get whatever they used on me!).

    • ECD says:

      Thanks folks. That fits with what they said, good indicator that I’m just being overly paranoid about doctors (which is what kept me from going to see them for a decade over this issue…)

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Re: the drug. I had a choice, with the doctor’s advice and the local cultural bias to do it without. I decided to do it without – I had read that a component of it is to suppress formation of memories of the event, and I was curious and wanted to remember it. It was unpleasant, definitely but.. *shrug* lots of things are unpleasant. Wasn’t traumatic or anything.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I had a full lower done at a 7am a few weeks ago, and that evening flew to another city.

      The doctor blinked a few times when I told her my plans, and then told me it was probably fine, but to call 911 immediately if I started bleeding. Which is what I was also supposed to do if it happened when I was at home, so…

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I actually had one today right about when you made this post. At this point I feel about the same as I do when I miss a few hours of sleep, and I assume that will go away when I wake up in the morning.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Being put under left me kind of useless for the rest of the day, as it generally does. I was fine the next day – well, except for the reason I was having the procedure in the first place. The endoscopy itself didn’t seem to cause any negative effects.

  15. eigenmoon says:

    Continuation of this.

    The problem with virtue signaling is not that it’s signaling, but that it’s very counterproductive if you want to search for truth or the optimal course of action.

    ECD:
    In response to the comments of this thread, I’d actually challenge this. If you want to search for truth, at least the kind of truth of interest to me, what other people consider virtuous, or their society wants them to consider virtuous seems extremely relevant.

    What kind of truth is of interest to you?

    Here’s a fairly small and benign example. Suppose that you have a two year old car and you want to help the environment. The virtue signaling way is to buy an electric car and tweet about it. The rational way is to sit down and calculate; since a huge amount of energy is needed to produce a new car, it would be actually better to continue using the old car.

    • ECD says:

      We may have a difference of opinion over what virtue signalling is then. Because frankly, so long as you tweet out the link to your analysis, I think you’re virtue signalling in either case. I’ll answer your question on truth in a second reply to try to keep the definition issue separate from the truth question.

      • eigenmoon says:

        I agree that tweeting the analysis could be virtue signaling as well. I understand “virtue signaling” the way David Friedman defined it (his reply is below).

        But that works only because my example is small and uncontroversial, so it could fit in a tweet. Here’s a more complicated example discussed here:

        Thunberg’s own awakening to the climate crisis a few years ago caused upheaval in her family. Her mother, the well known opera singer Malena Ernman, has given up her international career because of the climate effects of aviation.

        to which I replied:

        OK, suppose you’re an opera singer and you’d like to reduce CO2 emissions. How on Earth does ending your career contribute to your goal?

        It seems reasonable to assume that the demand for listening to opera is constant. Ideally, every village would have enough great opera singers and nobody would have to fly. The reason singers have to fly is that they’re scarce. By pulling herself out of the workforce, Ernman has increased scarcity, so now somebody else has to fly longer to sing to the audience she abandoned. Overall she has increased CO2 emissions, no?

        There were some excellent replies to that.

        The sin of virtue signaling is ignoring all but the most immediate consequences of an action. In a single person this isn’t really distinguishable from insufficient intelligence, which is probably why Paul Zrimzek refuses to accuse of virtue signaling. But accusing the entire Left of virtue signaling is something entirely different.

        Let’s assume that an average leftist will retweet something feel-good-and-warm-and-fuzzy like “I’ve quit my job for TEH EARTH!!111!” with 2/3 probability and a utilitarian analysis that says you shouldn’t quit your job for teh Earth with the probability 1/3. (I think the real numbers are much more like 0.99 and 0.01). Now assume that all opera singers have to decide today whether to stop flying or not, and they have to tweet about it. Assume that 1/3 of all singers are smart enough to figure out they shouldn’t quit flying.

        Now a group of leftists, let’s call it Tier 1. Each Tier 1 member reads a random tweet by an opera singer and decides to retweet it or not. Among the Tier 1 tweets, we’ll have (2/3)²:(1/3)² ratio of feel-good to rational tweets. Now enters another group, let’s call it Tier 2, and each member reads a random tweet by Tier 1.

        If you’re reading a tweet by Tier 10, what’s your chances of meeting a rational tweet? I calculate it as (1/3)^11/((1/3)^11+(2/3)^11) which is slightly less than 0.05%. That’s negligible.

        Of course this is not limited to leftists. Among the Evangelical Christians, which physical papers would circulate the most – reasonable ones or Young Earth ones? Everywhere where group preference for feel-good stuff (that’s the virtue signaling part) is combined with an echo chamber (that would be social networks), there is an explosion of stupidity for the reasons illustrated in the calculation above.

        And the best way to mitigate it is to come to SSC and talk with people with different views.

        • ECD says:

          Yes, with numbers you have chosen, you can produce calculations which fit your model.

          Let’s pull it back a bit from the mathematical model. I guess I’m not seeing the issue you’re trying to get at. I don’t want to rehash an old thread, but this example seems like a bad one to me. Opera singing is indeed a limited resource, but (1) it’s not a necessary one and (2) it’s not that limited a resource. I mean, there’s only 1 best opera singer, but that’s very different from there aren’t any good opera singers in the area.

          And she didn’t give up her career, she gave up her international career (in the quote given, I haven’t investigated much because I get more than enough child geniuses in fiction I otherwise like, I don’t need them, real or not, in real life as well). She was now singing a lot more often in her home area and, presumably, therefore fewer other opera singers need to travel to that area. This also seems like almost the opposite of what the folks below are complaining about. Giving up an international career seems like an extremely costly signal. It’s one you think is counter productive, but it doesn’t seem obviously so.

          Alternatively, they might be able to get the same effect by streaming a performance, or other use of technology.

          I got distracted by the individual example, but I think it’s still relevant, your model is only a bad thing if the 2/3 are actually irrational. My position on global warming is nonstandard on the left (but so is my position on most environmental issues), but for people who view the emissions from aviation as an issue, trying to minimize it is not irrational. It’s not my focus, but it’s not crazy.

          I was just talking conference approvals, I review a lot of conferences and trainings which really have to be held in person (no, they can’t learn the latest welding techniques by web-conference), but lots of travel would be unnecessary if the trainers/conference hosts would put in the effort to allow real telepresence. It can be virtuous to point out waste and it is virtuous to attempt to avoid harm, especially at cost to yourself.

          • eigenmoon says:

            I got distracted by the individual example, but I think it’s still relevant, your model is only a bad thing if the 2/3 are actually irrational.
            The effect occurs because of exponential pileup of retweeting odds. Let’s play with the numbers:
            The Tier 0 (opera singers) ratio of rational to feel-good tweets is 10:1, the retweet ratio is 1:2 (as before): chance of tier 10 tweet being rational is slightly less than 1%.
            The Tier 0 ratio of rational to feel-good tweets is 100:1, the retweet ratio is 1:2 (as before): chance of tier 10 tweet being rational is slightly less than 9%.
            The Tier 0 ratio of rational to feel-good tweets is 100:1, the retweet ratio is 1:3: chance of tier 10 tweet being rational is slightly less than 0.17%.

            I guess I’m not seeing the issue you’re trying to get at.
            The issue is that a lot of systems would respond to application of force by going in a completely different direction. This happens even to something as simple as a rotating disk. In economics that happens pretty much all the time. The excellent “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen” by Bastiat is pretty much a rationalist sequence on eradicating biases arising from expectations that economy would go in the obvious direction. The unseen here is, for example, opportunity costs. So the charge commonly lobbed at the Left is that the Left tends to completely ignore the unseen, most likely because the echo chamber destroys rationality by the mechanism I’ve described.

            See also the reference to Bastiat on this very page with regard to rent controls.

            See also Gabbard being told that the question “how do you pay for things?” is a conservative message.

            She was now singing a lot more often in her home area and, presumably, therefore fewer other opera singers need to travel to that area.
            If we consider singers to be distinguishable by the market, then she just incentivized her fans to fly over. Let’s consider singers to be indistinguishable. If we consider operas to be indistinguishable, then there’s little reason to fly at all for the same reason Plumber doesn’t do plumbing tours of Europe.

            I think it makes sense to distinguish opera productions then. The reason she had to fly in the first place is that some production was giving shows only in Europe but US audience wanted to see it too. Now by refusing to fly, she made the supply of flying singers more scarce and therefore raised the ticket prices in US a bit, while lowering it in Europe a little bit. This in turn incentivizes some of her colleagues to fly. I don’t know what the net result is but my guess is zero.

            What I think she should have done instead is to refuse all productions except those that start at both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. Whether that’s realistic or not, I don’t know.

            I admit that the example is overcomplicated.

            Alternatively, they might be able to get the same effect by streaming a performance, or other use of technology.
            That would be great. I’d like to see more virtual choirs.

            This also seems like almost the opposite of what the folks below are complaining about.
            As far as I understand it (I’m not albatross so I can’t speak for him), cheap virtual signaling are retweets in my model. Nobody says that opera singers should understand economics as well as Bastiat. She did a sacrifice for what she believes to be a good thing, and deserves respect for that regardless of whether her beliefs are correct. It’s the rationality-suppressing society that is the problem.

            You’ve probably read about Left as religion. Take it from a much older religion that cheap virtue signaling is indeed a problem:

            The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organised church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptised, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation without condition. Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and unbelieving… But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard.

          • ECD says:

            @eigenmoon

            I’m not following your math, but it still seems dependent on your premise that some of the tweets are “rational” and some are “feel-good” and the ratio is in favor of “feel-good” which I am unconvinced by (I am also unconvinced that Twitter is a good place to seek rationality, generally and that people mostly aren’t using it for that purpose, but that’s a different argument).

            I’m going to leave the opera singer example, because I agree it’s complicated and isn’t helping the discussion, but I think we can play ‘it could cause X effect, or Y effect,’ all day without getting anywhere interesting.

            As far as I understand it (I’m not albatross so I can’t speak for him), cheap virtual signaling are retweets in my model.

            I mean, sure, but I don’t think the retweets actually get the retweeter much of anything. If the problem is people focus too much on stuff that’s not relevant/doesn’t help/whatever, then I agree, but in that case I’m much less concerned about opera singers quitting their jobs than the Kardashians (except on some criminal justice issues, oddly enough).

            Our culture certainly does a lot of, ‘look at the shiny’ without bothering to claim, or argue for its virtue.

          • eigenmoon says:

            I’m not following your math, but it still seems dependent on your premise that some of the tweets are “rational” and some are “feel-good” and the ratio is in favor of “feel-good” which I am unconvinced by
            I could make a continuous axis between rational and feel-good but I’m not going to do that now, let’s explore the math in the binary case. Only the retweet ratio must be in favor of feel-good, the Tier 0 can be pretty much anywhere. So let’s say it’s Facebook and Tier 0 generated 100 rational posts and 1 feel-good post. I will use 1:3 ratio for the reposts but I’ll simplify the repost model to say that rational posts get reposted once (so each tier has 100 rational posts), but feel-good posts are tripled by each tier. At tier 1 we have 100 rational posts and 3 feel-good posts. At tier 10 we have 100 rational posts and 3^10 = 59049 feel-good posts. 100/59049 = 0.0016935…

            I don’t think the retweets actually get the retweeter much of anything.
            The retweets are building the reputation of ingroup loyalty for the retweeter, and at the same time they help to define what that ingroup is and what it considers virtuous. This is hardly nothing, and I think it’s actually very important for the group.

          • ECD says:

            The retweets are building the reputation of ingroup loyalty for the retweeter, and at the same time they help to define what that ingroup is and what it considers virtuous. This is hardly nothing, and I think it’s actually very important for the group.

            Sure, but, phrased like that, I don’t actually think it’s bad. All groups define themselves and their virtues. I’m unconvinced that in the real world what twitter believes is virtuous has much impact (though what they believe is evil can). But even if I did, so what? It still provides exactly the information I said I was looking for, namely what the ingroup considers virtuous and I remain confused as to how anyone else is harmed.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @ECD

            Indeed, it’s not a sin for a group to discover its utility function in such a manner. Sometimes Left and Right fight over what looks to be a genuine difference in values – abortions or “bake the cake”, for example. This occurs more often on the far ends. But on a lot of issues Left and Right want basically the same thing: they want the country to be prosperous, the poor to be fed, the sick to be healed, the young to study, the old to be cared for, the workers to have jobs. If everyone agrees on that, the only thing remaining is to sit down and calculate the optimal path towards this future. At this point, however, the Left usually says that they already know the optimal way to do it, which is that the government must push the economy in the straight and obvious direction towards the goal, and everybody who disagrees must be some kind of demon that wants to inflict as much misery on the poor and the sick as possible.

            However, as I’ve mentioned before, even systems as simple as a rotating disk don’t go in the direction they’re pushed. If your pet can get some decent but affordable healthcare and you can’t, that might be exactly because the government decided to help humans but not pets. We really do need to sit down and calculate. And the reason the Left seems to be unwilling to do so might have a lot to do with the rationality-suppressing effect of the echo chamber that we’ve talked about.

          • ECD says:

            At this point, however, the Left usually says that they already know the optimal way to do it, which is that the government must push the economy in the straight and obvious direction towards the goal, and everybody who disagrees must be some kind of demon that wants to inflict as much misery on the poor and the sick as possible.

            Sure, to the same degree that the Right usually says that they already know the optimal way to do it, which is that the government just needs to get out of the way and people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps/buckle down/get God and anyone who doesn’t understand is a lazy, blasphemous freeloader that is unwilling to do the work needed to advance.

            And now that we’ve traded stereotypes, lets move forward.

            If everyone agrees on that, the only thing remaining is to sit down and calculate the optimal path towards this futur

            But everyone doesn’t agree on that. Everyone wants the things you mention (at least for their ingroup) but absolutely no one agrees about how you prioritize amongst them, or how you accomplish them and that’s been true for a lot longer than Twitter has existed. Not longer than virtue signalling has existed (probably, as I’m guessing both arise pretty instantly with people), but I don’t think the one interferes with the other nearly as much as you suggest.

            Honestly, I think watching EA conversations and reading through the CFC list of charities really drove home to me how very, very different peoples priorities can be, as well as how confused/confusing the preferences of even very smart, very dedicated people can be.

            ETA: Typo correction and a minor point: We can’t even agree on the scope of the problem in many areas. The solution to ‘the poor should be fed’ will vary radically if you’re looking to hit minimum calorie numbers, or if you’re trying to provide some level of nutrition, or what.

          • Plumber says:

            @eigenmoon says: “…on a lot of issues Left and Right want basically the same thing: they want the country to be prosperous, the poor to be fed, the sick to be healed, the young to study, the old to be cared for, the workers to have jobs. If everyone agrees on that, the only thing remaining is to sit down and calculate the optimal path towards this future…

            And how do you tell which way to go?

            A couple of decades ago from a now 100 years old book by Bertrand Russell I came across proposals for something called “Guild Socialism”, which (in what seems to me a particularly British way) ways of the past were combined with hopes for the future and a compromise between state socialism, syndicalism, and parliamentary democracy was thought up, and it shared some features with the “Distributionism” of Catholic social thought, and I was intrigued, so I read books by two leading proponents, one (Cole) became strongly linked with the British Labor Party (okay, so far so good), the other (Penty) later became involved with Mosley’s British Fascists (uh-oh!), and then I read that the two nations that gave some lip service to “Guild Socialist” ideas were Tito’s Yugoslavia, and Mussolini’s Italy (double uh-oh!). 

            I just don’t have much use for “works in theory”, the physics theory behind “dielectric unions” to prevent galvanic corrosion when copper meets steel pipe sounds plausible, but in practice they’re terrible and 6 inches of brass works better. 

            Out of the nations of the world where people are more comfortable and healthier by far most are social democratic/welfare state capitalist representative democracies of the anglosphere, western Europe, and Scandinavia, so odds seem good that model works.

            But they are outliers.

            No standing army Costa Rica does well (and far better than it’s immediate neighbors), Switzerland is supposed to be great, but they often practice local direct democracy (a similar system to some New England town hall meetings), and there’s Singapore where folks are relatively content (and the implications of that system working scares me), plus places like Greece just don’t seem to get Social Democracy done well.

            In the Left leaning press I read how well Massachusetts does compared to Republican controlled Mississippi, I haven’t read as much Right leaning press but from what I have I’ve seen contrasts between Republican controlled Texas and Democratic controlled California are highlighted. 

            The “Left” is correct that Massachusetts does do better than Mississippi, and the “Right” is right that while California has fabulously wealthy billionaire when you factor in housing costs our poverty rate approaches Mississippi’s and while homelessness in the rest of the U.S.A. has been dropping lately the numbers of the “unsheltered” here continues to climb.

            There’s another Republican controlled State however that I’ve no idea why it isn’t highlighted more: Utah. 

            In terms of getting people housednand rising out of poverty it isn’t quite Sweden, but it’s damn near Canada, and I’ll go so far to say that in terms of the it’s church based social welfare system works better by far then most of the rest of the USA, even better than Massachusetts, basically Utah achieves the articulated goals of the Left with Right wing methods. 

            Could Utah be replicated? 

            Unfortunately I doubt it, the majority of its population belong to the same communitarian sect, and I just don’t see that happening elsewhere in the USA.

            On that note let’s talk about peoples and churches: Cuba is ruled by a Marxist regime, Marxist regimes don’t have a good track record, of those that still exist two of them (China and Vietnam) allow so much private industry that I can think we can safely call them only nominally Marxist (indeed I think a one Party totalitarian state that still has significant private ownership “of the means of production” can be called Fascist, and since both aren’t going to war with major world powers who knows how long the may last? People there still want to come here, but both show little sign of becoming liberal democracies which frightens me), of the other two ‘Marxist’ regimes few will dispute that North Korea is a Hellscape, but Cuba?

            It’s certainly not the best place in the world by far, but compared to North Korea, Stalin and Russia, and Mao’s China it just isn’t as much of a man-made Hell with a giant pile of skulls, and I speculate it’s because it still has a population of practicing Catholics and the church acts as a counterbalancing force that keeps it from becoming as bad as other places ruled by that ideology (of course the mere existence of a counterbalance may mean less tyranny to begin with so ???)

            In the U.S.A. it’s been noted that when it comes to various social ills (murder rate, divorce rate, unwed mothers, rate of poverty, et cetera) the areas where most profess religious beliefs tend to do worse than more secular areas (with Utah a notable exception to that rule), but frequent chuch-goers do better than atheists, it’s those who profess belief but go to church less than once a month who tend to suffer social ills, but…

            …chicken or egg, among the religious frequent chuch-goers tend to be wealthier on average than infrequent church goers (I’m guessing that being poorer makes you too depressed to leave the house, afford gas to travel, and/or be ashamed at not putting more in the collection plate), and atheism correlates with having college educations (note: I’ve seen studies indicating that most of the social attidudes college graduates have, they had before they went to college, though I suppose since most grads have parents who are grads maybe the attitudes are originally from attitudes first taught at universities, but I have my doubts) which correlates with more income, so it may all just come down to (captain obvious) having more income makes you better off.

            So which works better, traditionalism or (in @DavidFriedman’s memorable phrase) “dilute democratic socialism”?

            Why take a chance? 

            Choose both.

            Do what may be done to encourage folks getting together (hopefully more than once a month), meet their neighbors/fellow parishioners, get a lesson/sermon encouraging morality, and at the same time have an inclusive (so it includes the socially isolated) social safety net for those in need.

            How statist should society be?

            Well, you don’t want either Somalia, or Stalin’s Soviet Union, but Costa Rica, Singapore (*shudder*), Sweden and Utah all work well, and I strongly suspect that where the balance between the best level of freedom or regulation is different for different peoples, frankly I see no way that California may get more like Utah, but if the Mormons (or the Catholics, Jews, Lutherans, et cetera) try more to convert more, more power to them, I also have my doubts about if Californians have enough trust and obedience to get more like Sweden, but that seems a bit more likely than like Utah, though both would be an improvement to the status quo of tents and shanty towns popping up, as they increasingly are now. 

            The other suggestion of somehow technological advances being enough to alone bring utopia, yeah pull the other one, I don’t believe it, technology has no morality – it may keep food from spoiling, or it can level a city.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @ECD
            I’m not convinced it really is about just different priorities. It would be much simpler to negotiate if that was the only problem. Something like “hey Left, how many migrants do you want? What about you, Right? OK, let’s target the average of those two figures”.

            At this point a link to Conflict vs. Mistake (and the follow-up) seems obligatory. What I’m saying is that virtue signaling converts people into conflict paradigm without good justification for it.

            @Plumber
            Thanks for the long post.

            I just don’t have much use for “works in theory”,
            Indeed, political discussions mostly boil down to which superintelligence to trust with everything: the democracy and/or government, the cultural evolution or the free market. So I’m quite fine with the idea to just look at what works and do it more.

            Switzerland is supposed to be great, but they often practice local direct democracy
            I didn’t get this. I would phrase it like this: Switzerland is great because they practice direct democracy.

            social democratic/welfare state capitalist representative democracies
            I have a standard libertarian reaction to this, which is to note that those countries became prosperous before they became welfare states. But I entirely agree with your prescription: traditionalism (or any other way to foster social cohesion without enforcement) and diluting social democracy. In fact I plan to move from Western to Eastern Europe in search of that.

          • Orwell on Plumber’s religious point.

          • Plumber says:

            @eigenmoon,
            I think I bungled and over caveated myself as I’d be surprised if I didn’t agree with @ECD’s legislative agenda more, but I’m too amused by your take to argue, good luck in the east!

            @DavidFriedman,
            Does Orwell ever not hit it out of the park?

    • ECD says:

      What kind of truth is of interest to you?

      Depends on the arena. In this arena (which term I’m going to stop using cause it shoves my brain into adversarial mode), one big thing is what do other people think is good/right. I do some fiction writing in my free time and some roleplaying and have a real problem with everyone ending up being…me. I supported and support the bans, but honestly Deisach and Conrad were excellent at providing those truths.

      I guess I’d ask, what sort of truths are you interested in that virtue signalling interferes with? And is it the virtue signalling, or being drowned out by people/yelled at by people for failing to show the right flag so to speak?

    • albatross11 says:

      Virtue signaling is probably an inevitable part of being human. I think the best we can hope for is to make sure that the only ways to do virtue signaling effectively actually do involve some virtue, and doing some actual good in the world. Technically signaling should involve paying a price–the peacock signals its robust good health by growing a gigantic colorful tail. We want to have low-cost signals (mouthing the correct slogans–whether that’s being SJW at Berkeley or straightlaced and religiously observant at BYU) and unproductive or harmful signals (signaling compassion for the poor by campaigning to ban cheap (“substandard”) housing and low wage jobs) not yield much benefit. Whereas we’d like signaling that does real benefit (showing your concern for poor blacks by volunteering as an after school math tutor for poor black students) to get you some real social benefit.

    • I don’t think “virtue signalling” is the same thing as “saying what you consider virtuous.”

      Virtue signalling means doing things intended to make other people think you are virtuous, rather than doing things because, being virtuous, you want to do them.

      To take red tribe example, enlisting in the army when there is a war on, not because you like guns but because you want to protect your country, demonstrates patriotism. Flying an American flag in front of your house, in a community where everyone is in favor of the flag, signals patriotism.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        This. Which is the reason I try to avoid accusations of virtue signaling: I believe that nowadays we spend far too much time trying to divine Forbidden Motives behind each other’s actions.

      • albatross11 says:

        My point is that society works best when getting the benefit form some virtue signal requires displaying some actual virtue. As a society, we want to give people very little credit for wearing a flag pin on their lapel and a lot of credit for enlisting in the army during a war, very little credit for loudly mouthing progressive beliefs on race and a lot of credit for teaching in an inner-city mostly black school, etc.

        The worst case is when people engage in a lot of expensive virtue signals that don’t actually do any good, but just impost costs on themselves and others.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Suppose that you have a two year old car and you want to help the environment. The virtue signaling way is to buy an electric car and tweet about it. The rational way is to sit down and calculate; since a huge amount of energy is needed to produce a new car, it would be actually better to continue using the old car.

      It depends on how much driving you do, and whether someone else could use your current car (e.g. a used car buyer, which is likely for a 2 year old car). Your used car may be better than their current car in terms of emissions (so a net decrease of emissions if they drive enough compared to you), and if you drive enough your decreased emissions may add up fast.

      This is why if I ever get income approaching a million dollars + a year I want to buy hybrid vehicles (whatever gets the best mileage, currently the Hyundai Ioniq blue) for other people under the following criteria:
      1) Their household currently uses a particular 15+ year old car for 20,000+ miles per year.
      2) Their household income is <$60k (lower SES wealth building is an additional value to carbon emissions reduction).
      3) They trade in their car for the Ioniq, and their old car gets junked (some exceptions may apply).
      4) My charity owns the car for 5 years, during which they are contractually required to use the Ioniq as they would have the previous car (this won't be nitpicked), and at the end of which they receive full title to the car (possibly receiving partial ownership each year, cumulating in 100% ownership at the end).
      – This serves three purposes: Hopefully it reduces any taxes they would owe on the "gift" by making it a long-term contractual arrangement, 2) Creditors can't take it from them during those 5 years, and 3) reducing the vetting needed to avoid scammers.
      Note: I'm choosing the hybrid for reasons of cost (I can buy more of them for more people), and ease of use and range (if they're driving 20k+ miles per year a typical commuter plugin probably isn't sufficient).

      How's that plan for virtue signalling? Now all I need is high income 😀

  16. FrankistGeorgist says:

    I spend most of the week working from my upper floor office and am consistently annoyed by my inability to see who’s at the door one story down. Enter the Spionnetje from those masters of rowhouse living the Dutch. I want one on my house in America. I can’t figure out where in a building code such a thing might be banned but I suspect mirrors facing traffic can cause problems. I was also thinking of disguising it against a couple of flag poles I’d like to install on my second story windows which would put it I think in the right place and hopefully shield my europhilic spying device with charming Americana.

    But I’ll also probably replace my front door/lock, and at that point get one of those camera peephole/doorbells. Am I crazy for pursuing the analogue option? It seems so much simpler and less prone to the problems of technology. The bespoke installation isn’t a problem.

    • Well... says:

      It seems so much simpler and less prone to the problems of technology.

      I would have suggested a camera rig but I thought of this too and find it persuasive. Also the cheapness.

  17. eigenmoon says:

    Another continuation of this.

    unlike the free market and cultural evolution, which are both superintelligent processes, governments are pretty stupid. The Left seems to believe that there is something superinteligent about governments as well, but they’ve never explained to me what it is.

    ECD:
    This is another place I’d push back. The government isn’t some thing somehow separate from culture or markets, it’s part of them.

    Maybe, in a sense that a criminal gang is a part of culture (gangster rap, for example) and a part of the market (it sells ill-gotten goods and buys supplies). But that doesn’t necessarily bestow any superintelligence upon the gang – or the government, for that matter.

    • albatross11 says:

      Bureaucracies are a different kind of superintelligent thing made out of people, just like markets.

      • sentientbeings says:

        I’d question superintelligent alone, but superintelligent just like markets is a definite no.

        The superintelligence of markets is in economy of computation. That economy is not remotely comparable to “group intelligence” of a bureaucracy.

        It seems to me that a lot of people who think that market advocates engage in hand-waiving or deification/idealization of markets do not really grasp this point. They see that markets coordinate things, but don’t fundamentally understand how it is that they do it well, and so misunderstand market advocates because they can still parse their sentences, even though the meaning is substantively different than what they perceive it to be.

        • The whole “super intelligence” thing is making the conversation more murky than illuminating. The question is about the usefulness of governments and they clearly are. We’re so used to strong governments being able to support markets that this power is nearly invisible. If you look at premodern societies, strong governments and markets go hand in hand. Ancient Rome for example was really unique in having regular trade in bulk food. They were only able to do this because they had a strong government. (To be clear, I’m certainly not making the argument that more government is always and everywhere a good thing. But it usually does go hand in hand with markets).

          • sentientbeings says:

            I’m not really engaged in the broader discussion that came in from the other thread. I just picked up on that one item because whenever (I think) I see that communication/understanding gap I feel compelled to say something.

            But to your point, “they go hand in hand” is a claim that I think can be well-supported. You’ve asserted more than that, though – that there is a causal link, with the governments supporting the market.

            To that I say, “Maybe.” Or maybe large/strong/[something] governments are more able to exist given a sufficiently healthy market structure. Maybe the state is a parasite that is better able to survive off a healthier host. See the remarkable stability and (by some measures) success of contemporary China versus Great Leap Forward China or various socialist failed states. That’s a modern example but the point could apply as easily to pre-modern societies. Or maybe [insert Zoidberg image macro].

            I think “strong governments and markets” is an under-defined phrase but that the general idea that a powerful government is necessary for a healthy, stable market should be treated with extreme skepticism. The repeated, seemingly inevitable, emergence of certain market institutions under varied conditions – including conditions very much inimical toward markets – constitutes good evidence for my belief, I think.

          • No, the causality is clear. When the Roman Empire state was strong, they cleared out the pirates, and Italy imported grain from Egypt and Africa(Tunisia). When it fell in Western Europe, those grain shipments stopped. If you try to build those kinds of advanced markets without a state, you get attacked by bandits. That is by far the biggest impediment throughout history.

            The repeated, seemingly inevitable, emergence of certain market institutions under varied conditions – including conditions very much inimical toward markets –

            The problem of your conceptualization is that you think of “inimical conditions” in the sense of high taxes and regulations. But to the pre-moderns, the biggest problem was getting murdered on the way to your destination.

          • cassander says:

            @wrong species

            the roman transfers of grain had almost nothing to do with markets. they were a command economy operation undertaken for political reasons, and the economy generally got more command-y with time.

            The first place you had a genuinely capitalist movement of basic needs was the netherlands in the late 1500s, when they built the largest fleet in the world to move grain and fish from the baltic to netherlands and beyond. It came before their period of military ascendancy, not after, and the government had precious little to do with it.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Wrong Species

            The problem of your conceptualization is that you think of “inimical conditions” in the sense of high taxes and regulations. But to the pre-moderns, the biggest problem was getting murdered on the way to your destination.

            You’ve assumed too much. I mainly had two examples in mind when I wrote my comment. The first is the development of monies in prisons. I particularly like the examples of monies in POW camps during WWII.

          • @cassander

            You have a source on that? Yes, the free dole was obviously a government operation but my understanding is that the actual trading of grain from Africa to Italy came through merchants.

            @sentientbeings

            Mea culpa. Still I’m not sure those are strong counter-examples to my claim. They both take place under the existence of strong institutions explicitly part of the government.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @Wrong Species

            They both take place under the development of strong institutions explicitly part of the government.

            Yes, strong, but strongly positioned against. Generally speaking, prison economies, especially in prisoner of war camps involving the procurement of contraband, are not viewed favorably – in an official sense – by the jailers. As to the arguably “favorable” views of, say, some guards who are subverted by the enterprise of prisoners, well…I think it illustrates a rather inspiring idea: that peaceful exchange can undermine coercive power.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species says:

            You have a source on that? Yes, the free dole was obviously a government operation but my understanding is that the actual trading of grain from Africa to Italy came through merchants.

            the emperor would effectively hire people to go get grain and bring it to the capital where he would dole it out to mass acclaim.* There were a lot of middle men involved, the principate didn’t have a whole lot of bureaucracy, but it was still a command arrangement, not one that arose out of market interactions. There was some of that, of course, but it was more for luxury goods than staples. It was frightfully difficult to transport of grain over land any serious distance, so most of what was grown was consumed locally.

            *It was much more complicated than a simple transaction, there was an awful lot of dressing up the process, but at the end of the day, that’s what they were doing.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            The first place you had a genuinely capitalist movement of basic needs was the netherlands in the late 1500s, when they built the largest fleet in the world to move grain and fish from the baltic to netherlands and beyond. It came before their period of military ascendancy, not after, and the government had precious little to do with it.

            The shipping of grain and such from the Baltic region to The Netherlands began in the early 1400’s, resulting in a lot of conflict with the Hanseatic League. This conflict was primarily with a subset of that league, the Wend cities (the most powerful of which was Lübeck).

            There were four Dutch-Hanseatic wars between 1438 and 1544. A key factor in these wars was the right to travel the Øresund, the strait between Denmark and Sweden, and how much toll had to be paid.

            The Duke of Burgundy and the regional government played some role in the first wars, although it was more of a locally directed effort where the Duke tried to steer things a bit, rather than a very centralized governmental affair.

            The Habsburgs took over in 1482 and they wanted to create a stronger central Dutch government, unifying privileges, law, etc. This allowed for better control, which in turn allowed the Habsburgs to extract more wealth to fund their wars.

            These changes resulted in unrest, which, together with religious prosecution, led to the war of independence.

            Anyway, I’m not sure this neatly fits a narrative where government is either necessary or not. The trade cities had powerful governments, which was necessary to fight off pirates and fight off challenges by rival trade cities. When more military force was required than a single city could muster, cities would seek out alliances, which were fairly ad hoc and often focused on preventing domination by one side.

            An example of this is that the Danish King supported an attack by the Wends to retake two cities at the tight part of the Øresund, whose fortresses allowed control over the Øresund, but that he warned the outnumbered Dutch defenders so they could withdraw. He didn’t want the Wends to win a decisive victory.

            PS. Danish records from 1497 show that over half the trade ships visiting Danish harbors were Dutch.

          • It was frightfully difficult to transport of grain over land any serious distance, so most of what was grown was consumed locally.

            That’s why it was transported by the Mediterranean and it’s what made the Romans unique in the ancient world.

            Yes, the grain shipments wouldn’t have happened without the strong Roman state(that was my original point). And yes, they were well known for the grain dole. But I’m pretty sure that grain was transported through merchants and it was shipped to Italy. Once it got there, then the Roman state would purchase it and distribute it the inhabitants of Rome. Calling this a “command state operation” just sounds way too strong but if you have sources that say otherwise, I would love to read them.

        • albatross11 says:

          Ugh. Okay, let me try for more precision, because I don’t think you got what I was trying to say.

          There are jobs which you simply can’t get done by putting them under a single person’s control–no human can manage them. (For example, applying a set of rules and procedures in a more-or-less uniform way across millions of instances per year.)

          But you can get those done with a bureaucracy. A bureaucracy is superhuman in the sense that it can do some things no human can do, regardless of how smart or motivated or pure of heart she is. In this way, it’s like a market–because there are coordination problems that no czar or manager can solve, no matter how smart or well-intentioned he is, that a market can solve.

          I’m not saying a bureaucracy is the same thing as a market, or can solve the same problems efficiently. But there are problems we don’t know how to solve in any other way than a bureaucracy, which is why every government and university and large company and large church ends up having some kind of bureaucracy to run big parts of its operation.

          • eigenmoon says:

            What actually makes bureaucracies at least tolerably intelligent is the evolution through competition between companies, between universities and between churches.

            The Catholic church underwent an adjustment to competition – the Counter-Reformation – in which it has improved considerably.

            But the governments are competing too weakly. They’re still at pre-Reformation Catholic church level.

    • ECD says:

      Maybe, in a sense that a criminal gang is a part of culture (gangster rap, for example) and a part of the market (it sells ill-gotten goods and buys supplies). But that doesn’t necessarily bestow any superintelligence upon the gang – or the government, for that matter.

      I think this is intended as a cutting analogy, but I’m actually fine with it. Yes, gangs, not just rap, are part of culture. They evolve for a reason and serve a function, which is one reason they’ve survived so long. I’m not in favor of them, unlike governments, but that doesn’t mean that their ‘removal’ to the extent it were possible doesn’t involve Chesterton’s fence issues, or cultural evolution issues. I’m not an expert, but Duterte’s rule in the Philippines might be an example of the consequences of going too far to try to remove, while some of the US’s southern neighbors might be examples of the consequences of not going far enough.

      I’m happy to discuss differences between governments and gangs, but that’s different question, I think.

      • eigenmoon says:

        Indeed, gangs can gain some superintelligence if they evolve. But modern governments are too young, evolve too slowly and compete too weakly for this effect to be significant.

        I think the best example of government-level evolutionary insight is this: socialism doesn’t work. And yet the Left – the side that tends to treat the government as superintelligent – likes that insight the least.

        Here’s a low blow, I know, but look at Brexit. Do you have the feeling that it’s being handled superintelligently?

        • ECD says:

          @eigenmoon

          Here’s a low blow, I know, but look at Brexit. Do you have the feeling that it’s being handled superintelligently?

          Not particularly, but I don’t think the markets handled tabacco superintelligently either. What’s happening is essentially the dismantling of a government. That’s one thing (like I would expect a market to be bad at dismantling a market) I would expect a government to be notably bad at, unless it was willing/able to use force of arms.

          But, again, I’m not sure we’re using superintelligent the same way here.

          But modern governments are too young, evolve too slowly and compete too weakly for this effect to be significant.

          That’s interesting, because modern governments are a lot older than any gang I’m aware of, but they’re too young, while gangs aren’t?

          I think this is especially interesting regarding the slow speed of government evolution, because on one level it’s obviously true, elections are held at regular (slow) intervals, judges appointed at quasi-random intervals, and some changes are incredibly slow in coming, if at all (see the length of time since the last constitutional amendment).

          Then there’s other stuff. The last congress (2 years long) passed 443 bills and 758 resolutions. (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/statistics), which doesn’t even touch on regulatory changes and internal government stuff. There’s lots of changes which appear invisible externally and look massive internally (and the reverse to be sure, beginning with most new political appointments).

          It’s not pure evolution, but there’s lots of trying stuff out, if relatively little and more ‘that didn’t work, let’s not bother to fund it next year’ than you might think (though rarely does anyone bother to go back and cancel the authority).

          I think the best example of government-level evolutionary insight is this: socialism doesn’t work. And yet the Left – the side that tends to treat the government as superintelligent – likes that insight the least.

          Meh, I’m happy to grant you that communism (ETA: to avoid any appearance of trying to take advantage of deliberate ambiguity, my word choice here is quite deliberate, I don’t know enough about the distinctions between socialism and communism to have a final opinion on socialism) doesn’t work.

          I think the best example of government-level evolutionary insight is this: republics/democracies actually can work, even over the long term and have a number of advantages.

          • eigenmoon says:

            but I don’t think the markets handled tabacco superintelligently either.
            That’s not how I see it. Intelligence is about the efficiency of optimization, not about the choice of a utility function. If people like smoking more than they like living, well then, the market is there to help them smoke themselves to death in the cheapest, most efficient way possible.

            modern governments are a lot older than any gang I’m aware of, but they’re too young, while gangs aren’t?
            I meant that the species of democratic governments is relatively young compared to the species of gangs.

            there’s lots of trying stuff out, if relatively little and more ‘that didn’t work, let’s not bother to fund it next year’ than you might think (though rarely does anyone bother to go back and cancel the authority).
            Sometimes things don’t work in a very visible way. But much more often, an assessment is needed, and here’s the problem. Consider this paper:

            “The Iron Law Of Evaluation And Other Metallic Rules” is a classic review paper by American sociologist Peter Rossi, a dedicated progressive and the nation’s leading expert on social program evaluation from the 1960s through the 1980s; it discusses the difficulties of creating a useful social program, and proposed some aphoristic summary rules, including most famously:
            – The Iron law: “The expected value of any net impact assessment of any large scale social program is zero”
            – the Stainless Steel law: “the better designed the impact assessment of a social program, the more likely is the resulting estimate of net impact to be zero.”

            If a government can either pay for a well-designed assessment that will on average find zero impact and make the government look like fools, or for a poorly designed assessment that will probably find some positive impact, what would the government choose?

            I think the best example of government-level evolutionary insight is this:
            OK, I’m happy enough with communism not working and republics/democracies working.

          • ECD says:

            That’s not how I see it. Intelligence is about the efficiency of optimization, not about the choice of a utility function. If people like smoking more than they like living, well then, the market is there to help them smoke themselves to death in the cheapest, most efficient way possible.

            I mean, the tobacco market did a great job of selling tobacco, certainly. The medical market did a rather less good job of keeping people healthy. Both are regulated, before we get into that argument.

            If a government can either pay for a well-designed assessment that will on average find zero impact and make the government look like fools, or for a poorly designed assessment that will probably find some positive impact, what would the government choose?

            From the inside, we’d rather have a well-designed assessment. Unfortunately, the most common thing is that we aren’t provided with any funding at all to do an assessment after the fact. What’s funded is the action and then you’re done, move on to the next project. That’s a failure of government (though not solely a failure of government, I bet if you think about ongoing work in the private sector you can think of one or two with similar failure modes). CYA is not limited to the government.

            In fact, to some extent, the protections in place against casual termination make us a little less vulnerable to it. Heightened oversight and public interest make us more vulnerable to it, on the flip side.

            The key point to remember is that “the government” isn’t all on one side. The party which didn’t propose/fund/support a particular action actually would be very interested in proving it was ineffective/wasteful. The problem is that this is expensive and the public doesn’t care that much about whether the study is well-designed, or whether there was a study. You can get essentially the same result (in the short term, without getting into the question of the harm this may do to the body politic as a whole) by simply saying it’s wasteful and any report otherwise is lying as by doing any sort of analysis.

          • eigenmoon says:

            The medical market did a rather less good job of keeping people healthy.
            My insurance company periodically sends me a health magazine because it’s incentivized to do so. I’m incentivized to read it because unlike doctors who want me to come back the insurance company wants me to be healthy. I count that as a win for the market. Of course if I decided to start smoking even though I know it’s unhealthy, there’s nothing the market could do to stop me, which is (according to me) a good thing.

            I bet if you think about ongoing work in the private sector you can think of one or two with similar failure modes
            Of course. There’s nothing magical about the private sector that makes every single private company smart. The magic dust is in the evolution: the smarter ones will survive better.

            Unfortunately, the most common thing is that we aren’t provided with any funding at all to do an assessment after the fact.
            This is exactly why I don’t consider government to be superintelligent. You personally might get some experience as to what works and what doesn’t. But the government as a whole won’t get smarter because you will retire at some point and I doubt the government will pay you to write even a single article summarizing your acquired wisdom. Thus governments keep falling into the same pitfalls over and over again. I’ve seen somewhere an amusing list of cases where a government wanted to control pests by offering bounties for (some part of) dead pests, and the people always respond with farming instead of hunting, and then the government is very surprised.

            You can get essentially the same result […] by simply saying it’s wasteful and any report otherwise is lying as by doing any sort of analysis.
            Exactly. When somebody in a certain party proposed Universal Jobs Guarantee, I haven’t seen a single response from the other party that went “Hey, it’s been tried by France in 1848 and failed miserably!”. Maybe it was there, I just didn’t see it. But my point is that government as a whole does not accumulate knowledge.

          • ECD says:

            My insurance company periodically sends me a health magazine because it’s incentivized to do so. I’m incentivized to read it because unlike doctors who want me to come back the insurance company wants me to be healthy. I count that as a win for the market. Of course if I decided to start smoking even though I know it’s unhealthy, there’s nothing the market could do to stop me, which is (according to me) a good thing.

            Sure, but it was surely in your insurance company’s interest to reveal that link a little earlier, yes?

            This is exactly why I don’t consider government to be superintelligent. You personally might get some experience as to what works and what doesn’t. But the government as a whole won’t get smarter because you will retire at some point and I doubt the government will pay you to write even a single article summarizing your acquired wisdom. Thus governments keep falling into the same pitfalls over and over again.

            I mean, yes, if the government were run by idiots. But we do actually try to capture learning, in SOPs and AARs and training we give each other and external training. When I retire (barring a disaster) we’ll usually try to have a month or two overlap between me and my replacement, so I can teach them how I do my job. When I started, I worked closely with a guy who’d done my job for a number of years before shifting over.

            I’ve seen somewhere an amusing list of cases where a government wanted to control pests by offering bounties for (some part of) dead pests, and the people always respond with farming instead of hunting, and then the government is very surprised.

            Well, except for all the cases where it ended in species extinction, or near extinction I guess…

            ETA: additional link

          • eigenmoon says:

            Sure, but it was surely in your insurance company’s interest to reveal that link a little earlier, yes?
            Yes, I believe that if something this big was discovered today – for example, that vaping is very bad – that I would first hear about it from Scott, then from my insurance company. In the 50s and 60s when it became known that tobacco is very bad, US was deep into Cold War shit and made propaganda about everything (including how to date) so it makes sense that the government jumped onto the question of what should the citizens smoke.

            I mean, yes, if the government were run by idiots.
            OK, I definitely was wrong saying that no training whatsoever is done because I have some inside view from relatives (admittedly under a government run by idiots). Here’s how it goes. The ministry of education sends down some directive that has no relationship to reality whatsoever. The teachers have to go to some sort of conference to present their individual approach to implementing the directive. The vast majority of teachers have no idea how to deal with that, so usually the most bureaucracy-literate teacher in a school writes everybody’s talks in exchange for favors. So everyone has to endure hours of excruciatingly boring talks that are very similar to each other. It goes something like this: “Ensuring that each child can pursue an individual educational trajectory transforms the learning experience by centering it on the child, by making the children subjects rather than objects of educational process”, and so on for many hours, and everybody in the room knows that none of this has any resemblance of what’s actually happening in the classroom.

            Well, except for all the cases where it ended in species extinction, or near extinction I guess…
            I can believe that the government can successfully eradicate wolves and cougars by this method. Those are a huge pain to farm, especially when they’re chewing the farmer. I can also believe the same about the birds because they tend to fly away and the farmer can’t clip their wings, otherwise the officials would notice.

            Hedgehogs, though. The closest thing to an assessment for the success of hedgehog bounties in the paper is the kill count. Can we be sure that those hedgehogs weren’t farmed?

          • ECD says:

            I can believe that the government can successfully eradicate wolves and cougars by this method. Those are a huge pain to farm, especially when they’re chewing the farmer. I can also believe the same about the birds because they tend to fly away and the farmer can’t clip their wings, otherwise the officials would notice.

            Hedgehogs, though. The closest thing to an assessment for the success of hedgehog bounties in the paper is the kill count. Can we be sure that those hedgehogs weren’t farmed?

            No, but if at this point we’re discussing some bounties work and some bounties don’t, which is rather different then your original point.

            In the 50s and 60s when it became known that tobacco is very bad, US was deep into Cold War shit and made propaganda about everything (including how to date) so it makes sense that the government jumped onto the question of what should the citizens smoke.

            I think, odd as it is for me to say, at this stage you’re overestimating the government’s influence. I’m going to ask for some evidence that people smoked due to government propaganda. Also, from my very preliminary research, there were indications on how bad smoking was long before the 1950s-60s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_tobacco#History). Though, honestly, this may be a bit of a distraction as no individual market failure disproves your argument.

            Here’s how it goes. The ministry of education sends down some directive that has no relationship to reality whatsoever. The teachers have to go to some sort of conference to present their individual approach to implementing the directive. The vast majority of teachers have no idea how to deal with that, so usually the most bureaucracy-literate teacher in a school writes everybody’s talks in exchange for favors. So everyone has to endure hours of excruciatingly boring talks that are very similar to each other. It goes something like this: “Ensuring that each child can pursue an individual educational trajectory transforms the learning experience by centering it on the child, by making the children subjects rather than objects of educational process”, and so on for many hours, and everybody in the room knows that none of this has any resemblance of what’s actually happening in the classroom.

            Sure, that happens. Same as the commercial world gets the wonderful ‘new business technique training which was covered in whatever the boss read last month,’ but I was mostly trying to address your concern about evolution, which was that any knowledge acquired gets lost and we get reset. External training (some good, some bad) provides new knowledge, then you go back to work and keep what is relevant/helpful and incorporate it into your workflow.

            The key point however is that, at least in my office, then you either write it down (maybe formally as an SOP, maybe just as a checklist, maybe as a big pile of difficult to read notes) and keep it, passing it on to your successor, who, usually, you also get to train, preserving what you’ve learned, but, since they’re new, also offering the chance for “wait, why do we do this?” and “Isn’t this really inefficient and stupid?” to which the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no, depending.

            Honestly, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a problem and gone through the files I inherited, or the SOPs, or our online database, or talked to someone who’s been working there 15 years and discovered, this question has already been answered, all I have to do is check and make sure the answer is still good.

            I mean, could it be better? Sure. Frankly, if someone were to put me in charge of my division (please don’t I like the town I live in and don’t want to move to DC) there are changes I’d make (if you complete and sign a legal opinion, you have to post it to our shared database; when higher levels do legislative drafting, they have to post it to our shared database so the people who will actually work it can comment on their efforts and what the actual effects will be; stuff like that), but my agency, or at least my office is much better at the knowledge management that enables evolution than I think you’re imagining.

          • eigenmoon says:

            some bounties work and some bounties don’t, which is rather different then your original point.
            OK, I was wrong that people always respond with farming. Now I see that it happens only when farming is feasible.

            I’m going to ask for some evidence that people smoked due to government propaganda.
            I didn’t say that. I meant that the government considered itself to be the institution to inform people about absolutely everything.

            there were indications on how bad smoking was long before the 1950s-60s
            The big one – the link to cancer – was discovered in Germany in 1940s, but it was a bad time to take Germany’s word on anything.

            my office is much better at the knowledge management that enables evolution than I think you’re imagining.
            OK, I believe you. I’ve updated somewhat towards the government being able to accumulate expertise in its nodes.

            That’s still a long way before I recognize the government as superintelligent, because I still don’t believe the wisdom flows between the nodes very well. Consider the US Treasury’s financial report. The most interesting part is “An Unsustainable Fiscal Path” (pdf page 14 = paper page 5) that details how the spending is too high. So based on this information, does the government (or the Left) plan to reduce spending? I haven’t watched Dem debates (I live in Europe anyway) but I have a distinct feeling that they want to do the exact opposite. (It’s not like Trump wants to reduce spending, either.)

          • ECD says:

            I’m going to ask for some evidence that people smoked due to government propaganda.
            I didn’t say that. I meant that the government considered itself to be the institution to inform people about absolutely everything.

            Sorry, I misunderstood this

            In the 50s and 60s when it became known that tobacco is very bad, US was deep into Cold War shit and made propaganda about everything (including how to date) so it makes sense that the government jumped onto the question of what should the citizens smoke.

            However, the fact that the government weighed in on something didn’t mean other parties couldn’t.

            OK, I believe you. I’ve updated somewhat towards the government being able to accumulate expertise in its nodes.

            That’s still a long way before I recognize the government as superintelligent, because I still don’t believe the wisdom flows between the nodes very well. Consider the US Treasury’s financial report. The most interesting part is “An Unsustainable Fiscal Path” (pdf page 14 = paper page 5) that details how the spending is too high. So based on this information, does the government (or the Left) plan to reduce spending? I haven’t watched Dem debates (I live in Europe anyway) but I have a distinct feeling that they want to do the exact opposite. (It’s not like Trump wants to reduce spending, either.)

            Nope, no intention of cutting spending. I don’t know enough to evaluate the report in question, but I admit to feeling about national debt a lot like various folks on the right feel about global warming. I’ve been hearing unsustainable, must live within our means, national credit card almost maxed out, disaster just around the bend, for the entire time I’ve been alive and am unconcerned at this stage.

            Now, if the treasury is right, then ignoring them is bad and will have unfortunate consequences, hopefully leading to a correction. If the treasury is incorrect, then this no more disproves the ‘superintelligence’ of the government than all the fumbling around that undoubtedly occurred during the establishment/evolution of cultural taboos.

            ETA: I do appreciate your updating based on my experience.

          • eigenmoon says:

            But those things that you’re unconcerned about are the most important decision drivers. Growing the economy as fast as possible is a great thing to do except for the climate change. Giving away lots of money to everybody is a great thing to do except somebody has to pay up at some point. If you postulate that you can borrow any amount of money without future consequences, then I agree that the optimal path is to borrow a lot and give it to everybody. But I don’t agree that the consequences are negligible.

          • ECD says:

            I may not be being clear, my point isn’t that consequences are negligible, but rather the reverse, which we seem to be agreeing on. Like for the market, or for cultures, mistakes do have consequences, which we learn from and change course. That, along with experimentation and keeping some knowledge of what was previously done, is what allows the ‘evolution’ we’ve been discussing.

            Now, on the specific instance of monetary policy, I am not an economist and don’t know enough to have an educated opinion. However, my uneducated response is that you are right, there is obviously some level of borrowing which would have major negative consequences. But the question of figuring out what it is, simply isn’t as simple as a math problem, though a lot of math will go into whatever decision ends up being made.

            Honestly, I think this ties in to your conclusion on the virtue signalling post below:

            I’m not convinced it really is about just different priorities. It would be much simpler to negotiate if that was the only problem. Something like “hey Left, how many migrants do you want? What about you, Right? OK, let’s target the average of those two figures”.

            Putting aside the bad incentives this gives both sides to assume maximalist positions, it seems entirely possible that taking the average is the worst result. For your example (I do not have evidence for the claims which follow, nor do I believe them, this is merely a though experiment) perhaps the average is too low to allow the formation of cohesive immigrant groups, but high enough to discourage assimilation, producing far greater social unrest than either extreme.

            I think where we disagree is that you seem to think its possible to know what the best policy is, while I am far less certain of that (though identifying terrible policies is often easy).

            A secondary, crucial point is, to the extent we don’t see the best policy, and could, I don’t think that’s the fault of virtue signalling, but rather the fault of…well…us (in the sense of humanity, not the sense of you and I). It’s a lot easier to say ‘they want to eat the poor,’ ‘they want to kill god’ than it is to sit down and actually (1) figure out what other people want, (2) why they want it and (3) what can be done that might satisfy you both.

            Honestly, this ‘mistake theory signalling,’ or ‘enemy signalling,’ or ‘ignorance signalling,’ seems a far more pressing concern for the issues you raise.

            And, though I disagree with the majority here on a lot of things, i do admit to a hesitant curiosity as to how much of it arises from the modern ability to engage in endless, anonymous communication with both in-group and out-group (IE social media).

          • But those things that you’re unconcerned about are the most important decision drivers. Growing the economy as fast as possible is a great thing to do except for the climate change.

            I think that illustrates the opposite side of the argument. Most of the disagreement is not about whether to grow the economy but what policies achieve that. Most of the disagreement about what one should do to prevent climate change is about facts, not values.

            If everyone agreed with the catastrophist position–that global warming threatens the survival of the human race–practically everyone would give high priority to preventing it. If everyone agreed with my view—that there is no good reason to expect the net effects of warming to be negative, and a very low probability that either permitting or preventing will have catastrophic effects,practically everyone would give preventing it low priority.

            There are some value disagreements, most obviously whether the maximand is limited to effects on humans, but those are not central. I have not yet seen anyone argue that AGW will have little effect on humans, but should be prevented because of its effects on other species.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @ECD
            there is obviously some level of borrowing which would have major negative consequences.
            I’d feel a lot better about US future if both Ds and Rs would commit to how much they think is borrowing too much and tell us how do they plan to reduce spending when they get to that point. The government’s “ceiling” is a joke at this point.

            it seems entirely possible that taking the average is the worst result.
            True, but I don’t think we’re even close to this problem. Both parties propose policies that could worsen the present situation. If Ds will get free healthcare (and maybe other payouts) for illegal immigrants without building a wall, they would create a powerful pull. If Rs will get the police to deport illegal immigrants on sight, they would incentivize the immigrants to create no-go zones (if the police isn’t protecting you, you might want to protect yourself by any means necessary). Europe stepped into both problems but it has learned something.

            I think where we disagree is that you seem to think its possible to know what the best policy is, while I am far less certain of that
            I do think that we need to defer this question to some superintelligence, and I think that the free market is the best suited one, as it’s undeniably smart, although admittedly not necessarily benevolent.

            this ‘mistake theory signalling,’ or ‘enemy signalling,’ or ‘ignorance signalling,’ seems a far more pressing concern for the issues you raise.
            What’s all of that, exactly?

            People do seem to get somewhat polarized by the social media, although this effect seems to happen in US quite disproportionately, and also people managed to get really polarized way before (like Spain before the Civil War). Mass movements do evolve too, but usually, softly speaking, not towards superintelligence. It is possible that the internet is sort of a Petri dish for mass movements, and they evolve more rapidly in it.

            @DavidFriedman
            There’s a value tradeoff in deciding whether to grow the economy: do we want the government to redistribute more stuff at the cost of slowing down the economy, or do we want to redistribute less and grow faster? Democracies tend to overvalue presently existing people relative to people from the future. While nobody says aloud that a person living now is worth 10 people from 2119, I get a distinct impression that this is exactly how the government thinks, otherwise I’d guess the taxes would be much lower.

            I think values are also hidden in the climate question. It is possible that Central Africa will become unliveable, while, say, Canada will become warmer and possibly more fertile. How do you sum up those effects into a single “net effect” value is dependent on a value judgement.

          • ECD says:

            this ‘mistake theory signalling,’ or ‘enemy signalling,’ or ‘ignorance signalling,’ seems a far more pressing concern for the issues you raise.
            What’s all of that, exactly?

            Yeah, those were terms I was making up to reference the previous paragraph where I said:

            It’s a lot easier to say ‘they want to eat the poor,’ ‘they want to kill god’ than it is to sit down and actually (1) figure out what other people want, (2) why they want it and (3) what can be done that might satisfy you both.

            Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

            I do think that we need to defer this question to some superintelligence, and I think that the free market is the best suited one, as it’s undeniably smart, although admittedly not necessarily benevolent.

            Okay, I misunderstood our point of divergence. I entirely reject the argument that the free market should decide how many immigrants a country can take in, how the poor should be fed/housed, or any of the other questions we agree need to be answered by a civilized society. The free market is entirely amoral and intelligence is no substitute for virtue.

          • The free market is entirely amoral

            So is the political system.

            Morality comes in when we evaluate the outcomes of the alternative institutions.

          • ECD says:

            Morality comes in when we evaluate the outcomes of the alternative institutions.

            If you’re a pure consequentialist, which I am not.

          • If you’re a pure consequentialist, which I am not.

            Nor am I.

            But consider the disagreement between an anarcho-capitalist libertarian and minarchist libertarian, both of whom agree that certain acts, loosely speaking coercion, are morally wrong. They disagree about which system will result in more such acts.

            Or consider a socialist (strong sense) vs a libertarian. They have some disagreements about what is just. But they have much larger disagreements about the outcomes of the two systems, including the non-consequentialist ones. If the socialist believed that socialism would lead to Stalin, the Great Purge, and the Ukraine famine, he would not be a socialist–because those things not only have bad consequences, they are massively unjust in his terms.

          • ECD says:

            Or consider a socialist (strong sense) vs a libertarian. They have some disagreements about what is just. But they have much larger disagreements about the outcomes of the two systems, including the non-consequentialist ones. If the socialist believed that socialism would lead to Stalin, the Great Purge, and the Ukraine famine, he would not be a socialist–because those things not only have bad consequences, they are massively unjust in his terms.

            Sure, but, despite Cassander’s attempt below, I don’t think you can actually know this (indeed, going back to consider some of the examples, I conceded far too much there, looking at how Pol Pot’s regime lost power rather complicates the revolution = bad + left model he was proposing) and instead we’ll just end up right back in body counting, or arguing from our different premises (and/or different preferred conclusions).

            ETA: historical correction, let my rhetoric carry me away…

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    In Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, the philosopher Edmund Burke (The Sublime and Beautiful, Reflections on the Revolution in France) appears as a member of Johnson’s club of friends. In contrast to his image as a thinker on violence and the conservative vision of the safe and good life, Boswell records him as cracking puns and calling himself a child.

    “Johnson said ‘claret for boys, port for men, brandy for heroes;’ ‘then,’ said Burke, ‘give me claret, for I like being a boy, and partake of the honest hilarity of youth.'”

  19. Machine Interface says:

    Is there really such a thing as “capitalism”?

    Everytime someone points at something and says “look, capitalism”, all I see is normal human behavior amplified by technology.

    I’ve seen people define capitalism as “a system of economic organization that rewards greed”. What system doesn’t reward greed?

    Greed is defined as “an inordinate or insatiable longing for material gain, be it food, money, status, or power”. It seems to me that in almost all circumstances, this would pretty much reward itself. If you only make just what you need to survive on a daily basis, you’re much more likely to perish come the first accident than if you accumulate as much surplus as you can. Having a lot of extra stuff means that because you feel safe, you’re more likely to help others and invest back into your community, thereby indirectly making your situation even better.

    The only circumstances where such an instinct would be thwarted is either that your modes of production are so inefficient that you have just enough time during the day to barely produce what you need for daily survival (hunter-gatherers), or that your society has collapsed to such a degree that any good created that isn’t immediatly consumed or sold is at high risk of getting stolen or destroyed (civil war).

    I have therefore extended my antirealist stance to the concept of capitalism, and I am now treating arguments about capitalism with the same amount of polite contempt as I do with those about morality or aesthetics.

    • cassander says:

      a capitalist society is one in which a substantial share of the population produces goods that are intended for market exchange, not for their own personal consumption and not because they are commanded to do so by an economic planner.

      I grant that what constitutes a “substantial” share can be debated, but the fundamental description seems pretty solid to me.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Cassander gave one definition.

      As a *general rule* any word with a lot of emotional baggage ends up having an extremely fluid and often self-contradictory definition. Diedre McClosky had a quote i always found amusing that went “I don’t care how one defines capitalism, as long as it’s not defined as evil incarnate”.

      Most importantly, these words tend to deviate significantly from how they’re defined in a dictionary.

      “Everytime someone points at something and says “look, capitalism”, all I see is normal human behavior amplified by technology.”

      Sometimes people will define capitalism as ‘a system characterized by greed’ but then you have the problem that every “System” so-called ends up being capitalist if you look hard enough. But there’s often an equivocation between that definition (and it’s offshoot; capitalism is what you call every aspect of the contemporary economy that annoys you) and the more dictionary definition that looks at whether the economy is 1. industrial/post industrial 2. directed by ‘markets’.

      [And then people will equivocate between the ‘greed’ definition and the more dictionary definition.]

      But the very fact that this definition [‘greed’] makes all systems capitalist is somewhat contentious to an idealistic type, precisely because they might imagine that any behavior sufficiently selfish to cause problems is the product of ‘a system’, rather than a general constraint that you try to temper. (By designing rules that direct those fundamental tendencies in a positive or at least benign direction).

      There are words and terms that are sometimes associated with or related to ‘capitalism’ that are more precise, less emotionally loaded, and should therefore be used instead. Tax rates, zoning regimes, certification regimes, IP law, etc. etc. Whenever someone talks about capitalism i’m inclined to play dumb and say i have no idea what they’re talking about.

      Just to clarify, similar games are played with ‘socialism’ where people equivocate between command economies, economies founded on altruism, and gulags/famines/hunger games.

    • b4mgh says:

      your modes of production are so inefficient that you have just enough time during the day to barely produce what you need for daily survival (hunter-gatherers)

      It was my understanding that the problem with hunter-gatherer societies wasn’t inefficiency, but rather an upper limit on population density in a given area and vulnerability to environmental changes. In fact, I think that hunter-gatherers needed to spend less time per day foraging to attain their caloric needs than farmers for most of the pre-modern period. I might be wrong, though. Don’t quote me on this.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I’ve seen people define capitalism as “a system of economic organization that rewards greed”. What system doesn’t reward greed?

      Who defines capitalism like that? The strawman capitalist creed is that greed is good, meaning it can be turned towards socially desirable ends.

      Having a lot of extra stuff means that because you feel safe, you’re more likely to help others and invest back into your community, thereby indirectly making your situation even better.

      Uhhhhhh, no. I mean, if you compare me to your average starving-to-death refugee, maybe I am more likely to contribute, because I am not literally starving to death. So, yes, “more likely.” I contribute back to the community because I am paid to contribute back to the community. If this were Medieval Europe, my incentive would be to go to the Holy Land and kill infidels. You might prefer the refugee in that case.

    • sharper13 says:

      A definitional issue is that “Capitalism” is one of those words invented by someone (originally used disparagingly by socialists) in the process of opposing it.

      So the proponents will mean something along the lines of free market economics, mutually advantages exchanges, etc…, while the opponents who coined the word will add in more sinister connotations.

      I personally try to remember to just use a more specific word or phrase, but that doesn’t always work when responding to people who start by calling complete government control of a market “capitalism”, for example, which could fit your above definition, but seems to really twist even the original intended definition pretty far.

      A useful exercise, if you’re allowed to engage in it, is to begin by literally “coming to terms” with someone so that you’re using the same words to mean the same thing. Capitalism is now one of those words which will tend to confuse that process.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Is there really such a thing as “capitalism”?

      Sure there is. Marx – of all people – gives us a useful framework for identifying it.

      Marx’s Big Idea was that social relationships are governed by economic relationships (how things are produced) and that these in turn are governed by, essentially, technological progress.

      With that in mind, we can view capitalism as resulting from a changing production paradigm. No longer is the world-as-we-find-it (land) the primary non-labour factor of production. Instead, the world-as-we-make-it (capital) is what counts most.

      Part of it has to do with the additional efficiencies introduced by (physical) capital: if modern farming equipment and fertilizers allow you to produce more food from a given area of land, you’re gonna need less farmland to feed a population of a given size than before. Part of it has to do with (again, physical) capital allowing you to do things you would not have been able to do previously, because it is a force-multiplier.

      Apart from capital becoming the key factor of production, a key feature of capitalism – one that serves to differentiate it from “real socialism” (yes, it was called that, unironically as far as I can tell) or communism (the party line, as I recall it, was that it was something we were to get in the future) – is private ownership of the means of production.

      To that I would add trade being the primary form of property acquisition. Compare and contrast this with systems of inheritance/patrimony or grants by some authority (such as the king distributing land between his vassals). In a capitalist system, if you can afford it, you can have it.

      In passing, I’ll point out that this means class divisions are emergent in capitalism. Let’s say Alice works for Bob – she’s a wage-labourer (proletariat), no? A bit later she takes some of her savings and buys stock in Charlie’s company. She’s now collecting a dividend, whilst still working at her day job. Is she a worker or a capitalist? Why not both?

      She wisely reinvests the extra money and with a bit of luck she finds herself making enough from her investments that she can quit her job altogether. She is now a full-blown capitalist. Several years on, however, a few bad turns have diminished the value of her investments and she goes back to working for Bob, because her dividends are no longer enough to pay the bills.

      Alice has come (almost) full-circle and this is normal. She might conceivably alternate between worker and capitalist many times. Compare with feudalism, say, where you would usually expect to live your entire life as part of the class you were born into. If you were born a peasant, you’d typically stay a peasant. If you were born nobility, you’d stay nobility. Change of social class wasn’t impossible, but it was a major event.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I agree with you. I think I made similar point here in a context of discussion about Marx. Capitalism is imho, because it posits high degree of similarity between our current society and society of 19th century that doesn’t really exists.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My sense:

      First, a capitalist system relies less on violence as a core motivator than a non-capitalist system. By contrast are systems where everyone works toward shared projects that are determined by any method (including authoritarian fiat and democratic vote), and are enforced by some ladder of methods that necessarily terminates in violence. (E.g. do it, or pay a fine. If you ignore the fine, you get prison. If you resist prison, you get beaten. If you fight back, you are killed.)

      A capitalist system relies on price signals to coordinate exchange of goods and services. By contrast, a planned economy relies on knowledge about abilities and needs; a gift economy relies on people giving away things to make other people happy; etc. A capitalist system can use those methods as well, but it’s not required to. I suppose this is more precisely labeled a market economy, and I probably equate the two, perhaps inaccurately.

      A capitalist system relies on greed, but only out of convenience; it recognizes that each person knows of their own desires better than anyone else by default, and intentionally works with that fact. Other systems tend to try to temper it directly – collectivisms by violence, gift economies by an appeal to love. Speaking artfully: the latter try to stop up the flow of greed; capitalism tries to channel it.

      A capitalist system may reward exploiting differences in information, and for me this is where the grayest areas emerge. If I make money off knowing a better way to make widgets, that’s capitalist. If I make money off knowing one business is likely to outperform another and investing accordingly, including shorting, that’s capitalist. If make money off knowing more about risk than some group of innocent citizens, that’s capitalist – but a lot of people consider that dirty pool in certain cases, and I feel some sympathy for that, but not perfectly. The reason my sympathy is not absolute is that in all these cases, other people have an incentive to find out and exploit their own advantages in information. Others can innovate better widget production, better knowledge of businesses, or of risk, and this is all supposed to be part of the system. Remove that incentive, and people stop being as careful, and that society falls behind one where people were motivated to be more careful.

      A capitalist system permits any action to any person, provided they work with their own property, and harm no one else’s. That includes information, meaning any information can be shared, once you have it, unless you’ve agreed to a contract that forbids sharing it. (Saying that someone else’s business is flawed in some way does not count as harm, unless that claim is false, in which case it is definitely harm. This might raise problems with my model; I’m not sure.)

      I think that, based on these impressions, I could classify any economic action as capitalist or not, and the result would be self-consistent. (And even, incidentally, surpass the utility of any other economic system I’m aware of.) I can’t prove it, though – I keep wondering if I could prove it somehow. I need to think more about edge cases.

      I believe Faza’s definition (private ownership of the means of production is permitted) is probably the proper one, though. It could be the case that all my impressions follow from it.

    • Plumber says:

      @Machine Interface says:

      “…Everytime someone points at something and says “look, capitalism”, all I see is normal human behavior amplified by technology…”

      I recommend reading books on British and European life in the Middle Ages with a focus an agrarian villages, and then on the towns, with especial emphasis on the guilds, I was particularly impressed by Wage Labor & Guilds in Medieval Europe by Steven Epstein, both the continuities and the differences are striking, the guilds were somewhat like social clubs like the Knights of Columbus, trade unions, and modern corporations all at once and yet like none of them, there really was an evolution, and even revolution (over centuries) in economic and social relations, and “capitalism” was coined to describe what we have now as distinct from what was then, and just “human behavior” and “technology” isn’t the whole story (and a fascinating story it is!).

    • Viliam says:

      Ultimately, when I have something, I have three options:
      – use it;
      – trade it voluntarily for something;
      – have it taken away involuntarily.

      Plus a few other options that are a variant or a combination of the above. I can keep the thing, and then use/trade/lose it later. When I donate the thing to someone, it could be classified as my indirect use (if the fact that the other person uses it makes me genuinely happy), a form of trade (if I expect something in return, even intangible things like status), or succumbing to pressure (if I believe that not donating would make other people angry enough to hurt me); or a combination of it all. Also, sometimes the things spoils; especially food.

      From this perspective, we have societies:
      – that barely have anything to trade or take away;
      – where the surplus is mostly taken away by violence;
      – where the surplus is mostly traded voluntarily.

      In other words, a primitive society, a violence-based society (dictatorship, feudalism, real socialism), and a trade-based society (capitalism). It is usually a mix. A society mostly based on violence can still allow or tolerate trade on a small scale. A society mostly based on trade can still collect taxes based on threat of violence. Plus the grey zone of trades you are compelled to make, such as buying mandatory insurance, that you maybe would and maybe wouldn’t want to do voluntarily.

      The same applies to means of production:
      – there are barely any;
      – you can keep them, or trade them for other means of production, or sell them for stuff to consume;
      – the big guy will take them away from you.

      If this analysis is essentially correct, then, in theory, arguing against capitalism is kinda arguing in favor of poverty or violence.

      But in practice, when people complain about “capitalism”, it is one of the following:
      – complaining about various failures within capitalist society (e.g. people using force or fraud to get money and afterwards using this money with impunity on the market); if they believe these failures exist on purpose, it means accusing proponents of capitalism of hypocrisy;
      – complaining that the world is imperfect and unfair (and using “capitalism” as a symbol for it, and “socialism” as a symbol for equal distribution of stuff);
      – complaining about Moloch acting within capitalist society (failing to notice that Moloch acts within any society).

    • mtl1882 says:

      I do think there is something to be said for making a distinction between selfishness and greed. People are going to look out for themselves, and be motivated by advancement. Greed is well beyond survival, and as an idea I see it as different than thriving. It is getting closer to seven deadly sins territory. “Insatiable” is the key word there. Not everyone is generally insatiable, and certain community structures encourage those who are disposed towards it, and give them more opportunity, than others. A lot of it has to do with upper limits, some of them ones of actual physical possibility, as other commenters said. The quality of life is different in a free market society than in a feudal one in a lot of different ways. Looking at the U.S. in the 1800s shows how different economic systems manifest different societies, even in a recent and familiar enough environment. I can’t tell you when exactly to call a system capitalist, but there is a difference between systems even if they are all about achieving reward. Acting in a communal manner isn’t a bizarre, illogical fantasy.

  20. Skeptical Wolf says:

    Can anyone offer advice on breaking internalized negative word/subject associations?

    Some time ago, I went through a period of deliberately trying to be well-informed with regard to news, particularly politics. This led me to consume quite a bit of contentious writing that fell outside my normal comfort zone. This had some horizon-widening benefits, but has also produced a negative side effect that I’m trying to figure out a way to reverse or mitigate.

    Specifically, I encountered quite a lot of writing that advanced negative stereotypes about and sometimes advocated violence against groups that I consider myself a member of (sometimes this was hyperbole or satire, sometimes I didn’t identify it as such). This became sufficiently stressful that I chose to deliberately narrow my media consumption and spend my energy elsewhere. However, I find that even after more than a year of avoiding the worst offenders, certain keywords and topics still cause a stress/anxiety reaction due to my associating them with more extreme writings. This has negatively impacted my ability to enjoy some of my hobbies (due to the prevalence of those topics in the communities that have formed around those hobbies). This improved steadily for a while after I narrowed my media exposure, but seems to have plateaued in the last few months.

    Is this a problem that anyone else here has experienced and is willing to talk about? Are there any suggestions for how I can restart or accelerate the progress I was making?

    • ECD says:

      Not entirely similar, but I had a somewhat related issue with images/words which I could not get out of my head. I had quite a bit of luck with finding a very long series of books (the Foreigner Series by CJ Cherryh) I discovered I really enjoyed and whenever I found myself focusing on the things I wanted gone, I’d pull out my kindle and read for about an hour. Seemed to work for me, by filling my head with other words.

      Don’t know how it’ll work for you, might taint something you enjoy…

      I am not a doctor, the above is not medical advice.

    • Enkidum says:

      I am not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist. So take this with a grain of salt. But what you are describing sounds to me unusual enough that it might warrant talking to a professional about. The only “cure” I know of for things like this is some form of exposure therapy, for which you’d likely need a professional anyways. (And I believe it has a substantially lower than perfect success rate.)

      I hope you find a way to improve this situation, it sounds pretty unpleasant to my ears. Good luck.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Purposefully call up the association and stick with it, observing the association, your feelings, and your visceral reactions. And try to breathe, calm youself, and pretend to let it go and move on to something else.

      It will still come back in full force at times, but at other times you may find it lacks the power it used to have.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Can anyone offer advice on breaking internalized negative word/subject associations?

      Same way you break any negative association: step outside of it, and analyze it. Ask yourself why that association exists. Probe it with logic. The more you do that, the less emotional the association will be. It will feel less like “this term makes me anxious” and more like “my brain reacts to this term with anxiety”.

  21. BBA says:

    Never forget, they say. And sure I remember – where I was, the emotions, the panic, the sense that after the calm and safety and invulnerability that came with being American in the 1990s, history was starting up again and coming for us.

    This was during the brief period of my life when I wasn’t living in New York, so I only experienced the disruption secondhand. For those who were in the towers, or even in the neighborhood (where I live and work now) I can only imagine the experience. It’s the mundane artifacts in the underground museum at the memorial that hit me – there’s a printout of a NASD rule filing, something I deal with all the time in my job, and though they’ve changed their name to FINRA they haven’t changed their MS Word templates in 20 years.

    And I remember what it was like before – how you could take road trips to Canada without a passport or go through airport security to meet arriving family members at the gate, and how perfunctory airport security was back in those days. Security cordons around government buildings existed, I don’t remember how much was always there and how much was a response to Oklahoma City… I know security in general got much tighter and still hasn’t loosened up. Why would it? We’re at war, now and forever.

    I remember how only pacifist cranks were against invading Afghanistan. I guess that’s why I’m a pacifist crank now. (Libya was a bigger part of that, though. I accept that there’s nothing I can do about the war machine, and that sometime during the 2020s the US will invade Iran, no matter who wins any of the next few elections. I’m not happy about it but I accept it.)

    But the main thing I remember, though, is paranoia. Enemies were among us. Who knew what they were plotting? That very day, I read something about a Muslim man with a knife arrested on a train in the city where I was attending college…naturally the “Muslim” turned out to be a Sikh, but I’m sure the Amtrak police counted it as a terrorist plot foiled. “If you see something, say something” goes the police propaganda campaign that continues to this day. I never saw anything or said anything. Many people saw something and said something, but that “something” turned out to be nothing and innocent people were needlessly run through the police-military-intelligence machine. (I’d think it was a waste, but it was just a few years later that I was among people who saw something and said nothing, so who am I to say.)

    They say “never forget” because, I suspect, they want to keep us perpetually afraid and unwilling to question the most ludicrous stories that can address that fear. I know I’ll never forget, but I think we as a country should.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Hunter S Thompson’s article in espn of all places interests me because I remember my dad saying quite a lot of similar things without a hint of irony, including that “Bush was finishing the war his father started.”

      The subsequent years rather put me off finishing fathers’ wars, so I’ll join you in the pacifist cranks corner.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I was a college student in the mid-west when the planes hit, and the communities I was in reacted a little differently from what you describe. We were sad and angry, occasionally confused. But fear and paranoia were never major parts of how we processed the attacks. Later we were disappointed and sometimes angry at the responses, but I think that disappointment and frustration came largely because we weren’t feeling the fear that those measures were supposed to address.

      I don’t know if I agree that we as a country should forget because I don’t know what you mean by that. End a retaliatory war that has gone on far too long? Yes, please. Reign in the surveillance enthusiasts that have found their way into our civil services? Absolutely. Sweep the TSA under the rug of history like the embarrassing mistake it always was? I wish.

      But I don’t think doing those things requires us to set aside or downplay our grief at a national tragedy. 3000 innocent civilians were murdered because some fucker thought this would meaningfully harm our country and hated that country enough to spend human lives pursuing that goal. The memorial services that have been happening today are about grief, not fear. And I don’t think that needs to be forgotten.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        A lot of powerful people and organizations (particularly the intelligence agencies and the neocons) used the 9/11 attack to do a bunch of stuff they’d always wanted to do. Arguing against any of that stuff was very hard then because of the fear and patriotism triggered by the attack. Nowadays, those programs have substantial constituencies–abolish the TSA and you’ll put thousands of people out of a job, shut down the domestic surveillance operations and you’ll take money and power away from a bunch of intelligence agencies who coincidentally just happen to have a whole lot of data on various politicians who’ll be voting on that stuff. And you’ll eliminate a lot of jobs and take money from a bunch of contractors supporting that stuff.

        That could be done, but it would be politically hard, you’d make a bunch of very bad enemies, and the opposition would be willing to spend piles of money and use their extensive media access as well as perhaps any blackmail material their surveillance operations have collected to fight you. And I don’t think our political system is up to it at this point.

        Chuck Schumer on why taking on the intelligence agencies is a bad idea.

    • cassander says:

      Unless Iran kills 4 figures worth of Americans in an extremely public matter, or nukes someone, there will be no invasion of Iran. they are almost certainly not foolish enough to do either of those things. Iran is simply too large to be occupied. Bomb it? sure. Maybe even special forces raids. But ground invasion iraq style? definitely not.

      • Corey says:

        As a lefty, that’s one of the things I like about Trump – he seems to have an aversion to going to war.

    • ECD says:

      I accept that there’s nothing I can do about the war machine, and that sometime during the 2020s the US will invade Iran, no matter who wins any of the next few elections. I’m not happy about it but I accept it.)

      Maybe not. In the line of practicing what I preach and saying positive things sometimes, I was extremely pleased to see the back of John Bolton.

      ETA: In the interest of fairness where it is due, I am pleased President Trump fired, or requested the resignation of, or accepted the resignation of, Mr. Bolton.

      • EchoChaos says:

        As was I. See, right-wingers and left-wingers can agree on things!

        • ECD says:

          Oh definitely. One of the other things that made me hesitant to comment here is that I think this environment pushes fairly hard in an adversarial direction, which I’m trying to limit in my life, because I find it tends to focus me on the points where I disagree with people rather than the points where I do agree with them.

          My boss is a relatively right wing guy, but we talk a lot every day and 95% of it is us agreeing on various things, or talking about stuff where there is no real disagreement possible (family, friends, colleagues, workload, etc.), 4% we disagree on work stuff. 1% is politics.

          • EchoChaos says:

            We agree a lot too, which is why we can have adversarial discussions without anger.

          • Plumber says:

            @ECDsays:

            “…My boss is a relatively right wing guy, but we talk a lot every day and 95% of it is us agreeing on various things, or talking about stuff where there is no real disagreement possible (family, friends, colleagues, workload, etc.), 4% we disagree on work stuff. 1% is politics…”

            That sounds very familiar to me, my official boss is a Republican, as was my last boss, my unofficial boss “the lead man”, who was chosen by the official boss, is a Democrat – as was the last lead man, all are men who love watching sports, go to Catholic churches on Sunday, some vote the way their pastors tell them, some the way their union tells them, and nine-times-out-of-ten it’s absurdly easy for me to guess which political party a guy I work with supports based on one simple question asked on Monday mornings: “How far did you drive to get here?”, immigrant or U.S. born, old or young, if a guy drove 50 or more miles the odds are that he’s a Republican, less than 50 he’s a Democrat, come to think of it among the “Russian Empire’ (the Russian who got promoted to be a suoervisor and the other three ex-Soviets who maintain the giant boilers along with a couple of former U.S. Merchant Marine and Navy) the one with a long commute votes Republican and tells of how awful the Soviet Union was (he left in ’79), the others live closer and describe the USSR as “not so bad” (and one isbclearly befuddled by multiple brands and other basic aspects of capitalism), so living nearer or farther from San Francisco influences how Left or Right one is even beyond U.S. politics!

            The commute length political correlation interests me because I like to make up stereotypes discover heuristics, but if asked the Republicans usually cite abortion as a reason for their party affiliation, with a few guns or taxes, the Democrats (with only one exception) cite being pro union, and the exception is our one American born black man on the crew (we also had a guy from Ethiopia and a guy from Trinidad, who were technically “African-American” but that’s really not the same thing), and he cited his T-shirt with a picture of Obama (and FWLIW doesn’t seem at all bothered by Trump, usually he finds him hilarious).

            Most everyone has made their views clear, and no one bothers to argue anyone out of their politics, and other than some light teasing (admittedly me saying “Of course I’m going to vote to raise your taxes Mark, I might get paid more!”) there’s little partisan rancor, and this has held true from when I was the second youngest guy on the crew and one of only three born in the U.S.A. to now when I’m the third oldest guy, and by far most of the crew are now U.S. born (though often with a foreign born parent and/or wife).

            One wrinkle on this happy bi-partisan tale though: the Kavanaugh hearings, that month was testy, unfortunately it taught me that the “culture war” wasn’t just on the internet and far away in D.C. and I’m grateful it didn’t last.

            @EchoChaos, FWLIW the more coffee I drink the more of a partisan Democrat I become, one or two beers in me though and I agree more with Republicans.

            You may want to tell the RNC that, but no IPA’s please, they’re really not to my taste!

          • ECD says:

            @Plumber,

            The commute correlation is very interesting, but doesn’t hold for me. Everyone lives in the same small town and, though I’m the only one to walk to work regularly, we all live within five minutes of the office (except one person whose husband works at another facility an hour away and so lives in the middle of the two towns (I’m unsure of her politics)).

            Still, good stuff.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            one or two beers in me though and I agree more with Republicans.

            You know you’re always guaranteed a beer if we hang out. How about November 2020? 🙂

            I think we should announce a Plumber/EchoChaos ticket for then.

          • Corey says:

            The commute correlation needs to control for urban/rural if it doesn’t already.

          • Randy M says:

            The commute correlation needs to control for urban/rural if it doesn’t already.

            I thought that was specific to Plumber’s San Fran locale, and the urban vs suburb/rural correlation was the explanation for it.

          • Plumber says:

            @EDC says: “…The commute correlation is very interesting, but doesn’t hold for me. Everyone lives in the same small town..”

            Ah dang, I guess what I noticed is based on too small of a sample size then.

            @EchoChaos says: “…How about November 2020?…”

            That made me laugh, thanks!

            Take this with a mountain of salt as back in April I predicted that Harris will be the Democratic nominee which now looks really implausible but on the 2020 Presidential election: Trump has job growth and Americans aren’t coming home in body bags (and even if they were in the first year of a conflict there’s a “rally around the flag” effect, it’s in the third year that “bring the boys back home” dominates), and the more the press says he’s mean to immigrants the more that will look like trying to secure the borders to his supporters, and while there’s some evidence that suburban women are leaving the Republican Party, I don’t see enough to offset his converting Rust belt former Democrats into his supporters which won him the 2016 election.

            On the Democratic side I’ll try to watch tonight’s debate with interest as there’s been a lot of back and forth over “convert swing voters” vs.”turn out the base”, thing is doubling the turnout in Boston and San Francisco adds exactly no votes to the electoral college total, “Justice Democrats” only win over older Democrats in already deep blue areas, what wins in purple areas is the 2018 Pelosi playbook of campaigning hard on and only on voters continuing to receive the benefits they’ve grown used to, or expanding those benefits (i.e.an option to buy into Medicare) and that’s only when the taxes to pay for those benefits are on those higher on the income ladder than the median voter as the only subset that supports higher taxes on themselves ($80,000 to $200,000 annual income urban professionals) are already Democrats who vote, campaigning on say open borders instead is a losing strategy as the majority of Americans don’t want that, to win a nominee has to both convert swing voters and not alienate the base, and ultimately who are “the base”?, if Democratic she’s (yes she) a public school teacher who has most of her wages going to paying rent, if Republican he’s (yes he) a guy with a truck and some tools who sometimes hires helpers and owns a house in a low density low rent area, and I just don’t see the numbers of either changing much from 2016, which was close, if neither nominee hasn’t done much more self-sabotage this will be a nail biter, as it is now the likely nominees are two old guys who often put their foots in their mouths, Biden usually apologies a week later, Trump almost never does and I really can’t tell which will win. The next most likely Democratic Party nominees, Sanders and Warren, I can easily imagine them gaining converts with their economic populist message, but the longer the economy keeps creating jobs the more their messages will alienate more than convert, and absent foreign wars, ultimately it is all about the economy.

            18 years ago a wise old plumber told me “Watch the NASDAQ, that will tell you how long your commute will last”, and now I say: watch the jobs and wage numbers, that will tell who will be President. 

            @Corey says: “The commute correlation needs to control for urban/rural if it doesn’t already”

            @Randy M says: “I thought that was specific to Plumber’s San Fran locale…” 

            Yeah that’s basically the trick, I work in a part of San Francisco that’s filled with apartment towers and most of the 50 mile and up guys are coming from Sonoma County, the trick doesn’t work if someone is driving from Oakland to San Jose (but it totally worked if it’s Stockton to San Jose!).

      • cassander says:

        Maybe not. In the line of practicing what I preach and saying positive things sometimes, I was extremely pleased to see the back of John Bolton.

        I don’t understand this at all. The mustache is on his front!

      • Nick says:

        I am so glad to see Bolton out too.

        • Randy M says:

          At the risk of embarrassing myself over youthful indiscretions, I used to like Bolton. Almost twenty years ago, but still. I think it’s me that’s changed more than him.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      I had been stocking vending machines aboard a docked aircraft carrier for half an hour when the planes hit.

      The rest of the day I had a horrible feeling that tomorrow a nation would disappear. I’m very glad I was wrong, and that what did happen to Iraq and Afghanistan took a lot longer with a lot fewer deaths.

      The time it took to get on base noticeably increased.

      I’m very sorry all those victims were denied the opportunity to experience and participate in the future we have lived in since then.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I was a student living not in the city, but close enough to have line of sight to the towers– a bunch of us spent the latter half of the day waiting in a very long line to donate blood. I remember distinctly the conversation that day on the theme of “we knew from the beginning Bush wanted a war, now he’s got one.”

      I agree with the other commenters saying that Iran will not likely be invaded, largely because the Iraq disaster soured so many on that sort of thing: one of its few silver linings.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’m not American, but I’d been living in the US for almost a decade when it happened, and in Caifornia for about 4 years. it was not my first or my closest encounter with terrorism; there had been a significant but non-disasterous terrorist episode in the Canadian city I lived in while I was growing up.

      The first thing I noticed was a lot of bad behaviour. As a mailing list moderator, I found that everyone’s behaviour went down a notch. People who were normally OK were picking fights with each other, or otherwise acting out. My moderation workload went through the roof, and a lot of previously reasonable people lost their privilege to post directly to my mailing lists, rather than having each message vetted by a member of the moderation team.

      The second thing I noticed was the pressure to display patriotic symbols. I had to explain to people that as a Canadian I would not display a US flag without an equal sized or larger/more prominent Canadian flag. More than once; not displaying a flag seemed to be tantamount to supporting the terrorists, in too many people’s eyes.

      The next thing I noticed was the level of shock displayed. There had been incidents of terrorism in the US before, even within my lifetime. Timothy McVeigh had killed at least 168 people in 1995, including blowing up a day care center. But it seemed none of the Americans I encountered had any idea that such things could happen in the US – unlike in other less fortunate countries – let alone that they already had happened.

      The next thing, sadly, was the danger felt and sometimes experienced by many minorities living in the US. It was a bad time to to look even vaguely Arabic. I especially noticed the fear in the Sikh community; apparantly they expected to be classed as raghead = Muslim = terrorist by violent Americans. (This was especially notable because Sikhs are neither Arabic nor Muslim, pretty much by definition.)

      Because I’d been “innoculated” against panicking about terrorism during my childhood, and didn’t personally know anyone who’d been injured or killed, I was much less upset than most. Mostly I was annoyed at the bad behaviour on my mailing lists, and slightly worried about pressure to pretend to be an American patriot. (Fortunately I’m white, so while almost all the Muslims I’ve ever met have also been white, popular US opinion could not conceive of me being Muslim. :-()

      And I was rather weirded out by the reactions I observed. I’m on the autistic spectrum, and I’d also seen how Canadians reacted to a terrorist incident – this reaction seemed unexpectedly different.

    • Plumber says:

      I was an apprentice plumber working in Sunnyvale, California with a 7AM job start time and rigjt before work I heard from the radio a small bit about a plane hitting a skyscraper in New York, and I imagined a small plane and the building still standing.

      About an hour later our foreman disappeared for a while and than came back, announced that the U.S.A. had been attacked and that we were too close to Lockheed Martin and a military installation and we needed to go home, at that moment I was grateful to beat traffic and go home to Oakland, I stopped by at the motorcycle shop I used to work at and said hello to my former co-workers, without needing to hear the traffic report I still hadn’t turned on the radio (and I think I just didn’t wsnt to know) but eventually that day I did and learned the horror of what happened and then came the tears.

      The next day I was one of the few who came back to the job, an ex-Marine on the crew brought an American flag, and with my head not being focused enough I soon suffered a job injury that day that took many months to heal from (which I never really completely did) and left a long scar on my arm as a reminder to this day.

    • I was in middle school. I had noticed that a bunch of kids were getting picked up early, but didn’t realize that something was seriously wrong until the principal got on the PA system and said something to the effect of:

      Children, you are completely safe and there is nothing to worry about.

      That is all.

      I like to think that that shaped many of my views on the trustworthiness of the government. Of course, the bus driver had the radio playing on the ride home…

    • Unsaintly says:

      I was in middle school. At the computer lab, working on a powerpoint presentation. I pulled up the internet to do some research, and the home page (yahoo news I think) had a big headline about the 9/11 attacks. It seemed so impossible to me that I immediately dismissed it as a joke or something I didn’t get and continued with my work. I don’t remember how I found out it was real.

  22. phi says:

    Thought experiment: Physicists messing around with advanced spacetime manipulation have discovered a large pocket dimension containing an enormous supply of food: enough to feed the world’s 7 billion people for hundreds of billions of years. No one knows how it got there, though there is much speculation on the topic: Maybe aliens put it there, or people from a parallel universe put it there, or time travelers, or something else entirely. In any case, there is no worry about it staying fresh: time passes extremely slowly in this pocket dimension. No one has found evidence of any other pocket dimensions containing resource stashes of this kind; the food stash is an anomaly. But thanks to advances in physics, getting things out of pocket dimensions is easy and cheap. The remaining question is: How could humanity best exploit this windfall?

    • Eternaltraveler says:

      Use it like coal (ie burn it to generate steam and spin turbines). That’s about enough calories to power our civilization at the present level for 250,000 years.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Move us into a sectioned off part of it.

      On Earth:

      Have a bunch of computers.

      Run evolution experiments (e.g. http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/).

      In general run other processes on Earth (if it’s easy enough to pass from the pocket dimension to Earth) (e.g. set up PCR and place the thermocycler on Earth for a couple of minutesmillliseconds to complete the PCR. Even better with Pulse-field electrophoresis and cell culture, though timing would have to be precise or you’d wind up running things too long).

      Eventually see who our replacements would be (I’m betting on the raccoons).

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Alternatively, pocket dimensions accessibility means that humans can effectively teleport anywhere (not just limited to our past or future light cones).

        Everyone gets set up with a device that measures our physical wellbeing, and we are shunted to the pocket dimension before death. We can also choose to retire there. Everyone else on Earth (and the rest of the universe) keeps doing what people do. Once Utopia is achieved everyone in the pocket dimension is taken out of it and made young and whole again, and humans fill the universe.

    • acymetric says:

      No one knows how it got there, though there is much speculation on the topic: Maybe aliens put it there, or people from a parallel universe put it there, or time travelers, or something else entirely. In any case, there is no worry about it staying fresh: time passes extremely slowly in this pocket dimension.

      Strong opponent of the simulation hypothesis here (it was fun to talk about as a thought experiment for about 5 minutes, I’m now fully over it), but it is pretty obvious what this pocket dimension is. Someone found the Dev Room with all the items from testing…probably of this being a simulation now approach 100%.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Odds are greater that it’s an out-of-control and powerful optimizer that was shunted off into a pocket dimension as a safety precaution.

    • b_jonas says:

      The stash of food wouldn’t directly cause any significant changes. Growing food is already relatively easy. The two hard parts are transporting it to everywhere that people live, and distributing it such that the people who oversee the local distribution don’t become corrupt and try to unfairly profit by adding huge margins. A pocket of food would help the first one slightly, but not much of the other problems.

      The best chance to use this pocket dimension would probably be unrelated to food. Since time passes slowly there, use the space as a cheap alternative to cryogenics, or long term storage of other valuables. It could also be used to store radioactive waste and other dangerous waste products. And of course, keep up the research about other physics that we didn’t know about.

    • bullseye says:

      I would worry about who put all this food here, and what they’re going to do when they catch us.

      Also, it seems like the slowed-down time would interfere with bringing the food home. Whoever or whatever we send to collect the food is going to have to operate in slowed-down, so we’d have to wait a long time for them to come back.

  23. salvorhardin says:

    So I finally got around to reading Caplan’s _The Case Against Education_, and here are some points I find underaddressed in it.

    1. Discipline/conscientiousness development as human capital development. Maybe school works by giving practice following increasingly varied and complex sets of instructions and that is what employers value, not any particular knowledge students acquire. If nothing else, this is unrefuted by any number of studies showing that most people don’t retain specific knowledge from their classes or use it in their jobs. It also undermines the claim that the sheepskin effect is just signaling, if the people with the sheepskins are disproportionately those who have benefited from the lessons in conscientiousness and that’s why they’re able to see things through.

    2. Caplan admits that some things education teaches, like literacy, are clearly valuable human capital development, but claims that most classes even in K-12 don’t advance those skills. I find this dubious, because varied and long-lasting practice matters. Consider, for example, history classes where you have to read a bunch of books and articles and write a bunch of term papers. The history may well be useless to almost all jobs and typically forgotten by almost all students; the practice in writing papers and reading complex books and articles is literacy development that could nonetheless increase human capital for most. Indeed, ISTR that at least some schools have distribution requirements of the form “you must take at least N classes that make you do a bunch of reading and writing and M classes that make you use math” which suggests that they care about this form of human capital development through basic skills practice, not just through subject knowledge acquisition.

    3. Scattershot human capital development may still be the best human capital development we can do. Suppose that, while only a tiny percentage of people who learn subject X in school ever use it, that tiny percentage is crucial to the economy, *and* that there is no better way to make sure that tiny percentage still get their training in X than to start by training almost everyone in it. Then spending more on teaching X at the margin may very well be a bad investment but it does not follow that zeroing out spending on teaching X would be harmless! Caplan often assumes that, in his world of educational austerity, the talented few who really do get productive skills out of useless-to-most classes would find their way to those skills anyway, but I don’t see him providing a lot of evidence for that assumption. In general I feel like the book uses evidence about what’s true on the current margin to draw conclusions about decidedly inframarginal changes, which strikes me as sloppy.

    4. Educational austerity is a potentially very promising path to savings but also carries considerable risk. The book would have been much stronger, and intellectually humbler in a good way, if it described pilot experiments that could be used to test the hypothesis that cutbacks don’t actually harm human capital development. Special bonus points would accrue to suggestions of how to protect such experiments from e.g. the bipartisan backlash that ensued when Kansas cut education spending under Brownback. It may be super hard to do such experiments because of the conformity dynamic that Caplan describes; but constructing successful pilots is such an important tool for positive social change that if you really think there’s a multi-trillion-dollar payoff to be had here, you should be looking hard for them.

    Have I missed places in the book where Caplan actually does address these points? Are there other discussions or reviews that do address them?

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t think he really does because he doesn’t really have a full argument. His problem is he seemingly intentionally ignores actual causes for things.

    • edmundgennings says:

      For point 1, it seems that even if schooling teaches those things, a good working environment will teach them better especially as those skills are relevant to work environments.

    • eigenmoon says:

      I haven’t read Caplan but I hate public schools.

      1, 2. You are right that schools have nonzero efficiency in teaching those useful skills. The problem is that this efficiency is still way, way too low.
      3. Here X is probably STEM. I believe that a regular public school is a horrible place for STEM-talented students.
      4. There are some less dense alternatives to regular public schools, I dunno: democratic schools? homeschooling? Montesorri? Waldorf? Those would be our pilots… sort of. If, by looking at those, we see that less dense education is safe, then maybe we don’t have to pay so much for the regularly dense education.

      • salvorhardin says:

        1, 2: too low compared to what feasible alternative? edmundgennings may be right about work as an alternative– I would be all for expanding vocational tracking, apprenticeships + internships starting at high school age, etc. But while that’s promising it is not obvious and needs to be tested.

        3. Actually X is a lot of things of which STEM is just one. Again, the question is horrible compared to what, i.e. what’s your alternate plan to effectively track into these rare human-capital-intensive careers at least as many talented people as we do now?

        4. It’s not clear that those are efficiency-relevant pilots. Do they actually spend a lot less per student, or get students out into the “real world” a lot faster?

        • eigenmoon says:

          1, 2. Currently my favorite is a homeschooling cooperative. Various homeschoolers could potentially provide lots of test data.
          3. I went into a school that specialized in STEM and that was much better for me than a regular school. I believe all the other subjects in my school were entirely useless and should be removed, with the exception of English (which is not my native language).
          4. No, they don’t. But they put less megabytes of useless crud through children’s heads. Once we agree that it doesn’t create a problem, we can start to figure out how to do the same but cheaper.

    • Viliam says:

      1. This would assume that conscientiousness is largely learned (as opposed to heritable). Because the alternative explanation is that “following increasingly varied and complex sets of instructions” selects the people who already have the (hereditary?) predisposition to be conscientious. And those who don’t, will at some moment find following the instructions unbearable or impossible, and will drop out.

      Not sure how you could have missed this, given that the central point of the book is explaining how “school gives you X” and “school fires you if you don’t already have X” both produce the same effect: “people who completed the school have X”. Which is then naively interpreted as evidence for the former option.

      2. This seems like a non-central case of “transference learning”, which according to Caplan was mostly disproved by research. Well, depends on what exactly is your claim here. If it’s that reading and writing tons of pages will train you to read and write, then I agree with that. It’s just if you claim that reading tons of textbooks makes you particularly great at understanding text (other than a textbook), and writing tons of term papers makes you particularly great at writing (other than of term papers), then we are getting on a thinner ice.

      3. Caplan does not recommend zeroing out spending on teaching. If something is crucial for a tiny minority of people, go ahead and teach it to the tiny minority.

      4. Caplan does not claim that “cutbacks don’t actually harm human capital development”. But, as an economist, he is pointing out that everything has a cost. By cutting the spending, we may lose some of the human capital development at schools, but perhaps the saved money could give us something more important elsewhere.

      • salvorhardin says:

        1. Yes, conscientiousness could be not only highly heritable but close to unteachable. But if Caplan believes this he should present evidence; I don’t see him doing it. I’m not saying I’m super confident that schools develop human capital by teaching conscientiousness, I’m saying that the hypothesis that they do isn’t refuted by his arguments.

        2. AIUI “transference learning” means something more like “learning how to learn” which, yes, he presents evidence really doesn’t happen. But that’s different from practicing a basic skill (like reading and writing) by applying it in a bunch of domains.

        3. But the point is that “go ahead and teach it to that tiny minority” may not be a feasible option, if it is not possible to identify ahead of time who is in that tiny minority.

  24. Eternaltraveler says:

    California has enacted statewide rent control.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect this will work about as well as Gray Davis’s “energy deregulation” (which IIRC “de-regulated” wholesale prices but not retail rates). That is, microeconomics 101 tells us that requiring lower prices results in reduced supply and increased demand, which is exactly the opposite of the effect desired.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Being deeply opposed to rent control, I’m curious as to how it will turn out, and worried a good part of the (bad, according to me) consequences are what Bastiat refered as the unseen. A statistical study in 10 years will probably show the low-earner retaining their home at low cost, but it wont show the engineers who couldnt move within 1h of driving from his potential employer.

      But still, an experiment in a foreign country is better than having nothing to provide evidences on the efficiency of rent control.

      • Eternaltraveler says:

        But still, an experiment in a foreign country is better than having nothing to provide evidences on the efficiency of rent control.

        You realize that that rent control is not a new idea and been tried in numerous jurisdictions on numerous occasions.

    • Chalid says:

      This seems like pretty mild rent control (max annual increase allowed is 5% plus inflation which is pretty big, it doesn’t apply to new or recent construction, doesn’t apply to single-family homes) so I will go against the grain here and say that it probably won’t have very much effect. (Though to be clear I do not support it, for the usual econ 101 reasons.)

      A major potential bad impact would be if there is a severe recession or other drop in demand – landlords would be reluctant to cut rents because they couldn’t quickly raise them back up again, so you could potentially end up in a situation where there are simultaneously a bunch of empty apartments and lots of people without homes.

      • J Mann says:

        The best possible rent control has no impact at all, but one with minimal effect is better than one with more effect. 🙂

        As I said upthread, the funniest thing is that this is being reported as an effort to address the lack of affordable housing – as I understand it, people are being forced to commute from areas where there isn’t rent control into areas like SF where there is, so the solution is to apply rent control to their neighborhoods as well.

      • Eternaltraveler says:

        Problem tenants can’t be evicted (and indeed, there is now no incentive to not be a problem tenant). Rent must be raised at 5% per year plus inflation because if you don’t do it this year the opportunity is lost and rent can’t be lowered during economic downturns.

        This is not mild.

        • Chalid says:

          Where do you see that problem tenants can’t be evicted? The article mentions restrictions on evictions without cause, which is pretty different.

          • Eternaltraveler says:

            “Just cause” everywhere it has been enacted has always been an incredibly high standard and basically has meant that tenants can’t be evicted unless they don’t pay rent (and even then it can be a very lengthy and extremely expensive process).

          • Chalid says:

            Well, surely there already needs to be cause to evict someone anyway (e.g. landlord can’t change their mind and get out of a 12-month lease by evicting someone for no reason after three months). What has changed?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Well, surely there already needs to be cause to evict someone anyway (e.g. landlord can’t change their mind and get out of a 12-month lease by evicting someone for no reason after three months). What has changed?

            Terms of how contracts can be broken are usually (at least partially) addressed in the contract itself. Having a 12 month lease doesn’t automatically mean that your landlord can’t get you out at 3 months, what it does is spell out the conditions that have to be met for the landlord to ask you to leave.

          • Chalid says:

            Right, so what has changed?

          • Eternaltraveler says:

            Well, surely there already needs to be cause to evict someone anyway (e.g. landlord can’t change their mind and get out of a 12-month lease by evicting someone for no reason after three months). What has changed?

            You can’t evict someone in 13 months or 50 years. There is no such thing as a 12 month lease anymore. Leases should be considered permanent including existing ones that are 11.5 months in where no one had any idea this was going to happen.

          • TheContinentalOp says:

            I believe the relevant change is that at the end of the lease the landlord can’t refuse to renew, unless one of the “just cause” situations listed by the government exists. That is the way the law is written in New Jersey.

            In NJ (which lacks state wide rent control) you can’t raise the new rent to an “unreasonable” amount in order to force out your tenant. (Unsurprisingly North Jersey has an affordable housing problem) This won’t be a problem in CA as the rent control will prevent “unreasonable” increases.

            In the past a CA landlord with a somewhat troublesome tenant could just bite the bullet and wait for the end of the lease and not renew. Going forward, she’s going to have to document, document, document at considerable time, effort and money and hope that she can prove that she has met the threshold for being able to not renew the lease.

          • Jack says:

            Just cause doesn’t mean “that tenants can’t be evicted unless they don’t pay rent”. While I don’t want to spend time collecting evidence against a baseless assertion, I will represent that if I spent half an hour I could easily find a handful of cases of successful evictions in the jurisdiction I am familiar with (Ontario) for reasons other than failure to pay rent.

  25. DinoNerd says:

    There was some discussion in the last non-CW thread of people feeling variously
    – that their existence was denied
    – that they were persecuted
    – that they were feeling threatened and in retreat
    – that their side/tribe was in the last gasps of resistance against overwhelming victory by their opponents
    – etc.

    All this was related to their political position, with some explicit reference to the CW “tribes”, so I declined to post in that thread.

    But I’m interested in the headspace of people who feel existentially threatened in some way because of their political/cultural inclinations, but who aren’t actually doing something that’s illegal as well as unpopular in their political jurisdicttion.

    I’m especially interested in those who see their whole CW tribe as threatened.

    If you feel this way, please consider responding, ideally with examples and specifics. (E.g. “I’m a mutant ninja turtle and I expect my neighbours will soon start attacking folks like me in the streets here on Mars colony where I live; they’ve already …”)

    And everyone, please don’t respond with comments like “that’s nonsense because …”. If you want to respond, please keep to “I” language, as in “I’m also a mutant ninja turtle but I don’t feel threatened; instead I feel …”

    • broblawsky says:

      This is less CW-tribal and more actual-tribal, but I’m Jewish and I feel existentially threatened because certain people keep talking about killing me and my entire family.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Is there any substantial group of these in the West?

        The Blue Tribe is heavily Jewish and Jew friendly, with Bernie Sanders, a Jew, as one of their top candidates.

        The Red Tribe similarly has support for Israel as a top issue and the ur-Red Tribe guy, Donald Trump, has a Jewish daughter and son-in-law (and hence grandchildren).

        Unless you’re counting the Boycott/Divest/Sanction crowd as killing Jews, which I don’t, I don’t see any serious group (>1% of the population) that believes this.

        • Lambert says:

          The moderates might be ok, but there’s been a load of anti-semitism on both the far left and far right.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Agreed. But those are non-serious groups making up less than 1% of the population, which is why I specified.

          • albatross11 says:

            For large-scale persecution, you care about averages–you couldn’t get large-scale persecution of Jews in the US, because the overwhelming majority of voters would be against it–so much so that even bringing the issue up would end your political career.

            For individual hate crimes/mass shootings/terrorist attacks you care about outliers. The one-in-a-million nutcase who’s convinced that he should shoot up a synogogue for the Aryan race or blow up a building for Allah is what matters, even if the overwhelming majority of people in the society are horrified by both actions.

            Mainstream media and internet environment might matter for the one-in-a-million crazies, but it’s hard to tell for sure. Perhaps the crazies would just find themselves a crazy corner of the internet to re-enforce their craziness anyway. I suspect that the trolling culture that makes jokes or casual horrible statements (one-way helicopter rides, ovens, etc.) might have an influence on the extreme crazies, but it’s hard to tell.

          • Anthony says:

            One pair of crazies didn’t like government employees and blew up a building full, in the pre-internet age.

        • J Mann says:

          My impression is that you’re at greater risk of an attack in the US or Western Europe if you’re visibly Jewish than most other groups, but I don’t have data to back it up, so I could easily be wrong.

          National leaders don’t personally condone attacking Jews, but many of them seem more comfortable associating with anti-Semites or getting pretty close to classic anti-Semitic claims than they would be for most other interest groups.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Data for the US only. Source: in 2017: https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/victims

            Blacks are the largest victims of hate crimes by a fairly substantial margin with 2459 victims.

            Jews and Whites are next behind them with 1016 and 865 victims respectively.

            Now, Jews are about a fifth as common as blacks, so they’re marginally more likely on a per-capita basis to be targeted, where whites are dramatically reduced there because we’re the majority.

            But none of these are at a seriously dangerous level. These are mostly relatively minor crimes. Only 2800 of these even rose to the level of simple assault. Aggravated assault, rape and murder make up only 1000 cases nationwide.

            Less than 1000 serious hate crimes yearly in a nation of 320 million people is basically a total eradication of hate.

          • Lambert says:

            If you average over the last 80 years, you’ll see why Jewish people are still kind of worried about antisemitism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Lambert

            Averaged over the last 80 years, there is still no concern in the United States at all.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is this independent of or because of Jewish anxiety?

        • broblawsky says:

          It only takes one person with an automatic weapon and a little luck to kill a lot of people, as we’ve seen (repeatedly) in the past. But hey, I’ll tell my synagogue that they should just disregard the death threats they’ve gotten and take down the concrete barriers they set up to stop someone from driving a truck into the building.

          • EchoChaos says:

            It only takes one person with an automatic weapon and a little luck to kill a lot of people

            I am not aware of any mass-murder in the US with an automatic weapon. There have been some in Europe, but those are mostly focused terror groups (i.e. the Bataclan).

            But hey, I’ll tell my synagogue that they should just disregard the death threats they’ve gotten and take down the concrete barriers they set up to stop someone from driving a truck into the building.

            This seems like an excellent example of paranoia beyond what is reasonable. Yes, it really sucks to be one of the 0.0003% (1000 per 320 million) people victimized yearly by a hate crime. But rationally, spending any serious amount of money on preventing this is fairly foolish. There are over 4000 synagogues in the United States. According to the only stats I could find, there have been 17 fatal attacks in the last four decades:

            https://forward.com/opinion/412868/pittsburgh-synagogue-murder-spree-is-latest-in-4-decades-of-anti-semitic/

            That is not a serious problem.

          • albatross11 says:

            Compare with fears of being bashed, doxxed, or SWATted by antifas and aligned folks. Or people worrying about getting murdered while driving through some bad neighborhood in the daytime. Both are statistically very unlikely to happen, but when they do happen, they’re spectacular and horrible, and that scares the hell out of people.

            Also add in that in living memory, a major political movement in Germany murdered like half the Jews in the world, and that there’s a really long history of Jews in Eastern Europe getting run out of town or mobbed or murdered because some rumor spread or some nobleman wanted to divert anger at himself toward a safer-for-him target. I share your evaluation of the actual risks, but I definitely understand why this sort of stuff is scary as hell.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @albatross11

            Those are excellent points for comparison. They are also not serious problems, but blown out of proportion by media for political reasons.

            And when you’re living in the country that crushed that German movement and has a history of welcoming Jews (the Confederacy was the first Western government with a Jew in a cabinet position!), European history doesn’t seem to apply.

          • broblawsky says:

            That is not a serious problem.

            This is a funny thing to say, considering that in your OP, you stated:

            And everyone, please don’t respond with comments like “that’s nonsense because …”. If you want to respond, please keep to “I” language, as in “I’m also a mutant ninja turtle but I don’t feel threatened; instead I feel …”

            How do you reconcile those two positions?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            It wasn’t my OP, it was DinoNerd’s.

            And I had a separate response where I asked what could be done to reduce the fear that is felt, which sounds pretty disproportionate to the actual danger.

            As a white guy, there are people who want to kill/harm whites, and about the same number of anti-white hate crimes as anti-Jewish, but it isn’t a big fear. How can we get you to where I am?

          • broblawsky says:

            It wasn’t my OP, it was DinoNerd’s.

            OK, that’s on me. I misread.

            And I had a separate response where I asked what could be done to reduce the fear that is felt, which sounds pretty disproportionate to the actual danger.

            As a white guy, there are people who want to kill/harm whites, and about the same number of anti-white hate crimes as anti-Jewish, but it isn’t a big fear. How can we get you to where I am?

            Well, as you noted, you’re still much less likely to be the target of a hate crime. The risk you’re under for being white and Christian is far less than what I’m under for being white and Jewish.

            That being said, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if people would just shut up about George Soros. He seems to be some kind of weird focal point of international right-wing anti-Semitism, and propaganda related to him seems to crop up a lot in the motivation behind anti-Semitic hate crimes. Every time Fox News or Breitbart starts talking about him, I feel like they’re making the next synagogue attack that much sooner. There’s plenty of other prominent left-wing figures for people on the right to focus their hatred on; they could spread it around a little more.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            That being said, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if people would just shut up about George Soros.

            I’d feel alot more comfortable if George Soros used his money to party in his secret volcano lair with Jeffrey Epstein (the real one, not the body-double that’s 6 feet under, just kidding, or am I), instead of using it to push left wing politics and open borders.

            Antisemitic conspiracy theorists dont need Soros to fuel their delusions.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            Well, as you noted, you’re still much less likely to be the target of a hate crime. The risk you’re under for being white and Christian is far less than what I’m under for being white and Jewish.

            In that both of us are in far more danger from virtually anything else, yes. A Jew has a 0.01% chance of being the victim of a hate crime yearly, a white a 0.004% chance. They’re within an order of magnitude of each other and both VERY SMALL.

            Edit to add: note this is the victim of any hate crime. Violent is far lower.

            That being said, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if people would just shut up about George Soros. He seems to be some kind of weird focal point of international right-wing anti-Semitism, and propaganda related to him seems to crop up a lot in the motivation behind anti-Semitic hate crimes.

            I genuinely know very little about him, so I can’t say if the amount of attention he receives is proportional to his efforts at all, and I don’t have much control over that.

            I certainly don’t talk about him much, and this board seems pretty good in that respect.

            Is your annoyance with criticism of him that it focuses on the fact he’s a Jew, or just that he is a particularly notable billionaire? It seems that there was plenty of dancing on the grave of David Koch, to use a white billionaire equivalent.

          • broblawsky says:

            I genuinely know very little about him, so I can’t say if the amount of attention he receives is proportional to his efforts at all, and I don’t have much control over that.

            I certainly don’t talk about him much, and this board seems pretty good in that respect.

            I’m not blaming you specifically, of course, and he doesn’t come up in SSC discussion often, except from certain banned commentators. He does, however, seem to be a bete noir for a certain specimen of right-wing pundit. Some of these people may not even be anti-Semites themselves, but they help propagate conspiracy theories that inevitably end up in the manifestos of mass murderers.

            Is your annoyance with criticism of him that it focuses on the fact he’s a Jew, or just that he is a particularly notable billionaire? It seems that there was plenty of dancing on the grave of David Koch, to use a white billionaire equivalent.

            I haven’t seen any hate crimes against white people/Christians inspired by anti-Koch propaganda, whereas Soros-related conspiracy theories are basically coterminous with modern anti-Semitism.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            I consider that on the exact same level as the BLM movement about police brutality that inspired Micah Johnson.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers

            In both cases someone who had a pre-existing racial hatred used mainstream and acceptable criticism to justify horrible violence against his target group.

            I would no more want to restrict criticism of Soros than I would criticism of cops.

          • broblawsky says:

            I consider that on the exact same level as the BLM movement about police brutality that inspired Micah Johnson.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_shooting_of_Dallas_police_officers

            In both cases someone who had a pre-existing racial hatred used mainstream and acceptable criticism to justify horrible violence against his target group.

            I would no more want to restrict criticism of Soros than I would criticism of cops.

            You asked what could be done to make me feel less afraid, I answered.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            I’m not fighting with you. I really appreciate the answers. They let me calibrate where people are in their headspace.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think it’s workable to demand that people not discuss the motives of highly visible billionaires who are heavily involved in funding various political causes. I understand this probably brings the antisemites out of the woodwork, but it’s no more reasonable to expect in Soros’ case than in the case of the Koch brothers.

          • broblawsky says:

            I don’t think it’s workable to demand that people not discuss the motives of highly visible billionaires who are heavily involved in funding various political causes. I understand this probably brings the antisemites out of the woodwork, but it’s no more reasonable to expect in Soros’ case than in the case of the Koch brothers.

            I’m not advocating for any kind of government stifling of Soros-related speech. I’m just saying that I and, I suspect, the rest of the Jewish community would be safer, or at least feel safer, if the right would give it a rest. It’d be the decent thing to do, IMO.

            As I mentioned, I’ve never seen any case where left-wing antipathy or conspiracy theories regarding the Koch brothers lead to a domestic terrorist attack or hate crime. The dialogue around Soros is uniquely toxic and dangerous.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @broblawsky

            It’d be the decent thing to do, IMO.

            This ties into the discussion about whether the left has an advantage in “niceness”. Because while it might be “nice” or “decent”, I don’t think ceasing discussions about a prominent politically active billionaire because it makes some people feel more anxious is at all “reasonable”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            because it makes some people feel more anxious

            Especially when that anxiety is over a victimization rate of a hundredth of a percent that is essentially equivalent to that of whites.

          • broblawsky says:

            This ties into the discussion about whether the left has an advantage in “niceness”. Because while it might be “nice” or “decent”, I don’t think ceasing discussions about a prominent politically active billionaire because it makes some people feel more anxious is at all “reasonable”.

            I’d argue that there’s a direct causative link between the tenor of the discussion around Soros on the right and anti-Semitic terrorist attacks. That’s more than making people anxious.

          • albatross11 says:

            broblawsky:

            Why do you believe that? It seems like it’s really hard to establish any kind of a link between things people say in media and violent crazies going postal, in general, because of the extremely low base rate.

          • broblawsky says:

            Why do you believe that? It seems like it’s really hard to establish any kind of a link between things people say in media and violent crazies going postal, in general, because of the extremely low base rate.

            Because they keep mentioning Soros in their manifestos. Maybe they’d have substituted in some other Jew if he didn&#